That may not be the way that fans are accustomed to hearing their beloved band referred to, but it certainly is an accurate description of how the organization is run by boss man Gene Simmons. Simmons’ personality may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but when it comes to business, his no-nonsense approach seems to serve him, his band mates and his business partners very well.
Currently, the legendary rockers with the elaborate makeup and costumes are on tour, but the current lineup is not the original KISS that many fans grew up with. Guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss are not part of the tour, and for the first time, their usual replacements guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer will be wearing the same makeup and costumes that were once exclusive to Frehley and Criss.
It appears that Gene Simmons has had it with his former band mates and perhaps this is his way of telling them that they’re gone for good. Substance abuse problems have continued to plague both Frehley and Criss, according to Simmons, and there is no room within the ranks of KISS, which Simmons is not afraid to refer to has a business, and anything that gets in the way of business is eliminated.
Although Simmons seems to be sending a clear message by allowing Thayer and Singer to assume the appearance that makes them look more like permanent members of the group, he does not dismiss the contributions that both Frehley and Criss made in the group’s formative years.
“It doesn’t mean Ace and Peter weren’t important in the formation of KISS,” Simmons said. “They certainly were. But if you can no longer give your ‘A’ game, you step aside. Or you get kicked out.”
Seeing Thayer and Singer on stage decked out in the “space man” and “cat” costumes might not be the thing some fans want to see, however, Simmons maintains that the costumes belong to KISS the business and not to any individual member. He compares the situation to Mickey Mantle, whose famous number 7 belonged to the New York Yankees and not to Mantle himself, despite how many baseball fans might think otherwise.
Simmons can be a controversial figure, since he comes across to some people as arrogant. Statements like the following certainly contribute to that impression: “Thirty-five years and thousands of concerts and thousands of licensed products later, we are clearly the juggernaut of rock licensing. No one touches us, Elvis and the Beatles combined. No other band can do what we do.”
That is a statement that a lot of people would probably dispute. Comparing KISS to the Beatles does seem a bit over-the-top, but that’s Simmons’ style and I’ll leave it up to those whose profession it is to track things like corporate earnings and quarterly reports to determine the truth of the matter.
The Boston Herald has more on KISS and their current tour.