Sunday, September 8, 2013

Tommy Thayer - The Music Legends | By Robyn Flans

As a young KISS fan growing up in Beaverton, Oregon, playing his electric guitar in his bedroom, Tommy Thayer had already learned how to put on Ace Frehley’s make-up, pretending to be a member of the supergroup for Halloween. Of course, Thayer could never imagine that one day he really would be performing in massive arenas beside the real life Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.

Thayer grew up with a great appreciation for music. His mother was a concert violinist and a singer and Thayer’s first instrument was the saxophone. By 13, he says he discovered rock n’ roll, girls and guitars. His mom bought him a Fender Mustang starter electric guitar and his parents let him grow his hair long, he says.

“My mom and dad were cool like that, they got a lot of flak from my aunts and uncles,” he says.

Thayer began with garage bands and founded Black ‘N Blue in 1981, moving from Portland to L.A. “like the Beverly Hillbillies,” he says.

Black ‘N Blue opened for KISS in the mid ‘80s and Simmons had produced a couple of their four albums, so by the time that band had run its course in the early ‘90s, Thayer had a part time job with Stanley and Simmons, working behind the scenes. While many sources say Thayer painted Stanley’s house and cleaned Simmons gutters, he puts that urban legend to rest:

“One time Paul was painting a room in his house and I helped him out and somehow that turned into painting houses. And no, I never cleaned Gene Simmons’ gutters. I did do odd jobs occasionally, to sustain myself and pay my bills at the time.”

Thayer was thinking about a career in management when it became apparent that Frehley was going to leave KISS. Thayer’s presence in the camp made him the likely replacement.

His first gig was in 2002 for a private show in Jamaica for about 150 people with full production.

“That was my baptism by fire,” he says. “It’s an honor to put the KISS make-up on.” Thayer says, explaining they all put their own make-up on. “Putting it on, donning the outfit, walking on stage and playing a show is surreal. It certainly puts a smile on your face.”

His first official public performance was a year later with the KISS Symphony in Melbourne, Australia, in February 2003 with a 60-piece orchestra adorned in KISS make-up.

Thayer says he feels so blessed to be able to play music and do something he loves. “It’s not like work,” he says. “I never take it for granted.”

Recently wrapping up the “KISS Monster” world tour, Thayer can’t wait to get back to his personal paradise that he shares with his wife, Amber, in Lake Sherwood.

“Growing up in the beauty of Oregon drew me to the Westlake area. It’s a great place to come back and relax. People ask me, ‘What are you going to do when you get off tour? Are you going to go on vacation?’ No, my vacation is going home.”