DFW Music News

Q&A: Tommy Thayer of KISS On Joining His Idols, Playing to Families and Watching Paul Stanley Squeeze Sweat Out of His Socks.

Tommy Thayer has played guitar in KISS since 2002, taking over for the departed Ace Frehley.

Thayer was involved in various bands before, even gaining the notice of Gene Simmons when Thayer was playing in a KISS tribute band. Soon after, Simmons offered Thayer a job as his assistant. And, when Frehley decided to leave Kiss, Thayer was the natural replacement.

But stepping directly into the space man character associated with Frehley proved troublesome. Fans who noticed the difference often heckled Thayer. Through it all, though, Thayer just keep playing guitar and playing his role. After time, few even notice the difference.

Now, after nearly a decade with Kiss, Thayer finally feels totally at home. And he took a few moments from a tour stop in California to talk about his integration within the band and a few interesting side notes that go along with being in Kiss.

Read our Q&A in full after the jump.

On this tour, you are the one doing most of the interviews. Are you the sacrificial lamb to the media?
I am doing my share. You know, there are so many interviews that we really have to divide them up. But it does seem like I've done quite a few. Maybe it's because I am relatively new.

You are coming up on your 50th birthday. How old is too old to be dressing up and playing KISS?
You are never too old to be in KISS. The thing has become so multi-generational. The crowds at the shows are so diverse. You see teenagers and then people in their 20s, 30s and 40s. It's parents with their kids. And everyone is dressed up like KISS. It's Halloween every night. It is an experience that we put so much effort into, both in the music and the show itself. Just the pyrotechnics alone are incredible.  

How do you think KISS has maintained its popularity over such a long period of time?
Well, there are just certain bands that tap into the popular consciousness. You have to be at the right moment in time. I think when KISS first appeared, there was obviously nothing quite like it and people gravitated towards the band. First, it was because of the danger factor, but now it's turned into a family-friendly thing. Now, it's just such an iconic thing for everyone involved. It's people remembering their youth while getting their children involved in something fun.

It is very ironic that a band once known as a bane to all parents is now playing to families.
That's true, but now it's more about the show. Back in the day when KISS released its first album, they were so taboo. That's what drew me to the band. They were dangerous. I think that over time, many things that we thought were dangerous turn out not to be so.

When you joined KISS and stepped right into the character created by Ace Frehley, were you afraid that people wouldn't accept you as part of the band?
Of course. And there were people who expressed their anger. There were people who were not happy at all about the change. By the time I came into the band, KISS had been around for 30 years. You can't start changing characters after that long, I don't think. And I had been around KISS a long time, been friends with Gene Simmons and I knew all the songs. I had played in my own band, Black 'n Blue, and was comfortable on stage. Now with KISS, the crowds were much larger, but the feeling was the same. And after a while, the fans just get into the songs.

Is it true that before joining KISS you once painted Paul Stanley's house and cleaned out the gutters on Gene Simmons' house?
I've read that and seen that written a couple of times. No, that is an urban myth. I was Gene's assistant, but that didn't mean cleaning out his gutters. It's funny how those stories get started, especially now that I am involved in the production of so many KISS-related items.

Is it uncomfortable in all that make-up and those leather outfits?
Sure, it is. I've lost weight at every show. And with all the lights and pyro and that fact that we work our asses off. I've seen Paul take off his boots back stage and squeeze about a pound of water out of his socks. When it's in the summer, it's some kind of workout. We try and keep ourselves hydrated all of the time. This is work. It's fun, but it is hard work.

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