Peter Criss Interview

The departure of Peter Criss from Kiss, stunned the entire rock world. Since leaving, Criss has released his first non-Kiss solo album on Casablanca Records titled "Out Of Control." Criss' replacement is twenty-seven year old Eric Carr.

Kiss with Peter Criss, recorded sixteen albums, sold forty million records, and enjoyed sales of up to $100 million dollars a year worth of Kiss related products.

It was back in 71 that Peter Criss placed an ad in "Roll­ing Stone" Magazine that would change his life. It read "Drummer willing to do anything to make it." He was contacted by Kiss members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, and asked to join.

Peter Criss' new life includes wife Debra Svensk, a former Playboy centerfold and Coppertone model.

We talked with Peter Criss, in his manager's office in New York.

Q. Peter, what are you doing these days?
A. Right now I'm relaxing, finally, in my life. I'm living the country life. I'm gonna be a father in March. I'm waiting for the baby. I want to be there. I don't want to be somewhere in Diluth when I'm a daddy. I want to be there with my wife and child.

Q. The question everybody asks - why did you leave Kiss?
A. I wanted to do my own thing, my own music and ten years in Kiss was enough for me. I got tired of playing the heavy metal stuff. I like writing love songs. I like playing with strings, horns, and pianos. I really dig that man. I'm very proud I was with the guys and I guess I'll always be the fourth member of Kiss, just like a Beatle will always be a Beatle. Things don't last forever. I didn't want to be forty years old someday and saying could I have made it on my music ability or was it just the great, grand show that Kiss throws.

Q. What was it like to be in the studio and on stage with the other guys?
A. To me it was a great show. The public wanted some heroes and we were the heroes of the 70's, and the show was an extravagant thing. It did blow everybody away. There hasn't been yet a bigger show than Kiss' show. I was just back there working my ass off and stuff and Gene and Paul would always be in the limelight and Ace and I weren't. That disturbed me.
After the success I had with Beth and then my first solo album was up for two Grammy’s, I would get lots of phone calls and mail saying, Gee, Peter, we don't hear enough of you. And when I'd come up with tunes the guys would kind of out vote me and say it's not Kiss music. I'd say well Jesus, "Beth" wasn't either but it's the biggest smash we ever had. So I kind of got frustrated and I said I want to do my own thing. Thank God, you know I could do that and I thank them and myself for that. And that's what I'm try­ing to do now.

Q. How was Kiss received in Australia?
A. I have fifteen gold albums from Australia so I know they did well there. I heard they had a rough time in Europe. The popularity I've been told has kind of lessened for them. I don't really know how it's gonna go for them or how many more years they're gonna keep it up. I know it's not easy for Eric to sit in my chair after ten years. It's got­ta be hard, but I hope the best for them.

Q. How is it different being on your own?
A. I walk down the street, people recognize me, ask for an autograph and that's a great feeling. I cut my hair a little shorter, got a beard and moustache and I don't have to shave everyday. I just feel freer, a lot of that weight is off my shoulder.

Q. Do you regret taking off the make-up after what happened to John Lennon?
A. I don't regret it and you know I found out it hasn't been so bad since I've taken it off. People really don't hassle me. People will come up and say we still love you, we're still behind you. After Lennon's misfortune, God we lost one of the greatest. He was my idol and it's not ‘cause he's not here anymore, but he was. I took it really hard. No one should die that way. Nobody should. I'm a little afraid sometimes now. I think everybody is. That could happen. Now you know it could happen. You can get a little paranoid. I'm kinda glad I'm not living in New York but it can happen anywhere I guess, no matter where you are.

Q. Could a group take what Kiss did one step further?
A. They'd have to have a lot of money. We put ourselves in­to a situation where we used to sit in a room and diagram new stages and new gimmicks. We had to outdo ourselves which would mean millions of dollars. It's amazing how expensive it can be to try and be different.

Q. I was once told that your manager Bill Avcoin really didn't believe the group had musical talent. Is that true?
A. That's a crazy statement, I mean Bill still manages me privately and Kiss, and he has all the faith in the world in us. He was always very proud of whatever we put out. If a manager had that outlook I'd drop him. I wouldn't want him. Bill was an effective manager, one of the tops. He took us from doing shabby ballrooms to Anaheim Stadium. That's not such a bad track record.

Q. You're a big fan of Frank Sinatra.
A. I got all his records. I listen to him at home. I just find him to be an amazing entertainer at 65 to still get a hit record. He's been up and down so many times that every time he was down he had that energy to take himself up. Bingo, right on top! I kinda can relate to that. I have that goal now. I want to get out there and do it. It feels like I'm starting all over again like the early days of Kiss, but it's a great feeling.

Q. Are you happy with the promotion of "Out Of Control"?
A. I think I've been hurt a little bit on it. I don't think they got behind me as much as they should have. They didn't make a lot of noise. I didn't see myself in the trades, radio spots. A lot of d.j.'s wouldn't even play it 'cause they said if it's Peter Criss it's gotta be like Kiss. And I thought it really wasn't fair to me 'cause it isn't Kiss, if you listen to it. It's nothing to do with their music. So it kinda screwed me up in America. It's doing great in Europe.

Q. How did you handle the criticism from other musicians about "Kiss"?
A. Well, it's funny you know. I would be in my dressing room ready to go onto play for forty thousand people - a sell out audience. And I'd say screw it! They're jealous! I'm selling out, these kids are screamin', there's a doll out there who looks like me, a lunchbox and a schoolbag. So it didn't disturb me much. Recently I read something that Todd Rundgren writes; if anybody's gonna leave Kiss it's Peter Criss 'cause he's the best musician they got. He's very bright and he does write beautiful music. That's a compliment. I'm startin' to get compliments now from what I consider to be top musicians.

Q. What do groups today have to look forward to?
A. Bands to me, seem to be goin' back to the nightclubs again. They're gettin' back in touch with the audience. Big name people are playin' clubs. I plan on doin' that. You have clubs now that seat 3,000 people.

Q. When did you first think about leaving Kiss?
A. Well, we were doing a movie called "Kiss Meets the Phantom" and I started thinkin' about it then. I thought God this is turnin' out to be such a damn business. I was losin' the fun of the early days when we were struggling, and now we were kind of having a lot of money and things we never could afford, we could afford without looking at the price tag. That got scary for me, I didn't like it, and I started thinkin' then about splittin'.

Q. How do you see music changing?
A. I think kids are gettin' back to listening to lyrics again, like we used to do with the Beatles. They pay more atten­tion to the music and you just can't throw out any trash anymore, four chord songs. I'm tryin' to be a serious writer, composer. I'm playin' for a little more mature au­dience and now I'm going up there without bombs and fire and just a straight on rock show, with lights. That's what I want to do. You shouldn't stay with something if you don't believe in it anymore. I just got tired of what I was doing. Now I believe in what I'm doing.

Q. Will the musicians on the album be your road group?
A. No. The only guy still with me is Stan Penridge, who wrote a lot of songs with me. We've been co-writing songs since we were both in " Chelsea" on Decca Records. He's probably the only one who will be with me. The other guys are studio cats; they won't be in my band.

Q. Who finds the studio musicians for you?
A. The producer gets 'em for you. He just knows a bunch of 'em and he hires, fires 'em. They're good enough to become famous rock n' roll musicians but they don't want that. They just want to get their pay in the studio and go home. They don't want to live the life on the road. If the word gets out that I'm looking for some top cats. I get 'em. You know they jump at the chance to play with me.

Q. Why didn't Kiss play outdoors more often?
A. Well, it was hard. We never really sounded that great outdoors as we did indoors. We did play Braves Stadium and Anaheim Stadium. We were at our best in the dark, for the effects we used. I love playin' outdoors, and I hope to be doin' it.

Q. Will you continue to be booked by A.T.I.?
A. I don't know, you know. If they can book me for my music, in the right halls I'll stay with 'em. If not, I'll go with someone else. It's that simple. They have to book me where I'm comfortable and it's a good place to play, and it's my type of audience. I can't play for a heavy metal au­dience 'cause I'm not part of that music.

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