'It's a Kiss thing': Tommy Thayer stands by using Ace Frehley's makeup, guitar effects

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Long-time Kiss fans know that Tommy Thayer not only takes the stage in ex-member Ace Frehley’s iconic makeup, he also shoots rockets out of his guitar — one of Ace’s signature moves. But Thayer says those things are part of the band’s legacy, and don’t belong to any one member.

Kiss is touring now in advance of their new album Monster, which will be issued on October 15, 2012. Complete remaining dates and venues are below.

Frehley, of course, was an original member of Kiss, appearing on stage and in the studio from the group’s inception in 1973 through 1982, and then returning for a hugely profitable reunion that began in 1996. In between, Frehley had issued a series of solo recordings in the late 1980s, beginning with Frehley’s Comet in 1987.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: With Kiss’ new single “Hell or Hallelujah,” it actually seems that Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are having fun again – rather than collecting a paycheck.]

Frehley’s final appearance as a member of Kiss came in 2002. Thayer, who had already appeared on the band’s 1998 reunion project Psycho Circus, was tabbed to take over. Later that same year, Kiss — led as always be co-founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley — began wearing their original 1970s-era makeup with Thayer appearing as Spaceman and new drummer Eric Singer as Peter Criss’s Catman.

In-concert effects like Frehley’s familiar firework-blasting guitar solos soon followed — as did some controversy.

“People say, ‘That’s such an Ace thing, why do you guys do that?,'” Thayer says, in the current issue of Guitarist magazine. “But we don’t look at it that way: it’s a Kiss thing. It’s part of a Kiss show. End of story.”

As for how Thayer achieves this eye-popping effect, he says his custom-made black Gibson Les Paul has wiring installed through the neck, calling it an “impressive piece of machinery.”

“Basically, you have a pyrotechnic shot that’s attached to the back of the headstock and it’s all done electronically,” Thayer says. “It’s done safely, too, as it’s not just a matter of hitting a button: you also have to engage what’s called a kill switch before you can go to the firing button. … There are three shots for that part of the solo, so there are three buttons: you shoot the rockets and it’s a lot of fun. I remember the first few times I was nervous because I didn’t want to screw it up.”

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A look back at our recent thoughts on Kiss. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: KISS: News that Kiss is back in the studio, working toward the 2012 release of a new project called Monster, got us scurrying back to our old album collections. And not just because of those fond memories of playing air guitar with former guitarist Ace Frehley during Kiss Alive. Bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons said something interesting about the sessions: “This new record feels heavier than (2009’s) Sonic Boom. It feels like a connection between Destroyer and Revenge. Those were but two of the favorites we discussed here.

FORGOTTEN SERIES: KISS – REVENGE (1992): There is one non-makeup Kiss record that certainly belongs in the conversation with the band’s best work. Released in 1992, Revenge came on the tail of two snoozers — 1987’s Crazy Nights and 1989’s Hot in the Shade — that were completely lost in the keyboard-laden, ballad-heavy 1980s radio rock sound. Revenge, though, was a different beast. There were still plenty of mindless sex and party anthems. It wouldn’t be a Kiss record without those. But there was a darker, heavier edge to the album, which was loaded with Gene Simmons’ gruffer vocals.

KISS – DESTROYER RESURRECTED (1976; 2012 reissue): The longer I listen, every time, to this whole album, the more I just want to go and dig out Alive! — the up-against-the-wall double-live concert document from the year before that conveys all of the force, and humor, of Kiss in a way this often over-wrought studio effort just never did. First-time Kiss producer Bob Ezrin, and therefore Destroyer, just keeps screwing around — even on this new remix, dubbed Destroyer: Resurrected. When it’s good, there’s fun to be had … and, especially on tough groovers like “God of Thunder,” it almost gets there. When it’s not, though, the project is weirdly disconnected, like it’s trying to sound interesting, but instead just sounding silly.

NEW YORK GROOVE (ACE FREHLEY, 1978): Everybody had their disco song, back in the day. Rod Stewart, the Rolling Stones, even Frank Sinatra. And, yes, Kiss. The beat is there, as is the chanky-chank riff — and, of course, the lyric: about a pretty lady in the back of the limo racing toward some night of debauchery amidst the towering skyscrapers. This being Ace Frehley, though, he sings with the kind of blissed-out somnambulance that only comes from too many women and way, way too much booze. That adds a more sinister feel to the Russ Ballard-penned “New York Groove” — something beyond the party anthems of the day, something that sticks with you.

Remaining dates for 2012’s “The Tour,” featuring Kiss and Motley Crue:

Sep 8: East Troy, WI – Alpine Valley Music Theatre
Sep 11: Allegan, MI – Allegan County Fair (on-sale 5/5)
Sep 12: Cleveland, OH – Blossom Music Center
Sep 13: Toronto, ON – Molson Canadian Amphitheatre
Sep 15: Darien Center, NY – Darien Lake Performing Arts Center
Sep 16: Mansfield, MA – Comcast Center
Sep 18: Scranton, PA – Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain
Sep 19: Camden, NJ – Susquehanna Bank Center
Sep 21: Holmdel, NJ – PNC Bank Arts Center
Sep 22: Wantagh, NY – Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
Sep 23: Hartford, CT – Comcast Theatre

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The Something Else! webzine, an accredited Google News affiliate, has been featured in The New York Times and NPR.com's A Blog Supreme, while our writers have also been published by USA Today, Jazz.com and UltimateClassicRock.com, among others. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
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