Coffee Talk with Tommy Thayer
Q: What are a few of your favorite “industry moments?”
A: Gene Simmons wrote a song with Bob Dylan and I’m guessing it was around 1991. One day I got a call from Gene and he says, “Get a drummer and a keyboard player and meet me down at Cherokee Studios at 7pm tonight, we’re going to record a song I wrote with Bob Dylan.” I’m like wow, seriously? I brought my Les Paul and two acoustic guitars, a 6 and a 12-string that I borrowed from my buddy Marc Ferrari. I get there and sure enough in walks Bob Dylan and his girlfriend. Suddenly I’m thinking it’s Bob Dylan, the guy who influenced the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, unreal. He says let me show you the chord changes and we proceed to pass the 12-string acoustic back and forth. It seemed like one of the most surreal thing I’ve ever experienced. He was quiet and eccentric but friendly. The thing that stood out to me more than anything was Gene. He won’t mind me saying this, but I’ve never seen Gene be anything but “I’m Gene Simmons and I’m the center of the universe,” but around Bob Dylan, he was like a kid just happy to be in the room. I do remember taking the strings off the 12-string the next day before I gave it back to Marc. I still have those strings.
Q: If you were to make a playlist of the songs that are part of your DNA, the comfort food that you keep coming back to, that never fail to move and inspire you, what would those tracks be?
A: “Hide Your Love Away” “Eleanor Rigby” “Across the Universe” “Old Man” “The Rain Song” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” “Elected” “Brown Sugar” “Hell Bent For Leather” “White Punks On Dope” “Fire and Rain” “Starship Trooper” “Lido Shuffle” “Maybe I’m Amazed” “Dream Police” “Tequila Sunrise” ”Old School” “Bad Motor Scooter” “Do Ya” “Burn” “Baker Street” “Funeral For A Friend” “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is” “Nowhere’s Too Far” “Tie Your Mother Down” “Lucky Man”
Q: Who is your mentor? Why?
A: My mentor is my dad. He’s been a leader in the military, in business and the community. Most importantly he’s my dad. He’s 95 now and has insight and instincts on most anything. As a US Army lieutenant he led a platoon through France, Germany and Austria in 1945. His unit had direct combat with SS troops and ended up discovering a Nazi death camp near Wels, Austria in May 1945. They liberated the camp and saved the lives of 15,000 Hungarian Jewish refugees. He was awarded the Silver Star and the Bronze Star for his combat valor. Years later my dad went to Austria on a tour of concentration camps organized by the U.S. Holocaust Council. When he arrived at the Vienna airport a man approached him and said, “Are you James Thayer?” my dad said yes. The man said, “My name is Wolfe Finkelman, I was 14 years old and if you hadn’t arrived when you did, I would have been dead if you had come 24 hours later. You saved my life.” The man was a prisoner at the concentration camp that my dad’s platoon liberated. The $20M Brigadier General James B Thayer Oregon Military Museum is under construction near Portland as we speak. Gene, Paul and Eric have shown great support, as well as my friends Alice Cooper, Robby Krieger and Danny Seraphine for helping in the fundraising for the project. Like me, they’re proud of my dad and the men of the greatest generation. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.