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Articles : A Close Discussion With Peter Criss

By on May 4, 2017

Many consider Peter Criss to be one of the most influential drummers in the history of rock’n’roll. In the 70’s and early 80’s, young hands all over the world were driven to pick up anything resembling a drum stick and bash away to Criss’s famous backbeat on all time Kiss classics such as “Rock and Roll All Nite”, “Shout It Out Loud” and “Detroit Rock City”.

Criss, as the originator of the “Catman” character appeared on all Kiss releases from Kiss (‘74) to Dynasty (‘79). All of those albums are considered classics in one way or another and it is fair to say that Criss has enjoyed a long and acclaimed career in rock’n’roll.

It is with great enthusiasm and genuine affection that he rewards Australian fans for years of loyalty by bringing his second to last show ever to Melbourne audiences for the One Last Time Dinner Performance Show at The Sofitel in Melbourne 12th May. He will also be making an appearance at The Australian KISS Konvention at Wick Studios on 13th & 14th May.

Peter Criss from on Vimeo.

“Melbourne has been so cool to me, we (Kiss) did a symphony there. You guys have always been open and honest to us, you have always loved each one of us separately. (Australia) is at the end of the world but there is something special about where you are.”

It is evident that Melbourne and Australia are special to both Criss and the rest of Kiss. He has this to say about his upcoming Australian appearances.

“I can’t wait to get there. I’m not looking forward to the 24-hour flight but I am sure looking forward to seeing you guys, it is going to be a breath of fresh air. It is going to be a very magical evening, trust me my friend. I am so looking forward to it. I wanted to do an intimate show. I started in clubs and I said to my wife I didn’t want to end in stadiums, I wanted to end in an intimate place. Same in New York here, we have a nice intimate place ready (for the final ever Peter Criss show). Just cool and that is what it should be.”

During the height of his success with Kiss, I ask if he was aware of just how many impressionable kids and teenagers he influenced to become a drummer’s and get into rock’n’roll?

“Yes around ‘75 or ‘76 I started seeing that it wasn’t just a band, it was like four individuals like the Beatles. I was getting a lot of mail for me and the other boys are getting their own mail. I started to see the Cat makeup on a lot of faces. I hear Steven Adler (Guns N’ Roses) and Gregg Bissonette (David Lee Roth, Joe Satriani) are fans. Chad Wackerman (Frank Zappa, Steve Vai) said to me that “if it wasn’t for you dude I wouldn’t be playing drums today. I wouldn’t have a great living” and it really blows me away man. It just blows my mind.”

The opportunity to chat to Criss is indeed rare. As a fan of his own musical catalogue outside of Kiss I decided to dive deep into his recording history and ask if he thought success was possible all those years ago when he started his recording career with the band Chelsea in 1970.

“I am very proud of Chelsea. When I started recording I really thought I was going to make it. They were extremely creative. I was very influenced by The Doors, Hendrix and The Mothers of Invention. The guys (in Chelsea) were too and they were from the Village, so when we found out that we were going to get produced by Lewis Merenstein (who also produced van Morrison’s Astral Weeks ‘68) I was like “Holy shit, we made it!” Then out of Chelsea, Stan Penridge stayed with me and we started a group called Lips. Then that kind of fell apart and I met Gene and Paul, but Stan and I always wrote together. We wouldn’t stop fighting together so thank god we wrote “Beth” together. Well that song has won a People’s Choice award and that is the biggest hit that the band (Kiss) has ever had, I’m very proud of that.”

Those yet to read “Makeup to Breakup”, Criss’ excellent memoir are encouraged to do so. It is one of those books that I read in a few days as I simply couldn’t put it down. In the book Criss is willing to share his thoughts on many controversial and well storied episodes through his career. I ask him if he thinks fate has played a part in his story.

“Yes, I do. I’m a big God guy. I am an eleven-year male breast cancer survivor and I am very proud of that. It was close, in fact I went immediately and I did chemo and had to go through all that horror.”

The approach to writing the memoir was one that forced Criss to confront some very personal affronts.

“I really have a lot to be thankful for, I have really got to do the work (when writing the memoir) and really search my soul and no bullshit. That is the god honest truth. I really ripped out my heart and I thought if I am going to knock somebody else I am going to put myself down on the line. It wasn’t going to be like “I’m so cool”. I really laid it on the line. There was always some shit that would go out (about Criss) and it would be kind of a one-sided story and I would always say, “Well there is two sides to the story”, there is another side to the story, like why did I quit the band or if I did this or did that, what was my reason? I am not an idiot, I am really well versed. I went to school. I am very intelligent.”

The memoir certainly resonated with fans across the globe and that wasn’t lost on Criss.

“I look at why book has been so successful. I was really flattered, I couldn’t tell the fans a lot of times during the reunion the stuff is going on and this was why I was pissed. So, it all came out in the book, I was very proud of it, it got a great response and I got to meet my fans, like really meet them one on one. “

One of my earliest memories that I believe started my own rock and metal odyssey occurred way back in 1984. It was before school and I recall getting my bag ready and packed for the rigours of grade One.

A standard issue wooden ruler from the local Catholic school was secured firmly by my left hand, and in my right hand I held an uncorked red texta that was ready for the branding. I summoned the memory of various band names, then written graffiti style on those Army Surplus canvas backpacks slung low and over the shoulder of every second school kid in the suburbs of Australian cities.

I remembered the band logo I wanted to draw on the ruler as I’d seen it many, many times. I can distinctly remember the appeal- It was (as it is to this day) a simple and powerful image that automatically rendered you a member of a club or even an Army! The marketing genius behind it is that it appealed as much to a six year old as a 26 year old, and the enduring legacy of the logo means that it is almost without peer as the most recognisable of any band ever.

So on that ruler, on what I assume was a day like any other back then… slowly, yet awkwardly I wrote the letters to the hottest band in the world… KISS!

Thanks to Peter for taking the time to chat as it will be an interview I will cherish for many years to come. I will leave the last words to Peter himself.

“God bless you and thanks so much. I am very honoured that you called me, really thank you so much and I will see you again.”

Catch Peter Criss at the Australia KISS Convention from May 12th to 14th in Melbourne. Tickets on sale now! Head to the official Facebook page to find out more.

Australia KISS Convention w/Peter Criss
May 12th-14th, 2017

May 12th:
VIP Dinner Performance by Peter Criss

May 13th-14th:
Open Convention w/ Peter Criss and other special guests!


Andrew is a musician who has spent many years performing on the stages of the pubs and clubs of QLD. A devotee of the broad church that is rock, punk, funk, jazz and of course all genres of metal... he now shares his enthusiasm via a burgeoning pursuit of music journalism. Follow him on twitter @i_c_e_man