He’s a hopeless romantic
KISS drummer and Kauai lover Peter Criss' new solo album reveals his sensitive side
When KISS drummer Peter Criss started talking about Kauai, "his favorite place in the world," there was no stopping him for about a half-hour straight.
Speaking by phone from his home outside New York City, his effusiveness eventually spilled over to the topic at hand, the release of his new solo album, "One for All." It's Criss sans Catman makeup and his musical heart on his sleeve.
Thanks to the immense success he's experienced being one-fourth of one of the biggest rock 'n' roll acts around, Criss has regularly been a hotel guest on the Garden Isle over the last three decades.
"We always go late January, and love the tranquility," he said. When asked why hasn't he bought real estate there, Criss admits, "Yeah, I kick myself in the butt about that -- you know, could've, should've. Todd Rundgren lives there, and he told me now's the wrong time to buy. I'd end up spending millions on a shack. But, in my heart, I love that island. Now, my wife and I, we're thinking about buying property on the Big Island. The next time we go on holiday, we'll go real-estating.
"There's just a wonderful vibe there. I feel I'm a real Hawaiian at heart."
ON HIS self-produced album, Criss said he reveals his sensitive side, "reinventing myself as a hopeless romantic."
"(The ballad) 'Beth' was KISS' biggest hit, and I'm very proud of it, but I know I'm a senior. With the Stones and Aerosmith, KISS was around at the greatest time in rock 'n' roll. I've not changed loving music, and even though I was in a historic metal band, my tastes were always very R&B, Motown and jazz. With this new album, I finally have a chance to do what I really love to do.
"It took 10 years of getting back to my roots. It's an autobiographical album. (Mastering engineer) George Marino said he loved it. He told me, 'I haven't heard something this innocent and honest, so simple and so right and so cool,' and I thought, 'Wow!' "
The "One for All" journey began after KISS finished a 2003 tour by playing with the 60-piece Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
"I knew then it was all over, that that was my final time with the band. When I went back home, I was depressed and blue. But I'm an artist, so I really dug into my heart and pulled it friggin' out. One of the couple of songs I covered for the album, 'Send in the Clowns,' expressed what I was feeling during those heavy times. And 'Heart Behind These Hands,' from the Broadway musical 'Brooklyn,' I did it as a heavy blues, thinking the song could be about a musician."
He made some home recordings and took them to Paul Shaffer, bandleader on "Late Night with David Letterman."
"He said he knew this great arranger, Clifford Carter, and he really got me on base. ... With Clifford, Paul and Paul's bass player from the show, Will Lee, they made it really easy for me. They couldn't be more giving. To be myself, to do this for my own little label, I've felt this has been well worth it."
On the title track, Criss revisits the trauma of 9/11. "It was a nightmare. It was like the world ended. Even though we got through it, it's still very haunting to drive into the city and see that the World Trade Center is gone. The song is my way of protesting the state of the world we're in. And while there is anger in the tune, I used the kids of the Church of Transfiguration Boys Choir to show that there is a future still for them.
"As I'm getting older ... I'm appreciating more of life. I'm starting a fund for sexually abused children. ... This is the time of my life to pick and choose what I want to do. I have a great wife who's cool with my career. And even though I'm 60, I have the heart of a 16-year-old. I refuse to grow up. I really believe music keeps you young."