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Baker's Dozen

The Demon Advocates: Gene Simmons' Favourite Albums
Valerie Siebert , March 3rd, 2015 12:53

The Kiss man picks a giants-of-rock top 13 albums for Val Siebert (and finally gives drum machines the talking to they deserve)

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It must be so freeing to be Gene Simmons. To have pursued your dreams and your fortune in an entirely selfish manner without feeling a hint of guilt for the toes that may have crumbled under your platform boots on the way. You can call Gene Simmons a lot of things. Obnoxious, arrogant, a frequent contrarian, but the man is pretty far off from being an idiot. He also has to be one of the most straightforward men in music, for better or worse.

He is what he is: a self-serving and shrewd business man of many, many, many strong opinions. I get the feeling that even if he hadn't become a massive rock star, he would not have turned out the least bit different - and would likely have slick-talked his way to the top of something or other, regardless.

Much of this list reads like a basic music history lesson - partially down to the man's obvious love of a great story, but possibly also down to a misperception of youth = ignorance in his immediate audience - and the other half is like a 101 class in music business. Much of what he admires in other artists is their independence, their success and the role that their musical and visual aesthetic may contribute to that. He is a man who likes to trade in icons, denouncing his perceived lack of them today and proudly saying that he thinks Kiss are seen more as iconic imagery than as musicians, and that he is totally okay with that. Though I guess there is nothing less to be expected from a man who has an honest-to-goodness trademark on his own face.

There really is no denying the icon status of that face, however. Well, at least the face of the Demon persona Simmons created around 40 years ago. I, like the thousands of other offspring of Kiss Army members in North America, grew up with it everywhere: staring out of vinyl sleeves, popping off baseball caps, even crafted into ceramic incense burners that directed smoke to pour out of its gaping mouth and nostrils. Beyond its specific association with Kiss as a musical entity, The Demon's face has actually become the equivalent of a rock stock pic - right up there with throwing up the devil horns. Of course, Simmons couldn't be more proud as he shows me pictures on his phone snapped around the world of The Demon looming over carnival entrances and graffitied onto walls; he even keeps them right by photos of his own children.

The popular opinion of Simmons - one of his own making - is that the music doesn't matter to him anymore. It's easy to forget that Simmons is, in fact, NOT shit at playing the bass, and he actually studied his craft quite diligently. Dressed To Kill, Destroyer and the recently-reissued Love Gun all have a smattering of excellent tunes - albeit within their narrow range - and the bassline on 'Detroit Rock City' is a prime example of careful structuring. It's easy to forget all this because rarely are Simmons' positive opinions on music well publicised, especially given his tendency to rouse the rabblers with sweeping "rock is dead"-type statements, not to mention his incredible, Duke of Edinburgh-worthy gaffe game (he's already covered publicly insulting mental illness and immigrants just in the last six months). But chatting here on his favourite records, Simmons singles out his favourite bass moments, from Ronnie Wood's off-kilter noodling on Truth to the effect a sudden switch from guitar had on Noel Redding. He also geeks out on the different recording processes these musicians use, from the overly simple to the inexcusably complex. However, in regular Simmons fashion, there is still plenty a tongue-lashing to be witnessed.

Click on his image below to begin scrolling through Gene's choices

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Mar 3, 2015 2:17pm

One thing you would never say about Gene Simmons is that his talent as a musician and songwriter is significantly greater than that of a crippled ant.

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Drew
Mar 3, 2015 3:24pm

I really can't stand a lot of Gene Simmons' opinions (especially on politics) and I'm not at all a Kiss fan, but he is an interesting interview about music.

It's easy to forget about that McCartney solo debut because it's not a BIG STATEMENT album. Or isn't obviously so. But every time I stumble across it again, I am reminded of what a gem it is. And that album cover is just stunning.

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seancooper
Mar 3, 2015 6:23pm

one of the better BDs in a while, with some very thoughtful comments not sourced from the hipster-seedling hit parade. thumbs up.

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jules
Mar 4, 2015 2:09pm

i can't stand gene simmons. total slimeball. but that was a great read. i would never have guessed that he liked becks mellow gold.

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gotknives
Mar 4, 2015 4:48pm

I too was surprised at the breadth and depth of his choices and his blurb for each record. I would not have been surprised if every album on the list was a KISS recording.

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Steve c
Mar 4, 2015 10:21pm

No horsesmarqeemoonhunkydorywhatsgoinonwhitelightwhiteheatpinkflagstrangedayselectricwarriorphysicalgraffitinationofmillionsrandomclassicalcomposerrandommoderncomposersomethingbycan. Is the man sick?

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Reese Tartit
Mar 4, 2015 11:23pm

Funny he never struck me as someone who is actually interested in music, but here he is actuall paying attention to other people.

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teddydogs
Mar 5, 2015 2:31pm

People probably thought Gene Simmons would just choose stuff like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin and Def Leppard. But he chose that Beck album and that shows he is open to all different kinds of stuff.

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Ryan
Mar 5, 2015 5:39pm

In reply to :

Jealous Much? If you can't respect a guy who has done it all in the music business over 40 years then your intelligence is no greater than that of a crippled ant. The guy some real insightful well thought out feelings regarding his favorite albums. Well, when they interview you I guess we will be enlightened.

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Reese Tartit
Mar 5, 2015 7:51pm

In reply to teddydogs:

Exactly. Thought he just saw other bands as business rivals.

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Eric
Mar 6, 2015 3:59pm

In reply to :

I am a huge KISS fan and while I understand that Gene rubs people the wrong way and that he may not be the most talented musician, he DOES have an ear for great music. I need to go back and re-listen to some of these gems as I have not heard them in quite some time.

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Eric
Mar 6, 2015 4:04pm

In reply to :

To the person who was not brave enough to leave their name who made the crippled ant comment, I say this......your knack of intelligent writing is slightly more attractive than a horse fellatio expert.

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Kevin
Mar 7, 2015 1:45am

Gene is very intelligent and has been in the music business over 40 years. I find it funny people would be surprised by his being a music fan. I think they believe too much of his reality tv persona as the guy doing business 24/7 and acting so full of himself. Think back to before the stardom- he had to be a music fan to want to get an instrument and learn to play himself. That all doesn't just go away. I'm nearly 50 and am still passionate about albums I bought when I was 10. The first one happened to be Kiss.

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Dan Preece
Mar 7, 2015 1:57am

I can't believe the comments here. Clearly few of you know much about Gene Simmons. Never read his books, read his interviews, or attended one of his speaking engagements. Gene is a shameless promoter and very self-absorbed, that is true. But he has shown numerous times that he has "breadth and depth" about many things, including other people's music.

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Dan Preece
Mar 7, 2015 2:29am

In reply to Dan Preece:

At Fandomfest in Louisville, KY, he and I talked for 20 minutes about early Marvel Comics. This was in the middle of a meet and greet. He was making his case about how he got his 'devil horn salute' gesture from Ditko's Dr. Strange comics. This led to him asking me what Stan Lee's real name was, his brother's name, even the secretary, plus stuff about the Dr. Strange comic. (It was between the two of us because I was probably the only person there who knew that much about Marvel comics.) So I'm not at all surprised that Gene has a sincere interest in a great many things.

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craig hopkins
Mar 7, 2015 1:30pm

They guy is very intelligent, stronger than most work ethic, and is the best self promoter since god! Always makes me laugh the gene haters, hes a slime, hes this, that, the other, if you dont like the guy, dont read what he says, i personally dont get the hatred to kanye west, purely because the goon dosnt interest me, so, i dont give him space in my brain that i can use for more important things. And those on the kiss are a sham, ace and peter were robbed etc etc, lennon was a twat to julian as a kid,he and sir paul hogged most of beatle recording sessions, george had to fight to get anything onto records keith richards could qualify as the worlds biggest, meanest son of a bitch, any takers for those titles? not many,keith nicked the riff for jumpin jack flash from Bill Wyman, yet gene simmons is regarded as the biggest douche ever, strange, i, as with most people look up to successful icons, because they have achieved, reached goals, lived the life we aspire to, yes, its cool to be the drug addled, booze soaked, penniless loser, but ya really wanna hold them up as somebody to aspire to be?Hes slept with 4500 women? did he drug and rape them? or did they go out of their way to be with a demon? as jim morrison said, people are strange

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Emilio Pacheco
Mar 7, 2015 10:47pm

A long time ago - and I do mean a LONG time ago - Gene provided a Top 10 list to "Hit Parader", if I remember the magazine correctly, and his number one choice was Kiss' own "Alive!". He remarked that few live albums captured the excitement of a rock concert and this one did.

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clp
Mar 8, 2015 3:36am

A great read. People tend to forget about the passion Gene has for music.

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nate selle
Mar 9, 2015 1:28am

I think Gene had a very good selection of all time greatest albums. The only change I would have made would have been to put KISS Destroyer somewhere in that mix, because it truly deserves to rank right up with the very best albums!

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James Smart
Mar 9, 2015 6:46am

Interesting. Gene's defense of Satanic Majesties' is almost verbatim my defense of KISS's Music from the Elder. A great read!

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Jo .G.
Mar 9, 2015 8:29am

I suppose once all the music of ur times been done,what's next? Up the ante & go for broke on ur next album,cause music is like sex...it'll always sell!

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A Pedant
Mar 10, 2015 3:28pm

That Peter and Gordon song that McCartney wrote under a pseudonym actually got to no. 28, not no. 1.

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damian
Mar 24, 2015 7:42pm

He seems to mention zeppelin a hell of a lot and then not choose any. Strange. Good picks though.

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Trevor
Mar 11, 2016 11:55am

Electric Ladyland and Their Satanic Majesties' Request are the only truly great albums on this list and he didn't even say anything really meaningful or interesting about the latter, failing to note the impact of Brian Jones in his greatest glory and pushing the band to its limits on that one. Gene remains the utmost douche.

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