September 14, 2012
KISS' Gene Simmons opens his mouth (but keeps his tongue in)

By A.D. Amorosi / For The Inquirer

The first thing to do when speaking to Kiss' Gene Simmons is to get to the truth of the matter. After nearly 40 years of being in the dressy demonic ensemble, the bassist, entrepreneur, and reality television star wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Ask him what he thinks of partner Paul Stanley's 2009 statement to this writer that "democracy is overrated" in relation to the Starchild's production of that year's Sonic Boom, and Simmons chuckles. "Yes," he says. "Everybody can't have equal say. The good thing about Paul is that he was able to commit the time and the mental fatigue that it takes to stay in the studio for three months. I didn't have that. I'm way past that."

With Simmons pretending he's past that, Stanley produced Kiss' metal-marauding 20th studio album, Monster. "We're in the same car," Simmons says. "Paul just happens to be steering, and I'm happy he is."

Simmons should be: Monster is a beast, a richly melodic yet gut-punching work that rivals Kiss classics such as Dressed to Kill and Destroyer, the latter currently getting a polish with a recently remastered re-release.

"There's always going to be a 15-year-old who hasn't heard the classics," says Simmons. "Seeing the kids dressed in our makeup on his father's shoulder - also wearing makeup, by the way - is the most emotional thing of a Kiss concert for me. That those same kids can hear Destroyer anew is equally emotional. We outrun the pre-planned obsolescence of pop. Not much music has that sort of timeless currency. I love Chuck Berry, and once upon a time his riffs were contemporary. So was doo-wop. Those things are gone. But Kiss not only stood the test of time, we've transcended it."

If transcending time and truthful pragmatism are Simmons' best friends, it would stand to reason he'd be curious to read the autobiography of Peter Criss, Kiss' one-time drummer, in Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of Kiss, by Criss and Larry Sloman. Especially after Stanley and Simmons ushered Criss out of Kiss several times, along with original guitarist Ace Frehley.

"Of course I'll read it," says Simmons. "Peter and Ace, God love them, were equally important in putting the band together in the first place, but they'll both have to tell you honestly that neither one remembers much of what really happened clearly. Truth be told, Ace and Peter were kicked out of the band several times for being drug addicts and alcoholics. You can't romanticize that. Musical differences? Every band has those. But with them, it all came down to drugs and booze. At the beginning, those guys were as important to our formative years as me and Paul. It's what they did with it that hurt."

Simmons says Frehley's 2011 autobiography, No Regrets, written with Joe Layden and John Ostrosky, should have been titled I'm Sorry as he blasphemed the band and insulted fans with his bad behavior.

With honesty as his calling card, the always outspoken Simmons didn't speak about rock alone. The demon bassist went on to discuss his political beliefs and the current electoral climate. "I voted for Obama last time around. I'm unhappy and want to hear what Mitt Romney has to say," he says. "Romney's a humanist, a family man. He sees running America as a business. I don't believe in demonizing the rich. The rich are the reasons we have jobs. When I was poor, nobody poor gave me a job. Somebody rich did. But I want to hear what both men have to say before I vote my conscience at the last minute."