As rock legends KISS prepare for their final world tour, Simmons talks about the decision to call it a day and what fans can expect from their farewell shows
Every show opens with the same announcement blaring over the loud speakers before the curtain drops: 'You wanted the best, you got the best. The hottest band in the world: KISS!' It's one hell of an introduction.
The KISS experience is one of the most spectacular live shows in rock'n'roll. A grandiose mix of greasepaint, special effects and pyro – lots of pyro. Since 1973, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley have guided KISS to world domination. Their otherworldly personas – Starchild (Stanley), The Demon (Simmons), The Spaceman (originally Ace Frehley, now Tommy Thayer) and The Catman (initially Peter Criss, currently Eric Singer) – captured the imagination and turned KISS into rock icons.
Kings of stomping glam metal anthems built to be shouted out loud in arenas and stadiums around the world, the KISS juggernaut is coming to a screeching halt after the men in makeup announced their final ever world tour. We caught up with bassist Simmons to find out more.
Why have you decided to make this the final tour?
Lets be realistic, I'm going to turn 70 in August and by the time this three-year tour is done, I will be 73. If you have self-respect and believe in the integrity of the band and love your fans, get off the stage.
I should have been born Keith Richards or the Edge or any number of other players in bands we all love and respect. But all they have to do is put on a pair of sneakers and a t-shirt, they don't even have to break a sweat. KISS are the hardest working band in show business. I wear dragon boots that are eight inches high, that will break your back, bitch; each boot weighs 8–10 pounds, then another 40 pounds of armour. Put Keith in my outfit and he's going to pass out in a half hour. Oh and I forgot you have to spit fire, fly through the air and do it for two hours. You are about to see the 'hottest band in the world: KISS' those words have to mean something or get off the fucking stage.
Is this really the last we'll see of KISS?
There are really no plans. I don't know if we will do anything after our final show. I doubt it. But KISS will continue in other ways. We have a KISS golf course in Las Vegas, there's a KISS limo service; KISS continues as the iconic imagery in all kinds of ways.
Is there any truth to the rumour that KISS will continue after you and Paul have left?
Why not? There's something about this rock'n'roll thing that becomes the soundtrack of people's lives. People get married to our songs, certainly at funerals our songs are played, both the Paul brothers from Pantera – Dimebag and Vinnie – were buried in KISS Kaskets. It's more than songs, it's more than just the band.
Will original members Peter Criss or Ace Frehley be involved in the final tour?
We have asked Peter and he declined. Ace came over and sat with me and Paul and we certainly discussed how great it would be if he jumped up on stage here and there. But you can't depend on Ace and Peter to do a tour, especially not a three-year tour, the physical rigour of it. You have to be in amazing physical shape for one thing and they have been in and out of the band three different times, so that will never happen again, we learned our lesson a few times. But certainly it would be nice for them to get up on stage and get a taste of that 'hey I was there at the beginning' kind of thing. But if that never happens, it's not going to be because of us.
Where did the idea of the makeup and characters come from?
Character is not a fair usage of the word, it's more persona. I'll tell you why. If I thought 'I'll put a star on my eye and wear ruby red lipstick', I wouldn't be convincing; likewise if Paul put on my makeup and stuck his tongue out, it wouldn't be convincing in the least. There's got to be some connection with who you are on the inside.
There was no grand master plan. We literally just wanted to put together the band we wanted to see on stage. We all grew up liking the Lovin' Spoonful, Donovan, Cat Stevens or the Zombies, you name it. Then you'd go see them live and they were frozen in front of their microphones. We loved their songs but, for fucks sake, I'm ready to fall asleep. So immediately, from our very first show when we were fourth on the bill, we decided to give people bang for their buck.
What can people expect from the setlist?
We will add different songs in Europe that we didn't do in America – 'Crazy Crazy Nights', 'God Gave Rock'n'Roll to You' and a few other surprises.
And what about the stage show?
Most shows are designed to have a big opening, then build from there to the final big production number, but we decided to treat it like a street fight – KISS are coming to kick your motherfucking ass, and from the very first blow, there's no let up; just bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, 'til your dead.
The last ever tour from the monochrome-made up rock guys, fronted by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. The quartet have sold over 80 million albums worldwide since the band formed in New York in 1973 and were named by VH1 in their top ten list of the ‘100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock’.