KISS400 Brian Hiatt of Rolling Stone reports:

Rolling Stone‘s first-ever KISS cover story mostly focused on the original lineup of the band: Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. The Rock and Hall of Fame also chose to induct only those members – a decision Simmons and Stanley made quite clear that they opposed. They invited current KISS guitarist Tommy Thayer, current drummer Eric Singer and former guitarist Bruce Kulick (who played in the band from 1984 to 1995) to join them at their table for the April 10th ceremony, and thanked them from the stage for their contributions. In that spirit, here are KISStory-spanning conversations with each of those musicians, culled from the cover-story transcripts.

Tommy Thayer:

RS: When Eric Carr and Vinnie Vincent wore makeup in Kiss, they had new characters. Did you have any discomfort about simply wearing Ace’s makeup?

TT: No, first of all, I didn’t have any input on that. That was a decision that those guys made. There was not even a conversation about it, because I think it was so obvious, that they weren’t going to introduce new characters 30 years into the band. I never thought that there should be some new designs or something. I thought that would have been ridiculous. And the only thing is, you’ve got a lot of push-back from some of the diehards. And that’s understandable. Hey, you know, if you lived in the Seventies and KISS was your favorite band, and that’s what you grew up with, and suddenly there’s another guy wearing that makeup, I can understand how some people, it might not have appealed to them as much. But as time as gone by, a lot of people have changed their mind.

RS: You can imagine what Ace has to say.

TT: He probably wouldn’t agree with that, would he?

RS: He told me, “A supergroup has one of the most dynamic, greatest lead guitarists in the world leave the band, and who did they hire to play lead guitar? Their road manager, who used to be in a Kiss cover band. How insane is that? You can’t make this shit up.”

TT: [Laughs] You know, that’s one way to… that’s one way to put it, I guess, even though that’s not really accurate. These guys like to say that, oh, he was the road manager. He never paid his dues. Well, you know, if you look back, I’ve been in music professionally for over 30 years now, and I’ve made just as many records as they have, probably. And it’s not to detract from what he’s saying as far as, he was iconic in the Seventies, you know? And he did influence a lot of guitar players, and he did record and write some great stuff. Specifically, the first three or four KISS albums, up to KISS Alive!

RS: He feels that it’s almost like trying to trick people that he’s still in the band.

TT: Yeah. Well, you know, I can understand him saying that, too, but I don’t think that’s really accurate. I don’t think there’s anybody going to a KISS concert thinking that it’s Ace Frehley on stage. I really don’t. And if it is, then they’re really not paying much attention at all. But the vast, 99.99 percent of people that are there, they know what’s going on.

RS: Did you ever play in a KISS cover band?

TT: [Laughs] Yeah, I did, I actually did. One of the guys from Black and Blue, and a couple other friends, we were all KISS fans, obviously, growing up, so back then when Black an Blue had kind of run its course, we said, let’s get onstage at a club in Hollywood and play KISS songs. And this is kind of before tribute bands became kind of common. People went crazy, because nobody had kind of done that thing. And then it was Halloween and for a goof we put makeup on, just for a laugh. And we did that for a while, but it was never like a serious career move or something.

RS: People kind of use this fact against you.

TT: It can be kind of misleading, because it was just for goofs. But then Gene and Paul and the guys came to a few of the club shows we were doing and they got a kick out of it. But I always tell people, it was like the minor leagues or something. It was my segue into KISS, because I think once they finally decided they wanted a new lead guitarist around 2002, they knew I could do it. Because they had known me for a long time, they knew I was quite capable on the guitar, but they also knew I could put KISS makeup on and get onstage and do a great job. So I think, in the back of their minds, I think that might have stuck a little bit.

RS: You [also] worked with Ace and Peter to help them prepare for the reunion tour [in the 90’s].

TT: They were off track and they weren’t playing the stuff in the classic, signature way. So we had to help get those guys back into shape and it took a long time. It wasn’t like it took a week. We spent a month or two working on that, before the actual four of them started rehearsing together as a unit. Ace was a little more on track, and his attitude at the time was a lot more easygoing than Peter’s was, to be honest with you. Peter on the other hand would get more uptight and actually, he would get upset sometimes, with me giving him direction. At least, initially he was, and then he got more comfortable with it once we got going. But I couldn’t believe how upset he got, because he basically said, “Don’t you fucking tell me what to do.”

RS: There was that one show where they had you in makeup ready to go because Ace was so late?

TT: After a while, I did have an outfit, I did have boots, and stuff made and ready, just in case, as an insurance policy really. Because you can’t go on tour, and start canceling shows potentially when there’s millions of dollars on the line. I remember one gig in Irvine, California. I think it was the summer of 2000, and I was completely made up and ready to go because we didn’t think Ace was going to be there. He was in another city still. So twenty minutes before we’re going onstage, we’re all standing there in makeup, and here comes Ace walking in. It was the weirdest thing. He just looked at me, and he goes, “Hey Tommy, how are you doing?'” Like any other day! It was really weird.

RS: How did it start to become clear that Ace might be leaving and you might be taking over?

TT: Well, there were a few more gigs where there were close calls. Finally, the band was scheduled to do this private concert down in Jamaica. Doc called me. He said, “Tommy, you gotta come to Jamaica. You’re going to be on stage, you’re gonna be on.” He goes, “Ace is not coming.” And I was just basically filling in, because I don’t think they knew exactly what they were going to do long-term. But we all knew I was going to go down and do that gig, and step up, and do my first whole, real gig with KISS. And that was really interesting.

Eric Singer:

RS: You played with KISS for a few years, and then they went off to do the reunion tour. How did you handle that?

ES: I never burned the bridges with Gene and Paul. I never slammed them in the press. But I was mad. I was unhappy about the whole situation, but I’ve always told people, you know, you can’t blame Gene and Paul for doing the reunion. It’s like if I gave you the winning lottery ticket but I said, “You’re going to get the money, but you have to do all this work first.” That’s what it was like for them. You have to do the touring, and I’d have done the same thing. I don’t always agree with the way Gene and Paul do things at times, but I don’t have to agree with them, it’s their band. You hear people say, “Well if you want to do it differently, you have your own band.” That is a true statement.

RS: And then around 2000 you started to come back in the picture. How did that all come to happen?

ES: I started hearing that there were some issues with Peter, but I was busy doing my own thing playing with Alice Cooper. Then one day my lawyer calls me up, I was in Japan, and he says, “Hey, I just got a call from KISS’lawyer and they want you to come back and play in the band.” And I remember I asked him, “So what am I going to do about the makeup? Are they going to have me come up with a new design?” He goes, “They haven’t decided that yet.” And this was the beginning of the week. That Saturday I got home, and he said, “Okay, here’s the deal. The show’s on, they’re just going to have you keep wearing the cat makeup.

RS: And how did you feel about that?

ES: I didn’t really give it much thought. I was like, “OK, whatever.” I mean, honestly, I never looked at it emotionally like some people do. I don’t look at it like it’s sacrilegious. It’s just a band. It’s just music. No offense. And some people say, “You don’t understand, though!” No, I do understand! Because I was a big fan of, not just KISS, but a lot of bands, myself, when I was younger. But then I became a musician, and I have a different perspective. I know what it’s like to be a huge fan, really love a band, and then also know what it’s like to be in that band. And that’s a unique perspective. This is just music. It’s not solving the problems of the world. You know, the most important thing is – I tell everyone – “Look around you. If you have a kid, look at your kid. Look at her smiling. Look at your family.” That’s life. That’s what’s really important. Not what some band does.

RS: So you think people get too upset about this stuff.

ES: I’m sorry, but I just cannot put so much value and importance on what a fucking band does. I’m sorry! And I don’t mean that out of disrespect. If somebody loves a band, and has a passion for it? Great. It’s because of fans having passion that bands have a career. But at the same time, you’ve gotta take a step back and look at the reality, and the reality is, it’s just a band.

RS: Some people see what you and Tommy Thayer do in Kiss now as almost an impersonation.

ES: I know, but here’s the thing that’s ridiculous. I love when people say that, because the reality is, I’m not impersonating. Because I wear the makeup that he wore? Did they come up with their designs? Yes. Of course. But it’s not an extension of their personality. Peter wasn’t a cat. Peter Criss was a cat? They had to create a character. You know something? I don’t know if he even had a pet cat. Come on, it’s ridiculous.

RS: When you were singing Beth in his makeup – how about that? That seemed to freak some people out.

ES: But the thing is, I didn’t go out there and do the same thing he did. I didn’t bring out a drum stool and sit out there with a dozen roses. We did it in a different way. The point is, it’s a KISS song. I love when people try to say, “That’s Peter’s song!” or “This is an Ace song!” No, they’re KISS songs.

RS: You’ve argued that there’s a certain hypocrisy to Ace and Peter’s criticisms of other people wearing their make-up, right?

ES: This is something that I notice that nobody seems to point out. When I came in to play with the makeup, Ace was in the band, and had no problem with me playing with Peter’s makeup while he went onstage and made that KISS money. In fact, he loved it, and he didn’t want Peter back in the band. And then go forward the next year, when Ace decided to leave. When we fast forward, all of a sudden they bring Peter back, and you got Tommy Thayer playing guitar wearing the Ace makeup, and all of a sudden, no one minded it was Ace’s makeup design. Peter had no problem, did he?

Bruce Kulick:

RS: How did you feel about the band’s look in your era?

BK: I don’t like to make excuses for the Asylum era. That’s what everybody was wearing! It was ridiculous. Paul, he’s flamboyant with his clothes in any era, okay? So of course he went wild with it, and I fit in the best I could. Gene was lost, completely lost. You know, he buys a sequined, red top from a crazy woman’s shop in Vegas and cuts it up and wears it. I’m like “Come on.” He went through a period there he didn’t know what to do.

RS: Were you bummed that you never got to wear makeup?

BK: When I joined the band they already took it off, the year before. Because they’d kind of reached the point where it was not even that interesting. I was kind of relieved that my whole era I didn’t need to. In the reunion era, I was kind of in panic at times when I was hearing through the grapevine that Ace was potentially going to be exiting. I wondered if they would they ask me, and I was nervous, because what if I left Grand Funk, and then Ace wants back the next year? Who knows? It was stressful, for me. I wasn’t looking forward to becoming the Spaceman if they offered it to me, I’ll be quite honest.

RS: The late Eric Carr was the drummer in KISS when you first joined. How well did he fit in?

BK: He was just, like, not real happy. Usually there were two limos for the gigs, and it was usually Gene and Paul in one and Eric and me in the other, and Eric would just be complaining about various things. And I’d be like, you know, you gotta shut up. You’re killing me. You know how many people would want your gig right now? Every band needs a pecking order – Gene and Paul are kind of like the two presidents, and you’re not gonna get the same power. And I think Eric didn’t know how to fit in with that, just let it kind of bother him, and I just wanted to slap him around. But we became very close. He was the best with the fans, I gotta say. But it drove me crazy that he was that miserable. Now, in time, I got to see what some of the faults are of being part of the band. Things don’t always go down the way you think they might go down. But in general, Gene and Paul run a very, very hard-working, focused kind of band. They’re very dedicated to what they do and how they’re perceived, and how to make it go from A to Z. That might mean your feelings might be hurt to make it happen. So be it.

RS: Then Eric got sick, which must have been awful to deal with.

BK: It was awful. I mean, I was definitely close to him. He really had a valiant fight against a very aggressive, difficult cancer. And it was a really hard time for everyone. It really was. I mean, I was really happy to see him do his last video with us, for God Gave Rock N’ Roll to You with us. And he had more energy than me in that video, even though he was going through the chemo, and he was wearing a wig that really looked like an Eric Carr wig. His hair was always so hair-sprayed and crazy to begin with. The bigger the hair spray, the better. The bigger the hair, you know? “More hairspray! Bring it in.” Eric’s always been a part of my life, just emotionally, but also in some dreams, and some other things that have happened to me. I always feel like he’s been watching over and he’s a part of my life. So I feel very honored that I had that relationship with him.

RS: After Unplugged, how did they break it to you that they were reuniting the original band and that you were out?

BK: We literally just went to Gene’s guesthouse. He just said, “Hey, since Unplugged, this is what’s happened. And we’re gonna do this. We’re probably just gonna do it for a year, but it’s now or never, and we realize we gotta do it.” And I accepted that. But, you know, Eric [Singer] was in denial. He was like, “There’s no way. No way Peter Criss could do this. No way!” I was like, “Uh, dude, they’re gonna do it. They’ll figure it out.” And they did. And they did it well. Obviously, the cracks started to show after some time. And then the machine keeps going. And it’s a big machine, what can you do?

Read more at Rolling Stone.


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  • Joe on

    After reading it and leaving the emotion out & having perspective….I can understand Tommy & Eric. I don’t play a instrument …. I just love the music and people like Eddie that report it. I really appreciate what they have done. Tommy was always there for Gene & Paul….in all honesty, he did pay dues, and especially Eric. KISS is very important to all of us. It is a band like no other. I do believe the RRHoF has zero importance in my opinion. In my view….and especially just reading this….Everyone in this band are Hall of Famers. I wish Eddie can construct his patent to a REAL Rock Hall of Fame. I also really hope all current & former members really let these insane combative issues cease and just look back to all of the great music & entertainment that we have enjoyed for the 40+ years…….A-Men….Joe in The Cuse

    • Mike B on

      Great post Joe! Amen to everything you said here. What happened to Rock Honors on VH1? Maybe Eddie could bring that back?! Alternatively, begin his own award show? That would be great.

    • Eddie on

      MANY discussions for a real Hall event but don’t want it to be half ass. Has to be big or not worth it to me. VH1 Rock Honors died. Didn’t do well and was expensive. Cost a huge issue as always.

    • JB on

      Joe…man, that’s what I’ve been saying for the longest. I just glad I had a bad like Kiss to get me through growing up and why I’ll always support them even if I don’t buy, agree with their opinions or even like what they do now. They’ll always be my band.

  • doug r. on

    Has Eric Singer completely lost his mind?? It’s just a band, it’s “just” music, I know what it’s like to be a fan, then I became a musician? So I guess he’s saying if you become a musician you can’t be a fan anymore? Ace & Peter created these personas but they’re not an extension of their personalities? WTF?? If it’s not that important to you Eric, why the hell are you doing it – playing music, is it ALL about the money? If you don’t love it, enjoy it, if it don’t make you happy, enhance your life, again, why the fuck are you in the band? This is just music? Not solving problems of the world? Newsflash Eric, music has helped me more than anything else ever did in my life. I know a lot of people say this, because it’s true, I don’t know where I’d be today if it wasn’t for music. Are you still playing drums because you want to, or because you have to? is this gig “just a job”? Or is it ALSO your life? Of course family, friends, health, MONEY, are ALL important, but to a lot of people music is just as equally important in their lives. Without music a lot of us wouldn’t have a life, OR a career!!!!

    • Merv Griffin and Totie Fields on

      Ohhh here we go. Just because someone doesn’t have the same perspective as you, they seem to have “lost their mind”? Isn’t he supposed to say, “Eric, you and I don’t agree, but I respect your opinion” ? Isn’t that how you’re supposed to tow the line on this message board, Dana?

    • Dana on

      My dear sweet Merv,

      You were far more sardonic and cutting that that 🙂 But, despite the ban, I let you through.

      Dana 🙂

    • Dana's Ex on

      I appreciate your kindness.

    • Dana on

      With you, I am not sure if that sarcasm, but I will take it 🙂

      D 🙂

    • Scott on

      Given how many KISS posts and Dana’s ever increasing disgust for all things KISS right about now…I would tread lightly Merv. I heard that just last week Dana nearly had to be sedated and coerced off the 52nd floor of the Trunk tower because of this!! I think there is a YouTube video that Eddie posted. It’s actually quite touching-and slightly amusing. “Dana….it’s Eddie. I promise NO more KISS posts…, come down off of that ledge. But, if you do jump take off THAT METAL SHOW t-shirt. Jim wants it……” 🙂

      Put another way: Dana is a few more KISS postings away from dishing out the whoop ass. 🙂

    • Dana on


      You always crack me up-LOL!! Thank you for that, you have no idea how much I appreciate the levity.

      D 🙂

    • doug r. on

      Merv is it? I have a right to speak my mind & a right to my opinion, which is shared by many on Eric Singer, trust me. It really really pisses me off when somebody downplays the importance of music. Especially a musician!! What are you doing it for then? It makes no sense to anybody & nobody gets that kind of talk especially coming from a musician. If Eric Singer wasn’t already super rich would he then still care about music? “just music” MY ASS! Music is a BIG part of my life, don’t tell me it’s not important.

    • Merv Griffin without Totie Fields on

      Well, my opinion is that your post is tad bit overly dramatic. Music is a BIG part of your life? How so? is that how you make a living?

    • doug r. on

      First of all how I make a living is none of your business, and if you have to ask somebody how is music important to them, you’re not a music fan. What would Eric Singer be doing right now, or what would he have done for the last 40 years or so if it wasn’t for as he calls it, this “non-important” thing called music. It’s not being “over dramatic” when a so called musician insults music, when he says “it’s not important”, that’s insulting to real musicians, real music fans, regardless of what they do for a living.

    • Mike B on

      I appreciate where your’e coming from about how much the music means to you. Music is a great outlet and has helped many people make it through some hard times. That goes for me as well. Maybe its not the same for everyone.
      Nevertheless, I think what Eric Singer is saying is that people are making too big a deal of the character. Why can’t Eric Singer wear the makeup? Another question–is it the music or the characters that got you through? For me, its the music–otherwise, I would have stopped listening to KISS in the 80’s. That’s all Eric Singer is saying–the character’s are not a matter of life and death. Maybe if you try to look at this from his point of view, it will make more sense where he’s coming from.

    • doug r. on

      Mike B, let’s just say “if” that’s all Eric meant by his comments, let me ask you this, how would you feel if someone was walking around impersonating you? If it was something you created, you designed, you lived? I know Ace & Peter “sold” the rights to those “characters”, and I’m not making excuses for them, who knows at that time why did it, but I really don’t think if they knew then what they know now, they would have made that decision. A tribute band is 1 thing, but I never want to see anybody else impersonating Paul & gene either, no matter who it is, even if Paul & gene are all for it themselves. I know when you see Kiss today, Paul doesn’t say, Ladies & gentleman, MR. Ace Frehley & Peter Criss when he introduces the spaceman & the catman, but no matter what, to me, it’s still WRONG! They can try to justify it all they want by calling Kiss a “brand”, because they’re blinded. I can appreciate that they want to keep Kiss going, and it will, it always will, like every other band, through their MUSIC!

    • doug r. on

      Sorry for a couple of typo’s, it’s not easy trying to do about 20 things at the same time.

    • Mike B on

      @doug r,
      Okay, I get it. Mainly because when I first saw Eric and Tommy wearing the makeup, I couldn’t believe it. I do understand–believe me. I have had time to get used to it. After all, Eric first appeared on TV in the cat makeup around–what was it, 2002? All I can say is that I have adjusted to the new lineup in makeup. I choose to buy the albums and I am glad that I have both SB and Monster. I saw KISS with Motley Crue on The Tour. Motley Crue was great–and KISS was awesome. Honestly, I would not say one was better than the other. I think KISS has a good thing going right now. No disrespect to Peter and Ace. The best times for KISS were the 70’s when they were mysterious, high energy, and controversial. In exchange we have a KISS that has honed its craft for 40 years, sounds better than ever, and continues to give 100% to the fans. I am not going to dispute some of your statements here because I get the sense its just how you feel about KISS at this point and I can appreciate that.

    • doug r. on

      Mike B, nice chatting with someone who even though we don’t see eye to eye and agree on everything, we can agree to disagree without insulting each other. I know Eric & Tommy have been doing this for a while now, but I never have and never will get used to it. To me, it does matter who’s behind the makeup, because when you know who it is & who it isn’t, it’s too late to try to convince people otherwise, to see it any other way like Paul & Gene are still trying to do. Kiss is a rock and roll band, not a bunch of circus clowns (despite what critics say) that nobody knows, we know who they are. if you went to see Aerosmith, and even though you knew ahead of time they had a different lead singer, (could you imagine) and he looked exactly like Steven Tyler, same hair, clothes, lips (LOL!) basically looked like his twin, and even though you knew it wasn’t him, don’t you think that would be at least a little weird, strange & awkward? could you really enjoy a Aerosmith concert watching a clone? I don’t know, I guess to some it really doesn’t matter who’s who, and for the one’s like myself that it does matter, I guess all we can do is ignore it. Gotta go, hittin’ the road again, later.

    • George on

      He’s also saying Ace and Peter are hypocrites because when there was money in it for them, neither had any problem playing with Tommy in Ace makeup or Eric in Peter makeup and he is absolutely correct…I love the originals, can’t stand Tommy or Eric In makeup, don’t like the current predictable set lists and on and on…BUT I am so tired of Ace and even more Peter with the woes me…Look, they fucked up and were not reliable…I heard Eddie on the Three Sides of the Coin podcast prior to the RRHOF, and he even said Ace was a disaster upon leaving Kiss and record companies were afraid to invest in him, so whether you like Kiss as they are today, or if it isn’t for you, many of you need to stop acting like Ace and Peter are perfect angels…PETER DID AND ALBUM WITH TOMMY IN ACE’s MAKEUP!!! The only reason the makeup matters now, is because it is something for Peter or Ace to bitch about due to the spotlight being on the original band because of the RRHOF…And lastly, WHY DID YOU DUMMIES SELL YOUR RIGHTS TO THE MAKEUP IF IT IS SO SACRED?????

    • Joe Pensanti on

      Merv: Shouldn’t your screen name read Mike Douglas and Totie Fields…?

    • Mike Douglas with Totie Fields on shoulders making devils signs on

      Good catch.

    • Brandon on

      “The basic thing in my mind was that for all our success The Beatles were always a great little band. Nothing more, nothing less.” — Paul McCartney

    • Eldon on

      I hear you Doug, but what you have to remember is Eric Singer has to down play it all, because he’s really being a hypocrite. You can’t grow up idolizing a band like KISS and then putting on Peter’s make up and costume and pretend it doesn’t mean anything, I’m sorry but just like everyone in this band, they’re all spin masters and full of it.

    • DC on

      Doug,m you clearly missed the point. MUSIC may have changed your life, but NO ONE has any right to try and dictate what happens in someone’s band. It doesn’t matter if you spent 30 years and $10,000 on KISS stuff. It’s NOT YOUR BAND. And, the fact is, we only know MAYBE 5% of what goes on behind the scenes every day. I’m a pretty devoted fan to bands like Priest, and probably got way too caught up in the drama. Now, I realize, as was said above, there are a hell of a lot more important things in one’s life than a band. Period. So, you obviously need to think a little more about it. He’s not downplaying music. He’s downplaying the silly obsession many fans have with a band.

    • doug r. on

      DC, I think you’re missing my point, I’m not trying to dictate anything. Eric’s words – not mine, it’s just music, there are more important things in life. Like I said before, of course family, friends, health, all should come first in everybody’s life, but to me you are downplaying music when you say the things he said. Look at it this way, what kind of life would he have right now if it wasn’t for music? That’s my point. Not saying you can’t make something out of your life & be successful without music, but he’s a musician right? I don’t know , maybe I did misunderstand some of what he meant, but when somebody, especially a musician says “it’s just music”, that just really irks me.

    • Merv Griffin without Totie Fields on

      It is “just music”. There are more important things in life. Now, do we have a crisis negotiator on this board because someone needs to talk Doug off the ledge.

    • doug r. on

      Merv, obviously you don’t get it, so go find Totie and maybe she, or he, can explain it to you. Now, go back to producing or whatever it is you do and stop posting. I know it’s “just music”, just like Jeopardy is “just Jeopardy”, what would you do without it? LOL! KEEP CALM and ROCK ON, I know it’s only rock ‘n’ roll, but I like it, yes I do!

    • George on

      Well said..

  • Jim From Houston on

    Contrary to what Paul and Gene say Eric was unhappy with them and the direction of KISS as others have said and now Bruce.

    • Mike on

      Well, it seems none of the other members of Kiss were happy with what Gene and Paul did. The thing is, Gene and Paul have the trademark and the marketing machine on their side, and obviously enough people go and see them that it makes them $$. That’s what it’s all about.

      I honestly didn’t know Eric Singer came out and played Beth during the concert…sweet Jesus that’s a low blow, but Eric’s ok with that because it’s just “music”, and the people that wrote and sang those songs originally don’t matter.

  • mark on

    this is what happens when a band becomes a “brand name” Everything that the fans loved about this band all these years is gone . between the books, interviews and the sad soap oprera of the past month , i would love to ask all of them this only question “are you all proud of yourselves of the way this has all played out ?

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