-by Matthew Picken
Tommy Thayer is an amazing man. He has a long and very interesting history with the band Kiss, aswell as his original band Black and Blue. We got the chance to have a chat to Tommy during some time off. Check it out.
Good morning Tommy
Hi Matt, how are you doing?
Not too bad thank you. How have you been?
I’m doing good, just been enjoying a little bit of down time the last month or two although it seems like there’s always something going on, and we are getting geared up for Australia and New Zealand soon, so we will start rehearsing in a couple of weeks and will be down there next month.
We are looking forward to seeing you here.
We and me too.
You started your music career in 1978
Yes, in 1978 I graduated high school and I started getting into some real bands in Portland where I was growing up and that’s where I first meet Jaime St. James who I ended up forming Black and Blue with in 1981. We then moved to Los Angeles in 1983 and in 1984 we got a record deal with Geffen Records and released Black and Blues first self-titled album. I then meet the guys from Kiss in 1985 when Black and Blue was their support act on their Asylum Tour. That was when I meet Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Bruce Kulick, and Eric Carr.
Did your working relationship start with Kiss then?
I got to know them then, but in 1996 Black and Blue hired Gene to come produce our Third record Nasty Nasty and then again on our fourth record In Heat in 1987 that was released in 1988 so once I got to know Gene more working with him and Black and Blue things evolved from there and he asked me to come write some songs with him for the next Kiss record which was Hot in the Shade
The songs you co wrote with Gene; Betrayed, and The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away were included on that album?
Yes they were the two songs that ended up on Hot in the Shade and soon then after Black and Blue ran it course so to speak and broke up in the late 80’s early 90’s and I ended up working part time for Kiss behind the scenes primarily to begin with and then it became a full time job with in a year or two later. So through the 90’s I was working in the Kiss organization not as the guitar player but more as management type stuff and then it was playing studio and demo guitar to producing and directing videos and that sort of thing.
It sounds like you have done just about everything with this band.
Lol. Yep that’s true
It just blows me away how many fans don’t know just how much you have been involved as a part of Kiss for so long.
The cool thing for me is that I have had a unique perspective on the Kiss organization having worked behind the scenes and now being in the band for 12-13 years. I have had a one on one personal relationships with all the guys who have been in Kiss and I know them all pretty well. It has given me a good overview and perspective on all things Kiss, and besides, I have been a fan ever since their first album in 1974 so I know a lot about it.
I have heard at one point you were painting Paul’s house and helped out around Gene’s home too. Is this true?
Well for the record, I would like to let everybody know right now I never cleaned gutters at Gene Simons house, so please everybody I NEVER CLEANED GUTTERS! But that’s Wikipedia for you. With all theses knuckle heads who want to put all this crazy stuff into your profile. So I never cleaned gutters but I did help Paul do some painting at his house, that part is true.
Is it also true that in 1986 you worked with both Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss to help get them back up to speed with their own stuff written in the 70’s for the Kiss Alive tour?
Yes that’s true they where planning on the reunion tour, Peter and Ace needed to get up to speed on the playing and parts they were playing and I was able to help. Both Paul and Gene asked me to go through the parts and rehearse with them and get them straightened out so I was able to help out in that regard definitely
In 2002 you first put on the spaceman make up for a privet concert in Jamaica, was there ever any talk of creating your own personal persona?
No, and in 2002 that was a transitional time, I did some shows like the Jamaican show and a few TV appearances, but it was a kinda fill-in really because there wasn’t any touring in 2002. By February 2003 we did Kiss symphony in Melbourne and that was my real coming out. It was my official first gig with the band and that’s where it all started. Back then there was absolutely not any consideration for a new make up design, never was and never has been since and that’s a smart decision made by Paul and Gene primarily because when you build a brand and a band for over 30 years well at that stage you don’t start changing things around and messing with the chemistry and magic that make it happen.
Never have I thought it was a good idea to create a new make up design as Kiss is identifiable by these four iconic charters and I don’t know why any body in there right mind would ever want to change that. If you go back they did try after 7 years back in 1980 – 81 when Eric Carr came into the band, but it never really worked then. These guys are smart and know its not a good idea. Its been very successful sticking with the design for the band as it has been for the last 13 – 14 years. It’s undeniable how well it’s gone so I think it’s been the right decision that was made at that time to stick with the original designs.
So as they say don’t mess with a winning formula.
Yes and its easy for people who aren’t involved to say “Oh you should do this and you should do that” but I say start up your own band and keep it going on a huge as a success for 30 to 40 years and then come tell me what you think I should do. Most people will never be in that position, we know what we are doing, Trust me …
As you said before your first official appearance with Kiss was here in Australia with the Melbourne symphony Orchestra. Does Australia hold a special place in your heart for that?
It does, it was my first official gig as the lead guitarist for Kiss so Australia is very special to me and I remember that show and the whole lead up to that show like it was just yesterday, being in Melbourne we got there a week early to rehearse with the symphony in there facility in Melbourne and it was magical and is some great memory’s for me to do that. I felt that there was a bit of pressure at the time because we were recording a live album and also recording a DVD that became Kiss Symphony DVD and then the live four, so for a first gig there was a lot to have on my plate and in the end when it was all said and done I felt really good about it, so it does hold that special place in my heart and being in Australia to do that was really special and I will always remember that with a great fondness
Since then Kiss has done a lot of touring, promotion, TV shows and even bell ringing at the New York stock exchange. What has been the highlight for you?
That’s a great question, because part of the amazing special thing about being with Kiss is having the opportunity to do all theses amazing special and unique things.. like you said, ringing the New York Stock Exchange or being a part of a huge Doctor Pepper campaign with commercial’s played all the time on TV or doing a movie with Scooby Doo and Kiss and doing our own voice over parts.
You know you sit there and ask yourself, I cant believe I’m doing this how cool is that. Theses things continue to blow me away, so its hard to say what is the most special and unique experience. All these things are so cool, so I like to take it all in, and it continually reminds me what a unique position I am in, and I never take that for granted, being in one of the biggest rock bands in history is just an amazing experience and an amazing ride and every day is something new and special. I am just blow away constantly
The Kiss 40th Anniversary Tour is 92 shows all around the world, it sounds like a grueling schedule. How do the band keep it up and keep the energy going?
Well we are very dedicated and passionate about what we do. This band is a great combination of people who enjoy being together all the time. We enjoy hanging out even when we are on days off, on and off the road we go hang out, have dinner and we love being together on and off the stage so that makes it special and makes it work, so that whole attitude is a very important part.
Kicking off the Australian leg of the 40th Anniversary Tour with the 85th show here in Perth what should the fans expect?
I think its really impressive that you know that this will be our 85th show and I love Perth. I have had so many great experiences’ there throughout the years. It’s a beautiful city, I love the climate as it kinda reminds me of southern California with the dry sunny weather, it’s always great to be there. We are bringing a unique stage that we used last year while on tour in North America that we call the spider stage and it’s really if not the most unique and dynamic stage that Kiss has ever toured with. So that is a special thing that that stage will be with us in Perth for our first Australian show. This stage is incredible it moves with us up into the air and different things, its really fantastic and I think everyone is going to love it.
Yes, I have seen photos of the spider stage and it looks incredible, is it you favorite stage to work with so far out of all the Kiss stages?
I think that the spider stage is the definitive stage for me, it’s the coolest Kiss stage I’ve ever played on, or toured with by far.
We love it when bands of your caliber come to Perth, should we expect to see you come back again after this tour in future years?
Lol. I think we are just taking this just one tour at a time and one year at a time. I would hate to think that this is the last time we are coming to Australia, but we don’t look that far ahead because who knows. I hope we will be back some time in the future, but you never know.
A fan I spoke with leading up to this conversation said to me that he would be quite happy to see you play by yourself Tommy, as he was so impressed with your singing and song writing.
He is too kind and I really appreciate that.
He also said if you ever wanted to give one of your guitar’s a new home here in Australia he would be quite happy to give it pride of place in his house, I honestly think his wife would lose her spot in the bed for it too.
Lol. Well, who knows? I don’t have that many guitars that I can give them away.
I have to say I really enjoy playing the guitar in Kiss and I enjoy singing, its been the trill of my life and there’s nothing better in the world. I think a lot of people dream of being in the poison that I’m in as lead guitarist for Kiss, its something that I cherish and I love doing. It’s cool that people are paying attention and I get off on that, especially with so many great people, fans, guitar players and admires that value what I’m doing. I really do appreciate that.
At 13 you started playing guitar, what advice would you give to any younger guitar players?
Well you know its about working hard and putting in the effort and working for it, but I think the important thing in life is to some how find just what your calling is, what’s your vocation, where is your place in life and what makes sense. I think finding that is a part of the journey but its important to find what you are good at and where you are needed and what makes sense and once you do that you just work hard to follow that path. It’s about finding your calling, what is it that you don that is important to people that they want from you. I think that is a good way to look at it. Sure you need to work hard and all the usual thing’s that people say you need to do but it’s really about finding that special thing that you enjoy doing and you are good at and that people need you for.
Over the years, Kiss have put there face and name on so many things and products, what would you like to see them do next?
Lol. That’s a tough question because it seams like everything has been done from casket’s to condoms, lunch boxes and action figurer’s, it’s a tough question as I love it all, the merchandising, but at the end of the day I really believe its about a great rock and roll band. That is the thing I like to emphasize because this is a great band with a legacy and history of great music, amazing production, shows and image. I think that is what the core of Kiss is and really about. I like to stay focused on that and make sure that’s great and we do that better than everyone else. Kiss started out as a band that was flamboyant, that put on this amazing theatrical show and it’s important we hold true to that and preform great songs and write great music. Its important to stay true to that and to give fans what they want to see from Kiss and not focus too much on other things.
If your entire music career could be described as one song by any artist what would it be?
How about; The Long And Winding Road.
Thank you so much for your time today Tommy!
It’s been great talking to you, hopefully we will see you when we get down there and that you enjoy the show.
Kiss will be here in Perth paying at the Perth Arena on 3rd of October
Tickets are still available for the Perth show at ticketek.com.au but will not last long.
Further shows in Australia
October 6th: Hidmarsh, South Australia
October 8th: Melbourne, Victoria
October 9th: Melbourne, Victoria
October 10th: Sydney, New South Wales
October 12th: Newcastle, New South Wales
October 13th: Boondall, Queensland