Long before he became a member of KISS, the band’s third drummer, Eric Singer, was a tried-and-true fan. “When KISS first came out I was 15 years old,” he says. “It’s just ironic, I bought their records and was influenced by them growing up.” Years later, he was on tour with Alice Cooper when he was called to record some tracks with KISS. At the time, the band’s second drummer Eric Carr was still recovering after open-heart surgery to remove a cancerous tumor.
In the end, Singer recorded the entire Revenge album, and jumped at the band’s offer to replace Carr after his untimely death late in ’91. Singer realized that he had some pretty big shoes to fill. “When I went and played with KISS, I would get live board tapes as well as the studio versions of songs that both the drummers played, and I’d listen to what each guy did, how they interpreted the songs,” Singer says. “And I also listened to how the band evolved through the different periods and would try to figure out the main theme or groove that was going on. If I heard something cool, I’d cop that.”
Singer played with the band for five years, during which time he recorded four KISS albums and even appeared on the infamous MTV Unplugged show that reunited original drummer Peter Criss with his former bandmates. “I’d met Peter a couple of times through the years,” Singer says. “We rehearsed together for about a week in New York before the MTV Unplugged show. Everyone was real professional, very cool with each other.”
Of course, it was that same television special that ultimately led to the enormously successful 1996—97 KISS reunion tour, and Singer’s departure from the band. Still, he holds no grudges. “Right from the get-go, they said, ’Hey, we’re going to do this tour. We’re going to see how it goes.’ They kept us on a retainer for a year, then later on, after a couple of months they realized things were going well and they called a meeting. They didn’t mince words, they just said, ’This is what we’re doing, we’re letting you know so you guys can get on with your lives.’”
In the meantime, Singer had kept himself busy working on a self-produced instructional video, All-Access Pass, which he describes as a learning experience: “It taught me that I could actually set out to do something on my own completely from start to finish.” But when he began looking for a new gig, he found himself struggling to swim upstream. “I’ll be honest with you, the music scene has been very, very tough for a lot of people, myself included.”
Recently, though, Singer’s career has been on an upswing. He played on Gilby Clarke’s 1996 album The Hangover, is currently back on the road with Alice Cooper and plans to tour this fall with Brian May. “The main thing for me is always just to keep playing and keep busy because I’m happiest when I’m playing drums, no matter what.” –Andy Doerschuk
The September/October ’91 issue of DRUM! ran an interview with Eric Carr, KISS’s second drummer, which would sadly prove to be his final interview with a drumming magazine. The previous April, Carr had begun to feel as if he was coming down with a cold, and visited his doctor. After a series of tests the 41-year-old rocker was hit with startling news: He had a malignant tumor in the right atrium of his heart, which would require surgical removal.
The operation was completed on April 9, 1991. “I was up and walking around a day and a half after the surgery,” Carr said. “A day after that I had a party in my room. We had some wine, I had about 15 people in my room, and we had a great old time. I felt good – just a little sore from my incision.”
Unfortunately, though, Carr’s doctors then discovered that the cancer had spread from his heart to his lungs. Even worse, it was deemed inoperable. “The surgery was scary enough, but I dealt with it on my own, and I handled it, and I knew I’d pull through,” he said. “But in retrospect, the surgery was like a day at the beach compared to the stuff in my lungs. Because with the surgery, you go in and you cut the thing out. But you can’t just go in and get the stuff in my lungs – sometimes they can do that, but in my case they couldn’t. I have to depend on the chemotherapy, and hope that it’s going to do the job. So there’s no cut-and-dried answer. There’s nothing quick. And I hate things dragging out.”
Carr was admitted to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute in New York on June 9, 1991, to begin four days of chemotherapy, and at the time, he felt very upbeat about his prognosis. “I jammed a couple weeks ago with a couple of friends,” he said. “We played for a couple hours, and they said I didn’t sound any different than I would have normally sounded on the first day of rehearsal after not playing for five months. Which meant that I sucked, but I didn’t suck any worse than normal. So that was encouraging. That just meant that I was rusty.”
While awaiting a final word on the state of his health, Carr took part in the video shoot for KISS’s song “God Gave Rock and Roll to You,” even though his long-term involvement with the band was still up in the air. “I think we’re going to play it by ear,” he said. “And if it gets to a point where I can’t play, and my health goes down – which I don’t think is going to happen – and they don’t think that I can perform the way I need to perform, they’ll have to look for somebody else.”
Carr passed away on November 24, 1991.