KISS Founder Gene Simmons Goes Virtual in Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock
LOS ANGELES – Gene Simmons was already a rock god playing the demon of KISS. Now he’s a virtual rock god, providing the voice for the demigod in Activision’s new Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock game. The man who turned KISS into a global brand that reaches far beyond music spent time in the recording studio to breathe life to the narrator of the new game’s Quest mode, which allows players to power up as they play through a story that blends metal music with demons and new ways to play on those electric guitar controllers. Simmons talks about working on the new game and how he’s seen videogames change the music landscape in this exclusive interview.
Did you play videogames when you were younger?
I’m sorry to say that when I was younger it was the stone age. When I first started out wanting to be in a band it was the early ‘70s. KISS started in ’72 and then we happened in ’73. That was 37 years ago. I will tell you in all honesty I wish Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock was around when I first started because at the beginning of anything, all you can do is dream, you know, what does it feel like. Everybody wants to know what it’s like being a rock star. Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock is the key that unlocks the inner rock star in you. I know this sounds like a sound bite. What it really means is I know what it feels like because this is what I do all the time. There is no feeling like this anywhere in the world. It’s cooler than being the Pope. Okay? But you can get that feeling. You’re at a party. You just bought Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. Somebody is dipping chips, they’re telling a joke. You put it on and you’re the center of the party and you get to pick up that guitar and be in the band and know what it feels like and somebody else and all of a sudden you’re doing something that’s cool for the family, for your friends, guys and girls. I love it.
What do you think about the Warriors of Rock getting back to the history of rock and roll, getting back to the grassroots of rock and roll?
You have to be careful if you just do a history of rock and roll thing because then it becomes a history lesson or a preaching thing. I much prefer you becoming part of it. So if you’re going to bring Buddy Holly and Elvis, I want you to become Elvis, if you see what I mean? The great thing about Guitar Hero now is you get to be in the band. The other thing is that you see this other kind of metamorphosis because the Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock unleashes the fullness of what you can become in the same way that Guitar Hero can unleash who you are from being a regular person to rock star.
What were your thoughts when Activision came to you and said we want you to be a part of Warriors of Rock?
I will tell you the best part of the folks at Guitar Hero coming to me is that I’m a fan. So for me this is a labor of love. This ain’t going to make me rich. Too late for that. So I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think it was cool. After all, it’s going to use my name and likeness. It’s just got to be cool. See that’s the essence of it. If it’s cool and if it’s really convincing and if the technology somehow connects naturally with what it’s about, then it’s great. I don’t want to be a part of anything that’s not great. Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock is great.
With so many schools no longer offering music programs, what role do you see games like Guitar Hero playing in getting kids interested in playing music?
The great thing about Guitar: Hero Warriors of Rock is that when applied to a school system, the first thing you do is to immediately get the attention of young people, because it’s rock. I don’t care what part of the world whether you’re in Africa or the Middle East, rock is cool. I don’t remember the last set of people that went da da didda and drank borst. Rock is what it’s about anywhere in the world. You put on Guitar Hero, you play it, do it in school, then those young people are going to want to stick around and play this because you know what the most important thing about this is it’s self empowers you. You all of a sudden let your imagination grow and you start to imagine yourself, what if. What if I could be. What if, that kind of a thing. Again it’s a full-body experience.
How have you seen games like Guitar Hero introduce new generations of kids to music from classic bands like KISS?
While it’s true that Guitar Hero introduces a new generations of fans to classic rock music, at the end of the day the music is there as part of what it’s all about, because if you’re just going to listen to music, buy greatest hits of your band or of a decade, whatever it is. This is more. The music becomes a part of you, sort of like a soundtrack to your evolution, your metamorphosis into what you can be. In my case, the demigod. So it’s more than just music. In the same way that you go to see a movie the soundtrack of the movie isn’t all that’s there. You’ve got your eyes and you’ve got your body experiencing this. You’re doing things and you’re imagining things and the music is there.