In the summer of 1980, with the departure of original drummer Peter Criss, Kiss began a talent hunt that ended with the installation of Eric Carr in the drum chair. Unknown but far from inexperienced, he had served his musical apprenticeship, six sets a night for 10 years on the Brooklyn/Queens club circuit. Possessor of an atomic backbeat, Eric was the perfect choice to power the Kiss unit in its bid to regain the fast lane of the music business, a position from which the band had noticeably slipped in recent years.
A consummate professional, Eric’s orientation is geared toward the music rather than the attendant phenomenon of the band’s image and the trappings of rock ‘n’ roll success. It’s apparent that he hasn’t forgotten his past and where he could have been, had he not been 1000% ready for Kiss.
The musical road that led Eric to Kiss from his native Brooklyn began in Liverpool.
“Ringo. I loved the Beatles,” enthused Eric. “That’s why I started playing drums. I was caught up in the whole Beatlemania thing. I guess I was attracted to the drums because of the feeling of the rhythm and how it moved you, just sitting in your seat. I loved the way Ringo moved. I identified with him at the time because he was the nice guy in the band—the puppy dog. The one that’s not so cute but every one loves him anyway.”
Using Ringo as his model, Eric began teaching himself to play. “I set up right-handed like Ringo, but I was left handed. I figured this was the right way. My first setup was a right-handed set of books! I got a different sounding book for each drum and I stamped on the floor for the kick. I put on I headphones and played with records, memorizing Beatle tunes. I got to where I could play what I wanted, off the radio and records.” Eric’s parents were extremely supportive, feeling that this was better than hanging in the streets. “When they saw that I was really interested and serious, they wanted to help me. My parents bought me a $175 Zimgar set, and I set them up exactly like Ringo. I was buying these cymbals from Czechoslovakia that cost a dollar an inch. After a week they’d be ruffled and I’d have to throw them away. Had I saved my money for good stuff, I’d have saved a lot of money, but I needed instant gratification.
“Once I started playing, I wanted to be like the Beatles—on records, in the movies, in the magazines, all of it. I felt that if I could get all this from the enjoyment of playing, this was what I wanted to do for life”.
Kiss does seem a different breed of dream than the Fab Four. The instant recognition of the Beatles’ faces versus the cloak of invisibility that shrouds the identity of Kiss is an ironic twist for someone who hungered for fame. “That’s not quite true. When I joined Kiss, I knew what it was about. It didn’t matter to me one way or the other. I was older and I loved the band on its own terms. It was unique—a great concept, a great stage show and, in a way, very much like the Beatles. You could always tell who was who on stage. Here are four guys, you know their faces and makeup and, like the Beatles, everyone has their own fans and a well-defined image. The group and the individuals in it have a following. It’s not really faceless. So many groups are a sound with no personality. I love REO Speedwagon, but ask me to name someone in the group and I can’t do it. Even though people don’t know what I look like, they know my name and my character. Since I couldn’t be in the Beatles, this is as great as it gets.”
The move from tapping on books to smashing his first set of drums was not without its problems. Eric encountered the traditional drummer’s nightmare: “I was in a two-family house. My first fear was, ‘Where can I practice and not drive everyone crazy?’ It was so loud! I drove everyone nuts playing in my room. Basically I re-taught myself what I had learned on the books. Once I got comfortable with how to do basic beats, little by little I tried fills. That brought me down to zero again. I realized how much I had t o learn. So I listened carefully to fills and learned them one at a time, the simplest ones I could do. Eventually it came more naturally over a slow progression. I never thought about playing as loud as possible. Heavy metal was not in consideration in the mid ’60s. All I wanted was to play the style I heard.”
Eric’s ambition was not to be satisfied with paint-by-numbers practice sessions. He wanted to play out. “My first band was a trio: drums, bass and rhythm guitar. One guy played bass on a regular guitar with the bass turned all the way up on the amp. It was typical for the time. We didn’t have to be virtuosos then because all the songs were three and four chords. The material was Beatles, of course, and later, the Rascals, the Music Explosion, Classics IV and top-40 stuff. Our first gig was a family engagement party. Everybody was there and my grandfather got up at one point and played his trombone with us. But it was fun. The stage show was simple. My little set, two portable TV tables for the amps to roll around on and three mic’s that shouted feedback as soon as you looked at them. This was the system for a long time. Wires that broke, amps that gave no kind of sound, always feedback, but great fun”.
Graduating to the band-which included his present brother-in-law, Eric began to move a little closer to the style he would embrace as his own, but not without the usual tears. “The guitar player put heavy reverb on everything, so no matter what we played, it sounded like the Ventures. We used to fight about it all the time. I was so into all the music happening that I would teach the guitar player all his parts because I was learning guitar at this time too. I also figured out the bass parts and sang lead, so I was really the leader of the band.”
Singing was one more element that would make him something other than just another talented drummer, and it insured a home for him in Kiss as surely as did his drumming style. How did he begin singing? ”I learned to sing and play at the same time. I’d practice beats and just naturally sing the words with the records. It’s real hard to sing without playing drums because I don’t breath the same. It’s only this year that I’ve learned how to control myself so I get the same quality in my voice when I’m standing, for recording, as I can when I’m sitting and playing. When I’m playing, I’m breathing so heavily that my lungs are getting plenty of air and there’s no restriction I can push. When I’m standing, I’m calm, I don’t breath as much and my pushing is restricted. I tried sitting at a mic’ with sticks in my hand and I faked playing to see if I could get the right feel. It didn’t work, but now it’s better. It only took 15 years.”
Jump back 15 years to young Eric showing up for his first club gigs on the back of his dad’s delivery truck. “My dad was great. He’d pass by all these clubs and stop in and tell them, ‘Hey, my son has a band.’ He got us lots of auditions. His truck was perfect for the equipment. This was club work in Brooklyn and Queens. I was happy to be playing anywhere. I wasn’t thinking about record deals at this time. I wanted the band to be the best it could be. We had a sign with the band name on it and we tried to get matching outfits to look more professional. We were always trying to get better equipment. I was looking to stay with them but it just petered out. One guy’s father didn’t want him to be playing music. In those days the sets were nine to three in the morning, six sets, 40 minutes on and 20 off. We worked hard. It felt like years on stage every night.”
After years of nights like this the musical winds shifted. In Eric’s words, “I noticed things were progressing in a harder direction. As good as the Beatles stuff was, compared to the new stuff on the radio, it was staying pretty simple. I found myself wishing that the Beatles would do some hard stuff. I began to listen to other things.”
Inspired by the intensity he was hearing, Eric formed a new band made up of bass, guitar and keyboard. “The keyboard player had this electric piano blasting through a big Acoustic amp. With a built in power booster he could drown out the whole band. I had to play hard and change my whole playing idea to keep up. I wanted to, though. Just before this band formed I heard a band play ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ and ‘Purple Haze’ for the first time. I died! I didn’t want to get up on stage after them and audition with my band with our Beatles stuff. When I started listening to these records I heard double kick for the first time. The feeling of the heavy bottom weight that started to happen made me think more about using it too. This new band was originally a four-piece that went to a three-piece, doing Cream, Hendrix, some Fudge, Grand Funk and with a whole different approach to the rhythm section.
There were complex bass and drum patterns playing against each other. Raunch and powerhouse playing was happening.
“Bonham came after Ringo for me. Zeppelin was lots of air, bare bones. Bonham above everyone was my main influence. It’s not so strange to go from Ringo to Bonham. They were both simple players, really. He could do more with two snare beats than someone else could do with all kinds of fills and triplets and going around the whole kit. It’s where he did it that made it count. He was a team player and Zeppelin was so tight as a band because everyone did just what was necessary with no frills.”
Enter bass drum number two. “I mostly learned how to use double kick on the job. I’m really not that versatile on it. I use it very simply; standard stuff that’s not too complex. I can hit single notes on the toms with the feet setting up a pattern underneath, or I do flams. I use it to break things up so there’s more syncopation in there, like Bonham would do.”
Working local clubs, Carr was shackled to the grindstone of economic necessity. “I’ve done it all. I was a cement worker with my father and I delivered refrigerators and washing machines up eight flights of stairs during the day and played at night. I was a file clerk and general slave at the Department of Criminal Justice Services. I worked in the deli department in a supermarket in Queens. I hated it. White shirt, hair in a ponytail, slicing the lox paper thin for the old ladies. The last job that I was still doing before Kiss was as a gas range repairman. Things weren’t doing well money-wise for my band, and my father started his periodic, ‘Eric, aren’t you starting to think about what’s going to happen? You’ve been at this so long you really should do something else. You can make some money. Why don’t you come out with me?’ So I did and I was finally doing it on my own, repairing gas ranges all over Brooklyn and Queens.”
Eric had handed in his notice to the four-piece unit he’d been rehearsing with for three months, not knowing what his next move would be. One night, depressed, he showed up at a local Queens club to hang out. Out of the blue, he ran into a keyboard player who’d already quit the same band Eric had given notice to. The keyboard player was invited to hear the band play the next night and, after the set, approached Eric with the future. “He said to me, ‘Eric, you’ve got to get out of this band. You’re not making any money. This is ridiculous. Why don’t you audition for Kiss?’ I said, ‘Come on, don’t tease me.’ But he went on to say that Peter Criss was leaving the band and they were looking for a replacement. He saw the ad in a local paper. So, the next morning, I and another friend went and bought Kiss Unmasked, the newest album. I called up Aucoin Management and said, ‘Hi, I’m Eric Carr and I want to audition for the band. What do I do?’ The girl on the phone told me that I needed a tape and asked me things like did I sing, play double kick and had I been arrested before? They wanted a tape of me playing and singing, the most recent pictures that I had and a resume of what I’d done before. That was on a Thursday. I don’t know what made me do this, but I let it sit. The next Monday was when I was supposed to have it in, but I brought it in on Tuesday. I was a day late. By the time I got home I had already gotten a call to come and meet Bill Aucoin on Wednesday. He gave me a list of songs to learn if I was picked for an audition. My hair was all frizzed out and I had a mustache. ‘One thing I can tell you,’ he said, ‘is that you should get rid of the mustache before you even go.’ So I did. I had all day Thursday to work on the songs and I came in Friday to audition. They called me back again when I got home from this to come in again the next day. By then I knew. I had the overwhelming vibe that I was going to get it. I got a call that the band wanted to rehearse with me on Monday and see how it goes. ‘For all practical purposes you’re in the band’ they said. As far as I was concerned, this was it because I wasn’t going to do anything to screw this up at all.”
The auditions were made up of assorted drummer-types, from cool, studio professionals to the speed-rapping hopefuls falling off their new platform boots in the anxious attempt to look the part, if nothing else. The candidates were assigned audition shifts, but Kiss ran on rock ‘n’ roll time, and the large waiting room was backed up with auditionees. Each name that was called shot a bolt of fear through the remaining drummers. Some reappeared after only a few minutes, adjusting a crippled smile as they stumbled for the elevator. Some listened at the door as the competition revved up, and reported the fate of those on the hot seat to the waiting crowd. Most sat and thought their own thoughts.
Eric doesn’t remember anything about the time in the waiting room. He was psyched for his main chance. When he first walked into the audition to meet the guys, he observed a video camera pointed at a huge, double kick set-up, a table in the back of the room groaning with gourmet snacks, and a few shadowy figures in the back of the room. “I spotted Gene right away. The only one I didn’t recognize was Ace. Paul, to me, doesn’t look that different without make up. I said hello to everyone and then my first concern was getting the drums together so I could play them. I blocked everything else out. Once I had set up, Gene asked me what I wanted to start with. I think we just went down the list of tunes. The usual questions, you know, ‘Can you sing?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Did you learn this?’ ‘Yeah, I learned it.’ ‘You gonna sing Black Diamond?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Can you sing the background in this and this?’ ‘Yeah, okay.’ ‘You want us to give you a harmony part?’ ‘Yeah, okay, sure.’ It really happened that fast. I’d been singing leads and harmonies for so long that, in all honesty, it wasn’t that much different than a normal rehearsal where you figure out who sings what part where. We did it with harmonies a couple of times and I felt real good about it—we blended right away. The only thing I thought would mess it up was if they were looking for a real hot-shot on the drums, which I didn’t feel I was. I felt that I was good and that I could play the material and add stuff to it, if they weren’t looking for real flash and technically great licks to go, say, five steps further than Peter. That was the only concern I had. I knew I could do everything that had to be done to help the group.”
Out of the who-knows-how-many hopefuls, Eric got the nod. Why does he feel he was picked out of the throng? “They took me because they, obviously, liked how I played. I fit in. They liked my singing. I heard some of the tapes of people singing and they told me the stories about guys who couldn’t sing at all or didn’t even bother to.
“My attitude was real important. They didn’t want anyone who thought he was hot stuff. There was a guy strutting around the auditions who later became a semi hotshot with a group. He showed up with his brother pushing an Anvil case and acting like he owned the place. He was a great drummer but attitude-wise he would have never worked out with the band because he would have been wanting to get too fancy and overpowering where it’s not necessary. I saw him after I got the Kiss job and he had gotten another job. He was doing alright, you know. I went over to him to congratulate him and introduce myself. It was like he didn’t give a damn. Then, in an interview with this English heavy metal magazine, he said, ‘I don’t think I could ever enjoy being in Kiss “cause of the anonimity—people not knowing who I am. The other day I met the drummer from Kiss in a shopping mall. The guy came over to me and I didn’t know who the hell he was.’ I read that and it hurt my feelings. I went over to the guy to try to be nice and he had to be pissy.”
In keeping with band policy, Eric’s past is as erased as it can possibly be. While admitting that he sometimes feels like someone out of the movie The Man That Never Was, he explained the reasons he can’t tell the names of his former bands. “If I tell the names of the bands, people who knew them would know who I was. There are pictures of me in my previous life, and my real name is Eric Carr, but only a few people really know what I’m doing now. It was a policy that existed before I came into the band, and I stick with it.
“The advantage of make-up is that I can walk down the street unnoticed when I want. You can get the attention if you want. You can have someone call ahead somewhere and tell them that ‘Eric Carr of Kiss is coming in, get him a nice table,’ and they all know you’re coming blah, blah, and you get treated nice and people look at you, but so what? I began to learn that everything is relative in life. I mean you can rehearse in Queens for a few bucks and the equipment is always breaking down, or go to New York City and the expensive equipment is just as bad. But the change in my life was obviously huge. I think if I hadn’t been at this so long it would be different. My attitude was always to play every gig as if it were Madison Square Garden, long before I was in Kiss. I didn’t want anyone to go home and say I was terrible. If they didn’t like me, at least I knew I did my best. I always wanted to be in a super band and when I got with Kiss, mentally, I’d been in the band for years. When it did happen I almost knew what it would be like. But, to play in front of 45,000 people is not something you can imagine. It’s astounding. It’s more nerve-wracking to see the stadium in daylight, before the gig that night, and see the number of seats that will be filled than it is to actually play the gig. Once the lights go on you can’t see anything but the first 30 rows.
“I do get nervous. In Melbourne, Australia was the only time I was sick from stage fright. The first Kiss gig was at the Palladium in New York City. My whole family was there but they didn’t go back stage. They still haven’t met the band. That night was so crazy and I was nervous, so much was happening that the opportunity wasn’t right. Looking back, it would have been just as easy for them to come back and meet everybody.
“One of the great things about Gene, Paul and Ace was that they made me feel like part of the band right away. Our senses of humor were on a par. Things we find absurd and funny are similar. We all grew up in the same era with the same influences and it was a lot easier than it could have been. They went out of their way in every aspect that you could name. We all like the same kinds of things in songs and music. There was respect for my musicianship from day one and a co-respect for each other. If someone makes a mistake for example . . . well, here’s a story from the audition. When I auditioned I knew the songs better than they did! We played through the songs and something would screw up and I’d look up and say, ‘You’re supposed to do a double repeat here,’ or whatever it was. Even from the first day this was happening. I already felt comfortable enough to where I could tell them what I was hearing that didn’t make it.”
For most young drummers, the first encounter with the recording studio is an eye opener: “So that’s how they do it!” In Eric’s case, the revelation had a corollary: “Why do they do it that way?” Eric explained: “The thing I never liked about playing in the studio was the drum sound! When you go into the studio as a kid and you don’t know anything, they tell you what to do with your drums. Through experience, I’ve learned that’s bullshit. You tell them how you want your drums to sound and if it’s at all possible, you get it. If not, you compromise. But early on I’d walk in and I didn’t know what to do. ‘Well look, Eric, there’s too much ring on those toms and snare. You’ve got to tape them down.’ ‘But I like it that way!’ ‘No, I’m sorry, this is the studio. It’s okay for live but . . .’ Well, this is okay for certain applications but I prefer the live sound and the live stuff. That was what I didn’t like about hearing myself in the studio. I’m never 100% satisfied; I always hear things I could have done better, but you can go on forever that way. You have to draw the line somewhere. I have enough of a handle on my playing that I don’t get mad at myself if I don’t hear a lot of tremendously complicated licks going by. I know that I can’t do it. It’s not the type of playing I do so I don’t beat my head about it. With me, the feel has always been the most important thing. Because I play other instruments, when I play drums, I just don’t play them as time keepers. It’s hard sometimes to get the people you play with to understand how you’re hearing things, because they don’t necessarily understand what drums are for except to keep time and do a fill at the end of every eight bars. I don’t hear it that way. I’ll think about the vocal or a certain part that’s going by in the bass, or a chord thing, and I ‘ l l put a crash here or figure in the middle of a verse where it doesn’t necessarily belong. I think that’s cool—doing something that you don’t expect to happen because it makes it a little different than everything else.
“You can be pulled or pushed by the band. It’s real hard for me, still, in the studio. Live you can manage. It’s a whole other thing acoustically because you’re pretty much in control and you go for it. In the studio everything is so much more pre cise that you really feel any little ebb and flow.
“We use a click. We use the Linn just to set tempos. I’ll work with it to get the feel to lock in a bit and then we usually go for it without it. It’s programmed from the booth. I don’t know who else uses the Linn.” When assured that many, many recording bands and artists use them, Eric expressed some relief. “I’m glad that you mentioned that. To me, it’s personally humiliating. I hate the fact that I have to use it. I guess it’s because I’m assuming that everyone else has their time spot on.”
The hard rock genre is a well-defined style for a drummer to work within. I wondered how he managed to satisfy the form and still chart his own creative path? “Yeah the forms are set; the conventions are all there. As a player, what I try to do, obviously, is play what fits best in the song. It’s a band with everyone contributing advice and ideas as to what works better for the music. I just try to add something a little out of the ordinary, but not necessarily complex. The difference is where I place the emphasis.” Mentioning the ride out in the song “I Still Love You” on the Creatures of The Night album as an example of this, Eric went on to say that a lot of the interesting juxtapositions that occur are because “my repertoire of fills is, well, I have a certain amount of things that I can play, so I will find a way to make it fit in the song.” These were ideas that you had lying around? “No, not necessarily. In other words, I’ll fool with these things, think them out in my head, or a lot of times, something will just come out while we’re playing and I’ll use it. I try to be as effective as I can with the fills I do because I’m not very technical. The fills aren’t either. I’ll play what feels right to me and if something comes out that I hadn’t intended, it usually works and I get a really spontaneous feel. There’s a lot more anger, a lot more feeling, and a lot more energy involved because it just came out, rather than me just concentrating on a part.
“Most of the time, we’ll do a lot of takes in the studio. This is because, arrangement- wise, we might want to change something or I might do fine three fourths of the way through something and then blow it. You know, sometimes you just get mind blanks. It happens to everybody. Or I may do a take where it’s not exceptionally good but I might have done a great fill, by accident. So we’ll do it again, for insurance, but the next time I’ll remember that fill and do it consciously to make sure we have it there. We do splice things together. I hate it to be that way. I wish I could get a take straight through with all the best fills in it but, because of the way I play, it’s not going to be perfect. I accept that fact. One of the assets to the imperfection is the energy. There’s more there than if I was playing letter perfect, to make it sound like everything else that’s out. There’s a little more rawness that I like. Let’s go back to the Stones. They’re un-tight but they’ve maintained their identity over the years. As long as the feel is there and the groove is there, they go for it and you don’t mind if things are a little off someplace. You don’t care. What counts is the overall feel. That’s the way I feel about playing.”
Eric joined Kiss with high hopes, but was immediately faced with the uncomfortable fact of the financial and critical death of the first album he played on, The Elder. While rock music is emblematic of change, this radical departure from the Kiss formula was not accepted as anything but a bonafide disaster by fans and band alike. “With The Elder, we tried something completely different because there was a new player in the band and it was time for a change. Everybody felt it but I wasn’t so sure about it. I think we went overboard doing a concept album; something so alien to what we should have been doing. We loved the album and we’re proud of it. Ironically it came out exactly the way we wanted it to, which was the biggest fault. It was so different and conceptual from anything Kiss had done before that the fans who were there already didn’t understand it and got scared by it. And it didn’t do anything to get new fans. It certainly didn’t help as far as airplay was concerned. Hard-core Kiss fans were a little confused because the band had tended to start moving toward the pop side in the last two albums, Dynasty and Unmasked. Gene and Paul will verify that it was also a matter of having too many people around you start to tell you what you should be doing. Because you’re very successful, you sort of lose your sense of who you are. Friends start to tell you that you should move towards this because it’s what’s happening. You hear enough of that and you start forgetting who and what you are, and you start to cater to what’s out there. It’s dangerous. You run the risk of not getting any new people to like you and you run the risk of losing the people who love you. Fans look up to you as a big brother and they don’t want you to change. So the album was a disaster. The music stands up though. I had a tune on that album, “Under The Rose,” which was all my music and all my melody. The album succeeded on every level except financial success, and it hurt the band credibility-wise.
“There was more involved too. The cutting the hair was something we only did for The Elder tour, if there was going to be one. It was a transitional thing, along with dropping the platforms which I was 100% against. At the beginning of The Elder I was 100% against that album. Here I am just joining the band and I’m expecting to do a heavy metal album. I wasn’t comfortable. This is not what I play.
“It was hard also because it was the first time I had ever done professional recording and I hated the drum sounds. I couldn’t be inspired by them at all. The drums were tuned studio—very tubby with the top head on the snare very loose and with a lot of padding on it. Because of the way I play, I need the snare tuned tighter to kick back because I don’t do it myself. I rest and lay the stick right on the head. I have a very linear way of thinking of drum sounds and it’s a bit of a handicap. As I do more and more albums I get more and more flexible. The way I want to hear drums is John Bonham style. I want to hear that live, ambient sound. I want to hear that kick drum sound like a cannon and the snare sound like a gunshot. That’s the way I always envisioned drums sounding.
“I love these drums. They’re Ludwigs that belong to a gentleman named Shep Lonsdale. He’s working fulltime for Toto now. They were put together piece by piece through his travels to pawn shops and music stores. The sizes are 10″, 12″, 14″ and 16″ toms on top and an 18″ floor, with two 24″ kick drums. They’re all double-headed except for a circle cut out of the kicks for miking purposes. The heads are clear Ambassadors on all drums, and on the bottom, I believe, clear Diplomats. We’re using the RIMS system on everything but the floor tom which is set on big pieces of foam under each foot. The drums are floating, basically. The snare is a wood Yamaha, 6 1/2″ deep. I set up low so I can’t use a really deep snare. I use some kind of frosted head on top. The recording kit is cut down a lot from what I use on stage. The stage kit I use is not totally in use until my solo. I use 16″ and 18″ medium K. Zildjian crashes and a 24″ ping or medium ride Zildjian. I lay off the bell because I ride so hard that the whole cymbal starts to rock and I get a lot of wash. It’s a nice, pingy ride. I have 14″ hi-hats—nothing spectacular.”
Eric described the intensive care that went into bagging his drum sound. “At Record One in Van Nuys, California there was a rehearsal room that had a 40-foot ceiling and was about 60 feet long by 30 feet wide. There were padded panels on the wall but it was mostly live. The floor was like office tiles—very hard. I was set up on a small piece of rug in front of one of the short walls, facing out of the doorway and about three feet away from it. This door way led to a smallish anteroom with a very live bathroom sound. We wanted the brightness of the small room and the air of the big room which gives you a lot of bottom. The other guys were in the studio, so we were doing this with headphones for sound isolation. There were mic’s behind me in two corners of the big room set 20- feet high, and two mic’s, head high, set ten feet in front of those. We had close miking on all the toms on top only. The snare was miked on top, on the bottom and inside. The hi-hat was miked separately but not used separately—we basically used the room sound. The cymbals were miked with two overhead mic’s and there was one mic’ in front of the kit about two feet into the smaller room. The kicks were miked inside. The low end was picked up by the head-high mic’s. The room was just one of those magic rooms you stumble on by accident. We were looking for that Zep sound, a lot of power in it and we actually got more low end than we could use. The sound didn’t completely get on the album because it was pushing so much air and was impossible to contain. We couldn’t put anything over it without washing every thing else out. The song you hear it best on is “I Love It Loud.” That’s me doing double kick in unison plus this super low end. The only thing I would improve on over Creatures would be to get a close miked sound and mix it in with the ambient sound to better control it, especially on the kicks, and get the punch without the wash that loses the attack. On the new album the plan is to do the drums at the Record Plant in New York and go for the close miking, then take the tracks to Record One in L.A. and run them through the speakers in the same room to get the ambient sound. On paper it should work. If it does, it’ll be a killer.”
No Kiss concert is complete without the drum solo, which Eric describes as fun but terrifying to perform. “Everybody’s looking at you and if you make a mistake there’s no one to cover it up. The way I approach soloing is by trying to make the best of what I’m able to do. I try to make it, above all, entertaining. I’ve heard lots of solos by guys that were great, but drum solos tend to get boring, even if you’re a drummer and understand what a guy’s doing and that he’s really hot. Things become exercises with no continuity. I believe that solos should build to a crescendo, and once you get there, that’s it. Leave it there; end it. I keep continuity by starting the solo in a basic feel. As the riser is moving out I play time, and once the riser stops I drop the time out, keep the kick drum going and I start doing something that’s reminiscent of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” type of drumming or the thing that Ringo did on Abbey Road, but with half time on the kick. It may not be technically fantastic but it’s interesting and something the audience can follow right away. That means a lot. You don’t want to dazzle them with speed but also bore them to death. Once they’re following you, you take them one step at a time. The word ‘pattern’ is the key. I have a general framework that I work from but it’s different every night, content-wise. It al ways gets to a slow fill down the toms and the real dramatic things on the floor tom. Then it’s a cymbal crash and then I start on the snare, building up with a single-stroke roll to a speed where I feel ‘that’s it’ and I go into a freeform thing. That’s the only time that I do anything that’s un-patterned, whatever happens. Not too long, or else it’s boring, and then into a doublekick pattern. When I end this, there are a few more flourishes and then I stop and go for my first bow. Once I’ve got the audience there, I go back again and do another double kick pattern with all the effects—I fire the cannon in time to the solo. The last quarter of the solo is me plus effects to heighten the whole thing. I love that. The solo is structured for maximum effect and I’ve gotten lots of compliments from people in the business—other drummers and fans who’ve seen lots of other drummers soloing. The classic thing is, ‘Usually drum solos are so boring but I really like yours because it’s entertaining.'”
Undeniably, Carr’s playing boasts considerable voltage and I wondered how his style would lend itself to maintaining intense volume and still allow him to play with intricacy and finesse. “Well, you have to be realistic about certain things. You really can’t be a basher and do really subtle technical things. Even if you could it wouldn’t work because the range of dynamics between the loud bashing stuff and the subtle stuff would be too great to make any sense. It couldn’t be picked up in a concert hall. If you can do subtleties at a higher volume, I’d like to see it. Actually, Lenny White I can mention—he’s a hard hitter. I went to school with Lenny. I remember conversations we had and he would tell me that all that AM radio stuff was garbage. ‘If you want to learn to be a drummer you have to listen to jazz.’ I listen to him now and I wish I could play like that. Obviously we’ve been playing the same amount of time and he’s years ahead of me as far as versatility and knowing his instrument. The thing I like about him is that he feels real hard and plays with a lot of rock influence. He does little things that you don’t expect that fit so perfectly into the song. I respect that.”
Life in the now is fairly unclouded for Eric and there are few bumps in the groove toward the future. “First off, I don’t see it happening, but, if it ended tomorrow, I think I’ve maintained enough of the mental attitude I had before I joined the band so I could handle having to start over. I’m definitely in a better position to do that, but I don’t fool myself into thinking that doors are just going to open. You hear too many stories of once big people that are nowhere and can’t get a job. I would work on my own material, either to be recorded in this band or as a solo project, something like Stewart Copeland did with Klark Kent. To me, he’s one of the most innovative drummers that I’ve heard in years. Most drummers in rock are filtered-out versions of everything that happened in the ’60s and ’70s. Copeland came out of left field with all these unusual rhythms and a great sense of feel and time. I saw him and was astounded. They’re a magic unit that you don’t get that often. Live, he plays five times more than he does on record but never once does he get in the way. He’s tasty and never loses the feel even though he’s all over the place.
“The solo thing is something I’ve been thinking about for years, even before Kiss. If I do it while I’m in the band, I’ll do it under a different name and put a picture of me on the album. It’s more or less an exercise for me to get out any energies and ideas I have that might not fit with Kiss. I’m not saying it’ll be great. It might be rotten, but I want the chance. If the band ended I’d work in that direction anyway. I’d put out feelers to find a band to work in and I’d probably take advantage of the fact that I’m out of make-up, but that’s very fleeting. I could handle, with a good degree of sanity, not having it because it’s been so quick that I haven’t gotten too spoiled with it to where I couldn’t turn around. I can enjoy eating at McDonalds. I’ll still walk around in raggy clothes. I don’t care. Even though this might not be the right image, I do it for my own head.”
There are many drummers who love mu sic with all their hearts but, when approached by fans, discourage them from a musical career with well-meant tales of difficulty and heartbreak. Eric refuses to drive a wooden stake through anyone’s hopes.
“When I meet fans, and parents of fans, and they ask whether they should get drums for their kids, I’ll tell them, “Look, it’s something that they can always have, they can be proud of it, and it will give them a direction and something to do. They can earn money, even though it’s only on a part-time basis. I believe in the possibilities of music. All I ask is that no body take my job! If you really want music, do it all the way. You’ll have to be ready to be kicked around a lot because it doesn’t happen overnight. I’m a 15-year overnight success story. If Kiss hadn’t come along, I don’t know where I’d be right now. What kept me going was that I loved to play. On stage I could forget for a few hours that I was broke, and get immediate gratification from the audience. It was worth it. So be prepared and don’t give up.”