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Gene Talks Collaboration with Wizard World/Solo Tour

Gene Simmons has been perfectly happy as a member of Kiss, the band he co-founded in New York City circa 1973 with friend Paul Stanley. Although Stanley has toured outside the band before and, more recently, taken to performing with his R&B cover band, Simmons was reluctant.

“The idea of solo tour never appealed to me,” he says, speaking from his California home on a recent Sunday afternoon. That was until he teamed up with Wizard World, the company that produces a series of comic book conventions across the country. The organizers tapped Simmons, a lifelong comic enthusiast, for some appearances and asked if he’d be interested in playing live as well.

“I said, ‘I’d love to, but the conventions don’t sound good.’ These are hollow halls that don’t have good acoustics,” he says. “Why not take over a theater or arena someplace and do some shows? That’s really where the genesis of the idea started.”

To form his band, he tapped players who had worked with a variety of other acts including former Mötley Crüe vocalist John Corabi, and committed to five dates. Key to his commitment was making sure that fans had affordable tickets, keeping the price range to around $35. “I didn’t want people to get gouged on tickets,” he says.

Simmons, however, is a notorious multi-tasker with a variety of business concerns. He’s hitting areas, including St. Louis, that are home to the Rock & Brews restaurants that he and Stanley have been opening across the U.S. The pair will expand the franchise to include a resort and casino in Bramen, Oklahoma, where Simmons appears on April 6.

The dates, one might say, are a mix of business and pleasure. For fans, there’s a bonus: Simmons has been digging deep into the archives to craft his sets. Some shows have featured cuts from his 1978 self-titled solo album and choice tunes from Kiss’s considerable discography.

“We’re playing things that Kiss has never played and will never play,” he says. “When you go to a Stones concert you want to hear ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ and all the usual stuff. With Kiss, it’s difficult for us to dip into all the nuggets because we’ve had so many records. With my band, I can do anything I want. And, yeah, we’ll end the show with ‘Rock and Roll All Nite.’ We’ll invite everybody in the audience to jump up on stage. You can take over the microphone. I’m fine with that.”

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