Eric Carr – An Interview With Loretta Caravello [from 2000]

*This is an interview I did in June of 2000 for the release of “Rockology”, Eric Carr’s posthumous solo album.
Carr was Kiss’ drummer during the 80s, until his passing on November 24, 1991. He was dressed as the fox when he debuted with Kiss. Eric Carr brought a heavier style of drumming to Kiss in the 80s and definitely a huge asset during a number of albums that saw the band at their lowest and rebuilding with a number of MTV era hits and hard-rock classics. As much credit as Kiss fans like to give Vinnie Vincent for ‘saving the band’ in the early 80s, I think it was Carr’s drumming and stability that had more to do with the band’s resurgence in the ’80s.

[more on this era another day…]

[Eric Carr [Paul Caravello] was the drummer in KISS from the time he replaced Peter Criss until he passed away in November of 1991 after a year of illnesses [cancer and heart surgery] and 2 brain hemorrhages. Longtime Kiss bandmate and friend Bruce Kulick helped to get together the tapes for what has now been released by Spitfire Records as “Rockology” – the Eric Carr solo album.
Featuring just Carr and Kulick, the album features 11 tracks [some instrumentals] from Eric’s Kiss days that never made it to album. The album is a decent rock album, and tracks like “Somebody’s Waiting” and “Eyes Of Love” sit strongly alongside the better Kiss tracks of the 80s era. This album will be a ‘must’ for Kiss collectors and a decent curious piece for rock fans in general; thus being a fitting release to pay tribute to Eric Carr as a musician.
I recently spoke with Eric’s sister – Loretta about the project and her brother.]

eric carr 1

LORETTA CARAVELLO

Q: How did the idea for releasing the tapes come about?
L: The music that you hear on ‘Rockology’ was stuff that my brother wrote for Kiss, and it was really good stuff, and Bruce Kulick had some demo tapes, and the stuff was just too good to let it lay around. We wanted the fans to hear it, and Bruce really worked hard to put it out. He mastered it and everything, and we’re really glad it’s out.

Q: Do you know the time frames of the recordings?
L: I think “Somebody Is Waiting” was meant for the “Hot In The Shade” album in place of “Forever” [1989]; and I think “Eyes Of Love” was around the time of “Crazy Nights” [1987]. The other music that’s on there – “Tiara” and others, those were 4 “Rockhead” songs. Those were written throughout the 11 years, a little at a time. That was Eric’s animation.

Q: To what extent was Eric involved in these? Was he aware that these were going to come out one day?
L: He wanted it to. He presented “Somebody’s Waiting” and “Eyes Of Love” to Kiss; and that’s what he was supposed to do before each album – make a presentation and they would decide what would go on the album. Those were his pride and joy, he really loved the songs, but they just didn’t make it. As far as the songs for Rockheads – he was extremely protective of those; those were his special ‘babies’ for his animation.

Q: How involved was he in that?
L: They started in High School with 1 little character; actually it went all the way back to when he was a kid, and he just always drew characters on the side of his homework, and it progressed in high school. Then when he got in to Kiss it really started to take shape. He wrote stories; I have drawers full of stories, finished products, different character drawings that weren’t finished but the ideas were there, plus lots of documentation of companies that were really interested in producing the Rockheads, but of course due to the untimely death a lot of things changed.

Q: Who else besides Eric and Bruce played on a lot of these?
L: It’s just Eric and Bruce.

Q: So Bruce did the bass work as well!?
L: That was my brother. My brother did the vocals – the background vocals, the drums, bass guitar, and some of the lead vocals.

Q: Did any of the Kiss guys do any of the harmonies or anything?
L: Not an iota! That’s all Eric and Bruce.

Q: Is there more of this stuff in the vaults?
L: I don’t think so, from what we know right now, unless Bruce comes up with some more demo tapes. There was some songs that were not used. I have some lyrics that were written by him, and music, and different things that if someone wanted to actually sit down and write lyrics to the music and vice versa there would be some songs. You never know, though.

Q: A few of the tracks would’ve made excellent Kiss songs – like “Eyes Of Love” is easily recognizable..
L: Oh yeah, “Eyes Of Love” could’ve been a hit. As far as ballads go “Somebody’s Waiting” is aussum! That’s him doing all those harmonies; it’s pretty amazing!

Q: Those 2 especially would’ve fit on any Kiss album.
L: The other ones, you can hear where he was going with them. He wasn’t searching for melodies, the melodies were there, all it had to be was changed in to words, and the songs would’ve been complete.

Q: How involved were you with Eric as far as during his Kiss days and that, and how close were you with his career?
L: My brother was private with that to a degree. I think a lot of different things go on in the music field that you’re not aware of, and a lot of it’s not too nice, so he kind of kept us out of that part, which now I’m glad he did. We’d see him play all the time. He would always ask me about his solos, and I’d make a few suggestions to him. He always included us in that, but it wasn’t like he’d come home and say “Hey guess what happened?” That he did not do; my brother was very quiet as far as that stuff went. Good. It’s like leaving your work at the office too sometimes.

Q: Have you have had any contact with any of the Kiss guys as far as this release goes, besides Bruce Kulick?
L: Bruce Kulick and I are very close, and Adam Mitchell. They’ve both been really helpful in putting out the “Tale Of The Fox” – which is a video and the Rockology. So, that’s all I need, I got them.

Q: Can you tell me a bit about Eric in his early years, as far as his growing up, anything he followed, bands he liked……?
L: We came from a very musical family. My Grandfather was a trombonist on Vaudeville, my mother sang opera, my father was a trumpet player – we all play instruments. So music always surrounded us. But when The Beatles came out – that was the thing that did it and my brother formed a band called “The Cellarmen”. There’s were actually records that were made, and 1 of them was played on the radio – those we have on the video [The Tale Of The Foxx]. And he was in Salt N Pepper, Creation, Bionic Boogie, Lightning… – these were all basically the same band that changed members slightly throughout the 70s to ’80. He struggled a lot; there was so many ups and downs for him, but he never gave up, and I think that’s the key that most people can learn from him – always follow your dreams; he was a great example of getting it to work.

Q: One thing I would think I would say about him from (what I’ve gathered and what i followed of Kiss) is he was probably the one of the most honest guys in the band .
L: Yeah, he just loved the kids and he loved everybody. He never really spoke bad of anyone. We lived in Brooklyn from when he was in Kiss in the mid 80s and we’d have kids knocking on the door. And he was just a regular guy; he’d hang out outside on the steps and the neighbors would come over “Hey Paully!”; they knew him by Paully, they knew who he was. He was very accessible, a very honest guy; you would’ve never known he was a rock star — never!

Q: Can you take me back to the days when he joined Kiss, and what the reaction was?
L: He was with a band called ‘Flasher’, it was a 3 piece band. And they were playing in Long Island, and an ex-bandmate of Flasher told him he saw an ad and my brother followed up, sent in his resume. Kiss called him, and he went down for the audition. He came home and said he had to go back. The story I’m telling you is actually how it happened; it happened so fast, that we were so into what we were doing [working during the day] that this was happening right before our eyes and none of us really knew it. He finally came back one night and he went to the bathroom and he was shaving his mustache and beard, and he said “you know they called me back, but they said I’ve got to shave! That’s pretty cool…” And the next day he came home and he was in. This all took place in, i would say, in a matter of maybe a week. That’s it. It was just a normal week for everybody; it just didn’t have time to penetrate.

Q: What can you tell me about him from during the 80s, about his relationships with the guys in Kiss and how things worked and that?
L: I would have to say he was the closest to Gene; he was like his idol. Whenever you’d see them together my brother was always around him. Gene gave him a lot of good advice as far as The Rockheads go, and taught him a lot about dealing with business because Gene is a business-man. Paul and him had a good relationship too. Bruce and him became very very close though. I think because they were more on like the same level, you know – they were contracted, and they didn’t have as much say as the other 2 guys, so you have someone you can relate to a little more. But he got along well with everyone. He didn’t like to go against the grain; he spoke his mind when he had to, like certain music disagreements – like he thought they should be going in a heavier sound like the “Creatures…” sound in the ’80s, but they insisted on going more poppish. But you can’t buck the boss; when the boss says “that’s it!” – that’s it. So he went with the flow, and he loved what he was doing, but I think he wanted to go back to the roots of when they first started – with the heavy sound.

Q: What Kiss songs would you pick out that best feature Eric, that if he were around today would be his proudest moments?
L: He was really proud of “Little Ceasar”. That was the first song that he ever wrote and sang himself, and I think that was the ultimate for him; even though personally i don’t think it was his best song after hearing all the ones on “Rockology” – which i was not aware of until only a few years ago. I’d never heard these songs; these songs he did with Bruce. I knew he was great, but i was really flabbergasted, and I think that one of those songs would’ve been the ultimate for him if iit was on a Kiss album, but it’s on a solo album now and he really has that now.

Q: What would say are your best memories of your brother? What picture do you most come back to?
L: There’s a lot…….. I’d have to say how brave he was at the end. I know he was a brave guy and all, but just the overall way he made us all relax and just say “everything’s going to be OK”. Last impressions sometimes, you know!?

Q: Any stories about him?
L: He loved to catch bloopers in movies, that was like his big thing. He’d come over to my mom’s on Sundays for his famous spaghetti and meatballs – which he could eat 10 times a week. His big thing was watching movies and picking out bloopers, and his favorite movie was “The Ten Commandments”, and he loved “The Wizard Of Ozz”. He would actually sit in front of the TV and say “OK, watch this scene – this guy here died in the last scene….”, and he would be right about all these things that he caught. He could watch a movie over and over again, and he’d memorize it to a T. We have stories from his original bandmembers Salt N Pepper [and all these groups] – one of the guys I spoke to about 5 months ago, and he told me this story when my brother was sitting watching a movie and he was saying the lines before the people on the screen would, and he was sitting in his own world. And the guy said he was cracking up because he was imitating the Indians on the screen, what they were saying. My brother was always into that kind of stuff. And UFOs, that was his thing, you know.

Q: Have you read some of the Kiss books that have come out recently?
L: I read “Kiss And Tell” and “Black Diamond” ....

Q: What did you think of some of them?
L: Kiss And Tell – Wow!! I think you’ve got to have a lot of guts to put that stuff out there. Whether I believe it all or not is one thing and really not important, I just think it takes a lot of guts to do it. As far as Black Diamond, Dale Sherman I think, is really informative. This guy knew a lot of stuff. I met him in 1992 when he came to my home and we spent hours just talking, and he was really nice. He helped us with a lot of things throughout the years, and still is helping us. He’s a very nice person.

Q: Anything else you can tell me about your brother as far as Kiss and the 80s…..?
L: Yeah the 80s were hot. You’re always going to have your die-hards and your battle of the 80s to the 90s, and the 70s… but if it wasn’t for all Kisstory – there’d be no Kisstory. Without the 80s there would be no 90s. I feel that my brother gave the band punch. Gene would say that he made them so much better musically, because in order for them to hear themselves they had to really play hard because he was such a heavy drummer. He was a small guy, very tiny – like 5 4″ and a 32 waste. He was very thin on the bottom, but very muscular on top, and he worked out. Everytime I would go to a concert or meet someone back-stage that knew him – like Carmine Appice and all these people, because of course we grew up with them in Brooklyn, lived close to each other. They were amazed and go “Your brother’s amazing, and he’s so small”, and Carmine’s a giant. And I think that’s what amazed people is the power that he had and the size, and how innovative, I mean there was really no other drummer who did the cannon drum. My brother Todd Trent from Ludwig created that cannon drum – the one piece. And just the way he used everything, the lazers and everything; it just makes you wonder what he would’ve been doing today.

Q: Are you surprised by the amount of tribute that there is out to him?
L: Yeah! I think it came kind of late, but it’s wonderful. I think now kids are starting to just sit back and respect the whole history. It’s coming to and end, and now everyone’s reflecting on everything, and he really deserved it.

Q: The one thing I thought a little bit odd was that the day he passed away was the same day Freddie Mercury passed away, and Freddie kinda got a lot of the spotlight …….
L: All in the same time also, only England time – 5:00. So that’s just the whole irony of it – that even in death he couldn’t shine. And I’ve heard that from people that think that, but he’s shining now, and no-one’s forgotten him.

Q: Did he have favorite drummers?
L: Yeah he loved John Bonham, and of course Ringo – that was his inspiration at the time when he started. Lars Ulrich and they knew each, and my brother would say “you’re better” and Lars would say “no, you’re better” and they’d go back and forth. But my brother, I would say mostly John Bonham.

Q: Bonham was a heavy player as well.
L: That’s where my brother got that from. And you know he always wanted to meet him, and the year he got into Kiss was the year John Bonham passed away. So he met his son, and even jammed with him at times, but it wasn’t the same.

Q: How was he in his final months? Was he aware of what was going on with Kiss and that? How was his spirit?
L: He would take care of his health first and things were working all-right. He was strong after his heart operation, he got a clean bill of health. He went in to get some treatment for radiation for the cancer and he was in remission, and he was really happy. He worked hard. I feel personally that he could have gotten a lot more support, but everybody has a different way of dealing with things. I guess at that time people feel they are doing the right thing. I feel my brother held his own, and he wasn’t going to give up no matter what was out there; no matter who was telling him and what was telling him – he was a member of Kiss and he was going to die a member of Kiss! He did. And I truly tell you that that meant a lot to him.

Q: I assume he was close with Bruce near the end !?
L: Bruce was with us every step of the way. Bruce was a champion. When my brother passed away Bruce was with the family every day and he handled a lot of things for us that we couldn’t handle. He never left.

Q: What else have you got planned – a video?
L: There’s a DVD coming out called “Inside Tale of The Foxx”. This is the guy – Jack Sawyer made it; this is going to be more extensive, and have links to more unreleased music, again, a more extensive look at The Rockheads, more interviews, really cool stuff. We found some footage of my brother on 8mm film, playing drums at 16 years old, and him as a kid running around. Just stuff that we’re fascinated with because we didn’t even know we had it. The most important thing right now though is The Rockheads. We’re focused [me, Bruce, and Adam] are focused on that, and that was my brother’s ultimate goal, and he was so close, I mean Hanna Barbara was interested, Landmark was interested, but at the last minute things just fell through. They couldn’t agree on something. My brother wanted control of that; that was one thing that was his and he wanted the control of that. And when you get in to certain positions certain things people want to control, and sometimes you cut your nose to spite your face because you just don’t want to give it away. Hopefully now we can make his dream come true. I know he’s watching because he’s helping us every step of the way.

Q: Can you give me 3 words that would best sum up your brother?
L: I would say ‘loving’, ‘kind’ and ‘caring’.

Q: Was he a gentle person?
L: Yeah, very soft spoken, so patient, very patient, and he showed it. You can interview fan after fan who will say they adored him and he made their day; took the time out. He was a good natured person and when you’re good people remember that and it comes back to you 10 times. And it’s showing now. Everybody’s come forward to help, unconditionally, with pictures, video, and any other way, even just kind words, and that’s what pulled us through.

KJJ. 11/19

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