KISS play Newcastle next month. Mick Burgess spoke to lead singer Gene Simmons.

In July you’re over in the UK as part of your End Of The Road farewell tour. Are you looking forward to playing over here again?

I’m so excited. America created rock ‘n’ roll, blues, jazz and rap and all of the various types of popular music but what you have been able to do is to make it royal and all from a small area with not that many people. California has more people than your island and has the fifth biggest economy on the earth and yet other than the Beach Boys, California doesn’t have much. You have The Beatles, The Stones, U2 and Queen and the list goes on and on. What you have given the world is so much more than the music that America has given you. So, I am so thrilled to be coming back to play in the very place that gave the world so much great music.

You started the farewell shows earlier this year. How does it feel knowing that this will be the last visit that you’ll make to some of these places?

It’s bitter sweet. I will tell you that after 46 years, it’s time. We have self-respect but we also have an enormous pride in the fans and remember we introduce ourselves every night with “You wanted the best, you got the best, the hottest band in the word, KISS” and we’ve always prided ourselves with making those words true and the day we don’t believe that’s true is the day that we get off the stage. We’ve all seen many bands who’ve stayed on stage too long so we`re going out on top. This is a victory lap. We’ve been everywhere, done almost everything and that makes it the right time to go. We all believe that Muhammad Ali was the greatest but he should have quit when he regained his title the third time. He didn’t live up to the legend of Ali so we don’t want to do that. We want to go out on top and thank the fans for being there for so many years. What an amazing ride this has been.

The Northern Echo:

Have you had any thoughts about your last ever show?

There are no rules. We haven’t really thought about it yet but a crazy idea was to play at each of the Seven Wonders Of The World, going around the world and playing at the foot of the Seven Wonders and that includes the Sphinx in Cairo. We’ve never been to Egypt so we may do something crazy like that but we haven’t really thought about that.

A KISS show is hard work for you and not a lot of people could stand in your boots and pull it off?

We all admire Jagger and Bono but if they get into my outfit, Jagger is in great shape but don’t kid yourself, I weigh 240 pounds and you have to be of a certain size to put on 40 pounds of studs and leather and spit fire and walk around on eight-inch platform heels and flying up to the lighting rig. These guys would pass out in half an hour. Physically doing our shows is back breaking we give you two hours of magic time where you can forget about the traffic or your problems.

The Northern Echo:

You have 20 studio albums and the four solo albums to pick from. There’s a lot of songs there and a lot of people calling for certain songs. How difficult is it for you to pick the songs outside of the must play classics?

We all wish for problems like that but we are also aware that in the UK, Crazy Nights was a big hit for us so we’ll be doing that. We are trying to be sensitive to the fact that, as you go around the world different songs resonate more in certain places so in Australia it’s Shandi, of all songs and if you go to South America, believe it or not it’s Charisma. We try to be flexible and add a few songs here and there.

Of course, you can’t please everybody but have you considered revisiting a couple of your classics that you haven’t played in years such as Strutter, I Stole Your Love, She or Nothin’ To Lose for example?

You know what? Why not? I’ll put those songs on the table with the guys and we’ll look at it. It’s duly noted. We play for two to two and a half hours so we’ll play as many songs as we possibly can. Almost anyone who gets up on stage has a big opening thing and then they quieten it down and then build up to the crescendo at the end. We are taking a Mike Tyson point of view which is in the first five seconds we are going to kick you in the nuts and punish you. We do this from the outset of the show and there’ll be hardly any quiet moments. We’re just going full steam ahead for the whole show.

You’ve always used a lot of pyro in your shows. Are you upping the explosion rate for your final tour?

Yes boss. It’s going to be hot, mark my words.

You have pioneered so many of the special effects that we see at so many shows these days from the flame throwers, fireworks and drum risers. Was there any effect that you tried that didn’t come off?

There’s been quite a number. Paul was going to do a laser effect coming out of the star on his eye then we found out on the evening of the show that if there was a leak then the laser could blind him so we thought, we’re not going to do that. There was also a Jacob’s Ladder that had a million volts going up the back and we were going to put that on stage. Someone said that it’d work so long as the ground was not wet so we thought, no. Back in the early days we had a close escape when Ace touched a rail that was somehow live and was knocked off his feet and that inspired him to write Shock Me. We didn’t want to risk any more shocks so we scrapped that idea. Despite everything that goes on, on stage we haven’t had that many accidents apart from me setting my hair on fire.

Come your final ever show, what next for KISS?

The good part is that KISS continues in other ways. Whether it’s Tom Morello in Rage Against The Machine, Dave Grohl, Nine Inch Nails, Metallica or any number of people. There is a reference point and that reference point is a band who dared to get up on stage and give you more. I’m not saying we`re the best song writers in the world, the best singers in the world or anything like that but I think that our legacy is going to be, that we raised the stakes. Once we came out, it was no longer enough to just get up on stage and strum an acoustic guitar. We give people more bang for their buck. You don’t have to stick your tongue out or breathe fire but at least give them a show and give them something for their eyes and ears. Our legacy is that we raised the stakes and whether you’re going to see Sir Paul on stage and there’s fireballs and explosions going on or anybody else, that came from one place. A band that dared to break the rules. We were four knuckleheads from the streets of New York City who decided to put together the band that we never saw on stage. KISS will not be over. Our legacy will remain in all of those bands that follow and what a legacy that is. KISS may well continue with Vegas shows, movies, cartoons and all kinds of stuff so this will not be the end of KISS by any stretch of the imagination but you’ll have to wait until the tour is over to see what happens next.

KISS play at the Utilita Arena, Newcastle on July 14.