Gene Simmons dishes about a new music festival in Grand Forks, B.C., and his deep love of ketchup

When you think of the small southern Interior B.C. city of Grand Forks, Gene Simmons is probably not the first person who comes to mind.

That may change now that the Kiss singer and bassist is launching a rock music festival, Titans of Rock, there this summer with Canadian producer Chuck Varabioff.

The new festival running Aug. 6 to 8 will replace CannaFest, a music festival Varabioff used to throw in the area each year, which has showcased acts like the Beach Boys, Bret Michaels, Vince Neal and Cheap Trick.

Simmons met Varabioff when he performed with The Gene Simmons Band at CannaFest in 2018, and they got to work planning Titans of Rock together.

The Canadian Press/ Jonathan Hayward

The lineup won't be announced for another few days, but the Kiss rocker said they're expecting 40,000 people to attend the three-day event, which he is set to host.

Simmons called Radio West host Sarah Penton Thursday afternoon to chat about Grand Forks, the festival and some of his "peculiar" eating habits. 

There are any number of places across North America you could have launched this festival. Tell me a little bit more about why Grand Forks?

About a year and a half ago, Kiss took some time off and I didn't want to stop playing, so I put together [The Gene Simmons Band] and we played around. And I happened to play there, we headlined on one of the days. I had such a great time, more precisely Chuck and I connected. 

What do you think it'll be like having a festival of this size in a place like Grand Forks?

It's a better place than Woodstock was, that's in the backyard of a farmer who let his pigs take poops in the field. Right? Woodstock was nowhere. You couldn't get there. It was a one-lane highway, half a million people showed up. I like the mayor, and the local people, and because the folks at Grand Forks are making it financially feasible we can do the festival for pennies on the dollar than it would a normal festival. So you don't have to, as they say, get gouged by the prices or the price of food or hotels or anything, but obviously first-come, first-served. 

Tamea Agle via Associated Press

This is going to be happening during a break from the Kiss tour and this is a big, long tour. How come you don't take more time off to sit by the pool or walk in nature?

That's for losers. Champions and captains of industry, if you've got the DNA in your heart, if you're an A-type personality, you don't want to sit still. You're just waiting to die. Doctors will tell you, even if you're sitting around by the pool get up off your lazy ass and pump that heart. On the days when your heart's not pumping you're not doing yourself very much good.

Are you doing it because you love it, because you believe you should, or both?

Well, both. I'm a very blessed guy. I've got as they say, the life of Riley, I don't have to do anything. But so what? Get up. Do philanthropy. Go scale that mountain. Create jobs and do stuff, especially if you don't have to. You know, I don't have a problem going to sleep because my heart keeps pumping and then at night I'm exhausted. Can't wait to go to sleep.

I have to ask you about the ice cubes and cereal. How long have you been doing that for?

I wasn't born in America, I came from Israel and when I came to America as a child of eight-and-a-half years of age, I never had cereal and I fell in love with it, but the milk just never got cold enough. And so because I never tasted ketchup until I was eight-and-a-half or nine years of age, I'm also peculiar about ketchup I'm told, but I know what I like.

Why are you peculiar about ketchup?

Well, I have tuna sandwiches and put ketchup on that. When I first came to America I used to have ketchup sandwiches. We used to have Wonder Bread, which was just mushy, kind of closer to cake than bread, and I just put ketchup and salt and I'd eat that. I'd have scrambled eggs with ketchup on it. I put ketchup on everything. And when I went off on my own, and was scrounging around just to pay the bills and everything, I used to have — get ready for this — ketchup soup. I thought I was the only one that did that, but my Newfie wife said she did exactly the same thing.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.