10/04/2017

Gene Simmons Demon Tattoo

Thanks to Martin Comoglio for sharing this Gene Simmons tattoo he just completed for a KISS fan in Argentina.

10/03/2017

RIP TOM PETTY

No! We have lost Tom Petty. From our opening act in the seventies to becoming a brilliant songwriter and performer I have loved his music. - Paul Stanley

Another great man gone too soon. Tom Petty you were an exceptional talent. Your legacy lives on. - Gene Simmons

10/03/2017

Gene Simmons Has Never Taken a Vacation

But you can ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’ at the KISS Kruise with him

 
Gene Simmons has made headlines with the unveiling of his Gene Simmons Vault. Arguably the largest box set ever released by a musician, the Vault weighs around 40 pounds and features 150 previously unreleased recordings from the KISS co-founder. Simmons has further made things interesting by agreeing to hand deliver a Vault to anyone willing to pay $2,000; the most expensive Gene Simmons Vault package includes the option of hosting Simmons at your home – alongside 25 other people – for two hours for $50,000.
 
Beyond his musical successes, Simmons is also one of the founders of the casual eatery Rock & Brews. Founded in 2012 along with KISS vocalist/guitarist Paul Stanley, Rock & Brews now has 17 restaurants around the United States and Mexico. The music-friendly establishment also has a casino in the works. Aside from Rock & Brews, Simmons is rumored to have a line of beverages in the works.

On behalf of The Daily Meal, I had the pleasure of asking Simmons some food-related questions in-person at The London Hotel.

The Daily Meal: Where did the idea for Rock & Brews come from?
Gene Simmons:
The idea for Rock & Brews came from a gentleman named Dave Furano, who is the brother of Dell Furano. He has been our licensing and merchandising guy for various companies and eventually settling on Epic Rights. They do us, Barbra Streisand, AC/DC, merchandising. It was his brother who came from the same world who had an idea about an eatery that combines classic rock and roll. I will tell you we are only a few years old, but there are already two at Rock & Brews in LAX, two at Cabo, Hawaii and more spread across America. We even broke ground on Rock & Brews Casino Resort in Oklahoma and there are more coming.

That was my next question, about the casino…
Oh that’s coming. Not only that but our casino at the largest Indian casino resort, the San Manuel Tribe… We have the Rock & Brews Casino Resort within the San Manuel Casino resort, so it’s all going gangbusters.

And of course, if you are just tuning in late, find out all the latest and the greatest on the largest box set of all time. I mean this is badass, I am so proud of this and I’ve got to mention there are secret drawers where you press, it opens up and there are personal items that I put in there. These box sets are another animal all together. It doesn’t look like one, it doesn’t move like one. It’s much heavier, it’s much bigger, it’s just everything I have ever dreamed of so I am proud of it.

At Rock & Brews, do you have a favorite item on the menu?
Yeah, my downfall is sweets, unfortunately. I’ve got to watch my girlish figure, so I’m just eating protein, no carbs. But my favorite thing, they call them beignets or bread pudding.

The KISS Kruise is another one of your entrepreneurial efforts, and what surprises me about the KISS Kruise is that you've talked in your books about how you've never gone on a vacation. What do you do when you're on the ship asides from performing?
It's a good 12-hour day. We literally meet and greet every single one of those thousands of fans on the ship. We make sure every single fan on that cruise gets a photo. We make sure everyone of the fan gets some time with us and we do contests and other activities besides unplugged shows and concerts at night. I mean, they’re full days.

So do you just keep yourself busy with the work? Or do you actually take a vacation at times?
I’ve never done that, and on the cruise I do the Gene Simmons Master Class where I teach people who have never played an instrument or never written a song to both play and write their first song within hours.

What's the food situation like on the cruise?
The best, many restaurants, many choices. Chinese, Italian and you know whatever you like. There are gyms and sports centers where you can go shopping and gambling. I mean it's a floating city, really.

I have a question from a celebrity fan. Dave Hill mentioned that he saw advice from you when he was growing up: "be weird, don't worry about fitting in." At what point in your life did you realize that it was kind of cool to be…
Dave Hill from?

Dave Hill is a comedian who's also in the band Valley Lodge. They do the theme song to Last Week With John Oliver on HBO. So he heard that advice when he was growing up, which meant a lot to him. But I am curious as you're known as one of the most confident people there is and you believe in yourself. Where did that come from?
Well, when you have no choice, it's easier than when you are born in a lap of luxury, mom and dad always have food in the plate, you get allowances for doing nothing and all that, and you just have no sense of reality. Reality helps poor people. Go to bed hungry, you know if they are lucky if they've got a piece of bread… Even in America, 15 million children go to bed to hungry and anybody out of a job will tell you how delicious food tastes when you are starving. And I've been there, when we came to America my mother made $37.50 a week in a factory, and when I had a jelly roll, I knew what good was. Boy, I didn't worry about steak or filet mignon. Give me a donut or Ding Dongs.

It comes back to the sweets.
Well, listen to the language – "you are so sweet," "how sweet it is"… Nobody talks about what a steak you are.

That's a great point.
Of course, the language says everything.

Sounds like another book for you.
"Rich" is a good word. "How did your child do in school?" "Poorly." They say, "Oh, what a poor little kid." The language tells the value of the society, whether it's good or bad.

10/02/2017

Tommy Thayer: The Epiphone Interview

Introducing the Tommy Thayer "White Lightning" Explorer Outfit

Longtime Epiphone Signature Artist Tommy Thayer of KISS is back with his third custom Epiphone, the new Ltd. Ed. Tommy Thayer "White Lightning" Explorer Outfit featuring the classic Explorer body in a Custom Metallic White finish plus Seymour Duncan® JB™ Humbuckers chosen by Thayer, Grover® Rotomatic machine heads, and a custom hard case.

Since 1985, Thayer has been part of the KISS family where he started out as a songwriter and video producer before taking over the role of the legendary "Spaceman" in 2002. Thayer's presence in the band coincided with a kind of renaissance for KISS both on record and on the road that shows no sign of dimming. Though the band has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, when it comes to talking about guitars and influences, Thayer is still the kid from Beaverton just outside Portland, Oregon who stood in line week after to week to see rock shows at the Paramount Theatre.

__________________

Thanks for speaking with Epiphone.com, Tommy, and congratulations on your new White Lightning Explorer Outfit. What inspired your new signature model?

For four or five years now I've had the good fortune of having two beautiful Epiphone signature model guitars. Both have been really well received. Traditionally, I've always been a Les Paul player, but occasionally I'll play an Explorer onstage. Two years ago my second signature Epiphone, the White Lightning Les Paul, struck a chord (no pun) with musicians and KISS fans around the world, selling out a limited edition run of 1,500 guitars. To keep that momentum and I guess continuity going, I've decided to do a limited edition White Lightning Explorer. My new Epiphone White Lightning Explorer is hot, loud, and delivers the big sound I need onstage every night. It's an instrument that suits musicians from all walks of life. My Epiphone signature guitars are a tried and true part of my arsenal. I never leave home without 'em! 

Do you find notice any changes to your approach when you go from playing the Explorer to a Les Paul?

I've played Les Pauls forever, but always loved the tonality of Explorers, SGs and Flying Vs. They are in the same ballpark as Les Pauls but with what I've always considered more mid-range and punch. Explorers always felt and looked right to me onstage, so a few years ago Gibson made me two silver sparkle versions. When Epiphone and I talked about a new guitar for 2017, an Explorer model made sense. Playing-wise, my Les Pauls and Explorers are similar. Obviously the guitar designs are completely different, but the neck contour, pick-ups, tuners and chrome parts are the same. I've noticed you can reach the highest notes on the neck of the Explorer easier than on a Les Paul.

Take us through a typical KISS sound check/rehearsal. Does the band have a set group of songs you play to get a feel for a venue?

When we're getting ready for a tour we usually get together in a small rehearsal room to work out a set list and just play lots of different things. We play the classic tunes, some deeper KISS cuts and actually jam on other music we all like for fun. The main point is to get loose, limber up and start singing. A few days before the tour starts, we get to the venue in the first city and rehearse several times on our big stage to get comfortable, work out monitor mixes, and practice effects, pyro, lighting and video. Most important is to make sure the set list is dynamic from start to finish.

Does KISS ever reference the original records before a tour to see if a detail has slipped by?

Funny you should ask, sometimes we do reference the records to check a guitar, bass or vocal part. The roadies will usually have the entire song catalog on hand. When we rehearse for the KISS Kruise and we're playing more obscure tunes, we do a lot more of that.

What is the process like for KISS in the studio? Does the band do a lot of prep and demo work before going in the studio or is there more of a collective compositional atmosphere?

In my experience it's always different. For our last two records, Sonic Boom and Monster, we didn't do demos on purpose. We've found that the spontaneity and honesty of recording a tune the first time can get lost when you try to re-record it for the album. Generally we like to do all the prep work and arrangements in a rehearsal space at $30 an hour rather than in the $200/hr recording studio. On the other hand, we collectively wrote "Back to the Stone Age" completely off the cuff in the recording studio in an hour or so, so there are no rules.

As a band, what artists do you listen to for pleasure? There are--after all--only a handful of rock 'n' roll bands that go back as far as KISS! Do you compare notes with contemporaries in that way?

It's an easy question to answer. We listen to music every night together in the dressing room when we put on our makeup. Everyone comes from a slightly different place as far as favorites. Strangely, Gene favors stuff like 50s and early 60s pop, doo-wop and R&B. Paul likes 60s & early 70s pop and rock. Eric and I go more for early to mid 70s rock and hard rock and 80s metal. I'm generalizing; we all like great songs, great riffs and great guitar players.

Vinyl is back--as you know! What's old is new again. For some engineers, working with tape is great. For others, it feels like an extra unnecessary step since digital has improved so much. Do those differences matter so much to the band anymore?

It makes a difference to me. The evolution of digital media hasn't necessarily improved the experience of listening to music or enjoying photos. These days for the convenience of listening to music on your device, whether it's streaming or it's iTunes, the audio quality of most digital files is vastly subpar compared to vinyl or a CD. Also, music is everywhere to the point of oversaturation, it's overdone. Now people are taking a zillion photos of everything today on their smartphones, and it trivializes the art of photography. Plus the harsh clarity is unflattering. It's no wonder Photoshop is so popular (laughs). The quality, the drama and richness you used to get from film, and actually printing your photos is lost. Technology has enabled the arts to become disposable. It's too bad.

When you have time off, what kinds of musical experiences do you seek out? Are you secretly playing jazz on a vintage Epiphone in the back of a club? Perhaps hunting for classic Bubble Puppy 45s--what's your life like when a tour is not going on?

Friends always ask, hey do you want to go to this concert or let's go to such and such club to check out a band. You know I love music, but when I get home from a tour the last thing I want to do (laughs). Growing up there wasn't anything greater or mystifying than going to concerts at the Portland Paramount Theatre and Memorial Coliseum. It's what drove me to do what I do. I enjoy listening to music. I'm soon setting up a killer stereo at home with a turntable and vinyl records, nothing better!

Is there a typical KISS fan? How old are the fans at the shows these days and how are they learning about the band?

No there's not a typical KISS fan. KISS fandom is a phenomenon unlike any other. The KISS Army is probably the most famous fan club in music and entertainment (laughs). It's tribal. Multi-generational. The beauty is that KISS fans today are of all ages with newbies coming to see the band every day. From the stage Paul asks the crowd every night, "How many of you people have never seen KISS before?" and at least 50 percent of the audience raises it's hands. I'm baffled why new fans are constantly coming to the shows, but I know one thing: The uniqueness of the KISS personas, imagery and the show has a timeless quality that appeals to kids the exact way it did to me when I was 13, 14 years old.

I think you mentioned you have some vintage Epiphones at home. Can you tell me about them? Maybe there could be a Tommy Thayer signature acoustic in the future.

Jim Rosenberg (Epiphone Pres.), what do you think? (laughs) The pride of my guitar collection is my 1963 Epiphone Texan acoustic. It's beautiful, just like Paul McCartney and Peter Frampton have played for years. When I graduated from high school in 1978, my parents wanted to give me a nice guitar as a gift, which was so cool of them. My mom talked to my friend Greg Georgeson who knew a lot about guitars, and he helped them pick out the guitar used at a downtown Portland guitar shop. At first I thought it was just a cool used acoustic guitar, but as every year goes by it becomes more of a really special and sentimental procession.

Do you have a favorite classic KISS album?

Either Dressed to Kill or Alive! Before I even learned to play guitar, I'd come home from junior high and play air guitar to "Deuce" off KISS Alive! in my parent's living room. "the hottest band in the land... KISS!"

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