Gene Simmons of Kiss has been at the forefront of the rock world since the mid 1970s, and he’s still going strong in 2013.
A true visionary, he and his original bandmates transformed rock and roll into something no one had seen before: a dynamic stage show full of fire, explosions, lights and straight up rock. Critics were stunned. Radio didn’t know what to do with them. But the fans loved it — and probably will again when the band plays Seminole Hard Rock Live on Saturday.
Been a long time since the New York City days. What was that like back then?
We were four bums off the streets of New York who dreamed like everybody else and were lucky to be in the right place at the right time with the right thing. And you say privately, when you have dreams, “Dear God, just give me a chance, just one chance. I promise I won’t screw it up.”
Still get excited about selling out every night?
Sure. The first time we played at the Garden, the first of three nights, back when nobody was doing that stuff, Kiss was three years in a row the no. 1 Gallup Poll band. Two and three went between Zeppelin, Beatles and Bee Gees. And in 1978, 20th Century Fox had the rights to do licensing and merchandising, and the no. 1 and no. 2 biggest licensed products were Star Wars and Kiss.
It is. We started in 1974, New Year’s Eve . . . . And within a year and a half we’re playing Anaheim Stadium. Before cell phones, cassettes, 8-tracks, before anything. Before Rock Concert, before Midnight Special, before MTV, before any of that.
Was there one particular moment when you knew you were going to succeed?
We immediately had the sense that we were in a very special place and time but especially in a special band. We kept being thrown off tours. Nugent, Foghat . . . I remember all the bands we’d open for, and they wouldn’t let us have encores. . . . [Black] Sabbath is a little bit older than Kiss, and they were playing Boston, and we were lucky enough to get on the bill for two shows. And Ozzy tells the story that Geezer ran over to him and was visibly shaken because he said this monster was talking to him backstage and was sticking his tongue out at him. Ozzy’s response was, “I knew right then and there that I had to get out of this band because if the opening band puts the fear of God in you, you don’t have the goods.”
KISS has always been very good to new bands.
You got to go out there and respect everybody. You know we took out Rush on their first tour; we took out AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Bon Jovi and Judas Priest. Every band you can imagine. We always made sure to take out the best bands.