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RAWklap | Tommy Thayer - leadgitarist Kiss



Ik heb een aantal buitengewoon heldere herinneringen aan mijn jeugd, daar wat het betreft de oorsprong van mijn liefde voor muziek. Een van die herinneringen betreft de band Kiss. In 1979, toen ik 8 jaar oud was, stond I Was Made For Lovin’ You in Nederland op de eerste plaats van de Top 40. Ik weet nog dat ik zo enorm onder de indruk was van deze band en van de soort muziek ze maakten…dit nummer is ongetwijfeld de bakermat voor mijn liefde voor stevige muziek. Sterker nog: Dynasty, het album waar dit nummer op stond, was mijn eerste zelf gekochte lp ooit!


Nu, bijna 45 jaar later, bestaat Kiss nog steeds. Op 12 juni a.s. staan ze zelfs in de Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam met hun End of the Road Tour.


De leden zijn allemaal op een respectabele leeftijd. De iconische Gene Simmons is met zijn 73 jaar de oudste. De benjamin van Kiss is de 62-jarige leadgitarist Tommy Thayer. En hem mocht ik interviewen! Hoe super vet is dat?!?!


Tommy Thayer heeft in 2002 gitarist Ace Frehley opgevolgd. Voordien was hij echter ook al behoorlijk bij de band betrokken als assistent van Gene Simmons en als tourmanager. Maar na het vertrek van Frehley kwam Thayer en inmiddels staat hij te boek als de langs zittende leadgitarist van Kiss.


Afgelopen week belden we en hadden we een leuk gesprek.


Tommy Thayer…it is an honor to speak to you. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me, to talk to Brothers in Raw.


I can imagine that you, being former tour manager and doing all kinds of things behind the scenes, have many ideas about how things should be handled. Do you still have in say in how things are run?

It’s actually very easy to let that part go, because it was such a difficult job. I learned a lot, but it’s not something I miss. However, it’s interesting that you ask, because when I first joined, there was a little bit of crossover. I was playing guitar, but I was also helping a little bit with some of those behind the scenes jobs, because it was a bit hard for somebody new to transition in and me transitioning out, so there was a time that I was doing a little bit of both. But I don’t miss it at all.


When you joined the band, were your ambitions to give your own guitar playing swing to the existing songs or was there anyone or any reason for you to more or less copy Ace’s way of playing?

Ace played spectacular, especially in the earlier days, during the first four of five albums. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to play guitar. When somebody else comes into the band, you have to make sure the band stills sounds like the band, that’s the most important thing, so it’s a combination of both his way and my own. During the first years the idea was for me to play the parts as closely as I could to the way they were written and recorded, so it sounds like Kiss. So it’s not’s trying to copy him, but much more about creating the sound that Kiss is famous for, that they established in the first place. I can bring a little bit of my own personality in it, but that’s not the most important thing.

Later on, when we recorded Sonic Boom or even Monster, on those albums I got the opportunity to play a little more Tommy. But again, I grew up on all this music and it’s the way I play to begin with. If you listen to my former band, Black ‘n Blue or anything I’ve done before, I sound like that, like the English blues, Hardrock guitar playing way.


When you followed Ace Frehley, you also adopted his Spaceman make up. Did you ever think about putting on another mask?

When I came into the band, Kiss was already around for almost 30 years. They had already very established the identity of the characters. So much even that you would have been crazy to change those images in the brand, why do that? Why take away from something that’s so strong as those four characters. The fact that I came in and took over, doesn’t supersede or is more important than keeping those iconic characters. Why invent a new wheel when it’s perfect as it is.


Let’s talk about the tour you are in, the End of the Road tour. It started off in January of 2019 and is scheduled to end in December of this year. How is this tour different to all the other world tours Kiss has done already?

This tour is the biggest, loudest, most bombastic of all. It’s the biggest stage, the biggest production, the most technically advanced that we’ve ever done. We’ve been out there for four years now, but like the rest of the world, we’ve been on hold for two years, but we’re there now! It’s going to be a phenomenal show, more over the top than ever. It’s going to be the next and final stage in what made the band famous. We’re going to be there.


Will Kiss, as a band, stop after completing this tour, or will you guys still be making music? Or is there even a small chance you will nevertheless tour again?

Touring will stop, but Kiss won’t stop. Kiss is an important brand, very prominent and it will always be around in licensing, merchandise, imagery. The touring will stop because bands come to an age where it is physically too difficult to do the show. So that’s why that stops end of this year in New York


The setlist of this tour contains a nice collection of songs that represent Kiss throughout the past 50 years. Which song would be on the setlist if you decided everything?

Gosh….that’s a good question… I love God Gave Rock And Roll To You. For whatever reason we are not playing that, but we are using it as outro music when we finish the set. I always liked All Hell's Breakin’ Loose…that’s a song that we’ve never played that much since I’ve been in the band. I love I Want You. But let’s be honest: it’s a great setlist as it is. There are lots of great songs, like 100,000 Years, that just rock out and have great guitar parts, which is fun for me.


In what differs the Dutch audience (or European audience for that matter) from the American audiences?

There are a lot of similarities, but I think the difference is that European audiences are deep into the hard rock and heavy metal, probably more than the Americans are. They are actually bigger connoisseurs of that genre of music. It’s no mystery that the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and all that stuff started in England and the English hard rock bands of the 70’s really drove what happened in America. It all started in Europe and England to begin with. I just think that you guys, you fans, are actually more into it, in a deeper way than most Americans are, even though Americans love classic rock. But you guys have the fanzines and the magazines and the fanclubs; it’s more of a depth of appreciation.


A somewhat more personal questions, Tommy: what’s on the top of your own playlist?

Well…I like all kinds of music. I love classical music, I love Broadway music. I love the Foo Fighters. Sting is one of my favorites…I like a lot of different things. The Beatles are probably my all-time favorite band. I just went to the Beatles Love show in Las Vegas, I would go and see that every night if I could.


What artist would you play with, given the opportunity?

You know what band I love? Def Leppard! If they ever needed a guitar player, I would consider that, even though I’m not planning on being in any more bands. Def Leppard is a band that I always loved and they’re great guys too.


Is there anything else you would like to say?

Growing up as a Kiss fan myself, I just want to let all the people, all the fans, in The Netherlands know how much I admire and appreciate everything you do in supporting Kiss and how great you are as fans. It’s something I really appreciate more than everyone because I am a fan too and I love Kiss as much as anybody. I want everybody to know how much I recognize that and appreciate how great you all are and I want to thank you! I hope to see you all in Ziggo.


Kiss treedt op 12 juni a.s. voor het allerlaatst op in Nederland. Kaarten en info via https://www.mojo.nl/concerten/kiss-z/


photos courtesy of Tommy Thayer's facebookpage

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