Tommy Thayer Discusses The Lost Tapes

Header image courtesy of Tommy Thayer

By Andrew Daly
andrew@vinylwriter.com

Images courtesy of Tommy Thayer

KISS guitarist Tommy Thayer and Black ‘N Blue frontman Jaime St. James recently treated fans of classic 80s hard rock outfit Black ‘N Blue to a surprise, with the revelation that five unreleased tracks recorded in the late 80s were dusted off, and set to gain their official release as The Lost Tapes on June 3rd, 2022.

The passing of time has revealed a great reverence for Black ‘N Blue, as such, this news left fans nothing short of excited for what The Lost Tapes’ five tracks might reveal about the band’s latter-day story, and subsequent final days before its untimely dissolution.

If one thing is certain, Black ‘N Blue fans around the globe will certainly share collective excitement in hearing these lost tracks. It’s not every day one gets to gaze upon a snapshot once thought to be lost to the sands of time, and when it comes to these tracks, as you’ll learn below, they came perilously close to truly being left in silence forever.

In the wake of this latest news, former Black ‘N Blue, and current KISS lead guitarist Tommy Thayer, and I peel back on the onion on the history and soon-to-be triumphant release of these once Lost Tapes.

Andrew:
Tommy, thanks for carving out some time with me. I wanted to start off by saying I caught KISS’ recent show in Hartford, CT, and you guys were on fire that evening. How’s the current US leg shaping up? The crowd response in CT was electric.

Tommy:
Fantastic! Hartford was over the top, just like the South American tour we just returned from. Those markets are some of our biggest in the world.

Andrew:
Digging into the most recent news at hand now, the Thayer-St. James The Lost Tapes has just been announced. First and foremost, how did these recordings surface once again? Did your recent KISS Kruise appearance in 2021 with Black ‘N Blue ignite some nostalgia?

Tommy:
Jaime and I have always been close friends, but it was right after the Kruise that Jaime called and said “Hey, do you remember those five songs from the tapes you sent me last year? When’s the last time you heard them?”

Andrew:
In my chats with both yourself and Jaime, I’ve learned that in the wake of In Heat, the two of you had begun writing and demoing the next set of tracks for what would have been Black ‘N Blue’s fifth album. Are these the results of those early sessions, or do these tracks date back even further?

Tommy:
That’s exactly right. They were written around the time we recorded them, not before. In late 1988, our label had released us, and Jaime and I had some new songs that we wrote and demoed. We thought another label might want Black ‘N Blue, or we could possibly start a new band, we didn’t know.

Images courtesy of Tommy Thayer

Andrew:
Digging into putting together this EP now, my understanding is the original 1/4-inch tape was destroyed. Walk me through the process of not only unearthing these tracks but bringing them back to life/up to speed for the modern era?

Tommy:
I had the original 2-inch/24-track tapes and 1/2-inch master mixtapes in my attic storage. When I moved to Vegas in 2020, I was going through all my stuff and trying to get rid of what I didn’t really need. Over the years I’d accumulated so much stuff. I called Jaime and asked if he wanted these old tapes and he said, “Of course.” After he got the tapes, Jaime called and said, “We should think about putting these five songs out.” He said, “They’re cool, never released songs from the late-80s era, and they should be heard and enjoyed instead of hidden away in a box forever.” I thought, “Yeah, he’s right, that’s a great idea.”

Andrew:
Hopefully, after thirty years, the tapes were in good condition.

Tommy:
Well, that was the problem, the tapes had been stored in my attic for years. Jaime took the tapes to a lab to have them digitized, and sadly, there wasn’t much left on the tape. I f**ked up and hadn’t stored them right. We thought, “Now what are going to do?” I started going through my boxes of old tapes and luckily found a DAT (digital audio tape) master of four of the five of the songs. Of course, my DAT player didn’t work, so we had the DAT transferred and luckily the songs sounded great. The only problem was the fifth song wasn’t on the DAT! So, I went back to my old tape boxes and found a cassette of the last one. Luckily, the cassette sounded good, and we had it transferred so it worked! The only other issue was the song from the cassette was slow, exactly a half-tone flat, which was bizarre. So, when we had it mastered, we brought it back up to the right speed.

Andrew:
As far as polishing, are the recordings all original performances, or did any of the tracks require overdubs?

Tommy:
No, the original Pat Regan mixes were excellent, so we didn’t do anything except tweak the overall tone.

Andrew:
Did you handle production duties for The Lost Tapes, or was assistance brought in? As far as the original recordings go, was Gene Simmons involved in the production at all as he had been with Nasty Nasty and In Heat?

Tommy:
No, there wasn’t really a producer, if anyone it was Pat Regan. Interesting story though, back then Gene had paid for the recordings of the five songs with the idea that he might shop them or be involved label-wise. Years later, we were talking about it, and he said, “You guys can have the recordings back, they’re yours, free.”

Andrew:
As far as the songs go, there are five. Was the rest of Black N’ Blue involved in these recordings, or was it solely yourself and Jaime? I know that Jaime is a capable drummer, and of course, you could have handled bass duties in addition to guitars. Take me through the original sessions.

Tommy:
It was all basically written and recorded by Jaime and me, except I think Patrick Young played bass on “Work It.” I talked to Patrick recently and he wasn’t sure. Jeff Labansky and Mitch Perry did a couple of guest guitar solos.

Images courtesy of Tommy Thayer

Andrew:
As I mentioned earlier, the EP will contain five tracks, “Sweet Sensation,” “American Man,” “Time,” “Ballad of the Bullet,” and “Work It.” I know this is going back, but what do you recall regarding the inception of the individual tracks?

Tommy:
In terms of writing the songs, I don’t remember too much besides I was living in a studio apartment at Whitsett, and Vanowen in North Hollywood, and I remember working on the riff for “American Man” there.

Andrew:
Are the tracks as they stand today representative of the direction Black ‘N Blue might have taken had it moved forward?

Tommy:
It probably would have been the direction Black ‘N Blue would’ve been going, I guess, but hard to say for sure. We just wrote songs we liked.

Andrew:
You and Jaime have been writing and playing together for over forty years, and you’ve got a deep friendship to boot. Your symbiosis as writers has always been apparent. With that being said, what makes your writing relationship, and musical kinship with Jaime special?

Tommy:
It’s not only the years we’ve known each other, but we have very similar tastes and influences in music, we’re almost the same. I think that’s why you gravitate towards a person in the very first place.

Andrew:
You’ve announced a June 3rd release date. Where can fans order copies of the CD? Will there be an mp3, vinyl, and cassette edition as well?

Tommy:
We’re releasing this on CD only. Each one is hand-signed by Jaime and me as well. We’ll announce the website and ordering info on June 3rd.

Andrew:
With the release of The Lost Tapes, and a smoking appearance with Black N’ Blue on the KISS Kruise under your belt, is this an indication that we might see you working with Jaime and/or Black ‘N Blue more? Jaime is on record as saying he prefers not to record additional albums without you. Is that door open for the future?

Tommy:
After KISS, I’m not planning on being in a band anymore. Honestly, I wasn’t planning on being in a band anymore back in the mid-90s! Jaime and I will always be friends and enjoy music together, just like we’ve always done.

Images courtesy of Tommy Thayer

Be sure to check out the full catalog of VWMusic Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vwmusicrocks.com/interviews

24 thoughts on “Tommy Thayer Discusses The Lost Tapes

  1. Where can we find this website? I met Black & Blue at a keg party before their first release on 92 KGON, a friend introduced me, said they were a great band, been a fan ever since. Attended the new years eve shows as well at the Starry Night club.

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