Q&A With Peter CrissThe Republic
Kiss drummer Peter Criss can now add New York Times Best Seller to a list of accomplishments that may have peaked with the writing and singing of “Beth,” the highest-charting Kiss song ever, in 1976.
And that’s a mighty happy ending for a guy who sets the tone for “Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of Kiss” with “Have you ever tasted the barrel of a .357 Magnum that’s halfway down your throat?” — recounting the time he almost killed himself in 1994.
We caught up with Criss to talk about the memoirs he’ll be signing on Thursday, Dec. 6, at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe.
Question: What was it like reliving all these memories?
Answer: Thank God I made a lot of tapes through the years of things that happened because it’s a lot to remember (laughs). I’m 66. So there’s a lot. We have enough to do three more books. But it was an emotional roller coaster. A lot of restless nights. Should I write that? Shouldn’t I write that? What do I want to leave behind when I’m gone off this planet for my relatives and my daughter to read? Did I get enough of the honesty?
I talked about things I didn’t want to but my co-writer (Larry “Ratso” Sloman) convinced me. He said, “I think you’re a guy from the heart.” Which I am. I’m a Catholic kid. I don’t believe in lying. Never did. It gets you nowhere. And I pound myself in this book. I’m not easy on me at all. I’m right in your face about my addiction, my insanity, my two bad marriages, my survival. It starts with a gun in my mouth.
But the ending is today, I’m cancer-free. My wife is amazing. I have my health. I live in a beautiful home. Everything is good. And the book is doing better than I thought it would. I’m told it’s the best Kiss book ever written.
Q: Were there other rock biographies you looked to and said, “OK, so this is a really good example of what I should be doing”?
A: Probably Jimmy Stewart’s inspired me more in terms of dealing with real feelings. I learned it’s not who, what and where. It’s why. That’s what makes a great book. In my book, I tell why.
Q: Did asking why help you find answers?
A: Absolutely. It’s very cathartic. And actually, it’s taken a lot of weight off my shoulders that I’ve carried through the years and through the breakups and makeups, the deceit that went on between us, the money and the power. It was unspeakable. So yeah, it has answered a lot of my questions. You’d better believe it.
Q: You mentioned struggling with “Do I put this in?” Are there examples of things in the book that you thought maybe you should leave out?
A: Well, my honesty about my addiction. My talking about my childhood, growing up very poor, having horrific Catholic school experiences. My visions. I’ve seen an angel. I’ve seen Mary. I’ve died and come back. Talking about my marriages was very uncomfortable. I didn’t know if I wanted the world to know that. That felt pretty private. But I didn’t want to cut corners. If you’re gonna write about your life, you need to write about your life. Or you’re just wasting paper.
Q: But there are things that you did leave out?
A: Oh, I will take them to my grave with me.
Q: Were you concerned with how your former bandmates would react when you were writing this?
A: I don’t really care. Gene wrote one and Ace wrote one, and I don’t think they thought about how I’d react. We’re way too old for that nonsense. Or I am. I battled cancer and won. So did my wife. I have a whole new outlook. I’m on a different planet than they are. So I don’t really think about that.
Q: What was the best part of writing this book for you?
A: Doing it. It’s a major achievement for me. To be called an author is pretty cool. I’m a musician. I’m a drummer. I’m a songwriter. I’m a singer. I’m an actor. But I never got to be an author. And it’s something I always wanted to do, even way further back than the ’80s. I promised myself that one day I would write a book about my band. I started the band, too. They’ll never have a bigger hit than “Beth.” It won a People’s Choice Award. I’m very proud of that. And I’m very proud that I wrote my life story.