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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  • chad on

    The opinion on here that Monster sucks is totally not in conjunction with the majority of Kiss fans…for starters its the most loved and critically acclaimed both by critics and by fans since Revenge. You might not personally like it but overall the reviews and word on the the street for most including myself and everybody I know is that its by far the best Kiss album since Revenge and Creatures. That’s not opinion but factual results of reactions. Don’t believe its just me go to places with real fan feedback like iTunes, Googleplay, Amazon and see iits 4 outta 5 stars rankings. Read not my love for the album but what so many others are saying. Also it is one of those Kiss records that just keep getting better with each listen. I personally have been buying Kiss albums on release days since 1977 love gun and to me Monster ranks right after original 6 studio albums and creatures. The solos and and drums are original and done in Singer and Thayer’s own style and its the most complex album musically since Revenge. Everything everyone has been asking for in a Kiss studio album. I swear turn it up and with each listen you will love it more. I know many whose first impression was that it wasn’t so great and now totally appreciate it

    • Mike B on

      Thank you! See? Its not just me–I’m not crazy! LOL
      Excellent post Chad!

    • Merv Griffin without Totie Fields on

      Good post Chad. I agree. The only complaint I have about it is the cover art. I think they should have put more time and effort into it. Otherwise, I really like the album.

    • Mike B on

      I think it would have been nice if they hired someone to do the artwork. Ace had Ken Kelly do the artwork for Space Invader and it looks great.

    • bigsled on

      Its because the fans that use to speak are long gone . 10 years ago you would have 100’s and 100’s of comments on here, blabbermouth, amazon, kissasylum, even kissonline and they would be saying Kiss sucks with the actors they have in the band now and would be telling you Monster sucks too if it had been out. But you know what ? they just dont care anymore and have left .They dont waste their time or follow Kiss anymore . These boards/sites have alot more current Kiss fans now . Sure you still get more comments then some bands especially once the HOF nomination last oct but its not like it was.
      Eddie can vouch for this
      Did you know the 100’s of negative comments on Kissonline message boards 14 years ago ? Gene hated it so much he came on twice and got in arguments with the fans ! I wish I would have copied those . It was great ! So anyway , Gene took down the message boards.

      If Lady GaGa has a 1000 postive reviews on Itunes and Amazon does that make it good ?

      I really dont spend much time even reading Kiss articles anymore even though i’m a 39 years fan . Well actually 25 years as it ended for me in 2000. I dont ebven know why i’m wasting my time now lol.

    • George on

      Disagree…most posters even on this site are old school Kiss fans and like me, they usually prefer the originals but many have no issue with Kiss today even if they are not thrilled about some of what they do…I think the music on Sonic Boom and Monster is as good as what Ace is putting out, so I’m not crazy about either album or Aces Anomoly, but think they Re decent and at least it is new music from my favorite Band…Actually the Bruce Kulick album was better than Aces or either of KISS’s…Lastly, I am 44 years old and bought my first Kiss album in 1977 which was LoveGun and then Alive II, so you are 5yers younger which means you barely could be a fan by the time Ace and Peter were gone so you had the originals for a short time and couldn’t possibly of seen them before the reunion in 1996…plus there are far worse Kiss albums in the 80’s and 90’s than most recent Monster and Sonic Boom

    • bigsled on

      I’m refering to Chads statement .
      I’m actually 46 . I said I have followed them since 75 but lost alot of my love for Paul and Gene after 2000.
      I saw Kiss first on the love gun tour
      I do have to respectivley disagree on the fans that show up on forums these days.
      I just dont think sb ,pc or monster are very good . Paul’s got some descent songs on sb ; never enough , say yeah. gene’s ; yes I know is really good but thats only 3 songs.
      Monster has some descent Paul songs as usual . Eric sounds pretty good on his song and I like his voice. Not like I like Peters raspy voice but..
      pc was far more old school although some were pretty cheesey. Gene , i thought , had his best song since lick it up release with the song ” within”
      Musically monster and sb were maybe better than alot of the 80’s but the 80’s songs were alot more catchy, fun , and memoriable imo.

    • Joe Pensanti on

      You are wasting your time, George, like I am. We cannot help ourselves lol…however, I refuse to see them on tour anymore. Paul sounds like crap and the songs are tuned down. They sound like Black Sabbath. They charge full price yet can’t give 100% on stage anymore. I remember when Paul used to say if you can’t give it all, don’t go out on tour…my how things have changed. Looking forward to seeing lax sales for the Summer tour…

    • Joe Pensanti on

      Sorry George, I meant bigsled.

    • bigsled on

      I would go see them in a heartbeat if they never took the makeup off in 2000 . Just like I did all through the 80’s . Even multiple, close by, cities .
      Another thing is the setlists are so bad .
      Through all the shows in the 80’s when I saw them the only 70’s they would do is r & r , love gun, blk diamond , and cold gin .. Then they threw in a few more on the HITS tour.

      Seeing the video for San Manuel in april , now that was a setlist !!!! But, alot of the newer fans dont want to hear See You Tonight, etc. For me , I would LOVE to see that stuff live.

      And hearing Paul try to do Crazy Nights last year on a video i watched = Ouch !

    • bigsled on

      ^^^^^^ If they HAD taken the makeup off

    • Eric Heaton on

      Who cares what critics think..Critics panned them from the beginning so why care what they think now…I never bought an album based on a critic’s review…opinions aren’t right or wrong, its just an opinion or a point of view…but I’ll make an exception in this case: Monster

    • Brian B on

      I like Monster. Hell or Hallelujah, Wall Of Sound, Long Way Down. Good stuff.

    • Mike B on

      Its a good album–actually, a great album. But some people like to criticize without actually listening to it with an open mind. They are too focused on issues centered around the makeup and current members. Its ridiculous.

    • George on

      I agree…although the Tommy “space themed” Outta this World is embarrassing. But I would say Monster is further away fom the Kiss sound than Sonic Boom and also that Eric and Tommy are playing less like P and A and more like themselves..

    • Joe Pensanti on

      I agree with you, George about SB sounding more kKiss-like, especially “Yes I know”. I personally thought the entire record should have been in the same vein as that song. However, I actually think “Outta this world” is probably the best track on “Monster”, with “Long way down” a close second. Now, I am a staunch Ace and Peter fan, but I will call a good song a good song. Tommy has no choice, he is forced to write space-themed Ace type of stuff. This is mostly Gene’s doing. Gene knows the fans LOVE Ace, so…

    • Liberals In Denial on

      Since you like the record so much, can you tell me how many times Paul, Gene, Tommy & Eric collectively say the word “yeah” in their songs throughout the record? It’s truly inspiring 🙂

  • bigsled on

    All anyone has to do is watch Kissteria show from 2010 on A & E and watch Tommy and especially Eric kiss Gene’s ass . Gene , Gene, can I please , please sing Beth tonight ? Pretty please ? and on and on.
    You really get a perspective on how Gene and Paul are and what its like to work for them .
    Ace and Pete may have been going down a destructive path but they were themselves unlike Gene and Pauls puppets are now.
    And Ace and Peter helped create 70’s Kiss without them who knows what Paul and Gene would be doing right now . They may have never become huge in the 70’s
    And, without the reunion in 96 Gene and Paul would be playing theaters and clubs today.

    I actually have a hard time believing anything Thayer and Eric say because they cannot be truthful if it means compromising the brand Kiss or their job . When they or Gene and Paul talk its spin, spin ,spin to protect the name. they are alot like some politicians.
    Its like when Paul claims Kiss is bigger then any one member to try and take away from Ace and Peters makeup/identity and the two actors copying them now. I would bet a million dollars Paul nor Gene would NEVER be replaced and they know they dont have to prove it unless something happened to one of them………
    Sure , once they retire they will try some lame attempts to carry on the brand but thats ONLY IF THEY RETIRE ! NOT IF SOMETHING HAPPENS TO ONLY GENE OR ONLY PAUL.

  • Joe Pensanti on

    Eric Singer says KISS is “just a band”? Umm…no. Fleetwood Mac is just a band. KISS and The Beatles are the only 2 bands in rock music history that you can recognize the faces without seeing the name of the group. That is NOT “just a band”, sorry, Eric. Now go reform Badlands or something, will you, and PLEASE stop singing Beth. It’s a huge bowl o’ wrong.

    • Mike Douglas with Totie Fields wearing Kiss T-Shirts on

      Bands are different things to different people. I know people who would disagree with your statement about Fleetwood Mac as “just a band”. To some, Fleetwood Mac provided the soundtrack to many childhoods. But at the end of the day, music is how rock stars make a living. It’s a job. Whether it’s the Stones, AC/DC, or Kiss it doesn’t matter. Eric was making the point that there are more important things in life than bitching about who is wearing cat makeup. I agree.

    • schocoman on

      The question remains, whenever Tommy or Eric open their mouths in public: are they speaking for themselves or for the band? Are they, can they be honest, or are they just promted? Rhetorical question of mine, of course.

    • Mike B on

      Actually–he does a good job singing Beth. Beth is not just Peter’s song. Bob Ezrin helped write it. Stop torturing yourself and just don’t attend KISS concerts anymore. Everyone there wants to have a good time–not listen to someone who wants to fuss and wine about who sings Beth (good grief)! Its cool the way he gets up there and does it his own way. It took me some time to get used it too, but I chose to appreciate what they are doing now. They are playing songs the audience wants–yes WANTS, to hear!

  • Joe Pensanti on

    After watching the heavily edited Hall Of Fame show on HBO, the body language and speech that Gene gave that night showed what I have always said: He has a soft spot for Ace and Peter. Paul steers Kiss and apparently Gene goes along, so we never see the Fearsome Foursome on stage again.

    • schocoman on

      Yes, look at the last, let us say 50 posts on Kissonline: I’d say it is 80% Paul, and Paul alone. It shows.

    • Mike B on

      Paul has a soft spot for them too, but it does not show lately. Wouldn’t you get tired of all the problems after a while? Did Gene sound like he has a soft spot after writing his book back in 2001? He said some of the same things Paul says in his book. Of course they BOTH (caps for emphasis and not shouting) have soft spots for Ace and Peter–as do each of us who are true KISS fans. We appreciate all the members and not just one or two. After reading some of the posts on this forum, its hard to believe that many here EVER cared about Paul or Gene. I see an incredible amount of disrespect toward mostly current members of KISS and no effort to understand where Eric and Tommy are coming from. Instead, I see many here satisfying there own opinions without contest.

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