Be­hind the drums

Eric Singer: his life be­fore and af­ter Kiss

Rhythm - - CONTENTS - Words: David West

A s KISS pre­pare to bid a very loud farewell with their EndOfThe

Road tour, there’s no sign of melan­choly or re­grets from Eric Singer, who’s one of the chat­ti­est, most af­fa­ble drum­mers in the busi­ness. From grow­ing up in Cleve­land and play­ing in his dad’s dance band, Singer has per­formed with Black Sab­bath, Alice Cooper, Brian May and Gary Moore in ad­di­tion to his long stint with the self-styled hottest band in the world.

What was your first kit?

“My first drum kit was a Dixie, which was one of those sten­cil kits. Tama and Pearl were mak­ing drum kits for a lot of other com­pa­nies like Sears, they went un­der names like Dixie, White­hall, Ma­jes­tic. Any­way, it was blue sparkle, it was just a bass drum and a snare drum. The next year my mother bought me a rack tom. We took the bass drum down to the mu­sic shop, they had to drill the mount and it was £35 to add that tom tom.”

Who was your first drum hero?

“Prob­a­bly Buddy Rich, be­cause my dad took me to see him when I was young. If any­one ever got to ex­pe­ri­ence Buddy Rich live, they’d know what I’m talk­ing about. There’s no way you could see him and not walk away with your jaw on the floor. Not only be­ing in­spired, but also fright­ened be­cause it was about how amaz­ing, how good some­body could be. There’s never been any­body, I don’t think, be­fore or since, like Buddy Rich.”

Did you have les­sons or are you self-taught?

“My first drum teacher was more of a se­ri­ous dis­ci­plinar­ian-type guy and you can be in­tim­i­dated by that es­pe­cially if you’re more thin-skinned or sen­si­tive, which I was as a kid.My sec­ond teacher, Buddy Kum­mel, he was a cool, hip-cat kind of guy, he had a less in­tim­i­dat­ing per­son­al­ity and he made it more fun. I took les­sons with him for a few years and even­tu­ally my dad wanted me to play in his band and my teacher said, ‘Yeah, he’s ready.’”

What’s the one piece of gear you couldn’t live with­out?

“Zild­jian Stick Wax. I’m so used to us­ing Zild­jian Stick Wax on my sticks: it has a lot to do with how com­fort­able I feel with my grip and how much ten­sion I don’t have by us­ing it. It changed my play­ing, I don’t have to grip the sticks so hard be­cause of sweat, it made me play with a bet­ter tech­nique and in a more re­laxed way. It’s the lit­tle things in life.”

Do you col­lect gear?

“Yes, I have a lot of vin­tage kits. I keep telling my­self, I know I don’t need any of this stuff, most of itI’ll never use be­cause I have a Pearl en­dorse­ment and I have a lot of cool vin­tage Pearl kits, but I have a lot of other brands I’ve col­lected too. I’m very good about pay­ing it for­ward. I’ve given many kits away to help other peo­ple who are less for­tu­nate or an up-and-com­ing younger drum­mer, so I get a lot of sat­is­fac­tion and joy do­ing that. And all my friends know that they’re more than wel­come to bor­row any of that stuff any­time they want.”

What’s been your big­gest on­stage night­mare?

“I’ve hurt my­self a few times. I re­mem­ber I cut my fin­ger on my cow­bell at the be­gin­ning of a show with Alice Cooper. It was Rich­field Col­i­seum in Cleve­land, 1991. I cut my fin­ger re­ally bad, al­most down to the bone and it was bleed­ing like a sieve ev­ery­where, all over the drums. When we came off­stage be­fore the en­core, some­body goes toAlice Cooper, ‘Eric cut his hand re­ally bad,’ and Alice goes, ‘Wow, cool, real blood!’ As soon as were done they took me to a hos­pi­tal andI had to get five stitches on that fin­ger. I still have a scar.”

Who would you most like to take a drum les­son from?

“Buddy Rich. I don’t know what kind of teacher or com­mu­ni­ca­tor Buddy would have been when it comes to sit­ting down one-on-one, but I would have loved to have sat there and have him play right in front of me where I could say, ‘Show me the me­chan­ics of what you’re do­ing there with your left hand.’”

What is your big­gest strength as a drum­mer?

“Be­ing a good lis­tener and a very sup­port­ive drum­mer and band mem­ber. In other words, I’m a team player. I’ll al­ways play for the band, for the song, for the sit­u­a­tion. You need to know what your role is in any sit­u­a­tion, not just mu­si­cally but also per­son­ally, the dy­namic of the band you’re work­ing with or the artist you work for. You’ve got to be a good hang, an easy hang and be a chameleon, be adapt­able to your en­vi­ron­ment.”

And your big­gest weak­ness?

“Prob­a­bly that I didn’t learn to be a song­writer. I’m very good at ar­rang­ing and con­tribut­ing ideas to the writ­ing process, but to come in with an idea and go, ‘Here’s a song,’ I al­ways feel that’s some­thing I should have de­vel­oped. That’s my own fault for not learn­ing to play an­other in­stru­ment in a way where I could ex­press that side of my­self more.”

What’s been your proud­est mo­ment?

“I would say play­ing with Brian May, be­cause other than Jimi Hen­drix, Brian May is my favourite gui­tar player and Queen is my favourite band. They were like The Bea­tles on steroids. They all wrote, they all sang, they were all great mu­si­cians, and they have a unique sound. Brian May’s gui­tar play­ing is so in­di­vid­ual and hav­ing a voice on your in­stru­ment is very dif­fi­cult. They were such a tal­ented group and they had this unique chem­istry, so get­ting to play with Brian and play­ing Queen songs, that’s pretty cool.”

Can you re­mem­ber the first song you learned to play?

“I do re­mem­ber in sixth grade, I was prob­a­bly 12, I would play ‘Fire’ by Jimi Hen­drix.”

What comes af­ter the EndOfTheRoad?

“I started off play­ing the Amer­i­can Song­book in my fa­ther’s band, we use to play for a lot of coun­try clubs and rich peo­ple. But the mu­sic was al­ways the clas­sic Amer­i­can Song­book – like Cole Porter, Gersh­win, so I grew up on that mu­sic. You know, I wouldn’t find it that far-fetched if I ended up go­ing full cir­cle back to my roots. Hon­estly, I’d re­ally love to play a lit­tle four-piece kit like I orig­i­nally played in my for­ma­tive years and just play purely for the songs and the mu­sicI was weaned on.” jan­uary 2019 |

pho­tos: press

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