Gene Simmons and Van Halen are uniquely tied together in rock history. Simmons famously saw Van Halen perform during the band’s early days. He later signed the band to his production company, which flew VH to New York to record a demo at the famed Electric Lady Studios.
Things obviously fell threw business-wise, but Simmons still kept in touch with Eddie Van Halen. In a new interview with Classic Rock, Simmons looked back on Van Halen’s impact on rock and the last time he saw EVH.
Simmons said he and Eddie ran into each other on Sunset Boulevard. The KISS bassist didn’t give an approximate date of this interaction, but he noted Eddie “was already deeply affected by cancer.”
“I had read that he blamed his condition on using a metal guitar pick, putting it in his mouth. In my view that wasn’t the case. Ed smoked all the time,” said Simmons. “All the same, when I heard that familiar voice calling my name on the street – ‘Hey, Gene!’ – I wasn’t sure what to say. His condition was well known at that point.”
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Simmons continued, “He brought it up at the start of the conversation: ‘Hey, man, how you doing? I’ve got cancer’. I was embarrassed and wanted to reach out and hug him, but standing there on the street with a cigarette in his hand he opened his mouth and smiled: ‘Check this out’, inviting me to look at the space where his upper palette should have been. He just shrugged: ‘I’ve got this disease, watcha gonna do? I’ll see you around’. It was typical Ed; happy-go-lucky.”
Simmons made a point to mention how EVH was such a unique character in rock. While he indulged in excess, he was always “all about the music.”
The Demon has never forgotten about the potential signing of Van Halen long-term. On the KISS Kruise X in November 2021, a fan asked a question about KISS merchandise during a Q&A. The question led to Simmons saying, “We made one big mistake — one. There was a band called Van Halen. They were signed to Man Of A Thousand Faces Inc. There was a 24-track demo. They were owned lock, stock and barrel and signed and happy and wanted to sign with us, and we said no.”
Stanley chimed in saying, in part, ” … I was with Gene when he first saw Van Halen at the Starwood. But the idea of managing or producing bands when we really were still at the beginning of our career was something that was… The move is called self-preservation.”
Simmons then quipped, “It was a mistake, but he doesn’t remember,” which the crowd responded to with laughter.