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15 Years Ago: Eric Singer Replaces Peter Criss in Kiss

Steve Jennings / Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Steve Jennings / Kevin Winter, Getty Images

On March 9, 2001, Eric Singer began his second tour of duty with Kiss, performing while wearing the band’s famous “Catman” makeup for the first time at a show in Yokohama, Japan.

Original drummer Peter Criss‘ own second stint with the group, which began with the highly successful 1996 reunion tour, had ended acrimoniously a few months earlier, with Criss angrily destroying his drum kit during the last U.S. show of the original lineup’s farewell tour on Oct. 7, 2000.

Criss and Kiss were reportedly unable to come to terms on a contract extension that would enable him to perform on the 2001 Asian and Australian dates of the tour. So the band recruited Singer, who served as the group’s third drummer between 1991 and 1996, following the death of Eric Carr. (Singer and longtime guitarist Bruce Kulick then both stepped aside for the band’s full-makeup and costume reunion with Criss and original guitarist Ace Frehley.)

This final spate of 2001 Farewell Tour concerts, which began in Yokohama and ran for 15 dates through April 13 on the Gold Coast of Australia, mostly went off without a hitch. Still, the decision to have Singer wear Criss’ makeup (and two years later, to have current guitarist Tommy Thayer don Frehley’s “Spaceman” designs) caused some controversy among fans, and resulted in some sharp criticism from Criss.

“I am the original Catman, there’ll never be another one,” Criss told Eddie Trunk during a 2013 interview. “Eric and Tommy, to them, it’s a job. He’s playing Ace Frehley’s licks to the T, Eric’s playing my drum licks to a T. There’s a whole generation of kids that are clueless as to what Kiss is about. They go to see them now, and they think, That’s Kiss.”

In a 2014 interview, Singer pointed out some hypocrisy on the part of both Criss and Frehley – who referred to Kiss as being “half a cover band” that same year – regarding the issue of replacement players. “When I came in to play with the makeup, Ace was in the band, and had no problem with me playing with Peter’s makeup while he went onstage and made that Kiss money,” Singer said. “In fact, he loved it, and he didn’t want Peter back in the band.”

When Criss once again replaced Singer in 2002, for a third, one-year stint with Kiss, Singer said his predecessor developed the same blind spot: “Then go forward the next year, when Ace decided to leave. When we fast forward, all of a sudden they bring Peter back, and you got Tommy Thayer playing guitar wearing the Ace makeup, and all of a sudden, no one minded it was Ace’s makeup design. Peter had no problem, did he?”

Criss played his last show with the group in Fresno, Calif., on Dec. 20, 2003. Since then, Kiss have toured and recorded two studio albums (2009’s Sonic Boom and 2012’s Monster) with the lineup of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Singer and Thayer. In 2015, Stanley stated that Criss and Frehley sold their rights to the “Catman” and “Spaceman” makeup designs “for, you know, not a whole lot. Because they didn’t think it was worth anything.” In a 2014 Rolling Stone interview, Frehley disputed this notion, suggesting he was due to get the rights back at some undetermined future point.

In that same interview, Simmons, who has frequently alleged that Criss and Frehley let drugs and alcohol result in their repeated departures from the group, declared that the two “no longer deserved to wear the paint.” Meanwhile, Stanley used a sports metaphor to explain his perspective on Kiss’ changing lineups. “If somebody is out, somebody else comes along,” he said. “I don’t think that when you go to see your favorite team, you’re yelling that you want to see somebody who was in the team 20 years ago. Time moves on, but the team lives on.”

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