Since I was 12, I have played the drums. I started on an old four-piece Ludwig set that was made in 1941. It still had the old thick paper heads.
Through the years, I have been influenced by some great drummers — Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Rush's Neil Peart, former Journey-man Steve Smith, Led Zeppelin's late John Bonham, Metallica's Lars Ulrich, Lamb of God's Chris Adler, the late Styx drummer John Panozzo, Pantera/Damageplan/Hellyeah drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott, jazz greats Dave Weckl and Billy Cobham and, of course, my favorite drummer Tommy Aldridge, just to name a few.
There is also one drummer that I can consider my earliest influence — Kiss' Peter Criss.
I knew about Criss well before I was 12. Back in 1974, my cousin's favorite band was Kiss. And that's when I first heard the songs "Strutter" and "Firehouse," which were featured on Kiss' self-titled debut album.
I have seen Kiss in concert before, but I was able to actually interview Criss by phone last week. We chatted about his career in Kiss, his work-out regimen and his new solo album, "One For All," which will be released next Tuesday on Silvercat Records.
"One for All" is Criss' fourth solo album, if you count 1978's "Peter Criss," which was released the same time that the other members of Kiss — Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley — released their respective solo albums during the band's heyday.
"The idea from 'One for All' actually started when I got an idea to record my own version of 'Send in the Clowns,"' Criss said from his home in New Jersey. "But the album's title is a tribute to my fans. I mean, I wouldn't be where I am now without the fans. Kiss has the most dedicated, wild, psychotic, erotic and esoteric fans in the world. And 'One for All' is my gift back to them."
Criss said he got the idea to redo "Send in the Clowns" and sent it to a friend, Paul Shaffer (bandleader on "The Late Show With David Letterman.") "He immediately got back to me and told me how sick I was to attempt the song, and said he wanted in. He also brought along bassist Will Lee."
"One for All" took shape over two years, said Criss (who was born George Peter John Criscuola). "I had ideas for a long time, but when Kiss finished the 'Kiss Symphony' album and concert, I knew that I had to make another album on my own."
None of this is meant to disparage Kiss, however, Criss said. "I am grateful for being a part of Kiss, but I do know that I'm only one-fourth of the machine. While playing in the band is great, there is a lot of responsibility that comes with the part, and with the responsibility comes the politics and such. So when we finished the concert, I needed to do something for myself. And what better thing could I do was to make an album for my fans."
When 9/11 happened, two years before the "Kiss Symphony" gig, Criss, who was born and raised in New York, had a lot of emotions to sift through. "I'm a churchgoer and very serious about my beliefs. And I remember sitting in church after 9/11 and getting the idea for the song 'One for All.' I knew I had to write something. Whether or not I would record it, I just knew I had to write something."
While the title track can also be interpreted as a song by a musician playing for his fans, there are a couple of songs on the album that are more direct: "Faces in the Crowd" and "Memories." "I love our fans. And they deserve to be noticed. I don't do anything musically without them in mind."
In order for Criss to make the album, he financed it all himself. "I don't care if it doesn't make money. All I care about is having it out there so the fans can hear it. It's a piece of me. The songs are my thoughts and my thoughts alone.
"This is an extremely personal album for me. And while in the past I have been nervous about putting my heart out for all to see, this time it was the right thing to do. 'One for All' is a little piece of me."