Gene Simmons Recalls Astonishment At Seeing Van Halen For The First Time

By Andrew Magnotta @AndrewMagnotta

February 3, 2021

Being that he was one of the first heavy-hitters in the music industry to take a chance on Van Halen, Gene Simmons has never avoided credit for the band's eventual success.

But in a recent conversation with Q104.3 New York's Out of the Box with Jonathan Clarke, Simmons emphasized that the young band from Pasadena was so remarkable when he first saw them, he didn't have much of a choice.

The KISS bassist first saw Van Halen in the mid-'70s at a West Hollywood club called the Starwood. He was busy schmoozing and "being, you know, full of myself" when he heard something that immediately humbled him.

"This music came out ... [I thought], 'Wow, these are really accomplished guitar players; there must be a few of them,' because I'm hearing harmonies and speed and melody and all kinds of stuff," he recalled thinking. "When I went to the front of the stage, I couldn't believe what I heard. Remember: before sampling, before any fake musicians... before tapes or any of that stuff, music was live for everybody.

"Here are four guys onstage — killer bass player [Michael Anthony] with a voice of a banshee ... double kick drums and all that stuff with Alex [Van Halen], the lead singer [David Lee Roth] has got his shirt off, defying gravity, doing all this stuff and one guy on guitar [Eddie Van Halen] making all that symphonic music, who in his solo started tapping, which I had never seen before."

After three songs or so, Simmons was already waiting to offer the band a deal. He didn't waste any time talking them out of another offer and promising to fly them to New York to make a professional demo.

"I flew them to New York, did 15 tracks, 'House of Pain' is one of those — best Van Halen song, as far as I'm concerned," he added.

Despite his belief in the demo, Simmons wasn't able to get Van Halen a record deal or an opening spot on Kiss's upcoming 'Love Gun' tour. Rather than keep them locked under contract while he was busy on the Kiss tour, Simmons tore up the paperwork. Within a few months, Van Halen inked a deal with Warner Bros.

Watch the full Out of the Box conversation with Gene Simmons via the player above. He also talks about his new G2 partnership with Gibson guitars, his favorite bassists of all time and Kiss's 'End of the Road' tour!

Get more information at GeneSimmons.com!

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Here's a clip of Kiss rocking Dubai this past New Year's Eve:

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