SIMMONS SAYS

You wanna talk influential bands? It's gonna be a short conversation. What band has done more than KISS to influence everyone who's anyone today--from Nirvana to Garth Brooks to the Gin Blossoms? That's right, all none of 'em! KISS is legendary, this we know. And Gene Simmons knows it, too; the bass player with the tongue longer than most men's socks has plenty to say on life in the KISS lane. What's more, he--and the rest of the band--wants to talk to you, Special KISS Fan, live and in person. The boys are bringing their traveling cavalcade of all things KISS (original outfits, memorabilia, photos, footage, an unplugged performance, actual Q&A, and plenty of merchandise) to the Hyatt Regency Phoenix on Sunday, June 25. Call 1-800-905-5477 for info. And tickets are only $100.

Why a KISS convention?
"We could never figure out how to come out from behind the Wizard of Oz machine and go, 'Hi. There's a real person here.' We thought, 'We've got to find a place where the outside world is locked out and we're together with the fans, it's just us and them.' That was the genesis of it."

On why it costs a C-note to get in:
"If you're going to hold a party, you wanna make sure only the cool people come."

What KISS is willing to sell you:
"You'll be able to get your own legitimate gold and platinum records. We thought about this long and hard, and the fans, the ones who gave us the gold and platinum records, never received ones themselves. While it's true that it's impossible for everyone to get one, for those who want their gold or platinum record because they helped make the band happen, should be able to get one. They're four and five hundred bucks a pop. For the fans who want them."

How does 25-year-old KISS fit in today?
"I think something that has its own integrity is in and of itself an entity all and unto itself and should not be looking around over its shoulder or in front of it to try to figure out what to do. Because then it's manipulative, it's contrived. You've got to do whatever's happening in your heart."

On the magic of KISS:
"If I could verbalize it or completely understand it, I'd bottle it. I don't pretend to understand it. It's not a birthright, like a model who is an accident of birth [and who has] no talent involved; [she] didn't have to work for it, all [she] did was eat less. Whereas with KISS, we could have turned out being behind bars. We were four bums off the streets of New York City who wanted to put together the kind of band we'd never seen onstage. Everybody dreams to reach the unreachable star, but in our case, the idea that it's come true is beyond our wildest dreams."

What hath KISS wrought?
"We are pleased and honored that every band from Nirvana to Nine Inch Nails to White Zombie to you name the band, all of them picked up a guitar because of KISS."

Gene predicts:
"I think Trent Reznor is as good a songwriter as I've heard in at least ten years. And this kid Beck, if he becomes serious and wants to be an earthshaker, an earthmover, he could be a very important artist."

On the ways of The Business:
"There's a kind of a planned obsolescence with bands, every couple of years you don't care about whoever it was--Culture Club or Loverboy or whoever tickled your fancy. I'm not saying these weren't good bands, but everybody loses interest in all these other bands. Except KISS."

On aging:
"Only white people have this preoccupation with age and wrinkles and bands being old. You never hear any black person saying, 'Oh, John Lee Hooker? He's too old, he's 75.' I think old is relative . . . everybody is old to somebody. And when you're old to nobody, you're too young to know better. In other words, you're a fetus."

What predated KISS?
"I had the great white guilt complex. I thought the ills of society were my fault, so I wanted to go to Spanish Harlem and teach kids. And quickly found that that was not what I wanted to do at all. I wanted to be up onstage and have an audience."

How did KISS get its name?
"KISS was Paul [Stanley]'s name. We were riding around in a Mustang, going up Queens Boulevard in New York City, and everybody was throwing names around. 'How about Crimson Harpoon?' Stuff like that, and we were laughing about it. Paul said, 'How 'bout KISS?' I don't know if he was serious or not, but the car got very quiet. All of a sudden time stopped. [Simmons briefly imitates theme from 2001.] We didn't know what it meant, we just said, 'Yeah!' When you think about it, it makes no sense, because 'kiss' is kind of soft, and when the band started, we were going for anything but. But maybe in retrospect, it does make sense. KISS could be a lot of things--kiss off, kiss of death--KISS could be everything. And then we realized in every part of the world, you can say yes, no, kiss, and Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola and Yes were already taken. And we didn't want to call the band No."

Sexual philosophy:
"Women can be fat, short, tall, thin, old, young--it doesn't matter. I don't think it's what's outside, because the dressing doesn't matter, you can put sauce on anything and make it interesting. Lipstick and a tight dress will make everybody turn around. It's got to come from the inside."

Party habits:
"What do I do on a night out? I bet it's the same thing you do. Good food, good company. If you're not horny, then it's friends who you talk to, and if you're horny, you can find companionship."

On mother-daughter tag-team groupies:
"Yes, it's happened once or twice."

Did the Beatles matter?
"The killer of them all is Paul McCartney, who really changed the way bass players approached their instruments because he was first a guitar player. And I was first a guitar player. . . . We've just been told by Billboard magazine that we're about to tie the Beatles for the second all-time gold record winners. How cool is that?"

Who's worth hearing?
"I have my Tony Bennett box set right next to my Patsy Cline; I've got my Frank Sinatra right next to Smashing Pumpkins. I think you've got to approach music and life like you do food. Nobody just likes Mexican food or Japanese food or hamburgers, it's all about the spice of life. . . . I always listen to new bands, always have from the beginning. Whether it's finding Van Halen in a club and taking them into the studio for the first time, or seeing Cinderella when they first started out, every once in a while, you see a new band that just kills you, and when you see it's not happening, you try to help them."

Why breathe fire?
"When you think about it, it makes no sense. First, I'm playing an instrument, then I'm breathing fire. Or drooling blood. But when you look at KISS, you go, 'That's all right.' I think it ultimately goes back to no matter what you do, it all has to be convincing because it all has to make some kind of emotional connection. If it doesn't connect emotionally, it's like those people in Vegas shows who come out and go, 'I'm sincere, babe!' And you know he's full of shit, he doesn't mean it. So it's got to connect."

Words to live by:
"Walk your walk and talk your talk, don't try to copy other people because guess what--mimes are not real people. It's a figment of your imagination.

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