Kiss - Ace Frehley (2008) Print
Written by Patrick Douglas & Chris LaTray   
Thursday, 13 March 2008

Image    There’s no mistaking the contributions that Ace Frehley has made to rock and roll history. Not to mention the incredible solos and genre-defining guitar riffs, Frehley is the man responsible for designing the iconic Kiss logo as well as the makeup he used for his “Space Ace” alter ego onstage.

    Frehley helped start one of the most influential rock bands of the ‘70s in Kiss and played with the group until 1983, when he departed to work on a solo career, only to return in the late ‘90s.

    Today, the recently sober Frehley is benefiting from a rejuvenation of creativity, touring the U.S. and Canada and finishing up work on his first solo record in nearly 20 years. The guitarist took the time to speak with TCS Thursday, March 13, 2008 while en route to a gig in Calgary.

    Editor's Note: Frehley was also interviewed by Lazerwolfs bassist/vocalist Chris LaTray a week earlier. His interview with the iconic guitarist is featured at the bottom of this interview with TCS. Two for the price of one!!!!



Hey, Patrick, Ace Frehley callin.

What’s going on Ace?

What’s up?

How’s life treating you?

Never better (laughs).

So you’re traveling to Calgary today?


I’ve been to Calgary many, many times and I absolutely love it there. I’m a little further south in Montana.


Let’s talk about that for a second. What do you think about when you look at upcoming tour dates and you see Montana on there?

I think it’s cool. I like going to places that I don’t go that often ‘cause I always get a different perspective. Usually the audiences are great because they don’t get as many shows as some of the major markets get.

Definitely. Do you have any experiences playing gigs to Montana crowds?

None whatsoever (laughs).

Have you even been here recreationally?

I know I haven’t been there recreationally but I’m sure I’ve been there performing.

The place you’re gonna play is great. It’s called the Wilma and is this ancient opera house. Very cozy. Very cool place to see a show. I imagine it’s cool to play there. Plus it’ll be St. Patrick’s Day, man. St. Patrick’s Day show in Missoula.

Oh, that should be hot.

Tell me, so far, how the road’s treating you and how you’re getting along with this group of dudes you have on tour with you right now.

The band’s great. The audiences have been great. The promoters have been great. It’s a whole different ball game doing it clean and sober. I take care of business today and it’s a lot of fun remembering what you did the night before (laughs).

I bet. Tell me a little about where you got this current lineup as far as your band mates.

The bass player, Anthony Esposito, I hooked up with about a year and a half ago through a mutual friend, ‘cause I was looking for sober musicians. We started working on solo material and me and Anton Fig got together in my studio and did some pre-production and we started tracking last year for the new record and the new record’s just about finished. Got some finishing touches and then gotta mix it. Shootin’ for a late May release.

So you’ve got it tracked and you’re waiting to mix it, do you have a nearby studio?

I have my own studio.

How killer is that to have one at your fingertips whenever you get the urge to record something?

It’s great having your own studio. It’s not the first studio I’ve owned. I’m currently fine-tuning the studio. It’s a work in progress. I was the architect. Basically I bought some property with like three houses on it and one of them I renovated into a studio. It’s got 4,000 square feet.

That’s huge.

Yeah. Originally I had a room downstairs with a brick floor and a fireplace, with an 18-foot ceiling that I was using as a recreation, hang out room and I realized that if I put drums down there we’d probably get a huge drum sound and we did that last November and we tracked several new songs in that room now. It’s got a great drum sound. That’s now the drum room instead of the upstairs studio.

As an artist, how exciting is it to think about getting back into that process of making an album? Including everything from, obviously you’ve already written the music, but also coming up with artwork, and having another chapter of your career come out on a CD.

It’s crazy. I’m really getting off on it. This is such a long-awaited CD and I wanna make sure that it’s just right. I think everybody’s gonna like it. It’s got all the elements, or a lot of the elements that my first CD had, ‘New York Groove.’ Most people cite that as being a favorite Ace Frehley record, so I’m trying to get into that mindset.

You were talking about being sober. Is there more of a reward for you from the perspective of writing music and putting together an album that you haven’t had in a long time?

You know, for years I always thought I needed substances to be creative and lo and behold, I realized last year that I actually function a lot better without all that stuff (laughs). It took me 40 years to figure it out, but better late than never right?

Right. When you sit down to write music and you go into your studio to track it, it must be such a release for you, such a welcoming feeling. Describe the transition you go through mentally when you really head into that creative process of writing and recording music.

I mean, I write songs in the weirdest places. Sometimes I write ‘em laying in bed. Sometimes I write ‘em riding my motorcycle. I’ll come up with melodies in my head and lyrics. I don’t have a set formula for writing songs. Some people do. Sometimes I come up with the melody first or a lyric, sometimes I come up with a guitar riff and I add melody and lyrics to it. There’s no set way for me to write a song. Once I get the process going and once I get into the studio, I kind of have tunnel vision because I’m easily distracted. I have to just turn off the phones and lock the door (laughs).

Is there a particular feeling that you get when you think of a killer riff? Like you said, when you’re riding your motorcycle or wherever, and you know it’s gonna end up on a song. Do you get goosebumps or get a certain feeling?

Goosebumps are in order (laughs). It’s cool. It’s the process of doing it that’s special. Once it’s completed, you’re ready. You wanna move on. You’ve taken it as far as you can take it. Although I’m really looking forward to performing several of the new songs off the CD live. Once we get it out.

You’re gonna wait until it’s released to bust those out?

I have to. With YouTube and everything. The Internet and everything. I do a show and it’s on YouTube the next day.


Phone cuts out. Ace calls back.


Yeah, I’m on a cell phone. It just died.

So, you were saying you do a show and it’s on YouTube the next day.

Yeah. Right now, on the Internet I have about 1,400 videos. So, an interviewer told me the other day (laughs).

Someone did their research.


I’ve noticed that you don’t have the online presence that many musicians have gone towards these days in terms of MySpace or the big flashy web site. It’s not like you’re gonna find Ace chatting with ‘friends’ on MySpace any time soon. What do you think of this technology and its ability to put you closer to fans and why do you choose not to participate in it and be out there as much as the next guy?

I like my privacy, number one and number two, I am going to be erecting a web site soon. I’m a stickler for graphics ‘cause I’m a graphics designer plus the web sites, I’m not very impressed with the graphics. I’ve been trying to come up with graphics for home page and all that stuff. I’m doing so many things at once. Designing t-shirts for the tour, trying to come up with CD cover art. Hopefully we can have this web site erected in the next two or three weeks.

Musicians all have a different perspective of the crowd and reasons for climbing up on that stage and performing, what feelings do you have when you’re up there ripping a solo and you look out at all the faces and is it different then it was when you were younger?

It’s different then when I was younger and it’s because I have a huge fan base now and when I was younger I didn’t have that. It’s almost like somebody said to me ‘ah, you’re becoming one of the elder statesman of rock and roll,’ and I don’t know how to take that (laughs). It’s almost like I can go up there and do no wrong as long as I’m playing my ass off. It’s kind of nice. I feel really comfortable onstage and I’m always having a good time. I feel like I’m alive when I’m onstage, you know. It’s a special place. I don’t know why I waited so long to hit the road. It’s been over five years.

But, you’re making up for lost time now, right? You’re out there driving through Canada in the winter.

Yeah, we just finished 16 shows and in another few days we’ll hit the half time of the tour.

A lot lately has been made of the constantly changing recording industry and it’s never been more public than now. It seems to be all over the place with downloading and the Internet. How do you see the changes from the perspective of someone who’s been involved in it for the better part of four decades?

I guess it’s a good change. Music is a lot more accessible now with the Internet. I guess the downside is all the illegal downloading. We may be missing out on revenue but it’s a lot easier to access an artists music with the help of the Internet. It’s kind of a double-edged sword. With the advent of YouTube,  you automatically get built-in, free publicity because every show I’m performing there’s kids with camera phones, recording songs in the set and downloading it to YouTube. I think it’s probably good. You’ve gotta make the adjustments.

Obviously more bands can get their names out there. You don’t even have to be able to play. You can essentially fart in a microphone, record it, build a Myspace page and say you’re a band. So you can get your name out there. Do you think it’s more difficult these days for a band to break through and become a mega-band like Kiss then it was back in the day?

Probably. Probably because there’s just so many bands. When we were out touring, there wasn’t as many bands as there are today. It seems like everybody’s in a band. It’s really just the law of averages. Supply and demand. There’s very few groups today that have ever attained the success that Kiss had or has. We were just really lucky. We were in the right place at the right time and the gimmick caught on. We did tour extensively for several years (laughs). We played everywhere, more than once (laughs). There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears that paid off. I get the feeling today that some of the newer groups maybe don’t wanna put as much work into it. They want it almost handed to ‘em. More so than back in the ‘70s when you knew you needed to go out and hit the pavement.

It’s the old instant gratification.


Some bands wanna record an album in their basement, put it out and make millions.

I’m sure it’s happened (laughs).

I do have the one obligatory Kiss question. I know you get plenty of these. I was just reading today where Paul stated that he believes there’ll come a time when the band will continue without him and without all of the original band members. What do you think about if you hear the idea that there’ll be a day when Kiss will be playing and the four original guys won’t even be involved in it?

Image(long pause) I think it’s kind of shitty, you know. Kiss was the four of us. I think he’s just trying to make light. The fact that it’s only half of the original members now and the other two guys are just dressed up like me and Peter, I think that’s how he’s trying to rationalize what he’s doing today. Saying maybe there maybe won’t be any original members anymore, well, you know, that wouldn’t be Kiss either, you know. It’d be somebody dressed up with the makeup that we all designed back in the ‘70s and it’s all different people. I don’t understand that train of thought. I don’t know where he’s coming from on that. Kiss was Paul, Gene, Peter and Ace. That was Kiss. If they wanna call it Kiss, makeup somebody else wearing the same makeup, I designed that Spaceman cat, I wrote all those guitar solos, they’re dear to my heart and now you’ve got somebody else wearing the makeup I designed and playing my guitar solos and trying to come off like me. I think it’s bullshit (laughs).

I agree, man. I kind of chuckle to think there could be a day where that would happen. It’d be like the Beatles going out on tour with no original members left.

It’s a fuckin’ bullshit concept. If there’s four other guys dressed up in the makeup and none of the original members, it’s a fuckin’ Kiss cover band. Let’s just fuckin’ call a spade a spade. It’s not Kiss (laughs).

This last one might be tricky ‘cause you’ve no doubt played with everyone. If you could set up your ultimate fantasy show and share the stage with any bands past or present, which ones would you choose?

I don’t know. Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and maybe the Who.

I’ll tell you and this will come as no surprise, I’ve interviewed damn near 300 people and asked them all the same question and a ton have responded with Kiss.


They’ll specify certain eras, but people throw Kiss out there a lot.


Ace, I appreciate the conversation and I know Montana’s looking forward to hosting you.

Thanks, Patrick. It was great talking to you. You have a great day.

You too, man. Take care.





Lazerwolfs bassist/vocalist Chris LaTray spoke to Ace March 4, 2008, and offered this in-depth artist-on-artist interview  ...


  If Ace Frehley needs an introduction then you have likely been living under a rock for the last 30 years, or alive for only a fraction of that time. As original member and lead guitarist for KISS, Space Ace is one of the most influential rock guitarists in the history of the art form.

    He has also been something of an enigma. Since leaving the band in the early 80s, and following an aborted solo career that saw the release of three semi-successful records, Ace dropped out of the public eye until resurfacing again in 1995/1996 to team up with Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and Peter Criss for the KISS reunion tour, which netted a whopping $43.6 million. A new album, Psycho Circus, and tour followed. At the conclusion of the KISS Farewell Tour, Ace left the band for the final time in 2002. KISS has continued touring with Tommy Thayer in Ace’s spot, even wearing the distinctive Space Man makeup and costume, much to the chagrin of many diehard fans.

    A fan favorite, the buzz over “What is Ace going to do next?” must have reached Frehley’s ears at his lair in New York, particularly in the wake of the wildly successful KISSOLOGY DVD series released over the past year by KISS. This series reveals vintage live and interview footage of Ace, and the band, never before seen. As fans have clamored for more from the original Space Man, he has responded with news that a new album of original material is set for a spring ’08 release, and he has launched his first international solo tour since 1995 with a brand new band.

    Ace checks in now via telephone from a hotel in Canada. . . .


So Ace, how’s the tour going so far?

Oh, it’s going great, we kicked it off in Baltimore on . . . what was it, February 28th, I think (laughs). Yeah. And the shows have been getting hotter and hotter as we go, you know, ‘cause it’s a new band and we’re still feeling each other out.

How long have you been playing with these guys?

This is maybe . . . uh . . . today is maybe like my 12th show, or something like that.

Oh wow. So why now, Ace? After all these years, why the big tour, what’s got the fire going now that maybe wasn’t there, you know, five years ago?

Uh . . . [pause, laugh] . . . I didn’t have my health for one thing. I mean, you know, this tour’s long overdue.

Oh, absolutely.

I mean, originally I hoped to have the record done for this tour, but, you know, I still need a little work on that; we’re shooting for a May release for the CD. But I really don’t need a record to tour. I’ve been in the marketplace for such a long time and I have so many songs I’ve written over the years, releasing the record shouldn’t be a prerequisite. The tour’s just so long overdue, so, you know, I’m really just having a great time and looking forward to getting back in the studio in April and finishing up the record for May.

Now are you recording that in the studio you built or are you recording that somewhere else?

I’ve been tracking it at my studio, in New York.

Ah, cool. Are you doing any of the new stuff on tour as part of this set?

I’d love to do it, you know, but we do that and it ends up on YouTube or something the next day or two.

Yeah, man, that’s true, and that’s one of the questions I wanted to ask you. Things are so different now, even from just back as far as the Frehley’s Comet days; I mean, what’s the biggest difference you see now versus when you were coming up through the ranks?

Well, the audiences are the same. You know, it’s just the business has changed in how people get music, you know?


A lot of people get music from the internet now, and a lot of people don’t even buy CDs anymore. So, that’s really the only difference, and of course YouTube and news and stuff.

What about you, are you a guy who still likes to record to tape or have you gone digital in your studio?

Ah, I’ve done both. I like tape.

Yeah? What do you think of the whole vinyl resurgence that seems to be going on? You know, a lot of people are buying vinyl again and a lot of records are coming out on vinyl, I think that’s kinda cool.

Well vinyl has a distinct sound. I’m probably gonna do a, you know, mix this next record to vinyl.

Oh, that’d be awesome.

Yeah, maybe do a picture disc or something.

Ah, yeah, that’s old school!


What about, for example, the Led Zeppelin thing. They just got together again for that show, and they talked about those guys doing a tour; in fact I just read yesterday that Plant turned it down and they were looking to get paid something like $200 million each to do that tour, and he said no. And like The Who, the band that I know got you wanting to play rock n’ roll, and KISS takes flak – I don’t want to talk about KISS a whole lot – but they take flak for continuing on with guys in your spot and on Peter’s drum throne; how do you feel about these bands, whether it’s KISS or Zeppelin or The Who or whomever, kind of keeping on keeping on minus guys who were a critical part of what made them in the first place?

Uh . . . [long pause] . . . I don’t know, I’d love to see a Zeppelin tour. I mean Jimmy was a big influence on me. And, you know, so was The Who.


KISS is a different ballgame, you know?

Yeah, Zeppelin isn’t putting anyone in a John Bonham mask to go sit on the drums.

Yeah . . . I don’t know exactly what they’re doing, but it is what it is. . . .

Talking about guys like Jimmy Page, or Clapton, I mean, these are guys that all you have to say is “Page”, or “Clapton”, and people know what you’re talking about, or “Jimi” for Hendrix; these are guys that have influenced millions of players, and influenced thousands of records that people love, and I think when you say  “Ace” people think of Ace Frehley . . . I mean, how does that feel? Do you ever sit and think, “Holy shit, I’m one of those guys?”

Ah, I don’t think about all that stuff. You know, people come up to me about how many people I’ve influenced and  . . . I don’t think about that kinda stuff. I’m always kinda moving forward, I live in the now, I don’t live in the past, or the future – I live in the now.

Uh huh.

Every day is special, you know, that’s why they call it “the present.” [insert maniacal, patented Ace Frehley laugh]

Who do you see nowadays carrying the torch that you guys established back in the day as far as just a good high octane, let’s-go-out-and-have-fun-for-two-hours rock band, or do you even listen to anybody these days?

I haven’t really been checking out what’s on the scene, I’ve been so focused on trying to recapture the old vibe I had with the very first solo record I did, you know, the one with “New York Groove” on it.


Most people always say that’s their favorite Ace Frehley record so I’ve been trying to get back into that mindset, you know, for this CD.

Well I’ve been a fan forever, you were the guy that made me get into music in the first place. The first album I ever bought was Love Gun, and the first favorite song was “Shock Me,” so I’m trying not to come off as a fanboy here, but I like all the stuff you did; you could put a set list together just of Frehley’s Comet stuff and I’d be fired up to see that show. Are you sharing vocals like you did on those other records or is it going to be all Ace?

Oh it’s all me.

That’s cool. You know there’s a rumor I’ve read that back in the day when you’d record your vocals the only way you could do it is if you laid flat on your back, is that true?

It’s true, I did that for “Shock Me.”

For “Shock Me”? That’s the only one, huh?

Yeah, yeah. I was trying to . . . you know, I didn’t think I had a great voice. I still don’t [laughs].

You wrote – there’re a lot of songs from those early records that you wrote that the other guys sang. How much input did you have on the songs the other guys were writing?

Oh, well, you know, I wrote the solos. I’d . . . you know, I’d give input on a few tracks here and there, but I really don’t remember too much about a lot of all that stuff. [laughs]

Sure. Are you a democratic guy in the studio? When your band comes in and records, do you take input or do you just lay it down and tell them how it’s gonna be?

I like input. Two heads are better than one and four heads are better than two.

That’s right.

ImageI don’t believe in being like a dictator. You can always learn something from anybody, even the assistant engineer. I listen to everybody’s input, and I ask ‘em for it. I know sometimes my judgment isn’t always the best way to go.

But the buck stops with you, right? You’re the final decision maker.

Oh yeah.

Somebody has to be in every band, don’t they?

Well, it’s a necessary evil, if you want to call it that. [laughs]

What do you think of all these, like, American Idol and shows like that where they trot these people out to make big stars out of them, and when you think of some of the greatest musical artists we’ve had wouldn’t even make it out of the first round. I mean, do you ever watch any of that stuff?

Not really! [laughs]


How do you think you would fare on American Idol?

I don’t know! [laughing]. You know I don’t live in hypothetical situations, I live in the now.

Well yeah, and I don’t watch that stuff either, but when I think of the people I love the most I know that the way things are now they wouldn’t even make it out of the first round.

Well yeah, when it comes to rock n’ roll you gotta think of a lot of different things than just talent. Besides vocal talent . . . you know, attitude has a lot to do with it, and the way you come across visually. In a rock n’ roll band, you know, I would always take – if I had to choose between two front men you know I’d always go with the one that’s more dynamic and active and had personality, you know, even if his voice maybe isn’t as great as somebody else’s who doesn’t have those attributes. You need the whole package, you know?

Absolutely. You have a minute to talk about your art a little bit?

My who?

Your art? Are you still doing art?

Oh yeah. In fact I’m working on something, I’m designing a t-shirt right now on my laptop.

Oh yeah? You a Mac or a PC guy?

What do you think?


Yeah. I’m working on Photoshop right now. I got version 1.0. [laughs]

Never bothered to upgrade and learn all the other stuff, eh?

Yeah, I work in it and I use 3D programs too and eventually I want to put together a DVD of an animation I came up with, you know, and scored.

See, that’s what’s frustrating to me, man, is I wanna see that stuff and you don’t have a website or anything to see what you’re working on. Is that gonna change?

Yeah. The website should be up hopefully in another three or four weeks. Just been like interviewing people to make it happen.

That’s cool, I’m looking forward to that. Now how do you feel about the fact that you designed one of the most recognizable logos ever? I mean, the KISS logo is right up there with the lips thing for the Rolling Stones. Where does that stack up with some of the musical stuff that you’re known for? You’ve got to be pretty proud of that.

Yeah, but like I said, I don’t think about, you know, accolades. Like someone said to me, would you love to be in the rock . . . the rock hall of fame . . . where was I, like in Cleveland or something –

Yeah, that’s where the rock hall of fame is.

Yeah, I mean it’d be nice, but it’s not something I think about or lose sleep over. The awards and the accolades and the praise and stuff is nice, but it’s not something that keeps me going. What keeps me going is performing and the smiles on people’s faces, and, you know, that’s my direction these days.

So what type of animations are you working on, are these like little movies or what?

I’m working with, like, spacescapes . . . and, just cool stuff like that, you know? I’m playing around with different elements . . . I kinda gotta put it on the backburner because a lot of times I get carried away with my graphics and forget to finish up my music.

So you were doing a lot of that over the years that you weren’t doing music, right?

Yeah. I’ll probably be doing an art exhibition next year. It’s like, now that I’m back and I’m healthy and clean and sober, it’s like everything is blowing up at once and I have to prioritize. All that stuff will still come to task.

And what about the health stuff – was that primarily a sobriety issue, or were you having other health problems we have to worry about coming up here?

Yeah, I’m alright – my liver’s okay. It’s my brain that’s broken! [laughs] My mind is broken. [laughs]

Well a lot of these guys that come back and do a tour or whatever talk about how they went to India and got a guru or something, or got into yoga and now they’re a yoga master or something and that changed their life . . . there’s no yoga or anything on your resume now is there?

No, there’s no yoga. It’s just more . . . more spiritual, and trying to get in touch with your higher power, and you know, it’s really about doing the right thing, getting rid of the bondage of self. ‘Cuz it isn’t always about you, sometimes it’s about other people and other things, you know?


Yeah, it’s like, I’m able to be a dad today, you know, and be there for my daughter.

How old is your daughter now?


What does she do, is she a musician or artist at all?

Yeah, she is. We were actually working on a song together a couple weeks ago. You know she’s been toying with different things, career-wise, and of course she can’t make up her mind [chuckles].

Well, I’m forty, I still can’t make up my frickin’ mind.

Yeah, she was doing modeling for a while, then she was thinking about going into the medical field, and maybe thinking about going into publicity, you know – I just have to support her in whatever she does and try and point her in the right direction.

Does she ever get hassled because she’s Ace Frehley’s daughter, or is she able to fly under the radar?

All the time, yeah, all the time. She’s gotta be aware that some people may have ulterior motives, when they, you know. . . .

Yeah. Now you guys were able to pull of the whole mystique thing with the makeup that could never happen nowadays; I mean everyone’s got a camera up everyone’s ass.

Yeah, we were able to – I mean that whole time was a special time. You know it’s kinda . . . it’s over now! [laughs]

Yeah, but it happened. I’m all for living in the present, but you guys did something that affected a lot of people in a real positive way, and I think regardless of what bad things happened and whatever personally maybe you’ve had to work through, I mean, nothing can take that away from you guys, that’s quite a legacy – I hope you feel pride about that?

Yeah, I mean, most of my memories of KISS, you know, are fond. But that was then, this is now, and, you know, today I don’t really see myself putting on tights and running around in makeup and space boots. I was starting to feel that towards the end of that last tour that I did, I just felt that it was maybe better off put aside, and left to the legacy that it should be.

Are you glad you did that reunion tour?

I’m glad I did it, I’m also glad I left! [laughs]

I saw the reunion tour at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, WA. You guys set the roof on fire.

What happened?

Right after the – right before the first encore after the last song the pyro started a little fire up in the rigging. They had to send a roadie up to put it out.

Yeah, I remember that.

Yeah, that was the Tacoma Dome.

Yeah, that’s crazy stuff. I’m still doing the smoking guitar and the light guitar; I can’t shoot any rockets off in most of these places, but maybe next tour.

Are you looking forward to playing Missoula, MT?

Oh yeah. You know some places sometimes that aren’t as mainstream as others, sometimes are the best audiences, you know?

I’ve heard that from a lot of guys. We’re just a little hungrier here because we don’t have somebody coming through town every week.

Exactly. Yeah, I’m looking forward to it, I look forward to it every night. Like tonight I’m in Quebec City in Quebec, you know and –

Is it cold?

Is it cold, yeah it’s cold!

You’re freezing your ass off up there, aren’t you?

Well, I’m in a nice cozy hotel room [laughs] just chillin’. Makin’ phone calls and playin’ with my laptop, life’s good today.

Yeah, it sounds like it. Well, Ace, I’m not going to take any more of your time, I sure appreciate you calling. I’m really looking forward to the show and looking forward to the record, and we’ll see you in Missoula.

Yeah, Chris, it was great talking to you and I’ll see you at the show in Missoula. Take care.

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