Gene Simmons: ‘Rock Is Finally Dead’

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Photo By Getty Images

The KISS rocker expands on his thoughts about the past, present, and future of recorded music.

By Nick Simmons

SEPTEMBER 4, 2014

Originally found @ Esquire.com

(Find my, Scorpion Sting, opinions at the bottom, following the conclusion of the Gene Simmons interview. The interview and picture were borrowed from Esquire without prior permission. Everything, with the exception of my thoughts and my opinions, are not my words and I stake no claim to the information.)

I spoke with my father about his legacy, the legacy of his contemporaries, and the state of the music industry today. Invariably, it seemed, we began to talk about file-sharing.

But this is not that old story of an out-of-touch one-percenter crying victim. As so many pointed out during the now-infamous Napster public relations war, the rich/famous/established musicians are not the victims of the digital revolution. My father instead laments the loss of opportunity for my generation, those who have begun to sense that it may no longer simply be a matter of dusting our hands, learning a skill, and putting in the time. There is a system that is broken for those of us who love songwriting, instruments, and all the soul of the analog, and it is now working against us — unless we conform. Unless we decide to stick, safely, to pop, and let gray men in a boardroom write our songs for us, dress us, and sell us from somewhere in the shadows.

The death of rock music came, as we all feared, not as a bright, burning explosion, but as a candle that slowly faded away—and in my father’s view, we are all at fault, for slowly leeching its fire without giving back any of our own.

NICK SIMMONS: You once said the music business isn’t dying — it’s dead. What would you say to young musicians and songwriters today trying to navigate this new terrain?

GENE SIMMONS: Don’t quit your day job is a good piece of advice. When I was coming up, it was not an insurmountable mountain. Once you had a record company on your side, they would fund you, and that also meant when you toured they would give you tour support. There was an entire industry to help the next Beatles, Stones, Prince, Hendrix, to prop them up and support them every step of the way. There are still record companies, and it does apply to pop, rap, and country to an extent. But for performers who are also songwriters — the creators — for rock music, for soul, for the blues — it’s finally dead.

Rock is finally dead.

“Rock did not die of old age. It was murdered.”

I am so sad that the next 15-year-old kid in a garage someplace in Saint Paul, that plugs into his Marshall and wants to turn it up to ten, will not have anywhere near the same opportunity that I did. He will most likely, no matter what he does, fail miserably. There is no industry for that anymore. And who is the culprit? There’s always the changing tide of interests — music taste changes with each generation. To blame that is silly. That was always the exciting part, after all: “What’s next?” But there’s something else. The death of rock was not a natural death. Rock did not die of old age. It was murdered. And the real culprit is that kid’s 15-year-old next-door neighbor, probably a friend of his. Maybe even one of the bandmates he’s jamming with. The tragedy is that they seem to have no idea that they just killed their own opportunity — they killed the artists they would have loved. Some brilliance, somewhere, was going to be expressed, and now it won’t, because it’s that much harder to earn a living playing and writing songs. No one will pay you to do it.

The masses do not recognize file-sharing and downloading as stealing because there’s a copy left behind for you — it’s not that copy that’s the problem, it’s the other one that someonereceived but didn’t pay for. The problem is that nobody will pay you for the 10,000 hours you put in to create what you created. I can only imagine the frustration of all that work, and having no one value it enough to pay you for it.

It’s very sad for new bands. My heart goes out to them. They just don’t have a chance. If you play guitar, it’s almost impossible. You’re better off not even learning how to play guitar or write songs, and just singing in the shower and auditioning for The X Factor. And I’m not slamming The X Factor, or pop singers. But where’s the next Bob Dylan? Where’s the next Beatles? Where are the songwriters? Where are the creators? Many of them now have to work behind the scenes, to prop up pop acts and write their stuff for them.

Here’s a frightening thought: from 1958 to 1983, name 100 musical anythings that are iconic, that seem to last beyond their time.

NS: The Beatles, The Stones…

“From ’84 until today, name some. Just give me a few — artists that, even after their passing, are or will be inescapable.”

GS: Elvis, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, the Stones, Jimi Hendrix, the numerous classic Motown artists, Madonna, U2, Prince, Pink Floyd… The list goes on. Individuals, all unanimously considered classic, timeless, revolutionary. Now from ’84 until today, name some. Just give me a few — artists that, even after their passing, are or will be inescapable. Artists on the same level as the ones I just mentioned. Even if you don’t like them, they will be impossible to avoid, or deny, even after they’ve stopped making music and maybe passed on. In fact, they become bigger when they stop. Name artists that even compare with the ones I just named.

NS: Nirvana?

GS: Nirvana. That’s about it. They are thenotable exception. Keep thinking. It’s harder, isn’t it, to name artists with as much confidence? The pickings are so slim, and it’s not an arbitrary difference. There was a 10- to 15-year period in the ’60s and ’70s that gave birth to almost every artist we now call “iconic,” or “classic.” If you know anything about what makes longevity, about what makes something an everlasting icon, it’s hard to find after that. The craft is gone, and that is what technology, in part, has brought us. What is the next Dark Side of the Moon? Now that the record industry barely exists, they wouldn’t have a chance to make something like that. There is a reason that, along with the usual top-40 juggernauts, some of the biggest touring bands are half old people, like me.

NS: What does this bode for the industry of the future?

GS: There is no record industry, unfortunately. Not like there was. There are some terrific bands out there — Tame Impala, which you turned me on to, and so on. And during the ’60s and ’70s they would’ve become big, I’m convinced.

But, strangely, today, everything pales before Psy’s “Gangnam Style.” Look up the numbers on that song. He blows everyone else out of the water.

NS: The biggest song of all time is an Internet meme. Sounds almost like popular music is jumping the shark.

GS: Yes. My guess is that despite those numbers, it will still pass from the public eye in a short time. I don’t know what that means, but it’s clear that longevity is practically dead, and new artists that stand the test of time — meaning, artists whose art can survive them, who become icons — are so rare as to almost be nonexistent.

NS: Considering that it doesn’t seem to affect you directly, how did you become so outspoken about this? Along with a few public figures I could name, you’ve been one of the most vocal critics of file-sharing.

GS: My perspective is decidedly different than perhaps the perspective of somebody who was born here. If you’re a native-born American, my contention is that you take a lot of things for granted. All the freedoms and opportunities you have here are expected, and you feel entitled. I think this has taken over the American psyche. I find that many of the more patriotic people are immigrants, and they’re the ones who stand still when the flag goes up, out of gratitude. My sense is that file-sharing started in predominantly white, middle- and upper-middle-class young people who were native-born, who felt they were entitled to have something for free, because that’s what they were used to. If you believe in capitalism — and I’m a firm believer in free-market capitalism — then that other model is chaos. It destroys the structure. You’ll never understand unless you’re the one that wrote the song, and you were the one that had the band, whose music people took without paying you for. Once you’re the one who’s been robbed, there’s a moment of clarity.

And let’s be clear: I’m not the guy to be pouting and complaining about stuff. I make a decent living. I’m very, very lucky. But that’s because we started before the chaos, in the days when people had to buy records. If you didn’t like a band, you didn’t buy their albums, and the people decided.

NS: They voted with their dollar.

“Patriotism is corny, and that’s a sad state of affairs.”

GS: That’s right. And going back to that national psyche thing… I firmly believe that there’s something missing in America, and it used to exist, and it’s now corny. Patriotism is corny, and that’s a sad state of affairs. It really is. I don’t care what side of the aisle you’re on — I find faults in both, some social and some political issues — but everywhere, people are taking a lot of things for granted. And you would know the majesty that is America if you came from hundreds of other countries I could name. If you come from a place where every day above ground is a life-threatening event, and you had the same ambition and values as the most successful people here, you would never reach the same heights. And of course this applies to Western society at large, but America especially. I think every day, we forget about the — and here’s the corny part — glory of America. And that’s too fucking bad.

NS: Any last thoughts?

GS: Always, but I think I’ve talked enough for a lifetime.

*********** End of Interview *********

Thoughts from Scorpion Sting:

I feel the need to express my thoughts and opinions on this particular interview, not necessarily on the words, but the contents, ideas, and opinions. Why? I too, have been watching Rock & Roll for many, many years. As a consumer, I have seen many trends in the music industry, I have seen great bands not just fade away over time, but vanish overnight as well. Sadly, nobody really knows why this happens all the time and why some bands seem to remain relevant through the good times and the bad across multiple generations. I’m reminded of this because of what I witnessed and was a part of this past Sunday evening while attending the final show in the KISS and Def Leppard tour. Including my crew of 3 generations, we saw many fans there sharing or introducing their love for two rock legends with their children and grandchildren. It truly was amazing to witness the next generations having such a great time at such a fantastic show.

When I see rock legends do interviews such as this particular one, it shows people that music truly is a business that is propelled for the simplicity of supply and demand. I know I’m not the only one who grew up with rock and roll and continue to enjoy it to this very day, the concert we just saw as a family proves that fact hands down in my opinion. Of course, I’m witnessing the fading of many of my favorite bands, simply because they are getting to an age where they must slow down, yes I’m saying they are getting to old to perform these days. Many of the legends don’t give up, many of them still put out awesome music, some of them are still doing it after 40 or more years, and that is impressive to me.

So, where am I going with this little monolog? I guess I just wanted to agree a bit with what Gene Simmons noted, the music industry has evolved to a point where music isn’t important any longer, the business of making money is what is important and with that, myself and everyone else, suffer. In the digital age we live in now it almost seems that live concerts have become irrelevant because now we can Google a show we missed or watch it for free from the comfort of our homes on YouTube. As a whole, people have become to busy and to lazy to get out and enjoy a show of any sorts, and that gets reflected directly when bands decide where to tour. Do I see this downward spiral continuing? Absolutely, because the music offered right now, today, by the so called “fresh” artists really does suck ass. Personally, its not what I’m looking for in music. So what am I forced to do? The same as millions of other deciples of old school rock and rock played with actual instruments, I have turned to the digital world so I can hear what I want, when I want, and repeat it as many times as I want.

Anyway, just wanted to share a little food for thought to get y’all thinking about the music y’all love and share the opinions of an all time rock legend, Gene Simmons. I hope y’all enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed putting it together for y’all.

Wondering How To Describe The Show

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Before I begin, I would like to personally thank KISS, Def Leppard, and opening act The Dead Daisies, for coming to our fair city and putting on a spectator kick ass show. If anyone has been to one of the concerts this 2014 tour, they understand what I am talking about fully. I would just like to take a moment and mention an observation. If I had to pick which band was “best” last night it would hands down be Def Leppard. (Gasp!) Def Leppard brought the sound, the music, the vocals, and the overall show when they performed. Personally, they rocked the fucking sold out pavilion like no bands I have seen perform there in the past, and I have seen many there.

But, as any diehard KISS fan will tell you, good show, bad show, so so average show, who the fuck cares because you just saw KISS perform live. So, personal sentiment aside, I saw KISS live for the 5th damn time in my life. As a bonus, there were three (3) generations of my family there to witness musical history being made. It was an absolute blast with my granddaughter up on one of my shoulders while she tried to dance and when I would put her down the music just took over and captivated her while she twirled and danced around.

In the end it was a great night for me and my wife, who is a diehard country music fan, and everyone just had a blast. I can’t ever ask for more than family time, they made it all worth it for me, and we will always have these spectacular memories that we all made together. By the time it was over, with my granddaughter draped in my arms, we all realized we we all exhausted, and I still had a 45 minute drive back to the house. Next concert for all if us will be ZZ Top, whenever they announce the dates to resume their tour.

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The Time is Here To Rock & Roll All Night

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The day is finally here, later in this day my wife and I will be heading off to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands, Texas. Why, you ask? We will be going to see KISS and Def Leppard while we rock and roll til the end of the night. Am I excited? Indeed! This will be my 5th time to see KISS live and 3rd time seeing Def Leppard live, but never together before. For the very first time it will be myself, my wife, my two daughters, my son, and my 3 y/o granddaughter. Never before have we ALL went to the same concert at the same time, for this I am very excited because my son, my wife, and my granddaughter are live KISS concert virgins. That’s all I really have to say for now, other than it will be raining still, probably, and its an outdoor venue. But! The show must go on! Don’t worry, I will tell y’all all about it in the next day or three.

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Sunday………..Sunday………..Sunday

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Is my wife a sneaky little fox? Yes, yes she is a sneaky little fox. Let me explain. As a follower of the band KISS I try to keep up with and when they ate touring over the years. In my 45 years I have already seen the band live in concert four times, once while in high school, once before children, and once a piece with each of my daughters. When I go see them Sunday, 31 August 2014, it will be my fifth time and I will have both of my daughters, my son, my wife, and my 3 y/o granddaughter. It will be my wife, my son, and my granddaughter’s very first time to experience KISS live in concert.

Now, let me explain how my wife was so damn sneaky. I heard about the concert announcement probably 2 weeks after it actually occurred, but my wife caught wind of it well before that. Now, I was focused on the cruise we were taking over the last week of August returning the first week of September to celebrate my middle daughter’s 18th birthday and as her graduation present from us. So when I heard the concert date I was more tthan just a little disappointed to say the very least. Little did I know that when you book a cruise so far out in advance that there is some flexibility for change. But, my wife knew and without me knowing she bumped our cruise date out a bit. She also secured six tickets to the concert behind my back. I found out about both when I opened my Father’s Day card from all of them while they all watched me with a shit eating grin on their faces. So, yea, now we all will be enjoying KISS & Def Leppard in concert and all enjoying the cruise together a few weeks later.

She got me, hell, they all got me pretty good. My wife has a few surprises left in her I see, I will have to start keeping a closer eye on her now. Am I happy? Of course, hell yea I’m happy, I will be even happier the end of August. Anyway, I’m sure I will do a little post after the concert and of course after we get back from the cruise, just be patient, the end of August isn’t that far away.

Posted From Scorpion Sting’s Motorola Droid Maxx!

Bow Our Heads For Words Unknown

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Saturday became the day that was decided where many people who are otherwise too busy could get their schedules together and spend time with one another. I hosted this get together of family and friends. The purpose? Nothing more than for everyone to get together, eat, maybe have a drink or two, let the kids run wild, and for everyone to catch up with what is worth catching up with. I spent the morning preparing all of the meat, smoking it all to perfection, and all of this was paired with side dishes brought by many people. I would say in total there were 60 men, women, and children all spending their precious Saturday together for absolutely no reason.

Finally, it was time to feast. I look all around me and see my family and friends and it dawns on me that there are many different faiths attending my supper. At this moment my father stood up announcing that I would be leading us in prayer and for everyone to rise with heads bowed low. Immediately in my brain I’m yelling wait! I don’t pray so how will I be the one to lead the prayer? I stood there, frozen, for what seemed to be eternity, and then my mouth opened. It was like the dam opened and I couldn’t, no mater what I tried, stop the flow of words coming out of my mouth. It was like me standing outside my own body watching me deliver this prayer before our meal.

When it was complete all I heard was a rumbled amen, then seeing everyone sit, and everyone plowing into the food. I ate there quietly wondering what in the fuck just happened. What did happen? What did I say? Why would my dad take it upon himself to announce me at the prayer giver? The whole meal I was thinking of what I was going to say to the man who put me on the spot in front of so many people. I could have declined leading the prayer but with my wife at my side squeezing my hand I wasn’t going anywhere fast. In fact, when it was done I got a wink of approval from my son across the table. What did all of this mean? Was this an intervention? Was this going to be a forcible conversion? Was there going to be pain and blood? Did I just die?

After the meal everyone was mingling on the back deck, the kids were running amuck in the yard playing hide and seek, and I found myself standing alone stoking the outdoor fireplace. My fathers actions still weighing heavily on my mind wondering what he could’ve possibly been thinking. My dad ended up walking over to where I was, standing beside me, resting his arm around my shoulders. We stood there for a moment. The silence spoke volumes. He started talking to me where he thanked me for taking the opportunity to leading the prayer, acknowledging that I did it perfectly. When I ask why he laid it out for me in his own special way. He told me this meal was being served at my house and traditionally the male head of the house leads the prayer for meals. I told him he had put me in an awkward position because I don’t pray. He said he knows but knew I would have something inspirational to say.

Some of y’all are probably wondering why this is even a point to write about. Some of y’all have been around here long enough that y’all know why. In the end, it’s over and I learned a valuable lesson. Part of that lesson was that I will never cease to amaze myself what I can pull out of my ass to sound like I know what I’m talking about. I have never had a problem speaking to a crowd, large or small, but I felt uncomfortable this time because this isn’t part of who I am. Out of respect for my family and friends I did dig deep, real deep, and tried to make things appear normal. Normal? What’s normal anymore? Overall, we all had fun, we all ate well, and nobody burst into flames. Yay me!

KISS “Monster” Album Review

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I have never made it a secret to anyone, on-line or in real life, that I am a diehard KISS fan. Hell, I even spent a fair amount of cash a few years ago just so I could “be” Gene Simmons. I know, I sound like such a wet little girl. I can accept that. I have seen KISS live over the years at least a dozen times, I never passed it up if I could afford it. I have many things signed by all the band members. I have had the opportunity to actually meet Gene Simmons twice in my life, both times in Las Vegas Nevada at different times. Anyway, I enjoy their music and I will always be a support of the band known as KISS. But, we are not here to discuss my secret love affair with the band, I wanted to share my personal thoughts on their latest album, Monster. Everyone will probably not agree with everything I say and all I will tell you is we are all entitled to our own opinion, and this will be mine. I remind everyone I have zero musical background and zero credentials to review or judge a band’s music. Unless you take into consideration that I am a metal fan until I die, always have been and always will be. No, I do not consider KISS to be a metal band, that’s not what I’m saying, I’m just saying I have some kind of hard rock or metal in my ears most of my awake hours so I know what I like and what I think sucks the dingle berries out of a dead rhino’s ass. KISS Monster is not one of the one’s that suck, quite the opposite in my opinion. It may not be their greatest work they have ever performed, but in the top 3 KISS albums in my book. By the way, the artwork above was found on the good ‘ol world wide web and the photo below was taken by me for the specific purpose of this post and one other. The picture below is of my copy of the KISS Monster cd, yes I said cd.

In my opinion there are two kinds of music fans as far as the band KISS goes. People either love KISS or they hate KISS, there aren’t many in-between-ers out there. Sooner or later KISS will be calling it quits leaving us with waste cases like Cyrus and Biebler to carry the torch in the next generation of music. At which point, if those two are the only thing going I might take my own life because there will be nothing to look forward to each day any longer. Everybody in the music industry does one of 4 things to end the careers of band members. First, they were a “one hit wonder” and faded away as fast as they came on the scene. Second, the band breaks up and heads their separate ways. Third, everyone needs to retire at one point or another. And fourth, this one seems to be a biggy in the rock industry, which is an untimely death. My hope for KISS is that one day they just retire. Not all bands can go on forever and that’s great, they had a fantastic run. In my opinion, KISS is one of the most recognizable bands on the planet, known across the genders, known across generations, and known across the races. Not too damn many bands can say they are that “known” world-wide now can they. I can name a few, but the list is short. Anyway, if you already own this cd or downloaded the album somewhere you already know how good it is. For the rest of y’all, you now know what to do. I know, this wasn’t much of a review but it gave me a chance to write about KISS and that is always worth it to me.

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