For over a decade, Kiss‘ Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer have both worn makeup associated with the band’s founding guitarist and drummer, respectively. Although the move has sparked some controversy among Kiss fans, singer-bassist Gene Simmons tells Rolling Stone it doesn’t bother him.
“Why wouldn’t we use the classic makeup?” he says. “We own it.”
The subject came up during an interview regarding the 40th anniversary of Kiss’ Destroyer album, when Simmons bemoaned founding guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss’ acrimonious departures from the group within its first decade.
“The saddest thing of all is here we are, top of Mt. Olympus with all this cool stuff happening, really enjoying ourselves, the fans are thrilled, and nobody ever holds up a sign, ‘Where’s Ace and Peter?'” he says. “Anybody that’s in a band goes, ‘Oh, they can’t exist without me.’ They are sadly mistaken. Whether you’re AC/DC or Van Halen or anybody, they can actually not only exist without you. Even if you’re the lead singer, they can actually get twice as big.
“Even if you’re in Genesis: ‘Oh, they can never do it without Peter Gabriel.’ Oh, sure they can,” he continues. “In fact, we’ll get a guy who doesn’t have any personality and doesn’t put on masks or anything and just sings songs, and they’ll play stadiums. And Peter Gabriel, with all of the great masks and the things, never played that.”
The band had previously encouraged band members who joined in the early Eighties to create new personas – guitarist Vinnie Vincent became the Ankh Warrior and drummer Eric Carr was the Fox – but after the band decided to “unmask” Simmons, the musician says the band decided new personas were not valid. So when Frehley and Criss departed the band’s reunion tour in 2002 and 2004, respectively, the group – which owns rights to the makeup – bequeathed it unto Thayer and Singer.
“In retrospect, it was the right decision,” Simmons says. “There’s always going to be five percent or 10 percent of people who were there at the beginning who will complain about anything. And listen, I think that’s valid from their point of view. But people get onto a train at different times.
“If you go to see the Stones live today and poke the guy next to you and say, ‘Ron Wood, he’s not Brian Jones,’ the guy says, ‘Who the fuck is that?’ He wouldn’t have a clue what you were talking about. He came into the Stones 10, 20, 30 years after you did.”
Rolling Stone reported in 2014 that Peter Criss relinquished the rights to his character when he left the band. “I’m pissed at myself that my makeup slipped through my hands,” he said. “That’s my cross that I bear.” Frehley said he licensed his and would get it back, though singer-guitarist Paul Stanley called that notion a “fantasy.”
Kiss have announced three live dates so far this year. On July 29th, they will play Cheyenne Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and on the following day they play the North Dakota State Fair in Minot, North Dakota. On November 4th, they will headline their own Kiss Kruise VI, which travels from Miami to Cozumel and the Grand Caymans.
Additionally, Ace Frehley’s upcoming covers record Origins Vol. 1 sees the guitarist playing alongside Stanley for the first time in nearly two decades. They tackled Free’s “Fire and Water” together on the record. “We’ve always been friends,” Frehley told Rolling Stone in February. “The press seems to amplify negativity. I guess it makes good copy.”
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