GUITARIST TOMMY THAYER INTERVIEW
July 25, 2011
By Dalson Chen, The Windsor Star

Photograph by: PAULA TROTTER, The Windsor Star

Tommy Thayer, lead guitarist of legendary arena rockers Kiss, has a thing or two to say about the state of modern journalism.

"We don't really have that much responsible media. It's all just kind of entertainment-based," says Thayer in a telephone interview from Los Angeles.

"I don't think it helps our culture, our society, our country.

"It's disappointing.

"I'm in the entertainment business, but I think it goes way too far. I'd like to see more journalism give people the straight scoop, because I think a lot of people need the information and they're not getting it."

The normally affable musician catches himself.

"This is getting serious," he says, laughing.

Rock fans needn't worry about Kiss being so serious when the famously over-the-top band plays The Colosseum at Caesars Windsor on Wednesday night.

The 21st show of the band's 2011 North American schedule promises to be as much of a pyrotechnics-laden spectacle as all the other crowd-pleasing performances over the past 38 years of Kiss history.

Thayer's thoughts on media arise from interview questions about bandmate Gene Simmons's marital troubles - lately well-publicized by the Gene Simmons Family Jewels reality television show.

"That's business as usual for Gene," says Thayer, who has known Simmons for more than 25 years. "He's just a freakazoid.... And I mean that in the most endearing way."

Juicy updates on Simmons's personal life may be providing plenty of junk food for consumers of celebrity gossip, but Thayer refers to such talk as "the periphery" of the Kiss world.

"That's just my take. This is not a criticism. I think that it's more important to focus on the band. Kiss is really the core of what we do."

Thayer didn't assume the role of Kiss lead guitarist until 2002, replacing Ace Frehley, but he's been a part of the team since the 1980s. He humbly began his Kiss career as the band's personal assistant.

In contrast to Simmons, Thayer prefers a more mundane approach to domestic life. He says the work of touring, recording and media duties makes him appreciate time at home and off the big stage.

"For most people, travelling somewhere is amazing," Thayer explains. "For our lifestyle, our vacation is going home.... Being home is a special thing."

When he's not doing something Kiss-related, Thayer's interests aren't particularly gossip-worthy.

Regular visits to the gym keep him in rock 'n' roll shape. Thayer says he focuses on cardiovascular improvement, with the elliptical machine being his favoured method.

"I think it's important before you go on tour to condition yourself," says Thayer, who turns 51 this year. "You want to build up the stamina. A lot of people don't realize how physical it is on stage. We're sweating our asses off."

He's also an avid golfer, and tries to get on the links every week.

He figures he's a "solid mid-80s shooter" and his handicap is about a 10 or 11.

"Alice Cooper is better than me," Thayer says. "He plays like almost every day."

Probably the only shocking thing Thayer is inclined to reveal is that he has an appreciation for the music of pop queen Katy Perry. "Firework, to me, is a great dance song. It kicks ass," he says without irony.

Asked if there's any music he'd feel embarrassed about Kiss fans knowing he likes, Thayer answers in his usual amiable fashion. "Nah! Honestly, I don't find myself embarrassed to talk about anything, really."

It's only on the topic of rock critics that Thayer rises to the bait. Despite worldwide record sales in excess of 100 million and a discography of 19 studio albums (soon to be 20 with a new album in the works for the beginning of next year), Kiss still tends to be disdained by rock's critical establishment.

To this day, the band has never graced the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in North America, and have yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (although they were officially nominated in 2009).

"I don't think it really matters. What is Rolling Stone?" Thayer says. "Are they the high-water mark, the hierarchy of all hierarchies in the music industry? Nobody cares."

As for the criticisms of Kiss being too theatrical, too commerce-driven - Thayer points to the upcoming Kiss Kruise. From Oct. 13 to 17, the band will be aboard a cruise ship travelling from Miami to the Bahamas, and fans can buy themselves a cabin. "The Kiss Army is going to be the Kiss Navy," Thayer says. "Oh yeah."