December 04, 2009
Excerpted from Planet Radiocity

With the face paint and costumes, KISS is always recognisable. The band which formed way back in 1972 and has won numerous accolades is back with its eleventh studio album, Sonic Boom. The band's first in over a decade, and their first with drummer Eric Singer.

Gene Simmons, in this interview, talks about their Rock N' Roll Hall Of Fame nomination, the KISS army and playing Madison Square Garden for the first time.

KISS was nominated for induction into the Rock n' Roll Hall Of Fame this year. Gene says, "It's appreciated, but we don't take it too seriously. Our fans are everything to us. The KISS Army is legendary and has become iconic. It's become its own thing. Every other band in the world knows about the KISS Army, and they'd give their left nut to have it. So, nice to be nominated, but it'd be nice to win. It's not the end all or be all. We do our talking onstage!"

Despite the major studio successes, Gene says the place he knows his band has left a mark is on live performances. He says, "All we know is that when we go to see wrestling and we see fireworks or we go and see McCartney or any other band live and you see spectacle and fireworks, and all that, where'd that come from? The stampeders? If the only thing we've done is raise the bar substantially for live performances, that's good! Then we've left our mark! It's no longer enough to just get onstage with a tie-dyed t-shirt and sneakers, and look at your shoes and think that you are giving people a show."

Sonic Boom is the band's first studio album in 11 years. Gene says the album is filled with the vitality of their older albums. "Eleven brand new songs; it's a three-disc special package. The second disc has 15 songs by this line-up re-recorded. The third disc is of us in South America at Buenos Aires Stadium in April, just a few months back. And what Sonic Boom is, is this is who we are now. No keyboard players, no children's choirs, no synthesisers, none of that. Meat and potatoes straight down the line, and it all goes back to a spirit of innocence that we had when we first started, when we first strapped guitars on our shoulders. Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer sing their own songs. The band is back to being full octane."

KISS's new members Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer replaced Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. Gene says that fans are going to have to live with the replacements because they couldn't deal with Criss's and Frehley's problems anymore. He says, "In football teams, there's a number. If one of the players gets kicked out of the band three times for not being a team player and for using drugs and alcohol, 'your ass is grass,' as they say in New York! You may have been worthy of the team once. Why the hell would you continue to keep somebody on the team if they're not carrying their load?"

The band kicked off its 35th anniversary celebrations recently and Gene was very happy to meet two guys who attended one of their most famous concerts from back then. He says, "We met the guys on the back cover of the double live album (Alive). You have to remember in those days, it was lunacy to release a live record, much less a double live record. KISS has always been like that - nuts! So, the back cover shows two fans in the middle of a sold out hall, three nights I might add, and they're holding a KISS banner that they made. Well, those two guys showed up all these many years later with the same banner. One's a successful real estate agent and the other is a doctor. The KISS Army, that's right!"

After more than a decade, KISS also returned to Madison Garden. Gene says he has fond memories of playing there the first time. He says, "I will tell you a story... The band was put together at 10 East 23rd Street. It was a loft, and The Garden was 10 blocks away. I would walk up there and see basketball or The Stones or whoever else was playing."

"We all have dreams! And when KISS played there for the first time, I walked in through the front door because in those days people didn't know what we looked like without the makeup. They were just aware of KISS. They thought that we looked like that 24 hours a day. So, I walked in through the front door, walked through the crowd, went backstage, put on makeup, got up onstage and rocked the house! The rock 'n' roll rites of passage, if you will. It was like climbing Mount Olympus; when you get to the top, the view is amazing!"