Two of rock’s most successful and iconic bands — Kiss and Def Leppard — are co-headlining a North American tour in the summer of 2014, beginning June 23 in West Valley City, Utah, and ending Aug. 31 in Woodlands, Texas. Kiss and Def Leppard made the announcement at a press conference at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, Calif, on March 17, 2014. All of the current members of the band were at the press conference: Kiss consists of vocalist/bassist Gene Simmons, vocalist/guitarist Paul Stanley, lead guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer. Def Leppard consists of vocalist Joe Elliott, guitarist Vivian Campbell, guitarist Phil Collen, bassist Rick “Sav” Savage and drummer Rick Allen.
Tickets go on sale starting on March 21, 2014, through the Live Nation mobile app and at Live Nation’s website. According to a press release, Kiss and Def Leppard jointly decided to support our heroes and honor their dedicated fans in the armed services by partnering with numerous military organizations for the tour. Partnerships will include the USO, Hiring Our Heroes, Project Resiliency/The Raven Drum Foundation, August Warrior Project and the Wounded Warrior Project.
All military personnel will be given exclusive access to discounted tickets for the tour with their own pre-sale through Military.com/Monster.com. Military charities will receive a portion of ticket sales with the money raised being split amongst all the non-profit organizations participating with the summer tour. Military personnel, as well as fan clubs for Kiss and Def Leppard, got access to a pre-sale hosted by Military.com on March 18, 2014. Citi card members will have access to pre-sale tickets through its Citi Private Pass program beginning March 19, 2014, at 10 a.m. local time. Here is what the members of Kiss and Def Leppard said at the press conference announcing their tour collaboration.
Stanley: This is our [Kiss’] 40th anniversary tour. We couldn’t feel more proud of the show we’ve done, the “Monster” tour, which was arguably the best stage we ever had. We couldn’t have had a better band with us than Def Leppard over here. Not only that, but Phil [Collen] decided to wear a shirt today, so it’s a very special day.
Elliott: It’s the closest thing we have to makeup. He had to wear something.
What brought you guys together?
Stanley: We’ve run into each other at festivals. It just seemed like a natural fit. At some point, it really becomes important to go out there and give people bang for buck, to give people something more than perhaps other bands are. We’ve had a history of going out there and trying to do the greatest shows possible.
Summer is a great time to go out and enjoy yourself. You can go out with your families, go out on a date. But in any case you want a full night. You’re not going to hear more better songs than with the two of us [bands]. I just want to hang around and listen to these guys [he points to Def Leppard].
Elliott: Right back at you, buddy! One and one makes three in these situations. My math’s not great, but that’s two great bands going out. There will be no dead time. There will be no dead air space. It will be hits, hits, hits.
About two years ago, myself and Gene [Simmons] did a little tour of South America, under the guise of Rock and Roll All-Stars. A bunch of guys from Guns N’ Roses and Billy Idol were there. And other than trying to outdo each other with obscure British bands like the Idle Race and the Pink Fairies and who knew which band better, we discussed doing this as well — that one day Def Leppard and Kiss would one day tread the boards together, and it’s finally happened, which s fantastic. Thank you Gene for that.
Simmons: If anyone thinks this is just about ego — yeah, we love each other and all this kind of stuff — this is for the fans, of the fans, for the fans, by the fans. We are fans of Def Leppard. And we hope the fans are going to get the most out of this. That’s what it’s all about.
Stanley: So it’s by the fans. Buy the tickets.
What’s the state of Kiss in 2014?
Stanley: We have never had more fun being on tour. We obviously celebrate everything that’s gone on before. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t start in 1974, 40 years ago. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge. There’s been a lot of great times, some bad times, but it got us here.
And without any hesitation, I’ve got to say that we’ve never had more fun. We have a ball out there. We go out there to live up to any expectations. And every night, we go out there and blow them away. I’ve got to say that we’re happy campers.
Simmons: Eric [Singer] hates me.
Singer: I didn’t hear what you said. You’re mumbling again.
Simmons: Eric hates me.
Singer: Yes, I hate you very much.
Tommy and Eric, how does it feel to start out listening to Kiss when you were growing up, and now you’re in the band?
Stanley: How old do you think these guys are?
Thayer: Speaking for Eric and I, we’ve loved Kiss all of our lives. Kiss has been around for 40 years now, which we know.
Stanley: How old are you?
Thayer: I’m in my early 50s, so I’m getting up there. I’ve been in the band for about 12 years now. Eric’s been in it longer, so we’re a big part of this. It’s in our heart, and we bleed Kiss blood. Gene spits it. Our heart and soul is into this. We love being in Kiss.
Like Paul said, when we do anything, when we’re touring or recording, we really love being together and doing it. It’s no B.S. There’s a good chemistry in this band and a great spirit. We’re looking forward to taking it out on the road this summer with Def Leppard and having a gangbuster tour.
Kiss and Def Leppard started out in clubs. You didn’t start out on a game show. Do you still think about when you used to play in clubs?
Collen: Actually, I won a competition in a club to play with Def Leppard. It was cool.
Elliott: He came second!
Savage: I came third!
Collen: We jammed in clubs before we came together as a band. It was great. You get your chops together. You do all that stuff in clubs. That’s why we’re still around now. We actually like each other as well, so that really makes a huge difference.
Stanley: There is absolutely no substitute for working your way up. Bands today that are starting out, they don’t have a clue. Most of these bands go from obscurity to selling a million albums, 2 million albums, and they couldn’t entertain a phone booth. And that’s why they don’t sell tickets.
You learn the craft by doing it. You start in the clubs. You work your way to being third on the bill in an auditorium. Then you get to headline there, and then you work your way into arenas. By the time you’re in arenas, you damn well know how to do it.
People come to see us because they know they’re going to get a great night. Matter of fact, I remember Phil was in a band that did shows with us in the U.K. He was in a band called Girl.
Collen: Absolutely. That was 1980 or ’81.
Stanley: Yeah. And I kept saying, “Leave us alone. Stop bothering us.” It just goes to show you, there’s no substitute. Both of us bands know how to go out there and deliver the goods. We’re proud to be going out together because of that.
Simmons: It’s worth stressing: For the very first time ever, Def Leppard and Kiss together. Bang for the buck!
Can you talk about that philosophy of both of your bands to perform your songs in concert to make them sound as close to the original recording as possible?
Elliott: Neither band is blues-based or jam bands. No disrespect intended, but I remember when I was listening to Kiss as a kid, before I was even in Def Leppard, first of all, you look at the image, and you think, “This is great.” And then you look at the back [of the album], and there are 10 songs, five on each side, which means you’re getting four- or five-minute songs, not 45 minute songs.
In the ‘70s, it was very easy to be very indulgent, where side one of an album could be just one song. And these guys [Kiss] were delivering 10 songs. And they were short and to the point. And they were fun, and they were well-structured pop songs and rock songs. They had hit singles. They weren’t just pure rock. It was a combination of both.
And that’s exactly where we were coming from as well. We grew up through the British glam rock scene, with bands like Mott the Hoople, Queen, Sweet, Slade, [David] Bowie, T. Rex — these were all guitar-driven, three-minute big songs with big hooks and choruses. And it’s like what’s not to love? So for us, especially on this tour, to think we’re going to break out some kind of blues jam, it’s just not going to happen.
Stanley: A band respects its fans by respecting the songs. When you go out there, when somebody pays hard-earned money, and you want to go out there and hear a song, and suddenly, the band is bored with it, and turned it into a reggae tune, it’s an insult to you. You came to hear the songs sound a certain way. And we’re damn well going to make sure that you know that song as soon as it starts. If it’s boring for us, then we’re either ungrateful to you, or those songs sucked to begin with.
Elliott: He’s right. You can disrespect your own back catalogue. There are critics somewhere out there that if Kiss or Def Leppard took a tune and turned it inside out, they would rave about it, but the 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 people watching would be confused. And we’re not here to impress critics.
When I go and see the Stones or Kiss or McCartney, I want to hear the songs the way I’ve known them all my life. That’s why I’m going. I don’t want to hear a reggae version of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” It doesn’t interest me whatsoever. And when I hear "Detroit Rock City," I don’t want to hear it ska. I want to hear it as it is.
Stanley: Likewise, whenever I hear you guys, I go, “Wow, that sounds like the record.” You may not remember, but there were these things called “records” once upon a time. “It sounds like the CD. It sounds like it’s supposed to.” That’s the kind of respect that we certainly want to be aligning ourselves with. That’s why we’re here together.
Gene, can you talk about the support of your fans from the military?
Simmons: Our proud military makes freedom possible. Politicians fart through their mouth. Only the military makes freedom possible. If you don’t know that, you’re an idiot. This is not only a proud military, it’s a volunteer military.
People better than any one of us on stage, volunteer their life for a philosophy, an ideal and an idea. And they go over, and not everybody comes back. The least we can do is (1) pay homage to them and (2) make sure that a buck out of every single ticket that’s going to come in through the door is going to go to various forms of wounded warriors.
Stanley: It’s very easy for some of us to forget that there are sacrifices made so that we can enjoy freedoms that we don’t even think about. These people go out and risk their lives voluntarily. They are the heroes of the 20th and the 21st century. We say, “God bless them.” We hope for everyone’s safe return.
In the meantime, anytime we can spotlight these people who are here to day and ones who aren’t and say, “These people need to be treated not like you and me, but like the heroes they are.”
If there’s anything we can do in your return to help you back into society, whether you needs some help, rehabilitation, help with your families, there are some great organizations. There are Wounded Warrior care projects. There other Wounded Warrior projects that we’re involved with too. We’re going to make sure the money goes to the people who make it possible for us to be wearing our uniforms.
Simmons: And to our British friends, just as an FYI, because we believe in the same ideals, when we were in England, we did a fundraiser for the proud Brits who went over and served for the same reasons. Help for Heroes.
We don’t want to get maudlin or get serious, but we were born in two of the greatest countries. And the freedom that we get to enjoy every day comes at a price. And some people make the ultimate sacrifice to make that happen, so God bless all of you.
Can you drop any hints on what’s going to happen on this tour?
Stanley: We went out through Europe on what we call the “Monster” stage. We have a spider through the lighting system that comes down through the stage. It interacts with the stage.
When we were putting it together, when I designed it, we thought, “Why do the lights have to have a separate life of their on and we have the stage?’ So it’s very much one. To see this massive rig moving and interacting, and for us to be able to go up in it or to go out, there’s nothing subtle about it, but we don’t need subtlety. We’re here to deliver good news and excitement.
When you want bad news, you just have to go to the computer or the television. You can get away from it for one night. You can enjoy yourself. All the misery will be there tomorrow, but we want to make sure we entertain you for one night.
Simmons: Alongside Def Leppard.
Def Leppard, do you feel any pressure in this tour with Kiss?
Elliott: Not really. I really wouldn’t cal it a challenge or pressure. There’s always an element of certain people who will think it’s competitive. I don’t see it as competitive.
It’s two great bands that are going to be playing for the same amount of time. It’s joint forces. I don’t see it as competitive at all. Total respect from this side of the stage to that side of the stage. Total respect.
Savage: Yeah, I think Paul touched on this earlier as well. The most important element of the concert is the audience. It’s all about them. We can deliver great songs, and so can Kiss. That’s the bottom line. Everyone will go home happy.
Elliott: They’ve got their 40th anniversary. We’re maybe 35 years into ours. We’re just blessed that we can still do this. Paul mentioned earlier on that we went through the clubs and then to the arenas and stuff like that.
And these new kids coming through, I don’t think that you’ll find many new many bands starting off in the last two or three years who sat on this stage in 40 years’ time, discussing their 40th anniversary tour, because the infrastructure is so different. We’re very blessed that we’ve got an opportunity to take the songs that we’ve got and put them in front of one massive (hopefully) crowd, and they can celebrate the history of both bands at the same time. It’s a fantastic opportunity.
Stanley: [The younger bands] might be on stage [in 40 years], but they’ll be asking, “Who’s got the bucket and the broom?”
Elliott: Or “Would you like fries with that, sir?”
Stanley: I think this all comes down to pride, rivalry, who’s going to be better. I think this about going out and being at your best, because when you’re at your best, they [the fans] get the best. It’s all about giving your audience what they deserve. And we’ll sleep very contently tonight knowing that we’re doing this together.
Rick Allen, you’ve been an inspiration to people in how you dealt with your accident and how you’ve been able to play at the level that you do.
Allen: That’s cool. I always tell people starting out: “Celebrate your uniqueness.” And that’s one thing I strive to do. Just play from your heart. Thank you.
Stanley: Before we came out, Eric was talking about Rick.
Singer: I was saying how fantastic he is. We were getting ready, and I was telling some of the wardrobe people, “When you get a chance, you’ve got to watch Rick Allen play drums, because it’s really incredible.” And I mean this with total props, Rick, you had to re-learn how to play drums.
I remember the first time I saw you play after your accident. I was standing at the Forum with Terry Bozzio — who’s a pretty acclaimed, renowned drummer — and everyone was just blown away, like, “Oh my God! This is incredible how he plays.” It’s a testament to your spirit as a person and a human being what you were able to accomplish as a drummer. It’s amazing.
Allen: That’s very cool, man. Thank you. The human spirit is the most powerful thing I know. I think one thing we all have in common is resiliency. We keep coming back. I have no intention of giving up anytime soon, so thank you.
Elliott: If I could just add as well, it’s great because of this link with the military, the fact that we have our own wounded warrior here that’s done survived and come through even better. The highest compliment that any of the four of us can pay Rick, other than the fact that he has to look at our asses all night …
Allen: I don’t mind!
Elliott: We’re looking out that way, and to us, to our ears, it doesn’t sound any different. In fact, it sounds better. So it’s not like there’s anything missing. In fact, it’s enhanced the songs. You wouldn’t know. You know in the back of your mind that he’s got one arm, but when you’re on stage, you can just hear him play the drums, and he sounds just like a drummer.
Kiss, what made you choose the costumes and the makeup?
Simmons: Punishment. Think about it. In hindsight, we could have been in wonderful bands in T-shirts, jeans and sneakers. No. We decided to put together this and, for me, walk around with another 40 or 50 pounds.
Paul’s supposed to say, “Yeah,” because he hasn’t lost weight yet. We proudly spit fire, we proudly fly through the air, we proudly blow up stuff. We proudly do all that stuff and work our asses off.
Pride is something that both Kiss and Def Leppard share in. Somebody said to me (and I’ve heard this more than once): “You guys have money. Why do you keep doing this?”
There is no better time on planet Earth than to go up on a holy stage, because it’s an electric church, and make everybody in the audience forget about the traffic jam and the bad things in life. It’s magic time! You come into our shows, it’s magic! You’ll feel better. You feel alive. That’s our job. We’re going to make your life better.
Can you talk your L.A. Kiss football team?
Stanley: We played our first game. Not us. Our football team won its first game. Our home season starts April 5 [in 2014]. You should really come to these games, because the players are absolutely insane. The entertainment is insane. The dancers are insane. It really takes us all to another level.
It’s Kiss, and you know when Kiss puts their name on something, it’s not going to be a snooze. You’re not going to have to sell your car or mortgage your house to get tickets. There are $99 season tickets available. But we’re not here to talk about that. We’re here to talk about the tour.
Simmons: Paul is right. Got to LAKissFootball.com.
Stanley: Going back to the question about the [Kiss] outfits or uniforms, I remember going to concerts. I was lucky. I saw Humble Pie. I saw Jimi Hendrix. I saw Derek and the Dominoes, the Who, the Kinks. I was a huge Anglophile. I loved British bands. I thought most of the American bands needed to start by taking a bath, spending their time less with drugs and more playing their instruments.
So those are our roots. We never out this [Kiss costume] on to substitute for anything. We wanted to wear this proudly and take what you see other bands do and take it a step further. If it was purely about the makeup, there would be tons of bands running around [in makeup]. Most of them that have done it are answers in Trivial Pursuit games at this point.
So it’s always been about the heart. You can paint a car anything you want, but without a great engine, it doesn’t go anywhere. This is a great engine up here, and we are going to win every time we hit the stage.
Elliott: Just so you know, if you’re team keeps winning, we’ve got a song called “Undefeated.” You can borrow it if you want.
Elliott: Yeah. You can play it in the stadium.
How do you feel about your fan base changing to a wide demographic of ages? You have a lot of families who go to your concerts, and it wasn’t like that when you first started in the music business. When did you first start noticing that change?
Stanley: For us, rock and roll has changed. Over the years, rock and roll has become more like the blues. As long as you’re writing about things that your audience understands and can connect to, you can keep playing it. It’s not the music of teenagers. It’s the music about life, about celebration, about freedom, about self-empowerment.
Our concerts have turned into tribal gatherings. It’s more about a tribe. Usually, when you go to a rock concert, you don’t want to see your kid brother, you don’t want to see your older sister. It’s just yours. But with us, it’s about a tribal gathering. It’s like the largest cult on Earth.
Everybody shows up. They’re proud to have their family with them. It’s great to see parents holding their kids up, almost like a rite of passage. For us, rock and roll is something that is timeless. I like to say to the audience, “We were there for your parents, and we will be there for you.”
Simmons: And we could be your parents.
Stanley: Or grandparents.
Kiss has had a lot of opening acts that ended up going on to become huge artists ...
Stanley: Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Bon Jovi …
Stanley: Bob Seger, Ac/DC, and the list goes on. Motley Crue.
And you treated them well. How did you miss Def Leppard early on?
Stanley: I guess the time just wasn’t right. But going back to your point, if you have to tie the arm of the band that’s playing with you behind your back for you to beat them, then you don’t deserve to be the band that goes on last. We want every band that goes on to have the opportunity to be at their best, because the audience wins, and it makes us up our game. We’ll rise to the occasion.
Savage: It’s about the show. That’s the bottom line. And as best we can make the overall show as a package for the audience, then they go home the happiest. That’s what it’s all about. That s king.
Can you talk about the military veterans who will be hired to be on this tour?
Stanley: We did this before. It’s basically like hiring a hero. We try to find a couple of vets who want to go out and be part of the team. In the background, we’re always part of the Army or the armed forces, so this is a chance for someone to travel and be part of the Kiss Army.
Simmons: You should know that this is not the first time we’ve done this. The last time we came through America, or the time before, every dollar of every single ticket went to Wounded Warriors. We’ve done special concerts — especially in Washington, D.C. — for Walter Reed Hospital. For us, it’s not about us telling the press or anything like that. It’s the least that we could do, just to be grateful that we have our military.
Stanley: On that tour that Gene is talking about, we often brought out vets that were local, vets who had served on our behalf. And we also did the Pledge of Allegiance. It was important to let people know that patriotism is cool. There’s nothing uncool about standing up and pleading allegiance to the country. Again, we don’t want to hammer this point home, but the truth is, we’re all here because of the military that makes it possible.
Def Leppard, can you talk about what you’ve been doing in Ireland? Have you been writing new music? Were you going Vivian a chance to grow his hair back after the chemotherapy?
Elliott: A bit of both, really. I think his had had already grown back by the time we got there. He likes to go back to Belfast on weekends and visit his folks. Yeah, I’ve got a studio at home, and we all came down to my place for the month of February to write some new songs, which you will hear none of this summer.
Collen: It’s really interesting. We actually went over to Joe’s to write one or two songs and maybe put something out. We’ve got 11 songs on the go already, in just in a month. We’re definitely going to have an album, and that will be out next year.
We’re really excited. We haven’t done new music for a long time. It was so thrilling and so cool to be back in it. But yeah, 11 songs on the go. We’ll probably have 20 by the time that we’re done. So yeah, all good.
Now that Kiss is being inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, do you have to refer to them as Your Majesty?
Simmons: Oh, cut it out. Come on! Yes.
Elliott: Well, I’ve been referring to Gene as Your Majesty for about three or four years.
Simmons: Stop it!
Stanley: On a different note, we’re all thrilled that Vivian’s here and that he’s doing great.
Campbell: Thank you, Paul. Never better, actually. I needed a little haircut this morning. It’s getting out of control.
Stanley: Well, you’re looking very handsome and healthy. Good to have you.
Campbell: Good to be here.
Is there going to be a sequel to “Kiss Meets Phantom of the Park”?
Simmons: Semper fi!
Stanley: Hopefully not. I’m still trying to figure out what it’s about!
What are your favorite songs to play in concert?
Collen: It’s different every night, actually, and each tour, you know. It’s a real buzz playing “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” because everyone starts taking their clothes off for some reason, even if you mention it, which is kind of weird. Everyone has a different favorite, I think, but that one is always a blast.
Stanley: We love playing “Photograph,” but we can’t figure out the chords.
Collen: Me too! We’re still trying to work on that one. We’ve done it once.
Elliott: Paul, many, many years ago when Phil was not even in Def Leppard, [Phil and I] got on up stage in Sheffield in a little club and attempted to play “Do You Love Me.” I was the drummer. It wasn’t very good.
Stanley: Phil, didn’t you do [that song] in Girl?
Collen: Absolutely. The band I was in — Girl — we covered that. I actually want to thank Paul and Gene. They accepted our American Music Award when we couldn’t get it.
We were in Holland recording. And these guys accepted on our behalf, which was very cool. We actually never thank you for that, so thank you.
Elliott: And we never got it back either. Can we have it please?
Is there any chance that the Kiss/Def Leppard tour will go beyond North America?
Simmons: How about this? Do you want it to? [People in the audience clap and cheer.] Of the people, for the people, by the people. You want it, you got it.
Let’s just see how the first 40 [concerts] go, see if you can take any more joy. You want it? We’re happy, healthy, and there’s lots here!