Gene Simmons Q&A: On Kiss Empire, New Album and Advice for Lady Gaga
Gene Simmons Q&A: On Kiss Empire, New Album and Advice for Lady Gaga

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In the song "Freak," Paul is singing, "This is who I am, and if you think that's a freak, that's fine. I'm happy being the way I am." I thought it was an interesting song coming up at a time where, Kiss has always embraced who they are, but when I think about all the kids that are out there today and how bullying has become something that people recognize as a problem, I thought that was a neat song to come out right now.

You're picking up on an interesting thing. When "Freak" was being written, Lady Gaga got interested in singing on it, because it espouses her emotions about being comfortable in your skin and all that stuff. And that's a healthy message for everybody. For a while Paul and I were going to sing it, for a while I was gonna sing it, and then Paul and Gaga were gonna sing it, and then finally I suggested Paul should sing it by himself, let's just do a band album. And while it's great that Gaga-who in my estimation is the only rock star out there, modern. There's nobody else-talks about self-empowerment, all that stuff, we made our imprint and stuck our foot firmly into the ground almost 40 years ago and said, "This is who we are, take it or leave it." So in the days of tie-dyed shirts and hippies and anti-war stuff and schools being closed down, we didn't care. We are Kiss, we are alive, we are our own definition. We've never looked over our shoulder to see what's in fashion, what's not, we don't care. And Kiss continues today. Fashions come and go. Punk came and died. Grunge came and then died. Thrash came and then died. New romance came and died. Alternative came and died, then they called it indie. We. Don't. Care. Kiss is its own definition.

What is your relationship with Lady Gaga? Do you just see her casually or are you in touch with her?

She's a fan. She came backstage a few tours ago before her meteoric rise, went to the shows, hang out with the kids in the front. They didn't know who she was, so she was there as a fan and then came backstage and told us about how she has Kiss parties where they all dress up as Kiss and run around. If you go to Kiss online and on one of the sidebars, you'll see Taylor Swift was playing with Keith Urban and you can Google this. Put in "Taylor Swift in Kiss makeup." This has been done by lots of people. Stone Temple Pilots, Taylor Swift, Lenny Kravitz. So Keith Urban's doing "It's in His Kiss" or some song like that, and Taylor and the whole band come onstage wearing Kiss makeup.

Nice prank.

But you can't quite come up onstage and walk out trying to look like Willie Nelson. You can't walk up onstage and try to look like Robert Plant. It doesn't work. There's only one band, there's only one entity you can walk out onstage and try to visually look like. With any other band or any other imagery, it simply does not work. Even with Mickey Mouse you have to put on a headdress or some kind of mask. Not with Kiss.

How likely do you think it might be in the future that you and Gaga do something together?

Oh, we'd be open to it. She's terrific. I don't like that kind of music, but if you listen to what she did with Tony Bennett, the girl can sing.

I know she had started out as a straight singer/songwriter.

Oh yeah. She could do straight-ahead rock. I would get rid of all the dancers and the beds onstage. If I were her I would come out with a rock band next time and just rock it out.

But I could see her sharing a stage with you guys. I don't know what it would look like, but I could see that happening.

We're an open invitation to anyone who dares step up on that stage with us. That includes Motley.

With the Kiss Kruise you have coming up, how does that differ from other cruises out there?

We have a ball out there. Just 3,000 people in the Bahamas going nuts. Stopping off at islands. We'll do Unplugged and we'll do concerts and there'll be Kiss contests and all kinds of stuff. It's gonna be a great time for friends, family and fans. By the way, they just gave me the high sign [to wrap up]. So in short order we . . . have "Monster" the album dropping this month, any day now, and "Monster" the book, you go to KissOnline or you can order the book, which [contains photos that go] all the way back to the beginning [of Kiss' career]. And we have only just begun to rock. That's not a bad song title [either]. Not bad.