Musicians in today's rock bands look like "garbage collectors" and the only true new star is Lady Gaga, members of the legendary heavy metal group KISS say.
"There are a lot of bands that have something. What's missing is stardom. The ability to get up on stage and rule, bigger than life," said KISS bassist and singer-songwriter Gene Simmons.
In a conversation during a promotional appearance Tuesday for the KISS Monster Book, the band explained their decision to record their next disc, Monster, with analog equipment.
They also defended the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, whose members were sentenced to prison last week in Moscow.
"There are no stars. There's no Elvis, there's no ... even Prince,'' said Simmons. "Stage presence - none of the bands have it, they look like garbage collectors. They look worse than the audience that comes to see them.''
"There's no pride,'' said the 62-year-old, who is known for his own on-stage persona as "The Demon" in a band that flaunts over-the-top costumes and black-and-white makeup.
KISS's four band members spoke to reporters in The Viper Room, a renowned Hollywood bar where the actor River Phoenix died of a drug overdose in 1993.
Dressed in black, without makeup, in silver neck chains and long hair, the creators of rock hymns like I Wanna Rock N Roll All Night and I Was Made for Lovin' You agreed the extravagant Lady Gaga stands alone among new performers.
"The only new rock star is Lady Gaga. That's it. She's a star," said Simmons, in white crocodile skin cowboy boots and a silk scarf. "There are some very, very good bands, I'm a big fan of Foo Fighters, but give me the stars."
It's not just about the show, he said. "Elvis could walk up on stage with nothing. But charisma. Image. Mystique."
Paul Stanley, the group's star and lead vocalist, went further.
"Musicians who look like the delivery boy ... don't realize that there's more. When big bands go on stage, they deliver their goods," he said.
"That's why we've been around 40 years, because people know when they come to see us, they're going to get their money's worth and they're going to be entertained. We are proud to be entertainers and a hell of a rock band."
Stanley, who was wearing a black jacket and checker-board shoes with silver studs, and Simmons are the last members of the original KISS, which they formed in the early 1970s.
Lead guitarist Tommy Taylor and drummer Eric Singer were brought in later as replacements after a break up in the original line-up.
Asked about the Pussy Riot furor in Russia, Simmons said they're "not a good band, but they have the right to do whatever they want to do. And it's too bad that politics gets in the way of rock bands."
Stanley said: "A strong country should never be afraid of freedom. And with freedom comes independence, a sense of independence, and many countries still want to squash that."
The band is promoting its megabook as a collector's item. A limited edition of 1000 copies, it is individually signed by the band's members and spans KISS's 40 year history. It includes 127 photographs, some never published before.
The affable rockers, who showed little trace of the fearsome personas they project on stage, told AFP they are recording their next album using analog equipment, seeking beauty in imperfection.
Monster, their 20th studio album, is scheduled to be released in October.
"All the greatest music that was ever made, was made on tape, was analog. The problem with computers and technology is, when it's not used for enhancement, it becomes a noose around your neck," Stanley said.
"You wind up looking for perfection instead of passion. And all the music that we grew up loving - Led Zeppelin, Beatles, Stones, James Brown, Motown, you name it - none of them were perfect, and that's what made them great.