6 career defining records of Peter Criss

3rd Aug 2009 | 15:19

6 career defining records of Peter Criss
Peter Criss
The Catman chooses six of the best

Peter Criss (aka The Catman) is one of the founding members of rock titans Kiss, a drummer and an award-winning singer-songwriter.

Here he picks the six records which have most defined his career with Kiss, and as a solo musician, telling Rhythm Magazine why they mattered so much along the way.

Next page: Backwards drums and screaming children...

6 career defining records of Peter Criss
Destroyer (1976)
KISS

Just what were Kiss thinking? Backwards drums, an unusual array of instruments, sound effects, screaming children, choirs, eccentric production techniques and the New York Philharmonic symphony orchestra... madness or genius?

Peter Criss says:

“I found myself recording the intro to God Of Thunder in an empty elevator shaft of a building. Bob Ezrin (producer) positioned the mics up on the top floor. I thought he was crazy but I loved the idea!”

“As I was playing, I saw two guys coming into the building to pick up the garbage. Bob heard me in hysterics and yelled down my headset, ‘What’s wrong with you?’. There I was, with blue-black hair, thumping a beat on a big bass drum and two floor toms, while these Mexican guys were absolutely freakin’ out!”

“They couldn’t speak English and didn’t know what to do with the garbage! Ezrin heard the racket, started laughing and ran to where I was set up to see what was really going on – it was a blast! We laughed about it for hours!”

6 career defining records of Peter Criss
Love Gun (1977)
KISS

The first album to include all members on lead vocal and the last to feature the original line-up. Love Gun’s snare lick and the Mitch Mitchell-inspired manic grooves are legendary.

Peter Criss says:

“I loved Mitch Mitchell! Like me, he was a jazz drummer and there was a feel in my playing that was very jazz and rhythm and blues. I was breaking out with these crazy, odd-time fills in Shock Me, and simply playing without thinking because that’s what really came naturally”

“There were no rules and that’s when my drumming in Kiss was at its best. Things were changing for the better too - Ace was singing and I had contributed Hooligan - we were having a lot more fun as a band.”

“The album was recorded in a theatre. Ace, Gene and Paul were downstairs while I was in a bathroom upstairs, watching the guys through a video camera. I wanted that big ass drum sound and the bathroom gave it to me! We were totally out of control, man!”

6 career defining records of Peter Criss
Peter Criss (1978)
KISS

Paying homage to his musical roots and heroes, Criss was upset when this Kiss-emblazoned solo effort was misinterpreted by fans and not given the rotation it truly deserved.

Peter Criss says:

“I was a major Sam Cooke fan and I loved James Brown. In my bar room days, I played in rhythm and blues cover bands and dreamed of making a soul record. The Kiss guys weren’t around to bust my chops and Vini Poncia (producer) let me have full reign.”

“I was let down because it was my first realisation that the fans preferred a Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath feel. Not that I was ahead of my time but there were certain songs on the album that were so hip. Paul Shaffer (‘David Letterman Show’ bandleader) thinks it was the coolest record out of the four Kiss solo releases.”

“Unfortunately, the music just flew over everyone’s heads because the songs didn’t have that typical Kiss ‘blow your face up’ sound. It was definitely the probe for me to realise that r’n’b was the music I really wanted to play.”

6 career defining records of Peter Criss
Cat #1 (1994)
Peter Criss

The Catman re-emerges wearing his heart on his sleeve. The session musicians from his ‘78 solo outing have departed and are replaced with a hard rockin’ outfit called Criss.

Peter Criss says:

“I thought Criss was the shit and that musically we had something to say. It was a killer line-up, which included Mark Montague on bass and Mike Stone, who’s now with Queensryche, on guitar and vocals. It was so cool to have Ace Frehley play on the record too.”

“Unfortunately, not long after the album’s release, the band went through turmoil and partially disbanded. I also suffered a divorce and my mother passed. I wrote Blue Moon Over Brooklyn for my mom, and The Trut’ was about civil war.”

“My wife Gigi recently said to me, ‘You son of a bitch! You really write about what’s going down. It’s like there’s no lies in your writing and I love that.’ There are some very profound lyrics on Cat #1, and it was definitely a statement.”

6 career defining records of Peter Criss
Symphony: Alive IV (2003)
KISS

Conductor David Campbell said, “Kiss’s music lends itself to the orchestral treatment.” Imagine Peter’s thrill counting “One, two, three – hit it!” and having a symphony orchestra launch into Black Diamond with him...

Peter Criss says:

“Growing up on the streets of Brooklyn to being on stage with a 60-piece orchestra was like a permanent erection! For a split second I thought, ‘Man, I’m the only drummer up here and this entire orchestra is following my lead!’”

“The rehearsals were an absolute gas! One time, I was messing around with Benny Goodman’s ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ and the orchestra just joined in. It was unbelievable. The only lowlights were that Ace wasn’t there and that Mr Simmons and Mr Stanley had arranged for me to perform Beth with a symphony ensemble, instead of the full orchestration I was given on Destroyer.”

“That still didn’t rain on my parade because I sang my heart out. I enjoyed myself because the crowd was having a ball and it was such a golden moment for me. I will never forget the symphony experience in Australia.”

6 career defining records of Peter Criss
One For All (2007)
Peter Criss

From stage classics to blues and bolero, Criss’s candid song writing, inimitable vocals and production prowess shine on this autobiographical release. Simply put, One For All has it all.

Peter Criss says:

“People ask me, ‘Peter, aren’t you afraid that you’ve exposed yourself emotionally on this album?’ I reply, ‘No! When I started Kiss, I wore lipstick and high heels.’ The public thought we were insane, but that didn’t affect me.”

“When I pour my heart out I hold nothing back. On this album I really wanted to be in command of my voice, so I went back to singing lessons. When I sang ‘Send In The Clowns’ I was, for the first time in my life, in total control. I also had the privilege of working with an urban boys’ choir from the Church of Transfiguration.”

“It was a case of stepping out of being The Catman and becoming Peter Criss the producer. I never really did it all [previously]: write, arrange, sing, drum and produce. This album may take a while for fans to understand, but when they get it I think they’ll love it.”

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