KISS’ Gene Simmons includes never-before-released tracks with Bob Dylan and Vane Halen on his ambitious box set ‘Gene Simmons: The Vault Experience.’ Josmar Taveras, Patrick Ryan
NEW YORK — Gene Simmons is digging into his archives for a one-of-a-kind fan experience.
The eccentric KISS frontman is commemorating his 50-year career in music with Gene Simmons: The Vault Experience, a limited-edition box set featuring band memorabilia and 150 never-before-released tracks. The limited-edition, 38-pound vault includes 10 CDs, a non-makeup Simmons action figure, a gold medallion reading “In Gene We Trust,” a book of never-before-seen images, and a hand-picked item from his personal collection.
“We all go through our lives doing whatever it is you’re doing,” Simmons says over coffee at Manhattan’s The London hotel. “Whether you think of it as a journey or a race, as you get closer to the finish line, that’s when you turn on the heat. I’m 68 now — I’m not going to live forever. So I thought now is the best time if it ever is going to come out.”
None of the music included in The Vault Experience, which can be pre-ordered at genesimmonsvault.com, will be released digitally. Songs include original demos and studio recordings, some of which, “stylistically, (are) all over the place, which is why (they) didn’t end up on KISS records,” Simmons explains.
There are also a slew of collaborations, including demos of three tracks with Van Halen and a recording with Bob Dylan. One of the most personal is My Uncle Is a Raft, the first song Simmons ever wrote and recorded as a teenager. The tune is about his uncle, George, who became a father figure for him when he and his mom moved to the United States from Israel.
“I must’ve written over a hundred really horrible songs,” Simmons says. “My first one (went), ‘My uncle is a raft and he always keeps me floating. He is so good to me.’ I didn’t have the gift of gab — I wasn’t born in America — so my lyrics were bizarre.”
The set goes for $2,000 and will be hand-delivered to buyers by Simmons starting Dec. 31. Additional packages run $25,000 and $50,000, and include a Vault executive producer’s credit and a two-hour get-together with Simmons at a fan’s home.
Hefty price tag aside, Vault is the only opportunity for fans to hear new material from KISS for the foreseeable future: Simmons says the band currently has no plans to release another album.
“What’s the incentive of working for six months to a year on a new record when people are going to download it for free?” he says. “KISS is not a charity.”
Plus, the gruff rock icon is busy with a handful of other projects: a book about personal wealth, On Power, due Nov. 14, and an expanding restaurant chain, Rock & Brews, which he co-founded with bandmate Paul Stanley.
Simmons says he doesn’t think about KISS’ legacy, because “we’ve already scaled the heights. Our licensing and merchandising dwarfs Elvis and The Beatles combined. If you go to Graceland, there’s a KISS exhibit — that’s what people come to see.”
When KISS was founded in 1973, “nobody thought it would go the distance,” he continues. ” ‘Here’s an idea: I’m going to wear more makeup and higher heels than your mommy, and we’re going to look completely different than any band that’s out there, and I’m going to stick my tongue out and spit fire, and fly through the air.’ Not a chance in hell.
“We always kind of just bumbled along and marched to the beat of our own drum. KISS was always KISS.”