Gene Simmons Reveals U2 Member ‘Couldn’t Play’

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In the world of music, there are iconic instruments that transcend their mere functionality to become symbols of an artist’s persona. Gene Simmons, the legendary bassist of KISS, has created such an instrument with his AXE Bass. While many fans purchase these basses purely for their admiration of Simmons and his band, they now have the opportunity to delve deeper into the world of music through his unique Master Classes.

Simmons recognizes that the majority of AXE Bass owners are not professional bass players, but rather dedicated fans who have the means to acquire these exclusive instruments. The AXE Bass experience goes beyond just owning a piece of rock history; it offers the chance to learn directly from The Demon himself. During his Master Class sessions, Simmons takes fans on a journey of discovery, teaching them the fundamentals of songwriting and instrument playing.

Now, when you think of Gene, you think of an artist who is more “in the pocket” and not someone who is doing anything crazy, however, Gene actually taught the famed Geddy Lee a thing or three about music.

Via UG – Simmons shares an intriguing anecdote about his interaction with Geddy Lee of Rush, where the topic of music theory came up. Despite Lee’s musical prowess, he initially did not understand terms like “blues scale” or “1,4,5,” which demonstrate the relationships between notes and chords. This example illustrates that musical genius can be fueled by intuition and a keen ear, rather than formal education.

Gene said: “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.

Simmons also highlights The Edge of U2, who developed a unique guitar style based on his initial struggle to play chords. Instead, The Edge strummed various notes, ultimately creating the distinctive “jingle jangle” sound associated with U2’s music. These stories serve as a reminder that music is not confined to technicality but can be approached with an open mind and a willingness to explore.

Simmons continued: “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.”