You can't say Gene Simmons was ever a 'pretty face' and now he proves he is much more.
The reviews of his book on Amazon are very good.
The concert with Kiss and the MSO was quite a treat! Enjoy this small clip!
Clip above from You Tube:
Kiss Symphony: Alive IV is a 2003 live album from Kiss performing with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO). The arrangements were made by David Campbell, who also conducted the MSO. It is the group's fourth album in the Alive series and first release under Kiss Records and Sanctuary Records. The album featured three of the original members of Kiss (Peter Criss, Paul Stanley, and Gene Simmons). Ace Frehley once again left the band and the concert featured for the first time a replacement musician, Tommy Thayer, dressed as Ace Frehley's "Spaceman".
The members of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra who accompanied Kiss during this performance wore makeup that mimicked the band members. At the same time they also wore tuxedos.
NOBODY touches Kiss, snarls Gene Simmons, the bass player and co-founder of the cheesy, ageing rock band.“We outsell the Rolling Stones and Elvis put together. But I don’t mean ticket sales.”
Kiss are the original rock’n’roll sellouts. They may have shifted more than 100 million albums thanks to hits such as Crazy Nights and I Was Made For Lovin’ You, but the secret to the band’s riches is not so much the rousing vocals or innuendo-laden lyrics but the money machine they created on the side.
Simmons, 65, more or less invented music merchandising, slipping a flyer advertising Kiss T-shirts inside the sleeve of the band’s debut LP. In the 41 years since they took the stage, he and his bandmates have milked sales of “oooh, close to $US5 billion ($5.97bn)” from the Kiss logo and the trademarked image of their black-and-white-faced stage personas.
There are Kiss cruise holidays, credit cards, a wedding chapel and even an American football team — more than 3000 product lines in all, including tie-ups with the likes of Coca-Cola and Hello Kitty. “There are Kiss condoms and Kiss burial caskets — we get you coming, then we get you going,” says Simmons with a filthy laugh.
As the brains behind this commercial behemoth, Simmons has amassed an estimated personal fortune of $US300m — more than twice that of his co-founder Paul Stanley. The frontman has reinvested his wealth in everything from a life assurance company to racecourses.
He discovered Van Halen and managed Liza Minnelli.
He also starred in a long-running reality show — for which he was reportedly paid $US125,000 an episode — based around life with his wife, the soft-porn actress Shannon Tweed, and their two children.
Having long been recognised by the likes of Forbes magazine for his obvious business nous, Simmons has now decided to dispense his commercial wisdom to the masses with a motivational book containing life lessons for wannabe entrepreneurs.
His brief but blunt guide to success, titled Me, Inc, has been a surprise success, reaching No 3 in the Wall Street Journal’s business book lists in its first week.
It is not the drug-fuelled tale of life on the road that one might expect from a rock legend famous for gyrating on stage in a spike-encrusted suit of armour while suggestively licking his “axe”.
Instead it is a brutal right-wing tirade against the perils of mixing with “losers, communists and socialists”, and filled with heavy-handed paternal lectures.
Rule No 1 in the Gene Simmons manifesto is that men should not get married in their twenties. Statistically there is a high probability you will get divorced, and thus lose half your wealth, he argues.
Do not buy a house until you can pay for it in cash. (He revealed that Cher insisted he pay rent when they lived together in the 1970s, and he had a similar arrangement when dating Diana Ross.) Stop smoking, stop drinking, don’t take holidays, don’t buy your friends dinner — the list goes on.
If it all sounds a little austere, then “too f … ing bad”, snorts Simmons. “Mother Nature doesn’t give a shit whether you like gravity or not, it simply exists. If you are falling out of a building, then gravity can feel a little unfair too.”
He continues: “It is self-empowering when you understand that the word ‘more’ is a good thing. And all the losers who say, ‘When is it enough?’ — don’t hang around with them.
“People think of money in the wrong way. I think of it as philanthropy, as job creation. I have never been given a job by a poor person.
Simmons has always been a parody of himself — it’s part of the Kiss charm. While they masquerade as a heavy metal band, they never had the screaming guitar solos of AC/DC, baroque drum scores of Led Zeppelin or the crunching chords of Metallica. It was all about catchy tunes with four chords that people could sing along to, with some make-up and platform boots thrown in.
Of all the acts on stage today, it’s country popstrel Taylor Swift who Simmons seems to admire most — for the business acumen she displayed in removing her songs from the Spotify music platform.
“Rock’n’roll is dead — I can prove it to you,” he says. “Right now the music industry is in chaos. From 1958 to 1988, name me 100 or 1000 iconic superstars that will go down in history. I have Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, the whole of Motown, even Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson. It goes on and on. Abba — it continues to resonate generation after generation. Queen, AC/DC, Metallica.
“From 1988 to today … how many years is that? Give me five acts, five rock bands that are going to go down in the annals of rock history as iconic.”
He dismisses Nirvana as a two-album wonder, then grumbles about Foo Fighters. “We think of the Ramones as a classic, iconic band,” he continues. “They have one gold record to their name. They never played arenas, couldn’t sell them out. It was a failed band. It doesn’t mean they weren’t great. It means the masses didn’t care.
“The pop acts today are doing terrific. Katy Perry, Rihanna, Shakira — any girl that ends her name with an ‘A’. And that’s great, and I wish them great success. Many of them are very clever.”
Music labels are all “in chaos”, he says. “Any time there is no structure and no rule of law, there is chaos. What Taylor Swift did is pretty smart. She knows who her fan base is. She took all her stuff off the downloading platforms because she says she isn’t getting paid. Why should she work for free?
“Would Kiss do the same? It’s a possibility. But, respectfully, we make so much goddamn money everywhere else it may or may not be an issue.”
Making music was always about making money for Simmons. He moved to New York aged eight, having been born in Israel to Jewish- Hungarian parents who fled from Nazi concentration camps. He saw the Beatles on television and wanted to be like them.
Simmons’ real name is Chaim Witz. His first self-taught lesson in branding came when he realised that Jewish-sounding names were not very saleable to Middle America. He spent hours parroting television newscasters to perfect the mid-Atlantic celebrity drawl. To earn a living he took courses in typing and stenography, and then had a string of unlikely jobs, including assistant to the editor of Vogue magazine.
He and Stanley had several bands before settling on the formula for Kiss in 1972. Simmons put his sharp business sense to work at one of their earliest gigs. They had been booked to play at the Crystal Room in New York’s Hotel Diplomat, as a support act for the Brats, a popular group at the time with legions of screaming fans.
Simmons, then 24, volunteered to take control of the contracts and publicity for all three acts performing that night.
The Brats had no idea that the flyer he sent to the record labels and music magazines said just one band was playing that night, “Heavy Metal Masters ‘Kiss’?”.
They brought the house down, aided by the drummer’s two sisters who had been planted at the front of the stage in tight black T-shirts featuring the now famous logo. Afterwards swarms of talent scouts clustered around Simmons, who had arranged for an on-off girlfriend to sit on his knee to give him extra rock-god kudos. The agents had left before the real headliners even took the stage.
It would be another three years before Kiss decided to perform in make-up, taking inspiration from outfits Simmons and Stanley saw in the Hallowe’en parade on New York’s Sixth Avenue after leaving a recording session at the nearby Electric Lady studios.
“I saw four men dressed as us. They weren’t called Kiss, they didn’t have guitars, but they had the make-up and the outfits. I went, ‘Wow’,” Simmons said.
Shortly afterwards the characters of Starchild, the Demon, Catman and Spaceman were born — and with them the multimillion-dollar brand.
“At Hallowe’en, or at costume parties, you cannot dress up as Coldplay. Or U2, unless you just put on a pair of sunglasses. They picked the fruit before it was ripe. They are just bands — and terrific bands with classic songs and all that stuff. But they are avoiding the issue: we don’t just have ears, we have eyes.”
Simmons bristles at being called a sellout. “I sell out every night,” he retorts, sarcastically.
“Rock’n’roll is a very strange animal because it’s not supposed to have rules. But the well-educated among us, the critics — who, it bears noting, live mostly in their mothers’ basements and have never achieved anything — they sit in the peanut gallery and use words like commercialisation and sellout.
“I have always been boldly assertive that money is good and fun, and it makes me happy. The more money I have, the happier I get. What we’ve heard, that money is the root of all evil, is bullshit. It is untrue. Lack of money is the root of all evil.
“If I am sitting on my net worth now — and I am worth whatever it is they say I am worth — why would I want to go and hold up a 7-Eleven store? If I didn’t have any money, I might consider it.”
By Iain Dey
With thanks to The Australian
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