Gene Simmons is the fire-breathing ‘Demon’ bass player of American bad boys of rock, Kiss. Famed across the world for his freaky face paint, crazy onstage antics, enormous tongue, and over-the-top lifestyle, he is the archetypal heavy metal wild man, with attitude oozing out of every pore. He also claims, somewhat immodestly, to have slept with over 4,600 women.
He certainly doesn’t mind upsetting a few sensibilities. He is unashamedly selfish, for one thing: “In life, you’re gonna die one miserable son-of-a-bitch if you spend your life trying to make everyone else happy. No-one cares about you as much as you do.”
This philosophy is hardly compatible with cosy, loving monogamy, and may explain why Simmons has never actually embraced a one-woman lifestyle. When I quote him the 4,600 women figure, he dismisses it as “too low”. I wonder how such a figure makes his partner, Shannon Tweed, feel. “I don’t want partners, and I have no partners,” he replies amiably. “I think that’s an archaic notion. The only partner I’m looking for is in business. The reason marriages don’t work is because one of the two is a man.
“I have two children, and I’ve been happily unmarried with Shannon, who’s the mother of the children, but she’s not my partner. She’s her own, individual person. We don’t have this archaic notion about relationships. We’re together because we want to be, and if the day ever comes when either of us doesn’t want to be, that’s it. Marriage can be a prison – easy to get into, difficult to get out. I’m crazy about Shannon, by the way, and I speak to her daily. We live together, and we’ve never had a single argument. But the reason we’ve had no arguments is because nobody has the right to ask me where I’m going.”
“The truth between men and women is this: The female of the species manufactures one or two eggs in an entire month. The male of the species manufactures billions of sperm every day. Almost every one of them is capable of giving life. The only problem males and females have ever had since we crawled out of the ooze we were both created in is that the female of the species has actually deluded herself into believing that all his billions of sperm belong just to her.”
"The only partner I’m looking for is in business. The reason marriages don’t work is because one of the two is a man."
Women form part of Simmons’ unholy trinity of rewards he’s earned from the music business. “Anyone who tells you they got into rock n roll other than for girls, fame and money is full of shit.” Money, in particular, is a theme to which he returns time and again during the interview. Why is it such a priority to him?
“Because I remember when my belly was empty. I didn’t like that feeling. I love money, and I find it peculiar that people shy away from admitting it’s what we all want. Even Bill Gates wants more. Losers say ‘I just want enough’. I’m glad there are people like that… People say ‘Money is the root of all evil’. What a pack of lies. Lack of money is the root of all evil.”
So money is better than fame? “Put it this way: If you’re famous, you can get the best table in the restaurant, and they’ll bring you a bill for £148 at the end of it. If you walk in, and they have no idea who you are, you hold up a crisp £50, and you get the best seat in the restaurant AND you can pay for it at the end. So riches are better than fame. But together, first riches and then fame, is the best of all worlds.”
It’s the love of money that drives Simmons, the budding entrepreneur, on to ever more ventures. He’s started his own magazine (the unusually-titled Gene Simmons’ Tongue) a comic book series, and lately recordings of a lecture tour he gave in Australia (on the familiar themes of the archaic nature of monogamy and why it’s good to be selfish). It’s easy to forget, in amongst all of this, that Simmons is a talented and dedicated musician.
His love of music stems from watching The Beatles appear on The Ed Sullivan Show in America in the early Sixties. “It was pivotal. It was Gene and the burning bush – and I don’t mean our president. It was a pivotal moment, it all made sense. For me, all of a sudden The Beatles made it okay to look different, dress different and sound different.” (At this point, Mr Simmons does a Scouse accent so badly it sounds like an asthmatic being sick into a blender, and it’s impossible to understand what he is saying. It’s best to just smile and nod.)
“As an immigrant myself [he moved to the US from Israel as a boy], it took me a while to wrap my tongue around the American language. I was constantly trying to figure out a way to fit in. I always felt like an outsider. The Beatles came along and made it all okay. I thought they were the strangest looking human beings I’d ever seen. They were smaller and thinner than Americans, and the haircuts made them look – by American standards then – feminine. It was like they’d taken all the rules and turned them on their head. They made it okay to be different. Not only okay, but the guys thought you were cool, and the girls wanted to bear your children.”
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