ERIC SINGER INTERVIEW
February 22, 2010
By Tim McPhate - KissFAQ

KISS fans know Eric Singer is a talented drummer. But perhaps more notably, Eric Singer is full of passion. And, as he is apt to point out, he can sometimes go on tangents.

"I will try to speak slowly, clearly and concisely because I tend to talk a hundred miles an hour," he prefaces. "But when you catch me early in the day like this, I am usually more mellow."

Over the course of two and a half hours with Eric, we span many topics over coffee for him and energy drinks for me. At times it feels like more of a conversation than an interview. During our discussion he is interrupted by business calls as KISS is getting ready to head for Europe, starting with a promotional tour next week. When asked about future band plans, Eric jokes, "I look at KISS Online -- that's where I usually find out what we're doing and where I'm going."

It's all business as usual for Eric Singer. "At the end of the day, whether people like it or not, this is what I do for a living," he says. "I play drums for a living. When I go on tour, that's like somebody going to their job. It's not your typical job, it's very unique and different. But it's my workplace and I've always tried to treat it seriously. I can only attribute part of me having any longevity and any amount of success in the business probably more to me understanding how things work and what it takes to be in a band."

Eric speaks candidly when it comes to his career and he is happy to share his philosophy on how he has been able to stick around in a business where the odds are stacked against success. When the conversation turns to Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, there is a reverent tone in his voice.

"Gene and Paul at the end of the day are my bosses. But it's not like a typical boss situation. Most people don't hang around with their boss and travel with them and do anything socially with them. Like I called Paul yesterday to talk about watches because we both like watches. We talk about stuff that has nothing to do with music. And most people's relationship with their boss wouldn't probably be that way. It's a unique situation we have, the relationship between all of the members of the band. I look at Gene like an uncle. I know it's kind of funny because he's only like 8 years older than me. But he's almost like a father figure."

As the calendar reads 2010, it's hard to imagine Eric's history with KISS dates back 19 years now. For him, KISS is more than just business. "When I play in KISS, my family is Gene, Paul and Tommy, and Doc and the guys in the crew. That becomes your world. That's who you are around all the time and interacting with on a daily basis."

So strap in as we cover with Eric, among other topics, many things KISS, drums, his father the bandleader, the reunion, the music business, Olivia Newton-John (yes, Olivia Newton-John), and the other albums and projects in which he's participated over a successful career that has now spanned more than a quarter century.

KissFAQ: Eric, thanks for taking time out today to talk with KissFAQ.

Eric Singer: No problem, Tim.

KF: The Sonic Boom Over Europe Tour is scheduled to kick off in May and run through late June. Can you share with us any details about what's been discussed in regard to the set list?

ES: We haven't gotten to that point yet. We talked about it at the end of the U.S. tour. Everybody starts thinking ahead, but we don't think too far ahead because you tend to live in the moment and the task at hand. If you are on tour playing shows now, that's what you are focusing and concentrating on.

We're going to Europe to do some promotional stuff, including the television show in Germany called "Wetten, Dass ...?" ("Wanna Bet ...?). It's a really big show. 80 percent of Germany, Switzerland and Austria watch the show and they claim 50 million people watch it. They do it six times a year. It's almost like "American Idol" in a way where it's a really big event.

Once we start rehearsals in another month or so, and now that we've had a break from each other, we'll get to it. We're leaving on Wednesday and once we're traveling together and hanging out, all those conversations will come up and it will get discussed. Usually Paul tends to be the ring leader when it comes to the set list. But he'll usually run it by all of us and ask us what we think and what songs we want to do. I always try to get in some cool or older obscure song and Paul will be like, "Nah." Usually Tommy and I are trying to convince him to try and do something obscure.

KF: You've got to twist his arm a bit harder.

ES: You know, I love the first three KISS records. So if we play anything from those first three records, as far as I'm concerned, I'm happy. We've thrown around ideas, you know like how Cheap Trick played the whole "In Color" album, and that kind of thing.

We did actually do that with "Alive!" At one point, we did it verbatim and we had to drop a few songs because of the show times. People sometimes don't understand that there are a lot of logistics involved with being on tour. Like when we're in Europe on a big bill with a festival, and you get a time slot and you get X amount of time to play. Well you have to cut something, you can't just go play as long as you want. Sometimes you can, but sometimes you have curfews. For example, when you play Madison Square Garden, you can't go a minute past 11:00 p.m. or they charge you overtime for an hour. Every employee in the building gets an hour of overtime paid.

That's what happens with these union gigs sometimes. And I'm not talking down against unions but the reality is sometimes there are a lot of logistics and things going on behind the scenes. When a fan goes to the show and says, "They only did this and this but not this," they don't understand that maybe the band had to stop at a certain time and that's all they are allowed to play.

Anyway, I went on a tangent (laughs).

I just asked Tommy the other day, we talked about working in some different songs from "Sonic Boom." And he said he talked to Paul about getting that discussion going. Next week we'll talk about it and figure out what's going on.

I mean I'd like to do some different songs. But you have to remember, bands are very funny. If they don't get a reaction within the first one or two times playing it, or they feel the reaction isn't any good, a lot of times your manager will go, "Guys, that song's not really working. You've got to get rid of it." And then people will go, "Why did they take that song out? They only played it a couple of times."

It's a bit of a double-edged sword. As much as you want to make the fans happy, you also have to make yourself happy. It's very tough when a lot of people coming to shows want to hear the songs they are familiar with. Let's face it, so many times you go see a band and they have a new record and you're hearing all the old hits, let's say Elton John or the Who, and all of the sudden they get to a new song and they're going, "I don't know this song." And they just kind of sit there and it goes over like a lull and the energy goes down. A band picks up on that very sensitively.

KF: That said, how do you think the new "Sonic Boom" material went over on the U.S. portion of the Alive 35 Tour?

ES: I think okay. What really helps, for example with "Say Yeah," is at the beginning of the song Paul would invite the audience to participate and sing. That's why Paul is one of the greatest frontmen in rock and is a ringleader. That's why they call them "lead singers." Because they take the lead. Paul is really great at working the crowd and making people feel included and wanted when they're there. I've got to say, when it comes to performing and entertaining, Gene and Paul are as good as it gets. They're master entertainers.

Think of all the great frontmen that have come and gone, and I mean come and gone. To me, Mick Jagger sets the bar and still does, even at his age. I was playing with Alice Cooper a few years ago and we opened for the Stones and I learned a lot just from the three gigs we did opening for them. Not only did I learn a lot, I had a newfound respect for Mick Jagger and the Stones, mainly Mick. Mick still performs at a level that's unbelievable, not just for his age, and he kills most younger guys.

That to me is what Paul Stanley has done. Paul has been able to maintain this high level of being an entertainer and a great frontman. There's only a handful of guys in that class in my opinion. Freddie Mercury, Mick Jagger, Paul Stanley, Steven Tyler, David Lee Roth.

KF: You don't see that type of frontman anymore.

ES: No, you don't. Going back a bit I liked Scott Weiland. Axl Rose was a good frontman. I think Josh Todd from Buckcherry is a good frontman. He knows how to work the crowd. He's got the right look, the right vibe.

I was just thinking about that yesterday, it will be interesting to see how much longevity a band like that will have. To me, they're just a good rock band. That's what I like about them -- I like good rock and hard rock bands. I think they know how to write some cool and catchy songs. Now, whether they are going to have some legs to last like a KISS, an Aerosmith or a Motley Crue? it remains to be seen.

KF: After the European tour, can you share any plans about a KISS U.S. tour this summer?

ES: I don't really know yet. There's been talk and some proposals, but like all things KISS there's always a lot of talk about a lot things on the table.

If you ask Gene, Gene will always say, "We've got a lot of things in the works," and some people will tease him or make jokes. But you know something? Gene has a lot of passion for KISS. He loves KISS. KISS is his life. He's a very driven, hard-working guy. Everything he does is always about KISS. Even when he's doing these other things people think have nothing to do with KISS, they all kind of do have something to do with KISS. It's because of KISS that he's able to do these other things. That's why Gene does work hard at KISS. He does really care about what the band does.

KF: Hard to believe this thing that started in 1973 is still going.

ES: KISS is Gene and Paul's baby and they are not going to let everybody else tell them what they should and shouldn't do, or can and can't do. The best analogy is a household. If you run a family, you have a right to raise your children and run your household the way you want because it's yours and you're entitled to do that. Your next-door neighbor or your sister or brother can say, "You're too strict with your kids" or "You're too lenient with your kids." Well you know something, that's your choice as a parent.

I think it's the same way with a band. Basically when you have a band and it becomes successful, it becomes a mini-company of sorts. You have the right to run it the way you want. Other people may not like it but guess what, that's the beauty of it.

KF: Going into "Sonic Boom." Given Paul and Gene's comments a few years back, a new KISS album just didn't seem like it would become a reality. I want to go back to 2007 when the band entered the studio to re-record the collection of songs that make up "Jigoku Retsuden" and disc 2 on the album. Do you recall how long you were in the studio?

ES: We did 15 songs. I did the drums in not even a day and a half. I remember I did 12 songs the first day and the other three the next afternoon in a few hours. It wasn't even a full day and a half.

KF: Were the songs tracked in a similar live fashion to the new "Sonic Boom" material and how would you characterize the band's approach?

ES: Most of it was. Some of that stuff was done live when we played together. And then for some of it we all tried to learn the arrangement of the song, and tried to learn the parts fairly accurately because we tried to be faithful. We tried to be in the spirit of it.

But I am not going to play it exactly the same because the bottom line is I don't play like Peter Criss. At the same time, Peter Criss doesn't play like me. So if you ask Peter to go and emulate a drum track from "Revenge," it's not going to sound like that. That'd be like me trying to emulate him, it's not going to sound exactly the same because everybody has their own style and feel. The way they hit the drum or strum a guitar.

I have to say Tommy captures Ace's guitar style really well because Tommy really grew up being heavily influenced by KISS. Ace was one of his guitar heroes, along with Jimmy Page and Ronnie Montrose. When you're influenced by somebody, that's why you end up sounding like them, because it's only natural.

You've got a lot of drummers that will always say John Bonham is the greatest rock drummer and they'll play a lot like John Bonham. And nobody bags on them. They'll think it's cool, "Wow that's great, that guy can play like Bonham." With Tommy, on one hand he gets a lot of accolades for being able to replicate the Ace style very well. I think it's great that he's able to do that. Where other people go, "He sounds too much like Ace." And I'm like, "Well, wait a minute, which is it? You can't have it both ways." If he didn't play the songs faithfully like Ace, people would say, "Well he doesn't play the Ace stuff right."

KF: That reminds me of what fans used to say about Vinnie Vincent and Bruce Kulick. With Vinnie, I've heard fans say, "He butchered the classics."

ES: You're right. When you had Bruce and Vinnie playing in the band and playing the old KISS songs, people would say, "Oh, they don't play the songs the right way." Can you hold on a second? I just want to get some more coffee so I can get more hyper.

KF: (laughs) Eric, I would never have guessed that you were a coffee drinker.

ES: Are you kidding? I'm a coffeeaholic (laughs).

KF: I've never been a coffee drinker. I'm more an energy drink guy myself.

ES: You know the 5-hour energy stuff?

KF: That stuff gets me flying off the walls.

ES: I drink one of those a couple hours before every show. I make sure I take a lot of vitamins on tour and I also drink Pedialyte to keep all the minerals in my system so I don't get fatigued and get crampy.

KF: I think we've uncovered your secret tour regimen.

ES: I'm telling you. It works for me. Give me a second, I'm using Skype and my laptop.

KF: Are you a Mac guy? Or PC?

ES: No, I've got a Mac. Actually I just hooked up a new one last weekend. I got a MacBook Pro.

KF: I'm a Mac addict myself. iPhone, MacBook, iPod.

ES: I've got an iPhone too.

KF: Back to the re-recordings. Some fans are of the opinion that the re-recordings may have reignited the band's creative fuse. Would you say that the re-recordings were a turning point as far as Paul and Gene's decision to record a new KISS studio album, or was it more of a business decision?

ES: I don't think so, not from my perspective. This is just my point of view. I think the reason they did the re-records originally was for licensing for commercials and stuff like that.

All those master recordings of old songs are owned by the label. For any band, if you re-record it, you own it. This is very common practice. I think it's so funny when so many bands who know nothing about how the business side of music works, they forget that it's a business and that a lot of these labels make most of the money.

KF: The re-recording of "Calling Dr. Love" is featured in the new Dr. Pepper Cherry ad so that is the licensing example right there.

ES: Exactly.

You know I remember Edgar Winter's "Free Ride" was used for a Buick commercial. One of my friends was playing in his band at the time. He was one of the guys who went in and re-recorded it because the original guy who sang it, Dan Hartman, was dead. Obviously, Edgar didn't own the master tapes but he was smart and shrewd enough to say, "I own this song. I am going to go in and re-record it." And he got different guys to do it. And if you listen, it's in the background of a commercial and most people aren't going to necessarily know it's a different singer. Actually the guy that sang "Free Ride" for that was Robin McAuley from McAuley Schenker Group.

You've got to remember that a lot of these guys didn't make so much money in those early days of touring. The deals weren't so good, you had a lot of crooked managers and men in the record business. So musicians just wanted to play, they'd say, "I don't care. I just want to play my guitar." Well the problem is, and I understand that point of view, because it is a bunch of bullshit. But the problem is that if you don't care, then everybody else does. Lawyers, managers, agents -- they do care because they know how much money is there. If you don't care, they're going to care and guess what, they're going to take all the money.

KF: Back to "Sonic Boom." I remember reading that the 11 tracks that ended up on the album were the only ones tracked. Is it true that there weren't any leftover tracks?

ES: Actually there was. There was one song that Gene had brought in that he really liked a lot. For some reason, there was mixed opinions on whether it fit in, continuity-wise.

KF: Remember the title?

ES: I don't remember the name of it. Gene kept changing it and tried to rewrite the lyrics and rewrite the whole melody. He liked the music and the melody he had and was trying to rewrite the lyrics and subject matter to try and get it to fit.

The song had a pretty cool musical riff. And I know Gene really liked it and he really wanted to try and get it included. And I liked it. But I remember Tommy and Paul didn't think that it fit in with the other songs, style-wise and continuity-wise, so it ended up getting nixed. That's the only thing I can think of as far as anything else that was recorded. And we only did a rough version of the song, we never did a final master. We recorded a version and nobody was really sold on it so we never pursued it more. Gene took that basic demo idea and kept trying to rewrite lyrics and melody but it didn't get developed past that.

KF: Any truth to you using your first set of drums in the studio for the recording of Sonic Boom?

ES: No, no, no. I have a bunch of older kits. I use different stuff all the time for recording. I did use one of my older kits. The first kit I ever had I don't even have anymore, which was some blue sparkle drum set called Dixie, which I think actually was an offshoot of Pearl ironically, because that's what I've been playing for 25 years. And I did use one of my older kits -- my first good kit, my first true professional kit -- I did use that on some of the recordings.

If you look on the cover of "Carnival Of Souls," that's an old kit I used to use in my dad's band. That's a 1964 Rogers White Marine Pearl drum kit that was made in Cleveland, Ohio. Rogers Drums used to be originally made in Cleveland, Ohio. Drummers know that when you say a Cleveland Rogers kit, they know that it's the ones that were made in the early days in Cleveland. Those are generally considered the most desirable and collectible for people that are collectors. That was actually a very unique kit. I bought that at a garage sale for like nothing back in 1979 or 1980. Honestly I paid $150 for that kit.

That is a kit that I used in my dad's band, I had a couple of others that I used, but that one I used for the last four or five years that I was playing in my dad's band. I used that drum kit all the time. That's a very rare kit, not because it's a KISS kit or my kit, it's rare because of the configuration of the drum set. A person who is a Rogers Drums collector would salivate over that kit. That's like a holy grail of Rogers Drums because it has what they call a wood shell dyna-sonic snare drum, which are very rare, in white marine pearl and it has the drum sizes, which are kind of 14 inch by 14 inch floor toms. And that's very rare evidently for Rogers Drums from that era. So the drum kit has unique stuff about it and it's very desirable for a collector. Like I said, I bought it at a garage sale when I was a kid for nothing. There's lots of stories out there of people going to yard sales and finding some rare guitar or some rare vintage drum set.

KF: So you played that on "Carnival Of Souls"?

ES: I actually played it on one song. On "Carnival Of Souls" I used a bunch of different drum kits. I used a couple of different Pearl drum kits, I used a kit I was playing on tour at the time, which was the silver sparkle one I was playing on tour in like 1994 when we went to Australia, Japan and South America. That's the kit I used on "Carnival Of Souls," as well as another old Rogers drum set that I used.

And then on one song, I used that little kit because that little kit I had been using on the demos for "Carnival Of Souls." Every time I'd go in the studio with Gene and Bruce to do demos, we would do it at some little demo studio. And to make it easier, instead of dealing with cartage, the drum set is really small. It has a really little bass drum. It's only a 20-inch bass drum. It was easier for me to throw in my car and take it down to the demo studio because it was so easy to move around and set up. So I didn't have to deal with having crew guys schlep around a bunch of big drums. It was my demo kit, and it turned out to be a great-sounding kit. And so I brought it to the studio for the recording sessions for "Carnival Of Souls" because I had been using it all year for demos and I thought maybe it might work for something. And it turned out I used it on one song, it was the ballad...

KF "I Will Be There."

ES: Yeah. I was playing like brushes. I think there's a drum part later on in the song, I think I used it on that song and that was it. But it happened to be set up in the studio the day we were doing a photo session. The photographer came in -- I don't remember who it was [Ed. William Hames] -- and that kit was set up with mics on it so we took pictures with the gear around it. And it just happened to be there on that day and it ended up on the cover of the record.

KF: You talked about Paul Stanley the frontman earlier, how would you describe Paul Stanley, the producer, and his role?

ES: I've got to say Paul was very cool and gracious with everybody during the recording process. If he didn't like something or didn't think it fit, somebody had to make the final decision. We would work on a riff and two guys would really like it, and two guys wouldn't. At some point, somebody has to make the final decision on a particular take, on a solo, on a melody. And that was Paul, and that's what the producer's job is.

KF: The track you sing on, "All For The Glory," was written by Paul. Was the song originally penned for Paul to sing it himself, or with you specifically in mind?

ES: Well, there was originally a different song. Before we did any recording or any rehearsals, when we sat down to talk about some ideas Paul had a song that he played that originally he wanted to use for me. And it was more like a "Hard Luck Woman"-type song. It had that Rod Stewart-style if you will, similar to "Hard Luck Woman." Peter had a really cool voice, you know that raspy-type voice. And I love Rod Stewart's voice, he's one of my favorite singers.

So this original song is a song that Paul had written a long time ago and he brought the song in, and I had played on the original demo ironically. I wasn't even in the band and I had played on the demo from years ago. And Paul goes, "Remember this song?" I'm like, "Yeah."

And Greg Collins, who co-produced the record with Paul and was the engineer, loved the song and thought it was perfect for my voice. I thought it was perfect for my voice too. But when it came down to it, Paul was very adamant about this record having all the songs only written by the band members and that's it. This song was co-written with somebody else, a friend of his. I am guessing that's one of the reasons, well two reasons. He wanted all rock and roll songs. No mellow, middle of the road, or in between...because "Hard Luck Woman" isn't a hard rock song. I think he wanted it be a hard rock record, straight ahead, and he wanted all the songs written by the band members only, no outside writers. And because of that, those were the two determining factors. Personally, I really liked the song and thought it would have been great for me.

KF: Do you remember what this one was called?

ES: No, I don't remember. When Paul played the track, I remembered going into the studio and I remember recording the track. I was on Paul's solo tour when I did it.

KF: So this was in 1989?

ES: Yeah, we did it in a demo studio in Manhattan. I am trying to remember who else even played on it. It was Paul and I and a couple of Paul's friends playing guitar. I forgot who the other guys were but one of them was the other co-writer who Paul had written some other stuff with. So I think that was the main reason, and it didn't really fit in style-wise.

KF: I want to stay in 1989. You mentioned Paul's solo tour and recording some demos with him. There is this omnipresent KISS rumor mill that houses all of the rumors in KISS' history and one of the rumors is that you played on "Hot In The Shade." Did anything you played with Paul at that time end up on "Hot In The Shade"? And was one of those tracks "Forever"?

ES: No. I did do a bunch of demos for "Hot In The Shade" but they told me that all that stuff was re-recorded by Eric Carr. I mean there was another rumor that Kevin Valentine played on "Forever" because he did some of those demos for "Hot In The Shade" as well.

KF: Yes, his name is in the rumor mill too.

ES: The way Kevin Valentine got involved with anything to do with KISS was because of me. I grew up with Kevin and we went to high school together back in Ohio. He was a couple of years older than me. I used to go watch him play in one of the local bands when I was like 15 years old. He played my high school dance when I was like 16 (laughs).

Anyway, I've known Kevin forever and I was doing demos for "Hot In The Shade" because Eric Carr lived in New York. Everybody else, Bruce, Gene and Paul were living in Los Angeles. To make a long story longer, Paul asked me to play on some demos because at that point everybody would do their own individual demos and bring them into KISS. It was just at a little studio with electronic drum pads. I played on like "King Of Hearts." What else did I play on? I played on like four things, "King Of Hearts" was one of them and I can't remember the names of the other ones and what they turned out to be.

I'm usually pretty good about remembering when I hear a track and knowing if it's me or not by the certain kind of fills that I do. Although, a lot of times when I play with a particular band I will try to fit in with their style and not necessarily emulate the drummer but try to emulate the style of the band. For example, when I played with Brian May and we would play Queen songs I was trying to learn the drum parts from the Queen record the way Roger Taylor played them, though I don't have Roger's feel. But I definitely tried to play the drum parts reasonably correct so they would sound like the proper arrangement of a Queen song.

It was the same thing at that time, I just tried to play the way KISS sounded at the time. But Kevin Valentine had told me he had done the demo for "Forever." He thought it was his drum track that they had used on the record and I asked Paul, and Paul said no and that Eric came in and re-did all the drums on all of those songs.

But that record ironically, a lot of that was done with an electronic drum pad kit. It was like a V-Drums, a Roland V-Drums kit, I don't remember exactly. I remember it was an electronic pad kit that they used.

KF: So it's Eric Carr on "Hot In The Shade"?

ES: They told me Eric replaced all the stuff. I asked about the stuff I played on and "Forever" because Kevin Valentine thought that he had played on it. And I asked Paul, "Whose track is that? Because Kevin thought that you used his demo track." And Paul said, "No, Eric replaced it." And I know Eric replaced all the tracks that I played on because when I listened back to the record when it came out, I didn't recognize anything on those songs and say, "Yeah, I think that's my drumming part."

KF: This is the type of minutia we KISS fans are into.

One not so obvious "Revenge" question. Do you remember the song called "Do You Want To Touch Me Now," written by Paul and Skid Row's Dave "Snake" Sabo, that was to be featured on "Revenge" but didn't make the final cut?

ES: Yeah, it didn't get finished. It was actually a cool riff. The reason I remember the riff is because there was a breakdown section in the middle of the song. I remember that I went into a Cream "Sunshine Of Your Love" kind of drumbeat.

Musically it was a very cool song. It had a lot of great parts to it but I remember that Bob Ezrin just felt like it didn't make the grade. We tried to put the best songs on the record and again a producer makes the executive decision about what makes it and what doesn't. And Bob just felt the song was cool and the music was great, but didn't feel the melody was quite developed enough. And then we had to finish the record because we were at the end of the road and ready to move on. I think we were already mixing some of the tracks at that time.

To Bob, the song wasn't good enough. I thought we might end up using it later on. I thought maybe at some point Paul might want to go revisit it and use it as a bonus track on a live album or a KISSology or find some way to use it, but it never happened.

KF: So is there a recording of this song?

ES: Oh yeah, there is.

KF: Eric, send it on over (laughs).

ES: (laughs) Bruce Kulick is the one whose got all that stuff.

KF: We'll go ahead and hit Bruce up then.

ES: I know he has a copy of the music at least. I don't have anything because at the time I wasn't even officially in the band. They didn't give me copies of any of the demos or any of that stuff. I had some work tapes that they gave me when I had to first start working on the material to learn it. Bruce had all the copies of the basic tracks because he had to take that stuff home and work on building second guitar parts and solos. So he would take those home as work tapes.

KF: One of the great things about KISSology is the opportunity to look back at the band's entire history. As such, the concert footage on KISSology III of the "Revenge" lineup shows a confident and musically tight unit that could do justice to anything in the KISS catalog. With a little bit of hindsight, what are your thoughts on the "Revenge" lineup and its place in KISStory?

ES: Well, I can just say this. I went back and listened to the "Revenge" stuff recently. (pauses) Look I am probably a bit biased because I am involved with the band and I played on that record. I think that's a really, really, really good record. I think it still holds up. I know it's different. I don't like to compare the original band and that style of music with what the band did later. The band did a lot of cool stuff even without Ace or Peter, regardless of whether the purists or hardcore diehard fans want to say it.

KF: I'm a big fan of albums like "Lick It Up, "Creatures" and "Revenge."

ES: Yeah, it's like saying, "I only like the Rolling Stones when they had Brian Jones in the band and that's it." Or, "I only like Mick Taylor on guitar when they did 'Sticky Fingers' and 'Exile On Main Street.'" To me, those are my favorite Stones records because I like those songs and I like the sound of the band. But that's not the original version of the Stones. But you know something, it's the version of the Stones that to me has the most impact because that's my era of the Rolling Stones. I saw them in the '60s on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and all that, but when I really became more aware of them and really liked their music, it's "Goats Head Soup," "Exile On Main Street" and "Sticky Fingers." Those are my favorites and what I think are the best Stones records. Hey that's just me.

You have to remember there are people that grew up on KISS and their version of KISS is like "Crazy Nights."

KF: Let's talk again about "Carnival Of Souls." Like "Music From The Elder," it elicits a reaction from KISS fans, one way or the other. Paul and Gene are on record as not being particularly complimentary, while Bruce says he stands by the album. How do you view the album?

ES: Well, let's put this in perspective. Bruce is a dear friend and I respect everybody's opinion. But, think about it, why does Bruce like it so much?

KF: He co-wrote nearly the entire album.

ES: So, of course, he's going to be biased. He's not going to say, "I worked really hard, I co-wrote all these songs and I don't like it."

But if I am going to be really honest, do I think it's a bad record? No. There's a lot of cool riffs and some great stuff. I mean I listen to it once in a while and go, "Hey, there's some pretty interesting things."

I don't like the final mix of it. If only that record would have been mixed bigger and heavier sounding. When we recorded those original basic tracks, we had a fucking monstrous sound on that record. And for some reason when Toby Wright went to mix it, Toby decided to go into a left-of-center point of view of mixing it. But you let the producer do his thing.

Looking back in hindsight, I wish he would have mixed a bit more straighter ahead like a more traditional KISS record, just making it big and bombastic. I think the record would have had more impact in the sense, I think I would enjoy listening it more. I think people would like it more because it would have more heaviness. If he had gone for more like something closer to "Revenge" -- I'm talking more the sonics and EQ of the mix. If he would have made it a little bit more bombastic and more closer to "Revenge" or "Creatures Of The Night," I think that the record would have been monstrous sounding and I think people might have a different opinion of it.

In other words, if you're going to make a record heavy, make it fucking sound heavy. Make it sound thunderous. That's my point view.

Back to your original question, remember that Gene and Paul have been there for every KISS record. They were there from the beginning and had the vision of what they wanted KISS to sound like, what they think KISS should sound like, and how they want KISS to sound like. So, whose got the best perspective there?

KF: I happen to really like the record.

ES: It's all opinion and we're all entitled to it and all the opinions are valid. But if you really want to be fair to it, the reality is Gene and Paul created the KISS sound along with Ace and Peter in the beginning. But if you listen to any record, even without Ace or Peter it always has a KISS-sounding flavor because of Paul and Gene. The driving point behind things having a KISS style and feel is those guys playing and singing on those records. I think they have the best barometer of what they really feel is a good KISS record.

Doesn't mean it's not a good record, just not a good KISS record. Is "Carnival Of Souls" a good KISS record? No. Is it a good record? Yeah.

KF: Some fans who don't like it are quick to tag it as the "grunge" album.

ES: Look, I loved what was going on at that time in the '90s. I loved Alice In Chains, Stone Temple Pilots. I still think Alice In Chains was one of the most underrated bands.

Let's face it, it became a bit convoluted. You as a band influence a generation of bands that come along and next thing you know you are becoming re-influenced by them. That whole style of music was very popular and I am not saying Gene and Paul were trying to jump on the bandwagon but everybody was listening to what was on the radio and on MTV and what was happening and a lot of that stuff was very cool. When you let the good stuff of those bands float to the top, it was great stuff. And I think everybody was listening to that style of music and digging it and getting influenced by it.

The great thing about going and doing "Sonic Boom" is that you go, "You know who we were influenced by? We're influenced by ourselves." KISS is influenced by KISS. This is what KISS does. No apologies, no excuses. This is what we do. We are a rock and roll band and it's about good times and fun. It's got a bit of pop sensibility to it. This is what KISS is about. And we went in and just made a KISS record, not trying to be anybody but KISS. I think that's the beauty of it. To me, that's kind of where the band is at and that's where the band should be. You're not in competition with anybody. The only one you're in competition with is yourself, to make better records than what you did before. You're not in competition with other bands. KISS stands on its own. The history and legacy proves that.

KF: You went back to "Sonic Boom." Can you expand more on what the band tried to capture with this album?

ES: I think the most important thing, no matter who plays in the band, is to remember there is a sound and a style of what has been created with KISS. And adhering to that -- that's the blueprint for what KISS is about. So going more for that style is what we tried to do. Nobody was trying to make a retro record. The whole idea when we were talking about more like making records from the '70s, it was more like, "Let's go back to the way records were made in the '70s and when the band started."

That's what Gene and Paul were really more referring to. The band got together in those early days in a room and would hash out ideas and work the riffs up and go in the studio and record them. There weren't any other outside people writing songs. It was the band who wrote those songs. They'd rehearse the songs and work them up and record them. And guess what, that's the basic blueprint and overall point of view of making "Sonic Boom." It was really more about that, not, "Let's go and try and remake 'Love Gun' again." It was like, "No, let's go back. How was 'Love Gun' made? How was 'Hotter Than Hell' made? How were those records recorded? What was the band vibe back then?"

It was about a bunch of guys getting together in a room working on riffs and playing it live and playing it real. Two-inch tape was the old style of recording. That to me was the thing that was more, if you want to call it, retro. That to me was the retro thing about it. It was really more about the style and approach of making records.

Of course, we used the technology of Pro Tools for mixing and stuff like that. You can't do it exclusively the old way. It would take you forever to make a record. The beauty of doing a record with modern technology is that you can do a rough pass of a mix and save it on the computer and when you go and play it again, you go, "I want to readjust the guitar solo and make it come up a little bit louder there." Instead of having to go redo all the moves manually by hand, the beauty of computers is that the technology makes it easier and it expedites everything.

But nothing beats the performance of human beings playing their instruments themselves and playing it live.

KF: You didn't use a click track, correct?

ES: Yes, all those drum tracks were built without click tracks and they were all done live in two or three takes. Maybe two songs were done on like the fourth take. Nothing past that.

And you know something, that's the way everybody made records. The first records I ever made, that's how I did it. I went in and rehearsed and played the songs and you took the best performance and sometimes you would cut a couple of performances together on tape. That was the old days of having to sit through tape edits and some of those guys were real good at it -- they were like masters at editing tape. Which was tricky when people weren't using click tracks and stuff. That's kind of a lost art form.

KF: Going back to 1995, what are your thoughts on the Convention Tour?

ES: I've got to say, looking back, doing that whole Convention Tour that we did that year. Gene is the one who really believed that it would work. I remember thinking that we were charging $100, and that it was way too much money.

Now when I think about it, that was unbelievably a great deal. Are you kidding? But nobody knew. You've got to remember, that was them trying to find a different way of doing things and trying something different. And I think it was very unique. It turned out to be, for me and I think for all of us, a really fantastic experience. It was a lot of hard work and long days, but I have to tell you, the rewards were there. Because once we'd get out there and play at the end of the night and sometimes just loosely jam on parts of songs -- the looseness of the whole thing and the interaction of having the fans right there and the autograph signing and hanging out afterwards. That was a real true fan experience.

It's too bad that more fans didn't really get to participate in that because I think they would have probably shared the same point of view. I don't know many people that attended any of those that were disappointed. I'd be surprised if they were because I thought that was a great experience for the fans.