By Brian Ives
He’s a football team co-owner, a restaurant chain co-owner, a reality show star, a comic book character, and — lest we forget — a member of the “Hottest Band in the World,” KISS. And tonight, Gene Simmons will add an extra line to his acting resume (who could forget his co-starring role with Tom Selleck in the 1984 film Runaway, or his cameos on shows from “Miami Vice” and “Millennium”?). He’ll be appearing on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” as the CSIs investigate the murder of a rock and roll groupie and the disappearance of a prostitute.
We have questions for Gene, but should you have any questions, check out our FAQ on KISS.
Talk about your role on “CSI” tonight.
Gene Simmons: It was a role I was born to play. I was thrilled when they called and asked me to play “Gene Simmons.” Not the first time I’ve played myself: I did it on “Ugly Betty” and “Castle” and in the forthcoming Entourage movie. I’ve played other roles as well, this was kind of a hybrid. I play myself but I’m suspected of murder. If I told you more about the plot, I’d have to kill you.
In 2008, you published Ladies of the Night: A Historical and Personal Perspective on the Oldest Profession in the World, so you’re obviously familiar with the industry.
It was a researched book, I’m not a gentleman who paid for it. And, you’re right! I’m glad you asked me: KISS are being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. [Note: the interviewer had yet to get to that question] It’s a well meaning organization run by about ten guys. I don’t think that there are any women on the board, which is interesting. And these ten guys, some of them are good guys, some perhaps not, decided that there would be rappers and disco artists inducted. Our contemporaries, the Eagles, are in the Hall of Fame, and every single member that has been in the Eagles is inducted. And so when they offered the induction to us, we graciously said thank you. But then they said, “Only [founding members] Ace [Frehley], Paul [Stanley], Peter [Criss] and Gene get to be in.” So we said, “OK, thank you.” And so we called up [former members] Ace and Peter and said, “Congratulations, we’ll proudly stand alongside you, accept the award.”
But we’re not going to play. So [the Rock Hall] said, “What do you mean? We have the E Street band and [Bruce] Springsteen, we need KISS to close the show! It’s going to be on HBO.” We said, “You’re not going to honor [current guitarist] Tommy [Thayer] and [current drummer] Eric [Singer], who have been in the band for twenty years, two and a half times longer than the original lineup. And they’re supposed to stay home?”
[Thayer actually joined the band as lead guitarist in 2002 (he was a band employee before being promoted to band member). Singer first joined in 1991, and stayed until 1996 when KISS reunited with the original lineup; he rejoined when founding drummer Peter Criss left the band from 2001 – 2002, and replaced Criss again (seemingly for good) in 2004, so while he joined the band for the first time 23 years ago, he’s actually spent about sixteen years behind the drum kit. ]
How about this: we’re going to honor you and at the award ceremony, you can only bring the first girlfriend you ever went out with, not the present love of your life. Can I get you a sandwich while I’m at it? So, we’ll graciously accept the award. But it’s disrespectful to present members of the band.
At last year’s ceremony, Neil Peart of Rush said, “We’ve been saying for years that this isn’t a big deal. Turns out: it kind of is!” Do you feel any sense that this is a big deal, after being overlooked for so long?
Yes and no: it’s not a big deal, except that it’s a big deal to the fans, especially to the older fans. I have no beef with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You go on with your bad self and get more disco artists. Get the Boston Pops Orchestra to be inducted! A long time ago it was diluted. It’s really back room politics, like Boss Tweed. A few people decide what’s in and what’s not. And the masses just scratch their heads. You’ve got Grandmaster Flash in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Run-D.M.C. in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? You’re killing me! That doesn’t mean those aren’t good artists. But they don’t play guitar. They sample and they talk. Not even sing!
What do you mean ‘finally?’ Donna was my next door neighbor for many years, I knew and liked her, she was on my  solo record. But if you asked Donna, ‘What kind of artist are you?’ do you think she would say ‘rock?’ If you asked Madonna, ‘What kind of artist are you?’ do you think she would say, ‘Oh, rock!’ So what they hell are they doing in the Hall of Fame? They can run their organization any way they’d like, but it ain’t rock! It just isn’t! If you don’t play guitar and you don’t write your own songs, you don’t belong there.
Last summer, you told Radio.com that you wrote a new song called “Your Wish Is My Command.” Is KISS working on a new album?
The minute we have time to breathe… we have our football team the L.A. KISS, which is on CBS Sports and ESPN, and our reality show is on AMC, and we have our restaurant chain, Rock and Brews, there’s so much going on, and we’re getting ready for the 40th anniversary world tour, which kicks off this summer. So maybe at the end of the tour we’ll look at a new studio album, but everything takes time, as you know.
On April 3, you guys are doing a rare acoustic set, sans makeup at the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino. Is that something you’re thinking of doing more often?
There are no rules, but we play “unplugged” before every show, for a group of fans in the meet and greet section, and we play an hour to two hours just for those fans, and then we go out and do another two hours in full makeup. Nobody does that!
Finally, yesterday the New York Post reported that a group of [late KISS drummer] Eric Carr’s heirs were suing KISS for unpaid royalties, although his family quickly responded with a letter to you guys saying “We knew nothing about this” [the letter is at the band’s official website]. Who are these guys suing you?
We don’t know, we have no idea, our lawyers are trying to find out who these people are. The Caravello family — Eric Carr’s family — released a statement along with us, saying we have no idea who these people are, these are lies and we intend to find out who they are, and why they’re saying these things. For one thing, it’s slanderous. They’re saying that Eric hated being in the band. What? He was the sweetest guy in the world. Eric and the family and the fans have been slapped in the face by these people and we intend to make sure that there’s justice.
Watch Gene Simmons on CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION, tonight (March 12) from 10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT on the CBS Television Network.