Interview: Kiss Guitarist Tommy Thayer Discusses His Signature Epiphone "Spaceman" Les Paul

by John Katic
Posted Jan 7, 2013 at 8:39am

It's hard to imagine that 10 years have gone by since Tommy Thayer officially took over as the “Spaceman” in Kiss.

It seemed only fitting that the Spaceman should don the Les Paul. However, as fate would have it, Thayer has been a longtime Les Paul player, even back in his days in Black and Blue.

Thayer's 10th year in Kiss — and the band's 40th year in business — is commemorated by Epiphone's release of its Tommy Thayer Signature Edition "Spaceman" Les Paul. Featuring an eye-catching silver-sparkle top and top-of-the-line components, and made as a limited edition of 1,000 guitars, this model is sure to become a must-have for Kiss fans around the globe.

We recently caught up with Thayer to discuss the new model in detail.

GUITAR WORLD: You've announced there will be a limited-edition Tommy Thayer “Spaceman” Les Paul from Epiphone. Will it be present at the 2013 Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, California, later this month?

Yes, it'll be at the NAMM Show. And I believe it's already available through American Music Supply.

Can you talk about exactly what you did with the guitar and what makes it “Tommy Thayer” specific?

It's essentially an exact version of one of the Gibson Custom Shop Standards I've played on stage for several years. It is a silver-sparkle top, and the sides, back and neck are black. It has a cream binding. For an affordable guitar, it is a nice package. It’s using really good parts. We are using Gibson 498 pickups, which are the ones I use. The tuners are Grover Deluxe tuners. It's really well put together with good components and parts.

I've actually taken to playing the guitar on stage for the last bit of the South American tour for six or eight shows. I played it every night for part of the set. The guitar was great. I have one that I’m playing on stage, and you really can’t notice the difference between the Gibson and the Epiphone. The sound, the playability and the feel really pleased me. Comparing it to my Gibson Custom Shop guitar, it's right there. That made me really happy. The techs were saying they couldn’t tell the difference between the guitars. It's surprising in a good way.

The reason I decided to do the guitar this way was that the silver-sparkle top gave it a bit of a “Kiss” feel. But I didn’t want to introduce a guitar that was too stylized. I wanted a guitar that had some flash to it, but at the same time I wanted to offer a guitar that any pro musicians or guitar player that walks into the guitar shop will think looks cool. It’s not something that is so stylized that it will scare people away. I didn’t want it to have too much of a Kiss look to it.

Some guitarists’ signature-edition guitars are so specifically tailored that, as a consumer, you might hesitate. You might get up on stage and have to worry that people think you're a clone of someone. That has to be a double-edged sword with Kiss fans because some fans might want to get the guitar just because of Kiss.

That's true too, and that's why on the back of the headstock there is the Tommy Thayer Spaceman logo. But it's discreet; it isn’t too over the top. It has a look that doesn’t automatically make it look like Tommy Thayer or Kiss. Then again, for collectors, it's great because it's the guitar I play, and people can take pride in that.

As far as the paint, is it fairly similar to the Gibson Explorer you've played for years now?

I have a couple of Explorers that have the silver sparkle on them as well. We decided, though, that the flake of the sparkle would be less than the flake on my Gibsons. I didn’t want to make the size of the flake too pronounced. I worked a lot with Jim Rosenberg (president of Epiphone) and we went back and forth to find that perfect medium-sized flake. I didn’t want it to be too heavy. That could be the difference between someone loving or hating it.

That’s mahogany underneath?

Yes, that's mahogany and a rosewood fretboard like a standard Les Paul. It has trapezoid inlays. We have a nice package that it comes with too. We have an all silver hard-shell case. You don’t’ see that too often. That’s very Kiss! It comes with a studded guitar strap that is exactly like what I use on stage. It is a cool little memento. It also comes with a certificate-of-authenticity booklet with a signature and all that good stuff. It is a great value at the prize point.

Actually, I didn’t even talk to Gibson about doing a guitar and called Epiphone because I felt that doing a guitar like this that is high quality but still affordable was more appealing to me. Especially for people who don’t have $5,000 or $6,000 to buy a guitar. You get this great package, and it is really affordable and that was an important thing to me.

I think every guitar player remembers back to when they were young selling newspapers or whatever it was to get their first guitar.

My very first electric was a Fender Mustang and it was $135. My mom helped me buy it. This was back when I lived in Portland. We went across the river to Vancouver Music. For some reason, they had a great selection of guitars over there. This was back in 1973 or 1974. I was so overwhelmed. I couldn’t believe I actually had a professional guitar. Back in those days, it was either a Gibson or a Fender. I hadn’t established yet that I was more of Gibson player.

I think everyone remembers looking down at that headstock and seeing the brand of one of their guitar heroes.

Yeah, it was like a dream. It was a great blue Fender Mustang with the light blue racing stripes.

Epiphone's Limited Edition Tommy Thayer “Spaceman” Les Paul Standard Outfit is available for order now at tommythayerguitar.com with several autographed and stage-used options. The guitar also is available at American Music Supply for the $699 street price. The guitar includes the case, custom strap and certificate of authenticity.

For more about the guitar, head to epiphone.com.

Kiss will return to the road with their Monster tour in 2013 with shows in Australia and Europe already announced. For more info about the band, follow them on Facebook.


Add a Comment
0 Comments

Similar Guitar News

Gig Review: Richie Sambora Pays Tribute to Les Paul at the Iridium (7/23/2014)
Back in the late Eighties, Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora was considered to be one of the true guitar heroes of the day. While less flashy than, say, Jake E. Lee or George Lynch, Sambo was generally acknowledged to be one of rock’s most tasteful and ...
Richie Sambora Honors Les Paul with Three Special Live Shows at New York's Iridium (7/18/2014)
While in Bon Jovi, guitarist Richie Sambora saw a million faces and rocked them all. But nothing will quite compare to three very intimate live performances he has planned to mark the anniversary of the birth of the great Les Paul, who would’ve...
Gibson Introduces ES-Les Paul Guitar: "The Ultimate Marriage of Solid and Semi" (6/11/2014)
Gibson has introduced its new ES-Les Paul guitar. From the company: The solidbody Les Paul Standard and semi-acoustic ES-335 are the two most influential electric guitars ever to hit their respective genres. Now Gibson brings them together in t...
Gibson unveils ES-Les Paul (6/11/2014)
Read more about Gibson unveils ES-Les Paul at MusicRadar.com Gibson has combined the ES and Les Paul designs to create a new model, the ES-Les Paul. Featuring ES-style laminated maple tops, semi-acoustic contruction including a mahogany central ...
A Clean and Sober Ace Frehley Discusses Kiss' Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Debacle and More (5/22/2014)
This is an excerpt from the July 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of this story, plus features on Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Page, Albert Lee, "The Album that Changed My Life," the history of Taylor Guitars, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, columns, ta...
Gibson unveils two new Les Pauls (5/20/2014)
Read more about Gibson unveils two new Les Pauls at MusicRadar.com Gibson has announced two new Les Paul models, the Les Paul Supreme and the Southern Rock Tribute 1959 Les Paul. The Supreme is about as ostentatious a Les Paul as we've ever seen...
Recovered: Zakk Wylde's Stolen Pelham Blue Bullseye Les Paul Custom Guitar Found in Chicago Pawn Shop (5/5/2014)
Black Label Society's Zakk Wylde got some good news over the weekend. His Pelham Blue Bullseye Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar — which was stolen March 14 from his tour bus in Chicago — has been found. The guitar, which was valued at $10,000, turn...
Gibson unveils Joe Bonamassa "Skinnerburst" 1959 Les Paul (4/17/2014)
Read more about Gibson unveils Joe Bonamassa "Skinnerburst" 1959 Les Paul at MusicRadar.com Gibson has unveiled the Joe Bonamassa "Skinnerburst" 1959 Les Paul.The latest signature to bear the Bonamassa name is a replica of his favoured '59 Les P...
More Than a Feeling: Gibson's Tom Scholz Replica Les Paul Looks, Sounds and Feels Like the Real Deal (4/2/2014)
Among historic Gibsons, Tom Scholz’s 1968 Les Paul “Goldtop”—the first of two that he purchased in the Seventies—certainly ranks high. It’s the guitar heard on every massive Boston hit and all six of the group’s albums to date. As such, it was ...
Kiss Co-Founder Paul Stanley Talks New Autobiography, 'Face the Music: A Life Exposed' (4/2/2014)
Paul Stanley has risen to international fame playing the role of the Starchild in Kiss. However, in his upcoming autobiography, Face the Music: A Life Exposed (HarperOne), the guitarist discusses two other roles he has played that have affecte...
Epiphone announces April giveaways (4/1/2014)
Read more about Epiphone announces April giveaways at MusicRadar.com Epiphone has announced two giveaways for April, including the chance to win an Epiphone Casino signed by Gary Clark Jr.All you need to do to get your hands on a Casino - just l...
Nothin’ to Lose: Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley Go for Broke As They Weigh in on Kiss Guitarists Past and Present (3/31/2014)
In this feature from the April 2014 issue of Guitar World, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley go for broke as they weigh in on Kiss guitarists past and present. ACE FREHLEY GENE SIMMONS As a musician, you have to hand it to him. He knew his stuff. An...
Former Kiss Guitarist Ace Frehley to Release New Album, 'Space Invader,' in June (3/31/2014)
Former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley will release a new solo album, dubbed Space Invader, June 24 via eOne Music. The album, Frehley's first since 2009's Anomaly, will feature "at least" nine new songs, according to a statement, plus a cover of the...
Zakk Wylde's Pelham Blue Bullseye Gibson Les Paul Custom Guitar Stolen from Tour Bus (3/17/2014)
This past Friday night, a custom-made, $10,000 Pelham Blue Bullseye Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar was stolen from Zakk Wylde's tour bus outside the Chicago Theatre. Wylde, the Black Label Society frontman, was in town as part of the ongoing Expe...
Zakk Wylde's Gibson Les Paul Bullseye stolen (3/15/2014)
Read more about Zakk Wylde's Gibson Les Paul Bullseye stolen at MusicRadar.com Zakk Wylde's famous Gibson Les Paul in Pelham Blue Bullseye