If there’s one thing Gene Simmons knows how to do, it’s hype whatever he’s trying to sell. This morning in Minneapolis, the Kiss co-founder turned into Shill Master No. 1 along with three of his fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famers – including ex-bandmate Ace Frehley – on behalf of the Twin Cities-based charity Matter.ngo, for whom he is helming a charity concert tonight at CHS Field in St. Paul.
“We’re here for a much important thing, and it ain’t about me,” Simmons said as he sat down for a short press conference with Frehley, Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen and former Eagle Don Felder at the offices at KQRS 92.5 FM.
The four rock vets had just finished an hour-long interview on air with KQ morning show king Tom Barnard, where Simmons mentioned Matter.ngo about 150 times and repeatedly tried to get a poor young woman who works for Barnard to say into the microphone, “It’s so biiiiiig.”
The biggest aspect of Wednesday morning’s activities was the mere fact that Simmons and Frehley were there together, probably their first joint public appearance since Kiss’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2014 -- where the feuding between the original members was still simmering enough that they didn’t perform together. Frehley and Simmons have also traded many barbed words in the press in the 16 years since Frehley (the band’s original guitarist) quit the band, including interviews each did with the Star Tribune in that time.
Simmons, however, said I was “delusional” to ask about their frictional recent history on Wednesday.
“Do you ever argue and scream at family members?” he said. “It’s called family biz. Family is family, and you go through all kinds of things, and if that’s news to you then you’re being delusional. You disagree with your mom and your dad and other family members. That’s called family.”
Turns out, it was Frehley who approached Simmons about being a part of the St. Paul concert, which begins at 7 p.m. is now selling discounted $30 tickets via the KQRS site. The two former bandmates plan to perform together at the event, with Frehley joining Simmons’ new solo band.
“I just did four shows on the East Coast, and I looked at my calendar and I noticed I was off today,” Frehley recounted with his trademark nasal voice and jackal-like, cackling laugh. “I had to head back to San Diego eventually where I live, so I figured I could make a pit stop here. I called Gene, and he was really excited about me being involved, and it’s that simple.”
Frehley, too, downplayed the infighting between he and his former bandmates.
“[Gene] was over at my house about six weeks ago, and we wrote two songs for my new album,” said the guitarist (whose memory was off by about six weeks, according to prior reports, but they didn’t call him Space Ace for nothing). “He came to my show when I performed in Los Angeles about six months ago. Whenever I get together with Gene -- or last year I got together and did a video with Paul [Stanley] -- it’s just a lot of fun.”
Simmons demonically interjected, “Paul who?”
There was a familial vibe between all four musicians at the KQRS studios, where they recounted prior shows together and traded a few playful barbs. When Frehley counted off all the natural disasters of late where relief efforts will be needed – including the prior day’s Mexico earthquake and Hurricane Harvey (the latter of which is the focal point of Wednesday’s benefit concert) -- Nielsen quipped that all those calamities combined “sounds like one of Gene’s hotel rooms.”
The Cheap Trick bandleader got serious about the effort, however, saying, “I think it’s just a wake-up call to inspire people to participate. We can do this because we’re musicians. After that, it’s kind of up to everybody else to make an effort.”
Speaking specifically of Matter.ngo, which started in 2000 as Hope for the City by Twin Cities business vets Dennis and Megan Doyle, Felder said, “They don’t go out with just a kind of stock Band-Aid fix. They really go out and listen to what any particular place or organization needs. The needs in South Africa are totally different than the needs in Houston.”
The ex-Eagles guitarist, who famously co-wrote “Hotel California,” also revealed that Simmons and Frehley probably won’t be the only ones to jam together tonight: “There are a lot of surprises in the lineup tonight -- people sitting in with each other’s bands, playing different songs together,” Felder said. “It’ll be a surprise not just for the audience but for us when it all comes together at soundcheck. It’s going to be a fun show.”
Minnesota’s alt-country heroes the Jayhawks will open tonight’s concert at 7 p.m. sharp, followed by Kiss-loving local hard-rockers Flipp, then the Trick, Felder and Simmons with Frehley.