Happy Birthday to Kiss co-founder Gene Simmons, who turns 64 on today (August 25th). Although acting was an early side interest for Simmons, the bassist has branched off and become a world renowned 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 now-canceled A&E reality series Gene Simmons' Family Jewels.
It was announced last week that Simmons and Paul Stanley are among the owners of the new Arena Football League expansion team, the L.A. Kiss. The Kiss co-founders appeared at a press conference on August 15th announcing the team-up, which will find the newly endorsed team play at Anaheim's Honda Center starting next March. The L.A. Kiss will be Southern California's first AFL team since April 2009 when the L.A. Avengers called it a day after eight seasons at the Staples Center. The L.A. Kiss, which has the Kiss logo on its helmets, opened its season on August 17th with a game against the Philadelphia Soul -- which was originally partially owned by Jon Bon Jovi and Ritchie Sambora.
Last October, Kiss released its 20th album, Monster. The collection, which peaked at Number Three on the Billboard 200 album charts, is the Kiss' first original studio set since 2009's Sonic Boom, is the second to feature their latest lineup of Gene Simmons on bass, Paul Stanley on rhythm guitar, Eric Singer on drums, and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer. Also, like Sonic Boom, Monster features no songs from outside writers.
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."
A while back we caught up with Paul Stanley and asked him how he feels about Simmons' high profile persona apart from the band. Stanley explained that Simmons is free to do whatever he likes -- as long as it doesn't negatively impact Kiss: "I think Gene has earned the right to do whatever he wants to. Gene certainly in all venues has the freedom and the right to do whatever he chooses, as long as it doesn't directly impact on anything that he's only part of. He's come away unscathed 'til now."
Gene 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."
Kiss wrapped its North American dates on August 18th in Hollywood, Florida. The band will kick off its four-night mini-tour of Japan on October 19th in Tokyo.
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