Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, founding Kiss drummer Peter ‘Catman’ Criss, will farewell his Australian fans in May. The ‘One Last Time’ dinner performance/show will take place at The Sofitel in Melbourne on May 12. This is his second last performance ever, with the final one in New York City in July. The show will feature a live performance by Criss, backed by long-time friend and guitarist Mike McLaughlin as well as Australian rockers Sisters Doll. Criss will also participate in autograph and photo sessions at The Australian Kiss Konvention at Wick Studios on May 13-14.
Loud spoke to Criss about the Hall of Fame induction, cancer (he was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, which was caught in time for him to make a full recovery), future plans and more.
Q: Besides these upcoming final shows, what else are you up to at the moment?
A: I’m getting ready actually, next weekend I’m singing at a cancer benefit. For like seven years I’ve been very involved with these girls, they just do amazing things for people with all sorts of cancers. Years ago they gave me an award for my (work), after I had my cancer scare, nearly ten years free, thank God. But I get really involved with them every year, so this year was really cool. My drum company DW made a beautiful snare drum, custom-made, it’s just a one of a kind, and it’s going to be auctioned off at this thing on the weekend. Then the following week we’ll be leaving for your country.
Q: Given your success, have you felt an obligation to support such causes?
A: Yes, I absolutely do, because men aren’t aware that they can get it (breast cancer). So that’s why I’ve really become an activist. And it’s like one per cent of men, but Jesus Christ, if it was your son, your father or your brother, you’d be really freaked out about this. When I got it, I was freaked out, because I just was like, ‘you’ve gotta be kidding me, men don’t get breast cancer’. I had no clue. I was really blessed that they caught it immediately, so I didn’t have to get chemo and all that.
But I got very involved, and got a lot of wonderful accolades… And that’s cool, but I found that the most important thing was and I really believe God gave me a miracle, was to go out, and anything I ever do, of course media, I talk about that men get breast cancer. And you would be amazed at the e-mail I get, not only from men, and even Marines in the war right now. But I even get letters from women who are very touched that I had the guts I guess as a man to come forward and say that. They’ve read my book and they’ve done all sorts of research. And I get highly touched, because it’s a whole different audience to being a rock star. I hate that word. But it’s put me in a place where, yeah, I’ve really helped a lot of people.
So it’s put me in a different place in life. But I’m 71 now, and I find it’s really I think what you do and leave behind. I’m very proud of being a founding father of Kiss, definitely I’m proud of being in the Hall of Fame and all that good stuff. But this is a really whole different world. It just makes you really… You don’t believe (it) when you meet someone that they actually said, ‘thank you for saving my life’. It blows my mind, man (laughs). It really does.
So I’ve become very in tune with God, life and people more so in my older days. I came to the conclusion that all these years, (Australian convention organiser) Peter Hoffman is a sweetheart, and he’s been calling me and calling me constantly… I love Melbourne, it’s a wonderful place for us. We had a great time with the symphony (in 2003). You guys always welcome us with open arms, it’s a great place to be. The past four years he’s been driving my wife and I crazy to come over and play there.
I’ve been doing this 50-something years, I really want to leave on my terms. I’m good friends with Rob Zombie and John 5 and I was talking to them, and it was, ‘you should go out in a blaze of glory, visit other (places), just go out for yourself man, play some music. Have a great time and sign some autographs, take some pictures and make people happy’. I just got more and more, what the hell, like okay, so finally we said yeah, and it’s been great.
Q: You’ve attended Kiss conventions in the past and encountered countless fans throughout the decades. Have you more or less seen and heard it all, or are you still surprised by some of the sentiments fans express to you in that environment?
A: Oh yeah, our fans are psychotic, man (laughs). I mean that in a good way. They’re like Star Trek fans. There’s no fan better than a Kiss fan. If not for the Kiss fans we wouldn’t have gotten in the Hall of Fame, and I wouldn’t have such a really wonderful life today that they’ve given me. I always say that I don’t take that for granted. And I found that more to be true when I went out with my book (Makeup to Breakup); I did a book and I did a book signing. It turned into a lot more signings of Kiss things, and I got really closer to the fans. Because when you’re on-stage there’s so many people out there, you don’t know anybody. But when you do the signings and autographs and stuff, you really get to hear stories. Like people saying, ‘I’ve had your album for 30 years and I’ve been waiting to meet you for 30 years’, ‘holy shit, here’s my kids’, and ‘your music got me through when my mother died’ or this and that. I’ve touched a lot of people, and especially in Australia. I got a lot of stuff, we’ve got a lot of gold and platinum records from Australia. It’s a great place.
Q: Why do you feel Australian rock fans gravitated towards Kiss to such an extent?
A: Australia, I don’t know, it’s funny. Like when we first got together in ’72, we went out on our first, on the road so to say, we went to Canada of all places. Not the USA. And they loved us (laughs). We were shocked that they really fell in love with us, so we were going over really big there. And eventually of course America fell in love with us. But when we went to say, Tokyo or especially Australia, just unbelievable love and respect, and the people there just all love our music to death. They loved each and every one of us separately, like each of us are kind of loved and respected in a cool way in Australia. It’s a lot different to a lot of other countries, so it’s really cool.
Q: And the Australian fans will witness your second last live performance as well.
A: I’ve got some surprises, so it should be very cool. I have other things to do that I’ve always wanted to do. A lot of times I think people forget… I love the fact that I’m a fourth member of the biggest band of all, Kiss. But I’m a musician, man, and when I started out, I started out a few years before the guys and I did a lot of clubs in my day. So that’s why I want to go out in more of a club fashion and play a more intimate arena than a big whoop-dee-doo place, and I didn’t want to do that. So even in New York I’m playing a very small, intimate place. And I want to do that because that’s where I really started my career in places like that. I haven’t always been doing rock ‘n’ roll; I started as a jazz musician and I had to learn how to play Latin jazz. Then I had to learn how to play country. I had to learn to play everything if you wanted to work in the music business back in the ’60s. So I have a lot more facets in me than just rock ‘n’ roll all night and party every day. Not that that’s bad – that’s cool. But I wanted to show my fans that I have a lot of other stuff in my arsenal than just bangin’ ‘Black Diamond’ (laughs).
Q: Other original members of Kiss have expressed their views, but why do you believe it took so many years for the band to be inducted into the Hall of Fame?
A: All you’ve gotta do I guess is read our books. It just it wasn’t, it’s not a secret, there was just not good blood amongst us the first time around… And we should have went in way back when and we didn’t. That’s all I got to say about it. I don’t really get into the thing about it, ’cause we’d be here for hours discussing it. I was just happy for the kid from Brooklyn; I did not grow up wealthy, I grew up really tough. To be inducted, I felt very honoured. I was like, ‘wow, I’ve really worked hard for this’. Besides being in the band, I myself as a musician have worked many, many years playing and writing music. And I just felt, wow, and it’s in my hometown Brooklyn, it was a great honour. I wish my parents were able to see it.
Q: Were you at all disappointed that the likes of Bruce Kulick, Eric Carr and Eric Singer weren’t inducted? Or should it have just been the original quartet?
A: I think it was just the original four. We’re the guys who started it, we’re the guys who got (together) back in ’72 playing in the loft, we’re the guys who put on the make-up, we’re the guys who made it with the make-up (laughs). We’re the guys who came out with all the earlier, all the first five big albums. Definitely the four of us should only be inducted.
Q: Looking back on your career with Kiss, what do you feel is your place within the band’s history? Or how do you hope the fans remember your tenure?
A: I think I’ve made a really good mark in history, Kisstory, whatever you want to call it, in the rock ‘n’ roll business. Because I’ve been awarded many awards for my making other drummers want to sing and drum. That’s a big deal to me. I’ve got a lot of awards with the boys. We’ve got a lot of gold and platinum records, I’ve got a lot of cool stuff. I love my People’s Choice Award for ‘Beth’. But my awards were when I see drummers like Steven Adler, Marky Ramone, the list could go on and on, that pay homage to me and they all when I see them go, ‘man, if not for you I wouldn’t be playing drums today’. That knocks me out, ’cause I know I’ve made a mark in the world of drums, as drummers and singing drummers because there’s a hell of a lot of them doing it today because of Peter Criss. Not knocking Kiss, but because of Peter Criss. And I’m proud of that.
Q: What are your favourite Kiss songs to perform live these days?
A: I love a lot of them to play live. I could go on and on. I still love playing ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’, because when it’s done with a band, it’s really a band kind of song, and I love anything where my drums really stand out, and they do on ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’. They do on ‘Love Gun’ and ‘Strutter’. Immediately you just know it’s Peter Criss the minute you hear the drums. You just know it’s me, I have a signature way of playing like no other drummer. Each drummer plays different. I’m proud of that.
Q: Are you anticipating the diehard fans will make some obscure requests at these final shows?
A: (Laughs) I don’t care. I’ve got a great set-list, I’ve been killing myself putting it together, it’s been like going back to boot camp. I play, but I don’t play as frequent, so I’ve been having a band here five days a week, working with me and it’s been amazing. It’s been exciting to play again too. I got an arsenal of songs, and I picked the songs personally. I even have some Kiss in my arsenal; it’s to me the best Kiss songs I’ve ever liked, so yeah, I’m gonna do some Kiss songs.
Q: What are the plans after these final performances?
A: I want to do this (Australian show), and I want to do the one at my home in New York. I’ve been working on a couple of books that I really want to finish. I’ve been back to my art, so I’ve been painting again. My wife really loves the way I paint so I’ve gone back to that and really enjoying it. I have an album I’ve been sitting on for nine years now, a rock thing that I started before my cancer. I didn’t really finish it, but all the music’s done. And I feel I’m going to come home after my last show and I’m gonna finish it. Hopefully it’ll come out next year.
Q: Any famous last words?
A: Can’t wait to see you, and God bless you.