Tony Zarrella Explains He Didn’t Quit Wicked Lester
via Adriano HE / Youtube
Tony Zarrella, a member of Wicked Lester along with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, claimed that contrary to what others believed in, he did not leave the group. He also noted that it was the future members of Kiss who left.
After spending two years working on an album in 1972, Simmons and Stanley expressed their dissatisfaction with it and wanted to try something else. As a result, the album was never released.
Zarella recalled how he’d been recruited for Wicked Lester by keyboardist Brooke Ostrander. He said that during their first rehearsal together:
“We played original tunes written by Paul and Gene, like ‘Firehouse’ and another called ‘Molly.’ I seem to recall that we also played some Jethro Tull tunes from the Aqualung album, like ‘Locomotive Breath,’ ‘Aqualung’ and ‘Cross-Eyed Mary.’”
He then recalled his debut concert as a band member, he continued:
“This was our first show after the many months of rehearsals we had done in our Chinatown loft on Canal Street in NYC.
“As the drummer, I learned how to excite the listeners by becoming more involved in the live show with my unique playing style and motivational force. The crowd was a small turnout since it was a small venue, but the show went very well. Our extensive dedicated rehearsals prepared us.”
“Paul and Gene would come in with basic rough cassette recordings of the songs played on acoustic guitar.
“We would develop each song with new and improved bass lines, rhythm and lead guitars, all coordinated with my original drum parts. And my drumming was creative, with a unique style that I integrated into each song’s character. I felt that this worked perfectly. I wrote all the drum parts, complemented by Gene and Paul’s input, along with producer Ron Johnson and engineer Ralph Moss.”
Although “the creative struggles were minimal because there was mostly mutual agreement by all involved in the recording process,” he mentioned that there were differences in that “Gene and Paul preferred more of the hard rock edge, while I combined both hard rock and pop drum playing styles.”
He clarified that he did not leave the band, explaining:
“I thought we planned to keep going. … I have some regrets about Paul and Gene’s decision to leave. I wish we could have continued. I am often asked if I was asked to join Kiss, and the answer is no; they never asked. But if they had asked, I would have pursued the same direction.”
Nevertheless, he was still happy with his involvement with Kiss’ legacy. He even described Wicked Lester as the “beginning and foundation” of the bigger band. He noted:
“I have connected with both [Simmons and Stanley] on Facebook and via email on a few random occasions, but I haven’t spoken to Gene or Paul on the phone. We all learned and gained tremendous experience from the start. I still apply many of those lessons to this day.”