David Lee Roth's Relationship With Gene Simmons Explained

If you're a fan of Van Halen's serious side, Sammy Hagar is probably your favorite of the band's frontmen. But if you prefer to remember the recently disbanded act for their party anthems, chances are you're partial toward David Lee Roth. While arguably not the most gifted vocalist from a technical standpoint, Roth's hyperactive stage presence and endless charisma made him the ideal frontman for Van Halen during the group's first decade-plus of existence.

Although things turned out differently for Van Halen as they started attracting attention from the heavyweights of the music industry in the mid-to-late '70s, KISS co-frontman Gene Simmons was a key figure in the early history of the Pasadena, California, act, and he's reminded people of that fact on many an occasion, taking credit for being one of their earliest supporters. Like Roth, he's also quite the character, what with his on-stage Demon persona and his outspoken off-stage nature.

Given those similarities between Roth and Simmons, it's easy to assume that they get along, or got along famously. However, as we were reminded recently, there has been at least a little bit of tension between both men for quite a while now, and it all started after Simmons produced a demo album for a then-unsigned Van Halen.

Roth claimed Simmons wanted to poach Eddie Van Halen for KISS

Gene Simmons' Van Halen connection dates back all the way to 1976 when famed disc jockey Rodney Bingenheimer (via the Los Angeles Times) invited the KISS singer-bassist to watch the youngsters from Pasadena play a show. This led to Simmons producing a demo album for Van Halen, though in the end, KISS' management team was supposedly unimpressed, especially with David Lee Roth's vocals. As quoted by Van Halen News Desk, Roth recalled in his autobiography, "Crazy from the Heat," that he felt "terrible" and momentarily thought that he might not be good enough for his band. However, he went on to claim that he realized Simmons' true intent was to eventually recruit Eddie Van Halen to join KISS. Roth also alleged that Simmons would call Eddie and invite him to contribute guitar solos during KISS recording sessions.

"I was always fiercely protective of what we were doing as a group, as a clan, 'cause there's always going to be pirates, there's always going to be carpetbaggers, like Simmons," Roth wrote. "And I would show up with Ed at the studio. Simmons would always look at me with horror. Horror. 'Cause I was on to his game way early."

Ultimately, Eddie Van Halen stuck it out with his namesake band until his death in October 2020. KISS, meanwhile, hung on to lead guitarist Ace Frehley until he left the group in the early '80s and was replaced by Vinnie Vincent.

Simmons removed Roth from KISS' farewell tour and blasted him in an interview

You may love him or hate him, and you may not always agree with his comments. But Gene Simmons calls things as he sees them, and he's never been one to pull his verbal punches while doing so. While Simmons and David Lee Roth previously never had any serious beef in the four-plus decades after he produced Van Halen's demo, that changed in 2021 when Roth was removed from KISS' then-recently restarted farewell tour, where he had appeared as a supporting act before the COVID-19 pandemic.

In August of that year, Simmons spoke to Rolling Stone and went scorched-earth on Roth when he was asked why the former Van Halen frontman was removed from the KISS tour. "It bears noting that during Dave's heyday, nobody did what he did. He was the ultimate frontman. Not [Robert] Plant, not Rod Stewart, nobody. He took being a frontman way beyond anything. And then, I don't know what happened to him ... something. And you get modern-day Dave." Simmons went on to compare the situation with Roth to how he prefers to remember Elvis Presley as the young rock 'n' roller of his prime and not the "bloated, naked" version who died in 1977.

Needless to say, Roth wasn't happy with Simmons' comments, and he responded by taking to Instagram and sharing a photo of a young boy flipping the bird, with the words "Roth to Simmons" near the bottom of the photo. As noted by Yahoo, Diamond Dave didn't just share the photo once — he posted it eighteen times to make his sentiments perfectly clear.

Simmons quickly apologized for his remarks

Less than a week after Gene Simmons' Rolling Stone interview was published, the KISS co-frontman spoke to Us Weekly and publicly apologized to David Lee Roth for the offending remarks. He brought up his earliest days working with Van Halen, noting that he flew them to New York to record the aforementioned 15-song demo album and "championed the band." Simmons then touched specifically on his comments to Rolling Stone and admitted that his "stream of consciousness" style might have led to him saying things that he didn't immediately realize were potentially offensive. "I don't mean to hurt people's feelings, and every once in a while, diarrhea of the mouth comes out," he continued.

Regarding his comparison of present-day Roth to a "bloated, naked Elvis on the bathroom floor," Simmons stressed that he wasn't talking about Roth, but he still regrets making those comments. "I didn't mean to hurt his feelings," the singer-bassist said. "It reminds me of the guy that gets out of a truck and says, 'Hey I'm sorry, buddy, I didn't mean to run you over.' Well, what the f***'s the difference? You've been run over."

As of this writing, we're still not sure if Roth accepted Simmons' apology, but Simmons told 95.5 KLOS (via Rock Celebrities) toward the end of August 2021 that he hasn't been able to successfully reach out to Roth.