LOS ANGELES — Artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame usually react with joy and grace.
Kiss feels dissed.
"Yes, it's going to be a great night, because we will pay respect to how the band started," says guitarist Paul Stanley. "But our issues with the Rock Hall have not subsided."
He and bassist Gene Simmons, the band's founders, will be inducted April 10 alongside original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. Four guitarists, including Tommy Thayer (on board since 2002), and two drummers, the late Eric Carr and current player Eric Singer (on his third stint since 1991), will not be anointed.
Simmons and Stanley wanted that fuller Kisstory acknowledged.
"When we broached the subject, they told us it was a non-starter," Stanley says. "That's arrogance coming from pencil-pushers. We're the people wearing the guitars. The arrogance went further when they tried to strong-arm us into having the original lineup play in makeup."
Also a non-starter. Simmons and Stanley refused.
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"Not surprisingly, that ruffled their feathers because the Rock Hall seems to think the tail wags the dog," Stanley says. "This dog doesn't roll over for anybody."
He feels the long-split original foursome would not perform to Kiss' standards. Criss was fired in 1980, Frehley quit in 1982, and while both returned for a reunion tour and album in 1996, Frehley left and Criss was ejected a few years later. Bad blood precludes any cozy homecoming.
"We can only wear those uniforms with pride," Stanley says, "We're not going to risk tarnishing what we've built for 40 years just to satisfy someone's penchant for nostalgia."
The Rock Hall rejected a compromise.
"Ace and Peter were important in the formation of the band," Simmons says. "We said, 'Let's have everybody come out and play.' They said no."
He's mystified by the hall's refusal to induct Thayer and Singer, considering exceptions made for Metallica (latecomer Rob Trujillo), the Red Hot Chili Peppers (early members on marginal records) and the Grateful Dead (of 12 inducted, only five were founding players).
Rock Hall president/CEO Joel Peresman told Billboard the induction process "is not an exact science" and that Kiss had been selected specifically for its pivotal '70s phase.
That pick took 14 years. Kiss was first eligible in 1999, for the 2000 class, 25 years after its self-titled debut. Fans, including guitarist Tom Morello, have long championed the band's nomination.
Kiss released its own history book, 'Kisstory,' in March 1995. The band's lineup at that time (from left): Gene Simmons, Eric Singer, Bruce Kulick and Paul Stanley. (Photo: Wally Santana, Associated Press)
"Kiss has always been anti-establishment, and that goes for the rock 'n' roll establishment," says Ray Waddell, Billboard senior editor/touring. "Gene in particular almost seemed to revel in being shunned by the Rock Hall, so his and the band's reaction to Kiss finally being voted in is no surprise at all. I believe their fans enjoyed Kiss' outsider status. It falls right along with the 'us against them' mentality that is so much a part of being a Kiss fan."
The Rock Hall "dodged this bullet for a long time," Stanley says. "We're the bitter pill they finally had to swallow. They bowed to public pressure as the years went on and it became absurd to ignore the big elephant in the room."
The band never lobbied for admission. "Our happiness and self-esteem don't depend on the Rock Hall or any entity," Simmons says. "The fans empower us. We've been in the hall of fame since we began. Our fans put us there."
So why attend the ceremony?
"It means a lot to the fans," Stanley says. "There's a validation they craved for the band. Our gratification comes from knowing the audience is thrilled that we're getting in."