Original KISS drummer Peter Criss made an appearance on the "Friday Night Rocks" show on New York's Q104.3 Friday night (May 21) to discuss his departure from the group that he co-founded more than 30 years ago. The following are some excerpts from that interview (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET):
On why he isn't playing with KISS anymore:
"[We] finished the tour [with AEROSMITH] last December. [We went] home. The holidays came. We actually finished the last show on my birthday, December 20th, which was really a gas — it was a great way to finish the tour. Especially with the great AEROSMITH — I was really honored to be on a stage with such Hall of Famers. Man, talk about greatness — it was really cool.
"The tour ended, to get back to it, and I got home. Time went on, time went on… My attorney tried to reach them, no one got back to him.
"The word I'm hearing on the street [is that] they were trying to get in touch with me. Well, they have my phone number. It seemed like the phone never rang. I was kind of hoping it would. It didn't ring.
"Time went by again, all of a sudden the day finally came when the contract ran out. There was now no more contract, no extension… anything nothing. So I posted on my site what I posted on my site, which I can't right now, I guess I can't remember word for word, verbatim, but it was kinda, 'No one called me, no one got in touch with me.'
"To get right to it, I got a call from Paul [Stanley] the following day after I posted what I had to post on my site, because I was flooded by [e-mails from] a ton of people. And it got to be that they wanted to start a 'new' KISS. And I'm like, 'What do you mean 'new' KISS?'
"It really got down to… He almost said I was too old to cut it, I couldn't play two hours anymore, they felt that their camp wanted some younger blood, that they wanted to do new stuff… between you an me, a bunch of bunk. I didn't buy it for one instant. I'm listening to this — that I'm too old, I can't play this anymore, I was complaining…
"If I complained about anything… I complained about a lot of things, and I have a reason to complain about anything I complained about — I don't just complain about everything. But the idea [and] the audacity that I, a founding member of the band that would not be here today…
"There is no more KISS. There is only one KISS, and that's Peter, Paul, Ace and Gene. There's nobody else that could ever replace any of us. I don't take nothing away from those two guys [Paul and Gene] — they are the men, they are the guys — but so are Ace and I, and we're just as important to the party. To be told I can't cut it is an insult to me and my fans — meaning my KISS fans, THE KISS fans — who have made my life the best life I've ever had on this planet.
"I always say to the guys, 'If not for you guys, I wouldn't have a wonderful life. I have a wonderful life.' But [Paul's] attitude [on the phone] was pompous. 'We're gonna do new stuff. We're gonna do two hours. You don't wanna play two hours. It didn't seem like you really wanted to stay on the tour anyway.' And I mentioned [to Paul], 'You know what? I really wasn't happy 100 percent of the tour 'cause Ace wasn't there.'
"To be really honest with you, to me, without Ace, it just wasn't KISS, as far as I'm concerned. It wasn't the KISS that I helped make KISS today."
"It was tough for me [during the last tour]. Again, I said to Paul, 'Look, I missed Ace, it wasn't the same.' And his reply was, 'Well, that's the old KISS.' You know something, man?! If there was no old KISS, there would be no 'new' KISS.
"What is the 'new' KISS? The KISS of the 20th century was Ace, Peter, Paul and Gene. So now the KISS of the 21st century is Paul, Gene, Eric and Tommy? Still wearing the makeup, still playing the same songs? Maybe they're not playing exactly the same songs that we played when we were together, so they're playing maybe some songs we didn't do… That makes it different? That's a 'new' KISS? I don't buy it. And I've heard, actually, and I'm here for the very reason, that the fans are just getting ripped off — it's breaking my heart.
"If you go, OK, be the 'new' KISS. I'll take that. Take the makeup off, put new songs out there, put a whole brand-new show up, put new lights, new sound, new bombs, whole new vibe, brand-new look. I'll buy that. I'll take Eric, Tommy, Gene and Paul for the brand-new KISS. But it ain't the 'new' KISS, man. And that's what galls me — it's still the same old KISS that I was told on the phone, 'We ain't the old KISS anymore.' Then what are you?
"You know, Paul was like, 'We showed Peter the door.' Gene is, 'Well, we kept trying to get in touch with Peter.' I wish the two of them would get together in a room and talk, since I know they don't talk to each other anymore and have not spoken to one another for quite awhile — they DON'T talk, they don't feel like they wanna talk to each other. This is a very true fact.
"For Gene to say about me that I had to ice my elbows, which is terrific, my hand's terrific... I had a pinched nerve to start that tour out with with a trainer they hired to get me in shape. The guy worked me hard… Nothing against the guy, I like to work hard, I like to train hard, I like to play hard. I pinched a nerve in the back of my neck — right off the tour. Pain in the damn ass. I didn't like it, they didn't like it, but I didn't like it… I mean, I really didn't like it because I was the guy in pain. Got a doctor, had an epidural in my spine so I could get up there every night and kick ass on that tour. Days off, Gene's complaining that I'm in my room icing myself down. What am I supposed to do? I have a pinched nerve. The doctor tells me, 'You got a day off, take it easy, put some ice on your…'
"You know what, guys in sports, guys who play football, guys who play, take a day off put their hands in ice, put their necks in ice, put their legs in ice. I play drums, it's a physical instrument. It takes a lot of endurance, I'm 58 — I'm not a kid anymore — so it takes a little more. It's called pacing. So I figured, you got a day off, get a little room service, get a movie to my room, put a little ice on my neck, go out tomorrow night, kick ass.
"What I did my days off… I didn't even care what Gene did on his days off. As a matter of fact, Gene didn't even fly with us. Gene didn't travel with us, Gene stayed in separate hotels. To say that I needed to do all this and that, so they let me go because I complained…
"I complained for a lot of facts that I had to, when we would drive together, I had to sit in a car alone with my wife because they wouldn't ride with me, or they'd let Gene sit with me 'cause Paul and Gene didn't talk to each other. So I'm in a car, and Tommy Thayer and [manager] Doc McGhee and Paul Stanley and all the other guys are together on their car, and I'm privy to nothing. I'm a founding member of this band — I founded KISS as much as Gene and Paul and Ace did, and I love 'em all. But I founded this band as much as they did. To be so disrespected... OK, so they put the other guy up there in my makeup, it's disrespectful. Take the damn makeup off and be who you are and quit using us. If you are the 'new' KISS, then be the 'new' KISS. Get off the old track and be the 'new' KISS. To tell the fans that is wrong. And I'm here to put that straight tonight.
"I'm tired of hearing about this. I'm not old. I'm in the best condition I've probably ever been in in my whole life. They didn't even sit and have the respect to have a meeting with me or my attorney, to sit and let's talk about it.
"You know, there was a time that we sat together back in the day when we were really a band, THE band, ate the same crap, shared rooms, Holiday Inns, dyed our hair blue, black in a bathtub, walked to Greenwich village, got hit with eggs, never got any airplay, never got anything great, we were like the worst band considered in the world, but we hung in tough, we went through it, we hung tight and we became whatever we became today. And I'm really proud of that. And I don't wanna see it tarnished. And it breaks my heart to see it where it's going."
On where things went wrong following the band's "Reunion" tour in 1996:
"It got back to the controlling issue. Controlling issue is a big thing for Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Always has been. Love to control everything. Like I said, if I had a day off and I took that day off to rent a movie, have a little room service, take a little rest, make sure I'm ready to kick ass the next night, it's my business. If one guy wants to go to a strip joint, that's his business — I don't really care. One guy wants to go have dinner, fine. One guy wants to go shopping, terrific. We had no problems with that on the 'Reunion' tour — anybody could do whatever they wanted on days off, everybody was happy.
"I was so happy to be back. It was such a great thing to get a second chance, I felt, in life. Because that's what it was to me — a great second chance to maybe fix what was broken when we first just burst, when we first kind of went our own way, when I left, when Ace left. It was not the best way, I feel, a band of our caliber and our legacy should ever go. We should have never left on such…
"It happens… We know we're in a crazy business — bands break up, bands wanna go their own way. I was hoping in, you know… fantasy, hoping that it would all be so great… Maybe I'm delusional, but I was hoping that we'd really all get back, we'd be brothers again, we're all sharing again, we're all gonna be great.
"The minute the 'Reunion' was over and it got to 'Psycho Circus', it all changed again. It all got… Now here comes an album... I was really excited, I was like, 'Wow, we're finally gonna do a studio album together, as a band.' And I think the fans felt the same way, 'Wow, KISS is finally gonna do a studio album, a great studio album.'
"The album came, [producer] Bruce Fairbairn, rest his soul, great guy. All of sudden, they're like, 'It's all up to Bruce. Anything that comes in, any kind of material is up to Bruce.' Well, I wrote a lot of pretty good stuff. [But I was told that] it wasn't good enough. 'So you're gonna sing this ballad Paul wrote.' It got right back to that thing again, 'I control. You're gonna do this, you're gonna do that. We'll pay you for the record and we'll say you played on it, but we don't want you to tell the world you didn't play on it. We want you to tell the world you played on it.' I couldn't live with that. I've gotta look in the mirror every day. And I sure wasn't gonna let my fans think I'm playing on something I'm not on — I won't do that. So that started it. And as far as Ace goes, if Ace didn't get anything on the album, he was gonna… again, 'I'm outta here.' So he got one song, and he made sure I sang.
"[The only song on 'Psycho Circus' where all four of us appear together is 'Into the Void'], which was great. That was about the only moment for a minute there it felt, wow, like the old days again — we were back in the room. But my songs got rejected. It hurt, it really bothered me. I was like, 'Let's work on it maybe, like we did with [previous producer] Ezrin. Nothing got rejected with Bobby. Everything we did we did as a team, we did as a group. That's why I think 'Destroyer' was so huge. I think it was the best album we ever did, because we were a band when we did it. When this came along, these two guys again, as far as I was concerned, they took over, it was another controlling issue, 'We're gonna control the issue, you're gonna do what we tell you to do, you're gonna play what we want you to play, we're gonna put our songs on it.'
"As far as I was concerned, that album ['Psycho Circus'] was trash. I don't it was the best thing we... they ever did, because I had nothing to do with it. Then we had to go out perform that album. I was against it because I wasn't on it and I had to learn these songs from whoever else played on it, and it was kind of like I was a sideman.
"I felt like in the beginning of 'Reunion', I was Peter Criss The Catman. By the time 'Psycho Circus' started again, I was Peter Criss The Sideman. Ace was Ace Frehley The Sideman. By the time we got even lucky enough to get to 'Farewell', it was a nightmare. It wasn't going well."
On his belief that money and greed is the sole reason Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are continuing to tour as KISS:
"I really believe that. Flat-out. If it wasn't about the money, if it was for the fans, for KISS fans, then Ace and I would be up there — we'd be playing right now. Because that's what it was all about with the 'Reunion'. Let's get back together, let's show the world really who was who at one time, let's show the people who've never seen us but really should see what it's all about… By then, guys had kids, they had their own families, they wanted to bring them to the show — we were so excited about all this. It was like, 'Here comes KISS 1996.' We were all so high on that idea. And of course, yeah, the minute the Benjamins come into scene, the minute the jets and the money and the big mansions in Beverly Hills, yada yada yada… I really see, to me, the cancer, I call it.
"I don't pray to money, I pray to God. I love people. I don't get up and have to think about, 'How can I make another buck?'
"They've got a lot of money, these guys [Paul and Gene], but yet… it should've definitely ended on the 'Farewell' tour. I would have been happy to walk away with my head held high and said, 'Man, we did the best we did, we left with our heads held high. We did the [Madison Square] Garden sold out four nights. We did Tiger Stadium, we did all this greatness. And at least we left with class, and we left with pride.
"To me, [the current KISS] a cover band. It's not KISS. I think Eric's a great guy and he's a good drummer. But as far as Tommy goes, I see a guy who used to order my food after my concert, for what I wanna eat when I'm done playing, who, as far as I'm concerned, paid no dues, paid nothing compared to what we paid through our careers — as far as what Ace and I, and Gene and Paul, went through, with the ridicule and the no airplay, got thrown off shows, and eventually almost got thrown off the label. I mean, no one liked us back in the day. We really paid our dues to who we were today and who we are today. This guy is now my road manager ordering my plate of spaghetti after a concert, next minute I'm looking over and he's wearing, literally, an icon's boots, and it ain't Ace. And I'm lookin' over every night lookin' at this guy waving a guitar around playing Ace's leads, Ace's licks, acting like Ace, becoming Ace, being Ace. You know, be careful what you wish for, you might get it.
"Ace put more blood, sweat and tears into this band than anybody else will because he's an original member, a founding member of KISS, and so am I. If anybody has a right to knock him, we do, I do, but to go up there with a road manager, I think it's degrading. I think it's even wrong… The fans shouldn't even deserve that. To go backstage with an album that I recorded on that I made famous and get a Tommy Thayer autograph and an Eric Singer autograph over a Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley album, it's wrong — it's downright wrong. And to pay money to go back and take a picture with two impostors and two originals is wrong. And I don't care what I get for this or what comes back at me, I'm talking from my heart. It's just not right for my fans.
"Maybe I'm the only voice coming out for them [the fans], saying this. I know they feel the same way, because they're paying all their hard-earned bucks.
"I remember Doc McGhee telling me when I first met him, 'I will not handle this band unless it's Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss in makeup, in boots, in full makeup, full warpaint.' He's still handling the band — the band that ha two impostors, two originals and is still playing. Why? What would be the reason? It must be money. I can't think of any other reason."