Kiss: Hotter Than Hell
Stanley and Thayer both played rhythm guitar on the basic tracks. A 1994 sunburst Gibson Les Paul Standard was Stanley’s main ax, although he also brought one of his signature model Washburn Preachers into the picture. Thayer played a Gibson 1961 reissue SG. “Tommy and I mixed and matched until we found what complemented the song and each other,” says Stanley, whose amps for the sessions included vintage Marshalls, a vintage Fender Bassman head and some Randall gear. Thayer’s rhythm guitar sound was derived from his signature model Hughes & Kettner amp, an H&K Statesman combo and a late Seventies Marshall Master Volume.
“One thing that Kiss has always done, and something I’ve always talked about, is what I call ‘the Big Guitar,’ ” Stanley says. “And ‘the Big Guitar’ is often just two guitars playing different [chord] inversions. I was a huge fan of Humble Pie. They were part of the template for what Kiss was doing originally. And the double–rhythm guitarist thing was very much part of their approach. So the rhythm guitar feel and sound on Sonic Boom is often just a matter of what Tommy and I are playing against one another.”
Once basic tracks were completed, the project was transferred to a Pro Tool rig at co-producer’s Greg Collins’ studio, the Nook, also in L.A. It was there that Thayer laid down his lead guitar tracks, alternating between the aforementioned ’61 reissue SG and one of his signature model Les Pauls. “SGs, Flying Vs and even Explorers have a little more midrange punch to them than Les Pauls,” he explains. “It’s a little bit of a tighter sound when you’re recording.”
For guitar solos, a vintage Ibanez Tube Screamer was placed in line between Thayer’s guitar and amps. He employed his H&K signature model and Statesman amps in tandem with a 50-watt Marshall from 1973. “And we also have a little battery-powered Orange practice amp,” he adds. “We turned that on during solos to get a little bit of ratty-ness on the top.”
Stanley planned to play some of the leads himself but decided to cede the job to Thayer. “Tommy was doing such a phenomenal job, I was just happy to let him go for it,” he says. “The album is going to be a big statement from him, being that it’s his first album playing as a member of the band.”
Thayer says, “A lot of the guitar solos in Kiss’ music are kind of thematic. It’s more than just riffing out. They have a melody and a theme. You’ll be riffing, but there’s a start, a middle and a finish to the solo.”
Although they’re a few years apart in age, Stanley and Thayer have discovered that they are very much on the same page when it comes to guitar influences. Thayer says, “Paul saw Led Zeppelin for the first time in 1969; I saw them for the first time in 1977. That’s the difference. But we both love Led Zeppelin. I started playing guitar and going to concerts around 1974, so I was influenced by a lot of Seventies guitarists like Ace Frehley, Ronnie Montrose, Joe Perry and Davey Johnstone [Elton John, Alice Cooper]. But really those guitar players were directly influenced by Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix. So it comes down to the same thing. Also, I grew up loving Kiss, so it makes sense that I’d also like all the influences that made Kiss Kiss, whether it’s Humble Pie, Led Zeppelin or Cream.”
But while Stanley chose to record the basic tracks using old-school techniques like live-in-the-studio playing and analog tape, he says that “the last thing I wanted was to make a retro album. I just wanted to make an album that was true to Kiss, that captured the vitality, focus and energy of us at our best. And Sonic Boom does just that.”
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