Interview with Gene Simmons- KISS Returns to Toledo tonight!

Rock Legend Gene Simmons to Play with KISS at Huntington Center tonight!

by Jeff McGinnis / www.toledocitypaper.com

There is little that Gene Simmons hasn’t seen or done. He has spent over 40 years as the bass player, co-lead singer and face (painted or not) of one of music’s most legendary bands: KISS. Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. 30 gold records earned, recognized by the RIAA as the most ever by an American band. A loyal army of fans who would follow KISS to the ends of the earth— literally, if they choose to buy the official KISS Kasket from their website.

Despite it all, though, one gets the sense that there is something special to Simmons and his bandmates as they travel the country this summer with the “Freedom to Rock” tour— 40 shows aimed at smaller markets that KISS has never played, or hasn’t played in a long time. The group will take to the stage at the Huntington Center on August 24, returning to Toledo for the first time in 15 years.

“We decided, this tour, to team up with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and to make sure that we hire vets locally, at every one of the stops, of these 40 dates that we’re doing. And the vets get paid, and they help our road crew put on the greatest show on earth.

But the other thing is that we decided not to tour the major cities. When we first started, we played in places most people had never heard of. Bowling Green, Mankato, cities with real people. The buildings may not be as tall as New York or Chicago, but cool people live there, too. It’s not the buildings that define a cool city, it’s the people.”

Granted, the KISS that will be performing at Huntington isn’t exactly the same group of guys that tore up stages the world over and redefined theatricality in rock over four decades ago. Simmons will be there, of course, and co-lead singer Paul Stanley, but drummer Eric Singer (as the Catman) and lead guitar Tommy Thayer (as the Spaceman) have long since stepped into the shoes of Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. 

Despite the lineup changes, though, the group’s devoted legion of fans— the KISS Army— remain as dedicated as ever. “You go to see a KISS show, it defies logic, because it’s multi-generational,” Simmons said. “You’ve got five-year-old kids in KISS makeup, sitting on top of dad’s shoulders in KISS makeup, and you’ve got beautiful girls, and guys with cowboy hats— it just defies logic.”

Why does the KISS Army stay so loyal to the group after all these years? Simmons said he thinks it has something to do with the way the band stands outside of pop culture, or maybe in opposition to it.

“KISS has always been anti-fashion. It really doesn’t matter to us if rap is popular, or people are wearing cowboy hats— that’s good, we support all that. Between New Romance and Grunge, like every time there’s a movement, [there are] lemmings, a horde of bands that come out, looking the same, sounding the same and doing the same thing.”

Simmons added that, “But KISS stands alone, the dark horse of them all. We don’t look like your band, we don’t sound like your band, we don’t use backing tracks, we don’t use girl singers or disco boys with six-packs on poles, we don’t do any of that. Just meat and potatoes. You know, we’re like America’s hamburger. Millions served, always dependable. You can go to a fancy restaurant— European bands are concerned with good taste. KISS is only concerned that we taste good.”

KISS, with opening band the Dead Daisies,
will perform at the Huntington Center on Jefferson Avenue
at 7:30pm on Wednesday, August 24.
Tickets and more information are available at

Shop Official KISS Merchandise