KISS: Interview with Peter Criss
The Catman Talketh
By Tim McMahan
Ask anyone if they know who Peter Criss is and they'll likely respond, "Ain't he the cat guy in KISS?"

Criss will forever be known as "the cat guy" to millions of fans --the KISS Army-- who grew up buying KISS albums (80 million sold since 1972), KISS notebooks, KISS action figures, lunch boxes, T-shirts, make-up kits (!), Halloween costumes, and on and on. The band has become an American rock-and-roll icon.
Add to that the legendary KISS concerts -- Gene Simmons (the Demon) blowing flames, spitting blood, wiggling his so-called double-jointed tongue. And the Cat Guy, Criss, rising four stories in the air behind a rack of smoking drums. Omahans will get a chance to relive the rock 'n' roll magic Dec. 16 as KISS returns on their Psycho Circus tour with the band's original line-up: Gene, Paul, Peter and Ace.
The Reader caught up with the cat guy on his day off, kicking back at Chicago's Ritz-Carlton Hotel -- ground zero for the next 16 days as KISS storms the Midwest on its sold-out tour. It's just like 1977 all over again.
I've still got the greatest job in the world.
It's very cool shit.
Reader: So what have you been doing on your day off, just relaxing?
Criss: There is no relaxing in KISS. I've been on the phone doing interviews all day. I finally got a chance to talk to my daughter from my previous marriage. I just got married May 3 to my beautiful wife, but we don't see each other much. So I got a chance to call her, my family and my lawyer. As busy as I claim to be, I've still got the greatest job in the world.
Reader: So what can the people of Omaha expect when the Psycho Circus comes to town?
Criss: It's so cool. I have the best seat in the house every night; it's the best two hours of my day. What I love about being a member of KISS is that we're the 'John Glenns' of rock -- we always have to be the first in anything we do, and I love that. We have the balls to do what the big guys do and the little guys won't do. Bringing 3-D into the show is a first and we'll have the largest screens ever in history behind us on stage. Three times during the show the drums are lifted over the audience -- I go up and out, right, left and back. When the 3-D kicks in, I get to see all these people in their glasses - which is weird enough -- just freak out.
Reader: What is it, a 3-D movie?
Criss: It's not just a movie. The band comes at you in 3-D, in your face. Cool things happen. Ace's guitar flies through space, goes through a hole, and blows up. I throw drumsticks and they come flying at you. It's very cool shit.
Reader: You've been doing this for 25 years on and off?
Criss: More like 37 years.
Reader: How has the whole thing changed since when you started?
Criss: It's the age of the computer; things change, people change. I notice very young people running the business today. I deal with guys in their 20s and early 30s who are presidents of companies, who are movie directors. It's a younger generation running the show, and I miss the generation we had in the '70s. They were really very honorable guys, like Neal Bogart and Bill Graham, people who will never be around again.
Today, we're dealing with a different guy, who's much slicker, much smarter, much more intelligent and much better with the shit shovel. There's a lot of smoke being blown at you, but this is no new sport to me; I've been doing it a long time, I'm used to it and I see it coming immediately the minute it gets into our realm. I've known Gene and Paul for 27 years, that's a long time. We really know each other like brothers. We make magic. But if you get near us and we sense something, you're dead, you're blown away, you're immediately discharged.
Reader: So it's sort of a built-in bullshit detector...
Criss: Yeah, a lot of it is bullshit. We don't allow anyone or anything to get into the circle of the four of us, because we realize and appreciate how great we've been. We've got back together, and life's been fucking wonderful for all of us. The magic's back and we're in a time tunnel, feeling like when we were in our 20s back in the 1970s. We don't take it lightly; it's a very serious thing for the four of us. We work real hard every night to see our fans' faces light up. When I do my solo and hear them yell, "Go Peter," oh my God, I can't tell you what a feeling that is.
Reader: KISS is so huge that it's become part of the American culture. Have you ever taken a step back and said, "I'm just this guy from New York, I can't believe this has all grown around me"?
Criss: Absolutely. I'm from Brooklyn. I grew up very poor -- seven people, four rooms. My dad had no education. Life was not a cream puff for me. I really broke my ass. At about 16 years old, I was a delivery boy in a butcher shop and paid $200 for an old set of Radial King Slingerlands. Gene Krupa had the same set that's why I was so amazed when I got them. I used to carry them around in a wagon. So I don't take any of this lightly, I still remember those days. I remember the cold loft we had on 23rd St. when the four of us were freezing our asses off because we couldn't afford the heat. We were sharing a bottle of cheap sherry wine to get warm. Now I have this great house away from everything in New York, I've got my own little world. I'm building a 24-track studio downstairs, I've got a lot of projects going, I surround myself with my loved ones, my family.
Reader: The height of the band was the late '70s, early '80s. Is being in the band today the same as it was back then?
Criss: No. We're much more controlled now. We were kids back then, we each had our own demons. It was insanity. I think we were much too young to understand a lot of things. It changed so quickly, so much was there and it was so out of control at times. We were four egos. There was a lot of shit going on and no one was appreciative -- especially me of what I had and what I lost. I think we needed to go through all that and spend some years away from each other to learn what the mistakes were and what we will never do again. We're really in control; that's the difference. We were out of control then.
Reader: As far as music goes, are you writing new material?
Criss: I'm always writing and bringing stuff to the band. We're gonna do some new tracks for our movie, Detroit Rock City. It's cool, it's about these four kids who idolize us, working their way to a KISS concert, and how each one loses his virginity on the way. Very funny shit. I heard some kid loses his stuff in a confessional booth. I don't know if I liked it - being a Catholic guy -- but right here it's funny. There's a cool scene where a kid's mom breaks a drumstick and he comes to the show and I heave one in the air and he catches it - it's kind of like a magical thing. I think it comes out April 11 in all the theaters. We're actually working now on an animated movie, and maybe a Broadway play.
Reader: Will there be a new album some time soon?
Criss: Who knows? I want to put out a live album after this tour, it would be phenomenal. We're talking about going in and doing another album. There's never enough time.
Reader: So what do you remember about Omaha?
Criss: You guys rock, I mean, come on... You really show your appreciation big-time right in your face, and that's what KISS has always been about. We're having the best times in our lives. We're getting along phenomenally, and it shows when we're up on stage. We fuck around, we joke consistently amongst ourselves, and I know that the vibe is going out in the audience. We can't wait to get there. I remember the pulse of the place. You rock, you know, and a lot of big places don't. You guys don't bullshit.
Reader: What happened at the East Rutherford concert last month when someone hit you in the face with a laser light from the audience?
Criss: I haven't lost my temper in years, and I do have a bad temper. I was doing "Beth" and this laser was hitting me, it was really making me nuts. I went beyond saying 'Oh it's just laser,' to thinking that there's a gun attached to it and I'm a great target sitting right in front of the stage. So I got to the mic and said, "I'm gonna take that and shove it all the way up your ass." Paul came out and said, "Bring it to your school tomorrow in sixth grade, because that's where you belong." I've never seen a laser again; and that's how he handles it every night.
Reader: What's on the horizon for you guys?
Criss: We're doing a huge show in Detroit at Pontiac Stadium. We're playing the Superbowl this year, we're opening up before the coins drop. And we're gonna be the first rock and roll band in history on the cover of Playboy, posed with 20 naked beautiful women. My wife stayed in the other room during the shoot. You would have loved being there, trust me.
Reader: You're married now, but you're on the road and the women are everywhere. Do you still feel any temptation?
Criss: No. I'm so happily married, man. I love my wife. Normality is something I need. Look, I've seen more tits and ass than God will ever know. Every night I see a thousand dresses with tits being lifted. I told my wife last night, 'Honey, you shoulda seen this one girl, I think she was ripping her nipples off, for Christ sake. She was treating her breasts like they were rubber balls.' My wife thinks it's hilarious. So I don't know... I'm a happy guy, I don't really go with that shit, I don't wanna die.
Reader: And I'm sure you got that out of your system way back when.
Criss: Absolutely. And I survived it.
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