By Matt Harper
Gene Simmons: rock god, legendary lothario, reality TV "star" ... and now, savior of the Canadian music scene? Yep, in a somewhat baffling move, the Kiss bassist has partnered with Universal Canada to (re-)form Simmons Records: an all-Canadian imprint hoping to search out and recruit unsigned Canuck music acts.
Now, as a Canadian (who's lived in New York for about three years), this news made me feel fairly conflicted. On one hand, who am I to criticize someone aiming to pump money into the Canadian economy, especially by supporting an arts and culture scene that is 100 percent worthy. On the other hand, there is an air of condescension surrounding this whole venture. In a recent impassioned response to an Idolator post, Simmons bluntly stated his reasons for coming to the rescue of the hard-working but apparently overlooked Canadian musicians: "Why here? Because you DO have the talent. And now, you have a WAY. ME."
While I appreciate Simmons clear enthusiasm for the project (seriously, check out the label’s Web site, which has some choice words for naysayers), he has to realize that to many Canadians, a move like this will feel a tad invasive, and possibly exploitative coming from someone with no clear ties to Canada. Not to mention the fact that many successful Canadian music labels already exist!
And yes, while Canada's most obvious musical exports may be Celine Dion and Rush (don't forget the many others, from Neil Young and Joni Mitchell to Broken Social Scene and Feist), we still have a long and influential musical history, and tend to be a proud people when it comes to our culture.
So Gene, we hope you're helping out your brothers to the North for the right reasons.