KISS rock 'n' rolls all nite at Morongo Casino - Interview with Gene Simmons
At 67, Gene Simmons is a veteran of rock 'n' roll and a contemporary of the legendary performers who graced the Desert Trip stage earlier this month, in what was affectionately called “Oldchella.”
In fact, he and Bob Dylan even wrote a song together in the 90’s called “Waiting for the Morning Light.”
It’s incredible to think that his band KISS, founded 43 years ago with rhythm guitarist and friend Paul Stanley, is still putting out the same caliber of show as when they started – pyrotechnics, platforms, make-up, tongue and all.
Not to disparage the legendary Desert Trip artists, but it’s hard to imagine that as spry as Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney are for septuagenarians, they would have the stamina to perform a two-hour show while wearing up to 50 pounds in leather and metal gear, all the while being flung through the air.
Simmons wonders if even a millennial could do it.
“I would challenge anybody in any band, even if you’re 20-years-old, to get up there and do our show. KISS is the hardest working band out there. Period. You know Bob Dylan is a legend and Mick Jagger is just great, put those guys in my outfit and they’d die by the third song,” he said.
KISS, known for their eccentric make-up and over-the top shows, performs Sunday at Morongo Casino in Cabazon.
The Morongo showroom is much smaller than the stadiums where they traditionally perform so Simmons said they will have to scale back on the scope so they don’t blow the roof off.
“We do a lot of outdoor shows or arenas with very high ceilings – 80 foot, 100 foot ceilings. But we’re like a transformers robot. You can scale down or stretch your arms and become as big as you want to be,” he said.
Following Morongo, they are heading to Mexico to perform in Tijuana and Monterrey.
“These are big shows where you can really stretch out and shake the heavens. In fact, one local airport’s not to send low flying planes overhead,” he said.
Simmons said the show will feature an overview of all their songs from every decade. Some of KISS’ most popular songs include “Rock n’ Roll All Nite,” “Detroit Rock City” and “Beth.”
He said fans will see a committed band that lives up to their self-imposed mandate.
“We introduce ourselves with ‘you wanted the best, you got the best, the hottest band in the world,’” he said. “Those words mean something, for us and clearly to the fans.”
When you’re at a KISS show, you’re not talking to your friend or sitting demurely bopping your head – you are pounded with music.
“We’re gonna play too loud and were gonna pound you. Our job is to make you forget about the traffic jam or any other thing that bothers you. There has never been a fight at a KISS concert for over 43 years. You know why? Anybody insults you, you can’t hear them anyway,” Simmons explained.
And he said there's too much going on onstage for people to be distracted with a fight.
“We fly through the air, things blow up, stuff happens, the drums levitate. Why would you want to look elsewhere.”
Simmons’ on stage moniker is “The Demon” and his spectacle on stage has included spitting blood and breathing fire in addition to strutting around on 7-inch platform boots that weight close to 10 pounds each.
“I love it. This is electric church. You get up on that stage and it’s ‘Glory, Glory, Hallelujah.' All hail rock and roll. What happens on that stage can’t be duplicated anywhere else. We have more fun than the Pope. We have more fire power than most third world countries,” Simmons said.
The musician is also an actor, television personality and entrepreneur — he owns Rock and Brew, a restaurant and brewery with 16 locations across the country, including one in Corona.
Simmons said he's grateful his band flourished when they did and have had such longevity because he realizes it’s hard for new bands to survive nowadays.
“There are a lot of new really good new bands. But unfortunately with the advent of downloading and file sharing the new bands just don’t get a chance – not the same chance we got,” he said.
Simmons explained that because KISS had a record company, fans couldn’t get their music unless they paid for it.
“So imagine a hotel with the doors wide open, everybody just walking in and sleeping in the rooms and eating and probably not paying for it. The hotels would quickly, go out of business,” he further explained.
Simmons said he considers himself lucky because he considers his wife and long-time partner Shannon Tweed, his “crack” and “savior.”
“Drugs and alcohol don’t make you smarter, it doesn’t make your smeckle bigger, it doesn’t make you run faster, there’s nothing in it that is inherently positive,” he said. “If I have a tooth pulled, they knock me out at the dentist office. But other than that, no. I’ve never been high or drunk, ever smoked cigarettes. It just doesn’t interest me, I think it’s a big waste of time.”
Books have been written on KISS and their elaborate costumes and why they dress the way they do. When it comes down to it, the simple answer, Simmons said, was to be different.
“When you run a race, look straight ahead. Why look over your shoulder to see what anyone else is doing. March to the beat of your own drummer. Try to be unique,” he said.
And 43 years later, it still seems to be working for them.
“We’ve outsold the Beatles and Elvis in licensing and merchandising combined. We have something like 5,000 licensed products. So far so good,” he said.