When grunge erupted like a sonic volcano in the early 1990s, it was like a breath of fresh air in a music scene which had been dominated for far too long by a bunch of hairspray bands with a penchant for heels, make-up, and power ballads. Per Ultimate Classic Rock, grunge also happened to make KISS singer/bassist Gene Simmons feel threatened by its arrival.
When Nirvana first exploded into the consciousness of the record-buying public at large with the unexpected monster that was Nevermind, they were praised in many quarters as the punk rock knights who would finally slay the dragon that was hair metal.
Much in the same way the Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Damned were applauded for exposing the hypocritical facade and silencing the grotesque bellow of multi-millionaire baby-boomer rockers who were seen as sucking the life-force out of rock and roll, Nirvana were hailed as the three horsemen of the grassroots apocalypse, hell-bent on doing the same to bands who were once considered revolutionary but had since grown stagnant.
By the time Nevermind was blasting out of everybody’s speakers, the likes of KISS and Guns N’ Roses were being hung, drawn, and quartered by a record-buying public for a long list of crimes, which included sentimental ballads, hedonistic trivialities, inane and trite lyrics, cheesy guitar solos, stadium rock pomposity, and the churning out of videos that made Hollywood blockbusters look arty in comparison.
It was only natural that the old-timers of the 1980s hair metal scene were retreating into their shells and lashing out at the threat that this strange new music poised.
Take Gene Simmons, for example. KISS’s bass player is often fondly regarded as the pantomime dame of the rock world. His onstage theatrics and love of a controversial quote have ensured he has stayed in the headlines for almost 50 years. His music may be well past his prime for many, but Simmons has the sort of tongue which just keeps on giving.
Take a private and somewhat panicked phone call he reportedly made in 1993 to Vain frontman Davy Vain.
Ultimate Classic Rock reports that the KISS bassist called Vain out of the blue to solemnly declare that the gig was up and “Rock is finally dead.” At the recent Monsters of Rock Cruise, Vain told the audience that during the golden era of grunge he received a totally unexpected call from one of his idols.
At first, Vain thought it was someone pranking him but soon realized it was actually Simmons on the other end of the line.
“Davy, listen carefully. It’s Gene Simmons. You know my voice. You’ve been listening to me your whole life. I’m one of your idols,” Vain recalled Simmons as saying.
It turns out that in his role as a kind of rock and roll Good Samaritan, Simmons informed Vain that he would have to change tactics if he wanted to get a new record deal after having been dropped in 1991.
“We are all f****d. Rock is f****d up right now. I was going to check your band out, but you guys look too fit and you don’t wear your grandfather’s sweater and sh*t. You can’t look like you had sex if you want to make it right now. You got to look like you were just a f*****g high-school loser,” Simmons reportedly said.
Apparently, Simmons then went on to declare that KISS were also “f****d” too due to the popularity of grunge and he urged Vain to “gain some weight” because “ripped abs are not going to make it right now.”
“The bottom line is, what I’m saying, Davy, is that right now nobody wants to see guys running around onstage singing about how great their c**ks are. Ain’t it a shame?” Vain recalled Simmons as concluding.