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.

Is The Westboro Baptist Church A Hate Group!

Anti-Gay Religious Group Pickets School

I understand the opening title is a bold question to ask. But as an American I feel deep down that I need to ask it out-loud where people can hear me. I have written on the topic of The Westboro Baptist Church in the past which generated quite a bit of bitter and hateful statements towards me, my family, and of course my blog. Let me make something very clear here before anyone gets their panties in a knot. I am NOT talking about all Baptists, I am NOT talking about any religion, I am just talking about the fucktards that run this church, go to this church, and believe in the vile provided by this particular church. If you are part of The Westboro Baptist Church cult following than this information is not anything that you didn’t already know. Now, the information I gathered was dated back in July 2013, so the rest of y’all might have seen it as well. I would point y’all to the actual petition sent for President Obama’s approval but it appear that the We The People website has been temporarily disabled so nobody can look at the public record. I have looked at this topic before, I saw the petition before as well, there were close to 675,000 signatures well out doing the 100,000 required. However, even though President Obama believes the actions of The Westboro Church to be reprehensible, he turned down the request (petition) to label the church a hate group. The President said that it is not the place of the Federal government to do so. Why do the petitioners want the church to be labeled as a hate group? It’s simple, the petitioners want The Westboro Baptist Church to have its tax exemption revoked. However, the White House refuses to label them a hate group or revoke their tax exemption status.

Since the government does not maintain a particular list of hate groups that there is no jurisdiction over the different organizations and does not have an official opinion. But, even though the White House has not officially called the church a hate group, it does condemn their widely known practices. Sounds like bullshit to me. So why does The Westboro Baptist Church protest? Let’s explore that a little. We can start with the basic theological views of the WBC. The theology of the WBC is an extreme variant of Calvinism according to their beliefs and values. I will remind everyone reading today that Phelps’s organization, Westboro Baptist Church, is based in Topeka, Kansas, US. Its first public service was held on the afternoon of Sunday, November 27, 1955. Today, the church has about 40 members, most of whom are Phelps’ family members. The church is described and monitored as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center but not by the United States Government.

  • Man is in a state of sin, and can only be saved by the grace of God.
  • This grace is not given freely to all, but only to God’s “elect”.
  • The elect are the people whom God has foreordained to salvation. All others are reprobates, who have been created for the express purpose of being sent to Hell. This is the Calvinist belief of unconditional election, a.k.a. “double predestination,” which is a form of determinism; it explains why the Westboro Baptist Church protests aren’t about proselytizing. The intent of their protests is to thank God for smiting us.
  • Those whom God chooses to condemn, he causes to sin by “hardening their hearts” against himself.
  • It is the duty of the elect to proclaim God’s word (even though God will not cause the reprobates to listen). Their goal is not to win converts, or to “save” others, but simply to rebuke others for their sins.
  • All events on earth happen because of God’s will. This includes natural disasters and actions committed by people. Events such as Hurricane Katrina, the September 11th attacks on New York and the financial recession of 2008-09 are therefore celebrated by the WBC as God’s righteous destruction of reprobates.
  • It is also the duty of the elect to praise and thank God for all such judgments. This is why the Phelps family is often seen with signs reading “Thank God for 9/11” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers”. They offered similar thanks for the recent $11 million judgment against them, because they see it as proof that God is hardening the hearts of men against them.
  • The Elect pretty much includes the members of Westboro Baptist, and practically nobody else.
  • Their obsession with homosexuality is the result of the widespread acceptance of homosexuality in the world. For the members of the WBC, all sins separate man from God, and they do not claim that the elect are without sin. However, according to their beliefs, people must sincerely repent of their sins before they can be forgiven. For the members of the WBC, “gay pride” and the acceptance of homosexuality is tantamount to having “murderer pride” or thinking of child rape as being just another, equally valid form of sexual expression. Anyone who doesn’t condemn homosexuality as evil is, according to the WBC, a “fag enabler”, and deserving of divine retribution.
  • Phelps’s sermons, some of which have been broadcast on radio or on his website, tend to last for around an hour, and consist of an old man rambling incoherently to himself, getting agitated and shouting every few minutes, and quote mining the scriptures to support his warped and hateful attitudes.
  • WBC members typically hold signs and shout at family members attending soldiers’ funerals, shouting such things as “Thank God For Dead Soldiers”.
  • Finally, Fred Phelps, the “pastor” at the church believes that God allows the soldiers to die as their punishment of their sins of homosexuality.]

In other words, to shorten terms for everyone, the Westboro Baptist Church hates the following but is not limited to the list provided.

  • Gays
  • the United States Military
  • the United States
  • Jews
  • Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox
  • Hindus
  • Muslims
  • Any religion other than their own
  • Logic
  • Swedish people
  • Anonymous
  • You
  • Me
  • the world
  • Lady Gaga
  • Italians
  • Divorcees
  • Coretta Scott King
  • Obama
  • Black People in General
  • Over-weight people
  • All people who aren’t predestined to go to heaven (everyone who’s not a member of the WBC)
  • Love
  • Thought
  • Dissent
  • They hate hypocrites that are not part of the WBC
  • Heavy Metal, Rock & Roll
  • Musicians of all genres in general
  • Canada & the UK for banning the WBC
  • Hackers
  • The KKK
  • Your freedom of speech
  • Additionally, women are second class citizens.

I promised myself when I was writing this piece that I would keep calm and not get pissed off at this useless human being. But I can’t do it. I can’t continue to bite my tongue. What would Fred Phelps think of me? I hold the word hate to a high regard and I can only name about 3 people who I actually despise enough to hate. He is not one of them. I cannot and will not give in to his way of thinking. What I will do is to continue to share what an arrogant bastard he is while he preaches from his very tall pedestal. Does he feel as if he can’t be touched by mankind? I think you know the answer without me saying it. Take some time one day and read up on the history of Fred Phelps, his family, the WBC, and his followers/parishioners. When you do you will first let out a large sigh, that will be followed will the immediate need to vomit, and then you will just be pissed. For what you ask? It’s simple, and it should be real simple for Christians, because there needs to be an end to him preaching and spreading hate. Granted, with a churchful that counts in the 40s one would think that they aren’t much of a threat, but they are, they are a hate group whether the United States Government and President Obama think so or not.

We all know, especially those who know me or are close to me, that I don’t get into two things, those are politics and religion. If you have read closely I kept up my end of the deal, we didn’t discuss religion or politics. The people mentioned in this post were mentioned because they are key aspects and key players resulting in the continuation of the WBC. My final thought is actually a question. What the fuck is wrong with Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC)??? I will be too kind and pass a farewell to them all, fuck you Fred Phelps and fuck you Westboro Baptist Church.