TESLA bassist Brian Wheat has dismissed the notion that rock is dead, saying some of the biggest artists in the genre are still huge concert draws.
While rock 'n' roll has been king of the music world for decades, in the past few years, it's been unseated by the growing popularity of hip-hop. This has caused many pundits to proclaim the genre "dead" from an industry perspective, noting that it has been eclipsed in all measures by pop, hip-hop, and EDM.
A few years ago, KISS bassist/vocalist Simmons told Esquire magazine that "rock did not die of old age. It was murdered. Some brilliance, somewhere, was going to be expressed and now it won't because it's that much harder to earn a living playing and writing songs. No one will pay you to do it."
A number of hard rock and heavy metal musicians have weighed in on the topic in a variety of interviews over the last several years, with some digging a little deeper into Simmons's full remarks and others just glossing over the headline.
Wheat, who is promoting his recently released autobiography, "Son Of A Milkman: My Crazy Life With Tesla", spoke about rock's supposed diminishing status during a recent interview with the "Rock 'N' Roll Icons With Bode James" podcast. Addressing the whole "rock is dead" debate, Brian said (hear audio below): "Well, I don't know. I think Gene made a lot of money on that [KISS] show in Dubai [on New Year's Eve]. It didn't seem like rock was dead that night.
"I think what Gene's trying to say is that rock as it was, say, in 1989 is not the same as it is today," Brian continued. "In 1989, rock was all over the media, it was all over TV, it was all over radio, and now it's become more of a selective thing that was similar to maybe the early '70s when rock wasn't — you had these waves of hard rock. So I think that's what he's saying.
"It's not dead; it's just not number one on everyone's list. Especially when you look at that 10-year run we had from about '87 to '97, with rock and grunge, whatever you wanna call it; it was still rock music to me. And it was everywhere.
"That's what I think he's trying to say," Wheat added. "It's not dead, because certainly when you put DEF LEPPARD and MÖTLEY CRÜE and POISON and Joan Jett in baseball stadiums, and it sells out in a day, that's not the indication that that kind of music's dead. But, look, there are less rock stations. MTV doesn't play rock videos, VH1 — those things are gone. So, as we knew it at that time, yeah, it's different. But I wouldn't say it's dead. But that's Gene's thing. I'm not worried about Gene's thing. Gene gets enough publicity."
The "rock is dead" argument has popped up again and again throughout the years, including in 2018 after MAROON 5 lead singer Adam Levine told Variety magazine that "rock music is nowhere, really. I don't know where it is," he said. "If it's around, no one's invited me to the party. All of the innovation and the incredible things happening in music are in hip-hop. It's better than everything else. Hip-hop is weird and avant-garde and flawed and real, and that's why people love it."