A Conversation With KISS’ Tommy Thayer

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Photograph by Will Byington.

Yesterday I returned from KISS Kruise VI, my third and final sea-bound voyage with the “Hottest Band in the World,” and a few days prior to this trip I interviewed the band’s lead guitarist: Tommy Thayer. As you can see below, I asked Tommy several questions that many fans want answers to and he was more than happy to oblige. Stay tuned for my full recap of KISS Kruise VI, which I’ll post when I get my photo with the band, which should be at some point later this month. Until then, I hope you enjoy my interview with Tommy!

KISSology 4 was supposed to be released in November 2011, yet it still hasn’t seen the light of day. Why?

I don’t know if it was officially slated to be released then. It’s still on hold. It’s about 85% done. I put it together and produced what we’ve done so far. KISSology 4, like the other KISSologies will chronicle a certain era of the band. It will chronicle the band from early 2001/2002 up until the current date. It will also include vintage footage from the KISS archives that people haven’t seen.

Getting back to your question, I don’t know if I have a good reason why it hasn’t come out yet. There’s just been so many other things going on, and something as important as that, has to have its own window of time where it’s focused and committed to, so it gets the right attention. Sometimes that kind of stuff happens.

A project like that is timeless so you have more flexibility where it doesn’t have to come out at a certain time. We’re waiting to find the right time to put it out so it gets the attention that it deserves.

Speaking of unreleased material, when can fans expect another deluxe edition similar to what you did with Love Gun?

I think the intention was to do a series of deluxe editions, like the Love Gun Deluxe Edition. Before that Destroyer Resurrected was released. We had the idea of doing one for Creatures of the Night. But when I looked into supplementary material, like bonus tracks and demos, things that we could beef it up with, I didn’t really find anything in our archives to do it properly, so that was set aside. It’s not to say it won’t happen again. But, sometimes, certain eras and certain records we don’t have enough supplementary material to do it, and that was the case with the Creatures idea.

A year or two ago KISS was promoting the upcoming release of the “You Wanted The Best, You Got The Best” documentary. And you guys even shot a video backstage saying it would be shown at the recent Japan Expo, but it wasn’t. Why hasn’t this documentary been released yet?

I don’t know the answer to that question. I know it was being worked on. We did interviews, and other people were interviewed who were associated with KISS or were in the band before. It was coming along and at some point in time, things stalled out on it. I’m not sure why. Maybe you need to ask someone else because I don’t know.

At the Mohegan Sun concert last weekend, Paul said to the audience that KISS is going to release a new studio album. When will you guys start writing material for it and recording it?

I think it’s still in the idea phase. I don’t believe anything definitive has been decided yet for that. Within the band, we’ve talked and thrown some ideas around. It would be nice to do another record.

Speaking of this, you guys are awesome when you play acoustically. Have you ever considering doing an all-acoustic studio album featuring original material?

(Laughs) No, we haven’t considered that. KISS is a rock band with a certain sound and style that’s been established for quite a long time. I just don’t think something like that would quite work. It would be interesting, but I don’t know if it would be the right thing, even though we do cool acoustic sets. I don’t see it happening.

Eric has said he doesn’t want to be in KISS if Gene and Paul aren’t in the band. When Gene and Paul eventually retire, what would you do?

To make a proclamation about whether or not I’d continue to be in the band after Gene and Paul retire, to me, personally, doesn’t make sense. That’s why I’m not saying, “Here’s what I’m gonna be doing in five years.” How can you possibly say what you’re going to be doing because we just don’t know. I like to take things day by day, and we’ll see where it all goes. I’ve been around KISS and the organization for a long time, and I hope to continue that. Regarding what happens with Gene and Paul and the band in the future, I don’t think anybody knows for sure.

A small segment of KISS fans can’t accept you performing in the “Spaceman” makeup and attire, even though you’ve been working with the band for decades and been KISS’ lead guitarist for nearly 15 years. How do you deal with this relentless onslaught of hate from narrow-minded fans?

It really doesn’t bother me. You can’t be fooled by a handful people that go on websites and complain. Some people complain about everything, really, not just who’s the guitar player. In that context, it doesn’t really mean anything to me. If anything, I chuckle and smile when I hear things like that. It really has nothing to do with what’s happening in reality. Put it this way: KISS continues to go out and play big shows and be the phenomenon that it is. I give more merit to that fact, than what a few oddballs say online. I don’t really care.

Why don’t you and Eric sing more songs live?

KISS has been playing and recording for more than 40 years, and Gene and Paul sing most of the songs on the albums. That’s what KISS is known for. So when we play live, Gene and Paul sing the majority of the songs. I’ve only sung a couple songs on record and a couple others live. It’s a huge catalog of albums with hundreds of songs. When you look at it that way, it’s pretty easy to understand why they sing the majority of the songs we play live. Eric and I sing a few songs live and a lot of backup vocals, and we love it. Like I said, that’s why those guys sing most of the stuff, because they wrote and recorded most of it. That’s what people expect.

Photograph by Becca Jadofsky.

If you could sing more songs live, which ones would you choose?

If a song was written, recorded and sung by one of the guys in the band, and that’s what fans have heard for years, then that’s what people are expecting to hear live. But if that guy isn’t in the band anymore, and it’s a popular live song, then someone else has to do it. “Shock Me” is a KISS song that’s always been popular, so it makes sense for me to do that one. The same case with “Black Diamond” or “Beth” with Eric. The problem with the new songs like “When Lighting Strikes” and “Outta This World,” new songs off new records, frankly a lot of people don’t know them. When you’re playing live there’s a dynamic and energy to the show, and when you play new songs that nobody knows you lose the energy. (laughs) It’s that plain and simple. When you have a career as long as KISS, you have to play what people expect and what gets fans excited, and that’s where the energy comes from. You see the same thing if you go and see Paul McCartney or the Rolling Stones. It’s just the way it is.

Prior to the Reunion Tour, you helped Peter and Ace relearn their parts in classic KISS songs. What was that experience like?

It was interesting. I was asked to come in and help them out. Quite frankly, they weren’t up to speed on the songs and playing them properly. They’d get off track and start playing different versions or different parts than what was originally done. The idea was to get them back on track, and that’s what I did. It was interesting, and it was fun and enjoyable to do with both of them. It was like jamming on KISS songs – nothing tough about that. A couple times Peter got upset and at first and he pushed back a bit. Ace was cool. We sat down and went through the songs and, and for the most part, they were appreciative of the fact that somebody was willing to go through this stuff and help them out.

Since you’ve been in KISS, what’s been your happiest moment as a member of the band?

It’s hard to come up with one particular moment. I’ve been in the band for almost 15 years now. I’d say it’s been such a great thing to do and that I hope things continue to be as good as they’ve been. Nobody can complain about playing lead guitar in one of the biggest rock bands ever. It’s a great place to be.

Since you’ve been in KISS, what’s been your most difficult experience as a member of the band?

It’s never been difficult. It was a challenge coming into the band and fill the shoes of somebody that was that popular to begin with and played such an important role in the band. A lot of eyes were on me. There’s really never the perfect scenario, it’s kind of like damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You should be more original; you should play it more like the other guy. Then the moment you cop the parts or the style of the previous guy, people start to say, “Oh, he’s just a copycat.” With some people you just can’t win. The counter to that is that 99% of the people enjoy it and they let you know that. The guys in the band have been nothing but positive and supportive from day one. That’s never a question. Sometimes it’s a challenge to deal with people’s multiple points of view, but it doesn’t make a difference. You just go out there and kick some ass.

3 thoughts on “A Conversation With KISS’ Tommy Thayer

  1. Brian Kann – Brian Kann is the Entrepreneur behind several websites, primarily in development at this time. Each is extremely ambitious and Kann is seeking partners - offering an equity share opportunity to someone who is as devoted as he is and commit to major contributions to one or more of the businesses. In 1996 Brian Kann discovered Domain Names and began feverishly buying them up, acquiring As many strong generic term domains as possible. Two examples of this would be ConcertPromotions.com and BuildingMaterials.com. At this time and is the owner of approximately 1,000 Domains. Many are for sale actively, while the saying goes that, “everything is for sale at the right price”. In 1992 Brian Kann earned a degree in Construction Management and Construction Technology/Engineering from Illinois State University where he was also the class president. At the time, ISU boasted one of the Top 25 Construction programs in the United States, No. 7 in fact, according to the outcome of a highly intense invite-only academic competition of the 25 outstanding University programs. Since graduating from Illinois State University in 1992 Brian has “overachieved” by comparison of the expectations placed on him by the standards of others, not the least of which is family. His first position began on January 17, 1993 when Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company flew Brian to Jacksonville, Florida for his first assignment. There he would quickly realise that he was working with very intelligent colleagues. And like never before Brian would discover just how passionately he liked to learn. The primary group with whom Kann closely worked were all within a few years of age, one direction or the other; older or younger. He developed an unrelenting work ethic while “being worked” typically 80 hours per week, no Saturdays, nor Sundays off. There “the new guy” also commonly works major holidays including Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving. This would come to benefit him later.m for sure. He made some very important friendships that pushed him to ‘have to’ quickly and completely learn higher mathematics than ever before. And rather than blurt out, “I don’t know how to do this” or “I’ve never done this before” he gathered up the nautical charts, as an example, of the shipping ports, harbours, and waterways along with his company-issued Hewlett Packard Engineering portable computer (well before iPads and such) and called into the third-party software developer of the Surveying, Mapping, Trigonometry, Geometry, and Calculus and became a frequent caller. In short time he befriended the lead software developer, an older gentleman who said that he never imagined his software would be used on such thrilling projects like mapping out a Survey Navigation plan for all of New York Harbour. He came to have as much fun helping me work through the assignments as I had relief in making his friendship and having him to call on. And as a result, he collected the vast array of thrilling projects to show others, to use in marketing his software, and to cover his office walls with. We were friends and we each got something great from our friendship. And... I always had the answers worked out for our Dredging Ships and Surveying Vessels. Adding to that, it is my incredible homie and privilege to legitimately say that I was among the very first small group ever to test out Global Positioning Systems (GPS). Years before it would ever see the dashboard of ANY automobile GPS was tested and refined at Sea by the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers who selected only a few major Marine companies to join them in testing GPS, which replaced triangulated Microwave Transponders. Those, in fact, were “the solution” for all of the projects on which Hewlett Packard assisted me. Though there is a handful of well-known brands of GPS equipment today, it was Trimble Navigation who came first. And although they started at Sea and came to dominate there, they have since become the first choice of Agriculture (Farming) and AEC (Architecture, Engineering, Construction) through a number of major strategic acquisitions and marketing. As long as Trimble controls the large majority of the commercial/industrial market they’re happy to leave the consumer market for other companies like Garmin, Magellan, and tomtom. And Mr. Kann is thrilled to have such experience(s). It’s worth mentioning that the closest friendship Kann made was with someone of the same age whom Kann considers to be one of the most intelligent people he has known. From this friend, Jon, Kann learned so much about investing, the financial markets, what books to read and in what order, and After a few years on that amazing journey,
    constructiondotblog on said:

    Great interview, Mark! Great questions and as usual with Tommy, great answers. Just like in
    Politics, everyone has THEIR opinion. Our Facebook group KISS’ Psycho Circus represents a large group of very positive and accepting fans who are very grateful that these two great guys who love KISS, care deeply about its legacy and are themselves stellar talents. As Tommy has said over and again, he has always been in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position, BUT one on the other hand that ANY ANY fan of KISS or rear Rock & Roll would do anything to be entrusted with filling one of four pair of boots in.

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