Rocker Gene Simmons says there’s no big secret to his ability to play a show night after night while wearing 50 pounds of gear (that’s between the armor and his guitar):
“I’ve never been drunk and I’ve never been high,” said Simmons, 67, who is currently on tour with KISS.
Although a rock ’n’ roll lifestyle practically preaches indulgence of booze and drugs, Simmons said he went against the grain — for his mother, who survived a Nazi concentration camp while many in her family did not.
“I’m my mother’s only child,” Simmons said. “I was concerned I had no right to harm my mother. Life did that enough.”
Simmons said abstaining has helped him stay on top of the music industry and continue to fill stadiums after more than four decades.
“I literally never drink. Privately or publicly. I simply don't like the taste or the smell of anything with alcohol in it. I have never been drunk in my life and have never taken more than a sip of anything, and hated it every time. I will toast just to be social, but that's it.”
“Life is a race and we’re in constant competition,” added Simmons, whose band is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and was named the top American gold-record-earning band of all time by the Recording Industry Assn. of America.
“I’m not here to convince anyone of my lifestyle,” he said. “This is what I want for me.” But he said he doesn’t understand why someone would choose to hamper their ability to succeed by drinking and doing drugs.
Hypothetically, Simmons said, if “you and I are lined up along with 10 other guys, do you think you’ll do better than the guy who is a little tipsy? Because the alcohol is not going to help him.”
He’s also critical of media outlets making alcohol appear like a health food with “red wine is good for you” stories. “People say, ‘There’s my license to drink,’” he said.
Simmons said he never wanted to dull his senses because “if you stand still, you’re losing. We have to be like sharks. Either you move through the water or you drown.”
Instead of intoxicants, Simmons said his drug of choice is accomplishment.
And a KISS concert is a workout and requires a regimen off stage: “You’ve got to be in great shape,” he said.
He and his wife, Shannon, are regular hikers through the Santa Monica Mountains. “We do from three to eight miles, four to five times a week,” he said. “On flat and going down, you run, and uphill you try a fast walk. By the end of it, you’re drenched.”
Simmons, who is a partner in the Rock & Brews bar-restaurants, said that imbibing is a personal decision — “You have to be judge and jury of yourself” — but that his choice helps him rock and roll all night.