Gene Simmons recalled the last time he saw Eddie Van Halen. Simmons, who played a key role in the development of Van Halen, had signed them to a production deal and produced the pre-fame demos recordings for the then-unsigned act. When he failed to bring the group to the next level of securing a recording deal, he graciously let them free from their deal.
During a new chat with Classic Rock, Gene Simmons spoke about his late-friend and legendary guitarist: “My friendship with him is something that I will always treasure. In the beginning we saw one another a lot, but less so as the years passed by. Our final meeting was in Los Angeles, we bumped into each other on Sunset Boulevard. He was already deeply affected by cancer. I had read that he blamed his condition on using a metal guitar pick, putting it in his mouth. In my view that wasn’t the case. Ed smoked all the time.”
He went on to say, “All the same, when I heard that familiar voice calling my name on the street — 'Hey, Gene!' — I wasn’t sure what to say. His condition was well known at that point. He brought it up at the start of the conversation: 'Hey, man, how you doing? I’ve got cancer.' I was embarrassed and wanted to reach out and hug him, but standing there on the street with a cigarette in his hand he opened his mouth and smiled: 'Check this out,' inviting me to look at the space where his upper palette should have been. He just shrugged: 'I’ve got this disease, watcha gonna do? I’ll see you around.' It was typical Ed; happy-go-lucky.”
Simmons laid out the bottom line about Eddie Van Halen, explaining, “Eddie was all about the music, not just the chicks or the rock n' roll lifestyle. That’s something I always admired about him. He was a lover of life. Whenever you met him he smiled from ear to ear.”
In regard to Eddie Van Halen's legacy, Simmons pulled no punches when he said, “As much as his death was upsetting, it also made me a little furious that so many of our so-called 'younger generation' remain unaware of his talents. For fuck’s sake, parents should be slapping mobile phones out of their kids’ hands and telling them to check out this guy. Our millennials need to know about the most important musician since Jimi Hendrix. There will never be another like him.”
A while back, Gene Simmons spoke to Eddie Trunk and shed light on his early connection to Van Halen: “I found a band called Van Halen and flew them to New York and produced their first demo, which included their first record and a lot of other tunes that would up (on other albums) through the years. And I couldn't convince (Kiss manager) Bill Aucoin to sign them, or the record company (Casablanca), because Bill Aucoin thought that they looked like Black Oak Arkansas. And I told him he was on crack again, because nobody knew who that band was, and so what if they were, there — this is the next big band in America. I really believed it, I couldn't convince anybody. So, I said to them, 'Y'know, I got ya signed (to a production deal), go back to L.A. after the tour, let's see what happens. I gotta go out on tour with Kiss.' At the end of the tour, they got a deal with Warner's and I tore up the contract (and said) 'consider this a gift.'”