Interview with Gene Simmons of Kiss: Creating A Sonic Boom

Everyone has a childhood hero or at least someone that they idolized growing up. For some, it’s a sports figure; some might even say a movie star or a relative. For me, I had my sports figure idols, but mainly worshipped rock stars. As a child, I wanted to be Nikki Sixx from Mötley Crüe, Duff McKagan from Guns ‘N Roses, or Gene Simmons from KISS, which would only make sense for me to become a bass player. Now, it’s not every day that you get to meet or speak to your childhood idols, but I’ve been lucky enough to have that day happen a few times already meeting Nikki and Duff. Today, I would get the chance to speak to the idol of all idols, the hero of all heroes—I wanted the best and I got it! Today, I was getting a chance to speak to Gene Simmons, the marketing genius, bass-playing reality show TV star Demon of KISS!

Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Eric Singer, and Tommy Thayer, collectively known to the rest of us as the legendary KISS, recently released their first studio recording since Psycho Circus 11 years ago. Sonic Boom, a three-disc set performed by the current line-up contains studio recordings on the first, featuring the new single “Modern Day Delilah,” while the other two CDs include live recordings from earlier this year. Sonic Boom is actually a Wal-Mart exclusive, which is something that AC/DC successfully accomplished back in June.

KISS also recently kicked off a North American tour to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of their innovative album, KISS: Alive. The tour started with two sold out nights at Detroit’s Cobo Hall Arena, the very same stage KISS: Alive was recorded. Right before KISS went on the road, they received news that they were finally being nominated for the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame along with Genesis, The Stooges, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Unfortunately, they’ll have to wait until January to see if they are among the inductees. While they wait, KISS will be bringing their “Alive/35” tour home to New York City’s Madison Square Garden on Oct. 10. Gene Simmons was able to call me between cities to talk about his favorite topics—KISS and Gene Simmons! KISSmas came early for me this year! Here’s what the Demon had to say:

Hey, Gene! I have to start this off with congratulations on your Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame nomination! KISS is finally nominated! How does this feel?

It’s appreciated, but we don’t take it too seriously. Our fans are everything to us. The KISS Army is legendary and has become iconic. It’s become it’s own thing. Every other band in the world knows about the KISS Army, and they’d give their left nut to have it. So, nice to be nominated, but it’d be nice to win. It’s not the end all or be all. We do our talking onstage!

I think you guys will get it. KISS is the main influence for many bands out there today. You’re the pioneers to what we see today in live performances.

Well, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. All we know is that when we go to see wrestling and we see fireworks or we go and see McCartney or any other band live and you see spectacle and fireworks, and all that, where’d that come from? The stampeders? If the only thing we’ve done is raise the bar substantially for live performances, that’s good! Then we’ve left our mark! It’s no longer enough to just get onstage with a tie-dyed t-shirt and sneakers, and look at your shoes and think that your giving people a show.

Sonic Boom is your first studio album in 11 years. Can you tell me a little bit more about it?

Eleven brand new songs; it’s a three-disc special package. The second disc has 15 songs by this line-up re-recorded. The third disc is of us in South America at Buenos Aires Stadium in April, just a few months back. And what Sonic Boom is, is this is who we are now. No keyboard players, no children’s choirs, no synthesizers, none of that. Meat and potatoes straight down the line, and it all goes back to a spirit of innocence that we had when we first started, when we first strapped guitars on our shoulders. Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer sing their own songs. The band is back to being full octane.