Tommy Thayer Interview











Tommy Thayer (KISS) Interview
May 7, 2017 - Oslo, Norway - by Maggie Wright









FULLMETALROCK
- Hi, this is Maggie at Full Metal Rock and I am here with Tommy Thayer of Kiss! I’m really excited for you. This is the fourth night of nineteen European date leg of the KISS World tour. How’s it going so far?

TOMMY THAYER
- It’s going fabulously. We did Moscow and Helsinki, and Stockholm last night, and we’re here in Oslo speaking right now. It’s really going great. We always have huge crowds in Scandinavia, and it’s just exciting to see so many people come out and be so excited to see the band. So the show’s been big, the stage, and our production is really going well, but it’s always… there’s some tweaking going on to begin with, at the beginning of a tour, as with anybody, in terms of the sounds, lights and the pyro and video and all that sort of thing.



FULLMETALROCK
- Yeah, the thing about KISS for me is that it’s an experience! It must be incredibly difficult to narrow down to the number of songs that you select (to play).

TOMMY THAYER
- That’s always a challenge because there’s so much back material and so many records that have been recorded over the years. The first KISS record came out in 1974, so we’re looking at 43, going on 44 years now, and that’s a lot of material to choose from. And of course you have the classics, and so many people are depending really on hearing those songs that if you don’t play some of them, they get pretty pissed off. Then there’s die hard fans, that are very, you know, the purists, that want to hear those deeper cuts. We try to throw a few things in, but, then again, the masses… it’s crickets sometimes with some of those songs. It’s a fine line. We try to balance it out the best we can though.



FULLMETALROCK
- I’ve noticed so far you haven’t played anything from the “Monster” album. Is that a deliberate decision, or is just, you’re going with the flow and seeing how things go?

TOMMY THAYER
- Well, again, you’ve got the classic songs, and I’m just gonna be honest with you, not as many people know the stuff that’s on “Monster”, the most recent record that came out a couple years ago, just because, as you know, records aren’t selling like they used to, the record business is in huge decline, so the sales aren’t there, people aren’t getting the new music as much, so, I guess that’s reflected when we decide on what songs we’re gonna play.



FULLMETALROCK
- And when you talk about the fans, and making them happy, because you now have a whole ‘nother generation of fans that have come into it, and possibly even a third generation. That’s got to be a bit mind-blowing!

TOMMY THAYER
- It is mind blowing. It’s really multi-generational, like you said, it’s not just younger kids or a certain window of age. It’s all ages, and families. It’s interesting to me that so many kids get into KISS because their dad and the family brings them to the show. Sometimes it blows me away! There’s so many young kids out there, I’m thinking “How in the hell did they find out about KISS now!” And so I ask people, and it has to do with fathers bringing their sons and other people talking about it, or the reputation the band has for the show and the theatrics and the big rock show that KISS has really made famous in the first place. You know, these big pyro shows, and the big spectacular like we do is, a lot of it is, forged by KISS through the years and we have that reputation and that kind of legacy. I think people come to see that, too. It blows us away though, ‘cause every night Paul will say, “How many people haven't seen KISS before?” and it’s amazing how many people raise their hands. But that’s a good thing because that means you have new people coming in, ‘cause guys need to keep re-inventing and bringing in new people, ‘cause there’s a certain natural attrition to anything in entertainment. You slowly lose people, and you have to keep gaining more people.



FULLMETALROCK
- There’s so much that goes into a KISS show, it must take months of preparation each time you go out on the road!

TOMMY THAYER
- It does! From a production standpoint, there’s meetings and designs and things that are happening months and months before we go out, like you said. And then, finally, when we get to the first show, say, in Moscow, we got there two or three days early and they got the whole set up in there, the whole production, for days before we started the first show, so that we could rehearse with the production. And that’s a big important part of it too, ‘cause, especially with a band like KISS, we’ve got all the gags and effects and things and it all has to be finely coordinated because one affects the other and there’s a dynamic to the show that you’re trying to create. So, that all has to be gone through, and that’s very important. So we do spend a lot of time with that, especially with a band like KISS ‘cause we’ve got a, like I said, this almost mythic kind of reputation, and we have to live up to it and almost go beyond what people are expecting sometimes. There’s a lot to that so it’s a big bite to chew, but we do.



FULLMETALROCK
- Take me back to the first time that you played with KISS, the first time you had to go up in one of those stage lifts. What was that like for you? What was the view of the crowd like?

TOMMY THAYER
- Luckily, I don’t have a fear of heights. Paul actually gets a little shaky. He gets clammy hands when we come down on the beginning of the show (laughing). Yeah, but going up on those lifts, you just have to have faith in the fact that they're really professionally put together and it’s all very rehearsed and it’s safe. That’s the most important thing to begin with. But you know when you go up on those things the first few times, it’s even higher when you get up there than it looks from when you’re standing down below.



FULLMETALROCK
- I don’t even want to imagine!

TOMMY THAYER
- But going back to my first KISS experience, it’s kind of a long story because I first met Gene and Paul and the band back in 1985 when my old band Black and Blue…



FULLMETALROCK
- you were, what, about 25 then?

TOMMY THAYER
- 22, 23, 24, something like that. We were opening for KISS and that’s when I met those guys, and at the time they were on their Asylum tour, so it was Gene and Paul and you had Eric Carr, the drummer, and Bruce Kulick was playing guitar. And they really took us under their wing. Gene kind of embraced us and ended up producing a couple of our records. Anyway, so a long story short, I ended up working for Kiss in the early to mid 90’s because Black and Blue had run its course, and I was just looking for a job, and I was thrilled to just be able to work behind the scenes with KISS. Then, in the late 90’s, or mid 90’s, I had a KISS tribute band called Cold Gin, just for fun. It was kind of before too many of these tribute bands were out there. It was just some buddies of ours in L.A., and we got together ‘cause we loved KISS, and we put make-up on. The first show was on Halloween and we were just goofing around with it. Paul and Gene and the guys came to a few of the shows, and they laughed. So I had some experience putting KISS make-up on, and playing the parts. And I grew up listening to KISS, so I was really weaned on that in terms of my guitar playing. So, then, they did the reunion tour in the 90’s and I was around working behind the scenes. Then things came full circle and they wanted to get a new guitar player, like around 2002. I was just the natural choice, and it just was a natural thing.

The first concert I actually did was a private show down in Jamaica, in February 2002, and it was really interesting. It was only for a couple hundred people, but it was a full production, full stage, outside, with full pyro and everything. And that was a natural thing for me to do because I had been through the routine with the make-up, and I’d played the songs, and being around these guys for so long, I’d done a lot of sound checks and even recording in the studio and things like that. It wasn’t like it was that shocking, but it was still, “Oh my God, I’m on stage playing in KISS!”



FULLMETALROCK
- Was it a bit surreal?

TOMMY THAYER
- Well it wasn’t only just that first show, but by the time we toured, the first year I was in the band, we were touring the U.S and North America, and we played shows like Madison Square Garden. I remember being on stage, for instance, at the Garden, and I’m thinking, “Oh my God, how did this happen?”. It’s kind of mind-blowing.



FULLMETALROCK
- It’s like something out of a movie! Like a storyline straight out of that movie with Mark Wahlberg…

TOMMY THAYER
- Yeah, Rockstar. It’s kind like that. It’s a lot like that movie, actually, and people have referenced that to me before. “You know Tommy, you’re a lot like that” (laughs) That was kind of based on the Judas Priest thing, wasn’t it? "Ripper" Owens, he was a big fan and he played in a tribute band and got to be in Judas Priest for a while. Anyway, it’s very interesting and, when you put your mind to some things, it’s interesting how life evolves and reveals itself.



FULLMETALROCK
- You never know where life is going to take you!

TOMMY THAYER
- Yeah, people say. “Oh Tommy, you’re smart. You had this all planned.” and I said, “Actually, I didn’t.” It all just kind of happened, in a weird way, one thing leading to another. I didn’t have a big long term plan. I just loved doing it, being around the music business and being in bands, and I just followed my passion. This is where it ended up, which is kind of cool.



FULLMETALROCK
- It’s very cool! I want to talk about your Epiphone guitar, the newest one. You had the Spaceman, back in 2012 I believe, and then the White Lightning, which is a sweet looking piece of equipment!





TOMMY THAYER
- Yeah, it’s nice! This is my third signature guitar with Epiphone now. The first one was the Spaceman with Les Paul in 2012. Then in the beginning of ’14 I came out with the White Lightning Les Paul. Now it’s the White Lightning Explorer. The Explorer is a slightly different shape. It’s going to officially come out later this year, in the fall of 2017. I’ve got some prototypes already.



FULLMETALROCK
- I saw one backstage!

TOMMY THAYER
- Yeah, I’m playing one on stage right now and it’s beautiful. The response had been very good so far.







FULLMETALROCK
- What differentiates it from the previous White Lightning?

TOMMY THAYER
- Well the White Lightning Les Paul is a Les Paul style. This is an Explorer which is another body style that originally Gibson made. It’s a different looking guitar. The finish, the metallic white finish and all the chrome hardware, and the same pick ups, the way the binding is, the details, it’s just like the other White Lightning, but it’s a different body shape, known as the Explorer.



FULLMETALROCK
- What do you like to jam to when you're sitting at home?

TOMMY THAYER
- I’m a bid fan of great pop music. I’m a huge Beatles fan. When I’m at home I listen to Steely Dan, for some reason last week I was listening to Gerry Rafferty, a great singer/songwriter. So a lot of different things. I listen to a lot of classical music, too. But I’m just a rock purist, really. I love great Rock ’n’ Roll songs and bands and it goes all the way back to the 60’s and 70’s for me.







FULLMETALROCK
- What sort of bands are doing it for you at the moment?

TOMMY THAYER
- Newer bands? You know there’s not a lot of ‘em. It’s unfortunate. Even bands like Cold Play and Foo Fighters, even though those bands aren’t brand new; they’ve been around for a few years. I like anybody that does it good and write great songs, and has a good sound and good production in the studio and that sort of thing.



FULLMETALROCK
- How much fun was it doing the Scooby Doo DVD?

TOMMY THAYER
- (laughs) That was cool, and it’s a good example of, when you’re in a band like KISS, the certain perks that come along the way. There’s so cool that you’d never think about it. All of a sudden we’re doing our voices in the studio for the actual animation in the Kiss/Scooby Doo Movie, and I’m thinking, “I’m in a Scooby Doo movie! How cool is that!” when we all grew up with the Hanna- Barbera Scooby Doo television show and it’s just another one of those things. It’s like, “Oh my God, how did this happen? This is so cool!”



FULLMETALROCK
- I always wanted to be a Daphne, but I’m more of a Thelma.

TOMMY THAYER
- (laughs)



FULLMETALROCK
- Who did you want to be, a Shaggy or a Fred?

TOMMY THAYER
- More of a Shaggy, probably. Yeah, but what a cool thing to do. Then the flip side, the thing (movie) came out a year or two ago and it’s been vastly popular. And in a strange way, it’s another one of this things that brings in younger kids, ‘cause they saw that and go, “Hey, this KISS thing looks cool! I love the music!” All of a sudden, you have younger kids coming. I think it’s good. You know, some people are critical sometimes about “You go too far with all this stuff”. But I don’t agree. I think that in this day and age, especially with the death of the record labels, that you have to think outside the box. Any kind of an idea where you do something that gets some attention, or brings the name of the band out, and the music out, rather than the conventional means of records and radio, which does’t happen much anymore, this is good. And this is the kind of thing you have to do.



FULLMETALROCK
- KISS has been the trend-setter when it comes to expanding the marketing of the band, and the things you come up with that keep KISS alive in people hearts and minds…

TOMMY THAYER
- It’s interesting because KISS really is an enigma. KISS is a different band to your average type band. Most bands, people say, “Oh, where’s your credibility? You can't do that.” or “Scooby Doo? Come on”. But KISS, we can pull it off. We can do it.



FULLMETALROCK
- The Scooby Doo movie takes place in an amusement park. I want a KISS amusement park! You have to talk to the guys! That that needs to be your next project!

TOMMY THAYER
- (laughs) That would be great! I think it’s a fine idea.



FULLMETALROCK
- I understand you’re into golf, and that you’ve never played in Scotland. I’m wondering if you’re going to try and get a couple rounds in when you’re in Glasgow?

TOMMY THAYER
- I’d like to. The problem is, when we’re on tour, we have very little time to end up spending a day on a golf course, unfortunately, because we’re doing shows and then travelling and getting a little rest in-between as well, which is important. And we have a full day as you know, you’ve been here today. We start, we’re travelling, we fly in and then we get in around 2:00 or 3:00 and come straight here. We do our acoustic Meet and Greet, which, you were there…



FULLMETALROCK
- yeah, it was phenomenal!

TOMMY THAYER
- … It’s a real unique experience for our fans. It’s a VIP Meet and Greet, where they come backstage. Literally like 50-100 people, and we play acoustic. No make-up, we’re just hanging out, shooting the shit, and it’s very casual, and really a very personal experience for people. I think that’s really what it comes down to. We do that, and then we sign all the autographs and things for a while, get a quick dinner, sit down and have a nice interview with you, and then we start our make-up. Don’t take it for granted, but we do our own make-up. People think that we might have make-up artists, but we do it all. That takes a couple hours. So it’s a long day. Then by the time we do a long show and then we have to take it all off, and get cleaned up and get something to eat. It’s all encompassing.



FULLMETALROCK
- Well I can understand that you don’t have a lot of time when you’re touring so hopefully you’ll get to play some golf afterwards!

TOMMY THAYER
- (laughs) I have played in Ireland, but not in Scotland. I’m going up the day before, to Glasgow, to do an in-store (appearance), a store called Guitar Guitar. (sold out events in Glasgow and London)



FULLMETALROCK
- Now, I know that Eric (Singer) collects guitars.

TOMMY THAYER
- Yes, he does.



FULLMETALROCK
- I want to know which one of Eric’s guitars is the one you wish was yours.

TOMMY THAYER
- Ahhh! You know he’s got a couple nice Les Pauls, some older stuff. You know Gibson, collectible stuff. He’s so funny, ‘cause he admittedly is more interested in guitars than in drums, in a way. Even though he’s a fabulous drummer; he loves drums. But he really has a passion for guitars. As a matter of fact, when I was working on the White Lightning Les Paul he was very instrumental in some suggestions, the color, the white metallic. He said you should call it White Lightning. But I don’t know specifically which guitars. He’s got a lot of good ones. He’s a real collector of guitars and also, he’s a watch aficionado, too. He’s knows a lot about watches, and he collects fine watches.



FULLMETALROCK
- And you’re the fine wines.

TOMMY THAYER
- I like wine. I love great food and wine.



FULLMETALROCK
- Red or white?

TOMMY THAYER
- Actually both. You know, there’s nothing better than a crisp, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc to start, and then, depending on what you’re eating for dinner, then you go whatever direction you go. I love restaurants, great culinary experiences. I’m not an expert by any means, but I do enjoy that. When we’re on the road we get a chance to try some great restaurants along the way.



FULLMETALROCK
- No plans to open a place of your own?

TOMMY THAYER
- No, Gene and Paul have Rock & Brews, so we’re covered.



FULLMETALROCK
- Maybe you and Eric could do the finer side of things.

TOMMY THAYER
- (laughs) Yeah, we’ll do the Rock & Wine.



FULLMETALROCK
- (laughs) The Blues & Booze.

TOMMY THAYER
- (laughs) I think the restaurant business has got to be a tough business from what I can see. I know people that are in the business and it’s a tough go. And to have success is a tough run. Some people do it. My understanding is that Rock ’n’ Brews has done very well so far, and they’re very happy about that. Who knows?



FULLMETALROCK
- (laughs) I was just pulling your leg!

TOMMY THAYER
- It’s not a bad idea, though! (laughs)



FULLMETALROCK
- (laughs) I’ll take a small commission!

TOMMY THAYER
- We’ll give you 5% (laughs)



FULLMETALROCK
- It’s been great talking to you! I realize you still have a lot to do.

TOMMY THAYER
- I’ve gotta go put make-up on! You know, I’m the fastest one in the band. Actually it’s funny. Last summer we were on tour in the states, and Paul’s pretty quick, too. We can generally spend an hour, or slightly less, and get it done. Eric can Gene take a lot longer, for some reason.



FULLMETALROCK
- Who’s the slowest?

TOMMY THAYER
- Probably Gene. I don't know why. ‘Cause we had an argument about it. I said “Gene, your design is kind of simpler to this whole spaceman thing.” He goes, “No!! That’s not true. Ive got all these curved lines”, blah blah blah. So, Paul and I decided to have a competition one night, and we said, ‘Ok, we’re going to have a race, see who can do it the fastest.” And you’d think that mine would be a little more complex, too. What’s single star, come on! So we said ‘Ready. Set. Go!” and did. it, and I came out ahead. I did it in 22 minutes. And he was 23.



FULLMETALROCK
- I don’t know if you saw, but RavenEye, the band that’s opening for you on this tour (leg), did a little video where they put KISS make-up on one side of their faces. And it was such a cool tribute to you guys. I know that they’re really excited to be paling for you.

TOMMY THAYER
- It is amazing the influence over the years that KISS has had on bands, in a big way.



FULLMETALROCK
- Not just on bands…

TOMMY THAYER
- on culture



FULLMETALROCK
- The number of movies that have had a KISS song in them…

TOMMY THAYER
- Did you see “Why Him?” Its a new movie that just came out a few months ago and Gene and Paul make a cameo. It’s really a funny movie.



FULLMETALROCK
- No. I haven’t seen that! I don’t know if you ever saw “I Love You, Man” … Rush make an appearance? With Paul Rudd? It’s hilarious. I look forward to seeing Gene and Paul in “Why Him?”!

- Right, I know you have to go don your…

TOMMY THAYER
- … put on the greasepaint!



FULLMETALROCK
- Oh man, I love your boots!

TOMMY THAYER
- The new ones? I get a lot of girls saying, “I want a pair of those!”.



FULLMETALROCK
- I would so love to try on your boots!

TOMMY THAYER
- I’ll see if I can find ‘em somewhere back there…



FULLMETALROCK
- No way! You’re pulling my leg!

TOMMY THAYER
- Actually they’re kind of a pain in the ass, ‘cause they’re covered in glitter and glitter gets all over the place, so you might not want that. It’s funny, I get a lot of girls saying “I love your boots! Where can I get a pair?”!



FULLMETALROCK
- I think you have the best boots. Forget Gene’s outfit. The demon’s great, but I love your stuff.

TOMMY THAYER
- Aww, thank you. It’s cool. It’s all KISS and I’m just proud to be able to wear it.



FULLMETALROCK
- I’m so glad you could take time and talk to us today. It’s a real honor to meet you. Good luck with the rest of the tour. I’m looking forward to the show tonight!

TOMMY THAYER
- Awesome! We’re going to rock!









For more information about Tommy Thayer, visit:

www.tommythayer.com



and

www.tommythayerguitar.com







Kiss is:

Paul Stanley - rhythm guitar, lead vocals
Gene Simmons - bass guitar, lead vocals
Tommy Thayer - lead guitar, lead vocals
Eric Singer - drums, percussion, vocals







For more information, including tour dates, visit:

www.shopkissonline.com



Kiss World Tour 2017 (European dates):

May 1 Moscow
May 4 Helsinki
May 6 Stockholm
May 7 Oslo
May 9 Horsens
May 10 Gothenburg
May 12 Dortmund
May 13 Stuttgart
May 15 Torino
May 16 Bologna
May 18 Munich
May 20 Brno
May 21 Vienna
May 23 Frankfurt
May 24 Rotterdam
May 27 Glasgow
May 28 Birmingham
May 30 Manchester
May 31 London



Scooby Doo! AND KISS - Rock and Roll Mystery DVD (2015) is available worldwide.















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