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KISS’ Gene Simmons Reflects on Van Halen Demos, Work on ‘Christine Sixteen’

Gene Simmons
Theo Wargo, Getty Images

Back in 1976, KISSGene Simmons worked with Van Halen after seeing the band play during their nascent days on the Sunset Strip. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Simmons talked about his involvement in recording demos with Van Halen 40 years ago.

“I discovered the band,” Simmons says. “I saw them and signed them and flew them to New York and put them in Electric Lady Studios. They were signed to my company, Man of 1,000 Faces. I produced their 24-track demo — 15 songs — which I still own, and, oh, it has everything from the first record and also faster versions of ‘House of Pain’ and stuff. It’s a lot of cool stuff, but the band just doesn’t want it to come out — you know, the back and forth with [David Lee] Roth complicated matters.”

The demos did not pique the interest of Simmons’ bandmates or manager, so they did not work with Van Halen, who ended up signing a deal with Warner Brothers. While those songs may not ever be officially released, Simmons says there are three other tracks he recorded with Eddie and Alex Van Halen in a different session, including one of KISS’ most well-known songs.

“They did me a favor,” Simmons says. “We recorded three songs I had written. I was in Los Angeles between tours, and I called Alex and Ed: ‘Listen, I got three songs. I’m going in at 2AM. Do you want to come down and help me?’ Usually, I play the guitars and the drums to the extent I can and put down all the parts. But I wanted to do three songs instead of one. So we did ‘Christine Sixteen,’ and I put the keyboards on, everything else. And Ed did the solo to the rhythm guitar, bass, and Alex was on drums.”

Simmons tells Rolling Stone he hopes to release the songs he recorded with the Van Halen brothers as part of a solo box set. He wants to include 150 to 200 unreleased songs, including one with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry on guitar. He says he’s talking with some companies about distributing the set.

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