KISS bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons has once again defended the band's decision to have current KISS members Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer dress up as Peter Criss's and Ace Frehley's respective "Spaceman" and "Catman" personas, explaining that every musician is replaceable.
Speaking to Rolling Stone, Simmons said: "The saddest thing of all is here we are, top of Mt. Olympus with all this cool stuff happening, really enjoying ourselves, the fans are thrilled, and nobody ever holds up a sign, 'Where's Ace and Peter?'
"Anybody that's in a band goes, 'Oh, they can't exist without me,' they are sadly mistaken," he continued. "Whether you're AC/DC or VAN HALEN or anybody, they can actually not only exist without you. Even if you're the lead singer, they can actually get twice as big. Even if you're in GENESIS: 'Oh, they can never do it without Peter Gabriel.' Oh, sure they can. In fact, we'll get a guy who doesn't have any personality and doesn't put on masks or anything and just sings songs, and they'll play stadiums. And Peter Gabriel, with all of the great masks and the things, never played that."
More than a decade after Singer and Thayer first started wearing the the "Catman" and "Spaceman" makeup, Gene says that "in retrospect, it was the right decision. There's always going to be five percent or 10 percent of people who were there at the beginning who will complain about anything. And listen, I think that's valid from their point of view. But people get onto a train at different times.
"If you go to see THE [ROLLING] STONES live today and poke the guy next to you and say, 'Ron Wood, he's not Brian Jones,' the guy says, 'Who the fuck is that?' He wouldn't have a clue what you were talking about. He came into THE STONES 10, 20, 30 years after you did."
KISS frontman Paul Stanley said in a 2014 interview that it was a mistake to try to introduce new characters in the band (in a short-lived Eighties incarnation of KISS, guitarist Vinnie Vincent was the Ankh Warrior, and the late drummer Eric Carr was the Fox). He said: "I think where we went astray is when we first replaced Peter and we decided we needed a new character. And the problem with that kind of stuff is that it started to become — interestingly, I think — disingenuous. It took an air of 'fake' in the sense that it became a menagerie. I mean, we had a Fox and an Egyptian Warrior. Next we would have the Turtle Boy and The Frog Man. So I think once we brought Ace and Peter back for the reunion tour, which I hoped would go on forever… In other words, I hoped that everybody would get back together, everybody would see the error in their ways and we would move forward and stay together forever. But when that wasn't to be, I thought, you know, we really built these four images. And, arguably, you can go anywhere in the world and people know who KISS is, regardless of whether they know who those people are. So to give up that because we found that those guys were no longer either capable or wanted to give it a hundred percent, well, then who loses out? The fans. So, no. Those images are the images that will continue when I'm not here either."
In a separate interview with Rolling Stone, Stanley said that part of the reason the new characters in KISS didn't work is simply that "people didn't buy it. It lost its believability." He added: "We saw a decline that started gradually, but quickly we fell off the edge of the cliff. To go from doing multiple nights in an arena to, next tour, not being able to sell out a theater, is stark."