When Gene Simmons named his new album ‘Asshole’ few people would argue it was an inappropriate name. Gene does have a reputation to uphold after all.
Asshole is his first solo in 26 years. Kiss as a commercial product is pretty much about equal parts Gene’s ‘rock star’ to Paul’s ‘pop star’. Extract the Gene component into a solo record and you get a hard rock sound.
Now over to Tim Cashmere to update the story with Gene Simmons.
Tim Cashmere: Hi Gene how are ya?
Gene Simmons: Wonderful! Hold on a second!
Sarah McLachlan: Hello Tim.
TC: Hello, who is this?
SM: This is Sarah. How are you?
TC: I am not bad; I hear you’re chilling out by the pool up there?
SM: We are chilling out by the pool, yes. It’s fabulous, very good. There is no sun, but it’s still very nice.
TC: There is no sun in Brisbane?
SM: There is sun everywhere except at the pool at the hotel. It’s a bad design.
TC: …but surely you can bask in Gene Simmons’ glowing light?
SM: Um… yeah! [Laughs] Well I’ll put you back on the phone to him! Bye Tim.
GS: That was Sarah McLachlan! She is beautiful and her husband is right here too.
TC: Well shall we talk about ‘Asshole’? It’s been 26 years since you’ve released a solo album, what made you decide to do one now?
GS: [Singing to Sarah McLachlan] Fairytales that come true, they can love you…
SM: Hello Tim, I’ll talk to you right now. Take my picture! [Laughs] Whoa!
TC: This is a phone interview…
GS: Okay I’m back Tim! She feels good! If only I wasn’t gay.
TC: I really wish I could see what was going on right now.
GS: [Paying no attention] About what? Being gay? I’m a lesbian… oh that’s very sweet. Okay I’m back Tim!
TC: So you’re a lesbian?
GS: Yes, I like women!
TC: So anyway, what did make you decide to put out a solo album after twenty six years of non-solodom?
GS: Well, it’s been twenty six years between the first… oh my god look at this spelling! Is this correct? We’re reading the spa safety rules. Do not use the spa while under the influence of drugs and alcohol… How about this?
TC: Are you breaking those rules?
GS: I’ve never been high or drunk in my life.
TC: Never? Ever?
GS: No, I’m not interested. It’s a fool’s game. There is not a single person alive who could keep a straight face and say “Oh yeah it’s healthy, the reason I use drugs and alcohol and booze is because it’s healthy!”
TC: So you must be one of the few people in rock ‘n’ roll who can actually say that?
GS: Yeah, but rock stars are idiots. You know that! Remember this moron never went to music school, never learned music theory and can’t read or write music. So why not be suspicious of everything this idiot says?
TC: Now you’re confusing me.
GS: No I’m not; just take a look at the lines. Recognize a rock ‘n’ roller for what he is, which is a damned lucky guy not to have to work for a living. Right? People who are qualified are symphonic orchestra players and jazz musicians; they’re qualified to do what they do. Rock stars are lucky. It’s a combination of right time, right place and having certain genes or a gimmick or whatever, but it’s really not anything more than sugar. It tastes good and goes away fast.
TC: So how different are these “rock star personalities” as a solo artist compared to Kiss?
GS: Well being in Kiss is having a more limited spectrum. It’s a smaller playground to play in because there are limitations. I’m the big bad wolf and I’m supposed to do this and that. There are rules, which are self imposed I must say, but there are rules. We break enough of them, but the truth is that being Gene Simmons in an album called ‘Asshole’ forged me the opportunity of just recreating myself. Very much Jekyll and Hyde. Mr. Hyde is the big bad guy and Dr. Jekyll has studied and both are connected.
TC: Looking at ‘Asshole’, a track like ‘If I Had A Gun’ seems a lot more personal than anything else I’ve heard from you.
GS: It’s really a story, it starts off with “He said” right? It’s more a story, an allegory if you will, basically nobody wants to be pissed off and the song doesn’t really say, well I’m not trying to be Kurt Cobain, I’m not going to kill myself, nor am I going to go what they call going postal in America, because of the post office guys who under the strains of their job go out of their fucking minds, there are maybe less than twenty people who have done this, but it’s such a ridiculous notion that a post office worker brings a gun to work because he didn’t get a promotion in the letter department you know? It’s ridiculous; on the other hand it’s no more or no less ridiculous than school children who bring bombs and guns because they get picked on.
TC: …or rock stars.
GS: That’s why I’m a big supporter of the death penalty. I want to be the hangman. I would put many more people to death like the kids who want to kill other people, I’d put ’em to death. Postal workers who get arrested, they have mental problems. You know what? When you’re dead you don’t have a mental problem. If you take a life, I will take yours. Put me in charge, I will fix it.
TC: Unfortunately I don’t have the power to do that.
GS: You can, that’s one vote. If enough of you do it, then I’m in charge!
TC: Well if you run for President…
GS: No, no, no. I want to be dictator.
TC: If you run for dictator, I will vote for you.
GS: Alright then. I’ll get rid of the drug problem. The first drug dealer will be publicly executed in front of everybody and all of the sudden the rest of the drug dealers are going to go “Uh oh!” Watch how fast the drug problem disappears. If you use drugs, you’re addicted and you steal something, you’ll get sent off to the outback and to work camps and all of the sudden no drug addicts. See how simple that is? So simple. You don’t need jails, you get put a thousand miles into the middle of Australia, you can go wherever you want, go ahead, but if you come into a city it’s straight to jail.
TC: That sounds just like how Australia was colonized.
GS: Yeah? Well it worked for a long time.
TC: You actually covered ‘Firestarter’ on your album?
GS: Yes. I was actually a big fan of the song when it came out. It just never worked in America because it was too techno, but the underpinnings of it, it sort of looked like a sketch of an oil painting if you will. It didn’t have enough meat on the bones to sound right in America which is why I thought why not redo it and add Dave Navarro on guitar and beef up the bottom? It’s basically The Prodigy’s version of the song on steroids.
TC: …and it’s also distinctively Gene Simmons.
GS: Well you have to pick a voice. A point of view. Everybody can do the same version of it, but you’ve got to be able to… well I don’t speak cockney and I don’t pretend to come from that part of the world. For the longest time the English, like the Beatles and so on sounded American. “She loves you yeah yeah yeah!” All of the sudden you sound American. It doesn’t work that way with Americans who try to sing English. It’s not convincing. If I say “Footy” and “tele” and “Brissy” and “Sydney” and “Simmo” it’s not convincing.
TC: It wasn’t too bad though.
GS: It’s not convincing. You know I’m not from here. It’s like guys named Sven going “Yo wassup!”
TC: But they do exist those people.
GS: I know, but all of us go “Yeah, right…”
TC: It’s a little like Fred Durst.
GS: Fred is a friend. He is putting more guitars into it because he’s seeing the light of day.
TC: …and you wrote a song with Bob Dylan!
GS: Yes I’m proud to say. It’s called ‘Waiting For The Morning Light’.
TC: That’s pretty amazing.
GS: Not really. I picked up the phone. “Hi Bob, it’s Gene Simmons.” “Hey, Mr. Kiss! How you doing?” “Wanna write a song?” “Sure!” It’s as simple as that. He came over to my house and we sat around with two acoustic guitars and I thought he was going to write lyrics, but I wound up writing the lyrics and the melodies and Bob came up with the chord passage.
TC: So would the song have been very different if he wasn’t involved?
GS: Yeah. The tendency of the lyric I wrote, maybe subconsciously sounded very Dylan-esque. “She sits inside my picture frame, but I guess it’s really not the same” I don’t write lyrics like that! Sits inside my picture frame? I’m very direct! But something about Bob being involved I guess made it come out.
TC: Are you planning a tour of this album?
GS: Well I’m on tour with Kiss I’m proud to say. We’ve done sixty shows in America with our friends Aerosmith, which was one of the bigger tours of the year. A great time was had by all, mostly the fans. We just finished Australia; we’re on the way to Japan and then back to America for another sixty to eighty shows. That’ll take me through probably to new years and in the meantime I’ll have a DVD coming in August called ‘Speaking In Tongues’ which is going to be my lecture tour of Australia that I did last year and then next year I’ll be having a Gene Simmons boxed set called ‘One Hundred’ which is one hundred songs that I’ve never released. And Kiss will continue. The first Kissworld store just opened in Melbourne. There is eleven thousand square feet of Kiss space.
TC: So why did you choose Melbourne?
GS: The right people! You always start off with passion and the people that have it. The people that we met there, well this is going to be a franchise around the world. The people who we met there just had the most passion for it and we said “Okay, let’s start here!” If you log onto www.kissonline.com, you’ll get all the info.
TC: Tell me about the track on ‘Asshole’, while we’re talking about Kiss, the track ‘Carnival of Souls’, was that written for the Kiss album of the same name?
GS: Yes and no. I wrote ‘Carnival of Souls’ for the ‘Carnival of Souls’ album and in fact it was going to appear on the album. Thereafter something about the song, once we’d recorded it, didn’t sound like the record, so it didn’t make it on the record but the record was still called ‘Carnival of Souls’. So I held onto the song and when it was time to do this album, I figured “Why not?” So I re-recorded the song, this time with my son Nick singing background vocals with me.
TC: It seems to fit in well with ‘Asshole’.
GS: I thought so too.
TC: Well I just have one more question for you, I was looking at www.genesimmons.com. Tell me about the “Ladies in Waiting”.
GS: They’re women around the world who get along with me just fine, because they know how special they are to me. What can I say? I have friends… lots of them… and as you can tell by what they write, it’s very heartfelt. They’re proud to be there. I never asked any one of them to post their photos; they send them because they want to.
TC: That is the most amazing thing about yourself and Kiss; your fans. I’m sure you already know that.
GS: We have some of the most beautiful fans in the world I might add! It’s plainly obvious there. Just go to any photo and you’ll go “What!? Who is this!?”
TC: That quite simply proves what you said about fifteen minutes ago, that rock stars are simply the luckiest person in the world.
GS: Oh I am the luckiest son of a bitch that ever lived. You know what? If there is going to be the luckiest guy on Earth, it may as well be me!
TC: Well thank you, say bye to Sarah for me.
GS: You bet I will, see you later.
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