Mitch Weissman (2013)
Background vocalist/original "Beatlemania" cast member recalls his contributions to Gene Simmons' 1978 solo album and his work with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons on albums such as "Animalize" and "Crazy Nights," plus a potpourri of KISS stories and tangents.
David Snowden (2013)
Longtime KISS fan and former head of the Vinnie Vincent Invasion fan club talks "All Systems Go" and various KISS-related topics
John Storyk (2013)
Renowned studio designer recalls his work on Ace Frehley's Ace in the Hole Studios in Wilton, CT
Mark Opitz (2013)
Producer details his work on "KISS Symphony: Alive IV"
Bruce Foster (2012)
Grammy-nominated musician discusses working with KISS and playing piano on "Nothin' To Lose"
David Wolfert (2012)
Grammy- and Emmy-nominated producer recalls working with Peter Criss on his first post-KISS solo album, 1980's "Out Of Control"
Bob Ezrin (2012)
Legendary producer details "Destroyer: Resurrected" and the making of the album
Lydia Criss (2012)
Author discusses the second printing of "Sealed With A KISS" and various Peter Criss- and KISS-related topics
Ron Nevison (2012)
A celebration of the 25th anniversary of "Crazy Nights" featuring an in-depth discussion with renowned producer/engineer
Jean Beauvoir (2010)
Songwriter/recording artist recalls collaborations with KISS on "Animalize," "Asylum" and more
Kenny Kerner (2010)
Recalling KISS' early days with the co-producer of "KISS" and "Hotter Than Hell"
Eric Singer (2010)
Exclusive interview with KISS' current drummer regarding a variety of topics
Ace Frehley (2009)
KISS' original Spaceman details his first studio album in 20 years, "Anomaly"
Bruce Kulick (2009)
Non-makeup-era axeman discusses KISS tenure and latest album, "BK3"
Mike Japp (2005)
A discussion with KISS collaborator on the "Killers" and "Creatures Of The Night" albums
Dick Wagner (2004)
KISS' favorite "ghost" guitarist discusses his guitar playing on "Destroyer" and "Revenge"
Jesse Damon (2003)
Former member of Silent Rage on his collaborations with Gene Simmons
Stan Penridge (2000)
Peter Criss' right-hand man talks Chelsea, Lips and working with the Catman
Bruce Kulick (1999)
Guitarist talks Union project with John Corabi, Eric Carr and ESP
Sean Delaney (1998)
A brief encounter with the "fifth" member of KISS
Bob Ezrin (1998)
Former KOL webmaster Michael Brandvold grills the legendary producer regarding his work with KISS
Non-KISS Band Members
Derrek Hawkins (2011)
KISS fan and former rhythm guitarist in Ace Frehley's band recalls his stint with the Spaceman on tour and recording "Anomaly"
Art Lindauer (2011)
Guitarist/vocalist discusses working with a pre-KISS Eric Carr in the cover band trio Flasher.
Adam Mitchell (2010)
Songwriter/collaborator recalls working with KISS, Vinnie Vincent and writing songs on "Killers," "Creatures Of The Night," "Crazy Nights," and more.
Bobby Rock (2010)
Powerhouse drummer recalls his wild ride with the Vinnie Vincent Invasion.
Rich Circell (2008)
Lead singer discusses working with Ace Frehley in pre-KISS band Honey.
Mike McLaughlin (2006)
Guitarist on his personal musical path and work with Peter Criss, Criss' "One For All" album, and much more
John Henderson (2004)
Musician shares his memories of collaborating with a young Paul Caravellos (Eric Carr) and his memories of Carr's pre-KISS bands
Neal Teeman (2003)
Uncle Joe drummer discusses working with Paul Stanley in pre-KISS band formed in 1966 and assistant engineering "Alive!"
Victor Cohen (2002)
Rhythm guitarist/keyboard player discusses working with Eric Carr in the Cellarmen
David Bartky (2002)
Bassist recalls his musical beginnings and collaborating with Eric Carr in the Cellarmen
Phil Naro (2002)
First lead vocalist of Criss recalls work with Peter Criss and ex-KISS guitarist Mark St. John
Jason Ebs (2002)
Final lead vocalist of Criss discusses his musical background and working with Peter Criss just before KISS' reunion in 1996
Robert "Bob" Pryor (2001)
Guitarist discusses his musical influences and working with Eric Carr in the Cellarmen
Ron Leejack (2000)
Wicked Lester guitarist recalls collaborating with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley prior to KISS
Ross Berg (2012)
A detailed conversation with the author of "Gene Simmons: A Rock 'N Roll Journey In The Shadow Of The Holocaust."
Paul Grein (2012)
Yahoo Chart Watch blogger and certified chart expert provides a current breakdown and analysis of KISS' Nielsen SoundScan totals.
Larry Harris (2009)
Former Casablanca executive dishes on his must-read book, "And Party Every Day: The Inside Story Of Casablanca Records."
Todd Schorr (2004)
Artist discusses designing the album cover for Peter Criss' first post-KISS solo effort, 1980's "Out Of Control."
Charles Frehley (2001)
Brother of Ace Frehley discusses his sibling and his own musical career.
"You know, when I left the guys, I did the 'Out Of Control' album and I was out of control. I was someone who had a lot of demons in my head at that point." -- Peter Criss (Cat Club). By the time KISS regrouped in early 1980 to record "Unmasked," the band's drum seat was vacant. Peter Criss was no longer a member of KISS. Instead, Criss would begin the new decade "starting over again" by commencing work on his first post-KISS solo album at RCA Recording Studios in March. In tow was his trusty longtime songwriting partner, Stan Penridge. The job of producer ultimately went to David Wolfert, who was referred by Vini Poncia, the man who helmed Criss' 1978 solo album and was in the midst of producing "Unmasked."
Keeping Peter Criss Under Control
By Tim McPhate
Wolfert was a seasoned musician who had previously been a member of Melissa Manchester's band. As a multitalented producer, arranger, guitarist, and songwriter, he would be key in bringing a sense of cohesion to "Out Of Control." Wolfert co-wrote three songs, including the album's lone single, the autobiographical "By Myself." He also played several guitar tracks on the album, including acoustic guitar and the tasteful solos on "You Better Run" and "My Life," in addition to composing the lush string arrangements throughout. Unfortunately for Criss, the dust settled rather quickly on "Out Of Control." After its release in September 1980, the album all but vanished and the aforementioned "By Myself" was virtually ignored. And curiously, the only promotional video in which Criss would appear in 1980 was the video for "Shandi," KISS' lead single from "Unmasked."
"I thought ["Out Of Control"] was really great," says Wolfert. "I thought it was actually kind of under-appreciated in America and also kind of mis-marketed." Wolfert has since gone on to enjoy a successful career. His résumé includes work with artists such as Johnny Cash, Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton, Barbra Streisand, and Aretha Franklin, among others, plus nominations for a Grammy and an Emmy. Additionally, he has composed music for commercials, films and television, including the theme for the popular cartoon series "Pokemon." The New York resident maintains an active calendar, operating a studio steps away from the Empire State Building. "I go to the studio every day and I work," says Wolfert. "That's what I do."
KissFAQ caught up with Wolfert to put the topic of "Out Of Control" back on the table. We discussed his recollections about the album's creative process, his string arrangements, collaborating with Criss during this transitional period, why the album ultimately underperformed, and which song could have "changed" Criss' career.
KissFAQ: David, how did you come to meet Peter Criss and work as producer on "Out Of Control"?
David Wolfert: It's a good question. I was friends with Vini Poncia, who had produced a band I was in. I had done several records and Vini called me and asked if I was interested. And I said, "Sure." And that was really it.
KF: What band were you in that Vini had produced?
DW: I used to play with Melissa Manchester. Vini became her producer after a while. The band actually moved to Los Angeles from New York and we became kind of like Vini's house band on things that he was producing.
KF: When Vini talked to you about the Peter Criss project, were you familiar with KISS?
DW: First of all, who wasn't familiar with KISS (laughs)? And second of all, I was around a little bit when he produced Peter's first solo album. And way before that -- now here's a little bit of trivia -- in 1970 God knows what -- like '75 or '76 -- there was a television show called "In Concert." When Melissa was on, we taped our set in between KISS and Redbone.
KF: Talk about an eclectic lineup.
DW: Yeah, it was at the Aquarius Theatre on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. I was behind their amps.
KF: (laughs)... So after you accepted the job for "Out Of Control," what was your mind-set going into the project?
DW: I felt like I wanted to do it if I could do it well. And the only way I thought I could do it well is if it was focused on songwriting. That's what my background is. Why bother to make a solo record if the songs aren't going to be great? So we worked really hard to write some songs together but also to make sure Peter and I, and Bill Aucoin actually, saw eye-to-eye on what we thought a good song was. And so we made some choices. We wrote some [songs], we found some and then we took some that Peter had written with Stan [Penridge]. Once we were through that, then we had a bunch of rehearsals live with the band to make sure that we were on the same page. The band had been playing together for a while...to be honest I actually don't remember who was in the band. But Stan was there...
KF: Going in, were you and Peter on the same page, direction-wise?
DW: Yeah. The record was executive produced by Charles Koppelman, who was my executive producer who owned the production company that I was a part of. And I think what happened was that somehow Bill Aucoin got to trust him because he was kind of a hit maker at the time. That's a terrible word.
DW: I brought Charles in because I had to -- I was under contract. So when we got that relationship going I think Bill convinced Peter that we knew what were doing. Because the record was kind of a departure, I don't think it was as rock and roll as his first record.
KF: I don't believe Charles Koppelman is officially credited as executive producer on the album. Any particular reason why?
DW: I don't know. That may have been an issue with Peter's management or the record company.
KF: Peter was literally in the midst of his departure from KISS. How would you describe his mental and physical states?
DW: (pauses) He wasn't in great shape. I think being out of the band was affecting him greatly. I don't know how much more about that I want to say but he was not in great shape.
KF: Was there a hint of extra pressure, since it was going to be Peter's first solo album following his departure from KISS?
DW: He may have felt it. I didn't feel it. I just wanted to make as good of a record as I could. I mean, some records I did I thought were really crummy, but I thought ["Out Of Control"] was really great. I thought it was actually kind of under-appreciated in America and also kind of mis-marketed. I mean it's easy to blame the marketing but...I thought there was some really good stuff on the record.
KF: Some of Peter's fans feel "Out Of Control" has some of his best work. Stan Penridge, Peter's longtime writing partner, is credited as the album's co-producer. How did Stan contribute in a production capacity?
DW: (pauses) He was involved in the songs that he and Peter wrote, obviously. And he was involved as a way to keep Peter's comfort level up. I don't think he had much input on the stuff that he didn't write, in terms of the production values. That was me and Peter. And the engineer, Leanne Ungar, who was a great engineer -- [they] couldn't believe there was a woman engineer. Both Peter and Stan thought it was strange.
KF: A female engineer in the music industry at that time would seem a bit of an anomaly.
DW: Which is why I think that's why she didn't get to mix the album. Not because her mixes didn't sound great, because I actually thought they sounded better then what ended up [on the album]. But I just think it was really hard for her to get accepted.
KF: The other assistant engineers were Alan Meyerson and Brian McGee.
DW: Yes, Alan was an assistant. Alan is now a super, super high-end Hollywood film mixer. Like the highest of the highest. He mixes Hans Zimmer's stuff. He is huge and he was a junior assistant who Leanne hired as a freelance assistant for the project. And Brian was also an assistant. The record was actually mixed by Jim Boyer. Jim was Billy Joel's guy. He was a very high-profile mixer. [Ed: Boyer engineered Joel's 1977 album "Stranger" and 1978 album "52nd Street."] I actually liked our mixes a little bit better than Jim's.
KF: Who made the call to bring in Jim Boyer?
DW: Jim was brought in either by management or the label.
KF: Who went about finding the studio musicians who ended up playing on the album?
DW: Everybody that wasn't a friend of Stan's was someone I hired.
KF: Like Ed Walsh, who played synthesizer? Let's see, there's Stu Woods, Tony Mercadante, Benny Harrison...
DW: Benny [and Tony were] Stan and Peter's guys.
KF: You recorded at RCA Recording Studios in New York. Do you remember any of the specific gear used for recording?
DW: Sure. RCA was my home. I was there all the time. Studio C, where we did most of the record, was huge. I mean, you could fit an aircraft carrier in that room. It was enormous. When we did the orchestral work, we still only used about half of the room. When we did the rhythm section work, we were just in a corner. It was a Neve board for sure. I think the recording console was an 8028, but I'm not positive. There was another room where we did some vocals that had a NECAM, which was the first computerized mixing system. And the multi-tracks were all Studer. The two-tracks were all Ampex.
KF: No DAWs in those days?
DW: (laughs) The computer would have filled the control room at that time. In fact, we didn't have Auto-Tune and you couldn't sample anything. We would rebuild drum tracks by taking isolated hits of drums and editing them together. I mean that's how you did it back then.
KF: Did you use a click track on "Out Of Control"?
DW: I would have used a click track but don't remember whether we did on every song. But yes, I would have because without a click track you can't edit different takes together, which is something we did a lot.
KF: So you edited Peter's drums tracks?
KF: Peter has stated he didn't like using click tracks. Bob Ezrin made him use one on the "Destroyer" album. Eddie Kramer used to beat boxes to help keep Peter in time.
DW: Well, the Eddie Kramer records were too raw. But you know, Bob Ezrin produced Pink Floyd. He can do whatever he wants!
KF: "Out Of Control" was recorded from March-July 1980. Do you recall what type of daily schedule to you kept? Were there any breaks in recording?
DW: I don't remember, but I'm a big five-day-a-week guy. So I'm sure I was there everyday. Typically, I would do all of the rhythm tracks over the course of a couple of weeks, just the basic bass, drums, keyboards, and guitar. And then I'd just start chipping away at either fixing them or adding stuff to it. So that's already a month at least. And then we would do the vocals. And I would do whatever orchestral stuff there was last.
KF: Were songs tracked live as a full band, or were instruments layered?
DW: No, I could never work that way. We recorded the rhythm section live. On the stuff that I played on, I played live. They were really basic -- organ, piano, bass, drums, and a guitar or two. And if anything wasn't right, we replaced it from there. I was never one of those producers who could just start with bass and drums. A lot of guys did but I couldn't pay attention that long.
KF: Peter is credited as playing drums on the album. KISS is known for using "ghost" players on their albums. Did Peter play all the drum parts on "Out Of Control"?
DW: Every one. Yeah, he was ghosted on some KISS albums?
KF: Yes, actually on the two albums prior to his departure, "Dynasty" and "Unmasked," both of which Vini produced.
DW: By Anton, right?
KF: Yep, Anton Fig.
DW: Yeah, Peter was adamant that he was going to play every note.
KF: What was the process for recording Peter's vocals? How many vocal takes would you record for each song? Would you comp multiple takes together to get a final vocal?
DW: Absolutely. Typically what I would do back in the day, before it got easier with Pro Tools, [was] multiple takes, like maybe 10. But I would do 10 good takes; I wouldn't do just 10 takes. We killed him for sure (laughs). And some of those were not easy songs to sing. Then we would listen and take careful notes and take this line or that word from whatever track and we would put it together. And if there was something we didn't have we'd go back and record it again.
KF: Where do you feel Peter shined more as a vocalist, on ballads or on the up-tempo rock songs?
DW: I have to say that my favorite cut on that record, in every way, including the vocal, is the Rascals' song, "You Better Run." I was shocked that that wasn't a hit. I guess I don't know much. But I just thought enough time had gone by since the original version came out and I just thought it was a great version. [i][Ed: The Rascals' had a Top 20 hit with "You Better Run" in 1966.][/i] I thought everybody played great and I thought Peter sang it great.
KF: That's one of my favorite cuts too.
DW: I also think on "By Myself" -- which I don't think you'd ever say is technically a great vocal -- it's just so clear that he's singing about what's really happening to him in his life. I think that's really affecting.
KF: I agree. The vocal is not pitch-perfect, but you can feel that Peter is coming from a vulnerable place. And as you intimated, that song really paints an autobiographical picture of the career position Peter was in at the time. What do you remember about co-writing that song?
DW: I remember I came up with the opening line and I played it for Peter and said that we got to write a song about this because this is the real deal. That's my memory.
KF: In retrospect, it was perfect. Did you contribute musically to that song?
DW: Totally. That's me playing guitar and I'm sure that opening melody is mine. I remember we wrote it at his house in Connecticut.
KF: I like the acoustic guitar accompaniment. It's very James Taylor-ish.
DW: Yes it is. I'm actually sitting here looking at the very guitar that I played it on that.
KF: Really? What kind is it?
DW: It's a 1974 Guild D-50. It's an awesome guitar.
KF: I really like the song, despite the vocal rough edges.
DW: Yeah, I think it's got a ton of heart.
KF: Were there talks about "By Myself" being a choice for a single? Were hopes high with this particular track?
DW: I never got involved in that stuff... I always just tried to make the best music I could and then let other people worry about that. Like I said, I thought the Rascals song should have been the single. I thought it should have been a hit. And I thought it should have been promoted. And I think if it would have been done correctly, it could have changed his career because it was a cool, credible rock record. I also love the guitar solo I did on that one.
KF: Did you play the leads on the album?
DW: I did. I don't remember specifically which ones. But I know I played that one -- I'm pretty sure I played all the guitars on that one.
KF: One of my favorite leads on the album is on "My Life." It has a lazy, almost jazzy feel.
DW: Yeah, that's me. But a lot of that stuff happened with me and Leanne after everyone went home. Everybody got tired and left and then we'd stay there all night and screw around and then play it for Peter the next morning, or afternoon.
KF: The strings are particularly lush on "By Myself" and other songs such as "Feel Like Letting Go" and "Words." What was your overall process for arranging the strings?
DW: I have a funny story actually. When we were just starting to work on the album, Peter called me up and invited my wife and I out. And we ate dinner -- I remember it like it was yesterday -- at the Waldorf Astoria. Peter was all dressed up. And then we got into his limo and we went to Carnegie Hall to see Frank Sinatra with an orchestra. And Peter was the biggest Frank Sinatra fan. He loved everything about him. I also think it's funny because the seats were kind of sucky (laughs). I was thinking, "I'm with Peter Criss and I'm sitting in the balcony?!" It was just an awesome show. Sinatra was amazing and he had a big orchestra. And Peter turned to me and said, "I want to do some stuff with orchestra on the record." And I said, "Well that's great, because besides playing guitar, my favorite thing to do is to write for orchestra."
Back in the day, you couldn't write with samples on Pro Tools or Logic or anything, you had to sit with a big pad of music paper and a piano and write the strings. So I wrote them in my head and I wrote them down and I played a mock-up of them on the piano until Peter liked it. And then we booked an orchestra. I remember I hired somebody to conduct it.
KF: John Lissauer.
DW: John Lissauer, who is a brilliant, brilliant composer in his own right. He's done a ton of work for Leonard Cohen over the years. He's a really interesting musical talent. But he's also a really good conductor [and] I wanted to be sitting in the booth. But I remember when we did "By Myself," I brought Peter out and we stood in front of the orchestra and just listened to them play it and he melted. I was used to it, but that's not something he was really used to.
KF: David Nadien is credited as the concert master.
DW: Yes, David Nadien. The concert master is the violinist who sits closest to the conductor. And the importance of the concert master is the entire string section follows his bow. When his bow goes up, their bows go up. He was actually a member of the New York Philharmonic.
KF: The strings just add that special touch on top of these songs.
DW: The interesting thing about "By Myself" is that it starts with a string quartet and then it becomes a bigger orchestra, which is actually an idea I stole from somebody else (laughs). But I thought it worked great.
KF: Stan and Peter wrote "Words," another breezy ballad with orchestration and a castanet for good measure. What do you remember about this song?
DW: (plays sample) That's definitely me playing guitar. I'm sorry, I remember absolutely nothing on this one (laughs). I think that was one of the first songs they brought to me.
KF: "My Life" was co-written by yourself, Peter and David Buskin. This one has a strong New York-street, Billy Joel-style vibe. What do you recall about this tune?
DW: David is a great New York songwriter who was part of a duo called Buskin & Batteau, which was a super, super intelligent folk act. I'm pretty sure that I started that song with him and then we brought it to Peter.
KF: Who had the idea to close the album with the hidden "Casablanca" track?
DW: (Sings) "You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss." I remember it was Peter's idea. That's the song [Ed: "As Time Goes By"] from "Casablanca" and he was a big Humphrey Bogart guy.
KF: Bogart is credited in the album's thank you credits. And the reference was an obvious message to his fans.
DW: Yes, of course.
KF: Two songs -- "Could It Be Love" and "You're My Girl" -- were recorded but left off. Do you recall anything about these songs and why they were discarded?
DW: (plays sample of "Could It Be Love") Yeah, that's definitely one of the songs he brought to the project. I'm not sure why it didn't make the record. I didn't like it very much, but I don't know whether it was that or maybe the record company didn't like it. I don't think it's his finest moment.
KF: With yourself, Stan co-producing, and Peter also credited as a producer, who ultimately had final say on these matters?
DW: Typically, if I hated something, it wasn't going anywhere. That's for sure. I didn't think those songs were Peter's finest hour. Vocally, instrumentally [or] lyrically. So I may have just said, "Nah." But if there was a dispute, certainly it went to Bill Aucoin, and also Charles Koppelman, but it also went to Casablanca...that would have been I believe, Russ Regan. Everybody would have gotten a vote. But if I didn't like it, it wouldn't have gotten very far. Unless Peter complained, in which case, it would have been mediated by any of those guys. It's hard to remember...I'm sure there was some discussion because when Peter came to the project he brought a bunch of songs. And a lot of those are not on the record.
KF: Do you remember any specific argument that you had with Peter regarding a particular song?
DW: Actually, no. I think those decisions went smoothly and Peter's attitude was great.
KF: Do you recall about how many songs Peter and Stan initially brought in?
DW: I don't remember. Like I said, since I came from a songwriting perspective, I just wanted to make sure that the songs were great before we even started. And I think ultimately Peter understood.
KF: Stan played guitar on the album and co-wrote eight songs. He and Peter had a deep-rooted up history together as collaborators. Would you say Stan made some important contributions?
DW: He did. But let me say delicately that I don't think the songs they brought to the table, except the ones that ended up on the record, were their best work. I mean, just think about it from a record-making perspective. In order to get a song on a KISS album, you had to go through [someone like] Eddie Kramer, who knows what the hell he's doing. So if s song's not good he's not going to put it on. And if a song could be improved, he's going to be the guy to improve it. The Peter Criss/Stan Penridge songs that you know from records have been worked on by masters, which isn't to say that they're not great songwriters. Because they are. But we all write lousy songs every once in a while. Some of the songs I felt I could work with and some of the songs I thought I couldn't work with.
KF: That Sinatra story was great. Do you have any other fun stories from the making of this album?
DW: Actually, I don't remember a ton of stuff that was a lot of fun. That album was very hard work. But clearly when we were doing the orchestra, and I brought Peter out of the booth, and we just stood there next to the conductor and listened to this huge string section. And remember the room was like the size of a small aircraft carrier. It was a huge room so the orchestra sounded ridiculous -- it just sounded awesome. And Peter was just standing there listening to a song he wrote being played by this huge orchestra. It was an amazing moment for him. I remember that.
KF: I don't believe an orchestra is credited on the album.
DW: No. It was just a bunch of freelance musicians. Typically you'd use somebody called a contractor who you'd just call and say, "I need 20 violins, 10 violas, five cellos, and a bunch of basses," or I had specific guys that I liked. I was doing a ton of commercials at the time...so I don't remember how the orchestra came to be.
KF: Peter's last formal appearance with KISS came was the promotional video for "Shandi," the lead single from KISS' "Unmasked" album, which Peter was credited on but didn't actually play on. This took place in "late spring" and would have been around the recording of "Out Of Control" -- do you recall any talk about the video?
As I'm sure you know, they had the world's slickest and most persuasive management team ever.
KF: Led by the great Bill Aucoin.
DW: Yeah. He was an amazing guy.
KF: Like Stan, unfortunately he's no longer with us. When you think of Bill, what comes to mind?
DW: I remember the first time that I had to go meet him, the first meeting. Vini said, "If you want to do this project, the first thing you've got to do is go meet Bill." There's an apartment building in New York City across the street from St. Patrick's Cathedral called Olympic Tower, which was black. And the only thing that I knew about it was the richest guys in the world lived in that building. It's not in a particularly fancy neighborhood, it's not Park Avenue [and] it's not on Central Park. Just in my head, it was like, "The richest people in the world live in this building."
So I go to Olympic Tower to see Mr. Bill Aucoin. And I go up in this elevator and I just see the slickest, most intensely decorated New York City apartment. I'd never seen anything like that in my life. Since, I've seen plenty. But I was just, "Holy crap!" I was like, "Boy, KISS must make a lot of money."
KF: The funny thing is Bill's apartment was featured in "Architectural Digest."
DW: Yes it was. That was the apartment. Everything was glass and sleek. And the windows -- there was this amazing view of the cathedral. It was amazing. I wasn't nervous but I was nervous to meet Bill because he was such a powerful guy. But it was awesome. Those guys really knew what they were doing. The whole team.
KF: KISS certainly made a lot of their luck, but they really benefited from a great creative team. Bill, Neil Bogart...
DW: I also remember Marks and somebody who were their business managers.
KF: Howard Marks and Carl Glickman.
DW: Right. Howard Marks was a genius. He was the one who signed my checks (laughs). He was brilliant.
KF: That gets him extra special points. Do you recall Peter having any contact with the other members of KISS during the recording of the album? Did they come by the studio at all?
DW: No. Never. I had met Gene a bunch of times, just coincidentally, over the years before that. But no, nobody ever came by. I also remember when I was doing the album and I flew to L.A. I was on the plane and sat next to Paul Stanley.
KF: Really? Did you guys talk about Peter at all?
DW: Um, no. But he was a super nice guy.
KF: What do you remember about Gene?
DW: We ran into KISS once on the road when I was playing with Melissa. And we ended up spending some time with Gene. I don't remember if it was in a bar or one of their [hotel] rooms. I just thought he was an awesome, funny guy. And he had an amazing knack -- he would listen to me talk and he'd say, "You know, I think you grew up on Long Island and you spent some time in the Midwest and now you live in Los Angeles." Just from my accent. And I said, "That's right. I grew up on Long Island, I went to school in Wisconsin and I live in Los Angeles. You're exactly right!" And he got everybody in the room. He could [cite] neighborhoods in Queens...he could say, "You're from Forest Hills, as opposed to like two miles away which has a different accent." I thought it was awesome.
KF: David, when "Out Of Control" was finished, do you remember there being a listening party? Can you paint a picture of the general atmosphere after you finished the project?
DW: I have to be honest, I can't. Because I probably went on to whatever was next and also it was emotionally a very difficult time for Peter. There's no doubt about it. I know he was excited, for sure. I'm sure there must have been a listening party. I honestly don't remember anything about it.
You want to hear an interesting story?
DW: The guitar amp that I used on those sessions somehow ended up in the hands of Peter's roadie, whose name was Chuck I think. Although I'm not sure [of the name]. He was his roadie from KISS. But I never saw that amp again. To my own fault, I never called up and said, "Hey, where's my amp?" So about two years ago, I get an email from some guy in California who said, "Hey, I just saw an amp with your name stenciled on it in a garbage dump. I hope you don't mind I took the tubes out of it and I'm using them."
KF: Wow, no kidding. What kind of amp was it?
DW: It was a Music Man. Isn't that a weird story?
KF: Yeah, that is bizarre.
DW: That's the only amp that ever went missing so I know it has to be the same amp.
KF: The tale of the missing amp from "Out Of Control"!
DW: (laughs) Isn't that crazy? So somebody is walking around the West Coast with my tubes from 32 years ago! It was nice of him to send me an email.
KF: At least you have some closure on that... You mentioned that you didn't really get involved on the label side of things, but to be candid this album kind of came and went right off the radar. Peter did a couple of promotional things, including a TV interview with Tom Snyder. But It just doesn't seem like there was much a proper promotional push. What's your take?
DW: Well you know, the way that stuff works is a bunch of guys sit in a room and they listen to [the album]. And I don't even know who those guys are half the time. And they say, "Can we sell this?" It becomes a profit-loss decision. It's very expensive to promote a record. I wish that was the only record that I ever made that wasn't promoted properly. But there were a lot of them.
KF: There's a bit of a conspiracy theory out there that given KISS were also on Casablanca, Paul and Gene may have tried to sabotage "Out Of Control." Would something like that be actually possible?
DW: It would absolutely be [i]possible[/i]. But do I think that happened? No.
Listen, I think that, in retrospect, in an effort to make a record with a bunch of great songs and good production, that stylistically we may have fallen between the cracks. You know, it's not really a rock album. It's certainly not a pop album. It's hard to sell in that you don't know exactly who you're selling it to except Peter Criss fans. You don't know what radio stations to go to with it. Although, that's why I thought the Rascals song was perfect because I thought that would have fit on rock radio perfectly. But I think it was way more that and whether or not they obviously thought they could break Peter as a solo artist then any kind of a conspiracy theory.
KF: In many ways, KISS have never really been a radio band. So even though I like "By Myself," maybe Peter's association with KISS harmed him from the get go?
DW: I mean, it's a great song and I'm very proud of the record. But what radio station is actually going to play that? But Tim, I do think you're wrong. I think that even though KISS never had a lot of radio success it's a great conversation starter. If they thought they could sell the record, they could go to the local radio station and say, "Hey this is the guy from KISS. Listen to it."
KF: Fair point.
DW: Somebody made a judgment somewhere that [the album] was never going to return the amount of money that they would have to spend. And again, it's expensive to promote a record. That's one of the reasons why there's no record business anymore.
KF: Again, in your eyes "You Better Run" should have been the lead single?
DW: Yes. And remember, I would have made less money on that because I didn't write it. But it was written by great songwriters. It was a proven song. It was a credible version. It was before Pat Benatar did it. [She] had a hit with it.
Incidentally, I have a very big history of putting songs with people and then having them becoming hits with other people later. Not songs that I wrote, but songs that I found. I produced a Dusty Springfield album [Ed: 1979's "Living Without Your Love"] that got roughly the same treatment from United Artists that this one got from Casablanca. And six songs that I chose on that album went on to become number one for other artists.
DW: Six. Dusty was an idol of mine so to be able to produce her was a real thrill.
KF: Peter's subsequent solo album, "Let Me Rock You," came out in 1982. Vini Poncia actually came back onboard for that one. Were you contacted to work on that album initially?
DW: No I wasn't. I mean, I spent four months making a record that sold [poorly]. I probably wasn't the guy they were going to call.
KF: When would be the last time you spoke with Peter?
DW: (laughs) Probably on the last day of the recording.
KF: He actually has a book coming out this October. His book has been in the works for quite some time.
DW: I should be interesting. If my name is in there, I hope it's spelled right. I've seen him in pictures. He looks fantastic.
KF: David, here's an interesting question: How would you assess Peter as a musician?
DW: (pauses) It's a funny question because virtuosity and musicianship have nothing to do with what he does for a living. He's a really good rock drummer. Is he a great musician? Probably not. But are a lot of super successful rock guys great musicians? No. You know, I think I'm a really good musician but I would make a really lousy rock star.
Vocally, Peter has a style. You'd never call him a great singer but he has an identifiable style. Especially if the lyric is close to him personally, he knows how to deliver. And like I said, he's a good rock drummer. And the studio's a tough place for a rock drummer. Arenas are much easier.
KF: Getting to your career, you've worked with a lot of artists, scored some music for films and written music for television. What are you up to nowadays musically?
DW: I write songs but I only write songs with people who interest me. Some of them are successful and some of them are not. I do music for television. I run a small but thriving commercial music company. [We do] music for commercials and videos. I write or co-write all of the themes for the "Pokemon" cartoon series, which could be a whole other discussion. I'm a working musician.
KF: That's something to be very proud of.
DW: Well you know, I have some skills and I've been extraordinarily lucky. And I know a lot of talented people. I go to the studio every day and I work. That's what I do.
KF: What is your musical background?
DW: Completely self-taught. I had a dad who was a pretty good musician so we used to sit around and look at symphony scores and he would show me what was going on. But I don't have a lick of formal musical education except I took a couple of theory classes here and there.
KF: Do you play any other instruments?
DW: Well? No. I mean I can play keyboards...
KF: Who would be your top musical influences?
DW: Certainly, as a guitarist, David Gilmour. Everybody's been influenced by the Beatles. And the third, probably some opera composer, probably Puccini. My taste is incredibly eclectic.
KF: A little bit of everything?
DW: Everything except polka.
DW: I like really good hip-hop. Here's a nice bit of trivia for you. I produced the first rap record to be nominated for a Grammy. It was called "Boogie In Your Butt" and I wrote it with Eddie Murphy. And we lost the Grammy to Marvin Gaye and I was so happy that we lost.
KF: Happy? Why's that?
DW: Because Marvin Gaye deserves a Grammy. Me and Eddie Murphy -- we didn't deserve a Grammy!
August 1, 2012