TOTAL GUITAR INTERVIEW WITH TOMMY THAYER
May 06, 2013
He might spend the morning putting on his makeup, but that doesn't mean the KISS guitarist doesn't have time to call TG

I got my first real six-string

"I come from a real musical family. My mom was a concert violinist, a very astute musician and vocalist also, so we grew up with a lot of classical music around the house, and show tunes. I got all the best of the classics and of popular music being drummed into my ears from the get-go. We had a guitar sitting around - it was a cheap, small-scale Stella acoustic guitar. I started learning the basic chords when I was about 12 or 13 years old. My mom saw that I was into it, and she helped me purchase my first electric guitar. We ended up buying a Fender Mustang."

Dream On

"I just dreamed of owning a Les Paul some day, because I had seen pictures of bands, and all my favorite guitar players played Les Pauls. We're talkin' about Ronnie Montrose, Peter Frampton, Davey Johnstone from Elton John's band, Steve Marriott. And even KISS actually: from the beginning, Ace was playing Les Pauls. I had that Fender Mustang and I was stoked, but it didn't sound that great. About a year later, I got a Les Paul. In the used ads in the newspaper, I found a '72/'73 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe Goldtop. I think I bought that for about $400."

I was made for lovin' you baby, you were made for lovin' me

"I was thinking I would like to do a signature guitar - a limited edition Les Paul - and I thought it would be cool to go to Epiphone to do it. The reason was so I could make a really high-quality guitar that was also affordable to everyone. I sent Jim Rosenberg (president of Epiphone) all the specs for my Gibson Silver Sparkle Top, and the point he made was great, he said: 'Tommy we need to make this guitar exactly like your other one, right down to the tuners, to the exact pickups.' We took all the best parts, good-quality Gibson 498 pickups, which I've used forever. Even the bridge pickup cover was removed - if it's good enough for Jimmy Page, it's good enough for me!"

Listen, do you want to know a secret?

"Don't be self-conscious; try to relax. When you're onstage you need to be more in the moment. Things flow twice as well when you approach it that way. Now, it's important when you're rehearsing and practicing to do the opposite: you should be thinking and analysing. But when you actually get onstage, you just wanna quit thinking and just be feeling! (laughs) You can't play your best when you're thinking too much."

Shut up 'n' play yer guitar

"My philosophy for guitar playing, or trying to make it in the music business generally, is that you need to persevere. The key is putting yourself out there, and making something happen on your own. I think that's more important than how talented someone is. I really do.

Strange times are here

"Well the strangest gig, honestly, was the first gig I played with KISS. It was a private concert in Jamaica for 100 people. There was this guy, it was his birthday. He was this very wealthy Russian man, 30 years old, and he had a party down there and we were hired to come down and play. I'm sure they paid us well to do it, but it was very strange, because being onstage in front of just 100 people was very bizarre; we had a full-size stage, full production, full everything - make-up, costumes, boots."