Tommy's Express-Times Interview
By Dustin Schoof | The Express-Times
Tommy Thayer says he is still considered the "new guy" in KISS — despite having worked with the band for more than two decades.
"I've been so much involved with KISS and (singer/guitarist) Paul (Stanley) and (singer/bassist) Gene (Simmons) so many years, we're talking 25 years, there's a rapport there already. For me to start as the new lead guitarist was actually a kind of natural, easy transition because we knew each other so well," Thayer says over the phone. "It wasn't like there was a learning curve there."
Before replacing founding member Ace Frehley as the band's lead guitarist in 2002, Thayer co-wrote two songs for KISS' 1989 studio album, "Hot in the Shade." He continued to work with the band behind-the-scenes until getting the go ahead to don the Spaceman regalia after Frehley's departure, although the decision was met with backlash by some longtime KISS fans.
But Thayer isn't concerned with criticism. He says he's just doing his best to make the Spaceman character his own.
"The biggest step was replacing one of the great guitar players of our time who has influenced so many people. Those are big shoes to fill," Thayer says. "The biggest challenge walking into that situation and succeeding was that good things take time. Getting in there and trying to fill the role he played and play the parts as well or even try and do it better ... it slowly becomes a little more me and just being the Spaceman, it's been quite a process. There have been so many amazing fans who have been so supportive and honest about letting me know I'm doing a great job and to keep it up."
KISS is currently on the final leg of their "Hottest Show on Earth Tour," before they return to the studio to complete their follow-up to 2009's "Sonic Boom." The group performs Wednesday night at Mountain Laurel Pocono Mountains Performing Arts Center in Bushkill, Pa.
"The band is good. The last several years, the last two or three years, we've been on fire out there," Thayer says.
Thayer says the songs on the next album, which he says should be in stores by early 2012, will be "more riff-oriented" and will be slightly heavier than those on "Sonic Boom."
"It's going phenomenally," Thayer says of the recording process. "We've been in the studio for several weeks. We've cut eight songs already. I've heard Paul and Gene. This is definitely some of the best stuff KISS has ever recorded."
Thayer says recording the new album, officially his second as a member of the band, has allowed him to branch out and put his own spin on the vintage KISS sound.
"The idea was to create a classic KISS record going back to the roots of the early records and really try and capture that vibe. I think we did and then some," Thayer says of "Sonic Boom." "I slowly wanted to put a little Tommy Thayer in there. I think on this record, we're taking it to the next step."
He adds, "We're spending a lot of time making sure it sounds like a great KISS record."
In addition to a new album and a fourth "KISSology" DVD set ("It's going to be an amazing package. It's hefty," Thayer says of the collection), KISS is gearing up for its inaugural KISS Kruise, which will set sail in October. The cruise will feature a full-blown KISS performance, Thayer says, as well as acoustic renditions of the band's biggest hits.
"The battle plan is exactly the same: pummel and deafen and blow it up," Thayer says, with a laugh. "We're not going to sink the ship, but we're going to do some devastation ... This will be a great and very unique experience for the consummate KISS fan."
Thayer, who played the role of Spaceman in the KISS tribute band Cold Gin before meeting Simmons and Stanley in the late 1980s, says it's still surreal to play the part on stage with his heroes.
"It was kind of an out of body experience," says of his first show with the band, a private performance in Jamaica. "It's something I might have dreamed about, you almost have to pinch yourself remind to you that it's really happening. The enormity of a band like KISS, to be suddenly in that position, is a once in a lifetime (opportunity). I never imagined it would have happened, especially to someone like me, who grew up a fan of theirs ... it's an unbelievable experience."