Please welcome John Jeffrey as the newest contributor to Rock Music Star.com John is the founder of the KISS Underground fanclub, which he began in 1987 and published over 40 issues of the KISS Underground fanzineand has been a long time friend to RockMusicStar.com With John's vast and extensive KISSTORY if you will, it was a clear win/win situation to bring John aboard. Look for John to bring us many KISS related exclusives in the months ahead.
To start things off, John's first contribution to our site is an exclusive interview with KISS' next generation "Catman" Eric Singer. If you're not familiar with Eric Singer, aside from Gene Simmons, Eric is the most talkative member of KISS. Our 15 minute time allotment turned into almost a 45 minute interview. In order to bring you all of our conversation with Eric, we've split the interview into parts for your enjoyment. Without further adieu, here is part one of our interview with Eric.
Hello everyone, this is John Jeffrey with Rock Music Star.com and today we have KISS drummer Eric Singer.
RockMusicStar: Eric, how are you doing?
Eric Singer: I'm good John. How ya doin'?
RMS: Good...good. First of all, I wanna thank you for taking the time to speak with us, and I wanted to start out by (also) congratulating you on the completion of KISS' highly successful European tour. I followed the tour personally by listening to the Sim-fy - the 'Instant Live' (type) - recordings, and I have to say, musically, you guys were really tight.....right on the money. Were there any shows that stood out for you?
ES: Well, i would say that there were some that stood out because of the circumstances. For example, we played Stockholm. We played the Olympic stadium, which is an outdoor stadium, and we played there 2 years ago (as well). It was sold out to begin with, but it was actually oversold, we had 36,000 people. It was a great show. You know, like (with) many bands, sometimes you go to certain countries or certain cities and the band is just really big (or) bigger there - for example - in another city or country. And there's no rhyme or reason. Nobody can understand why KISS is so huge in Sweden but maybe not so big....say - for example - in maybe.....I dunno.....let's say Bulgaria or something, for an example. There's no rhyme nor reason for it. Many times the countries are right next door to each other, or other cities that are close. You could have a huge crowd in Dallas and then go to Houston the next night, and maybe not be as big. And it's the same state and not even that far apart.
That show (in Stockholm) was really great this year because the crowd was so young and so into it. And I gotta give 'em credit. It was like 50 degrees out, wind blowing, and raining during the show and all the people still stayed. NOBODY left. They sat there and (or) stood for 2 hours watching us in this wind and driving rain and stuff. Of course we got on stage and trooped it out. Those type of shows....that was difficult. The next night was the same thing. It was also really cold and windy onstage in Malmoe, and it was also a huge outdoor show.
I tell you one of the really big ones that stood out for me was the Rock Am Ring show. Rock Am Ring we played on a Thursday night, which opened the first night of the four day (festival). And we were the only band on there (on the bill) of any known bands. There was a local German band on there, but I don't even remember the name of them. And we had over 80,000 people. And it was just a fantastic crowd. That was broadcast live on MTV (Europe). So there's actual DVD (quality) live footage of that floating around on the internet. It may actually turn up on something in the future. Maybe KISSOLOGY IV or another KISS product. I don't really know the status of that stuff. I know some of those things are always in the works. Where they're at or when they'll come out. I don't know. My guess is that there will be hopefully something along those lines, by the end of the year - for the holiday/Christmas season.
But right now, we're focusing on the task at hand, and that's the US tour. The "Sonic Boom Over Europe" tour and the (previous) "Sonic Boom In America" tour has now morphed into the "Hottest Show on Earth" tour, which is the name of the new tour we're starting on the 23rd of July. As of now, there's like 32 cities we're going to play. One of the shows is the Saulte Saint Marie show we had to cancel last year because of the (bad) weather. We're going to go back and do the right thing and make good on our word. Go back and give the fans up there the show they unfortunately had to miss. It should be a great run. We're gonna do a lot of outdoor shows, with a lot of cool things. We have a lot of sponsorship tie-ins. Dr.Pepper's involved, along with 7-11. They're re-showing the "Dr. Love" Dr.Pepper commercial, which they just started promoting, I guess in the last week or two.
Next week, we have the KISSTERIA special on A&E, which was filmed when we were in Australia a couple years ago. That's something that's finally going to see the light of day. It's basically following us around on tour and there's all kinds of little anecdotes, that are kinda funny. It was kinda kooky, as all those type of 'reality' shows are. It was done by the same production company that does "Gene Simmons Family Jewels." They (the production team) actually came out while we were on tour. They hung out with us for a couple weeks and filmed A LOT of footage. Behind the scenes, on the plane and all this stuff. There's gonna be more documentary stuff coming out in the future.
ES: It's not about the spotlight. Yeah, a lot of times things are more focused on Gene & Paul. Guess what? Guess who's always been in the band? Gene and Paul. Throughout every incarnation of they band, every version of KISS, there's always been the two mainstays. That's the founders and the main writers & singers - and that's Gene & Paul. So it stands the reason that a lot of the time more of the focus will be that way. And if you look at most bands, usually whoever's the the singer, or guitar player, or the writers - the leaders of the band - get most of the attention. I think the press kinda created that and I think managers and the press created to focus on who's like the leaders of the band. Like when you think of the Doors, who do you think of? Jim Morrison. You know who the other guys are? Absolutely! But who's the focus and the main person you think about? It's always Jim Morrison. Same thing with (Led) Zeppelin. You usually think of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Although John Bonham and John Paul Jones are equally as important, everyone acknowledges that. And like the Beatles, everyone acknowledges how important all four members were, but you still think of Paul McCartney and John Lennon. When you think of the famous people or who got the most attention, it's those guys.
RMS: Right. It seems one of the running jokes in the show was about you wanting to sing "Beth." Was that something you really wanted to do, or is that something that could be chalked up to the faux reality (of the KISSTERIA show)?
ES: Well you know something? I always used to joke (about singing "Beth"). I joke with Gene A LOT! There was so much other footage that was filmed John - in that time frame down there. There was REALLY funny stuff. There was one time that I took Gene up in a helicopter. Another time, there was this race track, where they have what they call "V-8 Superstars" in Australia, buy it's basically like NASCAR. I got Gene to put on a helmet and fire suit and get in a car with me and a driver. And this guy (the driver) was racing around the track, and throwing us all over the inside of the car. I can't believe they didn't use any of that footage, cuz there was so much funny stuff, just Gene and I, that didn't get used. Originally, that was going to be a 2 part show and somehow, it became edited down to just a 1 hour thing. But originally, it was going to have a lot more footage. There was a lot of funny stuff that nobody got to see.
Gene and I have a funny certain funny relationship - if you will. People look at me like the 'court jester' kind of. I'm always sitting there, basically, winding Gene up and making comments. I have a lot of energy, so Gene looks at me like a little kid that won't stop talking and just keeps entertaining him all of the time. We have a really good funny dynamic and Gene and I travel together a lot. Meaning, like when we go from like an airplane to a gig, or from a hotel to a gig or something, Gene and I travel in a van together. Paul and Tommy, and some of the entourage (travel in another van). We basically travel in a couple vans (total), so I'm in the "Gene van" - if you will. From doing this all these years, we have a little rapport and dynamic that goes on. So a lot of that stuff, some of it was captured on those clips (from KISSTERIA). We'd basically do what's called a 'runner.' We'd get in the van, right after show - right from the stage. In full costume, (we) jump in the van and go back to the hotel, and clean up there. So they would film a lot of that footage of us, sitting around in the van. Me talking to him (Gene), usually me talking. And there's a lot of funny things that go on between Gene and I. A lot of times, I just wind him up and bug him all the time and say, "Hey, when are you gonna let me sing 'Beth'?" And I just did it to keep bugging him. Never realizing that, one day, it was gonna happen.
Actually, the way that came about was really Doc McGhee (KISS' manager). He really pushed for us to do "Beth." Managers don't get involved with the little, petty emotional things about someone should or shouldn't sing a song. This song belongs to 'this' person and all that stuff. That - politics and stuff - that - I don't get involved in. Because honestly, I think it's nonsensical. KISS has a whole catalog of songs, that are KISS songs. They're not owned by any individual person. Regardless of who sang it or who wrote it, and I mean that with all due respect to anybody. Bottom line is - those are KISS songs. And other former members, they play songs that other guys in the band wrote or sang, and no one seems to have a problem with that. But some people will take issue - mind you, we're talking about a very small minority - with me singing, for example, "Beth" or something. To me, it's not an issue. Bottom line is - it is a really good KISS song, and it was a big hit for KISS. It's part of the catalog. It was really Doc McGhee that kind of said, "Hey, I really think you should think about doing "Beth" at some point." He said it last year, before we went on tour. It was kind of like, we'll entertain the thought, but it wasn't pursued (at that time). Then, in this tour of Europe, that's when Doc said, "We should do that ('Beth'). It's a cool song to do."
(When) we decided to do it (we wanted to do it) in a different way. (We said), let's do it almost like the "MTV Unplugged" approach, rather than just going out there and (me) singing along to the tape - trying to mimic, doing exactly verbatim - like the way the band did it in the 70's. Let's approach it in a different way, where the band's all on stage. We'll get some acoustic guitars and try it. We rehearsed it backstage. They (Paul & Tommy) got some acoustic guitars and ran it down and said, "Okay, cool." So we actually did a soundcheck at the next gig, (with all four members) onstage, so we could try the levels and see how it would sound. We ran it down a couple times at a soundcheck. I think it was in Hamburg, Germany or something, and Paul goes, "Yeah, let's do it tonight." I just kinda got thrown into the fire. We really didn't rehearse it much. We ran it down, and like I said, that was it. I enjoy singing it. (But) I have to admit, the first couple of times, it was a little intimidating - just because I'm a drummer, that also sings a little bit. But I don't really consider myself a lead singer. I consider myself a good, solid background singer, that can sing (lead) on a song or two - occasionally. But for me to have to get up onstage, by myself, not being protected if you will - having the security blanket of my drums - it's very different. Let's just put it that way. So I have to learn to get more comfortable when I'm exposing myself, almost naked - if you will.
One thing we noticed right off the bat John, for response, everyone started singing along. You wanna know what the bottom line is John? Most people just wanna see KISS. They wanna see a "KISS show." They wanna hear the songs they're familiar with, and that's one of the songs they'd like to hear. Nobody is doing anything out of disrespect. It's nothing about that. It never was. Bottom line is that it's a good song, it was a hit for KISS, (so) why not do it?
I'm totally indifferent about it. If we do it, great. If we don't, I'm fine with that. I never pushed and said, "How come I can't sing it" or "I wanna sing this." I never push for any songs to sing or anything. I just do whatever I can do to help make the band sound better. If it means singing more songs or no songs, it's not an issue for me. But I really pride myself mostly in being able to sing background vocals and do that constantly. Having that become a strong part part of the foundation of what we do. I think that's important. It just goes back to everybody's attitude about trying to make KISS, and the show, as good as it can be. That's what it's all about.
RMS: For the European tour, KISS added 2 more songs from "Sonic Boom," plus "Crazy, Crazy Nights" and "God Gave Rock and Roll To You." Were the two latter songs added because they were big hits in Europe?
ES: Ultimately, the band does what it chooses to do, but we do listen (to people's suggestions). Doc McGhee, as the manager, is going to have a different perspective that's different than us, being in the band - playing. He said, "I think you guys should do these songs." We knew that "Crazy Nights" had been a big hit in England. Gene & Paul thought it would go over well in England, but I remember one of them saying that we'll probably have to drop it after we get out of England because people won't really care about it. It turned out it went over really well in all of Europe.
I think sometimes that we need to be reminded - in the band - that there's whole generations of fans that grew up on different eras of KISS. To some people, "Revenge" is their lineup of KISS. Or "Crazy Nights" or "Asylum" or "Hot In the Shade" or "Lick It Up" or "the Elder" - whatever. Each different group of fans has a different time line of 'that's the KISS I know' or 'that's the KISS I grew up with.' 'That's the first record I bought' (etc.). So it's really hard, after this many records and this many years, to try to do something off every single record. Because, some of those records are better than others, obviously. And some of that music probably holds up a little better over time, over some of the other stuff. Bottom line is - you have to play a majority of those hits that people are familiar with. The "Detroit Rock City," the "Love Gun,"Lick It Up," "Black Diamond," "Deuce." People expect to hear those songs, no matter what.
RMS: So, do you think the setlist and the show for the "Hottest Show On Earth" is going to be the same as the "Sonic Boom Over Europe" tour?
ES: We're gonna find out in about a week, when we get together and rehearse. A lot of times, instead of thinking so much ahead, sometimes you just do things when you get to that moment. Right now, we're all on a break. When we get to rehearsals next week, I'm sure we're going to go, "Are we gonna do all the same songs?" or maybe add something. We talked about trying to change some things, maybe. Sometimes, it's best to start off with what you've already done. Cuz everybody - the lighting crew, the techs, sound guys, the band - has a kind of familiar rhythm - if you will - of what we've been doing. And it's easier to just kinda get back on that path and get fired up. And then, if we wanna change stuff, we can think about doing that. Because along the way (in Europe), we did add "Beth" and Paul started doing a little bit of "Forever" and one night he played a little bit of "Shandi." Sometimes, we can get a little more comfortable, and get a little more loose, and think about adding some different songs, or changing stuff around. I think it would be welcome to do that. We'll just have to wait and see.
RMS: (Going back to) "Sonic Boom." Again, with "Sonic Boom" not since "Rock and Roll Over" have you heard anything (on a KISS record) like a cowbell or tambourine per say.
ES: We ALL felt that when we were working on the record, was that we weren't trying to make an old KISS record, but we were trying to approach it the way old records were made. Not just KISS, but records in general - in the 70's. Meaning, a band getting together, hashing out the idea in a rehearsal room, then going in to record it. And playing TOGETHER, in a room - playing together, recording tracks together. Rather than me playing along to a drum machine, and someone just playing a guide guitar part. We played together as a band. I think that whole approach (is more conducive). KISS is a ROCK AND ROLL BAND! So the band was going, "let's just play and write songs that are more in the style of the old KISS." Meaning, more of the "Rock and Roll KISS." Not trying to be "Heavy Metal KISS" or "Grunge KISS," or anything. Let's just be KISS. We're just making a record because we can, and we wanted to. It was the right reason to make a record. I think that shines through. I think that shines through, that we weren't about anything else other than just making a KISS record. Bottom line is - not only myself, but Tommy and I are both KISS fans. I was definitely influenced, and a fan, of those first 3 KISS records. Since I knew we weren't going to have keyboards, we were just gonna play - 2 guitars, bass and drums, and just have it straight ahead. We said, "Hey, this is cool. Let's just make a rock record."
My (personal) approach was, "How did KISS approach the records in those days?" I love "Dressed To Kill." That record has a lot of cool songs and KISS riffs. So hearing the cowbell, which was very prevalent on those early KISS records, I thought that was the cool thing to do. To me, it was a tip of the hat to Peter (Criss). Kind of like, Peter used to come up with some cool approaches and styles in the early days. And being a KISS fan, I liked that approach to what they did. To me, I thought I'm gonna bring a cowbell in, and I've used it a few times throughout the record, if you noticed. That to me, is almost like a KISS-ism - if you will - having the cowbell on those songs. It's something that Peter used to do, and I thought that was always very cool. I have to give total props and total respect to the original band and what they created. They formed the sound of KISS. (And) I wouldn't be in KISS if it wasn't for them.