Non-KISS Band Members

Marty Cohen (2014)
There are few people would can say that they played with both Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley prior to KISS. Steve Coronel is one. Marty Cohen the other. Marty was kind enough to give the KissFAQ an interview to discuss his history with Gene and Paul, and correct a few things that appeared on the FAQ website over the years. His perspective continues to add to the picture of Gene and Paul coming together in a partnership that had lasted more than four decades...

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"

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

Neal Teeman (2003)
Uncle Joe drummer discusses working with Paul Stanley in pre-KISS band formed in 1966 and assistant engineering "Alive!"

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

Ron Leejack (2000)
Wicked Lester guitarist recalls collaborating with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley prior to KISS

First Criss...

By Julian Gill

Phil Naro can be considered the first vocalist of Peter Criss' "Criss" band. More than that, Phil is an artist with incredible diversity and a resume which would make many other performers jealous! Apart from working with legendary bassist Billy Sheehan in Talas, Phil has worked with Canadian Metal Goddess Lee Aaron, while also doing solo projects such as 24K and Naro. Phil has also worked with ex-KISS guitarist Mark St. John. The KissFAQ would like to thank Phil for graciously taking the time to answer my rather long Q&A!

Thanks also to Phil's support staff/friends, Jamie Bascevan and Andy DeBroux, who helped set the logistics of getting the busy Phil the Q&A and generally assisting the FAQ in completing this cool, informative, look at Phil's involvement with Peter. Check out Phil's official website at www.philnaro.com. You can find plenty of interesting features, news, and other information at Phil's official web presence (more pictures of Phil with Peter and Mark St. John).

KissFAQ: Tell us a bit about your background: Where you grew up? The first artist/song which got you interested in making music rather than just listening to it?
Phil Naro: I grew up in Rochester, NY that's where it all started for me. My Mom & Dad bought me my 1st Guitar & my 1st Beatles album and that changed me from there. I started my own band at they age of 13 and been in the game ever since.

KF: Who are your musical influences? Any all-time favorite band? Album?
PN: My musical influences are very diverse at times. I like progressive rock, melodic rock, and contemporary music that's on the radio nowadays. Melodic rock is very important to me. My all time favorite band would be the Beatles! When I first heard them, it changed my life that's for sure! Just like how the Beatles influenced all of the members of KISS at one point or another.

KF: You're primarily a guitarist. Do you play any other instruments?
PN: I look at myself primarily a songwriter first, a vocalist second, and a guitar player last.

KF: What was your first band? Or first "real" band? What sort of material were you performing?
PN: It had to be a band called "Olais" which you will see a photo in my web site with short hair. We did all sort's of music like the Beatles, Yes, KISS, Cheap Trick & Aerosmith.

KF: What do you recall about the first time you ever performed for an audience? How did you (or your band) do, and what were the circumstances of that first gig? PN: I was so nervous my voice started to break-up, everything with wrong that night. The band & myself were so nervous, but we pulled it off and strange enough we received an encore. Go figure.

KF: Two songs you wrote with Mark St. John, "Between The Lines" and "Love For Sale", were demoed by the Criss/St. John project. Were you involved in the writing of "All Night Long" or "Been A Long Time" which also came from that project?
PN: I wasn't involved in writing any of those songs, Mark and Peter wrote them.
(ED. After sending this interview Q&A to Phil I did some copyright research on the material which the Keep (Criss/St. John) recorded. Copyrights (4/29/91) are registered in the following names: "Love For Sale" - Criss/Russell; "Between The Lines" - Criss/St. John/DeLong; "Blue Moon Over Brooklyn" - Criss/Naro; "Wait For The Minute To Rock 'N Roll" - Criss/Naro. "Been A Long Time" - Criss/St. John; and "All Night Long" - Criss/St. John)

KF: Since those songs were demoed in 1990, it would appear that you knew Mark St. John earlier than Peter? Who did you meet first, and what was your musical interaction the Criss/St. John project, if any?
PN: I knew Peter before I met Mark, actually. Peter first started "The Keep" with Mark and Mark's younger brother Michael, on bass. I had no interaction in that project; I was busy with my own career. My interaction with the "Criss" project was writing and recording songs with Peter back in 1991.

My interaction with the "MSJ project" was basically singing "lead vocals" on the CD and I co-wrote one song "No I'm Not Afraid," which was an old song that Peter and I wrote back in 1991. The songs were resurrected from 1990, and were brought "back to life", in 1999. The songs were re-worked a bit and I tried to bring a "fresh" new sound to the vocals, to compliment Mark's playing.

KF: How did you first meet Peter Criss?
PN: I first talked with Peter, when he called me. At the time, I was working with the world renowned KISS producer "Eddie Kramer". Eddie really dug the band I was in at the time (24k), the first incarnation of the band back in the late 80's, and he produced some demos for the band, and it was a great experience working with him. Eddie then gave my phone number to Peter.

KF: How did you first met Mark St. John?
PN: Mark and I met at a local "KISS Expo", here in Toronto. I was "scouted-out", by the president of the record company to work with Mark, and I was invited to a "KISS Expo", here in Toronto. Mark was making his first "official" appearance at a "KISS Expo. We met backstage, had a bite to eat together and chatted for a while before Mark did his Q&A. My road manager (Jamie Bascevan), was there as well, and was in his glory because he's a die-hard KISS fan, and Mark was the only member he never met before. He's [Jamie] always supported me working with the "KISS Family". Later that night, Mark showed up at one of my many shows, and we jammed to a few "Beatles" songs, and the place just went nuts!! I've never seen someone attack an acoustic guitar like that before! He shredded his pick down to nothing.

No one knew that he was going to show up, it was a day to remember, that's for sure! Mark a while later, flew to Toronto to record the "MSJ" CD, with Steve Major & I, he showed up again to jam with me the last day he was in town, on one song by the Beatles. Roger Banks (drums), played on my solo albums, "Press Play" & "Ten Year Tour." Stan Miczek (bass), and Roger played on both 24k CD's with me "Pure" & "Bulletproof" Z Records www.ZRECORDS.net

KF: You've wrote several songs with Peter Criss: "No, I'm not Afraid", "Bad People Burn In Hell", Blue Moon Over Brooklyn", and "Surrender (In The Name Of Love)", which appeared on the 24K album. Were there any more songs that you did with Criss?
PN: Yeah, we wrote "Minute To Rock 'n' Roll" together. We worked on other songs that we used to jam to in Peter's basement. One song I remember was a song called "Donna" that was a song that I wrote many years ago, that I never recorded until now, it's gonna be on my upcoming CD "Glass Mountain".
(ED. A second demo tape published in the spring of 1991 included the following Criss/Naro collaborations: "Spread The Words"; "First One To Admit It"; "All In This Together"; "No, I'm Not Afraid"; "Bad People Burn In Hell"; and "Blue Moon Over Brooklyn.")

KF: How involved was Peter in the writing process? Was he more of a lyrical or musical idea person, or refiner who worked on existing ideas rather than as a team/partnership?
PN: Peter was more a musical idea person. We did work on some existing ideas that both of us had. One song, "Blue Moon Over Brooklyn", was an interesting song to work on. It was weird collaborating on a song about a person who passed away, that I never met (Peter's mother). Peter changed the arrangement of the song around a little bit on "Cat #1". In my opinion, the original version that we did together was much better with more punch and aggression in the vocals! Peter also co-wrote a song on the 24K CD "PURE" CD called "Surrender In the name Of Love". You can check it out on my web site.

KF: Mark Montague and Ray Carrion were working in CRISS, as members of a band, while some sources have you as being brought out to sing/write with the band. Did you, or were you considered, as a choice of vocalist for the project, or was your involvement strictly defined from the beginning?
PN: Mark Montague and Ray Carrion were all ready working with Peter when I came into the picture. To the best of my knowledge, I was the first lead vocalist in CRISS. Like I mentioned before, I was recommended to Peter by Eddie Kramer, then later by Gene Simmons! I flew out to California, passed the audition, and the rest is "KISSTORY". I guess you could say I was scouted out for a while and I didn't even realize it, that's happened quite a few times to me in my career by so many people approaching me to work with them. The list goes on... I can't complain, it's great to stay busy rockin' & rollin', and makin' CD's, I can't think of anything better than making great music, it's in my blood!.

KF: When did your involvement with Criss end?
PN: My involvement ended when I got a phone call months after I joined. When I first left to work with Peter, my wife at the time and I had our first child, and she called me to inform me that our child was very ill, and I decided to go back home, so I could be there for my family. When I talked with Peter about it, things turned for the worse, I guess you could say! We got into an argument, and two days later I took a flight back home, and that was it. It's too bad the way things ended, but my children have always been my top priority, that's the way it will always be, no matter what I'm doing' or where I'm going.

KF: Have you had any feedback from Peter about the old tunes used on the Mark St. John EP or 24K?
PN: No, I haven't actually. I heard Peter got re-married, and moved. You never know what the future holds.

KF: Any plans to reuse any other Peter related material?
PN: No, no plans right now to reuse any Peter related tunes, I still have tons of my own songs lying around right now.

KF: Any thoughts on KISS? Are you or were you ever a fan? See them in concert? Have a favorite song, album, or tour?
PN: It's a shame what happened recently with Peter and KISS. It's too bad politics and lawyers get in the way of rock 'n' roll, I've been there, "I know what it's like"! I was a fan growing up, I recently got a chance to see them on the "Reunion tour", in Buffalo NY, it was awesome! They always give their fans more bang for the buck, if you know what I mean. My favorite song would have to be "Deuce".

KF: What musical projects are you currently working on?
PN: I am currently working on a few projects, and I am constantly playing live somewhere, writing, making music. By the way I almost forgot, my new forthcoming CD "Glass Mountain," will be out shortly on Z Records. Check out my website for more details, also there are a few pictures of Peter and I in the recording studio! My website address is www.philnaro.com.

March 2002

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