Gene Simmons Talks About Selling Out

Gene Simmons Talks About Selling Out
Original Photo Credit: Joe Bielawa, CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

KISS is unquestionably the most marketed band in rock history. As of 2014, there were more than 3,000 KISS-licensed products in the global marketplace including caskets, lunch boxes, comic books, credit cards and condoms, among many others. In a recent interview with Ultimate Guitar, KISS bassist Gene Simmons shared his thoughts on “selling out” and presented an alternative viewpoint in that being a professional musician could be exemplified by giving fans what they want instead of an artist doing it for themselves. 

“… I’m untrained, I didn’t go to music school, I didn’t study music theory and, by and large, everybody that I know of is the same,” Simmons said. “I mean, Eddie Van Halen might have been an exception. I don’t know if Eddie or Alex could read and write music. But clearly, what they did is based on what appealed to their ears. Whether you’re a painter, you’re [going to make paintings] no matter if you’re trained or untrained, what appeals to your very own eyes. Because that’s the judge and jury at the outset.”

“Then you can kind of move around your art based on whether you want to please other people or just yourself, which is the eternal push and pull. Whether you’re a writer, or a painter, or musician, or a sculptor, you’re either doing it for yourself or other people. If the two meet, you like what you’re doing, and they like what you’re doing, you’re really happy. But often, it’s a hard choice. [You’re going to say] I like it, I don’t care if anybody else likes it. Or the guy who does it all for people, even though he might hate it, which in my opinion, is just as valid and just as ethical as anything else.”

Simmons likened musicians making some choices in the way a chef might prepare a dish that he or she personally didn’t like. “Imagine going into a restaurant, and there’s a chef there who is world-famous and he personally hates spinach – wouldn’t touch it if he gags. And you walk up to the chef and say, ‘can you make me a spinach souffle?’ The chef would say, ‘of course’, and he makes you the thing and you eat it. He doesn’t have to like it. His job is to give you exactly what you want, even though he hates it. And that’s ethical. You do the best you can – you do the work. And so, I think it’s perfectly valid. [People say to me] ‘You sellout.’ You’re damn right, bitch. I sell out every night.”

KISS is currently in the midst of their “End of the Road” tour, and Simmons previously reached out to original guitarist Ace Frehley on Twitter with an invitation to join the band for encores on their farewell trek. “Happy Birthday Ace @ace_frehley,” Simmons wrote. “And many more…The invitations still stand. Jump up on stage with us for encores. The fans would love it.”

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