July 21, 2010
Generations of love for KISS

By Karen Cotton

KISS fans will "Rock and Roll All Nite" in Cheyenne.

The legendary band is kicking off their "Hottest Show on Earth" tour at Cheyenne Frontier Days on July 23.

"We're really looking forward to that (date) because we know some of our best concerts and crowds are in great places like in the middle of America like Cheyenne," said Tommy Thayer, the lead guitarist and vocalist for KISS. "It's where people know how to rock and roll. We know it will be over the top and it will be a great place to start."

Thayer confirmed that KISS has a number of new stage pyrotechnics and special effects in store for this tour.

"Yeah, KISS is always expanding and growing and pushing the limits, so in this case we're bringing the show that we just did in Europe, which is our biggest and over-the-top into amphitheaters of North America now," he said.

The group returned recently from Europe, where they performed 35 shows in 9 weeks.

"We added new pyrotechnics, lighting and video effects," Thayer said. "We have the biggest video screen on the road today. I don't know how many feet it is, but it stretches completely across the arena and, in this case, amphitheaters.

"It's the biggest ever. With KISS we have to continue pushing the limits. That's what we're all about and making it the greatest rock and roll show out there."

The band has been performing for more than 3 decades and doesn't appear to be slowing down.

"We have an onslaught of new fans coming to the shows for a lot of different reasons," Thayer said. "There's a whole new generation of KISS fans."

He added that a KISS show is something everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.

"It's like witnessing the Super Bowl firsthand or going to the Grand Canyon and seeing that," he said. "A KISS show is the same kind of thing.

"It's something that everyone needs to experience once. It's a one-of-a-kind thing, so we have fans from six to 66 we like to say. Generations of family and fathers bringing their kids, teenage fans, everybody. It's tribal."

And those fans will be in store for a great variety of music that covers the span of 36 years the band has been together.

That means classics like "Detroit Rock City," "Deuce," "Shout it Out Loud," and "Lick it Up" being balanced against newer hits like "Modern Day Delilah" and "Say Yeah."

"It's a combination, a lot of it is the classics, the history of KISS, and all the great songs come from the '70s, '80s and the '90s," Thayer said.

For such a show, KISS needs quite a bit of time to get ready.

"KISS is a very unique band and everything we do is from top to bottom, including the pre-show preparation," Thayer said. "We arrive at the venue three or four hours early to do sound check. Maybe we'll have a light dinner. Two and a half hours before the show, we start the ritual of putting on our own makeup."

And yes, the band members do their own makeup.

"We don't use makeup artists nor have we ever," he said. "Every member of KISS puts on our own makeup... We sit in the dressing room together listening to music and transform into KISS."

The band's devotion to its craft is only matched by the fervor of their fans.

"You know the KISS fans, to me, epitomize the word 'fan,'" Thayer said. "It really comes from fanatic. KISS fans are over the top. From any band I've ever been around or seen. The KISS Army is KISS' fans. It's like going to church.

"It's religious over the top. I meet fans who proudly announce that they've been to their 200th KISS show. How does that happen and why does that happen? It's a phenomenon."

Along with their preparation, the band prides itself on being able to maintain a high-energy level during an entire show.

"We stay in good shape to begin with," Thayer said. "Before the tour, we're conditioning and preparing. It's like we're going to battle. I know it sounds funny, but it is.

"Nobody puts a show on like KISS or works as hard on stage as we do.

"Paul (Stanley) comes off stage and takes his boot off and will pour a quart of sweat off of his boot."

Thayer said the heat between the light, the movement and the pyrotechnics is intense.

"With the outfits it gets crazy: You sweat, you're moving, it's a workout," he said.

With 8 years under his belt as lead guitarist for KISS, Thayer said he has learned a lot from Gene Simmons and Stanley, the original co-founders of the band.

"Both are astute, and are more than just great musicians," Thayer said. "They're great business and marketing minds."

Thayer worked up the ranks with KISS order to fulfill Ace Frehley's lead guitar position when Frehley left the band.

"I'm the most fortunate guy in rock and roll," Thayer said. "I met KISS a long time ago when I was in a band called Black 'N Blue. We toured as an opening act in the mid-1980s with KISS. Long story short, I started working for the organization in the early 90s as a part time job.

"I worked my way up the ranks. Eight years ago, I stepped into the lead guitar role, which is an amazing place to be. I proudly wear the 'Spaceman' makeup. I love what I do and where I am."

During that time, Thayer said he's learned from Simmons and Stanley that being a great band with great music and a great show is the first and most important order of business.

Thayer pointed out that most bands come and go, typically within 5 years.

"You can count on one hand the amount of American rock and roll bands that continue to play arenas and stadiums for 35 years," he said. "That's the biggest compliment you can give to anyone is to create and sustain something on that level.

"KISS has never been (about) clubs or theaters, it's always been huge. There is something to be said for that in a big way."

Thayer said it's a difficult thing to accomplish. One of the things that has helped is the current lineup for the band works well together.

"The good thing about KISS today, the four people in the band, we're all fairly sensible people, and we know when you have something that's great. You appreciate it and each other," Thayer said. "Believe it or not, unlike many bands particularly at the level KISS is at, we enjoy each other, and we hang out on the road...

"That's why it works. We don't have fights or go crazy and pull B.S. on each other, or anything like that doesn't happen.

"That's the demise of many bands."

Perhaps the biggest question in fans' minds is whether they can expect new music after "Sonic Boom"?"In fact we are talking about that," Thayer said. "We've already been talking about following up with another great record.

"Nothing's definitive yet or set in stone, but we're talking about it and that's a step in the right direction. I'm not going to promise anything right now, but it's possible."

KISS "The Hottest Show on Earth" Tour

Alana Grace as opening act

When: July 23, 8 p.m.

Where: Frontier Park Arena

More info: 800-22-RODEO,

Quick facts about KISS

Kiss has recorded 37 albums over 36 years and sold 100 million albums worldwide. Their latest album is "Sonic Boom."

"Sonic Boom" is the first KISS studio album in 11 years and was released in October of last year. The album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Magazine Albums chart.

The lineup of KISS includes two founding members, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, who helped form the band in 1972. Drummer Eric Singer joined in 1991, and Tommy Thayer, the lead guitarist, joined eight years ago.

KISS and Wounded Warriors

On "The Hottest Show on Earth" Tour, KISS is donating one dollar from every ticket sold to the Wounded Warriors program.

"We have great pride in our country, especially the soldiers that protect and secure the great nation that we have and protect the great liberties and rights that we all enjoy in the United States," said Tommy Thayer, lead guitarist for KISS.

Thayer said the group also likes to visit Veteran Affairs hospitals when time allows on tour. Thayer and Gene Simmons have performed for the U.S.O. in the past as well.

"It's important to not only support the troops when they're fighting over seas, but when they get home, there's a lot of follow up support that needs to happen with that," Thayer said.