Monday, November 17, 2008

KISS' Tommy Thayer excites crowd

The KISS Army numbers in the millions and not even a hurricane named Hannah could stop them from descending upon the KISS Coffeehouse in myrtle Beach, SC for the 2 year anniversary party planned for Saturday, September 6, 2008. The storm rolled through the beach early that morning dumping tons of rain and with swings that nearly blew all the sand off the beach! I decided to venture out early that morning from my home in Martinsville,VA as the forecast was looking promising. The storm was moving up the coast pretty quickly and the beach looked to be "storm free" by the time the activities were planned to kick off.

I arrived in Myrtle Beach at around 10:30 and the skies were the most amazing shade of blue that I have ever seen. There were no high winds and the temperature was steadily climbing. There were a few signs of a storm, but you could never tell that a hurricane had just blown through! I goofed off for a while checked out what was going on at the Coffeehouse. They were giving away samples of their new KISS Ketchup on french fries. There a small crowd forming and a few vendors setting up. I think the storm did delay a few travelers and actually scared some off from coming.

I made my way inside at just before 5:00 as the special guest was about to arrive. Tommy Thayer, KISS' lead guitarist was their guest for this years event and I had a one on one interview scheduled with him shortly after he arrived. The doors to the store were closed and all people were ushered out except for employees and special guests. Wow, I was a special guest! Tommy made his way in through the side door and greeted everyone. I was second in line to do an interview.

Let me give the readers a brief history on how Tommy got to be in the "hottest band in the world." He was in a band in the eighties called Black and Blue. Although they had a very loyal following, they never achieved the commercial success that less deserving acts of that time were getting. They released four studio albums and KISS bassist Gene Simmons produced the last two. The band called it quits after their fourth release. Tommy began writing and producing and actually worked behind the scenes for KISS in the nineties. He was asked to don the "Spaceman" makeup and outfit when original lead guitarist Ace Frehley left again in 2002. Tommy began touring with the band and became their new lead guitarist.

The first thing that I wanted to ask Tommy was how he got into video production.He put together the amazing KISS Second Coming DVD and produced their Pay Per View special along with the VH1 Behind The Makeup special. "Paul and I were working on commercials for KISS' convention tour back in 1995. Paul had to leave and told me that I could work on them if I wanted to. I started fooling around with the equipment and found out that I had a knack for it and really enjoyed it. I then began to explore other aspects of video production and editing and found out that it was alot of fun and I started to become very good at it," said Tommy.

Tommy has brought a freshness to the band and has allowed them to reach deep into their arsenal of songs and play tunes that they have either never played or live or haven't done in ages. I asked him if he could add any KISS song to the set list, what would it be? "I actually suggested to the guys to add a song from the "Lick It Up" album called "All Hell's Breaking Loose" The other guys are a little resistant to doing it, but it would be such a great song to do live!," stated Tommy.

Many fans know the basic history of the group and of Tommy. Is there something about Tommy that they may be surprised to find out? "I was actually a "band geek" in high school. I played the saxophone. He assured me that there would be no sax solos on the next KISS tour! He did tell me that they would be touring here in the US next year. The response for the European tour this past summer was overwhelming and more shows had to keep being added and that's why more US dates were not done. My last question is one that I like to ask to catch them off guard. I am a lover of all types of music myself, so I like to try to get in the head of a musician. I asked Tommy if her was stranded on a desert island and could only have one CD, not a mix CD but a store bought CD, what would it be? "Wow, that's a really tough question. I'm really not sure, never been asked that one before. I guess I would have to say the Beatles "Sgt. Pepper" CD would be my pick." I would have to say that one a personal note, that is one of my all time favorite Cd's.

At the conclusion of our interview, Tommy shook my hand and told me that he couldn't wait to read the article and asked me if I would mail him a copy of it. I was floored by his request! I made my way back outside to meet up with some friends and stand in line with them for the meet and greet with Tommy. I made my way up the line and Tommy signed my KISSstory book, CD and picture and then posed for pictures. Everyone that I spoke to commented on how friendly he was to everyone he met.

The night concluded with two KISS tribute bands performing, Kissin' Time and Mr. Speed. In between sets, Tommy came out and performed an acoustic version of their hit "Forever" with the "Sing With KISS" contest winner. After performing, Tommy said that he couldn't leave without doing another number and proceeded to perform"Rock and Roll All Nite!"

My hat's off to everyone at the Coffeehouse for pulling off a great event. thanks to Brian for setting up the interview. The storm may have scared alot of people away, but those of us who took a chance and went got treated to a class act. Other bands should take a cue from Tommy on how to treat their fans with respect. It was truly an amazing event. Can't wait for next years celebration!

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