A Conversation With Gene Simmons About Power and Money
In Gene Simmons’ new book On Power: My Journey Through the Corridors of Power and How You Can Get More Power, the KISS cofounder lays out his theories on how us mortals can climb the ranks to join the wealthy and powerful. He dissects modern “power players” like Oprah Winfrey, Stan Lee, and Elon Musk—and on the back cover simply states, “He who has the gold makes the rules.”
Over the years, Simmons and KISS have been a case study in branding, as the band marketed everything from Kaskets to Kondoms to Koffee. His own net worth is reported to be in the hundreds of millions. He says On Power is for those who want to learn his secrets, yet might only have a few moments here and there to digest his teachings. “It’s a simple book,” he says. “You can read it on the toilet or on the way to work.”
Here, Simmons breaks down in detail his thoughts on modern power and money.
It's an interesting time to be advising people about power.
I don’t think “advising” is the right word.
No. And I’ll tell you why. Because everything is relative to your life experience. So all those books that are written like “10 Steps to Success” or “How You Can Become a Millionaire By Following These 10 Steps” — they’re not really true. If the only thing you have to do is follow those 10 steps, everybody who’s reading those books would be a multi-millionaire.
We’d all be rich.
Of course. And “rich” doesn’t mean “millionaire” anymore. After taxes, you’re barely able to make your mortgage payments. Everything I learned in school almost does me no good in the real world. But what you don’t learn in school, and what they don’t teach you, is people skills, language skills, be at the right place at the right time with the right thing. What’s a mortgage, what are taxes, what’s the price of marriage? They don’t teach you what the biggest cause of divorce is. Do you know what it is?
The biggest cause of divorce is marriage?
Of course. If [you] don’t get married, [you] can’t get divorced. I’m not talking about romance. I’m talking about everybody being duly diligent for themselves. There’s a price for everything. If the stock market goes down 10%, and you lose 10% of your stocks, you’d be furious. Now, imagine losing 50% of your gross pre-tax dollars to someone other than your mother, who gave you [life]. And I’m married! I’m all for it. For me. You work for Money magazine. You, I hope, are getting paid for what you do, right?
So you went through all the various hurdles and climbed up Mount Olympus to get to the hallowed ground that you walk on these days — but imagine being the same guy, with the same work ethic, and you live in the hills of Tennessee. You have the right thing, which is your acumen and your ability to write well, and so on. But you’re in the wrong place, buddy. And you’re certainly in the wrong time.
It’s analogous to having a cold. You have a cold, you have a virus, and it’s catchy — and you want as many people to catch your stuff. But if you live in the desert, you’re in the wrong place. And there’s certainly a time element. [If] you have a cold, you want to go to where the subways are. Because a lot of people go to the subways. But if you’re there in the middle of the night, you’re at the wrong time, buddy. Try rush hour, when all the people are going to be there.
In simple terms, I wanted to convey that you have a better chance of making a living if you’re selling hot dogs on the streets in New York than being a farmer in the middle of Iowa.
The right place at the right time.
And the right thing. And whatever it is that you have, you have to take the journey and go there.
I wasn’t born in America. I was born in Israel. If I spoke with an accent [here], that’s a demerit. That’s minus one. If I didn’t look the right way, that’s minus two. The more minuses you have, the more hurdles you’re putting in front of yourself to get to power! Which means money! Power and money are not necessarily the same thing, but if you’ve got money, you’ve got power buddy!
What do you think about Harvey Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly? They had immense power and….
Well, they survived forever because they had a lot of money and power. Power itself is not good or bad. It’s who uses it.
In the middle of the book, you write “the world doesn’t care about your feelings. The world is full of an unfeeling series of facts.”
The truth is, the world can exist pretty easily without you. The only way you become important is if you make yourself important. The Dalai Lama as the reincarnation — and I know the man, we’ve spoken about various issues — his holiness has made himself on the world stage by taking [his] case to media around the world. If his holiness had stayed in Tibet and not escaped to India, and told nobody, nobody would have known who he is.
A lot of people who go to Harvard Business school should emulate the Kardashians. They have been able to access power by doing nothing. By having no recognizable talent of any kind, on any level. Not being particularly well read or incisive, politically or economically, or otherwise. But they understand the nature of modern celebrity itself, which is our royalty. I would have Kardashian studies in colleges. How do you use media, for free, to advance your own brand?
KISS obviously became massive. Did that power ever mess you up psychologically?
It’s a relative question. My ego is tarnished. I’ve been to the top of the mountain and I know what the view is like. The important stuff is unaffected. I have a work ethic. And my secret weapon is my mother. My mother at 14 saw the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. She had her whole family wiped out in front of her face. It’s through her eyes and her ethical, moral center, that I get all my strength.
On Power is out November 14 on Harper Collins.
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