It’s been twenty years, four Presidents, and many receding hairlines since ACE FREHELY last released an album. Of course, the Spaceman hasn’t been missing in action. He returned to KISS for the highly successful Reunion tour, the ill-conceived 3-D Psycho Circus tour and the never-ending Farewell tour, but most importantly Ace faced his alcohol demons face on and won.
September 15th marks the return of Ace as a recording artist with the release of Anomaly (his fifth and best solo studio album or certainly on par with his classic 1978 album), but more importantly the day celebrates Ace’s third anniversary of walking away from the bottle and re-claiming his life and health.
The Spaceman took Bravewords on a mattress shopping excursion for our sometime distracted, but pleasant discussion of all things Ace.
Mitch Lafon: You’ve made a great hard rock album with no outside vocalists. Was it important to make this a true Ace Frehley album?
Ace Frehley: “I think that’s what the fans wanted, so that’s what I went for. My touring drummer Scott Cogan did a wonderful job of background vocals on ‘Sister’ and ‘Pain In The Neck’ and there’s a couple of gals singing on ‘Genghis Khan’, but pretty much I did all the vocals and backgrounds. ”
ML: Was it challenging to sing all the vocals? I know, at times, with KISS you were hesitant to cut a vocal and on your previous solo albums you had outside singers. Do you have more confidence in your voice now?
AF: “Oh, yeah. It wasn’t scary at all and it was fun being in charge and producing. If I had hired a producer the album might have been finished a whole lot sooner, but it was great to have the creative control and be able to try different things with my voice and harmonize with myself. It’s always a pleasure (laughs).”
ML: Are you happy with the results?
AF: “Very much so.”
ML: Was there a deliberate attempt to recapture that ‘1978’ sound or is this simply ‘Ace music’ as it comes out of you?
AF: “I was aiming more for an analog sound rather than a digital sound, and I was trying to get as close to that first album as possible simply because everybody cites that as their favorite Ace Frehley record.”
ML: It’s been twenty years since the last release. What took so long?
AF: “I was ready to go in a record and album right before I was offered the (KISS) reunion tour. It took a while to get back on the horse after working with KISS again until 2001. I needed to get back on my feet and get focused. That took a couple of years. I started writing tracks in 2004 like ‘Genghis Khan’ and ‘Pain In The Neck’. It just all came together this past year.”
ML: Do you think we’ll see more Ace albums coming out in shorter time spans in the future? Could there be another one next year or the year after?
AF: “I think they’re not going to be more than a year or two apart at this point.”
ML: Personally, how are you feeling since you’ve gotten yourself healthy?
AF: “I’m feeling great and the actual release date of the CD (Anomaly) is September 15th and that’s going to be my three year anniversary (of being sober).”
ML: Congratulations! That’s a great achievement.
AF: “For me, yeah. For a guy who could never turn down a drink today is great. You wake up without a hangover, are focused, get a lot accomplished and move forward.”
ML: I’ve read statements attributed to Gene Simmons in which it is claimed he has said that the relationship with Ace ended after the Farewell tour because of your drinking problem. Is their any truth in that and do you wish you had stopped drinking earlier and stayed in KISS?
AF: “Well I was the one that left both times. It didn’t end because of my drinking. It ended because I decided to not do the next leg of the tour. They offered it to me and if he says anything to the contrary he’s a liar.”
ML: Let’s talk about the Psycho Circus album. Here’s this great reunion album with the four original guys and then you find out that Tommy Thayer is playing guitar, Bruce Kulick is doing some bass and Kevin Valentine is drumming. How disappointing was that for you?
AF: “I didn’t know that that was going to be the case. I was told that we were going to go in and do an album – the four of us. Then they started pulling fast ones like they’ve done in the past. It is what it is you know. That’s one of the reasons why I’m not working with them today because they say one thing and do something else. I submitted, at least, three songs for that record and it was like pulling teeth to get just one song on that album. I think this album (Anomaly) will speak for itself and let people know that I can still write good songs, perform, play and produce. The whole ball of wax.”
ML: Will you hit the road right away to support Anomaly and will it be a headlining solo tour or will you jump on a package tour?
AF: “We’re trying to put something together for the late fall, so whatever seems viable.”
ML: What can fans expect to see and hear on the Anomaly tour?
AF: “I’m going to have to do all the songs I’ve done in the past. All my hits, you know, ‘Cold Gin’, ‘Shock Me’, ‘Rocket Ride’…”
ML: Will you do more of the singing in concert? On your last tour in 2008, your bass player sang a few of the KISS songs.
AF: “I’m not a virtuoso vocalist. It’s a lot for me to sing every song the whole night. I don’t want to blow my voice out on the road. I work with people that can throw in a vocal every three or four songs to give me a break. Plus, it gives the audience a little variety.”
ML: Les Paul guitars – you’ve been using them basically your whole life. What’s the appeal of the Les Paul for you?
AF: “It’s the greatest rock ‘n roll guitar ever made. You plug a Les Paul into a Marshall amp and turn it up to ten and that’s the hard rock/heavy metal sound. It’s a no brainer. There are a lot of other great guitars that people are building, but you know – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”
ML: How would you describe your guitar sound? When you hear an early KISS song or ‘Pain In The Neck’ from the new album – there’s that very distinct ‘Ace sound’. It sounds right to me.
AF: “I don’t have verbal description of my sound other than I strive for a sound where I like the feel and sound of it. It’s pretty much a Les Paul through a Marshall. In the studio, I’ll use a lot of smaller amps and I’ll double a lot of my rhythm tracks and in many cases I’ll double my tracks with a Fender guitar to give it a wide harmonic range, but that sound you hear on the new album, Anomaly, is pretty much the same sound I used with KISS in the early days. It hasn’t changed very much; I just perfected it a little.”
ML: Do you think you’ll record a live DVD on the next tour?
AF: “Yeah, I don’t see why not. We just need to get together a good video crew.”
ML: Are you amazed by the influence you’ve had on so many guitarists? Did you think you’d still be talking about KISS in 2009?
AF: “I would have practiced a little more if I knew I was going to impact that many guitar players lives. When we threw KISS together, I knew it was going to be something special. I knew when I was a teenager that I was destined for stardom. Not to sound cocky, but I’ve always had the power of foresight. It’s just something I always sensed – it was my destiny. If it wasn’t KISS, I would have been in some other band. That’s just the way it laid out this time around… in this life. “
ML: Do you have any comments about KISS in 2009 doing it with your make-up and Peter’s? Does it even bother you at this point?
AF: “I really didn’t pay too much attention to it in the beginning, but what bothers me now is that my fans are so upset by it. When I read the comments on YouTube and they’re overwhelmingly negative. So, that bothers me. When the fans are upset that upsets me, but I really have no control over that and the fact that Gene decided to do that…”
ML: Does it bother you that not only are they using your make-up, but they are also copying your stage tricks (shooting rockets) and Beethoven bit during the guitar solo?
AF: “I don’t think the fans are to happy about it. It’s really only half of KISS and half a cover band. Everybody makes their bed and has to lie in it. I’m buying a mattress that’s rock ‘n roll (laughs). It is what it is.”
ML: Quickly back to the upcoming fall tour. U.S. only or will you come to Canada, Japan, Europe…?
AF: “We are still trying to piece it together. I’ve had a couple of different offers and I’m just trying to see what makes most sense, both financially and for the marketing of the CD. I think we’ll have something concrete in the next month or so.”
ML: This is not your final album as you mentioned before. It’s great to hear that you’re back and ready to produce more new music. There was a real void for the last twenty years.
AF: “There was a real void and I apologize to you and all my fans. I wanted to put something out sooner, but it just wasn’t good enough. I’m really particular about what I put out and I remember saying in interviews last year ‘it’ll be worth the wait’. I think we’ve achieved that at this point.”
ML: The album really has that ‘magic’ and captures that sound that I remember from when I was a kid and I haven’t had that feeling from a KISS album or an Ace album in 20 or 25 years. It’s a great feeling.
AF: “I’ve had that comment from a few other people and it’s really heart warming. It makes me feel that I’ve achieved the goal that I was trying to achieve. I wanted to get back to my roots and make a really good record.”
ML: You did the artwork as well for this album…
AF: “Yes, I did do the artwork.”
ML: So, you pretty much did everything on this album yourself...
AF: “Well, I’ve had enough time. Haven’t I (laughs)? But I’ll have something else new out in a couple of years if not sooner. I’m back on the horse and I have all my faculties. My studio is back and everything is going full steam. It won’t be another twenty years before you get another Ace Frehley record.”
ML: So, there’s no plan to retire anytime soon?
AF: “Are you kidding me (laughs)? I’m just getting started. It took a hell of a long time, but I had to go through the changes I went through to get to where I am today. Life’s a crazy journey and I’m happy with the end result and I’m glad you like it. I’m really excited to read some of the reviews when it comes out.”
ML: Well, my review is simple. The album is excellent. Speaking of ‘life journeys’ – would you consider doing one final goodbye show with KISS or is that door really closed forever?
AF: “It doesn’t look too promising at this point. I don’t even know if the fans would want that.”
ML: I think the fans would love to see you back. If KISS came to you and said ‘we’re doing, in 2012 at Madison Square Garden, the final Kiss show ever’. Would you participate?
AF: “If I were to reconsider, they’d have to have bigger deep pockets.”
Anomaly is THE album you’ve been waiting for folks – for more info visit Ace online at Acefrehley.com.