Gene Simmons hinted the end is in sight, when asked if KISSwill rock on like blues greats do, not to mention Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones.
“No, no, no,” said Simmons, 66. “We are the hardest-working band in show business, period. I run around on stage on seven-inch platform shoes, spit fire, wear 50 pounds of armor. We love Jagger and McCartney, but those gentlemen couldn't do what I do. Physically, you'd pass out.
“No, no, we can't do this into our 70s, nor would we want to. We have to be convincing at doing what we're doing. But I'd like to think in the future there's going to be four well-deserving young men who are willing to put in the time and the effort to wear the crown.”
So KISS might sanction younger players to carry the torch and wear the masks?
“Why not? Simmons said. “Why should the party end just because one or two guys leave?”
Simmons and Paul Stanley, of course, have kept the Kiss party alive since the departures of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. All four original members did reunite for a massively successful 1996 tour, but Simmons said that's not likely to happen again.
“Ace and Peter, God bless them, have been in and out of the band three different times,” Simmons said. “I mean, how many strikes do you want before you're just out of the game? And the physicality of what we're doing, with all due respect, the guys couldn't do it.”
Simmons said he trains to stay in shape for KISS' demanding tours.
“I do hikes up and down mountains, as many as six to eight miles,” he said. That keeps him primed despite his onstage rigors, which included a challenging opening night on the current Freedom to Rock tour. KISS played outdoors in Tucson on a 108-degree day
For Simmons, that's part of the job, and when the job is KISS one thing matters above all: Giving the fans what they expect and deserve. That's why the 2016 KISS tour is hitting smaller cities, including Erie, which they first played in 1974 at the Erie County Fieldhouse (they famously singed the roof on their next visit).
“We're avoiding New York, Los Angeles, Paris and all those other big cities and visiting the cities that gave us our start,” Simmons said. “It's our way of giving back to the heartland, to the cities that put us here in the first place.
“Giving back is something we've always tried to do; never mind the fact that we've always been dedicated to giving the fans bang for the buck,” he added. “You'll never walk away from a KISS show, even if you hate the band, and say, 'They cheaped out on the production.' The opposite is true.”
“You're going to get the whole bells and whistles, all of it,” Simmons said. “We're bringing along extra surprises. We're going to play some nuggets. And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and KISS teamed up, and we're going to give local vets jobs. They're going to help our road crew put on the greatest show on Earth.”
Gene Simmons plugged into the Way Back Machine for Showcase and reminisced about three classic KISSsongs.
“I remember hearing 'Bitch' by the Stones. I don't know if you remember the lick, but it goes (hums the song). Listen, a good song is a good song; I don't care if it's Abba. If it's constructed well and it's memorable, that's called a good song. I remember being struck by how simple the song was, that you had a riff like 'Sunshine of Your Love' and you get that riff and then over it, you've got the melody and the lyric. I always wanted to write something like that. So, 'Deuce' was inspired directly by 'Bitch' from the Stones, although if you play it on guitar or bass, it bears no resemblance. It's not even in the same key. But the idea of it was certainly the same. And I actually wrote 'Deuce' on bass.”
“Cold Gin” (1974)
“When Ace (Frehley) joined the band, he originally just wanted to be the guitar player, the lead guitarist. We said, 'Well, we have a different kind of a band. We're closer to the Beatles, conceptually, than the Stones, where only one guy sings. In the Beatles, everybody sings, everybody gets to be a star.'
“That was the idea behind KISS, so we encouraged Ace to write. Of course, they say (to) write what you know, so Ace — loving spirits, and I don't mean ghosts; I mean the kind you drink — came in with the first piece that he wrote called 'Cold Gin.' Even though it says Ace Frehley on the songwriting, the middle section with the riff, it was my contribution. We encouraged him to sing, but ... unfortunately he declined. Paul suggested he sing it, then Ace said, 'No, I want Gene to sing it.' That's why, every once in a while, we still do the song.”
“Detroit Rock City” (1976)
“'Detroit Rock City,' Paul wrote. By the time he did that demo, we'd already played Detroit and were bowled over by this idea that more people are showing up there and we couldn't figure out why or what it is about Detroit. Then, we started hearing fans would get in their cars from the outlying areas and would drive in to the city, and that was the inspiration for it. Then, it was Bob Ezrin who arranged the song when we recorded it.