Rocker, entrepreneur, and reality-show star Gene Simmons is renowned for his thunder-god bass lines, bloody tongues, and demonic stacked-heel footwear — but also for his blistering salesmanship and his wily way with start-ups.
For the 45 years that he's made such pitches, Simmons has done so in the name of his metal enterprise with Paul Stanley: KISS comic books, KISS condoms, KISS caskets, and more. Now Simmons is focused on celebrating himself, with "Gene Simmons — The Vault Experience: 1966-2016."
This limited-edition, 10-CD set of solo material (along with a photo book, medallion, and miniaturized Gene "businessman" action figure) comes in an actual metal vault, weighing in at 38 pounds. Simmons is hawking that weighty collection at two different — and decidedly fascinating — price points at the website Genesimmonsvault.com.
The more outlandish is the $50,000 "Gene Simmons at your party experience," where he and the "Vault" will home-entertain you and up to 25 guests for two hours. The more popular is the standard $2,000 "Gene Simmons Vault experience," in which Simmons will come to your town and hand your "Vault" to you. He'll do that for Philly-area "Vault" owners and one guest apiece this Sunday at the Trocadero in a meet-and-greet running from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Simmons will sign, tell stories, play a few songs, and maybe host a special guest or two. We spoke to him by phone in advance.
Shall we discuss Donald Trump, with whom you worked on Celebrity Apprentice?
No matter what your question is, first, nobody knows who I voted for, and secondly, it's none of anybody's business. When people do ask, they're being fascists in a way, because that's your right to privacy. That's why the founding fathers put up the curtain. Besides, I don't think that it is right or fair that people judge you according to who you voted for, be it Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
Let's talk about this box…
You can't call it a box set. I hasten to call it that because it is the Godzilla of all box sets. It's about three feet tall, and 38 pounds. Picking it up, you simply can't do it with one hand. Plus, there is personal stuff from me in each box set so that no two vaults are the same.
This sounds — and is — pricey, not so much for the casual Gene Simmons fan.
I didn't care what it cost. I wanted to do it the way I wanted to do it because I am not a fan of the "cloud." Cloud schmoud, everything is like a popcorn fart. You can't touch it or look at it in the "cloud." It's just all up in the air somehow. When I was a kid, there was album art. You could look at the covers. You collected it.
Yes. So, I wanted to offer something that was like a Rolls Royce. It's not ever going to go "on sale." It's only available in one form, take it or leave it. So we're only making a few thousand vaults – 5,000 around the world. First come, first serve. The cost is two-grand apiece. But there's more. If you live, say, in New Zealand, I will hand-deliver it to your house. The flight tickets, the security, the hotel stay — that's on me. I'll lose money flying that around the world, but I can afford to do it. I'm rich.
And you're unabashedly and unashamedly proud of that.
Because I worked hard for it. Some people feel awkward about admitting it. I don't. I worked hard for every penny of that, and I'm in a position to do what I want. I don't really buy stuff. I don't care about stuff. I'm 68. I'm doing great, KISS is doing great. I have the Gene Simmons Band. I'm proud off all that. But I'd really have to say this Vault is the pinnacle. I care about creating something that hasn't been here before.
Speaking of something that hadn't been there previously: your songwriting collaboration with Bob Dylan. It's in the "Vault" with bits of you guys chatting in the studio, just as there is stuff with you and the Van Halens and Joe Perry. How did you get Dylan to write with you?
I asked him. Well, I asked his manager — just phoned and said that I wanted to write a song with Bob and how could that happen. You don't know if you don't ask. The worst thing he could have said was "no." Anyhow, I left the offer open, and two days later after my call, a van pulls up outside of my house — unmarked, mind you — with only Bob and an acoustic guitar inside. He told his driver to pick him up at the end of the day and we got to work. That's it.
You have always found interesting ways in which to monetize every aspect of your art form. What must a project have to catch your fancy?
It has to have meat. People like meat — maybe not many people, but those who do, love it.
Now, I'm highly unqualified at most things. I've written hundreds of songs, but I can't read music. McLaren Automotive charges millions of dollars for its luxury cars. They hired me to be part of the company, but I can't tell you anything about the engine. It's never about getting caught up in the minutiae, but the big picture.
What I'm getting at is that I have been thinking long and hard about dead record companies. That's only true, of course, because fans killed it. I don't accept that. I don't want some freckle-faced college kid to define when I've made enough money.