Ace Frehley – The Ex KISS Interview and Origins Vol. 2
For most music aficionados, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Ace Frehley will forever be known as the guitarist from “the hottest band in the world”, KISS.
After all, Frehley was a founding member of the band that sizzled world stages, from Perth Arena to Madison Square Garden in sold-out shows for over four decades.
“You want the best, you got the best – the hottest band in the world – KISS!”Sheldon Ang
After nine solo studio albums, the creator of the iconic face paint is considered in the industry as one of the established rock vocalists in his own right – and the most successful among the original members of KISS. Since his self-titled debut album in 1978, Frehley has released a further eight studio albums including Frehley’s Comet (1987) that went platinum.
In his latest release Origins, Vol. 2, Frehley – The 14th Greatest Metal Guitarist of All Time (according to Guitar World) – pays homage to the bands that influenced his teenage years. This ballsy tribute sees Frehley taking on the vocals in the likes of Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin), footing the funky attitude in Space Truckin’ by Deep Purple and electrifying the Beatles classic I’m Down. Needless to say, this is not your typical KTV session, as Frehley – who is known for his aggressive, atmospheric and melodic guitar styles – injecting his DNA on this album by changing the arrangements and altering the vocals, but still maintaining the true form of the original tracks.
In one of the most anticipated interviews conducted in recent times by Around the Sound, Ace Frehley candidly speaks with Sheldon Ang about his solo achievements, Origins, Vol. 2, and life as “Spaceman” in one of the world’s most iconic bands.
Photo credit Jay Gilbert
Sheldon: Ace! Sheldon here from Around the Sound, in Perth Australia.
Ace: Hi Sheldon. Will this be on radio?
Sheldon: No, nothing fancy my friend. Just a magazine. How are you doing, brother? (Just a magazine? WTF @Sheldon? – The Ed).
Ace: Good…it is 8:15 p.m. on Thursday here. I think the album is already released in Australia?
Sheldon: I think we do follow the American times when it comes to the release. But yeah tomorrow is the release date…for you guys anyway
Ace: I heard it will be released on Friday the 18th.
Sheldon: Yes, you’re correct…so are you in Jersey or are you still living in the Bronx?
Ace: I live in Jersey now. I live in the woods and surrounded by trees. I built a house with a big basement, so I can build a big studio. It is onwards and upwards from here.
Sheldon: This is so surreal to chat with you, because forty years ago my sister had a poster of four demonic-looking men and I thought, “that is mad”, and here I am talking to you – the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guy from KISS. Such a great honour!
Ace: Thank you, and I cannot forget that the first time we came to Australia in 1980. We got the keys to the City from the lord mayor of Sydney…so that was the hallmark of my career. It was a wonderful tour we played in a couple of stadiums, huge venues. We were very welcomed by Australians.
Sheldon: Did you come to Perth in 1980?
Ace: Yes…I believe so…my memory is not as it used to be (chuckles).
Sheldon. When we think of Ace Frehley, we think of the guitarist from KISS. But you will have released like nine albums by tomorrow, including Frehley’s Comet that when Platinum. So, do you see yourself more as a solo artist?
Ace: When most people think of Ace Frehley, they think of KISS. And the makeup was created by me, and I found the logo. So I will never shake off that reputation. Plus being a guitar special effects innovator, with light guitar, with smoke guitar, rocket guitar – so I’ll be tied to KISS for the rest of my life…but I’m definitely the most successful founding member of KISS with a solo career. I’ve put up a lot of records in the last 10 years. I’m having a lot of fun producing my own stuff, being a master of my own music. KISS are doing their own thing and have not put out an album for about six or seven years.
Sheldon: So that brings us to Origins, Volume 2. Did you release this album as a tribute to the bands that have contributed to rock music, or as a tribute to those who have influenced your career as Ace Frehley?
Ace: The whole idea of the Origins Volume 2 Series is for me to record bands with music that have influenced me as a teenager – so that’s what the Origins is all about. All these bands have influenced me as I was learning to play the guitar. I first saw Led Zeppelin first New York appearance when I was sixteen or seventeen years old. I saw The Who, the Cream’s first New York appearance…I’ve seen a lot of first. A lot of these bands have influenced my styles.
Sheldon: And I heard that in your first Led Zeppelin concert half of the people left as soon as Led Zeppelin left when they were opening for a band.
Ace: Yeah that, as I was mentioning I see a lot of first, Led Zeppelin was opening for Iron Butterfly. They were the main headlining act but as soon as Led Zeppelin went, half of the people left. So there, it was probably embarrassing for the headliner. Guess that’s what you get for opening with Led Zeppelin. After that Led Zeppelin started headlining pretty quickly.
Sheldon: There are so many great bands to choose from. How do you choose who gets to be in your album?
Ace: Well the criteria I used first of all was them being a big influence on me…and the other is me being able to sing the song…and I don’t consider myself as a virtuoso lead vocalist.
I have to be careful of the songs that I choose and do justice to the vocals. The guitar was easy for me at this point in my career. I can play just about anybody’s music but the vocals are the hardest for me.
And I can’t do The Humble Pie song (30 Days in the Hole), and I know I couldn’t do any justice to Steve Marriot, so I got Robin Zander (of Cheap Trick) to do it. And he just killed the vocals on that one. Lita Ford did a wonderful job on Jumpin’ Jack Flash -which I could probably sing it myself, but I wanted to put a spin on it and have a girl sing it. She stayed with me for two days, and I have known Lita since the 70’s with the Runaways – she opened to KISS on several occasions. I consider her as my sister and a good friend. She has opened for me a few times in the last five years. Life goes on and is good to work with people you know, with less stress or pressure.
Sheldon: And you did the vocals for the Led Zeppelin song, Good Times, Bad Times?
Ace: The vocal for the Led Zeppelin song was a bit of a challenge for me, and I had to tune down to D. Robert Plant has an amazing range. I couldn’t do it in E… and when I turned down to D, I could sing it and I’m very happy the way it turned out, and I think I did justice to it.
Sheldon: And I think you did a very good job.
Ace: Thank you, Sheldon.
Sheldon: Do you keep the track as original as possible? Because you are known for your atmospheric, aggressive and melodic styles.
Ace: I tried to stay true to the original arrangement. But obviously, if I’m playing and singing the song, I’m going to put my stamp on it. I changed the arrangements slightly, changed the vocals just a little bit, to give a little twist but I think I stayed true to most of the arrangements.
Sheldon: And the first single is Space Truckin’ by Deep Purple. Why was that track chosen as your first single…or did eOne make that decision?
Ace: eOne made that decision, they made an animated video on that one. The song came out good. I recorded that song five years ago and it was meant to be on Volume 1, and I wasn’t completely happy with it at a time. So I completely put it aside…and when we came to volume two, I re-recorded the vocals, we re-recorded the guitar solo, and tighten the arrangement to complete the record.
Sheldon: Nice…we’ve got a few minutes remaining – if you don’t mind going back time… how was like to walk onto the stage and 100,000 screaming fans, and you got this guy saying, “You want the best, you got the best – the hottest band in the world – KISS!”
Ace: I mean it is an adrenaline rush. It was wonderful…I miss that I’m not playing in front of one hundred thousand seat arenas anymore. I play in front of a two thousand five hundred seat theatre – it is also very rewarding. In those big arenas, you have a big pit between you and the audience. You have a bunch of security guards between you and your fans… and my eyesight is not as good as it used to be and I can’t see the faces that well. So playing in smaller arenas on a more intimate venue of late is just as rewarding.
Sheldon: So you say you miss it. Any regrets leaving KISS in 1982…and again in 2002?
Ace: Not at all. It was time to leave, you know. It wasn’t fun anymore. The whole idea of being in rock and roll is to have fun and if you don’t have any fun, it is time to move on. And with the success on my solo album “New York Groove”, it was pretty much the writing on the wall for me, and I knew it was the best thing for me to leave KISS, because it was more creative being away from KISS, than with KISS.
Not at all. It was time to leave, you know. It wasn’t fun anymore. The whole idea of being in rock and roll is to have fun and if you don’t have any fun, it is time to move on.Ace Frehley on leaving Kiss
It was just a matter of time. “The Elder” album – which I was completely against, Paul (Stanley), Gene (Simmons) and Bob Ezrin (Producer) pushed on me, and I told them the album will bomb, and it bombed… they didn’t listen to me… so that was pretty much the icing on the cake. So that’s why I decided to leave the group. And moved forward with my own band
Sheldon: And was it also about the hedonistic lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock and roll, or was it just a myth?
Ace: Well yeah, I was abusing drug and alcohol at that time, so that affected my decision-making process. I guess so but I’m glad that I left. If I had not left, it wouldn’t have been a great reunion tour in ‘96 (chuckles) – so everything happened for a reason. So when I got bored during the reunion tour, I left again (in 2002) and since then I’ve been really happy and successful, and have been putting out great records and will continue to do so.
Sheldon: Last question – this is a difficult one – what’s the most memorable Kiss moment?
Ace: Not very difficult at all – playing three shows in Madison Square Garden. We all grew up in New York City so it was our hometown, and it was a milestone of my career – and I will never forget that as long as I live.
Interview by Sheldo