Drummer Eric Singer first became aware of KISS when he saw their picture in Rock Scene magazine. He’s now 22 years in the band and explains their mass appeal “from little kids up to people a lot older than us even at this point”, to Bryget Chrisfield.
"The Tour” – KISS and Mötley Crüe's double-headed touring stint – was always gonna make many rock'n'roll dreams come true when Australian dates were added and KISS drummer Eric Singer promises, “We'll all come down there together to keep the party going.” Cue excitement for potential debaucherous after-parties. “The great thing is that everybody is a little older, a little wiser and knows how to be smart and to make the whole thing work. And, you know, everybody keeps their ego checked at the door and we realise, 'Hey, Mötley does what they do, KISS do what we do and together it's a win-win, because everybody gets a better show – you get two great bands instead of just one.' And it's a bigger party and more fun for everybody and I always kind of try to adhere to that philosophy in general, in my own personal life: I like to see everybody benefit from things, not just one person.”
It's the OG line-up of Mötley Crüe that's heading Down Under, but only one half of this current KISS line-up are constant members: vocalist/rhythm guitarist Paul Stanley and vocalist/bassist Gene Simmons. Singer, who officially became KISS's drummer after Eric Carr passed away in 1991, and lead guitarist Thomas Thayer – whose debut outing in The Spacesuit (replacing Ace Frehley) occurred in 2003 when the band recorded KISS Symphony: Alive IV with the Melbourne Symphony – round out the line-up.
Given that Singer hasn't always lorded over us from the KISS drum riser, when was it that he first became aware of KISS? “Um, I saw KISS in a magazine back in the '70s called Rock Scene,” he explains. “It was a rock magazine, but the print was almost like a newspaper; the cover was in colour, but all the content was black and white. I always thought that was the coolest magazine – that's the one that I found I was influenced by the most and there was a section in it that had new bands. And it showed a picture of this band with makeup on.
“Paul Stanley told me that bands would send their own picture in to promote themselves. So I cut that picture out and I remember I taped it or glued it to my little wardrobe, like an armoire, that I had in my bedroom. My mum reminded me of that; she remembered that I had done that. So I was attracted to the band from the first time I saw it, because I liked all the English glam-era bands: The Sweet, Mott The Hoople, T Rex, David Bowie – anything like that I was attracted to. [Coughs a loogie from his throat] Excuse me. So right away, of course, I saw KISS and then when I saw the album cover – I bought the first album, by the way – and I saw how they looked, and then hearing the music, to me somehow it all made sense: the logo, the look, the sound of the band. I thought, 'Oh, this band's got something unique going on here, I have a feeling this band's gonna be something special. And, um, I think my instincts were right.” Singer acknowledges that “because [he's] experienced it firsthand”, through his own life experiences, there might be some truth in the law of attraction.
There's such a strong visual component to being in KISS. When asked whether he has to drum in platform moon boots, Singer chuckles, “Noooo,” before pointing out he's only required to rock the towering footwear for photo shoots. Then he pauses. “Well one time I actually did do that. We did a gig for a plus-size women's clothing line here in America and they were doing a fashion show/runway thing in New York City. And a couple of models were Mia Tyler, Steven Tyler from Aerosmith's daughter, and Anna Nicole Smith. So we did this thing and we had to basically lip sync playing to, like, five songs and then when we finished it we'd get up from behind our instruments and walk down the runaway with all the models to take pictures for the paparazzi. So I had to play in the platforms even though I wasn't really playing live. And I remember the next thing my legs and ankles were just killing me. It was the most weirdest sensation and so awkward, but that's the only time that I actually physically [drummed in platforms].
“On stage I just wear regular, like, training-type shoes, sneakers, tennis shoes – whatever you wanna call 'em. But I actually got some shoes – I think I found them in the airport in Amsterdam, I don't remember – a bright silver leather, something that matches my costume. 'Cause nobody sees them except me, but I wanna look cool at least to myself back there.”
As a fellow drummer, surely Singer has been tempted to have a crack on Tommy Lee's drum coaster; the Mötley Crüe stickman's gargantuan kit is part of a circular rollercoaster structure that enables Lee to drum while in motion, defying gravity while suspended upside down. “I'm not really much for going upside down,” Singer admits, confirming “the whole kit and caboodle” of The Tour's stage setting, is headed our way. There's an extra seat on the coaster to accommodate a lucky fan per show, and Singer tells of a nine-year-old “little Philippine girl” named Alexey [Poblete], who came down for a spin during soundcheck when the rock'n'roll circus hit Las Vegas. “She's on YouTube,” he points out. “You'll get a kick out of it seeing a little kid that can play at such a high level, at such a young age, and she's only been playing for three years so she's pretty amazing.”
On how kids get so good so young these days, Singer observes: “Well you gotta remember, when I was a kid coming up we didn't even have video machines, you know, to buy instructional videos. You didn't have YouTube where you can go on there and pretty much watch your favourite drummers over and over. You know, when you're a kid you're a sponge. So you just absorb stuff and, bingo! We just had to listen to records and kind of pick things up and then the only time you got to see a drummer play was if you saw them in concert and that was only when they came through town. So our way of learning and picking up things was a lot different.”
Monster is the latest (and 20th) KISS studio album and Singer offers, “I think we realise that KISS is what it is and you're not trying to chase any trends, or be something you're not… because at this point in everybody's life nobody needs headaches to make it work. You have to be workman-like in the sense of your professionalism, and your due diligence, when it needs to apply. But ultimately you wanna be able to have fun.
“I mean, next year will be forty years that KISS has been a band. So it is multi-generational and our fans are really pretty much all ages from little kids up to people a lot older than us even at this point. KISS is not just the music, it's everything, the whole visual appeal combined with the music, which has made the band unique and turned it into a timeless iconic longevity.”
KISS will be playing the following dates:
Tuesday 5 & Wednesday 6 March - Etihad Stadium, Melbourne VIC
Saturday 9 & Sunday 10 March - Allphones Arena, Sydney NSW
Tuesday 12 March - Entertainment Centre, Brisbane NSW