KISS to ‘go big’ at the Bryce Jordan Center Tonight - Interview with Tommy Thayer
Photo by Keith Leroux
Iconic legendary rockers KISS will bring the “Freedom to Rock” tour to the Bryce Jordan Center tonight - Aug. 30.
Lead guitarist Tommy Thayer has been with the band since 2002. He didn’t audition to be part of the band or anything — he said it just happened naturally.
“I came into the band after knowing Paul (Stanley) and Gene (Simmons) for nearly 30 years,” Thayer said. “My old band, Black ’N Blue, toured with Kiss as an opening act, so I’ve known those guys a long time. That’s how I transcended into the band, actually.”
Thayer was a fan of the band and staple members Stanley and Simmons long before he met them. Though he loved playing music early on in life, he never thought he would make it as far as he has.
“I always loved playing in a band, and all I ever really wanted to do was play in the school band or play an after-game party at the school or someone’s garage at a party,” Thayer said. “It’s interesting in life how one thing leads to another. If you stick with something, and you keep going for a long enough time, it can really be surprising what happens sometimes.”
KISS’ music has resonated with fans for more than four decades. Thayer said that the music of the early ’70s has shaped his life and remains important.
“The music we grew up with, the bands that we love when we’re first getting into music at 12 or 13, that’s really kind of the soundtrack to your life in a way,” he said. “That’s a huge part of who we are and what we’re made up of.”
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers are no strangers to State College or the Bryce Jordan Center. This will be the band’s fourth performance there, but the last show was in 2000. KISS’ summer “Freedom to Rock” tour includes 36 cities, with an emphasis on visiting cities the band hasn’t been to in some time or ever at all, according to the band’s website.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to State College,” Thayer said. “I remember one time we were there ... we each got Penn State football jerseys with our names on them, which I thought was pretty cool.”
KISS is well known for its exciting live performances and Thayer said that fans should expect the very best.
“Being KISS, we always have a big show no matter what,” he said. “We say, ‘go big or go home.’ This will be a phenomenal show with lots of fire power, all the bells and whistles, just as big as ever.”
The “Freedom to Rock” tour is based on KISS’ Las Vegas residency show.
“We have a DVD/Blu-ray coming out this summer called ‘KISS Rocks Vegas’ that I produced, actually. That show and that stage set is what we’re basing this tour on. It’s quite impressive, and I think everybody will definitely be blown away.”
Life on the road can present interesting and unique scenarios. The band has seen its fair share of zealous and excited fans.
“I remember one time there was a kid in the audience with a prosthetic leg, and he handed the leg up on stage,” Thayer said. “The band signed it. That was very unique and kind of cool in a way too. We get all kinds of stuff.”
Thayer said he appreciates the band’s devoted fans.
“There are great fans out there. There are some fans who are so dedicated, it’s almost like a religion to them,” he said. “They just want to have a moment with you or some kind of personal interaction with you. I can appreciate that because I grew up a fan.”
The band has never been content to rest on its laurels. Thayer believes the event is a “must see” attraction for everyone.
“KISS is an iconic band,” Thayer said. “We put on one of — if not the greatest — shows in rock ’n’ roll. That’s what KISS is famous for, the live performances and concert experience. That is the reason everybody should go. It’s must see.”
IF YOU GO
- What: KISS
- When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 30
- Where: Bryce Jordan Center, University Park
- Info: www.bjc.psu.edu