Peter Criss Interview (1980)

Peter, what are you doing these days?

Criss: Right now I'm relaxing. I'm living the country life. I'm going to be a father in March and I'm waiting for the baby. I don't want to be somewhere in Duluth when I become a daddy. I want to be there with my wife and child.

Why did you leave Kiss?

Criss: I wanted to do my own thing, my own music and ten years in Kiss was enough for me. I got tired of playing heavy metal stuff. I like writing love songs. I like playing with strings, horns, and pianos. I really dug that [Kiss], and I'm very proud I was with the guys. 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 40 years old someday and saying could I have made it on my music ability or was it just the great show Kiss throws.

What was it like to be in the studio and on stage with the other guys?

Criss: To me it was a great show. The public wanted some heroes and we were the ones of the '70's, and the show was an extravagant thing. It did blow everybody away. There hasn't been a bigger show than the Kiss show. I was back there working my butt off and Gene and Paul would always be in the limelight, and Ace and I weren't and that disturbed me.

After the success I had with Beth, and when my first album was up for two Grammys, I would get lots of phone calls saying, "Gee, we don't hear enough of you." And then I'd come up with tunes and the guys would kind of out vote me and say it's not Kiss music. I'd say, well Beth wasn't either, but it's the biggest smash we've ever had. So I kind of got frustrated and I said I want to do my own thing. Thank God I could do that, and I thank them and myself for that. And that's what I'm trying to do now.

Have you heard how Kiss was received in Australia?

Criss: Well, I have 15 gold albums from Australia, so I know they did well there. I heard they had a rough time in Europe. Their popularity, I've been told, has kind of waned. I don't really know how it's going to go for them or how many more years they're going to keep it up. I know it's not easy for Eric to sit in my chair after 10 years. It's got to be hard, but I hope the best for them.

How is it different on your own?

Criss: 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, grew a beard and mustache and I don't have to shave every day. I just feel freer, a lot of that weight is off my shoulders.

Do you regret taking the makeup off after what happened to John Lennon?

Criss: I don't regret it. It hasn't been so bad since I've taken it off. People really don't hassle me. People still come up and say we still love you and we're behind you. After Lennons's misfortune...god, we lost alot of the greatest. He was my idol, and it's not because he's not here anymore, but he was. I took it really hard. No one should die that way. Nobody. I'm a little afraid sometimes now. I think everybody is. That could happen. You can get a little paranoid. I'm kind of glad I'm not living in New York, but it can happen anywhere I guess, no matter where you are.

Could a group take what Kiss did one step further?

Criss: They would 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, whoich would mean millions of dollars. It's amazing how expensive it can be to try and be different.

I was once told that your manager Bill Aucoin really didn't believe the group had musical talent. Is that true?

Criss: That's crazy. 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 what ever we put out. If a manager had that outlook, I'd drop him. Bill was an effective manager, one of the best. He took us from doing shabby ballrooms to Anaheim Staidum. That's not such a bad track record.

You're a big fan of Frank Sinatra.

Criss: I have all his records. I listen to him at home. I just find him to be an amazing entertainer and at 65 to still get a hit record....he's been up and down so many times; every time he was down he had that energy to pick himself up. I can relate to that. I have that goal now and 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.

Are you happy with the promotion of Out of Control?

Criss: I think I have been hurt a little bit by it. I don't think they got behind me as mulch 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 deejays wouldn't even play it because they said, "If it's Peter Criss, it's got to be Kiss." And I thought it really wasn't fair to me. It isn't Kiss, and it's got nothing to do with their music. So it kind of screwed me up in America. It is doing great in Europe.

What do groups today have to look forward to?

Criss: Bands to me seem to be going back to the nightclubs again. They're getting back in touch with the audience. Big name people are playing clubs. I also plan on doing that. You have clubs now that seat 3,000 people.

When did you first think about leaving Kiss?

Criss: Well, we were doing a movie, Kiss meets the Phantom, and I started thinking about it then. I thought god, this is turning out to be such a damn busness. I was losing the fun of the early days when we were struggling. Now we had a lot of money, the things we never could afford, we could buy without looking at the price tag. That got scary for me. I didn't like it and I started thinking then about quitting.

How do you see music changing?

Criss: I think kids are getting back to listening to lyrics again, like we used to do with the Beatles. They pay more atention to the music and you just can't throw out trash anymore, four-chord songs. I'm trying to be a serious writer and composer. I'm playing for a little more mature audience and now I'm going up there without bombs and fire, 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 now.

Will the musicians on the album be your road band?

Criss: 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.

Who finds the studio mulsicians for you?

Criss: The producer gets them for you. He just knows a bunch of them and he hires and fires them. They're good enough to became famous rock and 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. When the word gets out that I'm lookng for some top cats, I get them. You know, they jump at the chance to play with me.

Why didn't you play outdoors more often?

Criss: It was hard. We never really sounded that great outdoors. We played Braves Stadium and Anaheim Stadium. We were best in the dark, for the effects we used. I love playing outdoors, and I hope to be doing it more in the future.

Will you continue to be booked by ATI?

Criss: I don't know. If they can book me for my music - in the right halls - I'll stay with them. If not, I'll go with someone else. It's that simple. They have to book me where I'm comfortable. It's a good place to play and it's my type of audience. I can't play for a heavy metal audience, I'm not part of that music [anymore].