Lead guitarist Tommy Thayer, 48, grew up a KISS fan in the Portland, Ore., area.
As a child, he dressed up as original KISS lead guitarist Ace Frehley for Halloween. A quarter-century later, he replaced Frehley as the band's main ax man.
"I've been a fan of KISS since I was 13 years old," Thayer said in a phone interview. "I discovered KISS when their first record came out in 1974. I hadn't even started playing guitar yet. I saw a feature in a magazine called Circus. I saw some live photos of KISS doing a performance, and I thought, 'These guys look menacing!' They had cool guitars and platform heels. I got my first KISS album for Christmas in 1974, and I was on my way.
"I dressed up a couple of times, like all kids do," Thayer said. "I actually put on Ace Frehley back then. It's kind of ironic, actually. I used to come home from junior high school and play air guitar to KISS Alive!"
Thayer eventually formed a band, Black 'N Blue, and moved to Southern California to hit the Hollywood club scene. In 1985, Black 'N Blue toured with KISS as an opening act.
Thayer formed a friendship with Gene Simmons and asked the KISS co-founder to produce Black 'N Blue’s next record. But it was during that studio work that Thayer became more involved with KISS itself. He wrote songs, recorded demos, managed tours and produced and edited film and video.