Gene Simmons “Money is the most important thing. Without money your fucked” I’m doing this tour To make more money. And we’re making bucket-loads, and I’m happy to say that.
You can get through the door for $1,000 or less than $40. T-shirts go for $50, and for as much as $7,500 you get to meet the band, grab a selfie and even stand on stage.
This is KISS’s “End of the Road Tour,” which the band has said will be its last, though it has made that promise before. The concerts began in late January, and dates are announced through December.
Few bands have embraced dollars, cents and lunchboxes as part of their brand as much as KISS. The band says it has thousands of licensed products, including beer pong tables, throw pillows and waffle makers.
To some, the band’s comingling of money and art is heresy. But Gene Simmons, the band’s co-founder, bassist and co-lead singer, isn’t bothered.
“I really don’t care if somebody likes me or not,” says Mr. Simmons, who turns 70 years old in August. “I only care if I love me and my family loves me. Not everybody liked Jesus either.”
Backstage at the Tacoma Dome, before donning makeup and breathing fire in a pyrotechnic-heavy set on the third stop of the tour, Mr. Simmons, “The Demon,” discussed the intersection of music and money in his world. Edited excerpts follow.
KISS at the Whisky a Go Go earlier this month in West Hollywood, Calif.PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Do you think that money is a corrupting influence in music or an enabling one?
Money is the blood and the fuel that powers Earth. Even God passes the hat around. So, if you’re a church or a rock band or even The Wall Street Journal that you work for, try running a newspaper—who are all dying—without making money. It doesn’t work.
Money is the most important thing. Wars are fought for it. But without money there’s no philanthropy, you can’t feed your children, you can’t buy your mother the hip operation she needs. Without money, you’re f—ed.
People have said that even if artists like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan didn’t make a living off their music, they would continue making music even if that meant playing on a street corner. Do you believe that?
No. And by the way, I’ve met Bruce before and Dylan was over to my house, and we talked about it. And would they play for free? No, ‘cause you have to figure out a way to pay your rent and feed yourself, and insurance, and health, and so on. It takes a lot of money to be comfortable and live in health.
Why are you on tour in your 70th year?
To make more money. And we’re making bucket-loads, and I’m happy to say that. The guy that wins the lottery jumps up and down and runs to everybody and says, “Oh my God, I just made $100 million,” and everybody applauds. But the guy that works for it and makes $100 million, oh, he’s just boasting. Bitch, I worked for that money, I deserve the accolades more than the guy that walks in and did nothing to win the lottery.
So I tour, and I work hard. We have a restaurant chain, and I have a cannabis company, and soft drinks—Moneybag Sodas—and there’s all kinds of stuff coming that people can’t wrap their heads around. You’re alive, you’re supposed to pump your heart, keep making more money.
Gene Simmons with a KISS Kasket.PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
How much money will you, personally, bring home tonight?
Let’s just say Paul [Stanley, KISS co-founder] and I are partners, and everybody else works for the organization. Everybody gets paid very well. I don’t want to quote figures, but this will be $150 or $200 million gross tour, not counting ancillaries, licensing, merchandise and stuff like that. It goes without saying that we also, in our restaurants and other places, hire vets, give to philanthropy and stuff like that. But how embarrassing is it before each show if I held up a check and said, “Look what a nice guy I am”?
Would you still be out touring in makeup if you were playing at the casino down the street rather than the Dome?
No, because we believe the makeup and the iconic imagery are perhaps the most famous four faces on planet Earth. And I can prove it to you. If you’re asking who the faces are on Mount Rushmore, [people] won’t know. Or, the king and queen of Sweden. Do you know what they look like? No. But everybody in Sweden knows what KISS looks like.
The Gene Simmons band toured last year when it was an off year for us, and we did, I don’t know, 50 shows, something like that, but I still made 5 million bucks just by getting up and strumming.
So, no, the answer to the question is I wouldn’t denigrate it by doing that. By protecting the trademark and the imagery, you can have the KISS [mini-]golf course in Las Vegas at the Rio hotel, you can have the KISS limo service, KISS Kondoms, KISS Kaskets.
Where do you draw the line in merchandising?
KISS crack is probably a non-starter.
Do you want to make another KISS album?
No. The model is broken. The kids are trained to download and file share for free.
KISS is not a charity and I’m not interested in giving away anything for free unless I decide it’s for free.