PORTLAND, Oregon (Portland Tribune) – It was a ‘blessed’ experience for Tommy Thayer as guitarist of the legendary rock ‘n’ roll band KISS – 20 years of touring around the world and playing alongside Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley as “The Spaceman “in the group known for their make-up, costumes and explosive shows.
KISS’s days may be drawing to a close, as Simmons and Stanley have announced that the final US leg of the “End of the World Tour,” starting August 18 and ending October 9, will be their last. The band known for “Detroit Rock City,” “Rock and Roll All Nite” and “Shout It Out Loud” and dozens of other hits are planning to do a residency in December and January at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.
Then it’s supposedly over, almost 50 years of music and showtime.
Meanwhile, for all of his work with KISS and going back to his time with Portland band Black ‘n Blue, which also gained national fame with the help of Geffen Records, Thayer was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the music of Oregon. The ceremony, ironically, will take place on October 9, but inductees have already been made aware of the good news. For Thayer, a native of Beaverton, this is his second induction, having been admitted with Black ‘n Blue.
Thayer, 60 and living mainly in Las Vegas, said he was nostalgic to know that KISS could call it a career.
“The last year and a half has given me time to take a break and take a step back and really appreciate the great opportunities and the things that I have been able to do,” he said. Thayer found a lot of memories moving recently from Los Angeles to Vegas and “it blew me away, and I realized that I did a lot of things, more than I thought I would. All the different steps that got me to where I’ve been… I sat down and said, “I’m a little proud of myself, because I’ve accomplished so much.
The Portland Tribune is a media partner of KOIN 6 News
Graduated from Sunset High School, and son of the late US Army Brigadier. General James Thayer, Thayer began studying music as a student under the guidance of his mother and instructor Dell Herreid, and then pursued the dream of becoming a rock ‘n’ roller.
“Seeing this young boy who was a go-getter and who really had perseverance and perseverance… life is not linear. You go left and right, meet someone, it presents new opportunities, and I’ve always been good at working hard and being flexible, seeing where the flow takes me.
The band’s feature-length documentary, “Biography: Kisstory,” aired on the A&E Network this summer and told stories of KISS, including the issues Simmons and Stanley had with guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss. Eventually, they replaced Frehley with Thayer in 2002 (and Criss with Eric Singer as drummer soon after).
Thayer had worked for the group in various capacities for several years prior to their rise to the stage. He was a regular musician who never took the drug and alcohol route, and Thayer actually had his eyes on management and production as his next step in music.
“I was doing anything and everything (for KISS), and I never had a problem with that,” Thayer said. “I was happy to be here. He had no intention of replacing Frehley, adding “I wasn’t rolling the dice.”
Thayer could be trusted, and he proved his worth to Simmons and Stanley through 20 years of guitar playing, directing, and reliability.
There are the rockers, and then there are people like Thayer, who sits on the board of trustees of Pacific University in Forest Grove and as chairman of the Thayer Family Foundation. Pacific appealed to Thayer on his father’s recommendation, and he helped raise thousands of dollars for the small private university. The family foundation works for the cause of veterans.
Not exactly sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
Twenty years with KISS has been a lot of fun for Thayer, and it’s time to come out on top.
“We want to go on tour while we can still kick our ass, while we’re still hot and not shrinking,” he said. “KISS is a group where the show is physically demanding. The physicality and the demands of the show, you don’t know if you can keep doing it. I am the youngest of the group and we are all getting older.
“I try to stay in shape and train. And, I spend a lot of time working on the guitar at home. The music business is so competitive.
Working with Simmons and Stanley has been a pleasure, he added.
“I have been fortunate to be in an organization like this, where everyone is so professional, from Gene to Paul,” Thayer said. “They’re dedicated and committed,” and they’ve helped KISS stay relevant for part of six decades and “Who else can you credit that to? “
KISS has remained relevant and retained its fame despite the scarcity of new music releases, including “Psycho Circus” in 1998, “Kiss Symphony: Alive IV” (2004), “Sonic Boom” (2009) and “Monster” ( 2012). On tour, KISS plays hits. Why spoil success?
“For any band, even with the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney, (the fans) don’t want to hear new songs, they want to hear the classics,” Thayer said.
Even before joining KISS, Thayer could play the songs, having grown up listening to KISS in the 1970s and 1980s.
“It’s in my DNA,” he said. “The most complex arrangement is ‘God Gave Rock and Roll to You’. Lots of chords and changes, an interesting song, an epic melody.
Thayer once said, “Basically (KISS) is a great rock’n’roll band with rock’n’roll songs. They’re a deadly, viable, and legitimate rock ‘n’ roll band. … (The following) is multigenerational. It’s like a tribe.
Stanley and Simmons said in the A&E documentary that they briefly considered changing the character of Thayer in the group – Frehley had been “The Spaceman” and he had dedicated fans – but decided to let Thayer continue as ” The Spaceman ”.
Thayer was never bothered by the need to put on makeup and dress up every night.
“It’s kind of every kid’s dream to be in a band like KISS and to be on stage in front of 20,000 people,” he said. “I feel very lucky, very lucky to be in this position.”
Thayer has had plenty of time to reflect on his KISS career since the COVID-19 pandemic ended touring last year. He said it was actually good to slow down and do other things. And, something big happened: Thayer found out he had a daughter from a past relationship. She is Sierra Sanchagrin, 31 years old and lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
“I met her indirectly through 23andMe (genetic history service), through a first cousin,” he said. “She was in the Navy, stationed in San Diego and posted to the USS Pearl Harbor as a computer and communications specialist.
“We’ve had time to get to know each other and have done a lot over the past year. I took her to my beach house in Cannon Beach and took her to Hawaii.
Life at the end of KISS didn’t get better until Thayer realized he had a daughter.
“I couldn’t be happier. It’s incredible, ”he said.
The KISS End of the World Tour begins August 18 in Mansfield, Massachusetts, and ends October 9 in Tampa, Florida. It includes a stop at the RV Inn Style Resorts Amphitheater in Ridgefield, Wash. (September 17), the Gorge Amphitheater in George, Wash. (September 18) and the ExtraMile Arena in Boise (September 21). For tickets, see http://www.kissonline.com.