July 06, 2011


Expect a "big, bombastic blowout" when KISS retake the Bayfest stage on Wednesday, says lead guitarist Tommy Thayer.

The iconic rock band played a sold-out show in 2009 that Bayfest organizer Michele Stokley has called the most memorable in the festival's 13-year-history.

"It's going to be just as much, if not more, this time," Thayer said in a recent interview with The Observer.

Crews are adding extra trussing to the $300,000 Bayfest stage to accommodate the band's performance, Stokley said.

The band — Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer — is known for explosive stage shows, said Thayer, promising the Sarnia performance will be a fiery extravaganza.

"The KISS show is actually very choreographed because of all of the effects and pyro ...," he said. "But we are mixing a few songs up."

The 50-year-old Portland-born man first donned former KISS guitarist, Ace Frehley's, "Spaceman" makeup in 2002.

Previously he'd spent years as an assistant with the band, producing and editing KISS' film and video productions, and contributing musically at KISS rehearsals, sound checks and in the recording studio.

"I've always been a huge KISS fan all my life," Thayer said. "I didn't necessarily grow up aspiring to be in KISS but I definitely had rock 'n' roll in my blood."

He picked up an electric guitar at age 13, around the time KISS formed.

Later he started the hard rock band Black 'N Blue, which toured as an opening act with KISS in 1985. It was there that Thayer befriended Gene Simmons.

"To be a fan and then grow up and, years later, enter the band, it's kind of mind-boggling," he said. "It's completely surreal."

Initially, adjusting to full KISS regalia was a challenge, Thayer said.

"You need to learn how to perform on stage and wear those boots and move around and do that."

But there's no going back.

"I can't imagine performing on stage not that way now," he said. "It's such a higher level of performance and attitude and approach. There's nothing like it."

Each band member does his own makeup before a show, he said, noting it now takes him an hour.

The band typically spend two hours before a show, he said, "doing makeup, listening to music and getting psyched."

When asked how the band maintains it's massive following after so many years, Thayer said the spectacle of a KISS show is a must-see experience.

"If it's going to the Grand Canyon or going to the Super Bowl or something like that, going to a KISS concert is one of those spectacles that everybody needs to do," he said. "It's like the circus is coming to town. You need to be there."

Ontario has one of the best KISS followings in the world, he added.

"We always really look forward to getting up there as much as we can."