A few weeks back, Gene Simmons gave an interview to son Nick for Esquire Magazine in which he claimed that rock and roll is dead.
“When I was coming up, it was not an insurmountable mountain. Once you had a record company on your side, they would fund you, and that also meant when you toured they would give you tour support. There was an entire industry to help the next Beatles, Stones, Prince, Hendrix, to prop them up and support them every step of the way. There are still record companies, and it does apply to pop, rap, and country to an extent. But for performers who are also songwriters — the creators — for rock music, for soul, for the blues — it’s finally dead.
“Rock is finally dead.”
Gene further claimed that what “murdered” rock was “file-sharing and downloading.” His logic was that these activities hurt the business model of a major-label structure, which means they can’t or won’t support an act. He said that file-sharing devalues music to the point that “nobody will pay you for the 10,000 hours you put in to create what you created.”
But someone took issue with Gene’s “rock is dead” diagnosis.
— Foo Fighters (@foofighters) September 6, 2014
Since Gene’s comments, Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters have launched their Sonic Highways series on HBO, with weekly song releases from the upcoming album of the same name. In the series, one of the things they highlight is the tenacity of bands that were ignored by major labels long before file sharing was an issue. Many of these bands chose to go DIY (Do It Yourself) route, pressing their own vinyl, hand-designing their own covers, and getting the word out without the permission of the major label gatekeepers.
Some of those bands were the very groups that inspired and helped launch future hit-makers like Nirvana and Foo Fighters. They’re still around, still respected, and put the lie to Simmons’ “rock is dead” argument.
But Grohl and company do have some common ground with Simmons. Recently, Simmons also declared that vocal competition shows on TV, such as The Voice and American Idol “sugarcoat shit” and do not consider that “it’s a waste of time if they don’t have the goods intrinsically” to be rock stars. They just look for the same cookie-cutter voices.
“Your qualification for being on this show is you can sing in the shower?” Gene asked.
Simmons was hawking his own band competition show, of course, where he promises “to open the trapdoors of life and get tough” on contestants.
Dave Grohl, also promoting the aforementioned Sonic Highways show and songs, spoke to Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes about this too. Grohl said he would never make it past the first round in such a show. And he thinks that that style of judging is way off base.
“Who’s to say they’re not good or not? Imagine Bob Dylan standing there singing ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ in front of those judges,” Grohl said. “‘Sorry, it’s a little nasally and a little flat. Next.'”