Tommy Thayer – ‘Time to KISS Australia Goodbye Interview’

kiss interview

For nearly 50 years KISS have cemented their legacy as one of the all time great and influential rock bands. Perhaps their crowning achievement is becoming one of the very few artists to have their brand and image transcend their enormous catalogue of hit songs. Sure, they have their fair share of detractors – but everyone knows KISS; even if it’s just their makeup or from a random pop-culture reference.

All great things must finish though. With the band deciding to wrap up their days as a touring entity, their End of the Road World Tour has been snaking it’s way across the planet since early 2019. Despite being armed with their most impressive stage show ever (and that’s saying something), even the mighty KISS fell foul to the COVID pandemic, with the tour seeing countless postponements worldwide. Their Australian dates have certainly been no stranger to rescheduling; the shows Down Under have been moved back no less than four times.

Having the opportunity to chat with longtime lead guitarist Tommy Thayer, he touched on how KISS – who also includes founding members Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons and drummer Eric Singer – feels knowing these Australian shows are finally going ahead at the end of August.

“We are so excited and relieved to finally be touring in Australia. We’ve had multiple delays with both sickness and COVID, so we’re really very excited to be bringing the End Of The Road World Tour to Australia. It’s going to be a fantastic tour – we’ve got nine shows; three nights in Melbourne, two nights in Sydney – it’s something we’re looking forward to, finally!”

With the four-piece having recently conquered South America and Europe for (seemingly) the last time, it’s impossible for KISS to not be caught up in the emotions of the long farewell.

It is bittersweet. These shows have been over-the-top, playing to huge crowds and the band is in top form – if I do say so myself – so we’ve doing great. It really makes us want to go out and play a little bit more. But it is bittersweet, because it is going to come to an end within the year – and we know that.”

Of course KISS, like all other musicians, weren’t able to tour for most of 2020, they did put on a New Year’s extravaganza with ‘The Kiss New Year’s Eve 2020 Goodbye’ show in Dubai. Though the web streamed event was in front of a minimal live crowd, it was far from a stripped-down affair.

“It was really the first time we’d been out to do anything or certainly play a show (since COVID) – and it was a unique show, because we didn’t really have the huge crowd there; it was based around a web-stream/television simulcast around the world on New Year’s Eve. It was a different kind of experience – it was very strange and very different, but also probably the biggest production, the biggest stage we’ve ever used before. The pyro we had that night won the Guinness World Records for largest pyro show ever – it was over-the-top, the production. It’s too bad more people couldn’t have been there, but it just wasn’t possible obviously.”

While KISS the touring ensemble will cease to exist come 2023, clearly there is more to the KISS name than just their epic live show;

“The music, the imagery – the brand actually – is so strong that it will continue and there will be business moving forward in some form. KISS is such a monumental brand, such an important, iconic group for 50 years now that it’s not going away even though the touring will stop.”

While not officially locked in yet, it has always been known that the final shows of the ‘End Of The Road World Tour’ will take place in the KISS’ home, New York City.

“It’s known out there that we want to end this in New York, ‘cause that’s where the band started. That’s the idea – nothing’s been definitely set as far as the venue yet, I’m sure all the KISS fans are really interested in where that’s going to be, but that’s the idea; to end the tour in New York for a final show or series of final shows there.”

For Thayer, Australia is an important location for his career in KISS, with the axeman’s first full-blown concert with the group being in Melbourne back in 2003 for the KISS Symphony: Alive IV show.

“It was huge for me, as it was my first official show as the lead guitarist for KISS. The year before was a transitional time for KISS with things changing (within the band). I did a few gigs in 2002, filling in for a couple of things we did. But then we got geared up for the KISS Symphony show, and that was really my coming out as the lead guitarist in KISS. It was a phenomenal experience but it was an important time – there was a lot going on. We were recording a DVD and doing a documentary and live album, so there was a lot to deal with at time the time, so I felt a bit of pressure to be honest with you.”

Of course, Thayer, like so many teenagers of his generation, grew up idolising KISS, so the importance and almost surreal nature of stepping into the Spaceman character has never been lost on him. 

“When I was 13, 14 years old I got the first KISS album in 1974, so I was an early fan – and I loved them. I thought they were the greatest thing – especially in the early days when it was a bit more of a dangerous and darker vibe. All the leather, and the crazy guy spitting blood and breathing fire – all my friends and myself were like “what the hell is this??”. I loved KISS and I was really into them from the very beginning, so I’ve loved the band for 50 years now, just like everyone else that was around at the time. It’s just ironic that somehow for 20 years now I’ve been the lead guitarist in the band, and it’s pretty ironic to actually grow up and somehow it all comes together – it’s very unusual. But it’s been a spectacular experience – an incredible, unique experience for me – it’s crazy! I feel really fortunate to be able to do something I love and be the lead guitarist in KISS – it’s every kids dream really and I get to do it. I’m loving it and never take any of it for granted. I told Gene and Paul a few weeks ago that I really appreciate that these guys made this happen and I get to be part of it – it’s really great.”

Back to the looming tour; it’s no secret that Australia has some of the most ardent KISS fans in the world – a fact the group is well aware of;

“Australia’s always been amazing for KISS, going all the way back to 1980 when they first came over there – it was like Beatlemania! It seems like that’s never gone away, it’s always been this special, crazy market – a great place for KISS to be in. People always seem to love when we play and we play the big places and do these sensational events there – like the KISS Symphony show.”

With the Australian End Of The Road World Tour dates right around the corner, Thayer promises that Aussie fans will be treated to the most bombastic KISS experience ever;

“It’s the show that made KISS famous, and we’re doing it bigger and better than ever. It’s the biggest production in terms of the stage and the lighting and the whole rig and effects. I get to do a guitar solo were I blow everything up with rockets – it doesn’t get any better than that! People have been loving this tour – the reviews have been over-the-top and the response has been amazing. We’re bringing it to Australia – finally! We were supposed to be there three years ago, but it’s finally happened. I just wanted to say to everyone there that we appreciate your patience – it’s been frustrating for us as well, and I’m just glad that it’s all happening now and we all get to do this.”

Interview by Andrew Kapper. Twitter: @andrew_kapper

KISS – End Of The Road World Tour

Saturday 20 August @ Rod Laver Arena, MelbourneSOLD OUT

Sunday 21 August @ Rod Laver Arena, MelbourneSOLD OUT

Tuesday 23 August @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne

Friday 26 August @ Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney

Saturday 27 August @ Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney

Tuesday 30 August @ Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Adelaide

Friday 2 September @ RAC Arena, Perth

Tuesday 6 September @ Brisbane Entertainment Centre, BrisSOLD OUT

Saturday 10 September @ CBUS Super Stadium, Gold Coast

Tickets Here

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