Imagine you’re stranded on a desert island and you stumble upon a member of the opposite sex. You’re thrilled! You’re gonna have someone to talk to, you’re gonna make love until the Coast Guard finally figures out your ship sank and rescues you.
And this person may not be a beauty queen, but hey, he or she is all right. At least that’s what you think at first. Maybe you even have sex and forget your plight for a moment or two. But then, even though you’re exhausted, your partner just won’t give up. Insists on having sex every hour, being coddled, all the while telling you how fucking hot they are. It would almost be enough to get you to jump back into the water and swim to your death.
That’s what listening to Gene Simmons is like.
He’s not a dumb dude. But it’s a full time commercial. And why? Doesn’t he have enough money? Isn’t this like an ex-President buying time on television to give us his opinion on the budget? Running for an office he can’t be elected to? Hey Gene, you were a star once, can you let it go? Can you stop trying to convince us that not only is your music great, but that KISS is the biggest act in the world?
I mean if we really want to get down to it, don’t we have to give credit to Bob Ezrin? The producer of "Destroyer", containing the KISS klassics "Detroit Rock City", "Shout It Out Loud" and the band’s biggest hit, "Beth"? Not only did Ezrin produce those tracks, HE CO-WROTE THEM! I’m thinking without Ezrin, KISS is a footnote.
Ezrin went on to further greatness, producing one of the biggest albums of all time, Pink Floyd’s "The Wall", as well as the critically lauded debut of Peter Gabriel. KISS? They took the makeup off and put it back on, reunited with the original members, kicked them out again and kept dunning us with endless product promotions.
And that’s what this "keynote" address at CMW was. A product promotion, for the latest iteration of Simmons Records.
Just because you’re a big musical act, that doesn’t mean you’re a decent executive, that you can run a record company. That’s like saying a great football coach has to have been a star quarterback. They’re different skills. One that Mr. Simmons has yet to master. Sure, he made that demo tape with Van Halen, but the band ended up on WARNER BROTHERS!
Truly, it was relentless. Gene with that bizarre hairdo sponsored by Brillo maintaining that 360 deals are good for artists and that Canada can be the new Ireland. U2 came from Ireland, what does that country possess that Canada does not? Isn’t that like saying Mutt Lange came from Rhodesia, therefore Lithuania should be able to produce the best record producer on the planet?
Really, it didn’t have to be 2009, it could have been 1009. With a huckster up on stage, trying to convince us to buy from him. Sure, there’s salesmanship involved in becoming a successful musical act, but that’s not ninety percent of the equation. But with KISS, it is! The music is just the vehicle to make money. I don’t excoriate this, I just don’t REVERE IT!
Gene showed a five minute promotional film that was such an assault, the guy in front of me put his hands over his ears. Didn’t Pete Townshend sing "A Little Is Enough"? Obviously, Gene’s never heard that track, otherwise he would stop telling us how great he is and let us come to our own conclusion.
It was sad. Although Gene paid lip service to the Internet, it was like he wanted to jet back to the seventies, when the label was king, when record companies were flush with cash that they’d blow on a bunch of new acts. Those days are through. Shit, imagine trying to get money from Simmons’ company. That’d be like sucking quarters from a parking meter. Gene’s notorious for not parting with his own money. Shit, I’m stunned he doesn’t require new acts to pay HIM to be signed!
I only went because the last couple of times Gene’s spoken he has said some truly heinous things, blasting the audience, that he told us today to respect, for stealing his music. I figured he’d come out with a few clunkers that would crack you up.
But all I got was a damn advertisement.
I know Gene loves that I’m writing this. Almost to the point where I considered not writing about his speech at all. But I’ve got to. Because in order for music to ascend to its rightful position at the top of popular culture’s leader board, it’s got to be more about its intrinsic value than the sell. It’s got to be more about music than showmanship. It’s got to be more about creativity than expediency.
KISS had a gimmick. It’s served the band well. A gimmick can get you noticed, but soon thereafter it becomes about the music. KISS took off its makeup and few cared. The Beatles gave up their suits, messed with their hair, even gave up playing live and the band got bigger and bigger.
The problem is, Gene Simmons thinks there’s a handbook. Listening to him is like watching a bad version of "Glengarry Glen Ross". It’s like going to a training session for Kirby vacuum salesmen. It’s always interesting to hear how another person made it, but if you want to be successful in the future, you’re better off ignoring everything Gene Simmons has to say. Unless, of course, you love money more than music.
But since you’re reading this, I doubt that…