Dr. Matthew Warnock of Modern Guitars recently conducted an interview with legendary KISS guitarist Ace Frehley. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Modern Guitars: Your last solo album was released 20 years ago in 1989. Since then, you've been involved in a number of different projects but have put your solo career on hold for the most part. What inspired you to write and release your new solo CD at this point?
Ace Frehley: I've been trying to get this album out for a long time. We actually started cutting some basic tracks back in the beginning of 2007. I had to put the CD on the backburner when we went out on tour last year, and, of course, producing it myself made it take a lot longer because I'm such a perfectionist. It was picking and choosing the right songs. If you don't come out with a studio album for 20 years, you want to make it special for the fans, and I think I've achieved that at this point. It was also getting it mixed right. In fact, I mixed this record with three separate guys. All the mixes were done fine, but the ones that Marti Frederiksen and Anthony Focx did really hit the mark.
Modern Guitars: How did you approach the recording process for this album? Some of it was recorded in your home studio and some of it outside. How did the recording process develop as a whole?
Ace: Some of the tracks we actually threw together in the studio. Others I'd recorded demos of and rehearsed with the trio, with bass and Anton Fig on drums. I don't have a set way of working on this stuff. People will sometimes ask me how I write a song. Sometimes I come up with a guitar riff, sometimes it's a lyrical idea — there's no set format for how Ace writes songs. A lot of them are different.
Modern Guitars: Anton Fig has played with you on a number of albums going back to your self-titled debut album in 1978. What is it about Anton's playing that keeps you coming back to him as your first call drummer?
Ace: I think he's just one of the best studio drummers I've ever heard. If you listen to songs like "Genghis Khan" and "Pain In The Neck" on "Anomaly", they have this swing to them. He has this unique way of playing where he never plays right on the beat. He's usually on the back of the beat and never on the front of the beat. He's just one of my favorite drummers, and he was available so I took advantage of it.
Modern Guitars: When he's playing behind the beat like that, do you try and go with it, trying to connect with his time feel, or do you just do your thing over it and find that works best?
Ace: When I track with Anton, it's kind of magical. When I'm thinking in my mind that I want him to do a fill at a certain point where there wasn't one, he'll just do it. He's a lot like John Bonham. You know, Bonham always played behind the beat that gave him that great groove he had. For a lot of drummers, this seems to elude them. If you're playing a little behind the beat, it just gives the song that swing, that groove that's hard to put into words, but I know it when I hear it.
Modern Guitars: The album is being released on your own label Bronx Born Records. What led you to start your own record label?
Ace: The reason I started my own record label is because a lot of the major labels are having hardships and financial difficulties and aren't giving the advances they used to give several years ago. The whole economics of the business has changed dramatically because of the digital downloads. I just thought it was smarter to hire a good marketing team and a good distributor under my own label. Of course, down the road I'd like to produce some new bands under my label.
Modern Guitars: Having been on top of the rock guitar world for many years, how do you see the rock scene today comparing to the scene when you were first coming up?
Ace: The first thing that comes to mind is that I haven't heard a lot of new bands that are unique. You have to remember when I was growing up there was JIMI HENDRIX, ERIC CLAPTON, LED ZEPPELIN, THE WHO and I believe that all those bands were innovators and had their own unique sounds that influenced generations of musicians. I don't seem to be getting that at this time. It may be because I'm ignorant or don't listen to that many new bands, but I'm not getting that sense that bands these days are coming out with something that different or that radical. I can remember when Hendrix came out and it was like, "What the hell was that?" I'm not getting that sense anymore. I don't know if you can't take the genre any further than it's gone or people just aren't thinking outside the box. I don't have an answer for that, but that's what I notice.
Modern Guitars: After being in one of the most successful and iconic rock bands of all time, KISS, and then also having a solo career, do you find that your fans expect you to do a KISS record when you release a solo album? Have you been able to separate your two distinct musical personas in the minds of the fans?
Ace: I think they are always going to overlap to a certain degree. I don't think that the sound I have on my solo records is that different from the sound I had on the early KISS records. A lot of people cite that in their critiques of early KISS records, that maybe I was a big part of the early KISS sound, which was probably true. There are definitely, especially on this new album, some new areas I've gone to with my music. Like the song "It's a Great Life" is the first time I've done a jazz guitar solo. That and my instrumentals, stuff like that, I wouldn't have been able to do as a member of KISS. That's why I had to do my own solo stuff because there were avenues musically that I wanted to explore that KISS wouldn't have allowed me to do. I had some great times with those guys. We made some great music, and it was a lot of fun and I'm glad I got to be a part of that.
Read the entire interview from Modern Guitars.