Happy Birthday to Kiss co-founder Gene Simmons, who turns 63 on Saturday (August 25th). Although acting was an early side interest for Simmons, the bassist has branched off and become a world renown entrepreneur, marketing himself along with the Kiss brand all over the planet. Most recently, he, wife Shannon Tweed, and their two children Nick and Sophie, were the stars on the just-canceled A&E reality series Gene Simmons' Family Jewels.
Kiss has just released the $4,000, 45-pound photography book, Monster, which is limited to 1,000 signed and numbered copies and is five feet wide and weighs 45 pounds. Simmons spoke about releasing the highly expensive and grandiose tomb to Rolling Stone, saying: "(Not releasing it) wouldn't be fair to the people who can afford it and will appreciate it. . . If we didn't make it high-end, it would be compromised. Part of what makes it special is the quality and the size. There was no way to do that without excluding some people. We're putting something out that celebrates 40 years of victories. This is a celebration and a victory lap. It means a lot to us." Kiss is currently on tour with Motley Crue and releases its 20th album -- also called Monster -- on October 12th.
Gene Simmons, who was born Chaim Weitz in Tirat HaCarmel, Israel, the son of a Hungarian Nazi concentration camp survivor, told us that spending his early years in Israel hardened him for life: "Israel teaches you a sort of a different reality. Christians keep talking about this all the time, this notion of 'turn the other cheek.' Well, I don't know how to tell you this, but it doesn't work. Jews tried it in World War II -- it didn't work out very well. Turning the other cheek doesn't work for anyone except the guy that's slapping you in the face. When you grow up in Israel, you quickly learn that talking is nice, but if somebody picks on you, you gotta take 'em out."
Coming on 40 years after the band's 1975 breakthrough album Alive!, Kiss is still on the road selling out on a global scale. Simmons recalled that at the time, the band's label Casablanca was completely against the album being released -- for fear it would bankrupt them: "We were on our last legs, Casablanca was gonna go belly-up. We didn't get paid for the album -- in fact, when we told the record company we were gonna do a live record, they didn't want to do that, because live records didn't work. In those days, a live album was a liability. You did that after your career was over."
Simmons told us that he's as proud as ever of Kiss' ever-evolving live show: "I want to be able to enjoy a movie -- even when the sound is turned down. And in that way, Kiss has something in common with modern pop culture; and that is to say, you can be deaf and you can be blown away by Kiss live. But I would also like to think that you could be blind and blown away by Kiss live. It is audio-visual assault -- with a little bit of pepper."
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