GENE SIMMONS Reflects On Jamming With RUSH Frontman GEDDY LEE - "At Least From What I Recall, He Didn't Understand What A Blues Scale Was"

July 17, 2023, 10 months ago

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GENE SIMMONS Reflects On Jamming With RUSH Frontman GEDDY LEE - "At Least From What I Recall, He Didn't Understand What A Blues Scale Was"

Ultimate Guitar's Justin Beckner caught up with KISS legend Gene Simmons a year ago for a feature on his iconic AXE Bass and the subject of music theory came up. A portion of the interview has now been published, an excerpt is available below.

UG: Where do you start for someone who's never played a bass? You know, for that kid just picking up this first bass?

Simmons: "It's a simple idea. I can write songs and I can play various instruments, guitar, bass keyboards, and something like that, and even though I understand the basics of it, I understand that this handheld chord on a guitar is an, A minor, or A major, I understand that. But I can't read or write music. Nor could Jimi Hendrix or Lennon and McCartney or anybody who's in popular music almost without exception. And likewise, I can speak various languages, although it's not important to be able to read or write."

"Buddy Rich is one of the all-time greatest band leaders and drummers, but he couldn't read or write music, he did it all by ear. So the first thing I teach everybody is to forget what the strings are called, and what the notes are called, the first string is 'one,' the second string is 'two,' and 'three,' and then 'four.' And you're gonna give me combinations of numbers, they'll go, 'three,' and 'one,' and 'four,' and all that. And then I go, Okay, here's the count, boom, boom, everybody starts plugging away at those three (notes they called out), and then it's musical, they don't have to know the names of (the notes)."

"And I'll tell you a telling story. KISS took out Rush on their first tour. They came out to support us, you know, because we liked what they did. And this was in their 'Working Man' period, when they sounded kind of like a Canadian Zeppelin, which I still prefer, sound-wise, but obviously, they've done very well, and we used to hang out with the guys and joke around everything."

"One night back at the hotel or backstage someplace, Geddy (Lee) and I were sitting down, trading licks, and I said, 'Do you want to do a blues scale? You go first, and then I'll continue the chord pattern,' and he said, 'I don't know what you mean.' At least from what I recall, Geddy didn't understand what a blues scale was or what '1,4,5' meant. That also bears noting that when you go '1,4,5' to a musician, that means something, it's a relationship of notes or chords. And so I go, 'Well, okay then, you hit a G, either octave or low,' and he said, 'Which one is that?' Geddy played purely by ear. Now of course later on, he learned what the notes were and stuff like that, but it's the same thing with The Edge. The reason you heard 'jingle jangle jingle jangle,' kind of thing — that became the style of U2's guitar sound is when The Edge started playing guitar in a band, he couldn't play chords. He just strummed various notes so, it's all open to… Music is an interesting thing. You don't have to get complex about it, just start."

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