The lunchtime read: Gene Simmons KISSes and tells
By GRANT SMITHIES / Stuff.co.nz
On the eve of his band's first New Zealand gig in seven years, Gene Simmons doesn't want to talk about music. Not really. He'd rather focus on his two favourite subjects: himself and money. Really, rock'n'roll was merely a way to make a star of the former and a mountain of the latter.
Not that I'm complaining. What better way to spend a fine spring afternoon than getting an economics lesson from this self-styled "God Of Thunder", best known as the blood-spitting, tongue-waggling bass player from Kiss.
"Hey, what can I say?" drawls Simmons, his accent as New York as a lox bagel, the voice deep as the Mariana Trench.
"I'm rich, and it's great! People say I'm a ruthless businessman, but in reality, capitalism is very good for the world. Even the most selfish rich asshole still creates jobs when he buys the private jet or builds a million square foot house. Capitalism benefits everybody, because that money gets spread around.
" My motto is work hard, play hard and love hard. The best way to sleep well and for food to taste good and for your woman to seem hot to you is to work your butt off. Really, anyone who wants to know how to make a serious success of their lives should read my new book."
The book in question has the excellent title ME, INC: Build an Army of One. Unleash your Inner Rock God. Win in Life and Business.
While some reviewers dismissed it as a rambling ego trip, The Wall Street Journal reckoned there was "wisdom on every page". Certainly, it looks like the kind of tome a trainee mogul might live by, with gilt-edged pages and a faux-leather cover. I imagine Simmons was aiming for some sort of "venture capitalist's family bible" vibe.
"Well, it's designed to look classy. If you're reading it on the toilet, you don't wanna bend the pages to mark your place, so there's a little ribbon for that," he says.
"The basic premise if that every decision you make in life either costs you money or makes you money.
"If you do nothing during the day other than lie around watching the footy, as you people call it, you're losing money, and life is short. A third of our life, we're asleep. Two weeks of the year, there are holidays. You spend another entire day each year tying your shoelaces, and another day farting and so on, and 104 days of every year are weekends, so you gotta make those other days count."
Hilarious and obnoxious in equal measure, Simmons would be great fun to have a beer with, if not for the fact that he doesn't drink. But you wouldn't want him running the world. I talked to him before a previous Kiss tour, to Wellington in 2008, and he put forward one simple solution to the complex social issues surrounding drug dealers, criminals and terrorists: a bullet.
"I'm sick of all this permissive society bullshit!" he said at the time. "Death is a wonderful cure for violent lunatics. Please! I don't want to find out what made you violent; I want to kill you! If a mad dog starts biting people, shoot him, for God's sake. Don't waste my time telling me why he's mean."
Today, Simmons is in a more playful mood. He goes way past our appointed interview time, cracking jokes, telling tall tales, dispensing bon mots about sex, money, power and marriage.
He's not too bothered whether people rate him as a bass player, but craves respect as a businessman. But why should people take business advice from a fire-breathing dude wearing demon make-up and a stainless steel codpiece? "Because I'm very rich, and if anyone understands how a brand works, it's me."
Evidence supports this assertion. Simmons is a global brand himself: besides playing music, he's an actor, a publisher, a writer, a TV producer. His projects have included a short-lived men's mag called Gene Simmons' Tongue, a cartoon series, a cable TV dating show, and reality shows Rock School and Gene Simmons' Family Jewels.