Kiss Vetoed Working With Van Halen to Rein in Gene Simmons
The Kiss frontman reveals in Paul Brannigan’s upcoming Eddie Van Halen biography, Unchained (U.S.) / Eruption (U.K.), that he and Aucoin vetoed working with the hotshot California band “because we were trying to hold Gene in check.” In an excerpt shared by Classic Rock, Stanley adds, “Gene is often more concerned – and this is just part of his personality – with Gene, and it wasn’t going to be to our benefit for him to run off and get involved with something else.”
Kiss first encountered Van Halen in late 1976, when they visited Los Angeles to tape a three-song performance for ABC’s The Paul Lynde Halloween Special. Stanley and Simmons stuck around for a couple weeks to check out the L.A. nightlife, at one point accepting an invitation from DJ Rodney Bingenheimer to watch two unsigned bands, the Boyz (featuring future Dokken members George Lynch and Mick Brown) and Van Halen, perform at the Starwood.
Simmons was immediately dazzled by Eddie Van Halen’s pyrotechnic fretwork and immediately pitched Van Halen on working together after meeting them backstage. The Kiss bassist offered to sign them to his management label, Man of 1000 Faces, and produce their demo. Simmons booked studio time for Van Halen in both Santa Monica and New York, where they laid down songs like “Runnin’ With the Devil” and “Somebody Get Me a Doctor.”
But when Simmons showed the future classics to his bandmates, “Everybody shrugged their shoulders and went, ‘So what?’” he recalled. “And I’m going, You’re killing me! Whaddya mean, ‘So what?’ Listen to that!”
Stanley now reveals that he knew Van Halen were sensational from the start — which is exactly why he rejected them: “Were Van Halen undeniable? Absolutely. Were they fabulous? Yeah. Did they have what it took? Absolutely. But we had to take care of Kiss, and the way to protect Kiss at that time was to pull the reins in on Gene, it’s that simple.”
The decision ultimately worked in Van Halen's favor. The group signed with Warner Bros. the following year after producer Ted Templeman saw them perform at the Starwood. Their eponymous debut album went on to sell more than 10 million copies in the U.S.
Eddie Van Halen and Simmons would have a much different interaction in 1982, when the guitarist allegedly asked Simmons if he could join Kiss because he could no longer stand working with David Lee Roth. "I said, 'Don’t do it. Stay with the band you started,'" Simmons recalled. "'There’s no role for you – you’re too big. You cast too much of a shadow to be the guitar player in Kiss.’ And he went back, and he was miserable for the next 20 or 30 years. But it would never have worked. Not even close.”
Stanley denied Simmons' version of events during a 2018 fan Q&A, saying, "No. Eddie Van Halen did not almost join Kiss. I think there was some strife within [Van Halen] at that point for him, and Eddie came down [to our studio] just to see what was going on. ... But Eddie was never going to join Kiss and was never almost in Kiss.”