I remember being on a school bus in sixth grade in 1976 with my friend Rick Friel, who eventually played in my high school band Shadow. He had a lunch box that had Kiss on it. "What is that?" Then he played me some music and I was hooked immediately. Then I had a Kiss room and I started playing guitar. They were the Beatles to me. They are the reason I started playing music.
They were larger than life, with this intangible thing that I basically think about all the time. I was Peter Criss for Halloween in 1976 (pictured, left). I loved Alive!. "Black Diamond" blew my mind. Ace Frehley came onstage and did it with us at Madison Square Garden a few years ago, which was a total high watermark in my life. When I was 13, I never thought in a million years that I would even talk to him; I’d probably pass out. And here I am playing with him!
Pearl Jam sit down and have conversations about Kiss all the time on tour. My band used to do "C'Mon and Love Me." Matt Cameron played in a Kiss tribute band when he was 14. They got so big around San Diego that they got a cease and desist order from Casablanca Records. Jeff Ament used to play "She" in his band Deranged Diction. There’s a Kiss through-line to a lot of the music that came out of Seattle, and it hasn’t been talked about a lot.
Pearl Jam Play "Black Diamond" With Ace Frehley
I got mocked for it a lot. When you’re really young, dating girls and trying to explain Kiss, they just look at you like you’re kind of crazy. I think they got so big in the Seventies and were such a phenomenon – they did the Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park movie, the solo records – some people only know the merchandising stuff. But if you listen to the music, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were really into the Beatles and you can hear weird Beatles harmonies going on. I’ve talked to Paul a few times, which is always a trip, and he talks about how he likes Humble Pie and Steve Marriott. So they’re drawing from pretty cool influences. And there is a power pop thing to some of their stuff that’s immediately catchy.
Ace was their firecracker, their dynamite. He’s what took them over the top with the feel he put into his leads. I really gravitated towards his vibrato. My lead for "Alive" is based on "She," and that’s based on "Five to One" by the Doors. I remember we were in Surrey, England. I thought about it like, "I’m going to approach this like Ace did on 'She.'" And I remember the chord pattern that Stone [Gossard] wrote lent it to that kind of a descending pattern. So I kind for went with it. And then I improvised from there.
I’ve been watching the Hall of Fame situation play out. My thoughts are: I saw Heart play with their original lineup, and I went and jammed with them when they got inducted in the Hall of Fame. And then they got up with their new lineup, and everybody loved it. And it can be done, and I wish they would do it. It just makes the fans happy. And that's the point, in my mind.