June 23, 2011 in Features

Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley continue to rock and roll all night


Kiss may be one of the best-known bands in rock, but it hasn’t exactly been the most consistent.

Over the past 36 years, Gene Simmons and company have released 37 albums, selling 100 million copies worldwide while playing record-breaking tours around the planet at venues such as the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics.

But the band went 11 years between albums, and it’s been 15 years since its previous stop at the Spokane Arena.

After making its recording comeback in 2009 with “Sonic Boom,” Kiss entered the studio this spring to work on another new album, some of which you might hear when the group returns to the Arena on Friday.

Co-founding bassist Simmons; co-founding frontman, singer and guitarist Paul Stanley;

and drummer Eric Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer (who replaced original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley) are aiming to follow in the path of “Sonic Boom,” which was a return to Kiss’ early no-frills sound.

Over nearly four decades Kiss has dabbled in various forms of pop rock, the progressive art rock of “Music from The Elder,” grunge on 1996’s “Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions” and even disco on 1979’s “Dynasty.”

But Simmons says the new album is “straight rock songs, no ballads, no keyboard … nothing but rock.”

He told the Toronto Sun: “It’s not just late-’70s, it’s the classic sound of all time. Styles come and go; the only thing that sticks is The (Rolling) Stones and AC/DC, meat and potatoes stuff. That stuff is forever.”

The album will again be produced by Stanley, and the writing is all in-house.

Following an 11-year gap after “Psycho Circus,” amid rumors that Kiss was reluctant to make another record, “Sonic Boom” was the band’s highest-charting album, debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 – topping the No. 3 debut of “Psycho Circus.”

Known for signature Kabuki-esque face paint, studded black leather armor, fire breathing, blood spitting and a pyrotechnically dazzling live show, Kiss is regarded as one of the most influential bands in rock and roll, with a wildly dedicated fan base of tattooed followers.

It has more than 3,000 licensed products, everything from condoms to caskets (as Simmons puts it: “We’ll get you coming and going”).

In addition to the success of Kiss – and his own Canada-based record label, several endorsements and a soon-to-be theme restaurant chain and TV talent show – Simmons has the longest-running celebrity reality show, “Family Jewels.”

It follows the drama of his longtime relationship with former Playboy Playmate of the Year Shannon Tweed, which seems to be on the rocks if recent public appearances are any evidence.

Simmons also is a motivational speaker who gets paid to talk about how he got rich enough to get paid to talk about how he got rich. In 2007 he even bought his own island.

But one thing the rock legend (born Chaim Witz) had not done in the 52 years since he first came to the United States is return to his birthplace in Israel.

Simmons fulfilled his lifelong dream when he made a homecoming visit to Israel in March while the “Family Jewels” camera crew documented the journey.

Now he plans to take his whole band back to his homeland in style on the Kiss Kruise, which sets sail in October.

Complete with a Kiss Halloween Party, a Kiss Q&A and two Kiss concerts – one of which is an acoustic show with no make-up – the Kiss Kruise is high on Simmons’ things-to-do list for 2011, right alongside the new album.

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