Gene Simmons, the firebreathing bass player of the legendary rock and roll band KISS, not only breathes flame on stage during the notoriously theatrical KISS live shows, but he can do it in interviews, too.
Never afraid to make controversial, even obnoxious comments in public, Gene Simmons’ previous verbal targets have included Muslims, women, and music fans. His latest target, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the debut KISS album, is the band’s home city, New York.
We didn’t make it in New York,” Simmons declared in a recent interview. “We made it in Detroit. New York is a little too high-falutin, too full of itself.”
With their, basic, driving rock and roll sound KISS broke little new ground musically, but in their elaborate stage shows featuring the band in their comic-book-inspired makeup and costumes surrounded by a plethora of pyrotechnics and horror movie special effects, they developed an ardent following mostly among teenagers. But they were generally loathed by critics and considered too tacky for hip New York tastes.
Now, 40 years after the eponymous KISS album was released on February 18, 1974, Gene Simmons still remains bitter about his band’s reception, or lack of it, by the self-appointed New York tastemakers.
“It bears noting that New York City, perhaps the most important city on the face of the planet, never gave the world a worldwide musical phenomenon that could play stadiums and arenas around the world, other than KISS. Not one,” said Gene Simmons, who was born in Israel six months more than 64 years ago as Chaim Witz.
“Ted Nugent, Bob Seger, there were a ton of bands out of Detroit,” Gene Simmons continued. “England gave the world thousands of bands: the Beatles and the Stones. Even Jimi Hendrix, an American, came out of England. New York City gave the world nothing. New York City gave the world KISS: one band and we didn’t make it in NY, we made it in Detroit.”
Simmons also noted that while Motown came out of Detroit, “there’s not a musical scene that came out of New York, not disco, not rock, nothing!”
Apparently, Gene Simmons does not consider the hip hop scene, which originated in New York’s South Bronx around the same time KISS was getting started, to be “musical.” Or maybe he just forgot about it.
For that matter, the New York punk rock scene of the mid-1970s — at a time when KISS were scoring hits with their KISS Alive and KISS Alive II albums and their concept album Destroyer — proved one of the most important movements in American music, producing such bands as The Ramones, Blondie and The Talking Heads.
Nonetheless, Gene Simmons has never been one to bite the tongue that he made a living lasciviously sticking out on stage, and a band that maintains success over 40 years and 30 albums should make him rightly proud.