KISS frontman Gene Simmons has… well, do we even need to finish that sentence? Take a guess. That’s right! Rock is dead, and it’s your fault for file sharing, and listening to NSYNC. Never mind that streaming has far surpassed downloading music, and NSYNC are basically classic rock by this point. Remember that time you downloaded system_of_a_down_chop_seuy.exe from Limewire? Well, you might as well have loaded the shotgun that took rock’s head clean off its shoulders.
Simmons’ made the latest iteration of his “rock is dead” argument to Metal Hammer, ahead of KISS’ headline slot at Download, a rock festival which is happening in 2022 and set to be attended by over 100,000 people. Make of that what you will.
Simmons’ argument once again impinges on the fact that the current crop of rock bands does not compare – in his mind – to those that came between 1958 and 1988. “You got Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones and on and on. Motown. You have the surf thing and the Beach Boys, the British invasion – hundreds of bands. The Hollies are hardly ever talked about, they’re a great band. Disco stuff, Madonna, Prince, Bowie, all that great stuff. You had the heavy bands Metallica and Iron Maiden, all that stuff in those 30 years. Eternal music and bands,” he said.
However, like before, Simmons asks: “Who is the new Beatles? BTS? There’s no denying BTS are world-famous. But am I going to form a garage band to do those songs? No.” That would be strange, as Simmons already has a band, but perhaps he’s hinting at his plans post-KISS’ retirement from touring in 2024.
“I think they’re well-crafted and professional, but One Direction and NSYNC and all the boy bands don’t change the world,” he added, apparently forgetting that he just used world-changing boy band The Beatles as a point of comparison. “It just makes little girls’ hearts flutter and then they’re gone. That doesn’t have gravitas,” he stated.
“Influential bands, that make somebody want to pick up a guitar, learn how to play songs and be in a band don’t exist, because you can’t make a living,” Simmons added: reiterating his point from earlier in the interview, where he placed the blame squarely on the behaviour of rock fans in 2001: “The people that killed it are fans. Fans killed the thing they loved by downloading and file sharing for free… Rock is dead. And the fans are to blame. You all hurt the one you love. Sad but true.”
Now might be a good time to mention the fact that the pandemic created literally millions of new guitarists, with retailers and manufacturers having a hard time keeping beginning instruments in stock for a good while, and guitar learning channels reporting record usage. Experts have called the current state of the guitar industry better than the post-Beatles era. Rock music continues to dominate the charts, spread by enormous alternative scenes developing on platforms like TikTok, and the accessibility of streaming. So, Simmons’ statement about the lack of inspiration to pick up a guitar is just, in our opinion, categorically untrue. Sorry, Gene.
Regardless of rock having joined the choir invisible, demised and passed on: KISS are still set to headline Download festival this year, and have several months of tour dates in the books afterwards.