Cool interview with Ty - looks like he is a fan of KISS' Elder:
KF: What would be your top five KISS albums?
Ty Tabor: 1. "Destroyer
2. "Music From The Elder"
4. "Alive II"
5. "Rock And Roll Over"
KF: Getting to "The Elder," were you even aware that KISS were doing a concept album?
Ty Tabor: I didn't know about it until it was out and people were talking about it.
KF: What do you remember people saying about it?
Ty Tabor: The only thing I was seeing was very negative. In the press, it just seemed like people were writing it off immediately. However, there was enough information in these little things that I saw that intrigued me to hear it because some of the things they were saying about it were the reason I wanted to hear it, despite them not necessarily being fans of it. It was obvious that they were going into a direction they had never gone before and they were cohesively trying to put -- I hate to compare it to something like the Who -- but the fact is the first time I heard it, like the one part where Paul is singing, "I am just a boy," it hit me as almost straight out of "Tommy." Not as a comparative, not to say they were copying, but to say the same magical feeling I got when I was listening to "Tommy," I started feeling when I was listening to this record. That was what surprised me. That's when I started feeling like, "Well, I wonder why people aren't getting this because to me, it seems to be one of the most magical things they've ever done."
KF: Were you able to pick up on the album's concept right away?
Ty Tabor: I don't think so, when I was younger. I think it was more a matter I was aware that was going on but I was so intrigued by the music, by the melodies, the different writing styles, the not being afraid to go there kind of stuff. That's the thing I remember the most about it. Not really following the story as much as being blown away by the branching out of ideas.
KF: What format did you purchase it on?
Ty Tabor: I had the vinyl.
KF: What do you remember picking up in terms of the packaging? It was the first album not to have a photo of the band.
Ty Tabor: Right. To me, it just made the whole thing more mysterious. The whole project just seemed mysterious. This just came out of nowhere as far as I was concerned. I didn't know it was happening. And it was so impressive to me as a change for them and having the balls to go there and do it well. The packaging didn't matter, [it] made it that much more mysterious. It made me wonder what the hell this was about that much more.
KF: Were you aware this was the first album for Eric Carr?
Ty Tabor: I don't think I was actually thinking about that at that moment. Maybe I was. I don't remember to be honest.
KF: You mentioned "Tommy," were you a fan of previous concept albums, in particular?
Ty Tabor: I don't think I'm a fan of really anything just as a genre. To me, there are good concept albums and there are pitiful concept albums. So it's not that I'm a fan of concept albums, but I'm a fan of concept albums that are done well.
KF: And you think "The Elder" is done well?
Ty Tabor: I do. I think it's done very well.
KF: What are some of your favorite tracks on the album?
Ty Tabor: There are several songs that struck me as heavy as can be. That one song that has the galloping rhythm [sings eighth note with two sixteenth rhythm]...
KF: "The Oath."
Ty Tabor: I remember that one blew me away. There are a couple of Gene songs that are super bad too, really heavy. But believe it or not, some of the more adventurous Paul stuff really intrigued me too. I guess it was both because for me I got the KISS out of it I wanted to get out of it because they did do some rockin' stuff on the record that was right up the alley of what you'd expect from KISS but at the same time it was flavored with all this other stuff that I don't know, when the heavy stuff came in, it made it even bigger and better to me. There was a day and night between things. There was comparison. There were low points, high points. For instance, there are certain songs where it's more like the parts of the songs and where they choose to go are what struck me as amazing.
KF: For me, "Under The Rose" seems to fit that description, in terms of dynamics. There are quietly sung verses by Gene and then the it builds with the choir vocals, and then before you know it there's a sledgehammer riff.
Ty Tabor: Exactly. It's weird because I don't even think of the album as individual songs. I think of it as putting on a movie and going with it.
KF: Personally, I think Gene shines the most on "The Elder." The lead single, "A World Without Heroes," is a song you would not expect from the demonic Gene Simmons. But that's the lighter shade you were talking about.
Ty Tabor: Yeah, exactly. Also, "Mr. Blackwell" is a contrast to that. I love that one too. That would have been a great single.
KF: That's part of the reason why I think Gene is the star of the album. On that track, Gene gets into the mindset of the album's antagonist. He doubles his vocal with octaves to create an evil effect. Musically, the track is so dissonant. And the breakdown is positively eerie. Classic Bob Ezrin.
Ty Tabor: Yeah, I'm a big fan of a lot of Bob's stuff. Anytime you hear KISS with Bob Ezrin, you can expect greatness.
KF: Paul and Gene really don't have many kind things to say about the album nowadays.
Ty Tabor: Really? That's too bad.
KF: Whenever "The Elder" comes up, Paul especially does not mince words.
Ty Tabor: Well, it just goes to show you that artists aren't good gauges of themselves. I remember John Lennon actually said that there's one song called "And Your Bird Can Sing" that was an early Beatles song that had the first dual harmony guitar leads of any song I'd ever heard before. It was one of my all-time favorite Beatles songs growing up. And I saw an interview where people were asking John about songs, and when they got to that one the only thing he said about it was "Yeah, that was a throwaway." (laughs)
KF: Did you own Pink Floyd's "The Wall"?
Ty Tabor: I didn't. I don't know why I didn't ever buy it, I heard it so much on the radio I almost didn't need to because it was back in the old days of true FM radio. The radio FM station in my town I was growing up in, they would put a whole side of the album on regularly. So I was familiar with the record without even having to buy it. So I never did actually purchase it.
KF: Obviously with Bob producing, there are all sorts of ingredients foreign to the KISS sound -- choirs, symphony orchestras, harpsichords, etc. How would you rate "The Elder" from a production standpoint?
Ty Tabor: I think it's great. It's on the level you would expect from Bob Ezrin, because to me he is what made the Alice Cooper band magic. He took a bunch of ragged stuff, because I've heard their material before he was involved, and I'm telling you, it wasn't that great. (laughs) Once he got involved it was just the magic combo so I've always had a great respect for his vision in production and how he brings things to life. For me, it's just another one of his very great works because there are too many albums that he's been involved in that are important albums to me. That's a credit to him that he just does good work, period.
KF: Of course, he helmed "Destroyer," which is considered a classic.
Ty Tabor: Yeah, that was my personal favorite album of all.
KF: Were you aware the album was recently remixed?
Ty Tabor: No, I didn't know that. But I'd be afraid to hear it remixed because I like the original so much.
KF: Of course, "The Elder" ended up not performing well, commercially speaking. You're actually part of the minority being a fan who liked the album at the time. Ultimately, why do you think the album did not resonate with the KISS fanbase? Was it just too much of a left turn?
Ty Tabor: Yeah, I think so. The fact is the stuff that has worked for them is the stuff that has been the stuff that has been more directly to the core, more straight-ahead -- right to the melody, right to the chorus, to the excellent bridge with an excellent solo. They had delivered so many powerful blows in that fashion that when this came out I imagine a lot of people were just close-minded to it because it wasn't what they were expecting. It's just that simple.
KF: Do you think that because the album was released by KISS, it was not given a fair shake? In other words, if a band like Pink Floyd or Rush, who had more progressive pedigrees, released "The Elder," would people have had a different reaction to the material?
Ty Tabor: I think they would have had to because by that point everybody had their own idea of what they believed KISS was in their own mind. And it's hard to break loose of that once people have formed their opinions. I think if they had not existed as a band ever until that moment and that was the first thing they did, I think people would have been extremely impressed.
KF: As an artist yourself, have you ever found yourself straddling that line between creativity and trying to deliver what your fans expect?
Ty Tabor: I can honestly say that I'm too one-minded focused when I'm writing to even really think further than that. I don't ever know if anybody is going to like what I'm doing as an artist. I just try to do what makes me happy and I hope that they like it. I know I went through a brief period of time back around the time King's X did the "Ear Candy" album, which was mid-'90s or so. And I remember I went through a period during that time where there were people trying to influence us to write more commercial and things like that. And I remember that was one of the only times I've thought about it that way and considered what other people wanted, and it was miserable for me. So I personally made a choice after that to try and not second guess what people want. You know, the people who come up with great ideas are people who just come up with great ideas and people like it. There's no way to ever know what fans are going to like. So that game is a game of insanity that I can't allow myself to go into. I just try to be happy with what I write.
KF: After "The Elder" KISS recorded "Creatures Of The Night." Did you continue following the band? And was there a point when you stopped following them in the '80s?
Ty Tabor: Well, I was sort of already off the KISS train when "The Elder" happened. So "The Elder" kind of brought me back in. Then "Creatures Of The Night" came out [and] of course I paid attention to that. I thought it was a good rock record, and I dug it. But I was also getting older and very busy with King's X. King's X in the '90s would go out up to nine months on a tour. I was getting caught up in our own little world of insanity there for a few years and really kind of lost touch with following lots of bands during that just because we were so busy.
KF: What KISS albums do you have in your collection? Did you get "The Elder" on CD?
Ty Tabor: I do have it now. I've got the original vinyl, of course. But now I've got everything on CD, I have everything up to "The Elder," except for "Dynasty." I didn't buy "Dynasty" but I have everything else, including "Double Platinum."
KF: All the classics. Ty, correct me if I'm wrong, I don't believe King's X have ever opened for KISS?
Ty Tabor: No, we have not. Even though I've spoken to Gene on the phone more than once and we've met. But we've never toured with them.
KF: Can you share a story about Gene?
Ty Tabor: Yeah, he actually called me to ask King's X to be part of the "KISS MY Ass" album.
KF: That's right. What track were you considering?
Ty Tabor: Well, we actually never got to the track. It's kind of a long story and it's kind of silly actually. But the truth is he called and asked if we'd be interested and I said, "Of course!" And we had a long talk that night about all kinds of different stuff that was very hilarious to me, it was a very fun conversation. We talked about everything from motorcycle racing to him saying he wouldn't get in a single-engine plane or anything like that that would keep him from walking onstage the next night. And he was like chastising me like a parent, like I really shouldn't be doing this stuff because I was racing Supercross at the time between tours and stuff. He was pretty much telling me that I was crazy. (laughs)
We had a really great conversation that night and I said, "Ok, we'll talk again in a few days. I'll go back to the band." So we talked again in a few days and when he called back the second time he said, "Well the truth is we have so many bands that are wanting to be a part this, we've had a great outpouring and it's just overwhelming and awesome so what we're going to do is start asking bands to pair up together to do stuff." And he said, "We'd like to pair you guys up with the Galactic Cowboys." And here is where the problem was. They had asked the Cowboys before they had actually talked to us and the Cowboys instantly went into the studio to record a song for the record. So they already had something done on their own because they had been asked. And so Gene asked me if we'd pair up with them and I said, "Well, the truth is I don't have a problem with it but..." It's really a long story, at that particular moment in time, the Cowboys had done several tours with us. Because we had the same management and were from the same town, the press was constantly comparing them to us. And they were trying to make a very serious conscious effort to get out on their own without the comparisons. And it had become a point of contention, a real problem to them. And so when Gene asked me that, I said, "I'm sorry Gene. You have no idea how much we would love and be honored to be part of this but we really can't do it with the Cowboys because they've already recorded something and they are trying hard to disassociate themselves with us right now." So I said, "We respectfully are going to be the ones to have to back out." And I think he was not very happy with that and pretty much canned the Cowboys.
KF: Do you recall which track they recorded?
Ty Tabor: I can't remember what it was to be honest.
KF: In hindsight, if you had the choice, what song would you have picked to cover?
Ty Tabor: I was considering maybe something off "Rock And Roll Over" -- one of the high-energy heavy tunes from that period between "Alive!" and "Alive II." We were kind of looking at songs from "Love Gun, "Rock And Roll Over" and "Destroyer." We had decided on something from "Rock And Roll Over"...[it was] "Calling Dr. Love." I think we started out thinking about doing "I Want You" and then we talked about doing "Dr. Love."
KF: I have a trivia question for you. Both King's X and KISS have songs on one particular album. Do you remember which album and the song titles?
Ty Tabor: Oh yes I do. The song KISS did was "God Gave Rock And Roll To You," the Argent song. And the song we did was, I may be wrong on our song, but I think we did "Junior's Gone Wild."
KF: You got me. And the album?
Ty Tabor: The album, was it a "Bill & Ted's" soundtrack?
KF: That's right, "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey." I remember going to pick that up in 1991. KISS is on there, your track is on there, Megadeth, Winger, Slaughter, Steve Vai. So much for stumping you Ty.
Ty Tabor: (laughs) I actually up becoming close friends with Eric. It was a cherished friendship I'll always really appreciate, no doubt.
KF: It's hard to believe he's been gone for more than 20 years.
Ty Tabor: I know, I know. He was just a sweetheart.
KF: Ty, you're a fine guitarist, so we'd be remiss not to ask you about KISS' guitarists. I'm going to name each KISS guitarist and if you could say the first things that come to your mind in terms of their playing and/or your favorite solos, if anything.
Ty Tabor: Oh yeah, one of the all-time great [Ace solos] is "Shock Me." I remember the first time I heard it, me and a best friend of mine, a guy named Marty Warren, at the time we were very excited because there was a new KISS album coming out. We actually heard "Shock Me" on the radio and we were like, "Check out this KISS song with Ace singing!" And then it got to the solo, and it was quite possibly the greatest Ace solo ever recorded. It's just a really great solo.
KF: Any thoughts about Paul Stanley as a guitarist?
Ty Tabor: Yeah, I dig Paul. As a matter of fact, his solo album was the one I liked the most of the four, by far. Again, some other of my best friends, we all had the albums and the one that we played constantly was Paul's.
KF: Do you remembering getting all four of the solo albums in '78?
Ty Tabor: Oh yeah, absolutely. Everybody did!
KF: How about the guy who replaced Ace Frehley, Vinnie Vincent?
Ty Tabor: Well, Vinnie's a great player. He's a killer player, no doubt about it. I have to say every guitarist that they've had since, I mean Bruce is a great player. They've not been any lacking for having a great lead player at any point as far as I'm concerned. I'm more partial to Ace because he's a little bit different kind of guy than the rest. He's not the type of technical player that they kind of ended up with later, which I have nothing against whatsoever. I'm just saying it was sort of the rough edges and the dangerousness of it with Ace was what I liked so much. So I'm very partial to Ace.
KF: It's hard to argue with that. Ace's guitar is a big part of the classic KISS sound. When players like Vinnie came onboard, the sound morphed into a different direction. Of course, Vinnie became known for his otherworldly guitar chops.
Ty Tabor: Right. Technically killer. Technically proficient. For me, I'll be honest, even though I totally appreciate how good he is and have nothing negative to say about him at all, but just the whole vibe of what the solo became in a KISS song at that point changed to a different kind of thing. Because it used to be the melody and style when it was Ace. And then it became more like real guitar solos as they had guys that could do amazing things.
KF: Do you remember Mark St. John's at all? The guitarist who played on "Animalize."
Ty Tabor: I do. But I don't remember much about him to be honest.
KF: You mentioned Bruce, who is fantastic player.
Ty Tabor: Yeah, Bruce is awesome. He's great.
KF: Nowadays, are you familiar with Tommy Thayer, who plays in the band today?
Ty Tabor: I heard the name, but I'm not really familiar.
KF: He was in the group Black 'N' Blue in the '80s.
Ty Tabor: Yeah. I'm actually familiar with Black 'N' Blue, but I haven't heard what he's done with KISS.
KF: Wrapping up, Ty, you are the long-time guitarist in King's X. Fairly recently, your drummer Jerry Gaskill had a health scare. How are things with the band?
Ty Tabor: Well, it's really interesting. Jerry is the one who is doing the best right now. He is healthy, feeling great, looking great, playing great, he's better than ever. And the problem is me and Doug. I've got a broken rib and a screwed-up shoulder from an accident four months ago and I'm waiting until after this tour to get my shoulder taken care of. Doug has a hernia, believe it or not, and is really in pain trying to sing right now. So we're looking at just trying to get physically through this tour so we can have a couple of surgeries and get better. (laughs)
KF: Any plans for a new King's X album?
Ty Tabor: We're talking about it. We had a meeting last night, talking about it. It's in the talking phase right now.
KF: You also own a recording studio. Ty, what else do you keep busy with nowadays?
Ty Tabor: Yeah, I am always recording. I've been extremely busy. I play in a sideband called the Jelly Jam, which is made up of me on guitars and vocals, John Myung from Dream Theater on bass and Rod Morgenstein on drums. We did two albums together under the name Platypus and then we changed the name of the band to the Jelly Jam. And we've put out so far three Jelly Jam albums and a fourth one that we've already recorded most of it, and I'm working on finishing right now. So we have another Jelly Jam album on the way that's newly finished and I'm also right in the middle of a new solo album, because it's been a couple of years since I've put anything out solo. So right now, I'm in the studio every second of the day that I'm not out here touring.