KISS never keeps it simple, stupid, says Gene Simmons
By BRUCE R. MILLER / siouxcityjournal.com
There’s a reason many classic bands don’t retire, Gene Simmons says. “It’s the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd. There’s nothing more seductive than being wanted.”
Still, the work most bands do in their golden years doesn’t begin to approach what KISS has to pull off on a nightly basis.
“We love Crosby, Stills and Nash,” Simmons says. “I could do that into my 70s and 80s. What I do is backbreaking work.”
Wearing elaborate heavy metal costumes, boots with sky-high heels and sweat-inducing makeup, Simmons says he, co-founder Paul Stanley and bandmates Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer are determined to create an experience, not just perform the group’s greatest hits.
“I would love to be Keith Richards and the Rolling Stones,” the 66-year-old rocker says. “They put on T-shirts and sneakers and they’re lucky to break a sweat. I put on my 50 pounds of armor and high-heeled boots and we work harder than anybody.”
Fire-breathing, pyrotechnics and chest-thumping sound prove KISS isn’t just phoning it in.
“Every night we get off the stage drenched in our own sweat and wonder if we can do it again,” Simmons says. “It beats you up. Paul has had two knee and shoulder operations. And, at the end of the tour, you think, ‘That’s it.’ You don’t think you want it, but it’s really hard to go, ‘OK, I’m just going to go and watch.’”
There’s a sense of pride, Simmons says, that goes back to the beginning when fans “wanted the best, not ‘kind of’ the best or ‘kind of’ good. They wanted the best. And that was our war cry.”
The makeup? “That has a relation to those American Indians who put the paint on and danced around the fire all night. It’s a battle cry.”
Neither Simmons nor Stanley, he adds, wants to cede the stage to someone else.