Gene Simmons to Kurt Cobain: 'What, Just 'Cause You Died You're an Icon?'

Kiss bassist refuses to acknowledge late Nirvana frontman as a legend.

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Kiss bassist Gene Simmons shared his grim perspective of the music industry and its current state, pointing out that in his book, late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and late singer Amy Winehouse simply can't count among the music icons. Gene reached the subject while discussing the importance of major record labels and corporate music business. Initially, the bassist kicked off talking about piracy. "The internet's a fascinating experiment, but ultimately it's a very sad state of affairs for the new bands." he told Team Rock Radio. "There won't be another Beatles or another Prince or another KISS because there isn't that support system, there's no record companies 'cause kids have decided they can download and fileshare and bypass paying the artists what they rightfully should be getting." Simmons then decided to compare the 1958 - 1983 period with post-1984 era, naming artists of each time that can be considered as definite music icons. "There was once upon a time a corporate record company institution which paid you money that you never had to pay back, even if your record bumped," he said, just to start naming "100 iconic superstars from 1958 until 1983." "Let me see - Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, the Who and just on and on. And through the '70s - Aerosmith, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Yes ... Now from 1984 until today, name one superstar that's bigger than their music, and not just somebody that's recorded one or two records, but another Queen or another AC/DC ... None, you can't name one." Simmons then focused on specific examples, saying, "Kurt Cobain - no, that's one or two records, that's not enough. Amy Winehouse - that's one or two records, that's not enough. What, just 'cause you died that makes you an icon? No, no." Gene finally noted that modern bands are currently trying out the "Radiohead model" where fans pay whichever amount of money they want for the record. "But it doesn't work, doesn't it?" he concluded.

208 comments sorted by best / new / date

    ShameofaNation
    If I recall, I believe Nevermind has sold more copies in it's 22 years than any KISS album has ever sold. I think Simmons has just become aware of his irrelevance.
    Spadge71
    If you base greatness on record sales, then Westlife and Steps must be some of the greatest bands to walk the planet. Popularity via record sales, does not constitute greatness.
    Vicryl 2.0
    ask 10 people between ages 10 to 50... majority would be more familiar with Smells like teen spirit than any KISS songs.
    ThatZachGuy
    Can't be an icon if you only did one or two records? Randy Rhoads. F*ck off, Gene.
    Revocati0n
    Randy did more than just two records you pleb. Quiet Riot I and II, as well as Blizzard and Diary
    Eirien
    Do you know what pleb means? I used to think it was just a funny insult until plebgate...
    AcousticMetal99
    I tend to take the opinion that people who use words such as "pleb" without knowing the meaning of said word are generally plebs themselves, or at least too lazy to do research. Plebgate was a storm in a teacup, and another example of the press blowing something out of all proportion.
    Eirien
    Yes it was a storm in a teacup but it taught me that it's not cool to call someone that, especially in these times of austerity.
    potamis
    what,just cause you wore some paint,you re a good musician?
    Maiden95
    Basically what I came here to say. Also, Gene seems to have forgotten about Dave Grohl. He and all of his music is pretty darn big. Not to mention he's never had to sellout or rely on makeup, pyro, or pro tools. The ball is in your court Gene.
    MetallicA971986
    In what world can you compare Kiss to the Beatles in regards to popularity and icon status. Gene Simmons is a joke.
    boberuski
    Apparently he's never heard of Metallica...
    javdoc
    Tool, QotSA, Jack White....
    soma adicto
    jack white???...stfu *******
    Samhuinn
    His albums with The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, his solo career, his production work, his fight for the preservation of music .. Jack White will surely be remembered
    Igamikun
    Mainly for his lack of pigment.
    BackIn84
    I think this was the hardest I've ever laughed at a comment on a UG article. Well done.
    thatnstuff
    i find it funny that your user name is backin84, according to simmons thats the year the music died
    henrihell
    Metallica is a "pre-1984" band. They weren't huge in that time, but they started before '84.
    TheHydra
    They only became truly iconic in the 90's.
    abdulsadiq
    That's simply not true. Kill 'Em All, Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets and Justice all came out before the 90's
    ShameofaNation
    Simmons is an idiot.
    Woffelz
    Have KISS actually released any iconic records? I'm a big KISS fan, but most people only know them for just 2 or 3 songs...
    MaggaraMarine
    Nobody really knows Kiss for their music. I'm not saying nobody likes their music, because I do, but they are famous for their stage show. Oh, and I think Alive is kind of an iconic record. I have heard that many rock guitarists consider Alive to be one of their main influences.
    mr.blue7
    True. I bump Kiss on my Ipod or even on the rare occasion when a song plays on the radio but it's mostly the stuff that they are know for and it's only a handful of songs.
    iommi600
    And this comment pretty much sums it up...
    DaniArrow
    Simmons doesn't understand that we have passed the age where you admire rock titans like gods. It's over, it won't be back. Taylor Swift is doing that job for little girls now. The new world wants cool, good rock bands who you can identify with, no fire-spitting sex addicts in make up.
    unrestrained72
    Yes, music and concerts will be mediocre, boring and forgettable forevermore. Hooray for lazy mediocrity and perpetual failure.
    strataclysm
    He's criticising Nirvana and challenging Kurt's status based on how many albums they released, I prefer those 3 great Nirvana albums to those 24 average at best Kiss albums
    wormgus2003
    He is right. Sad but true. A depressed, sadistic, drug addict
    PoloSG68
    So I wonder what he thinks of Jimi Hendrix... Alive for a short amount of time - but released some brilliant stuff. And for artists like Kurt and Amy, and if I may add Jeff Buckley as another example, I think you really don't need to release that many albums at all to have a massive impact, it's all about who you've inspired because of your career. That's what makes a legend in my eyes.
    SkepsisMetal
    What, just because you're alive you're an icon? Shut up gene
    DickHardwood
    He things quality is measured by the number of records I guess. Which my explain why out of a multitude of KISS records, none was actually any good yet he considers himself a class act. Please.
    lemmyisgod97
    I know your probably just hating on him but honestly the first 6 Kiss albums were great albums and so were the first two Alive albums.
    fieryfenderz
    I miss the days of the traveling bard. Recorded music is ruining the music industry. There will never be another Grimward the Belter, or Salaman the Smooth. Progression is bad, am I right?
    thebigredjj10
    Damn I miss those days. Grimward truly is a forgotten legend. Kids these days don't know what they are missing!
    TOOLeffingTOOL
    Of course I believe he is insanely incorrect, but honestly I expect this from him. Which says more about Gene than Kurt.
    iommi600
    He just forgot to consider lots of other things that make a musician an icon. Influence, impact, cultural values that they spread, etc etc... seriously, to imply that a band/musician isn't iconic based on the number of albums released by them is asinine at best. Do you even Sex Pistols? Do you even Joy Division? That being said, Kurt IS an icon and Gene is a bitter old man.
    Ishiga
    I got a little excited, cuz I don't think Kurt was a good singer, songwriter or guitarist, not to talk shit or anything. Someone commented on his death being a huge fame booster, which I always thought was ****ed up. But no, it's just Gene being really, really ****ing stupid.
    skidlz
    Did Gene just compare KISS to the Beatles? Also has he never heard of Dave Grohl? If he wants to dismiss Kurt because he died early, whatever, but how about the member of Nirvana who didn't die and has continued to put out new, relevant, and hard-hitting music. Also, "But it doesn't work, doesn't it?" Gene can't even English right. Why do people watch/listen/read what this guy does?
    UniformRecon
    Kind of sad considering that Kurt loved KISS. In my opinion, Nirvana's music has much more depth, timelessness, and significance than anything that KISS's music ever has reached, and that's why Kurt is an icon and Simmons will never be.
    murtoll
    This moron has no idea what he's talking about. I can browse bandcamp or soundcloud and find thousands upon thousands of incredibly talented musicians and hear their music instantaneously at the click of a mouse for free. Was that possible in the 70's, Gene? The only think we lose due to piracy is record labels, i.e: the people who fabricate trends and stifle creativity for profit. We're entering an age of music where the soulless businessmen are losing sway to the actual artists. The advent of the internet has only made it easier for unsigned bands to reach a wide audience, but these businessmen will tell you otherwise because their job is now obsolete.
    K!!LsWiTcH
    sure you CAN browse all those people for free and instantly, but i think the overall point here is how many people are ACTUALLY doing that, and in a meaningful way that will add to a fanbase and support that artist financially to do more in the future?
    Charvel1030
    Gene: If you send us $10 we will send you back an authentic KISS penny. It has the KISS logo on it and is worth alot because it has the KISS logo on it. also if you send us a fresh turd from your toilet we will stamp the KISS logo on that as well for a mere $20..this is a one of a kind opportunity for KISS fans to have something they created be worth so much more...
    blindfatkid23
    Jimi Hendrix got screwed over by any label that's ever got him to sign something, ****ing idiot.
    silentphoenix
    I'd say GNR became a huge icon in the same breath as those names he listed, they're post 1984 and they did it in 3 albums: Appetite and Use Your Illusions I & II. Let alone the guitar icon Slash has become and the frontman Axl was/is. (Of course the others are doing well for themselves too)
    trentonlambert
    This is coming from an old dude who wears make-up, has a large tongue, shares the mic with a possibly gay man, and makes almost all of his songs about sex.
    hudsonstradlin
    people complaining about the state of the music industry today are people who aren't smart enough to utilize it. just because of internet proliferation and crappy pop, it doesn't mean that crappy pop exists because of the internet. if there's a band or an artist who knows how to develop a career through filesharing, youtube, bandcamp, whatever, that's the artist that's in touch with modern practices. record companies are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Also, Gene's an asshat and KISS is worse than Miley Cyrus' ass.
    E-dizzle05
    And in the end he gets exactly what he wanted... people to talk about his book
    minor7
    Kurt Cobain wrote better music than Gene ever will. Gene you're a washed up has been. Time to piss off.
    JKing138
    "Kurt Cobain - no, that's one or two records, that's not enough. Amy Winehouse - that's one or two records, that's not enough. What, just 'cause you died that makes you an icon? No, no." I can't name a single KISS album. I would rather create 2 or 3 great records then have a career of mediocre dribble. Many bands now use the internet to get recognition, so there is more of a platform for new bands then ever. This is the rant of an old mad who has not changed with the times and is stuck repeating "things were better in my day". Fuck off Simmons, sell out, hypocrite.
    Vash_15
    Probably gonna catch some heat for this, but he's right. Kurt's death definitely made Nirvana bigger than they had any right to be. If he were still alive today, they'd probably have a pretty decent fanbase, but they'd still be on the same level of popularity as Pearl Jam or Rage. You'd never see a 14 year old walking around in a Ten shirt saying Eddie Vedder was a god among men, and if Kurt were alive, 7/10 of the people who listen to Nirvana under the age of 30 wouldn't give them a second's worth of recognition.
    HDI
    I work at a movie theater, and when the One Direction movie came out, a group of girls came to see it, and one of them was wearing a Nirvana shirt. Another was wearing a Ramones shirt. Neither had any idea who they were.
    Kaseke
    This is happening right now. All these "old school" bandshirts are really in at the moment. Everytime I see some girl wearing a Pink Floyd-shirt, The Rolling Stones-shirt or something like that I get this shiver down my spine.. It makes me so angry, because they don't even seem to know what the meaning of wearing a ****ing bandshirt is!
    Humr
    Since one of the Direction guys wore Joy Division shirt, I'm waiting when Unknown Pleasures cover will become one of those shirt motives that everyone has but nobody knows what it actualy is.
    ianmurray
    ....Implying it wasn't before Louis wore it?
    Humr
    Not as much as for example Ramones or Nirvana shirts. And if recall he didn't even have the Unknown Pleasures one
    Humr
    It's undeniable fact that Kurt's death is one of the reasons why Nirvana is still so popular or why people call them "legends". But from what Simmons said, it seems like they were "nobodies" 'till Kurt died, but that's absolute bullshit. Nirvana was the reason why alt rock or grunge became so popular in the nineties. C'mon - Cobain couldn't even handle their popularity, it was one of the reasons of what happened to him. About the number of albums - if Simmons thinks that it's important how many albums you make, he's just idiot. What about Sex Pistols? They recorded one album but still are one of the most important punk bands. Joy Division? Two albums and a few other songs, but they started a whole new genre and they are one of the most influetial bands of all the time. You don't have to exist for half a century and record 20 albums to become a legend... Edit: Oops, this wasn't meant to be a response to your comment.
    ThatZachGuy
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Nirvana was a pretty big deal before Kurt died.
    pAWNlol
    i agree with the whole "dying doesnt make you any more special" thing, and i also dont find Nirvana's music special either. but whether you like their music or not, Nirvana was undeniably a total game changer. Nirvana had a following before Kurt died, so obviously his death wasnt the reason they were liked. his death made HIM more popular, so naturally the band got a little more attention
    siraxlrose
    Also generally speaking the Sex Pistols are considering Punk Icons and they only released 1 album.
    mop10893
    No. It's because he made amazing music that touched so many people that made him an icon. And unlike you, he did it because he loved music, not because he wanted to get rich. Which is why your music sucks and his music does not.
    MaggaraMarine
    I would disagree with the money part. Gene is one of the few musicians who are actually honest about making music. It is business. I mean, you have to make your living with something and musicians make their living with music. They need to make money with music. That doesn't mean that you can't make money with music and also enjoy writing songs and write songs that you like. But it is also about selling many records. I'm pretty sure every artist wants to sell albums and play in front of a huge audience. Again, this doesn't mean you can't make money and also enjoy making music. But musician is as much a job as any other job is. Music is about money. It's not all about the money of course and I'm sure musicians enjoy writing new songs and playing them in front of thousands of people. Gene, at least in the beginning, most certainly wrote music because he liked it.
    Rimfrost
    Not that i'm that big a fan, but i think Oasis (and Michael Jackson)might just fit into his little thought experiment. But i'm not really sure what he's gettng at, his definition of a superstar that's bigger than the music seems a bit vague. But it might be hard to argue that the big bands seem smaller these days than back in the day, but it might just be a matter of time and perspective.
    yoman666
    "Kurt Cobain - no, that's one or two records, that's not enough." Yeah, but being famous for one song is.
    jangafett
    Kurt Cobain actually wrote songs and music.And Nirvana had 3 albums of fresh Material 1 live album and a compilation of Rare tracks so thats 5 Gene! about as many good records as Kiss has all together. What Gene is forgetting is that Kiss was/is an "Act" not a real band. And Amy winehouse WTF. did she write her own material.
    mop10893
    Amy Winehouse actually did write her own stuff. Everyone knows her for the song Rehab and her drug use, but hidden beneath her one hit and baggage was a pretty talented singer, musician, and songwriter.
    siraxlrose
    He's an idiot. Nevermind knocked Michael Jackson's Bad off the #1 spot on the billboard charts. I honestly cannot say any KISS record(before you jump on me, i do like KISS) can stand up to Nevermind or In Utero.