Gene Simmons Reveals Shocking Truth About Geddy Lee’s Lack Of Formal Music Theory Knowledge

In a recently surfaced interview with Ultimate Guitar he gave about a year ago, KISS’ Gene Simmons shared his thoughts on Geddy Lee’s bass-playing abilities and formal understanding of musical theory.

After recalling Rush joining them as the supporting act in a previous tour, the bassist revealed a musical exchange with Lee, explaining:

“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.”

He then discussed Geddy’s approach to playing by ear:

“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.”

Drawing a parallel with The Edge and U2’s guitar sound, Simmons continued:

“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.”

The whole conversation kicked off with a question directed at Gene, asking about the starting point for someone entirely new to bass. To which he replied by saying:

“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.”

The musician added:

“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.”

Although he admits that he can’t really read or write music, Simmons built an impressive career with KISS. The band is currently on the road for their farewell tour, wrapping up in December.