Now, how are the KISS fans receiving Eric Singer as Peter Criss and Tommy Thayer as Ace Frehley?
It’s not ‘as’ anything. In football teams there’s a number. If one of the players gets kicked out of the band three times for not being a team player and for using drugs and alcohol, ‘your ass is grass,’ as they say in New York! You may have been worthy of the team once. Why the hell would you continue to keep somebody on the team if they’re not carrying their load?
The reason why I ask is because the first time you replaced Peter Criss and Ace Frehley with the late Eric Carr and Vinnie Vincent, Eric Carr wore the face paint of a fox and Vinnie Vincent wore an ankh on his face…
We tried different personas and it was okay, but we said why do we have to? This is iconic. When I go to see Batman at the movies, there have been different people as Batman, but it’s still Batman. Why would we change it?
KISS recently kicked off this 35th Anniversary of KISS: Alive over at Cobo Hall Arena in Detroit. How did it feel to go back there after 35 years?
It felt really amazing! On one hand, it’s sad because Cobo is being torn down, but we also met on the back cover of the double live album. You have to remember in those days, it was lunacy to release a live record, much less a double live record. KISS has always been like that—nuts! So, the back cover shows two fans in the middle of a sold out hall, three nights I might add, and they’re holding a KISS banner that they made. Well, those two guys showed up all these many years later with the same banner. One’s a successful real estate agent and the other is a doctor. The KISS Army, that’s right!
So, you’re coming back to New York City to play Madison Square Garden once again. How does it feel to come home and play The Garden?
I will tell you a story that is near and dear to my heart. The band was put together at 10 East 23rd Street. It was a loft, and The Garden was 10 blocks away. I would walk up there and see basketball or The Stones or whomever else was playing. We all have dreams! And when KISS played there for the first time, I walked in through the front door because in those days people didn’t know what we looked like without the makeup. They were just aware of KISS. They thought that we looked like that 24 hours a day. So, I walked in through the front door, walked through the crowd, went backstage, put on makeup, got up onstage and rocked the house! The rock ‘n’ roll rites of passage, if you will. It was like climbing Mount Olympus, when you get to the top, the view is amazing!
I will tell you this, I mean you couldn’t see under the makeup or anything, but when I was onstage the first time at The Garden, they didn’t see it, but the Demon cried. Oh yeah! It says something about the American Dream; that it is alive, it is well, and I’m living proof of it. I wasn’t born here. The first thing that I ever heard was, ‘What are you stupid? Can’t you speak English?’ If you work your tail off, and to have the doors open, anything is possible!
With the music industry constantly changing partly due to the economy and partly due to technology, what advice can you give struggling musicians who can’t seem to attract label attention?
Well, it’s really tough. I have a label, Simmons Records, through Universal, but it’s really tough because the industry is in disarray. It’s not dead! Sonic Boom we put out ourselves through Wal-Mart, but we come with our own fan base so we can do that. It’s really tough out there because of the downloading thing. Pandora’s box has been opened and the record industry has suffered because of it. It’s almost dead, but it’s not. I suggest that new bands go out there and make your own CDs and distribute them as best you can. The days of big advances and record companies—that’s over!
I see that you’re also in Mike Judge’s new movie, Extract?
Yes! I play an asshole L.A. lawyer, of course! I have a good time with anything that I do. I do my best, have a great time and don’t take it seriously and let the cards fall where they may. It seems anything that I try to do turns out okay.
It’s no secret that Gene Simmons, the businessman, is a marketing genius, too!
Well, the word genius is highly overused. It’s interesting. I have a different philosophy about stuff. Most people want a job. I just like working. There’s a difference. I’ve never taken a vacation, but that’s not because there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just I don’t want to go away from doing stuff everyday— working.
Gene, is there any truth to the rumor that your creating this reality show based on developing a new version of KISS?
Mark Burnett and I have been talking about it, and of course, Paul. It’s a conversation. I mean everything is a conversation until it’s real.
Sonic Boom is out now at a Wal-Mart near you. Catch them live at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY, on Oct. 9, at Madison Square Garden in NYC on Oct. 10, or the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, PA, on Oct. 12. For ticket info, log onto kissonline.com.