Tommy Thayer, who officially replaced founding guitarist Ace Frehley eight years ago in the original Fame Monster band, KISS, talks Gaga, make-up, and YouTube.
When you play with KISS, do a lot of people cheer for Ace Frehley?
Honestly, I never got any of that. You might think otherwise, but I’ve never seen that. Certainly not lately. Most of the crowd out there today is younger and they don’t really even know as much about the original band, they just know about the band as it is now in the last 10 years.
I noticed KISS has a ton of younger fans. What do you think causes 14- and 15-year-olds to love you guys?
It’s a phenomenon that’s happened in the past year or two. It’s a combination of factors you can attribute that to. With the internet and the age of YouTube videos, I think kids are seeing this spectacular concert performance that they don’t see in any other band. It’s very unique, the KISS characters and the make-up and the theatrics and the stage show. There’s no other band like it. Combined with great music, of course. That and Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels TV show is real popular.
And you have some really big fans out there. Lady Gaga got to hang out with KISS recently.
Yeah, a week or two ago Gaga came to our show in the New York area. She’s a huge KISS fan and she’s just great. She loved the show and was just really excited to be there. I think she’s cut from a lot of the same cloth that KISS is. It’s very theatrical and it’s about getting made up and definitely thinking outside the box.
How long does it take you guys to get made up or do you just wake up in your moon boots?
We just have it permanently tattooed on our faces (laughs). About two hours before the show we sit down in our dressing room and put make-up on. A lot of people don’t realize that KISS does its own make-up, always has. It’s a transformational two hours. We listen to music and bond, and get into the KISS mode.
What kind of music are you listening to as your getting into KISS mode? KISS songs?
No, no. We listen to all kinds of great rock ‘n’ roll bands, like Led Zepplin, and Humble Pie, and the Beatles. Old R&B. We even have classical music on sometimes.
It seems like you were really involved in the business side of KISS before you stepped in for Ace Frehley.
I was. I came to work for the KISS organization about 15 or 20 years ago, initially behind the scenes. I had my band, Black ‘N’ Blue, back in the ’80s and Gene produced a couple of our records. The relationship just grew from there. I was always really interested in the music business as well. That’s why I was quite involved in the business side for many years, management and producing and all that. And probably will be in the future, when I have more time to do those things.
Which do you enjoy more, being on stage or behind the scenes?
That’s an easy question, being onstage is far more exhilarating and exciting than anything. To be the lead guitarist in one of the most historic bands in the world is nothing to scoff at. •
6:30pm Sun, Sep 19
One AT&T Center