FOR 15 years Tommy Thayer has put on the black and white facepaint, strutted onstage and become The Spaceman. Taking over as the guitarist in Kiss is not quite like joining any other band.

Thayer replaced original member Ace Frehley in the outlandish, outrageous rockers, and that meant literally taking over the persona that Frehley had created back in the 1970s, almost in the way that a theatre show recasts its parts. It is understandable that there was something strange about that.

“I was a Kiss fan growing up and had worked for them behind the scenes for years, so when I got into the band I was comfortable in the sense that I knew the songs,” says Thayer.

“But in terms of getting comfortable with going onstage as a member of Kiss, that took time. I was filling the shoes of an iconic guitarist to begin with, and that puts pressure and expectations on you. So at first it was just about getting into the flow of it, and that takes a few years. I’ve been here 15 years now so I’ve had that time to feel like it is more mine now, rather than just filling a role.”

Thayer is on speakerphone as he drives around Palm Springs in California. He is an easy-going and likeable interviewee, gearing up for another world tour, including an appearance at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow tomorrow night.

He knows, of course, that some Kiss fans would still prefer Frehley and original drummer Peter Criss up there, as opposed to him and Eric Singer. Frehley, in particular, is often linked with a return to the band. Does that ever worry Thayer?

“The reality is that it’s probably not going to happen,” he says. “People grow apart. I’m right inside this band and this organisation, and I know it as well as anybody now, and it’s like when you had a girlfriend in high school – you can’t expect to meet her years later and have the same chemistry.

“It doesn’t bother me hearing it though, because I know what’s going on and I understand the situation. It’s a part of life. Of course, Kiss fans have a sentimentality going back to when they first discovered them in the mid-70s and they want to believe that could still happen. But it’s 2017.”


The reason that some people might wonder about a reunion is that Kiss the band, and in particular long-tongued frontman Gene Simmons, have always been astute business operators as well as musicians. When their album sales were falling in the early 80s, they dramatically removed their facepaint for the first time in years, resulting in a huge surge of interest.

As interest started to wane again in the mid 90s, the facepaint went back on, as did an invitation to Frehley and Criss to rejoin the band, resulting in another wave of popularity. That wave has yet to diminish, as seen by the fact the group are currently headlining arenas and festivals.

This tour hasn’t been accompanied by a new album, though, and those of a cynical heart might note one of the reasons for no new material since 2012’s Monster is that the group are concerned about sales figures.

“A new album is possible,” says Thayer. “I think everyone in the band would love to do that, because we still want to write music and to record songs. But the record business has taken a nosedive and you have to be careful these days, because something like a new album can be a failure.

“I know fans might like to see a new record, but you don’t want to be perceived as failures within the industry. With everything we do we want to be a success.”

In the live field, that is still the case. The band’s knack for wild, OTT and spectacular gigs is well known, and Glasgow can expect more of what has made Kiss famous over the years tomorrow night.

“We will be there with all the bells and whistles, and there will be new twists and a new energy, but it is a classic Kiss show with the effects, the pyro and everything that people expect to see.”

Thayer hopes to do a bit of sightseeing while here. His mother’s maiden name was Cunningham, and there is Scottish ancestry to trace.

“I’ve only been to Scotland once, which was the gig several years ago (at the SECC). I didn’t get to see too much. Hopefully this time I will get to see a bit more. My mother’s family is originally from Scotland, so I have Scottish blood in me. I’d like to see a bit more of it.”

Thayer’s mother was a violinist, and he grew up in a musical family, picking up the guitar in his teens. After meeting the singer James St James, he formed the heavy metal band Black N’ Blue, who enjoyed reasonable success throughout the 1980s, and ended up with Gene Simmons producing two of their records.

That set in motion a chain of events that led to Thayer working with Kiss during the 1990s on various projects, including serving as their tour manager. Then Frehley departed the band, and Thayer moved into an onstage role.

That means he has observed the dramatic changes to the music business in the past couple of decades, changes that even long-standing bands aren’t immune to.

“I’m not sure Kiss would survive if they arrived now,” he says. “It’s hard enough to sustain a career even with a band as legendary as Kiss, so for a new group to come along and get noticed, it seems almost impossible. The business side is so non-supportive. You have to go out and play all the time just to get noticed, and the other problem is that the genre of rock ’n’ roll has been done almost every way over the last 50 years. I don’t know how you can reinvent a genre of rock ’n’ roll in a way that hasn’t been done already.”

Many a veteran rock ’n’ roller will talk during interviews about "real music", meaning a guitar, bass and drums line-up. Thayer, thankfully, avoids that cliche. He has been impressed by the rise of both hip hop and electronica, and believes there is a sense of danger in the former that rock struggles to generate. However he believes a market will always exist for classic rock.

“Hip hop, rap and electronica are new ways of pop music and I’m all for that. A hybrid of interesting styles is the only way to do it – that’s why hip hop has done so well, because there was an attitude there that was dangerous and edgy. It was the new rock ’n’ roll in a sense.

“Back in the 60s rock was what was dangerous and edgy, and parents were afraid of it. You don’t see that now because rock has been around the mainstream so much since then. But then the classic bands like the Stones or Beatles or Zeppelin or Kiss are timeless, and people will always love that.”

Kiss play the SSE Hydro in Glasgow tomorrow.