MARCH 4-5, 2023


June 2002. By Joe Matera
Gene Simmons – Kiss’ fire-breathing bass player and founding member –  recently released “Kiss And Make-Up”, his first autobiography. The book is a no holds barred account of his life and times with one of the world’s biggest rock bands. The biggest shock to long time fans will come with his revelation that Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley, didn’t play on a lot of the Kiss classics or even at times, live on stage.
4.0.1“You know what” begins Simmons, “when you think about it, it’s not as damning as it sounds because your favourite bands were the same. You know, Jimi Hendrix actually played bass on a lot of the stuff, it wasn’t Noel Redding. And it wasn’t Bill Wyman on a lot of the Stones stuff, it was Keith Richards! And some of the guitar parts that you think was George Harrison on The Beatles records, were in fact either Paul McCartney or John Lennon. And so we all buy into the fantasy, life is black and white and everybody does what they look like and look like what they do. But it’s not so.”
Unlike Motley Crue’s recent book with it’s sordid tales of drugs and the like, Simmons’ book is very lightweight in that particular department, due to his intense dislike of all substances. “I’m not here to tell anybody how to live their life. I simply don’t want to get high myself” explains Simmons. “You’re allowed to. Its good that people don’t have the same aspirations, and aspirations isn’t just a big word like ‘gymnasium’, it actually means hard work. Because ambitions and dreams are one notion. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to have aspirations and dreams, the real question is what are you going to do about it? There’s just no substitute for hard work. In fact I’ve found the harder I work, the luckier I get!”
In past interviews Simmons has never been afraid to voice his views on the grunge genre especially it’s own fallen hero, Kurt Cobain. “I don’t have any sympathy with rockstars that whine. I could have told you that Kurt Cobain was going to kill himself!” asserts Simmons. “I want all rockstars to do the same thing that Kurt Cobain did. I want them all to get high on heroin and die! And get out of my way because I want more! I have no sympathy for anybody who has the freedom of choice and decides to take his own life, whether you’re mad or sane. Because in life, the only thing we have got of value is freedom. So as long as you’ve got the freedom to do whatever you want, then hey, that’s your decision. That’s not tragic. Tragic is when a car runs you over and you have no decision to live or die, it’s taken from you, that’s tragic. Kurt Cobain’s death? That’s not tragic, that’s a choice.”
Within the pages of his book I found many inaccuracies with Simmons recalling of events and facts. For example, Simmons states that Kiss took Bon Jovi out on their first ever European tour in 1980. This is totally wrong, as it was in fact Iron Maiden. Bon Jovi was  1984!. In another he claims that ‘She’ was on the ‘Hotter Than Hell’ album, instead of ‘Dressed To Kill’. “You’re right!” retorts Simmons as his tone changes and is clearly annoyed by my questioning. “Look, the book wasn’t written as a statistical thing. It was very much a stream of consciousness. I sat down, started from page one and just went to the end. And if the book is about anything, it’s really about a little boy who came from Israel and found the promised land in America, that’s what it’s really about. I mean yeah, I’m in a band and we wear more make-up and higher heels than your mummy ever did, but what it’s really about is attaining your dreams and really appreciating it.”
One thing that Simmons clearly has no problem recalling in all their splendid glory, are his 4,600 liaisons. The fondest memory that Simmons has of Kiss’ first tour to Australia in 1980, speaks volumes. “Girls and lots of them! They certainly make the world go around, certainly makes MY world go around” enthuses Simmons. “The girls have always made everyday above ground a good day. When you think about it, it’s the prime urge, the urge to merge! So any guy in a band who tells you he’s doing it because he’s got music in his heart, he’s just lying! He’s playing in a band because he wants to get laid!”
Over the years, Simmons has used a variety of basses to produce his distinctive sound and playing that graces the music of Kiss. “The basses tended to be very working man basses, nothing fancy” he explains. “I get my sound by overdriving the amp. It’s never been the classic sound that bass players prefer, which is thumpy and low ended. Mine would sound more at home doing the melody to ‘Michelle’ by The Beatles. The lines I tend to play probably veer somewhere in between a bass and a guitar because a lot of the riffs that we do, started of being the bass riffs which then sounded good enough to the rest of the band that they decided to have the guitars join in, like horn parts. Like in ‘Firehouse’ or ‘Black Diamond’ or any number of songs.”
And looking back, what are his favourite Kiss albums and why? “I don’t really have one” he begins. “A few of them really do it for me. I like ‘Destroyer’ and ‘Creatures Of The Night’ and ‘Revenge’. The irony is, each one of those have a different line-up! There’s been lots of records and like most bands, a few of them stand up and the rest of them don’t.”