PETER CRISS Discusses His Musical Career and Surviving Breast Cancer


Founder drummer of Kiss, Peter Criss, survived breast cancer four years ago. Peter,thankfully, has been healthy since the “scare”  and is doing his part in putting the word out to men and the importance of early detection.

Matthew Wilkening of UltimateClassicRock.com had the opportunity of speaking with Peter Criss, founding drummer of Kiss, about his surviving cancer four years ago.  Thankfully, Peter has been healthy ever since and is doing his part in putting out the word to men and the importance of early detection.

So, this is a big thrill for me. ‘Hotter than Hell’ is the first record I ever owned, at age eight.

Oh, great record — and I’m glad you called it a record, cause that’s what they are, although, it was a strange album, put it that way, but yeah, it was a good album.

Back then you guys recorded so fast, I’m amazed you can separate one record from the other

Tell me about it, it was… make a record, then you tour the record, then you write as you’re touring, and then when you get off the tour you go into the studio, do another record, go back out with the record on the tour. In our day, that’s how it was. The dinosaur days, I call them. But man, I wouldn’t give them up for all the tea in China.

Why is that?

We really came up the right way, I was watching that ‘American Idol’ show, with Steven Tyler, and like David Letterman said, you get on there, and you’re kind of a star overnight, you really passed up the journey of going up the hill. I was a poor kid in Brooklyn, my dream was to play Madison Square Garden in front of my parents, and now that’s happened many many times — thanks to God, cause I’m a major Catholic kid.

But you had to build to it, nowadays people get right to it

Oh yeah, our journey was hard, we had to play a lot of dives, we had to go through a lot. In those days that’s how you did it, it wasn’t some overnight, five million dollar contract — I wish! — but, ehh, that’s progress, to a degree.

Yeah, but they’ll be gone again in a few years, your music will still be here.

Yeah, I believe so too, but I watch it, and I’m a 20th century kid, I (laughs) hate the 21st century. I’m a really old-fashioned kid with the television, I’m a late ’50s kid, I grew up with ‘Hoppy’ and ‘The Lone Ranger,’ those kind of shows, with morals and integrity and honor, it seems like those are gone. I sound like my Dad! These kids today, I don’t believe it, it’s very sad. The messages were really pretty cool back then, but I find the stuff today, this reality stuff is appalling.

I have to help our pop site cover the singing shows from time to time, and I whine and cry like a big baby…

I don’t blame you! Give me a break, I tell my wife, ‘how much more can we take of it, and what more do I want to see or hear or know?’ Then, they show these people making millions of dollars catching alligators or making moonshine, or I don’t know what they’re doing. What is this? They don’t even have talent — God forgive me, but I don’t think so — it’s just a regular guy running a pawn shop, but they’re huge stars, and they’re making millions of dollars.

 It’s a strange world.

To me, in my life now, coming on my next birthday, I look at life in a whole different perspective these last four years…

You’re gonna be 66, right?

Ohhhhhh, I hate it! (jokingly) We don’t even talk about it, ever since I turned sixty. But three is my lucky number, and those are double threes, so I’m expecting a really dynamite year. I feel real positive about a bunch of things coming up for me. I’m not alone, I look at other rock guys, like the Stones and Zeppelin and the Who, just all these people, we’re all the same age. So I’m in good company. All the guys my age were around in the great times, when music was changing, when Vietnam was happening, and the British Invasion.

I read a lot about your love of Gene Krupa and Sinatra, but you loved things like Zeppelin, right?

I liked it, I got to actually see them the first time they came here and performed at the Fillmore in the village, cause I was a real village kid. I used to hang with my dearest friend, who was the drummer of the New York Dolls, Jerry Nolan. Yes, I liked it, but I dug the Stones more, I was a huge Beatles fan, I loved what they were doing and think they changed the whole sound of music. And the lyrics were just — they were geniuses. As far as I felt, I lived during the Beethoven (era) of rock and roll. Their chords alone, it was brilliant. They were geniuses, they did things nobody dared, the whole world thought they were Gods. I love them the most, they were the favorite. Then I went towards bands like the Animals and the Yardbirds, bands like that I liked.

So, you’ve been cancer free for more than three years now, right?

Four years, and my checkup comes up next week. I’m real excited about it because I feel great, except for the old pains that come from drumming for fifty years. I go to the gym every day, I walk three and a half miles, I work out five days a week, I play down in the studio. My wife had cancer, too. It’s an amazing story, if not for her cancer I wouldn’t be living. She’s feeling good too. So I just feel great and I’m looking forward to going in. They say it’s five years and you’re out of the water. Personally, my experience is you’re never out of the water. Every day I wake up and I get a pain, I think of the big “C” immediately. Because once it’s in your body, its evil, and I never thought I’d have that in my body. I even went into therapy over it all, because I just couldn’t believe it. You just have that fear, it never goes away. But I’m not worried. Every day above ground, my Dad used to say, is a good day.

Just so we can help people out, how exactly did you first notice any signs of trouble?

It was a nodule, like a lump in my nipple and I discovered it when I got back from the gym. Look out for bumps and pain, a kind of pain where you just know — this is a kind of pain I’ve never had before. I’ve had cysts and I remember them and I remember the doctor taking them out. This was different, it hurt like hell, it got bigger as I screwed around with it.

Please check out the continuation of the interview with Criss here.

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