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KISS and Ace Frehley cuttings

Music Preview: Ace Frehley kisses his old band goodbye with no regrets
Thursday, May 01, 2008
By Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Ace Frehley: "I wake up every morning and thank God I'm alive, 'cause there were a lot of times where I almost didn't make it."Let's just cut to the juicy part and then work backward.

How does Ace Frehley feel about seeing someone, namely Tommy Thayer, strutting around the stage with Kiss wearing the Space Ace get-up with the silver stars on the eyes?

"It is what it is," he says on the phone, sounding like one of Tony's boys on "The Sopranos." "From what I read on the Internet, the fans aren't too happy about it. I don't want to go there ..." he pauses, then adds, "Am I crazy about it? Nah, not really. It is what it is."

Rather than donning his patented Kiss outfit and playing to thousands of screaming fans with explosions going off behind him, the 57-year-old Frehley will play to several hundred at Mr. Small's Sunday with his four-piece band.

According to Frehley, it's his choice.

The guitarist from the Bronx was an original member of Kiss, the last one to join in 1973. He was the band's guitar wizard and best musician throughout its heyday, up until 1982 when he left due to a combination of musical differences and substance abuse.

Frehley then rejoined Kiss for a reunion tour in 1996 and stayed with the band through its badly named Farewell Tour in 2002, all the while still struggling with alcoholism.

Why did he leave that time?

"I just got tired of the nonsense," he says. "I got into rock 'n' roll because it was fun. In the early days we had a lot of fun with Kiss. We were all out there to just do it. When it became this big business machine, it kinda took away the spontaneity of the whole thing. Then, I did the reunion tour in '96 and it started out great. It was almost like old times. By 2001, I basically had enough and wanted to go back to my own stuff."

His own stuff is a solo career that is arguably the most successful among the fab four. When Frehley, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Peter Criss released simultaneous solo albums in 1978, Frehley's sold the best and was the only one to score a hit (No. 13 for the Russ Ballard-composed "New York Groove").

After leaving Kiss, Frehley released three more solo records and toured as Frehley's Comet, but it now has been 19 years since his last album, "Trouble Walkin'."

The good news for Frehley fans is that the long-awaited follow-up is just about ready. It was supposed to drop this month, but has been pushed it back till summer.

"The stuff sounds real good," he says, "but everyone's been waiting for this record and I'm just trying to make it better. There are like two more tracks I want to cut, just to round things off."

His biggest inspiration and his template for the new record, Frehley says, is that 1978 debut.

"It's probably more like the first record than anything else. Most people cite that as the best Ace Frehley record and I've been listening to it and trying to figure out why. I'm trying to recapture some of that. I want this record to be extra special."

In advance of the release, Frehley is on the road fronting a band that features second guitarist Derek Hawkins, drummer Scott Coogan (ex-Brides of Destruction) and bassist Anthony Esposito (ex-Lynch Mob).

While they all contribute with vocals, most of the burden is on Frehley, who historically has been shy at the mike.

"To me, singing is a necessary evil," he says. "I consider myself a guitar player and a songwriter, and because I write these songs I gotta sing them. I remember last year when I was thinking about putting the band together, some people were saying, 'Ace, you should get a powerhouse frontman.' But a lot of these songs I've been singing for years, either solo or with Kiss. What's this front guy going to do when I'm singing lead? Play a tambourine," he says, cracking up.

The set list consists of songs from the old solo albums, as well as Kiss classics like "Cold Gin," "Deuce" and "Love Gun," but he's holding back on the new material because he doesn't want it to turn up on YouTube and kill the surprise before it's released.

As for Frehley's signature flashy guitar work, we've seen him doing much of it with Kiss under the influence. He has been sober since leaving the band in 2002, and he says it shows in his playing.

"I think I'm a little more accurate and more focused. When I drink and perform, I was maybe a little more animated, but there were more clinkers and I played sloppier and stuff. I'm just more focused now and more in charge."

Like most metal stars from his generation, including Ozzy himself, Frehley isn't too big a fan of the modern, heavier bands.

"There are some good bands out there," he says, "but some of the screaming stuff lacks melody. I mean, if I have to choose between the two, I'll take something where I can pick out the melody -- something where when you walk away from it, you can hum, something that will recirculate in your brain. Some of the best guitar solos are the slower ones. You can't really hum something when you're playing 3 million notes per second."

For inspiration, he reaches for the classics.

"I listen to a lot of the old stuff I used to listen to -- Hendrix, Zeppelin, The Who, Cream, Jeff Beck -- the stuff I grew up on. It still works today, whereas a lot of music when you play it today it really sounds really dated. A lot of the groups that influenced me, they still sound good."

Does he put Kiss in that category?

"I guess some people might," he says. "I don't like critiquing my own work. Let other people do it."

Scott Mervis can be reached at or 412-263-2576.
First published on May 1, 2008 at 12:00 am

The KISS comic-book storyline now continues as a web only version and can be found by clicking the banner below:

Will Ace Frehley make a guest appearance with Kiss at Download?
The prospect of both Kiss and Ace Frehley playing the Download festival on the same day – June 13 – has raised a tantalising question among the Kiss community.

To wit:

Could Kiss mainmen Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley be persuaded to allow their former guitarist to guest with them on stage at the festival? Like, during an encore on something?

Classic Rock's Geoff Barton recently quizzed Simmons and Stanley about this very subject.

Read on…

Paul Stanley: Would I ask Ace get get up on stage with us? No. I’d certainly invite him to watch the show, but appear on stage? No way. There are four members of Kiss. Always have been. Tommy Thayer is our guitarist now. That’s the way it is. So there’s no room for a fifth guy on stage, not even Ace.

Gene Simmons: I actually called around and asked the promoters if Ace’d like to play on the bill. I love Ace dearly, he’s just a pure character, a true rock’n’roll rebel spirit. Unfortunately his worst enemy has always been Ace.

Ace should have tens of millions of dollars. And of course I can hear you saying in the background: "Is that all that’s important?" Well, it would be nice, wouldn’t it? It would be nice to be filthy rich after putting in 35 years of playing your axe, instead of going around playing in clubs and trying to make ends meet. It’s a sort of rock’n’roll tragedy, if you will. But everybody wishes Ace the best. I certainly do.

But to quote Ace, the reason he quit the band and left touring was that he was ready to commit suicide. Not once, not twice. Often. Not everybody is designed to be on the road. Hopefully Ace has surrounded himself with people who won’t let him get away with any shit. "I’m just going to the bathroom to comb my hair." "No, no, no, you’re not going by yourself." Once an alcoholic, you’re an alcoholic for life. The same goes for drug addiction. Ace is going to be a drug addict and an alcoholic for the rest of his life, and every day I hope he fights the fight and wins, because he deserves a better life.

To answer your question about inviting Ace on stage at Download… probably not. It would raise the wrong sorts of messages. But he certainly deserves credit, every bit as much as I do or anybody else does, for starting the band. No one would ever take that away from him.

But this is the Olympics, baby. When the fans pay their hard-earned money they’re not interested in excuses. "I clipped my toenails, I’m sorry, I forgot to tie my shoelaces…" nobody gives a shit. They want you to get out there on stage and kick it out. If you can’t cut it, get off the team.

As far as Gene Simmons is concerned, I certainly belong there. "Based on what?" you ask. Based on history.


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