Gene Simmons on Kiss's enduring legacy and inspiring Taylor Swift

The singer and bassist says the band's appeal lies in keeping it honest on the road

Gene Simmons from Kiss says the band's farewell tour will be loud and proud. Photo: Per Ole Hagen
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Fifty years since its formation, Kiss’s impact reverberates today.

In addition to inspiring myriad rockers to don face paint and compose barrelling rock-pop songs in the vein of I Was Made for Lovin’ You and Rock and Roll All Nite, it is the group’s bombastic live shows that are its biggest legacy.

This year will go down as the year the live music industry got its groove back, with artists such as Taylor Swift, Beyonce and The Weeknd going on lavish tours full of epic set lists and stunning visuals.

Kiss singer and bassist Gene Simmons approves of all the action, stating the live mix of awe and feel-good factor is what audiences ultimately remember most about their favourite artists.

“When it comes to Taylor Swift, I can say there is a direct connection between her and Kiss in that you can see footage online of Taylor and her band coming out in Kiss make up,” he tells The National, referring to Swift’s guest appearance in a 2014 concert by US country artist Keith Urban.

“Even now when it comes to EDM shows, all that fireworks and lights come from rock and more specifically Kiss.

“I think this is great because the idea of a concert, if you do it well, is to make the people who paid their hard-earned money to see you forget about the traffic jams and all the problems for that period of time.”

After wrapping up a successful Australian tour, including a performance in front of 100,000 people at the AFL Grand Final (the Down Under equivalent of the NFL Super Bowl), Kiss will bring the hits and pyro-techniques to Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena on Friday as part of their farewell tour.

While aware the group first tried to call it quits with their Kiss Farewell Tour in 2000, Simmons is adamant this final jaunt is the real deal.

“It feels right because after 50 years that's enough. You want to get off the stage and give other bands a chance to get up there too,” he says.

“Also nowadays with music streaming and everything else, it is so hard for new bands to get a shot and we don't want to be one of those acts that stays on stage too long.

“50 years is plenty of time and we are grateful and proud.”

Indeed, there is a lot to look back on and smile about.

Ever since that first show in 1973 in New York's Popcorn Pub where “almost nobody was there”, Kiss built a global fan base through classic hard rock songs performed flamboyantly on stage.

Part of the band’s appeal, Simmons notes, in that the focus has always been on direct songwriting and taking them to the masses.

“Before the private jets and all that success there were only three or four national TV stations in the US so it was all about taking your art to the people,” he says.

“There is something honest about being on the road, city after city and country after country, that people appreciate. While it's easier now, of course, that ethic has always been with Kiss.”

Such an approach has also taken its toll.

Drummer Peter Criss left the band in 1980, followed by guitarist Ace Frehley two years later with substance abuse reportedly playing a part.

While both have played with Kiss at various reunion shows, they have never returned as permanent members.

Simmons views their departure as a career regret.

“I should have been harder and more strict with Ace and Peter because they are the original members and at the beginning of the band it was all for one and one for all,” he says.

“Then again, if you have been around long enough, like the Rolling Stones and AC/DC, it’s tough to hold on to original members. Being in a band is like a marathon and most people can only run a short race.”

And that’s the advice Simmons offers to a new generation of rockers. Like any start up business, success is shaped as much by vision as the ability to resolve conflicts.

“When you are in your early twenties or late teenagers your brain really hasn't formed yet, so you make a lot of stupid decisions,” he says. “So I do recommend all bands to take whatever they do seriously and remember you will be spending more time with each other than your family.

“So you have to find a way to work with each other.”

And as for life after the finish line, Simmons says he will be focusing on Kiss’s legacy projects.

As well as further developing Kiss World, the group's theme park and museum in Las Vegas, he says work is already under way on a biopic and Broadway play.

“We are not there yet and we still have a great show to play in Dubai,” Simmons says.

“We will go overboard because our shows are more about freedom where you can scream as loud as you can and do anything you want to … as long as you don't bother the person next to you.”

Kiss perform at Coca-Cola Arena Dubai on Friday. Tickets, starting at Dh295, are available at

Updated: October 09, 2023, 6:05 PM