Charlie Mechem sits down with Tommy Thayer, American musician and songwriter, and lead guitarist for the American hard rock band KISS. Tommy was raised by his mother, a classically trained violinist and singer, and his father, a community leader, businessman, and Brigadier General in the US Army during World War II. Tommy gives a unique perspective as he reacts to anecdotes from “Total Anecdotal: A Fun Guide to Help You Become a Better Speaker and Writer,” by reflecting on stories from his interesting life and career.
Rock and Roll with the Changes
Tommy looks at the music and record business of the past and how it has changed so much since the advance in technology in the last 20 years. Record labels aren’t selling records anymore, people are streaming music via subscription, people aren’t buying and collecting music like they used to. He recalls making the transition from 8 tracks, to cassette tapes, to cds, to mp3 files on iTunes—noting that there’s nothing very “sexy” about an mp3 file on a device—which will soon enough disappear, if it isn’t on its way out already. As a person in the music business, Tommy says, you have to be flexible and roll with the changes. While he finds that simpler and less is better, and makes more impact, that just isn’t how a lot of music is today.
Striving for Perfection
In addition to music and other interests, Tommy is also a lover of golf. He has found since he began playing that everyone is always envious of those who are better than them. However, he finds, you can truly see that even those who are considered “the best” torture themselves with trying to get better and better. No one is satisfied with their own greatness, no one ever feels that they are perfect. It is not just advancement, but maintenance—once having achieved a certain level at a skill, no one wants to lose it. This can be said about both golfers and musicians.
Take a Chance on Passion
You must have a great deal of desire to achieve your goals in order to achieve them. You’ve got to take a lot of chances, especially in the music industry. Tommy and KISS are just one example of the things you can achieve by taking a chance. Tommy was honored by Pacific University in Portland with an honorary doctorate degree and gave a commencement speech. He was asked by many what the key to success is—what he he believes is that the main ways to achieve success are passion, persistence, and perseverance. In success—and especially in music—it’s not about being the greatest, it’s about the drive, passion, and love for what you do. His best piece of advice, Tommy claims, was inspired by Charlie: rock and roll all night, party all day!
Don’t Stumble When Faced With Doubt
Doubt and unsureness are two things we all deal with everyday. These are the things that make people stumble, and they often use them as excuses to not do the things they dream of doing. People let things get in their way because they are afraid. However, Tommy says, you cannot let uncertainty be a stumbling block. Tommy has a great admiration for Elvis. He recalls his trip to Graceland and how he was and is inspired by the King of Rock and Roll. A great way to overcome such doubt is by looking towards the people and things that inspire you most. After all, it is the musicians of before that inspire the musicians of today.
Entertainment Needs Ego
A bit of ego is good in entertainment, Tommy says, but things can get out of hand if people aren’t careful. In KISS he knows there are some good sized egos—which he doesn’t consider a bad thing because he knows ego is important to have to present yourself and perform as KISS does. However, “There’s only enough air in the room,” Tommy jokes. While ego is important in what he and his bandmates do, it needs to be controlled. He believes he is flexible with his ego and create a balance when needed. Tommy also notes the fine line between ego and supreme confidence, and how the difference does matter. To be as truly successful as KISS has been, a little bit of ego and a lot of supreme confidence are necessary.
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