Multi-talented Emmy-winning musician recalls formulating the piano track for "Hold Me, Touch Me," constructing the lush string arrangement, and working out the background vocals with Paul Stanley and Peppy Castro, and shares his opinion on the album, information on his current projects and why there's always music to be made
By Tim McPhate
KissFAQ: When did you first meet Paul Stanley? Was it in '78?
Doug Katsaros: It was right around that time. I was working on a show out in Los Angeles called "Zen Boogie." The writer was Peppy Castro, who was an original member of the Blues Magoos back in the '60s. And he and Paul were friends and he was working with Paul. We sort of struck up a small acquaintance-type friendship just because we ended up hanging out at the same places. And Paul was working on his solo record and I said, "He's working on a solo record? I'd love to write a song for him." So I wrote him a song and I got a chance to play it for him. He said, "Well, that's a really nice song but I'm trying to do all my songs. But thanks for the song. I'll see where it takes me." And of course it was a ballad and I thought, "He's never going to go for it anyway cause it's a crazy ballad." He came back in a couple of days and he said, "I listened to your song and thought it would be cool to have a ballad. It inspired me and I wrote this." And he played me "Hold Me, Touch Me" on the guitar. And he said, "I would love for you to play piano on it." So it was soon after I met him that this all happened, all within a couple of weeks.
Courtesy of Doug Katsaros
KF: Do you remember your song that you played for him?
DK: (pauses) I don't. I may remember it eventually. It was somewhat disposable because I wrote it for a specific purpose and it wasn't used for that. It's on some cassette tape somewhere. (laughs)
KF: So you were in Los Angeles. You would have been at either the Record Plant or the Village?
DK: Goodness now, was it the Village? I don't recall. It was certainly a world-class studio. I think I was driven over there, I think I went with Peppy. Gene was outside but he didn't come in. That was my first time meeting Gene and I've met him several times [since] and each time he just never has a clue that he ever met me before (laughs).
DK: But that's him, that's Gene. Paul, on the other hand -- even though we're not hangout buds -- he certainly has always been very gracious and nice for the couple of moments over the years that we've had to interact.
KF: Getting to "Hold Me, Touch Me," you played piano on the track. Did you track piano live with the band, or was it overdubbed?
DK: I believe I went in there and played the piano track down. There was no click or anything. We just played. He might have been singing a scratch vocal at the same time, so it was just me and [Paul]. And then I went in ... let's see, did he add drums and bass? It's a very quiet tune, I don't remember what else was put on it, but I know I was called in a couple of days later to add some strings and I used an ARP string synthesizer. At the time, it was state-of-the-art.
KF: The ARP Omni string ensemble?
DK: Exactly right. The ARP Omni. And I laid down, I don't know, four or five tracks and then we sat and mixed them down to a stereo pair because all those tracks for strings was not going to cut it (laughs). And then we went in and sang background vocals -- me and Peppy and Paul, I guess it could have been just the three of us. It was great fun. It was nice, comfortable and we were all on an equal par. It was all very respectable, very cool.
KF: With regard to your piano part, would you have played a few takes, or do you recall if it was a one-take job?
DK: Oh yeah, I don't think it took very many takes. We may have done two tracks, you know, "The first one was great and the second one for safety." It's not a difficult song and I'm a pretty good piano player and Paul was very gracious and accepting of my interpretation of his playing guitar on the piano. I think we ran it down a time or two before we [recorded], but it's basically first or second take. It's either the original or the safety. I don't think we had to do it very many times.
KF: You mentioned you played your "interpretation" of his guitar playing. Did Paul essentially give you free reign to construct the piano accompaniment?
DK: He was very clear about the [accents], (sings) "Hold ... dun, dun." You know the upbeats and whatever. We sat around and I was at the piano and he was on his guitar, but no, as far as the notes I picked, I actually stretched it out harmonically, just a little bit. And he just seemed pleased. During his career, he hasn't run into a lot of piano players. So it was sort of new ground for him, and it went very smoothly. I remember it being mutual respect all around.
KF: In terms of the arrangement, the rhythm section on the track featured Eric Nelson on bass and Craig Krampf on the drums. Do those names ring a bell?
DK: (pauses) I just cannot recall specifically. I was [in my] pre-Balance days, but I had done some recording. We always liked to play with a whole band. There could have been a band there, but I just don't recall. I remember the piano, I remember the room, I remember playing, I remember Paul. I don't remember needing to think about if the other people were keeping up and stuff. I think they may have been added later.
KF: And again, no click track?
DK: No, no. I didn't start playing to click tracks until years later. It was rock and roll. Even if it was a ballad, you know, you feel it.
KF: Doug, do you remember the piano you played?
DK: It was a grand piano and it was either a Yamaha or a Steinway.
Courtesy of Doug Katsaros
KF: In terms of orchestrating the strings, can you outline the general process? Was it done in the studio on the spot, or did you take home a demo tape and work it out?
DK: No, I did it on the spot, on the fly. The interesting thing was I came in and I asked for the synthesizer and they had it sitting there. I wasn't thinking of it as an orchestrator, I was thinking of it as a synthesist so it was just another keyboard part. Though I didn't feel I had to write anything out -- no one else was going to play anything. At this point in my life I do a lot of writing out now. But at the time, the fact that I could actually read or write music never came up. It was like, "Come on in here and put the string part on." So I went in and the engineer was really wonderful and helpful and we got a nice sound for a high string line. I put on the top part and then I went back and we started again and I put in sort of middle chords. Then I went back in and put in sort of a bass line. And then we went back again and I think I doubled the high string part, and that was pretty much it. As I did it the first time, we just sort of played top to bottom and I said, "Look you can pick and choose whatever you want. You don't even need to bring the strings in until the second verse or the hook." But apparently they started right at the top and kept everything I played. But as I played, I sort of remembered what I did and each time it got more familiar so that doubling and tripling it was not such a big deal. As I said, it's a simple heartfelt song -- not a country tune, but it is definitely not about making the changes difficult. It's very simple to listen to and therefore it wasn't difficult to play to.
KF: The background vocals on this track are quite lush. There's you and Peppy Castro and Paul. Is there anyone else singing background vocals, perhaps a female?
DK: Do they mention on the record who did it?
KF: You and Peppy are listed background vocalists but not anyone else.
DK: Here's the thing, Peppy and I both have really big ranges. You can hear that on all the Balance records, there's a lot of great high harmonies. No women were necessary (laughs).
DK: Women were necessary, just not for singing (laughs). It's a different sound when you get guys singing up there (sings), "Hold me, baby won't you touch..." It's a different sound and Peppy and I had a great blend. It's one of the nice things that kept us working together. I'm still working with him -- I just did something with him recently.
KF: No kidding. And I know there was a Balance album a couple of years back.
DK: Yeah, that's a whole other interesting story.
KF: Well, I have a Balance question so perhaps we can get into that. With regard to the background vocals for "Hold Me, Touch Me," would you have helped arrange those?
DK: Oh we also just did that on the spot. It was, "Start playing." And Peppy would start singing and I would start singing. We'd say, "OK, that sounds good. Let's take that. Let's double that. Let's put another harmony on that. OK, let's go to the next part. Let's repeat what we did. Let's do something else for the verse." It was inch by inch, carving the background vocals. Pretty much what we standardly do anyway. I mean it's different, it's not a Broadway show where you have to go in and teach people stuff. It's a record and you're creating the soundscape. I think Paul may have said, "I'd love some harmonies on the hook." But it was not pre-planned like, "This is what it's going to be." It was a bunch of guys getting together makin' a record.
KF: Between the background vocals, strings and piano part, how many days would you have been in the studio?
DK: Over the period of probably a couple of weeks. You know Paul had to do his lead vocal and he would do that on a day where he was comfortable, you know not the tracking day. I did the piano; like I said the bass and drums were added. I did the strings after that. And then Paul did his vocal sometime after that. And then we came in and did background vocals sometime after that.
KF: And the cherry on the top of this track, as far as I'm concerned, is Paul's guitar solo. He really composed a melodically rich, expressive solo. Do you recall being around while he tracked his solo?
DK: I was not there. But yes, he did a beautiful job.
KF: It fits the song perfectly.
DK: True, true. Yes, he was (pauses) very focused. He wasn't like a lot of rockers. I never knew him to get drunk. I mean he liked wine with dinner kind of drunk (laughs). I never knew him to get high. I never knew him to take the route of what you might expect a party band like KISS to go. It was business and it was pleasure all wrapped up enough that he was very straight and focused and when it came to the need to have melody or a beautiful song or something -- even their rock songs have a bit of a melody. It isn't (sings monotone), "I want to rock and roll all nite." It's (sings melody), "I want to rock and roll all nite." They have little melodies. And (sings), "Hold me, baby won't you touch me" is very melodic and plaintive and there's no reason why his guitar playing would not have been the same.
KF: I'm curious Doug, would you have played on any other tracks or is "Hold Me, Touch Me" the extent of your contributions on Paul's solo album?
DK: Um, I don't believe they needed the piano on anything else. I think this was a "thanks for the inspiration for the song. Thanks for being a good piano player and in town at the right time. Come on in and we'll do this together and this will be our little dance." And I think, if I'm not mistaken, that was probably just it. Play one silly song on one silly KISS record and it goes on forever (laughs).
Courtesy of Doug Katsaros
KF: Yes indeed. In terms of the fans, Paul's album is held in high regard, as is Ace Frehley's solo effort...
DK: The great thing about Ace's album is that everybody said, "Who's that drummer?"
KF: Yeah, Mr. Anton Fig.
DK: It totally turned everybody around that Ace got such a groove going for his record and a lot of that had to do with his spectacular drummer, who is now playing of course with the Letterman show.
KF: Another interesting tidbit is that Anton would go on to drum on the next two KISS albums as a ghost musician.
DK: Yeah. Anton is a warrior. And that was the brilliant thing -- everything about Ace's album sounded so spectacular.
KF: Paul's album is described as being the most KISS-like, though he also broadened his horizons. There's a ballad, which is actually the first ballad he ever performed on a KISS album, there are dynamic songs, mid-tempo songs, and straight-up rockers. What are your overall impressions of the album?
DK: I thought it was a beautiful record. I thought it was well-crafted, well-written. It pays homage to his fans and also lets them know that there's something about the sensitive stuff. I mean, he's sort of the sensitive guy in KISS. He's the lead singer but he's got the star makeup. He's picking up chicks with beautiful songs (laughs). And he's honest and romantic. You can do that and also rock out. Do your dance and play your guitar and hold stage in front of 30,000 people, and at the same time be intimate, write a song as if only one person is listening to it at a time. I thought he brought that to the record better than anybody. Kind of like putting on an entire series of concerts in [nine] songs.
KF: You just paid some high compliments to Paul. Of course, with being in KISS sometimes the music tends to be overlooked. Given your perspective in working with Paul, do you think he's underrated as a songwriter and musician?
DK: I'm not sure you could say underrated. I mean, Barbra Streisand might not be singing his tunes. But he spends a career doing what he does, you know. You know, KISS was, and still is, a party band. You feel good when you go to a KISS concert. They invented half of the stuff that most people do nowadays. I mean the only thing they didn't have is dancing girls. But the video, the fire and the pyrotechnics, and the costumes and the moving stages -- and how to put on a performance -- they created that stuff. So as you said, for the fans it may be about the music. But for everybody else, it's about the theatrics and the music as a vehicle for them to put on a show. I mean, Gene's bass solo when he would drip blood and fly across the stage was a lot of detuning and retuning his bass guitar. It was not really music, it was underscoring. It was musical but it's not something that he would release. But it was beautiful underscoring, very theatrical. And the same thing with Ace's guitar solos. They were meandering and just a lot of notes. But what it did was set up his exploding guitar and his motions onstage. And you know, Paul didn't have to take part in that. There was the drum solo, there was the guitar solo, there was the bass solo, and Paul was just the singer in the front. He played rhythm guitar and did his thing.
So as far as him not being well-thought of as a songwriter, I think it's the songs that he was writing were for a purpose other than living as standards in the standard library. I think he's rated perfectly fine. Certainly his Tiffany lamps and stuff will attest to the fact that he's written enough songs that make people happy (laughs). That they aren't in the American songbook -- I'm not sure, you'd have to ask him. I don't know that would have been what he was going for.
KF: That's some interesting insight, Doug. As a musician in 1978, how would you have been compensated for your work on Paul's record? Would this have been a union gig, a flat fee, or money under the table?
DK: (laughs) Well, here's the thing. Of course I would have done it just for the love of doing it. There are times when I have done that, just for the pleasure of working on an equal basis with someone you consider an icon. And if Paul asked me to play with him again, I would do it in a moment as a gift. If he asked me to go on the road with him, I might ask for a salary (laughs). It takes me away from my family and it takes me away from my home. But for a one-off, if he said, "Write a song with me." I'd say, "Sure, I will." And there are rules in the world, you know you split the royalties. I don't recall if I was paid. I'm sure him being who he was, he probably offered. But I did not go in there flashing my union card. I went in there just grateful to be expanding the number of places where I could play in the studio. And indeed the engineer called me back up several yeas later, saying, "I remember what a great experience it was with you in the studio working with Paul. Would you come and work with another band?" Then through that, I met somebody who turned me on to the band Live, and I did some arrangements for them. And that's where I whipped out the union card (laughs).
DK: I think of things like this as not only an investment, but the right thing to do. If you're young and somebody gives you an opportunity to be on an album that's pretty much guaranteed to go platinum before it's even finished recording, you just kind of say, "Yes." And whatever it is for, you accept it. The fact that it's 35 years later and you're calling to ask me about this three minutes of someone's life is a testament enough.
KF: Indeed. When the solo albums were released in 1978, KISS were arguably at their peak. Casablanca President Neil Bogart pulled out all the stops with a multi-million dollar publicity campaign for the solo albums. Do you recall the media coverage and hoopla surrounding the solo albums?
DK: Well, I do. I didn't think of it as a circus so much as to be expected. Regardless of where KISS was in your level of, you know, "Is this a kid's band or an adult band or a show band or a music band or a rock band or a toy band or a merchandise band?" -- they were definitely in the hierarchy of rock royalty. It's not like Paul pulled out to do a little solo project. They did four solo projects simultaneously as a band. And the stunning artwork on each of those covers was another testament to how it should be done -- how it should always be done. Like when Steely Dan, the two artists from that [band] did little solo projects, perhaps there would have been a little more hoopla about that had they done them simultaneously, used the same cover art, you know that sort of thing. There are times when it's done right and this was done right. So I didn't think of it as a circus so much as the proper ad campaign. And there was the product to back it up. There was Ace's fantastic record, there was Paul's beautiful record, there was -- well Gene put his thing out (laughs).
KF: Gene's album was certainly eclectic. But fair play to him, I think that was his goal going into the project.
DK: He wanted to show everybody everything. Paul, to me, feels like a team player. Even though he and Gene are at the top of the KISS, it's still his part to stand back and let the other people shine because he already knows how much he shines. Just like, as I keep saying, he was gracious to allow me to play. Any number of fantastic keyboard players could have done what I did. But it was a kindness and a team spirit that allowed me to be a part of this record, and I see that with what they did with all the marketing and everything as well. It was a team effort.
KF: Of course, it just so happened that you were involved on the lone single from the album. "Hold Me Touch Me" managed to climb as high as No. 46.
Rod Stewart, "The Nearness Of You," with strings arranged by Doug Katsaros
KF: Do you recall hearing the single on the radio?
DK: I did hear it on the radio. To this day, I have the "they're playing our song" syndrome. When I hear a song -- it's really rare I hear a Balance tune -- but definitely back in the day when I was driving along in the street and all of the sudden "Hold Me, Touch Me" or "Breaking Away" or "American Dream" or even some commercial or something that I was a part of came on, I would roll down the window and scream. To this day I'm the same way. I'm sitting at a Wendy's or something and some commercial will come on the air and I'll go, "I did the string arrangement on that!" Or you know, Rod Stewart's "American Songbook" record, they'll play "The Nearness Of You" or something and I'll go, "Wait a minute, that's my arrangement. I worked with on that!" I definitely will stop people and point out that I'm inside their ears at this very moment. I love it.
KF: You just said something that reminded me that Paul has said that if "Hold Me, Touch Me" was recorded and interpreted by a contemporary artist, he thinks it could have the potential to be a hit.
DK: Why not? Absolutely. Let's make it happen!
KF: When is the last time you spoke to Paul?
DK: I spoke to Paul a couple of years ago. I was collecting platinum records for my wall. And I said, "Hey, this is a platinum record." And I had a nice moment to be able to tell him how gracious he was for letting me play and what an honor it would be to put this record amongst my collection, since I have about two dozen gold and platinum records to my name. [I said,] "I would love this to be a centerpiece." And he, without hesitation, said, "Of course, Of course."
KF: Very cool.
DK: That was a couple of years ago.
KF: So you have a "Paul Stanley" platinum album on your wall.
DK: I have several of them, but his is definitely front and center.
KF: Getting into Balance, the group featured not only Peppy Castro but Bob Kulick, who played guitar on Paul's album. Balance's debut album was released in 1981 and featured the ballad "Falling In Love," which Paul Stanley sang on.
DK: Wow. Did Paul sing with us? I wouldn't put it past us that he did. I know that Peppy and I sang all of the background vocals on all of the Balance albums. It was just Peppy and me. Every now and then someone would come in and we'd bring them in and they'd do a little guest turn. And sometimes they were mentioned and sometimes they weren't. There's a definite possibility that Paul could have sung along. But if it's not mentioned on the record, I can't vouch for it for certain.
KF: He's not credited.
DK: I can't say it didn't happen, but I can't for sure say it did. I don't recall. Peppy and I used to sing our background vocals at 2 o'clock in the morning at Power Station in what they call "gobos"-- those are giant 8-foot tall wooden sound baffles filled with foam. And we would lie the foam baffles down on the ground and lie down inside them and then hover a mic over our faces while we're lying down at 2 o'clock in the morning. And then we'd sing background harmony (laughs).
KF: That was the secret to those fantastic Balance background vocals?
DK: That was our trick (laughs).
KF: Following the debut album, there was the more rock-edged "In For The Count." More recently, you convened for a "Equilibrium" in 2009.
DK: We didn't convene. That's the thing. There was no convening (laughs). All three of us were never in the same room.
KF: So you emailed tracks back and forth and worked that way?
DK: Exactly. I'm the tree hugger in the band (laughs). I'm the gentle soul who did not come into rock and roll through rock and roll. As rock and roll as I ever was was the Beatles. But I was always a theater person and I was the guy who actually could read music and write out music and studied music and was a musician. I was a musician. So I was not just a songwriter. Apparently, in my life, my karma has been to make a lot of people sound better. I do a lot of arranging and a lot of taking elements of people's songs and turning it into something that they couldn't do themselves. Because of that, there's a lot more, I guess, generosity. And Peppy is a very kind and gentle person, but a definite rock star. Back in the day, he was the rock star, as a teenager. And Bob, of course, is a heavy metal guitar icon and deserving of every accolade that is sent his way -- he's one of the great guitarists that I've ever worked with. He also has chops that nobody knows about. Every now and again he'll kick into a little jazz tune and then say, "You didn't know I had that, did ya?"
DK: He's an amazing guy with one of the most fluent vibratos and one of the most inventive ways to turn a guitar phrase. But personalities clashed in Balance from the beginning. Because Peppy is a frontman, Bobby is a frontman and I always thought that I was going to be a frontman. In my own little bands when I was in high school and growing up, I was always the leader of the band. I met Peppy because my girlfriend at the time was his old girlfriend, so we had that in common. And he came over and I spent more time with him than I did with her at times (laughs). But, in any case, when we put this band together we found that our personalities just conflicted so much that it led to the breakup of the band. I love Peppy and I love Bob. I think Bob and I get along and Peppy and I get along. But Peppy and Bob didn't always get along because Peppy has a way of critiquing and Bobby has a way of critiquing that each one of them doesn't want to listen to (laughs). When the band was approached to put this record together, it was best that Peppy sang his vocals in upstate New York where he lived. I did the keyboard parts in Long Island where I lived. And Bobby was out in Los Angeles and he cut guitars and they did some bass and drumming where he lived. And then Peppy would put on some guitars where he lived and I would put on background vocals where I lived. And then Bobby would do some mixes where he lived. And then I flew out to Los Angeles and did some stuff with Bobby in the studio. And then Peppy and I got together and we wrote some words and did some vocals at his place. So I tied the band together -- that's a lot of big words for I was the only one who visited everybody. But it was not a cohesive, filled with love, "Hey let's do it for the fans or for ourselves" recording. It was like labor. And I feel that on many of the tunes you can hear the work that's going into them. And I can hear the strain in Peppy's voice of trying to do what it is that Bobby keeps telling him to do. And I can hear the guitars trying to cover up what Bobby didn't like about the keyboards. I can hear the keyboards trying to kick through, and the drums sound different. To me, it was a nice gesture. But it was not making a great record. That said, I think there's some wonderful stuff on the record that snuck through. But the making of the record was not a pleasant experience. And I think it shows in the final product.
KF: Interesting. I know some bands work that way. For example, Def Leppard, have recorded songs by sharing files. So you would have preferred to have gone into a studio with everyone and let the chips fall where they may?
DK: Oh, absolutely. Look, I have no problem with working over the Internet. I'm happy to add my little touches and let them mix it [as they wish] for other people's projects. But when a project has my name on it, there is something about ... I keep going back to the word teamwork. Camaraderie. The energy that you get -- even if it's bad energy. If you're all in the room, sometimes some really bad energy can turn out some really great results.
KF: The proverbial creative friction.
DK: Yeah, exactly. So what we had was not particularly great energy. But even so, as I said I'm the tree hugger, I wrote several of the songs that were on the record and Peppy, as the singer -- even when we were in Balance -- always liked to say, "Look, I'm singing this. I would say different words here." And even as -- you know, I was in my mid 50s at the time, I was like, "OK, you do what you want with it" rather than [saying], "This is the way I wrote it. I think these lyrics are perfectly fine the way they are." Like "Old Friends," for example, it's virtually a different song than what I wrote. But in the spirit of collaboration and thinking, "Look, I've had this song for a couple of years. We're putting it together, no one has ever done it and no one will ever do it. Why not? Let Peppy have his way with it and we'll do what we do." In hindsight, I wish I hadn't. So I can't listen to the record because everything I did on it was pretty much changed and so it doesn't really reflect me. I wanted to put on keyboard sounds that sounded vintage because I thought, "Well, it's Balance. Let's get some 1980s-sounding keyboards." And Peppy wanted me to get some really avant-garde "we can do new things with sound now" digital in the computer keyboard sounds. So even the keyboard parts, as much as I was playing them, were not particularly what I might have done. So I don't feel connected to this record. I love the cover art. I think the cover art nailed it on the head. But it's not a record that I am one with, unlike the first Balance album, which I think is actually one of the greatest records ever made. That [album] was definitely unsung. And here's the problem that I had with that, and I've told Peppy this and he disagrees with me, and I may have mentioned it to Bob: I've always been vocal about the fact that we put out "Breaking Away" and I think that was the beginning of the end for Balance.
KF: Really? Right out of the gate?
DK: "Breaking Away" was the song that we had finished recording the entire album. And if you're familiar with the first Balance album, it's got some phenomenal songs on it.
Balance, "No Getting Around My Love"
KF: It's fantastic.
DK: Between "No Getting Around My Love" and "American Dream," those two songs alone could have catapulted us [in with] Journey, Foreigner and Styx. What we put out was, "Let's make sure that there's a little pop tune that we can get out there so that we can follow it up with something." But we put out this little dance tune with a little electronic drum (mimics drum sound). As far as I was concerned, we were 1910 Fruitgum Company. And no matter how hard or heavy we tried to make the second album, there was no way to possibly follow it up. There was nothing we could do to salvage ourselves. That is my contention and will be that way until the day I die. Peppy 100 percent disagrees with me. He says, "Had we not released that song no one would have ever heard of us." And I'm like, "If we had put out 'No Getting Around My Love' as our first single" -- that was like Toto's "Hold The Line." We could have just rocked our way into superstardom overnight.
KF: At this point, would you be open to getting together proper to record another Balance album?
DK: Yeah, it wouldn't happen (laughs). I'm working with Bobby. Bobby and I did Dee Snider's Broadway record together. And the "Sin-Atra" record that Bobby did, I did the orchestrations. We've been working a lot together. And Peppy and I have been doing a little work together ourselves. So split apart, we're actually continuing to be friends and co-workers and that's nice.
KF: Doug, you've mentioned you write and read music. And you have formal musical training.
DK: I do, indeed. You've probably seen my site, which is egotistically named "The Music Of Your Dreams." There are examples of music that I have arranged for this symphony here and that artist here and records that I've played on. I do a lot of orchestrations. Right now, I'm working on a new Broadway show based on an old movie called "Somewhere In Time," [which starred] Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. It's a time-travel love story and it's coming to Broadway next year and I am the writer and the orchestrator. I've conducted Broadway shows. You know I'm a musician's musician, my friend. On the other hand, I love banging my head and hitting my fingers hard enough on the keys so that they bleed and my fingernails break. That is why I get called to music direct things like -- there was an off-Broadway show called "The Toxic Avenger," written by David Bryan, the keyboard player for ...
KF: Bon Jovi.
DK: Bon Jovi, right. He just won a Tony Award for "Memphis" last year.
KF: And you played on a Bon Jovi album, right?
DK: I played on the first Bon Jovi album. I played and sang. I actually ghosted a couple of high notes for Jon (laughs). I was called the "stunt vocalist."
KF: (laughs) I like that. On a related note, your nickname on Paul's album is listed as "Gling." What is the origin of that nickname?
DK: My girlfriend at the time -- [Peppy and my] co-girlfriend -- used to called me "Dougling," you know like, "Little Duckling." It was "Dougling" and that was her cute thing to call me, like "Boobie" or whatever. I was "Dougling." And Peppy walked in on her calling me that once and said, "The Gling?" And it just stuck. So I thought, "Well that will be cool. I'll be 'The Gling' and I'll have a little persona and people will call up 'The Gling.'" But it sounded worse and worse to me over the years. It was like something you do when something is stuck in your throat or something. So I just turned back into Doug. It still pops out. When I posted my latest Facebook picture from the late-'70s or something, half of the comments from all of my friends are like, "It's 'The Gling.'" (laughs) There's been a lot of people who over the years never knew my name was Doug, they called me "Gling."
KF: Other than the Broadway show, can you tell us about any other musical projects you're currently working on?
DK: Let's see ... the thing I'm most excited about are the Broadway shows down the pike, and the one with the most cache at the moment is indeed "Somewhere In Time." That opened in Portland, Oregon, for its out of town tryout in end of May, early June. And then we move to Broadway to open for next year's Tony Awards. So that's the most exciting thing. I have been working as an arranger and composer and [on] a lot of crazy things -- I do underscores for scholastic books on tape for kids. Whatever it is, there's a lot of music to be made. I just did a Christmas arrangement for the Denver Symphony. I'm doing piano vocal charts for a friend of mine. I'm just trying to keep it busy. I've been playing keyboards and musical directing for a famous Argentinian pianist named Raúl di Blasio. And I've been doing that a few years, touring the world. This guy goes to Cairo and Beirut and Buenos Aires and Mexico -- all over the world. I've been on the road with him. So it's varied and interesting and all creative.
(KissFAQ thanks Doug Katsaros for his time and contribution to Back In The Solo Album Groove, our 35th anniversary retrospective dedicated to the 1978 KISS solo albums.)
About Doug Katsaros:
A musician's musician, Doug Katsaros is an Emmy Award-winning composer, arranger, orchestrator, vocalist, conductor, and keyboardist. He has collaborated with artists such as Donny Osmond, Rod Stewart, Sir Elton John, Bon Jovi, Peter, Paul & Mary, and Cher, among others. Katsaros played piano and arranged the strings for "Hold Me, Touch Me (Think Of Me When We're Apart)," which was the single from Paul Stanley's 1978 solo album. He has composed, arranged, conducted and/or orchestrated for a host of Broadway and Off-Broadway productions such as "Laughing Room Only," "The Life," "Footloose," "The Rocky Horror Show," "Diamonds," the Outer Critics Circle Award-winning "A ... My Name Is Alice," and "The Toxic Avenger." For his contribution to Off-Broadway's "Altar Boyz," Katsaros was nominated for a Drama Desk Award. His television credits include "The Tick," "Macuso FBI" and ABC's "Afterschool Specials," all three of which earned Emmy nominations, "The Jim Henson Hour," "Larry King Live," the "By Mennen" jingle, and films such as "If Lucy Fell" and "Me And The Mob." In 2012 he won an Emmy for Outstanding Original Song for his special piece, "(Won't You) Join Our Parade," written for the 85th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. More recently, he composed music for the production "Somewhere In Time," a musical based on the classic novel by author Richard Matheson. For more information on Katsaros and his musical projects, visit his official website.