Q&A With Jean “Boomer” Grenier – A Tribute To Peter Criss And KISS – Faith And Will Vol. 1
New England rock legend Jean “Boomer” Grenier took some time recently to sit down with TWRY staff writer Roger Scales to find out more about this project.
Jean what prompted you and Vinny (Nault) to record this tribute album and why the emphasis on Peter Criss/KISS?
What happened was we started recording a couple KISS songs for fun in 2001 and only accomplished finishing two of them. They we’re “All American Man” and ‘Larger Than Life”. Life kind of got in the way and it fell by the way side for over a decade. In 2014 my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and obviously shook our family up and my world. Vinny and I had decided to continue what we had started long ago, but this this time it was different. I suggested we finish it and do something positive with it. As time went on a few light bulbs went off and we decided to do it as a tribute CD. Some people had helped my mom and myself in 2015 and I thought this was a way to “pay it forward” and hopefully help someone or families dealing with the same devastating cancer issue our family was dealing with.
The emphasis was decided because first off, Peter Criss is the sole reason I’m a drummer. He battled male breast cancer and has won. It’s a great success story! I spoke to Peter about his cancer situation and he was adamant about stressing how serious check ups and screenings are for men as well as woman. After being a fan of his drumming and knowing how much of a fighter he is in basically everything he does, It seriously inspired me. I wanted to do this CD with Peter, my mom, some other family members and friends I know that are dealing with or lost their lives due to this horrible disease in mind.
How did the other contributors on the record get involved?
Well, it was easy… I called them and told them what Vinny and I were doing and they all have dealt with cancer in their lives and families so they jumped in. Vinny and I didn’t want the full CD to just be us like the first two songs. We wanted a different vibe, and more diversity. I think Ron, Scott, Mark, Wendy, Bernard, and Eddie helped us definitely accomplish that with their talents. They all put out stellar performances on this album.
Now in addition to being able to purchase the album digitally there will also be a CD version along with a collector’s edition as well. Could you expand on this please?
Sure! On April 4th (The Official Release Date), You’ll be able to purchase the full album or individual songs on your favorite download site. I think it’ll be on 35 or so sites including the popular ones like, iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, CD Baby etc. The deluxe edition comes with the physical CD, a glossy promo 4×6 postcard of the album artwork, a hand autographed 8.5 x 11.5 glossy photo of everyone on the CD and an extremely cool pair of “CATMAN” drumsticks. The deluxe package is limited to only 100. We figured just like KISS, let’s give an option for something extra special, limited and collectible.
Was it tough to pick a set list and were there other tracks considered but not used?
Well, Yes and No! Yes because once we got the others involved in the project and asked them what songs they would like to do, we had enough to do a double album and had to whittle down. No, because we kind of had certain limitations of what we were able to use legally and do for licensing the songs. I wanted to do “Hooligan” and/or ‘Baby Driver” but we couldn’t legally license those songs. Even though Peter’s the focus of the project because of his cancer fight, it’s also about KISS as a band and Peters killer drumming in KISS on songs he didn’t sing. We tried to have more Peter songs on the album but some restrictions because of multiple composers caused problems with the licensing of some of the songs.
Obviously people have commented, NO “BETH”? Well.. my answer to that is some songs are sacred and shouldn’t be re-recorded. “Dream On”, “Free Bird”, “Stairway To Heaven” and “Beth” fall into that category for me. The legal stuff is a complete pain in the a$$, but it has to be done correctly. We recorded what I think is a great version of “Got To Choose” (one of my personal favorites), but it wasn’t available to license to include on the album. There’s a lot more involved than one would think.
In addition to the drum tracks and vocals you also handled the production and engineering chores, the cover layout and design. That defines hands on work. Wow…Did you sweep floors and cook for the contributors as well?
HAHA! Yeah…I put in lot of hours in the studio. I mean, countless amounts of time. I must have gone through over a hundred CD-Rs checking mixes, tweaking things, then re-tweaking the tunes. I/We had a mission to put out the best possible album with great friends that KISS fans and just music fans alike could enjoy. Everybody involved gave the best performances they could and critique their own work as well. When my ears got burnt out, I went up to the computer to work on the album layout and designing the packaging, photos, drumstick artwork etc. It was definitely a labor of love and extremely personal for me but I could not have done it without everyone on the album and extra efforts from those behind the scenes as well. This whole album took almost a year to record, mix, master, and get out to everyone. No one wanted to rush it just to get it out there.
What was tougher for you the playing/singing or all the work after the fact in the studio?
The playing and singing is the easier part even though difficult at times. That’s what I do. All the production stuff can be tedious and trying. I whipped a few CDs around and swore a lot because I felt so close at times, but knew.. one more time and one more tweak and it’ll be worth it. Usually ..it was.
If you had to pick one song that you are most proud of what would it be and why?
.That’s definitely a tough one. Only one huh…Well, It’s a tie between “Strange Ways” and “Hard Luck Woman” for separate reasons. “Strange Ways” because it was one of the last songs we did and I think sonic-ly it sounds great and has the heavy vibe I was shooting for when I mixed it. I’ve always loved that song and it has one of Ace’s best guitar solos ever and Peter’s vocals are just so raspy and full of emotion. “Hard Luck Woman” because I recorded this song completely by myself about five years ago. I was so proud of it and sent it to Lydia Criss for her review and she loved it, and shared it. That made me extremely proud. However, after listening to it for a few years I came to not like some of the vocals and re-sang most of it which is the version on the album.
Since the track listing contains songs from the first album through Alive II is it safe to assume that if there is a Vol. 2 planned that you pick up where you left off chronologically and include tracks from the Eric Carr era of the band?
It’s funny that you mentioned this. We actually have two songs in the can for the next volume. The plan is the next album will be “A Tribute To Eric Carr & KISS – Faith & Will Vol.2” We are planning to record all songs from the Eric years in KISS. Eric Carr was the second major influence on my playing. I was lucky enough to meet him a few times and we had some funny and great conversations about the band, his playing and how he got the drum tones for the “Creatures Of The Night” album. I actually tried to use his trick for “Strange Ways” to make it sound heavier, which I think I 80% succeeded. Unfortunately he lost his battle with cancer but his music and playing will live on for millions to enjoy. We hope we can continue to raise money for those who need it with Eric as the focus to help with maybe some surprise guests. We’ll see.
I hope somehow Peter Criss is aware not only of what you’re doing and why but actually hears the finished product. Are you going to attempt to reach out to his manager or to him directly?
I really hope so. I hope this project is something he can look at and say; “I made a difference in these kid’s lives and they heard what I said about cancer and good on them for keeping the awareness alive and helping others”. I actually sent Peter about three or four emails though his website. I told him what we planned on doing and why. I sent him a couple rough tracks. I even asked him to write a forward for the CD and to appear on it. Unfortunately, I never heard back. Quite honestly, I’m not sure if he ever got the emails but hopefully with all the press the album is getting he’ll see it and I’ll hear from him. I hope we did the songs justice and hopefully if he hears the album will be proud of us and dig what we did. If not, We certainly tried and gave it 110% !
Where can KISS purchase the album and also to follow your different drumming projects that you’re working on?
KISS can purchase the album where everyone else does. Haha! Through digital downloads and through the facebook page we made specifically for the CD release or through email. Email us at email@example.com
People can check out what i’m doing at : www.jboomergrenier.com and follow me on facebook.
I’d like to thank you for your interest in the album and project and the interview. I hope people will check out the album, CRANK IT UP and help us help others dealing with cancer or that have. We don’t expect to cure it but certainly help someone forget it for awhile by giving them some extra money to go enjoy something they want, and by donating to a worthy foundation in the name of the KISS ARMY!