Gene Simmons

Night Vision
Gene Simmons
Simmons on the Creatures tour with a Kramer Axe Bass.
Gene Simmons: Brian Lowe.

Between stints on its lengthy End of the Road farewell tour, Kiss has been issuing an Off the Soundboard series of live recordings, but a recent highlight is the 40th anniversary super deluxe edition of 1982’s crucial comeback album, Creatures of the Night (see review in this month’s “Hit List”).

Vocalist/bassist Gene Simmons sat with VG to discuss the tumultuous making of Creatures.

After the criticism of 1981’s Music from “The Elder”, what was Kiss’ mindset heading into Creatures? Somewhere between uncertainty and chaos?
It’s probably fair to say uncertain. “The Elder” is entirely my fault. I had delusions of grandeur and other big ideas; I was at the Beverly Hills Hotel and started writing a treatment for a movie called The Elder with characters, storylines, and so on. I actually had bites from some studios. (Producer) Bob Ezrin came on to do the new record, and we were in flux. Eric Carr was coming in to be our drummer. Ace [Frehley] was behaving badly and refused to leave his Connecticut home to come record, rehearse, and write. So, we started working at Ace’s home studio. It was Ezrin who said, “I want to do a concept record based on Gene’s treatment for The Elder.” That record became what it became.

It was an uncertain period in the band. We had a new drummer, we had a lead guitar player who wasn’t really in the band, and maybe a misplaced idea of “Let’s do our own Tommy kind of concept record with a story line.” All around us, the music scene was changing. The hair bands were coming, and they started looking better than their girlfriends. After that, we needed more time and recorded four tunes Paul [Stanley] had written or co-written for Killers, a greatest-hits record. It was just a way to get more time to figure out what we wanted to do. Then we had this clear idea of, “Look, it’s easier to be Kiss if you know what the soul of the band is, and we’re venturing into new territory, so let’s go into a hyped-up Kiss. Adrenalized. Let’s just make it bigger and badder.” Creatures became a comfortable record to do because it was exciting. It sounded stronger and louder.

I was actually surprised at how well the record came out. My favorites are Destroyer, Creatures, and Revenge. The beginning records are okay. Each has their own personality.

How did guitarists Vinnie Vincent – who ultimately joined the band – Robben Ford, and Steve Farris (Mr. Mister) get involved in recording Creatures? Was it through co-producer Michael James Jackson?
The Vinnie Vincent thing started off purely as a happenstance. I was at Adam Mitchell’s house, writing songs. He and Paul had come up with “Creatures of the Night.” While I was there, Vinnie happened to show up; Adam warned me about him. Historically speaking, Vinnie was a very talented guy who could write and really knew his way around a guitar, though I didn’t like his choices. You get Yngwie-itis – a lot of fast notes that you can’t hum ever again. He was his own worst enemy.

Simmons on the Creatures tour with a Kramer Axe Bass.

The other guys came in with Jackson – a wonderful, wonderful human being. Just a great guy. He had a different way of working with us. It was more like herding sheep. When you see animals starting to go a little off on their own, you get in their way and say, “Are you sure this is the right thing? How about we go back a little bit?” without being specific.

Will there be more Off the Soundboard releases?
Yeah. We have a large, temperature-controlled vault. There’s an awful lot of material in there. It’s always just about having some downtime to go in there and say, “Let’s see what we’ve got.”

Is the finality of the farewell tour setting in?
We’re aware of it every time we do a show. After the run is over – it could be a year from now – we are going to stop touring. Kiss will continue in other ways, but the touring band has got to get off that stage. You want to get off while you’re still vibrant and doing great shows.

Does the band realize its influence and how it inspired people to pick up an instrument?
We’re certainly aware of it. The important thing, I believe, is to make sure you don’t believe your own press, and you don’t believe all the kudos you get. People pat us on the back all the time, and it really is appreciated, but you have to be able to point to what went on before you. You have to understand what influences and roots are, and that you’re just the next in line.

This article originally appeared in VG’s January 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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