Kiss has to be one of the most enduring groups in all of rock 'n roll history. They've sold over 40 million records, performed to S.R.O. audiences throughout the world and have served as an inspiration to many of today's leading rock acts. You may recall that back in 1976, Kiss was noted the most popular group in America, according to a Gallup poll.
This year Kiss will release their 21st album. As finishing touches were being made on the album and tour plans were taking shape, we spoke with Kiss member Gene Simmons.
Q - What can you tell us about the new album? (1987)
A - The new album is called "Who Dares, Wins", which is our basic philosophy. If you dare, you win. If you don't try, you lose by default and that's been our basic philosophy.
Q - Stallone has said, "The challenge of success is that you keep trying to create higher goals." How can you top your success?
A - To do what you do better. That's really all you can hope to do. I think the idea is, you should never be satisfied. You can be proud, but once you're fully satisfied is the time they should put you under the ground, 'cause life is about striving. I think he's right. Very philosophical of Sylvester.
Q - I read that Peter Criss was contacted about the possibility of doing a reunion tour with Kiss in makeup. Any truth to that?
A - No. Peter is a wonderful guy with a terrific imagination. He hasn't been involved in Kiss for almost 7 years. In fact, Eric Carr has been in the group for longer than Peter has by now. This is not a put down or anything, but I'm sure Peter would like it. He made a terrible mistake first time, and I'm sure he'd like the old days to come back, but they don't.
Q - As you look at some of the groups around today, are you surprised that the combination of rock 'n roll and makeup still excited audiences?
A - No. I think ultimately it's interesting. You look at somebody who looks a little bit different than somebody on the street, and you keep wondering 'is this person like me or aren't they?' Wearing makeup is fine if you do it convincingly. It's not a good idea to do it for your entire career, because you're just a one trick pony. Ultimately, that's boring.
Q - A concert promoter once told me that the appeal of Kiss was based on your stage show and not your music and that your manager at the time didn't believe the group was musically talented.
A - When you buy a record, you don't get anything except song. It is true you can get away with one album on word of mouth, a gimmick. You don't get away with it for 14 years and 20 albums, and this is going to be the 21st. There's no question that part of the appeal of Kiss is the makeup and part of the appeal of Elvis is the hip swirl and part of the appeal of the Beatles is their haircuts. But, you must have some content to have longevity.
Q - In some interviews I've been reading, both Vinnie Vincent and Mark St. John have said some unkind things about Kiss.
A - That's OK.
Q - Vinnie has said when he does interviews, he can't even mention the work Kiss. Is that true and why?
A - True. No free rides. You wanna make it, go and make it. I named Vincent Cusano, Vinnie Vincent. That's the only gift he's allowed. It's interesting that Vinnie hasn't changed his name back to Vinnie Cusano. Vinne for the record was fired for unethical behavior, not because of lack of talent. The guy is very talented. He was unethical. He was fired. Now he's got a career of his own. Good luck. I wish him all the best of luck. You're not allowed to use the name Kiss. I've worked for 14 years to make that name mean something. Nobody gets a free ride off of me. Now you go and build the Vinnie Vincent Invasion. Good luck, but not with Kiss as ammunition.
Q - And Mark St. John?
A - Mark was a swell guy who played on one record who developed a sickness called Reiters Syndrome. Gee, I thought Mark had a good time and didn't know he was saying unkind things. Well, if Mark is, that's OK too.
Q - How do you handle the criticism that comes your way concerning your stage show and lyrics to your songs?
A - Let me tell you, I would pay them to do this. It makes music and Kiss that much more vibrant. If there's nothing to complain about with rock 'n roll, then there is no difference between rock 'n roll and country music or opera. The difference between rock 'n roll and everything else is that it's the outlaw music. Without organizations like the P.M.R.C. rock 'n roll cannot be vibrant. The bottom line of all this stuff is I would not even answer somebody who I don't think is important enough to answer. Why do I even say, "Gee, these people are wrong." Well, then you're talking about them and making them even more important. If you spend all your time answering the stuff you don't like reading about yourself, you'll never have time for performing. The people know. The fans know.
Q - Are rock groups supposed to last 15 or 20 years?
A - Most rock groups shouldn't exist more than...you fill in the amount of time. The premise is, a rock 'n roll band should be handled like a party. If you're at a party and it feels good and you're having a good time, stay. If it starts to get boring, go. Don't bore yourself or the people who are having the party by staying there if you're not having a good time. And that's the way Kiss is treated.
Q - Bette Midler said "The worst part of having success is to try finding someone who is happy for you. You don't really find that in this business."
A - No, you don't.
Q - So how do you handle that, Gene?
A - It's better than working for a living. Whatever else artists may complain about, they sure can't complain about having a hard life. It's long hours, but everything's got its price.
Vinnie Vincent was hired to replace Ace Frehley in December, 1982 and was fired in late 1983.
Mark St. John played briefly with Kiss in 1984.