Gene Simmons Writes Rock Music’s Obituary
“Rock is finally dead.”
So decrees Gene Simmons in a new Esquire interview conducted by his son Nick. Of course, people have been arguing for decades over whether or not rock is still alive, but the Kiss co-founder doesn’t see any two ways about it — and he knows exactly who to blame.
“The death of rock was not a natural death,” he argued. “Rock did not die of old age. It was murdered. Some brilliance, somewhere, was going to be expressed, and now it won’t, because it’s that much harder to earn a living playing and writing songs. No one will pay you to do it.”
The problem, as Simmons sees it, is a widespread belief that file sharing and illegal downloading are no big deal; as he put it, “The problem is that nobody will pay you for the 10,000 hours you put in to create what you created. I can only imagine the frustration of all that work, and having no one value it enough to pay you for it.” And it also doesn’t help that rock artists have been crowded out of the Top 40.
“If you play guitar, it’s almost impossible,” Simmons said. “You’re better off not even learning how to play guitar or write songs, and just singing in the shower and auditioning for ‘The X Factor.’ And I’m not slamming ‘The X Factor,’ or pop singers. But where’s the next Bob Dylan? Where’s the next Beatles? Where are the songwriters? Where are the creators? Many of them now have to work behind the scenes, to prop up pop acts and write their stuff for them.”
With the industry’s infrastructure decimated by casual greed, Simmons sees no way for younger artists to obtain the support they need to reach a mainstream audience, or the creative guidance necessary to achieve a high level of compositional skill. As a result, he argued, there’s a massive generational void in artists whose music has true lasting value.
“There was a 10- to 15-year period in the ’60s and ’70s that gave birth to almost every artist we now call ‘iconic’ or ‘classic,'” he pointed out. “If you know anything about what makes longevity, about what makes something an everlasting icon, it’s hard to find after that. The craft is gone, and that is what technology, in part, has brought us. What is the next ‘Dark Side of the Moon’? Now that the record industry barely exists, they wouldn’t have a chance to make something like that. There is a reason that, along with the usual Top 40 juggernauts, some of the biggest touring bands are half old people, like me.”