I first picked up the sticks in 3rd grade -- transfixed when an older kid showed me the mind-blowing gatefold to Alive II, in particular that cat-like creature in the sky, flanked by a massive display of fireworks and shiny black drums.
I made my own drum set out of boxes, books and pot lids and would listen to Peter Criss’s solos constantly, searching for my own rhythm, trying to play something that sounded halfway good.
Life was strange in that season. I needed something to grab onto and KISS, drums, and Peter Criss were very much there for me.
Earlier this year I was sitting at the kit (a bit upgraded from boxes and pots) with headphones on, listening to the studio version of "Shock Me" -- that so perfect, little bit lazy behind the beat genius that so few drummers possess. The swing, the feel, the notes Peter doesn't play. The way he makes the groove thicker by holding back. You don't hear style like that much anymore. “Shock Me” is as much signature Peter Criss as it is Ace Frehley.
And it struck me right then. Peter doesn’t get nearly the acclaim he should as a drummer. And as a rock journalist, I wanted to try and make it right.
I didn’t want to cover band grudges or the same urban legends we’d all heard so many times. I just wanted to talk one-on-one, drummer to drummer with the original Catman, Peter Criss.
But first, I called the world's greatest timekeepers to get their take -- Kenny Aronoff, Mike Portnoy, Neil Peart, Gregg Bissonette. All were eager to testify to what a great and kind guy Peter is as well as his influence and skills on the kit.
Check this out:
“Peter Criss was as influential to me as John Bonham or Neil Peart. In 76-79, I was the biggest KISS fanatic on the planet! Like Ringo, he doesn’t get enough credit but he influenced millions of drummers around the world. His solos play like a song and I can still sing them note for note in my head. Loved his use of cowbell and he was one of the first to play a mammoth kit. One of the highlights of my career was playing with Peter last year. He’s one of the great unsung heroes of our age.” - Mike Portnoy
“The thing I love about Peter Criss is he has so much swing in his rock playing! He came from that East Coast NYC vibe that was influenced by jazz, blues and R&B. So many drummers today just don’t have that in them.”
- Kenny Aronoff
“Rush opened for Kiss many, many times -- for months on end in 1974-75. Peter was an absolute sweetheart -- warm and sincere. I appreciated his strong and rhythmic drumming -- exuberant and loose-limbed -- and he was always fun and funny.” – Neil Peart
From the greatest drummers on the planet!
Then Peter and I talked Krupa, The Ventures and Corky Laing, marching snares and match grip, cowbells and upside-down cymbals. We went in-depth on his legendary solos from Alive! and Alive II -- it was this kid drummer’s dream come true!
I've had the privilege of interviewing many rock stars but Peter was truly something special. He was every bit as gracious and funny as I had hoped. When my mom had heart surgery recently, Peter and Gigi kept her in their prayers and checked in for updates on her condition. Pretty cool having The Catman saying a rosary for your mom.
When you grow up and get to talk to your heroes, you really hope you won't get let down. Every now and then someone goes above and beyond. Peter is a true legend, one of the most influential musicians of all time and a good-hearted guy who’s come to a good place in life by travelling a hard road.
Peter Criss’s work brought me a lot of happiness in life and it’s an honor to give a little back with what I believe to be a great, fun and candid interview. God Bless Peter and Gigi -- I hope we get to do it again.
(And you know what? I’m still working on those solos….)