Gene Simmons: “Women are just a higher, more evolved life form”

When ELMO KEEP chatted to Gene Simmons back in 2008 she encountered nothing short of a “”war of attrition; an escalating verbal stoush””: So has time mellowed the 63-year-old Demon of Rock? She went back for round two to find out. Photo by KEITH LEROUX.

Something is different about Gene Simmons.

Hard to pinpoint exactly, to triangulate the vector. Older? Definitely. Sleepy? Possibly (doing press interviews all day takes it out of anyone, even Gods of Thunder with prodigious oratory talents). Mellower? Somehow, could it be?

Not to inflame the gender wars here, but actually, it’s love that is the variable. The love of a good and infinitely patient woman tamed Gene Simmons, founding member, frontman and bass player in KISS, and now Gene Simmons is a teddy bear.

“Women are just a higher, more evolved life form,” he says down the line with convincingly absolute sincerity. “If it weren’t for women, men would just be out there killing each other every day like idiots. You women are not just life givers, your soul seems to be much more developed – besides other assets, of course.”

Well then, this is quite a turnaround.

Only, not so much. What if it was all backwards and Gene Simmons’ horribly antiquated, sexist worldview and his willingness to share it with anyone who would listen was the persona, and the now happily married old person who still fronts a giant, ridiculous rock band after 40 years is the real Gene? He might be like Lou Reed; who could really be that much of an asshole and have Laurie Anderson stay with you for your whole life? (More on Lou Reed and KISS later.) Is it all an elaborate act to guarantee press coverage and keep your true self hidden, to keep some semblance of yourself to yourself while on the other hand being a huge, flaming famewhore?

I don’t know! I don’t have proof, I’m just saying it could be, and that if Gene Simmons can change – he of the bromides, “I am happily unmarried for 28 years!”, “Marriage is a terrible institution which enslaves men under women who only want your money!”, “NEVER DOING IT” – then truly, there is hope for all of us.

“The best thing about being married is not being so arrogant and self-serving,” he says. “Because men are selfish by design. When we grow up we don’t have the flexibility that you women have – ‘I don’t want to work now, I want to raise kids and I’ll work later.’ We don’t have that, we have to go out and just work and prove something of ourselves. And because of that, we get this idea, ‘Ok, nobody’s going to tell me what to do, I’m going to do it myself. I’m the boss of all this and blah, blah, blah.’”

“The best thing about being married is not being so arrogant and self-serving.”

In typical fashion, Gene Simmons got married to his long-time partner, Shannon Tweed, on television. At the Playboy Mansion. And then live-tweeted the whole thing. But not until after they had been through a frankly excruciating and brutalising marriage boot camp during which they were ritualistically broken down as people in humiliating group therapy sessions (then presumably and, hopefully, built back up.) This was also on television. It was like an exceptionally hardcore episode of Dr Phil, where Dr Phil was a drill sergeant, crunching what should have been months of careful therapy down into a single day. This seems a quintessentially American thing to do, the total airing of dirty laundry in public served up for entertainment purposes. And as Gene Simmons is a kind of writ-large version of the wantonly capitalist American Dream gone bananas, it was pretty apt for this to happen, really. In any case, he is very sure that it worked.

“It just takes a long time for guys to grow up.” he says now, aged 63. “Guys can take a really long time to get it together. To realise how good they have it.”

So much has changed! Other things that have changed are that there are new KISS records in the world. Two! Two since Gene Simmons said there would never be another one until people stopped using the Internet to steal music. This obviously didn’t happen because people continue to be filthy, stinking pirates and yet there are new KISS albums: Sonic Boom, in 2009, and last year’s Monster. Sonic Boom was available exclusively through Walmart and sold 300,000 copies in the US. At the time Gene Simmons called it “”Very meat and potatoes””:”

“Like Santa Claus. Fashion changes, but it’s good to know that Santa comes, and he’s not going to change his outfit and you know what you’re going to get: Gifts.” (He certainly isn’t going to yank off his beard, because that scares children.) It’s a KISS album. It does exactly what you want it to do by sounding just like KISS. People bought it as a result, which made a change from KISS’ greatest hits serving largely as a backing track to their endless output of branded merchandise.


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