STORY WRITTEN BY GARY GRAFF
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As far as Gene Simmons is concerned, Kiss is back on the road because that’s just what the band does.
“There’s no gimmick, no idea, no other thing than we miss touring,” the group’s bassist and co-founder says by phone from Los Angeles.
But there’s a bit more to this year’s Freedom To Rock Tour than that.
The trek, which began July 5 is designed to play smaller markets than Kiss might usually play, and eschew big cities — including its own beloved Detroit Rock City. The idea, according to frontman Paul Stanley, is to get back to and express appreciation for Kiss’ roots and the areas that supported band before it exploded with 1975’s “Kiss Alive!” album. The group performs at the Allentown Fairgrounds on Sept. 1.
“We built our following by going to the heartland and going to middle America, so for us (the tour) is basically a return to that,” Stanley, 64, says by phone, also from L.A. “When we first broke through, when ‘Kiss Alive’ was just simmering, we were playing the Toledos and the Daytons and the Des Moines.
“In fact, it was at the arena in Dayton when I peeked through the curtain and I really got the full scope of what was happening. The place was packed and this had been going on for a few nights with no end in sight. So those places mean a lot to us, and it’ll be great to go back to them.”
The tour comes amidst the usual variety of Kiss projects. Coming Aug. 26 is the CD/homve video release of “Kiss Rocks Vegas,” the concert film from the group’s November 2014 residency at Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Casino and Hotel that screened in theaters during the spring. The annual Kiss Kruise is on tap for an early November departure from Miami, while Stanley recently joined forces with former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley to a version of Free’s “Fire & Water” on Frehley’s new covers album “Origins, Vol. 1.”
Meanwhile, it’s been four years since Kiss’ last album, “Monster,” but neither Simmons or Stanley is sure when a follow-up will happen.
“I did write a song a few months back called ‘Your Wish Is My Command,’ which sounds like it came off of ‘Destroyer,’” Simmons, 66, says. “And when will Paul and the rest of the guys come up with stuff? Y’know, there’s no hurry. Nowadays with downloading and file-sharing and stuff, music is so disposable there really isn’t any kind of hurry. I mean, when the Stones get up and say’ here’s a new song off of their new album, isn’t that when you sit down?”
Kiss will be on the high seas during the presidential election this year, but Simmons will be watching closely — and maybe closer than most. As a contestant on the inaugural season of NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” in 2008, he had a front-row seat to watch Republican candidate Donald Trump operate and became friendly. He’s not endorsing either Trump or Hillary Clinton — “Celebrity itself is a bully pulpit. I think it’s ethically wrong and it undermines democracy,” he explains — but Simmons is intrigued by what Trump has been able to accomplish since announcing his candidacy.
“I think it’s fair to say what you see is what you get,” Simmons says. “He’s certainly changed the political game, and everybody’s realizing that politicians by and large are full of [expletive]. They’ll tell you what you want to hear because they want to get elected, and then it’s what happens after their in office that actually counts — and even then they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing.
“So it’s an imperfect system. But it’s still the best system in the world.”