By John Jeffrey
After meeting, talking to and interviewing countless artists in the music industry, you can develope a pretty good gauge on who are the “salesmen,” the bullshitters and the ‘real deal’ straight-shooters in the scene. Longtime KISS drummer Eric Singer definitely falls in the latter category.
Although 2017 and 2018 hasn’t been an extremely active time for a KISS as a complete ‘band’ entity, Eric Singer always keeps himself busy. During some downtime from the KISS machine, Eric Singer checked in with Rock Music Star. While there’s no real KISS “news” to report, in a rare opportunity, Eric gave us a real candid chat, opening up about life, drums and the ultimate pursuit of happiness.
RockMusicStar: Eric, I have to say, one of the things I admire about you is that no matter what you have going on musically, you always seem to be keeping yourself busy. I imagine for some people, when they’re not on the road, it would be easy to just sit back and do nothing, but you always seem to be on the go.
Eric Singer: That’s all a person can do – if you think about it. I always tell people, just keep moving, keep swimming. In life, don’t just keep standing somewhere, keep moving. Because some kind of forward motion, or perpetual motion, keeps you from getting sedentary, and also sometimes from getting depressed.
RMS: One thing I’ve seen from your social media is that you really enjoy and really encourage younger kids getting involved in playing music, playing drums or other instruments. My grandson Matthew is really showing natural music ability, as he can sing and has great instinctive rhythm, and is really showing the early signs of having the skills to play the drums.
ES: How old is he now?
RMS: He is 10,
ES: That’s about the right age. I was about that age, I was like about 9 or 10. That seems about the good age because they know if they actually like it, if it’s something they really want to do. Unfortunately, too many parents will try to force it on their kids because they want to live vicariously through their kids, because they didn’t do certain things and wished they did. The get into the mentality, “Well I want better things for my family” and “I want my kid to be able to do what I didn’t do” and then they start to over do it – to the point where you can tell they’re trying to live through their kids. If the kids gravitate towards it, then that’s cool, but it seems like some parents get really heartbroken if their kid doesn’t like football or basketball, or doesn’t want to play an instrument and say the father did. Then the father’s like, “How come you’re not athletic? You gotta be athletic. You gotta do this.” They really want them to do it for them, not because the kid wants to.
Just create a good environment for the kids to learn or want to do something, and if they gravitate towards it, then nurture it. If not, then go, “OK” and then try to find them something else that they really dig.
RMS: I know your father was instrumental in you picking up the sticks.
ES: Well, I loved music and it was always in the house, but my Dad was also an authoritarian of sorts. It wasn’t like, “Do you want to play an instrument?” It was, “No, you’re playing an instrument.” So that’s my point. Parents don’t come with a manual of “How to be a parent.” They just do what they think is the right thing. So as an adult yourself, you’re supposed to learn from that and go, “OK, if I have the opportunity (to raise a child), the way I’m going to do it is better.”
RMS: Because then sometimes, kids will do the exact opposite of what their parents want them to do, just to rebel against what their parents want.
ES: Precisely. My Dad wanted me to go to college. He wanted me to go to Ohio State. I was like, “I’m not going to college.” He was telling me since Junior high, basically ordering me, “You’re going to college.” I was like, “No I’m not.” Then of course once I became 18….you can’t force someone to do something if they don’t wanna do it. Unfortunately, for me, instead of it being a nurturing environment – where I’d really want to go to college and try to do something in that formal education or advanced education – I didn’t. And I kinda did it on purpose, almost like to be rebellious.
But as it turns out, my Dad didn’t really force the issue as I got older, because he could see that I was into music, and I was kinda following his path. So at the end of the day, he kinda won, because I ended up being a musician.
RMS: And what a well rounded musician you’ve become. You’re not only an accomplished drummer, but a great vocalist as well. Although you first started singing with KISS, why did you never sing backing vocals with Alice Cooper?
ES: I actually did sing with Alice during one of the last runs I did with him. Mainly because the other guys in the band weren’t very good singers. That particular lineup wasn’t one the vocally stronger bands, or versions of Alice. So I said, “I think I need a mic,” so I could start helping out because things didn’t sound the way they were supposed to sound. So I just took the initiative to do it. I think I said something to Alice about getting me a mic, so I could start singing. So I did sing (once), but I normally did not with Alice at all. I just played drums. That’s what I loved about it, that I could just play more physical, and get into just being a ‘rock drummer.’
RMS: Do you feel you play less “physical” in KISS?
ES: In KISS, I always have a responsibility with singing, and to be honest with you, that makes it harder for me – the workload of all the singing. I really have to pace myself, how I play and how I approach the drums in KISS, because of the vocal aspect. I can’t play as physical and as hard, because it ends up putting strain on my voice.
RMS: And for people who don’t sing, most people don’t realize that sitting down while you’re singing, makes it even harder to do.
ES: When you’re playing drums and singing, you’re sitting down, which is not an ideal position for singing. You’re almost pinching your diaphragm by being in that position. That’s why I put my microphone up higher, which forces me to sit very upright, and almost makes me slightly reach for the mic.
RMS: When KISS isn’t on the road or only doing “one-off” shows, with that type of sporadic touring, what do you do to keep in shape?
ES: I go to the gym on a regular basis, not to try to be ‘super fit,’ but it’s good to go for what I call “maintenance.” Mainly, you just want to keep your body strength. Maintain and keep a certain amount of strength in your body. As you get older, your body changes. Muscles atrophy. If you eat reasonably well and go to the gym, even if it’s just a few days a week for maintenance, when I go to hit the drums, it doesn’t hurt.
RMS: It definitely works for you.
ES: Look at the shape Paul Stanley’s in. How many guys do you know, who are 65 and in that shape? I don’t. Paul’s in phenomenal shape. You know why? He puts in the time. He’s done that most of his life. He’s been one of those guys who watches what he eats, takes care of himself and works out. He trains…he does it. It’s not easy to do that. I gotta give the guy credit because it takes a lot of hard work, and a lot of discipline in being able to do that. People might think that’s not a big deal. You trying doing that, year in and year out. I admire him. It’s funny how you can kind of inspire and influence each other. And Paul, to me, in that regard, is very inspirational.
RMS: Aside from being a paying gig, what is the most rewarding factor for you, playing in Soul Station?
ES: I never played in a ‘cover band’ per se, I played in my father’s band for a lot of years – playing all standards and big band music and stuff – but I never played in any cover rock bands growing up. I don’t think Paul did either. He just played his own music. Soul Station is almost like being a kid and going back and revisiting those formative years, where you’re just playing the music that you enjoy and have passion for. It’s just another facet of who you are. Everybody in the band isn’t just completely one dimensional, and because we’re in KISS, it doesn’t mean we only play KISS songs or only know KISS music.
Gene and Paul are very knowledgeable, and have a lot of passion for lots of different types of music that they were influenced by growing up. Gene was really into a lot of those do-wop bands, and all that stuff, and used to do that kind of stuff when he was a kid.
RMS: Is there anything that you’ve still yet to do in music, before you hang up your sticks?
ES: I don’t know if you ever hang up your sticks completely….
RMS: Well, let’s say if you get to a point where you either don’t wanna play anymore or (hopefully not) get to a point where you physically can’t play anymore? What is the “Eric Singer musical bucket list?”
ES: I have to say that I’ve been pretty blessed, playing with a lot of cool people. I’ve played with some people, that I probably never expected to happen, in some regards – to be honest with you. So again, I have to have that I’ve been pretty blessed. The only thing I can think of that I’ve still yet to do, is play with some other people, like Jeff Beck for example, but that’s probably never gonna happen, unless it’s a jam or some kind of situation like that.
RMS: There’s always been a lot speculation over the years, but for the record, who has the final say with KISS?
ES: People always think it’s Gene. Respectfully, Gene and Paul do the thing together, but I always tell people, it’s not what you think. Nothing happens in KISS without Paul Stanley saying, “Yay.” There’s some times when Paul doesn’t care about something, and says, “Yeah, I don’t care. Whatever.” Put it this way, if Gene wants to do it, and Eric and Tommy want to do it, and everybody else…if Paul doesn’t want to do something, we’re not doing it. If Paul wants to do it and Gene doesn’t, Gene usually says, “Okay, whatever.” Gene usually just wants to play. He just wants to keep doing whatever we do. So, there is that….
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