Former KISS Guitarist ACE FREHLEY Says He Knew 'The Elder' Would BombOctober 2, 2018
On September 25, former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley discussed a wide range of topics during a "live conversation" at Hollywood's Musicians Institute. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET):
On his new album, "Spaceman":
Ace: "It's one of the best records I ever recorded, and that's not coming from me — that's coming from everybody who's heard it. I've done about 50 interviews, and all the interviewers said, 'Ace, this is one of the best things you've ever done.' I wanted to call the album '40 Years Later', because the first solo album I did with 'New York Groove' was 1978. I was doing a 'Vault Experience' in Miami with Gene [Simmons], and we were doing a Q&A. I polled the audience and I said, 'What should I call the next album — '40 Years Later'?' I got a lukewarm response, and then Gene [said], 'Ace, you should call the album 'Spaceman'.' I said, 'Okay. Coming from you? Great. I don't want Tommy Thayer knocking on my door going, 'I'm the Spaceman.' I don't think so.'"
On growing up in the Bronx:
Ace: "I got involved with a gang because I got tired of getting beat up. When you're in a gang, you have protection — you're walking down a street and somebody wants to pick a fight with you, and his buddy will go, 'Don't pick a fight with him. He's in the Ducky Boys.' That's pretty much why I got involved with the gang scene, even though it wasn't something that I really was excited about or really wanted to do. I just wanted protection. As I got older — I joined the gang when I was about 13, and that's around the time I picked up a guitar, so by the time I was 14, I was already in bands and performing on weekends at, like, church dances, so on and so forth — wherever we could play. By the time I was 15, I was really into it and working almost every weekend, and I'd be getting calls from guys in the gang going, 'Hey, we got a fight tonight in a schoolyard. Bring a switchblade.' I'd say, 'I can't go — I got a gig.' Music kind of got me out of that whole gang scene and saved my life."
On the bands that inspired him in his youth:
Ace: "THE BEATLES and THE [ROLLING] STONES. When I was 13, I remember getting the single of 'I Want To Hold Your Hand'. They had those matching suits with no collars. [I was a] huge fan of THE ROLLING STONES — actually, more so than THE BEATLES. I'm attracted to bad boys."
On the classic bands he'd encourage rock fans to listen to:
Ace: "I don't like to be a dictator and tell people listen what to listen to and what not to. What I would say to up-and-coming guitar players and bands [is], listen to LED ZEPPELIN. Listen to CREAM. Listen to Jeff Beck. Listen to THE WHO. Those are the guys that influenced me, and I got my guitar style by copying their solos and their songwriting. I never took a guitar lesson, and just about every day, somebody comes up to me and says, 'If it wasn't for you, I never would have picked up a guitar.' I feel guilty because I never took a guitar lesson. I go, 'You're idolizing an idiot.' [Laughs] I don't even know what I'm playing half the time. I can't verbalize it — it just comes out of the speakers."
On the late comedian John Belushi:
Ace: "I was with John two weeks before he passed away. We were partying together. We used to go on three-day coke runs. We had fun. I'm not promoting drugs, because they can kill you, real quick. I was just lucky. I was one of the few people that could make John Belushi crack up. He told me that, and I was very flattered. Before he left to got to California to finish up the movie he was working on, he said to me, 'Ace, you're going to be in my next film. You have to be.' We all know what happened at the Chateau Marmont. Tragic. I never knew John to use needles. The fact that that girl shot him up with a hot dose of ups-and-downs... John never did that. Leave it to your imagination. I'm not accusing anybody, but I never knew John to stick a needle in his arm, and I spent a lot of time with him."
On KISS's much-maligned 1981 album "Music From The Elder":
Ace: "I want to give you my two cents about 'The Elder'. [Producer] Bob Ezrin flew into Connecticut. A lot of it was recorded at my home studio in Connecticut. It was a professional studio — I spent about a million dollars on it. During the recording process, I kept telling all those guys — Bob, Paul [Stanley] and Gene — I go, 'This is the wrong album for this period of time. I think fans want to hear a heavy hard rock album.' They just had a deaf ear to me. I said, 'It's not going to work,' and of course, the album bombed. I guess I had a handle on what was happening. Those guys never had any street sense. It's no fault of their own — Gene grew up in Israel, and Paul grew up in Queens, but he wasn't a guy like me who hung out on the corner and got into fights and did crazy stuff. I always had my pulse on what was going on, and I knew at the time — I would have bet a million dollars that the album was going to fail. I didn't want it to fail, and actually, if you take that album out of sequence with the KISS records, it's not a bad record. I did some great solos on it and there's some really good songs, but it wasn't the right record for the time. I was doing an interview with Billboard magazine, and they said, 'What would happened if 'The Elder' never happened, and you went from [1980's 'Unmasked'] to [1982's] 'Creatures Of The Night'?' I thought for a second, because I like 'Creatures Of The Night' — it's heavy, it's powerful, it's everything I said we should be doing when we recorded 'The Elder'. I may not have quit the band, but you can't rewrite history unless we go into a time warp or a black hole."
On the drummer Simmons and Stanley hired to replace Peter Criss, the late Eric Carr:
Ace: "Eric Carr was a sweetheart of a guy and a very good drummer. I became good friends with him. We used to have a couple of beers together — nothing crazy, because he was too afraid to get fired by Paul and Gene. Paul and Gene treated him like he was an employee, and I used to take him on the side and say, 'Don't worry about it. Everything's going to be okay, buddy.' Whenever there was an argument or dissension in the band, I would always try to heal it — probably because I'm a Taurus and I don't like confrontation, usually. But don't fuck with me."
On FREHLEY'S COMET:
Ace: "It was an experiment. It wasn't bad. Some of those records, there's some good songs. When I started touring with FREHLEY'S COMET, invariably, on the marquee, the promoter would put 'ACE FREHLEY'S COMET.' I wanted to keep it a band, but in reality, I just missed the fact of being in a band — like with KISS for so many years, we were all equal partners — but I realized the guys in the band weren't really famous as me, and it was never to be. Pretty much, I ended up changing it to THE ACE FREHLEY BAND, and some people left and I got some new people. Life goes on."
On rejoining KISS, first for "MTV Unplugged" in 1995 and then for a reunion tour the following year:
Ace: "It was a little strange. Paul and Gene had just finished a tour of conventions. You'd walk into a room and there'd be mannequins of all our old costumes and stuff. The 'Unplugged' thing happened, and I think they were testing the waters. They actually had recorded an album ['Carnival Of Souls'] with Bruce [Kulick] that was due to be released that they scrapped once 'Unplugged' went over so big. The next thing you know, I'm sitting in an office negotiating a reunion tour. The rest is KISStory."
On the "Bad Boys Of Rock" tour he and Criss did together in 1995:
Ace: "We just thought it was a good idea to do something together. The fans enjoyed it, and I guess Paul and Gene took notice. Next thing you know, we're doing 'Unplugged'."
On whether he — or KISS — owns his "Spaceman" makeup:
Ace: "My attorney told me that I've licensed the makeup to KISS. My attorney is a big attorney. He said from what he has ascertained through the documents, he says, 'You've licensed the makeup to KISS. You didn't sell [it].' I'm not saying it for me — I'm just repeating what my attorney told me. Right now, we're all getting along. I don't want to start a lawsuit."
Ace: "It's amazing to me when I meet people how they read into my lyrics all these deep meanings, and I'll write lyrics in a half an hour for a song. If the words rhyme, great. If it makes some type of sense, great. Usually I write the music first and write lyrics that kind of make sense and go along with the theme. Sometimes, like in the '80s and '90s, I used to write songs and it almost felt an alien or somebody was beaming the lyrics into my head, because I couldn't write them fast enough. I'm getting help from somebody — maybe it's the people from Jendell. [Laughs]"
On his favorite KISS song:
Ace: "My favorite KISS song is 'Deuce'. Not only is it a great, ass-kicking song, it was the first [KISS] song that I heard. When I auditioned for KISS, Paul and Gene played 'Deuce' for me and they said, 'It's in the key of A. Plug in and play a solo.' That's how I got the gig, so 'Deuce' has a special place in my heart. I love playing it live, and I enjoyed playing it when I was in KISS. It's a real kick-ass song, so that's probably my favorite KISS song."
On his favorite album he's recorded:
Ace: "Probably the first solo album is the most special album I've recorded, because it's stood the test of time. Forty years later, it's still a great record."
On his determination to succeed:
Ace: "I've always been a fatalist and believed in fate. When I was 16 years old, I was convinced I was going to be a rock star. Nobody could change my mind. Somebody said to me in an interview, 'What would have happened if KISS failed?' I said, 'I would have been famous with another band.' Nothing was going to stop me. You need that kind of drive and fortitude to be successful. I knew as a teenager that I wanted to be in a theatrical rock group, because I was greatly influenced by Alice Cooper and THE WHO. As much as I loved CREAM and Jeff Beck, they just stood there, but when you went to a WHO concert, you've got [Pete] Townshend throwing his guitar up in the air; he's smashing it into his amps; Keith Moon's wrecking his drums... I found that fascinating, and a lot of fun. I went to see Alice Cooper a couple of times, and I was just blown away by the show. The production was amazing. The 'Billion Dollar Babies' tour at Madison Square Garden, me and Paul Stanley went there, and we snuck down to the front of the stage because we couldn't afford the tickets. We were mesmerized. We all kind of knew, the four of us, that we wanted to do a theatrical rock group. We were all talented; we all could write songs; we all could sing; but we wanted to take it a step further than Alice Cooper did or any other band we had seen. That's how KISS happened."
On whether he was ever "intimidated" by other guitarists:
Ace: "I've never been intimidated by any guitar player. I was in Sweden, and I was doing the biggest television show in Sweden. It was like the Johnny Carson show of Sweden. I'm walking down the hallway with the producer, and he says to me, 'Ace, are you a little nervous?' I looked at him and said, 'I don't get nervous. I make other people nervous.' I've never been intimidated by anybody, really. Maybe when I was a teenager, but not once I became a professional musician."
On his proudest moment:
Ace: "Probably growing up in New York City and doing three nights at Madison Square Garden. That was one of the pinnacles. The second thing was probably the show we did in Tiger Stadium for the reunion tour, opening night. We had sold out Tiger Stadium in a record time of 48 minutes. We were all wearing old costumes — obviously, redone — and wearing the same makeup, and halfway through the show, I had this amazing feeling of deja vu: 'Are we in the '90s, or back in the '70s?'"
On his 2011 autobiography "No Regrets":
Ace: "That was just scraping the surface. I'm working on 'No Regrets 2'. That's going to be even better. It's going to be fun. I don't understand Paul's book [2014's 'Face The Music: A Life Exposed'] — he's crying about his ear; he's crying about... he even threw Gene under the bus. What's that about? He really tore Peter a new asshole. He was easier on me than I thought he was going to be. I don't know why — maybe he likes me? The next book I'm going to write is going to be a fun book. I want it to be entertaining; I don't want any negativity in it. I want it to be just a fun rock n' roll book that's easy reading."
On his early contributions to KISS, and how the band's dynamic changed over the years:
Ace: "One of the first songs, I guess, was 'Shock Me'. 'Love Theme From Kiss' was actually mostly me. It says all four of us wrote it, but pretty much, that was my riff, and then Gene came up with the middle part. Gene also wrote the bridge in 'Cold Gin' and never took credit for it — he goes, 'Don't worry about it. You wrote the song.' Sometimes Gene would write a song and I'd change a part, and I would say, 'I don't want any credit — it's your song.' It was like that. We were like brothers, and then all of a sudden, we became multi-millionaires and everybody started going their own way. Gene started dating Cher and Diana Ross. Paul was out here [in Los Angeles] doing something; Peter's doing this; I'm crashing race cars and getting loaded. It was like too much, too soon. It happens, especially in the entertainment business, but thank God I'm still here."
On deciding to get sober 12 years ago:
Ace: "I tried getting sober years before that. I put a year together, a year and a half, and then I'd go out on tour. I'm on the tour bus, and the other guys on the tour bus are drinking and smoking pot, so within a week I'd relapse. Finally, I sat down with my sponsor. He goes, 'Look — if you're serious about getting sober, you can't hang out with people that get high.' I had to change my friends and fire some people, and on September 15, 2006, something special happened. My daughter gave me a call… they all talk about alcoholics having that moment of clarity. I had relapsed with my sponsor — me and my sponsor decided to get drunk together — and after about two months, I started going down that path. I hadn't hit bottom yet or picked up cocaine, but I was drinking. My daughter calls me up and goes, 'Dad, I'm not hearing good things about you.' I looked in the mirror and just said, 'Shit — she's right.' That evening, I called my sponsor and he took me to an AA meeting, and I've been sober ever since."
On agreeing to participate in "wedding experiences" at the chapel inside Kiss By Monster Mini Golf in Las Vegas, Nevada:
Ace: "I got a call from Keith Leroux. He's been working for KISS forever, and he's been helping me out. He called me up, like, a week ago and said, 'Do you want to do that?' My initial reaction was 'no,' but I was talking to Rachael [Gordon, Frehley's longtime fiancée] about it, [and] she goes, 'That might be fun, helping somebody get married.' I think it's going to be fun. I think I'm going to have a gas doing it if somebody decides they want me to walk them down the aisle. It's going to be fun."
Frehley — whose new solo album, "Spaceman", will be released via eOne on October 19 — first left KISS in 1982. He rejoined in 1996 and parted ways with the band once again in 2002 after the conclusion of their first "farewell tour."
He says he has not been approached to take part in the band's upcoming "One Last Kiss: End Of The Road World Tour".
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