When drummer Eric Singer joined Kiss in 1991, the circumstances were far from ideal. The band’s popularity had plummeted — the ill-fated decision to drop the make-up probably had something to do with that. Drummer Eric Carr had just died, and Singer, a Cleveland native who had toured with Kiss’ Paul Stanley on a 1989 solo tour, was brought into the fold. But Singer was in for a big surprise when the veteran rockers embarked on a 1996 reunion tour and replaced him with original drummer Peter Criss. Still, Singer stayed on good terms with group leaders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons and returned to the band in 2001. He recently talked to us about Kiss' 30-city summer tour, which comes to Blossom Music Center on Sunday. —Jeff Niesel
I think you joined the band in 1991. What was it like when you initially came on board?
When I first started, it was a different time. They weren’t wearing make-up. The circumstances were awkward. Eric Carr had cancer. Originally my relationship with the band started because I played in Paul [Stanley’s] solo band in 1989. I joined the band under a strenuous situation. Playing in place of someone who had passed away was difficult. And getting an opportunity to do something better at someone’s expense was very awkward.
But things eventually solidified.
This line-up has been the same for six and a half years now. They did the reunion tour and that was a great success. Some of the same issues that reared their head originally came into play again after that. Fast forward to 2010 and if it weren’t for the original band, I wouldn’t be talking to you. They created what Kiss is and kept it moving forward in this modern era. We have to be on the same page and in the same car driving down the same highway. Chemistry has to be important both on stage and off the stage. We have mutual respect for each other. We understand what we’re here to do and how it works. There’s an old saying. It’s called the music business. And it’s a business. People hate hearing it. This tour has been great. It’s a really successful summer. There are great things tied into the tour. We’re supporting the Wounded Warrior Project [to help out injured servicemen].
Gene Simmons is one of the funniest guys I’ve ever interviewed. Talk about what it’s like working with him.
Well, I call him Uncle Gene. To me, he really is like a crazy uncle. I like Gene a lot. I honestly think he is great. I know him as a co-worker but also as a friend. He’s a really nice guy. He has a strong work ethic. He has his way of doing things. If you want to work with him, you have to know he’s driving. I understand how he likes to do things. I know deep down he’s a good guy. I’ve seen him do some random acts of kindness. He loves attention and he’s the first one who will try to get your attention. Gene loves Kiss but when it comes to the personal things, Gene doesn’t look for attention or for anyone to pat him on the back. Deep down he’s a big marshmallow.
I think it’s great that kids under 14 get in for free on the lawn with a paid adult admission. Talk about your efforts to introduce Kiss to a new generation.
The audience ironically is growing younger for Kiss. Letting the kids in is about accommodating families so they can get in. We’re seeing this in Europe where there was no 14 and under deal. The kids have been getting younger and younger. It’s Guitar Hero and Rock Band and YouTube and visibility on the Internet. They see us and tell their parents they like us and want to see us. Their parents are like, “That’s Kiss. They’ve been around since I was a kid.”
Do you think the band will ever get inducted into the Rock Hall?
I don’t give any thought to it. I’m from Cleveland. I’m really glad that the Hall of Fame got built in Cleveland. The phrase got coined there. Having these museums is a cool thing. I have a problem with one thing. Who decides who gets in. Some group of people decide. Why not let people vote, just like you do for the NBA All-stars. You should let the fans decide who gets in. I’m a fan of Madonna. But in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? She’s not rock ’n’ roll. She’s an entertainer and pop artist. It should be just rock ’n’ roll. It’s wrong to ignore bands like Deep Purple, Kiss, and Alice Cooper. You can’t deny their influence.
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