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
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
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.
© Gary James All Rights Reserved