NOISE: Kiss and Tell

Gene Simmons gives us a little tongue

Josh Bell

Kiss bassist and vocalist Gene Simmons is known for his prodigious tongue. It's on the cover of his recent autobiography, Sex Money Kiss. It's the namesake of his Maxim-style men's magazine. It has spat (fake) blood at Kiss concerts for nearly 30 years. And generations of groupies have probably seen (or felt) it perform a few other spectacular feats. But perhaps the thing it's best at is helping Simmons spout his never-restrained opinions.

Kiss—original members Simmons, guitarist-vocalist Paul Stanley and drummer Peter Criss, plus new lead guitarist Tommy Thayer replacing the ousted Ace Frehley—are now on tour with fellow '70s hard-rock giants Aerosmith. The two hit town October 24 and 25 for a double-night stand at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, and there's a launch party for the latest issue of Simmons' magazine at Risque in the Paris on the 23rd. Simmons took some time to wag his tongue on his band, the music industry, and the rock 'n' roll lifestyle he'll never stop leading.

On touring with Aerosmith: "This ain't Holyfield-Tyson. Nobody's trying to bite off body parts. Both bands get along great. I would venture to say that both bands are, if not the best of their kind, I don't know who else is. You know, when we're on stage, the 'Smiths are over on the side watching. Everybody's having a great time. The real winners are the fans. And backstage is real fun. Both bands kid with each other. Tyler's jokes, I would venture to say, are at least as God-awful as mine. Both of us groan with great delight at each other's humorous jabs."

On Kiss' chances of making it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: "With all due respect to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it's a popcorn fart for us. It doesn't mean a lot because it's not really representative of the American lifestyle. It's not democratic. It certainly doesn't represent the people. I happen to agree that a lot of the acts that are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame deserve to be there, because they sold a lot of records and the people loved them. But there are some acts that I look at, and I'm going, 'Why are they there if they only have one gold record? What happened to the American way: Of the people, for the people, by the people?' The truth is that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a political organization. A few people get together in a back room and they vote on who they think should go in there. But it's not direct democracy. Did anybody ever ask you who should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? It's funny, nobody ever asked me either. So how does that work?"

On why no other band can do what Kiss does: "As much as I like Michael Stipe, I don't want to see him in a cape flying through the air in a superhero comic book. That's a scary thought. R.E.M. Comics: Not a good idea. Good Charlotte Comics: No. Because they'd get beaten up. They'd become the bitches. It doesn't work. You've got to be over 6 feet and be a superhero. You can't be a little boy. Because you know what happens with little boys? They become girls in the hands of men. You don't wanna go there."

On Ace Frehley: "I don't want to get up on that stage with anybody that's got a problem with being himself. I mean, I love Ace. I care about him. But he—for my opinion—seems to despise himself. And that guy shouldn't be onstage. You've got to work out your own demons offstage."

On Kiss merchandise: "It seems to me, in life, you have a choice, not of wearing condoms or not—you must wear condoms—but of putting a Roman helmet, a guy who looks like he came out of Spartacus, a Trojan, or you can put my lovely face on your johnson. I'm very proud of the stuff we've done because, if it's about taste, if you don't like it, you don't buy it. But the ethics of it has been pretty solid. We haven't stooped to cigarettes and booze. We just won't do that. But do I think anything's fair game? You bet. Kiss yarmulkes: Why not?"

On Kiss' recent show with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (released last month on CD and DVD): "You're talking about an entire audience filled with people who look like us, as well as a symphony orchestra who look like us, and we look like us, and including the 20-piece Australian Children's Choir—they also look like us. It's almost as if you landed on the Kiss planet."

On indulging in the perks of being a rock star: "It's important to spread joy, as they say. To live up to the blueprint, the design. You see, I, being a male of the species, manufacture billions of sperm. So you sort of have to Johnny Appleseed your way through life."

On how he might appear in this publication: "No matter what you write, I like big pictures. So make sure you put big pictures in the magazine and I'm a happy guy."

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