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GUEST EDITOR INTERVIEWS

Q&A With Ace Frehley

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It could be argued that Ace Frehley was the most influential guitarist of the ’70s. When Kiss hit its 1976-79 commercial peak, there was no rock band more entrenched in the minds of America’s youth. And if you asked random Kiss fans who was their favorite member, the answer was more often than not “Ace.” It’s no wonder some of the most successful artists of the last 10 years—from Garth Brooks to Pearl Jam—have cited Frehley and Kiss as major influences. Frehley teamed up with Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Peter Criss to form Kiss in New York City in 1973. Taking the glitter ball from their NYC glam-rock contemporaries and running with it, the members of Kiss donned outrageous makeup and costumes and assumed comic-book hero personas: Simmons, the demon; Stanley, the lover; Criss, the catman; and Frehley, the otherworldly spaceman. Frehley’s “Space Ace” persona and fiery, melodic guitar solos would become key factors in Kiss’ rise to arena superstardom. It was Frehley who designed Kiss’ iconic logo.

Though Criss wore the feline face paint, it’s Frehley who seems to have had nine lives. After leaving Kiss in 1982, Frehley embarked on a solo career, releasing three albums and compiling a laundry list of troubles that included drug and alcohol addiction, bankruptcy and high-speed car chases with the police. In 1996, Frehley reunited with Kiss for a string of successful tours as well as an album of new material, 1998’s Psycho Circus, before playing his final show with the band in 2002. While Simmons and Stanley continue to tread the boards in a verging-on-tribute-band incarnation of Kiss (drummer Eric Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer wear Criss’ and Frehely’s respective makeup and costumes), the now sober Frehley is set to release Anomaly, his first solo album in two decades.

Frehley recently took a moment to talk with Superchunk/Mountain Goats drummer (and onetime Kiss Army member) Jon Wurster. Frehley will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all this week.

MAGNET: Your last solo record, Trouble Walking, came out 20 years ago. Why so long between albums?
Frehley: A lot has happened! [Laughs] The main reason was I ended up doing the Kiss reunion tour, which led to the Psycho Circus record and tour, which led to the Kiss Farewell Tour. Six years later, I needed a break! And the biggest reason was my sobriety. On September 15, the day Anomaly comes out, I’ll be celebrating three years clean and sober. This new record would have never come out if it wasn’t for that.

The record industry is virtually unrecognizable compared to what it was like in 1989. Is that a major factor in deciding to release Anomaly on your own Bronx Born label?
I wanted complete control of how Anomaly was going to be handled and marketed. I’ve handed my music to labels in the past, and it never turned out the way I envisioned it. Anomaly is going to be different.

Several songs on Anomaly, specifically “Change The World,” “A Little Below The Angles” and “It’s A Great Life,” show a more contemplative Ace Frehley than we’ve seen before. How has your songwriting process changed from when you were in your hard-partying 20s?
You know, writing comes to me real easy these days, but it always has been like that for me. I write about my experiences in life. Go back and listen to “Parasite” or “Shock Me.” Some inspirations have been good, some bad, some life-threatening like “Shock Me.” [Laughs]

You’ve been sober for several years now. Was there a specific incident that inspired you to give up the grape?
It’s the old cliché about “tired of being tired.” It was time. I’ve embraced sobriety, and I don’t wanna go back. Life’s too good now.

Yours is a classic story of someone being “saved” by rock ‘n’ roll. As a teenager, you ran with a pretty tough crowd; you’ve said that a lot of your friends from those days are either in jail or dead. You burned the candle at both ends during your Kiss and solo years. Do you ever look back on all you’ve been through and say, “I can’t believe I’m still alive”?
[Laughs] I’ve been lucky. I know I have a guardian angel looking over me.

Living in New York City during the mid-’70s CBGB/Max’s Kansas City heyday, were you interested in bands like Ramones, Television, the Heartbreakers and the Dead Boys?
It was all part of the “scene” back then … when New York had a scene. It was one big party in those days, and I’d end up at clubs and shows pretty much on a nightly basis. A great time to be alive.

What was it like playing “Deuce” at that first audition with Gene, Paul and Peter in 1973? Was there a feeling of instant magic?
I knew there was a chemistry there. I truly believe that when the four of us were at our peak, in those mid-’70s tours, no one could stop us!

Did you ever curse yourself for coming up with the most difficult of the four makeup designs?
I never thought of it that way. Peter’s makeup in the beginning seemed the toughest; I think he got a makeup artist to do his on the first Kiss album cover. We all got used to putting on the makeup on a daily basis. It became second nature.

Speaking of the makeup, was it strange being in the most famous band in world yet also being able to go pretty much anywhere you wanted without being recognized?
That was part of the beauty about the makeup. I loved the anonymity of the whole thing. But I got news for ya: I sometimes still got recognized without the makeup back then, so go figure!

Your fifth album, Destroyer, is the favorite of many Kiss diehards. It’s so different sonically and thematically from anything the band did before or since. What do you think made that album so special?
Simple: (producer) Bob Ezrin. There’s a lot of stories about me and him not seeing eye to eye, but I got to give him credit. He’s the one who structured that record. The arrangement on “Beth” and the sounds of “Detroit Rock City” and “God Of Thunder,” he really made that record a classic. We had a lot of pressure coming off of the sales of Alive! and Bob really came through.

You were initially reluctant to record “New York Groove,” a Russ Ballard song that would give you a top-20 single, for your first solo album in 1978. Why was that? And what does it feel like to hear the song played over the P.A. at these huge New York City sporting events?
Eddie Kramer talked me into recording that song … and he was right! [Laughs] I was the first musician to play on the grounds of the new Yankee Stadium earlier this year. You’d never guess what song I performed!

You have to sit through one of these in its entirety or you will be killed: Kiss Meets The Phantom or (Music From) The Elder. Which one do you pick, and why?
I just saw the Phantom movie for the first time in years a few weeks ago. I can’t speak for the other guys in the band, but I think it’s a campy, cult classic. I think its great. I just visited Magic Mountain this year, and a lot of memories about filming that movie came flooding back to me. The new coaster rides are awesome.

Did you go into the 1996 Kiss reunion with any trepidation? Was there concern that the same inter-band problems that caused you to leave the first time would resurface?
I have no regrets about the reunion tour. But history sure has a way of repeating itself.

You’ve stated that one of your favorite Kiss songs to play is “Deuce.” What was your least favorite song that was actually in the set most nights?
I wasn’t too crazy about “I Was Made For Loving You.” I thought we were a hard-rock band and we were doing a disco song. But it was a huge hit, so who knows?

You seem to have made peace with all things Kiss. Is that an accurate assessment?
I’m proud of the fact that I was a member of one of the most influential rock groups in history. No regrets.

What does the future hold for Ace Frehley?
Anomaly, the record and the world tour. I can’t wait for everyone to hear this new record. I’m very proud of it.

58 replies on “Q&A With Ace Frehley”

I’m proud that Ace is sober and has a new album I will buy it. I ake exception to this interviewer saying Kiss is an on verge tribute band KISS is KISS like it or leave it….Ace left Kiss,Kiss didn’t leave Ace so for the folks who bash Kiss today…..SHOVE IT!

Do you ever listen to music?
As just a 14 year old boy,addicted to music I wonder if big rock God’s listen to music. And if they do,what kind? Theyr own music,or music from the ones wichj inspired them?

I’ve been listening for 30 years, can’t wait for Anomaly, but more importantly, so happy that Ace is sober and happy and enjoying life. He deserves every happiness.

Great article, with some ‘out of the blue’ questions that bring new light into an already bright star. Shine on Ace ! Looking forward to the new songs and music.
I love the photo too. Kudos to the photographer.

Ace I want to thank you for being a big influence in my life.i used to stand with my guitar for hours in front of the mirror while listening to kiss music pretending i was you.i played in a few bands,even got the chance to open for steppinwolf,didnt make it big but had a hell of a ride,and i think you had a hand of destiny in it. still a big fan. hope to see you on tour in New Orleans or someplace close by.cant wait for anomaly.

Ace, if you do a tour for Anomoly, you have to come to WINNIPEG, MANITOBA, CANADA!!!!

I’ve been an Ace fan for years, and what I’ve heard off Anomaly sounds fantastic! I think we all look forward to seeing Ace again.

Hi Ace!I’m a big fan,and have been your days with KISS,glad to hear about your new album!when does it go on sale?You ARE one of the most influential guitarist of the 70’s and 80’s,I can never get enough of listening to your brillant solos’ on the ALIVE 1&II albums!

Personally I’ve continued to be a KISS fan since 1974, however I liked the albums Ace was putting out better than the albums KISS at the time Ace’s were released. Ace’s were harder rock tunes and definitely edgier material!!!!!!!!!

Ace,
Proud of you for 3 years off the sauce! Now go out and KICK SOME ASS on that tour! Show Thayer how it’s REALLY done! Can’t wait to hear the new record.

You look great too! Kick Ass Ace!

ACK!

Tommy R.
Poughkeepsie,N.Y.

I am so excited for the new album but we must remember to live One Day At A Time and thank God daily.Afterall it is his will not ours…step 11

What a legend…Ive ben listenig to you ace for a long time…Im still high on a cloud from meeting you a month ago. That will truly be a night I will never forget. Cant wait for the album and will be front and center for the tour! Conrats on your sobriety!

Ace, you are a legend. I’ve enjoyed all the music you created or helped create over the years. You’re the reason I’m learning guitar, but I’m sure you’re sick of hearing that. Thanks for all your music and good luck with Anomaly!!!

ACE IS BACK AND I TOLD YOU SO!Glad to see you back Ace.You will always be the best thing to come from KISS.Glad to hear you are clean and sober.Cant wait tobuy new album.We have been waiting a long time for this and cant wait to see you again in concert.Keep up the good work Ace.You are my favorite guitarist of all time and you are the reason i started playing.THANX RT

well im a great fan of ACE and i saw him twice with kiss and if he comes to MEXICO CITY im going to be there in the first line hehe !!
and im going to get the new cd haha!!

KEEP ROCKING!!

Hey Ace! Been with you since 73 and I’ll follow your work till I’m dead. It’s a pleasure to hear your new material. 9/15 can’t come soon enough. Sounds like sobriety agrees with you! Your guitar is as amazing as ever and your vocals are stronger than ever too. I think space has kept you young. Thanks for providing my life with the best music and show there is to see and hear. I greatly appeciate it. Please stop at Pittsburgh

Hey Ace, I’m 33 years old and the 17th day of August I will celebrate 4yrs clean and sober!!! Yey me.. Anyway listened and loved you and Kiss since I was about 5 years old….Proud of ya man. Keep ’em comin’ and I willl always be buying and enjoying the music…Love and Peace, Brian S. Foley

I just know this album will be your masterpiece. I sure hope this world tour includes Australia, Ace! I’ll be there with bells on! Lol. You know Ace, your riffs really were what we all waited to here in every song. There really is no comparison to what your heart and soul and anguish, for want of a better word, gave to Kiss as a band and they sure lost that gloss when you and Pete moved on. Im just so happy and proud to hear that you dug in your heels Ace and fought those dark times no matter how tempting they seemed. You did it man! Now you deserve some lovin Dude! xoxoxoxoxoxwell done and geeeeeez this wait till September 15th is just caning me, and I wish it would hurry the hell up!

I’ve been a big kiss fan since i was about 13′
My life was complete when i say the Origonal Line up twice in 1996-97.
I was to young in the seventies to go to kiss concerts .
They where the best ‘ but now they’re just a tribute band .
It just seems so wrong to have Eric & Tommy in Ace & Peters makeup’
Would we have accepted Eric Carr in peters make up ..? or Vinnie & Bruce in Ace’s makeup …..I DONT THINK SO….!
Gene & Paul should have dropped the whole makeup thing when Ace & Peter left .
Or Eric & Tommy should have made their own makeup design’s.
Kiss sold us out kid’s…..
Dont go getting on your high horse about my comment.
I love Kiss they where the best ‘ They’ve influenced my life in every way .
But sadly it’s the truth ‘ and you know it too …….
They’re good …..but they’re not the band they once where..?
I got all Ace’s albums too ‘ & i’ll be buying Anomaly ‘ when it hit’s the store’s.
Good luck to you Ace & GOD BLESS YA MAN…..
I thank you for keeping it real ………
LONG LIVE THE KISS ARMY..
NEVER STOP ROCKING …..

Fact is Fact!! There is only one Ace. The stamp in the history of rock and roll that he has made drives Gene and Paul crazy. Take this Thayer, biggest selling Gibson Signature Les Paul of all time, hundreds of famous guitar players influenced, Shock Me solo, Rocket Ride solo, Strange Ways solo, I mean it goes on and on. He is an original. And he has always been true to who he is and where he is from. His music is and still is that way too. He has nothing to prove. He is the Ace.

ACE IS A PURE CLASS ACT,HE NEVER DISHES OUT DIRTY LAUNDRY ABOUT THE GUYS,THATS A TRUE PRO.I HAVE HAD THE PLEASURE OF MEETING THE SPACEMAN HIMSELF SEVERAL TIMES OVER THE YEARS AND HE HAS ALWAYS BEEN GREAT TO TALK WITH,GOOD LUCK ON THE NEW C.D CANT WAIT TILL THE TOUR SEE YA ON THE ROAD ACE!!!!!!!!

KISS without Ace is indeed a highly accurate KISS tribute band.

Saw Frehley in ’07 and ’08, and he totally killed both times – Looking forward to hearing the new tunes, and also to hearing them LIVE too! He was way more sharp and energetic than he was on the last (real) KISS tours since cleaning up. Congrats to him!!! His new touring band kicked ass, don’t miss it!

I always found it funny that Ace hated The Elder, since many Elder fans are big Ace supporters as well. Go figure.

i am happy for him and excited about the release of his new cd which i already know is gonna melt the fat off any fat chick ( little humor) ..cant wait to see him again this year saw him twice last year but ultimately would love to meet him…

Im not bashing KISS, but my personal opinion is from 73′ to 76′ were the best and I think defintely Ace was the reason, the solos, the sound, everything. Even after they still rocked, just sounded washed out to me. Ace is the man.

Wow.
We get some kick-ass Pogues pub show video clips (first pub show in 26 years, mind you!), and the Comments section…CRICKETS.
We get an interview with Ace Frehley, and the Comments section…LIGHTS UP LIGHT A FREAKING CHRISTMAS TREE.
Am I the only one who is afraid (very afraid) for the future of this MAGNET Webzine?

Ace is so much better off on his own than with Kiss. He’s so much more of a musician than anyone in Kiss will ever be. I’m so happy for him…

My first KISS show was at MSG on 12/16/77. From the first chords of I Stole Your Love to the finale of Black Diamond it was bliss. KISS was in top form and they raised the bar of what a rock and roll show could sound like, look like, smell like and feel like. The following year the four “solo” albums were released and although I love tunes on all of them, it was clear to me that Ace’s stood out as the best and most consistent.

I must agree with some who say that KISS has become a parody of themselves. There is simply no reason to continue. Paul’s voice is toast. Gene is clearly more interested in reality tv. As for Eric and Tommy, you are hired help to perpetuate a deflated dream. You have to know when to quit, especially since you have anounced to the world time and time again that “this is the final tour.” KISS is not The Who. KISS holds a unique spot in rock and roll history however. The KISS Army, the pyrotechnics, the elaborate stages, they created rock and roll theater (along with Alice Cooper). No one did it before or since the way KISS did. Let that memory live on but for heaven’s sake please don’t try to do it again with imposters. Ace Frehley and Peter Criss are as much a part of the KISS phenomenon as Gene and Paul. Don’t devalue our memories.

As for Ace Frehley, look no further than the version of Let Me Go Rock and Roll on Alive to understand his impact on the rock and roll guitar landscape. Tommy who?

It’s good to see Magnet giving Ace much due credit in this issue. His stage presence made him a ladykiller in my opinion, definitely my favorite KISS band member. Looking forward to hearing Space Bear!

Can’t wait for the new album always love your stuff , any chance of touring australia with it, you know we love u down under , hope to see u soon ..

Ace , congratulations on your sobriety !

We love you all over the world ! Continue to give this desire to make music to the young !

And. .. come on stage with Anomaly in Switzerland

Congrats on the new disc. Congrats on the sobriety. Congrats on the new Tour, and continued success with all that you do. You are an inspiration to millions of people and we all love you Ace. For the sake of your family and friends, and all us fans, please take your future in consideration and plan out a financial path. With the passing of the king of pop, we fans want your family to be protected and set. God forbid anything happen to you Ace, we just want you to be prepared.
WE LOVE YOU ACE!!

Ace Frehley was more then Half of the reasons for being into KISS. He was Cool and had a character all of his own and not scripted or trying to Sell the Music like Mom and Dad in the band. Peter was just a lost little boy in the biggest band in the world.

I was working at the rehersal studio in New York during the “Frehley’s Comet” video’s and the rehersal’s. Those where fun times with Ace, John Regan, Tod Howarth and Jamie Oldaker. What a bunch of kicked backed, relaxed, fun guys to interreact with. No echo or B.S. with those guys as we New Yorkers are known to be. If you all are in town to see Ace at the “Viper Room” go, you’ll have a blast. (No sales pitch) just the real deal.

Ace without Kiss is better than Kiss without Ace.

I haven’t been this psyched about a new album in a very long time!! I’ll be buying 3 copies (CD, LP, and iTunes). I can’t wait to see Ace on the road again too!!

I’ve been an Ace fan since buying Destroyer back in ’76
He has only got better

Looking forward to Anomaly on the 15th (I allready have the tee shirt!!!)

Ace is the reason why my Kiss heart still beats since 1980. Would give anything for 10 shows around the world on the upcoming world tour. Like it’s said before here: Ace is better without Kiss than Kiss is without Ace.
NO QUESTION IN MY SOUL.

I have been a die hard fan of KISS since I was three! I am so glad to here you are well! I am also glad that I got to see the original KISS! It had been a dream of mine for a long time. I just went to the KISS concert in Nashville, they are good, but I could tell the difference. I know nothing last forever. I hope all your dreams come true! God, bless and best wishes!

I have to give Ace credit for making a Musician out of me ! I have a story to share with all : I had just returned from being in the Army, I had to find my Mother’s address, since she had moved while i was gone. When i got there, she was out of town, and a Kegger was raging. My sister’s friends got into my stuff, unrolled my fav. KISS poster, had it on plywood, and were throwing darts at it ! I beat the shit out of 4 or 5 punks, and cleared out the house !

I saw Kiss 2x. Once during the Farwell Tour with all 4 original members:Ace, Peter, Gene and Paul… Awesome Show! Excellent Set! 2nd time after the Farewell Tour:Eric, Tommy, Gene, Paul. It felt bland and lackluster.

Ace’s playing is amazing, and has so much soul and life! I’m happy I got to see Ace with Kiss. Hoping to see him on his own soon!

I miss Ace being in Kiss!I have Ace collectables LOL and have a makeup set I want the old Kiss back not 2 imposters (Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer)

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