March 27, 1998
Not in this lifetime.
If you’re a soldier of the KISS Army, loyally conscripted in the face-painted glam rock heydays when a fire-breathing, blood-spitting Gene Simmons and hip-swaying frontman Paul Stanley were thrilling crowds and filling auditoriums with axeman Ace Frehley and drummer Peter (The Cat) Criss on board, you probably never thought the day would come where all four would once again share the stage.
After all, Criss had been dismissed for substance abuse problems in 1980 and guitarist Frehley followed a year later. Even when the band swung through Toronto during its groundbreaking convention a few weeks before its 1995 MTV Unplugged reunion, singer Paul Stanley candidly told fans that “Peter Criss was either going to kill the band or himself” with his drug addiction.
But as Gene Simmons revealed last week, the MTV Unplugged reunion sparked forgiveness.
“To be honest, we weren’t expecting much,” the 46-year-young, serpent-tongued, bass-toting Simmons said last week from a New York hotel.
“But they were free and clean. There was no sign of substance abuse, or self-delusion. We were shocked, and delighted.”
Plans were instigated for a no-thrills-barred reunion to hit the road — theatrics, 12-inch platform hells, makeup, flashpots galore — and nostalgia-hungry audiences scooped up tickets worth $43.7 million U.S., 1996’s top grossing tour.
Tomorrow night’s she-bang at Copps Coliseum is picking up where KISS left off in ’96, as far as Simmons is concerned: one of 30 North American dates in the midst of a world tour that he estimates will play to 10 million people and gross between $100 million and $200 million dollars U.S.
“This tour is the #1 ticket seller in the world,” he claims, and knowing this is no idle boast, smugly adds: “Hey, I’m cocky.”
However, if anyone has earned the right to be confident over the years, it’s been KISS. Since their formation in 1973, the band has released over 30 albums and sold more than 70 million records, dumbfounding critics and outlasting fickle pop music trends. The KISS Army has soldiered on to become one of the most dominant, defiant and mystical cross-demographic configurations in pop history, enlisting the young and the old in common appreciation for four wildly costumed musicians whose most profound declaration is “I wanna rock and roll all nite, and party every day.”
This irony is not lost on Gene Simmons.
“What we do is not essential,” he states. “Farmers, teachers, garbage collectors: they’re important. I’m serious. Try to see how society functions for a few days without garbage collection. Try eating without the farmer providing your food.
“We are very, very lucky guys. What we do is not a practical job.”
However, Simmons also recognizes that KISS is adored, and says the least the band can do is offer the sonic and visual equivalent of a thrilling rollercoaster ride for over two hours.
“There’s a lot of self-delusion from rock stars, where so many bands feel as though they’re doing you a favor by being up on stage,” he says.
Simmons goes as far as to suggest KISS owes it to their audience to deliver the best dollar-for-dollar spectacle on the planet, and will settle for nothing less.
“People are willing to pay us enormous amounts of money to play, and women want to have our babies,” states Simmons. “The least we can do is live up to that loyalty and love.”
As for the future of KISS, Simmons says the original band will be entering the studio in July to write and record new material. If everyone is satisfied with the results, he says a new KISS spectacle will be unleashed.
“There’ll be new outfits! A new stage! Bigger and better than ever! KISS on steroids!” he promises. “We’re not sure where the boat is going, but we’re having a ball.”
Now that Simmons, Stanley, Frehley and Criss have KISSed and made up, where does that leave guitarist Bruce Kulick, drummer Eric Singer and the finished album, Carnival Of Souls?
“Bruce and Eric are still members of the KISS family, thought not legal members of KISS,” Simmons explains. “They had to sign a piece of paper stating they weren’t full-time group members. It would have been unfair to make them sit at home.”
Simmons says a few of the tracks from Carnival Of Souls will be available on the upcoming movie soundtrack for The Spawn, and doesn’t discount the band returning to their “unmasked” era with Kulick and Singer sometime in the future. “There’s no reason why we can’t rotate line-ups,” says Simmons.