Raymond A. Edel of NorthJersey.com recently conducted a brief interview with KISS bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons about his reality TV show, "Gene Simmons' Rock School".
The six-week series, which debuted Aug. 19, runs through Sept. 23. A reunion episode will air Sept. 30. Simmons conducted the interview via e-mail.
NorthJersey.com: Countless famous rock stars have named KISS as their influence. Were you shocked at all when you heard that these 13-year-olds never heard of you?
Gene Simmons: "I wasn't shocked that the kids didn't know much about KISS. It's curious, however, that some of them knew Gene Simmons. Maybe through movies, who knows? But the school is very regimented and disciplined. All very admirable. But unfortunately, none of that means much in rock-and-roll. In point of fact, most rockers, myself included, can't read or write music, and no matter what any of them say to you, the reason they got onstage is because, in another life, they would probably be asking you if you want fries with that."
NorthJersey.com: Why an English boarding school, why not America?
Gene Simmons: "We shot in England because an English production team approached me with the idea for English television. The results seemed to appeal to people, because it's been picked up in 27 countries. People seem to like the results. I do."
NorthJersey.com: Why did you think the concept might make a good reality-television series?
Gene Simmons: "The idea appealed to me because before KISS, I had actually taught in Spanish Harlem. But only for a short time. Six months. And the band I was in, KISS, exploded. Within a year, we were playing Anaheim Stadium. I always wondered if I was any good at teaching. Here then was an opportunity for a second chance. And how many times does life give you a second chance to try something. The result? I'm damn good."
NorthJersey.com: How and why was this idea conceived? Had you ever seen the "School of Rock" movie with Jack Black? If so, did you like it and why?
Gene Simmons: "Never saw the Black 'Rock School' movie but have seen the TV adverts, and they looked great. Originality is highly overrated. Either something is compelling, or it's not. I am not a fan of 'fake' reality shows. I like to see things that 'really happen.' So the idea was, roll the cameras, and let's see what happens when I do things. My way. It's always that way. My way, or the highway."
NorthJersey.com: What kind of welcome did you expect when you first entered the classroom? They seemed pretty horrified of you at first, especially the girls. Was that your intention?
Gene Simmons: "I had a big job to do. I had to, in some cases, actually teach some of them to play an instrument they had never played before. While being a virtuoso on cello might impress people, it does nothing for you if you want to play drums or guitar. I also had to get them to write a song, which they had never done before. And most importantly, I had to teach them 'cool.' Individual cool. Which is to say, Jagger doesn't have to stick his tongue out to be cool. Everyone that gets up onstage has to figure out how to be cool in their own way. A sort of 'march to the beat of my own drummer.' So, the shortcut way of doing that was to be a drill sergeant. I was not there to be their friend, necessarily. I was there to get the job done. But, quite honestly, because they were so bright and charming little people, it also became an emotional experience. For them. For me."
NorthJersey.com: How did MOTÖRHEAD get picked as the band the students would open for?
Gene Simmons: "MOTÖRHEAD was picked by the production company. And a good baptism of fire it was."