Gene Simmons can't usually hold his tongue. But he did so when KISS met the media after being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three-months ago. Simmons, who will turn 65 in August, and his co-conspirator Paul Stanley refused to field questions after being honored.
But Simmons, who will co-headline Wednesday at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater with Def Leppard, is more than willing to talk about refusing to play the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction concert, why Run-D.M.C. doesn't belong in the Hall, and he offers advice for the last true rock star.
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Q: You act as if all of the media is against you. That's not so. In fact, I had the same experience Tom Morello, who eloquently inducted you into the Rock Hall, had. KISS was my first concert and initial visceral music experience.
A: Now look at you; you're a big journalist.
Q: I don't know about big, although I had a huge breakfast. A generation ago it was all about rock and Creem magazine.
A: Journalism was in a healthier state then. The Internet has made journalism more cold.
Q: You could say the same thing about music.
A: You could. I agree.
Q: Morello nailed it while inducting you. It was as if he was 12 years old again.
A: It was a tour de force. I was blown away.
Q: How was Morello selected?
A: He was not selected. Tom is connected with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame board and he kept pulling on (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame co-founder) Jann Wenner's tie, and we were inducted. But how can you have Madonna, Run-D.M.C. and Blondie in the hall. KISS is one of the most influential bands ever. Jann Wenner is just not a fan. Not everybody likes Jesus, either. We have no reason to complain. We're the luckiest sons of bitches to walk the face of the Earth. If the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame added us or didn't, it didn't matter to us. We only did the induction with Ace and Peter because the fans wanted it. But it was a slap in the face that they didn't acknowledge (guitarist) Tommy Thayer and (drummer) Eric (Singer). They've been in the band longer than Ace (Frehley) and Peter (Criss). If the Grateful Dead can have 10 members in and out of the band and a lyricist, who was never in the band in the Hall, how can you explain that? Or how can the E Street Band get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? The E Street Band? Well, then why not the Silver Bullet Band or the Heartbreakers. I don't get it.
Q: What do you think about all of the hip-hop artists in the Hall?
A: The idea of Run-D.M.C. and other rap acts inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the height of ridiculousness. If KISS was inducted into the Rap Hall of Fame people would say, 'Man, that's crazy.' Exactly. KISS ain't hip-hop, and Run-D.M.C. ain't rock. They don't belong in the Rock Hall.
Q: KISS was the only band that refused to perform at the April Induction. If they let you play with Tommy and Eric, as well as Ace and Peter, would you have taken the stage?
A: I suggested it, but they turned me down.
Q: How can you beat the system?
A: Well, I was thinking of buying the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Q: If anyone in rock could afford it, it would be you. How much is the Hall worth to you?
A: It almost doesn't matter (laughs). Almost.
Q: How would you change it?
A: The first thing I would do is move the bodies buried in the wrong place. I would bury them in the right place. I would put Run-D.M.C., who I believe are very good, and the rest of hip-hop into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame. I would take Madonna and Donna Summer, who was a dear friend, and put them in the Disco or Dance Hall of Fame. I would put Deep Purple in the Hall. The fact that Blondie got in before Humble Pie is crazy.
Q: Why wouldn't you field any questions after being inducted?
A: There was nothing to say (to the media) after we made our speeches.
Q: How did you feel about Ace speaking to the media after you posed for photos as a group?
A: I wasn't there. We left early. ... His demons are his own. He leads a Jekyll and Hyde sort of existence. He has a new album coming out, and I wish him well. I wish Peter (Criss) well, too.
Q: If they ever cleaned up their act would you …
A: Not a chance. We've already danced that dance three different times. No way will we reunite. It wouldn't be fair to Tommy and Eric. It wouldn't be right.
Q: KISS was slammed back in the day for turning rock into a circus, but pyro is part of so many big shows.
A: Absolutely. If you see Garth (Brooks), Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones, you get pyro. Where do you think that came from, Air Supply? We started doing that stuff, and they (the arbiters of taste) hated it. We didn't care. We wanted to combine all the thrills and put them on stage. Rock is renegade music. They all caught up with us though. The Dead came out with the cherry vanilla ice cream (Cherry Garcia). So the hippies even came around.
Q: Whatever happened to the rock star?
A: It disappeared like the dinosaur. I would love it if (Lady) Gaga, who was the only real rock star two-years ago, would rock out. It would take King Kong size balls if she came out with her next album and made a stripped down rock record with no tapes, no Vegas dancers and just go and kick disco in the nuts. Get the tapes and the male strippers off the stage. They're not musicians.
Q: Gaga's shows have no momentum. She pontificates between every other song.
A: That's why I think a rock show would be the best thing for her. Go up there on a roller coaster and you don't get a chance to catch your breath until the end. Less is more.
Q: Less is more is the most unlikely phrase to ever leave your lips. What has ever been less than more at a KISS show?
A: We wanted to do a show with much more pyro this tour, so I guess less is more for us in that manner.
Q: How long can KISS exist as a touring band?
A: We can't do what the Stones do. They're in their 70s. Charlie (Watts) is 73 and sits on a chair. They perform in sneakers and T-shirts. I have 50 pounds of gear on. We have a few tours in us, though but we won't be doing this in our 70s.
Q: You stand out in an era when you sport gargoyle gear and other bands dress like they're hanging at the corner bar.
A: We do, but I guess what we do isn't for everyone. I love U2 but I don't think the Edge would look right in a cape. It wouldn't look good on him.