Original KISS drummer Peter Criss has weighed in on the fact that his former band will play its final shows ever this weekend at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He told Sal Cirrincione at Premiere Radio Networks in an exclusive statement: "It's hard to believe it's over. I'm truly touched by it.
"There were so many glorious years and the four of us created some really fun tunes and have the most incredible fanbase a band could ever have. We are truly fortunate to have our fans all these years. Thank you KISS Army for the life that you gave me and the life that you gave all of us in KISS."
Peter went on to say that while he is "disappointed" that he and fellow original KISS member Ace Frehley "weren't asked to come out and do a few songs for their fans" in New York to show their appreciation for all their love and support all these years, he added that he is "in a good place in his life and very happy and very proud of what the four founding fathers of KISS created.
"It's truly a blessing," he said. "There's not much more a musician or artist could ask for then what God has blessed us with. And now the end is here. To quote our dear late manager Bill Aucoin, 'onward and upward.'"
This past August, Peter played an impromptu version of the 1930s classic "Sing, Sing, Sing (With A Swing)" at the 15th annual Beauty Ball, presented by The Beauty Foundation For Cancer Care, in Eatontown, New Jersey.
Criss, who will turn 78 at the end of this month, first left KISS in 1980. Since then he's worked with other bands and released solo albums. He teamed up with KISS again for a reunion tour in the 1990s and most recently in 2004. He was replaced by Eric Singer.
In addition to playing drums in KISS, Peter also provided lead vocals for a number the band's most popular and memorable songs, including "Beth", "Black Diamond" and "Hard Luck Woman".
Criss, who was known as "Catman," released his last solo CD, titled "One For All", in 2007. Peter produced the album himself for the first time, and was joined by guest musicians that included keyboardist Paul Shaffer and bassist Will Lee of "Late Night With David Letterman". The album featured a range of styles, from rock and jazz to blues and Broadway, and included covers of "What A Difference A Day Makes" and "Send In The Clowns".
Criss played what was being billed as his final full U.S. concert in June 2017 at the Cutting Room in New York City.
Last month, KISS bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons lamented the absence of Criss and Frehley at KISS's final shows, telling 519 Magazine: "I feel sad. I feel sad and angry that both Ace and Peter aren't here. I mean, they're alive, but they're not here to enjoy this unbelievable journey with us. They were there at the beginning and deserve all the credit. And when they look in the mirror, the only reason they're not here with us is themselves.
"Inviting them was as much for the fans as it was for us. KISS has always been about the whole, not the individual. It would've been fitting to have all of us there, one last time."
This past June, Gene was asked by Barbara Caserta of Linea Rock about the possibility of Peter and Ace making guest appearances at the band's last-ever concerts in New York City. He responded: "For the fans — the older, older fans — the ones who've been around for 50 years, they're old, and some of them wanna see Ace and Peter. The newer fans never saw them and they don't know. But the older fans wonder about Ace and Peter. Well, I asked both Ace and Peter a few times: 'Do you wanna come out for the encores? Do you wanna do some shows?' And they both said 'no.' So, I don't know what to say about that… But it's always welcome. But there are many other big stars, superstars, who wanna jump up onstage and play a song. But we're not sure about that. Maybe the best thing to do is to end the way we started: four guys with guitars. No keyboards, no synthesizers — nothing. Just playing."
KISS launched its farewell trek in January 2019 but was forced to put it on hold in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"End Of The Road" was originally scheduled to conclude on July 17, 2021 in New York City but has since been extended to late 2023. The trek was announced in September 2018 following a KISS performance of the band's classic song "Detroit Rock City" on "America's Got Talent".
In a June 2022 interview with Finland's Chaoszine, Simmons was asked if Frehley and Peter would have any involvement in KISS's final concerts. He responded: "We've tried. I keep trying. Paul and I met with Ace, trying to convince him to come back. He said, 'I want this. I want that.' Well, we can't do that. I asked Ace and Peter to be in the documentary ['Biography: KISStory', which premiered on A&E in June 2021]. They said no. They might do it if they have complete control of the edit. I said, 'We can't do that, because even we don't have that. But I won't control what you say; you can say whatever you want.' The answer is no — both of them. I asked Ace and Peter, 'Come out on tour. We'll get you your own room and everything. Come out on the encores.' Ace said, 'No. The only way I'll come out is if I'm the Spaceman and you ask Tommy [Thayer, KISS's current guitarist] to leave.' I go, 'Well, that's not gonna happen.' First of all, I care about Ace, but he's not in shape — he can't play that way and doesn't have the physical stamina to do that…
"Look, we care about them," Gene added. "We started this thing together and they were equally important to the beginning of the band with Paul and I — no question. But as time went on… Not everybody is designed to run a marathon. Some people are designed to be in a band for a year or two, or a few years, and then that's all they can do. And both of them have been in the band three different times. How many chances in life do you get? All I know is when I put my hand in fire the first time, I got burnt; I didn't get a second or third chance.
"So, the answer is the door's always open," Simmons said. "If they wanna jump on stage at any time and do the encores with us, terrific. But no, we're not gonna get rid of Tommy or Eric [Singer, current KISS drummer]. In fact, Tommy and Eric are the best things that happened to us. They gave us new life [and] new appreciation for what we do because they were fans first. And every once in a while, Eric or Tommy will turn around and say, 'Wow! Isn't this great?' And it makes us realize, 'Yeah! Wow! Isn't this great?'"
Gene was also asked if he saw any of the video footage from the May 2022 Creatures Fest in Nashville where Criss, Frehley and fellow former KISS members Vinnie Vincent and Bruce Kulick all performed. He responded: "Somebody showed me about 30 seconds, yeah. It was very sad. I felt sad for Peter… When I called to invite Peter to be in the documentary, his health isn't what it should be. I don't wanna get too specific because it's part of his private life. But no, physically, he wouldn't be able to do it. Neither would Ace."