INTERVIEW AND LIVE PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA
John Regan is an American bassist, songwriter and producer. He is best known for being a long time member of former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley’s band Frehley’s Comet and later on Ace’s solo band. Regan worked with Ace from 1984 to 1990 and he played on three studio albums FREHLEY’S COMET, SECOND SIGHTNING and TROUBLE WALKIN, a live ep LIVE +1 and a live video LIVE + 4. He has also recorded and performed with such names as John Waite, Peter Frampton, Robin Trower, David Lee Roth and Billy Idol among many others. Currently, Regan is a member of brand new band called Four by Fate. The band also includes Tod Howarth who is Regan’s old band mate from his Frehley’s Comet days. Regan and Howarth were invited to be a special guests for KISS ARMY FINLAND’s KISS Convention in Helsinki in May 2014. On the day before the Expo, John had enough time to sit down with us and discuss Four by Fate, his colorful past with Ace Frehley, and many other interesting topics. Read on!
FOUR BY FATE AND MORE
John Regan, it’s been a while since we have heard a lot from you here in Europe. So, in brief can you let us know what you are currently up to and promoting?
John Regan: What is happening is we got a new band called Four By Fate, which we are really excited about. My old buddy called Howarth from Frehley’s Comet, and I got together after working on a KISS Tribute record called A WORLD WITH HEROES for a Canadian Cancer Hospice Research and Mitch Lafon. And we started working together on that project, and really we’ve been trying to put Frehley’s Comet back together for our 25th anniversary for about two or three years. And just couldn’t seem to make it work, and oddly enough through, A WORLD WITH HEROES. We ended up recording two songs together, and Sean Kelly was brought on board through Mitch Lafon. Sean is a great Guitarist from Canada. And Stet Howland came in through, I call him our manager but he is our best friend right now, Dennis Seaton. And Stet is from W.A.S.P and Lita Ford, you remember he was drumming for that band. And we became Four By Fate, literary by fate. It wasn’t even a planned situation. So, we are really excited we had our first rehearsals last month and we are going to go into our first show is in New York on June 5th and sixth, one on Long Island and one on Poughkeepsie, New York. It’s a chance which is in my backyard; I can to work that night.
You also have one old friend playing with you in New York show.
John Regan: Richie Scarlet is going to be on the bill, so it’s going to be all a full night of Comet. Ace Frehley in case, so it’s going to be groove on.
Maybe you should ask Anton Fig to come in as well?
John Regan: I would love to have Anton come in. He’s busy with David Letterman for now, but maybe next year when Letterman retires we can pull him away! “Laughs”
You said that you first tried to do something with Ace again but it didn’t work out. But did you ever get any proper answer from him?
John Regan: Well, the only answer was that he wanted a very large amount of money as a guarantee. And when Danny Stanton walked into it, he just felt that we really couldn’t come out with that kind of money. So, Ace is working on I think two records right now. He might be done with one, but just scheduling didn’t work. It would have been great. It would really been wonderful to do a 25th anniversary reunion, and I don’t like to use the word fun because I consider them friends. I don’t consider them fans, but I think our friends would have enjoyed it. And my plan was to do by ten cities and maybe come to Europe for a couple of shows. But didn’t happen, but you never know. Never say never, it could happen in the future.
Have you been asked to help Ace out with his upcoming book? He’s currently writing his second book which is about Frehley’s Comet and his later years with KISS?
John Regan: Really?
Yeah and Richie is probably going to help him out. He told me about that project last year.
John Regan: I didn’t know that. I would imagine at some point he should call me, because I probably remember a lot more than he would. I haven’t heard from him yet. I’m very excited to hear that, because it was a good period of time we got a lot of good work on in about four or five year period or so. That’s great. I didn’t know that, but it makes sense because I didn’t read his first book but I understand it wasn’t really a lot about that period which I understand. It was focusing on his KISS years almost only. So now it’s time to talk about the other stuff. That’s great, I hope he calls me. You got my number Ace, call me.
THE EARLY YEARS WITH ACE
Because we are soon in KISS Convention, we have to also talk about the old stuff. I think you don’t mind?
John Regan: Go for it.
Let’s go back in the year 1980 when you first met Ace. When and how did it actually happen in a first place?
John Regan: I met Ace at a recording studio in White Plains, New York. It was owned by a mutual friend of ours Joe Lander. And actually I believe Ace was taking a nap on the floor of the Studio and I kind of just walked in and step over him, and just saw that’s Ace Frehley. Said, that’s nice. So, I walked over him and I went to work. That’s where we started; Ace had been out of KISS. I had stopped Peter Frampton who was the artist I was working with from 1979 actually right up to 2010. But he had taken a break in ’83, so I was kind of hanging around. Ace was not with KISS anymore, and we met at the studio in White Plains and we started talking. And I said, “Why don’t you come over to my house in Connecticut.” And we ended up, he said, “Well, I’ll have Anton come and would just jam.” We started just playing, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix. All the music that we love that made want to be, Rock N Roll guys, and it wasn’t for money. We had no plans on putting a band together, it was just three people. Like just getting together, like we did in the garage in the old days that plays Rock N Roll. And then we started enjoying working with each other and ended up becoming the beginnings of Frehley’s Comet, and around 1984, ’85 we brought Richie in.
When was Arthur Stead added to the line-up?
John Regan: And Arthur Stead who I had worked with Peter Frampton and so and Arthur joined in. And we recorded a bunch of demos, and I believe we had a record deal with a label and then called Bronze. And I guess for whatever reason that felled in, which was really disappointing as we put a lot of work into the demos, we were really excited about them. I guess they still exist somewhere. You’ve got them all, I’m sure. Right? Yeah. And really at that point it was disappointing, everybody had a young family to feed. So, Anton and I went off and did session work. I think Arthur went off and joined Public Enemy and Richie went solo. His solo career has always been important to him. And we just kind of went our separate ways, and we were sad that it didn’t work out.
That happened after that, after the album, didn’t happen?
John Regan: It didn’t happen. And we were ready to record; we had a schedule set up and didn’t come to be. We had to do other things. Anton and I played with Scandal for a little bit, Patti Smyth, had the big hit, “The Warrior”. And we went off and did a tour of Japan with her, and then we just ended up getting and doing work session. Which Anton was just one of the number one drummers in New York and the known world?
Like just mentioned, you did a bunch of demos with Ace in the early days and most of those songs are still unreleased. I was going to ask about a few of those tracks since the fans have heard rough demo versions of those tracks anyway. First of all here’s a song called “Girl Can’t Dance”, which written by you and Ace?
John Regan: I do not actually know who wrote that song…But I don’t think that Ace even had anything to do with it.
How about “Back Into My Arms”?
John Regan: I believe that was written by Arthur Stead and Ace.
“Catch Me When I Fall”
John Regan: Not sure of the writers on that one.
“Back on the Streets”, a song written by Vinnie Vincent (!!!)
John Regan: Yes…A GREAT song by Vinnie!!!
“Give It to Me Anyway”, which later on was released on LOADED DECK?
John Regan: That was Arthur Stead and Ace as well…might even be some input from Richie Scarlett. You see…these were only demos, so we never filled out any licenses for them. It’s hard to remember that far back on many of these songs.
Speaking about 12 PICS and LOADED DECK albums, both albums are a kind “best of” albums along with some unreleased stuff as well. You were the producer etc. for those albums so would you tell something more about those releases?
John Regan: When I left the band, my wife was running the ROCK SOLDIERS FAN CLUB…we had a lot of items that we had personally paid for guitar picks, band pictures, membership cards etc. At one point I was asked to attend my first KISS Convention in New Jersey. I brought along these items, and was surprised how many people wanted to purchase them. So, to recover a small amount of the money I was owed at the time, we sold out of the stock that we had. Later on that year, one of Ace’s managers called and told me that he was informed that I was selling these items, and that I must stop immediately…I responded by letting him know that I was owed over $70,000…and as soon as he sent me the check for that money, I would send the items back to them. Never heard another word from anyone after that!!! So, when I decided to contact Johnny Z at Megaforce about putting the two compilations together, I thought what better way to send a message that to title the first release 12 PICKS!!! I am still VERY proud of the work we accomplished in my days with Ace, and I felt that there was a market for putting both 12 PICKS and LOADED DECK. I still enjoy listening to them today!!! Like mentioned before, there are tons of unreleased stuff from Frehley’s Comet early days.
Why you didn’t release more that unreleased material on these albums.
John Regan: Partly because I did not have access to the masters, and the quality of what we had was less than optimum. If I could get the masters, I would love to remix and master them…and put all of this out as a special item.
THE SECOND COMING OF FREHLEY’S COMET
That was the early days but let’s jump to the time when you re-grouped Frehley’s Comet and started to work on your debut album in 1987. How did that all happen by then?
John Regan: What happened was around 1987 through Eddie Trunk, and we really owe it to him. He convinced Megaforce Records and Jonny Z to sign Ace and give him a shot. He really championed our cause, there would have been no record deal with Megaforce if it were not for Eddie, and I am convinced to that. So, it was great then. Eddie Kramer was going to produce and I had known Eddie previously who did work with everybody from Zeppelin to Hendrix, and he became a very good friend and his good friend to the stay. Ace called up said “I got a record deal” and I was now playing in John Waite’s band. We just finished the record called ROVER’S RETURN, which I love. One of my favorite records. And it’s like, “Wait a minute now.” I’m in John Waite’s band”, but I really love playing with Ace and Anton and we were going to have a band, and we had Eddie Kramer producing. So, basically I told John I’m going to go back and do this. And we recorded probably half of the Frehley’s Comet record. And it just kind of felt like we needed another dimension, I believe Richie was busy doing his own thing. So, I had met Tod when we were doing a core-headline tour with Cheap Trick while I was in John Waite’s band. And Tod and I struck up a friendship immediately, and I noticed that he was… They had him like go up to the side of the stage, but he was singing all the notes that maybe Robin couldn’t hit that particular note, and he’s playing keyboard. Then I find that he plays guitar, and said, “I’ve got a guys that I would like to try out now.” Kick them out; we were in New York band. We had a choice of anybody in New York. But really in my heart of hearts I felt Tod was the right guy, so we flew him in. He auditioned. Ace and Anton loved him. We auditioned a couple of other people, I don’t even remember who it was but Tod was the only one we called back. And I believe he flew back in and he just stayed, and then we continued working on the record. Tod brought his songs to the project, which really helped.
Just yesterday, Tod told me that he had the feeling that after the audition you and Anton liked him a lot but Ace wasn’t sure?
John Regan: I don’t remember that. I don’t remember Ace voicing in on any kind of trepidation or wondering about it. I know Eddie Kramer thought Tod was great. From my recollection, that’s a long time ago. We are talking 27 or eight years. I think it just felt like natural and we asked him to stay.
When Tod joined the band, like you said, half of the album was already done. How much did he actually re-play parts for the album?
John Regan: On a couple of songs, I would have to look at the album and look at the track by track to remember. But Tod embellished a bunch of songs, added some guitar parts and much needed background vocals, because as you know I can’t sing. And then he brought his songs in, which was very strong, very strong.
Marko: One thing, I always wondered when the album came out, that there are many songs on the album which are actually older stuff like “Breakout”?
John Regan: Keep in mind; we had worked up a lot of material from this album that didn’t happen. So, it was ready to go. I remember finding “Breakout”, we were going through tapes and Ace is still, it’s him and I. Because you are always looking for ideas, said, “What are we going to work on today?” So, he pulled this old reel to reel tape and I just heard its groove, Eric’s grooves. That’s it. It’s still, that’s my favorite live song to do from Frehley’s Comet. I love that the thing got swagger and swings and just it’s mean and nasty and we are going to do it tonight.
Last year we had Richie Scarlet here as our guest and we played “Breakout” with him. But yeah, I was going to ask something about “Calling To You” which you re-write partially and changed some lyrics of it. (Originally it was titled “Megaforce”) The song, it was actually a little hit song for 707 back in the day. Wasn’t that a problem for you?
John Regan: I was not aware of 707; again I’m a New York guy and 707, I believe, that was a Californian band. So, Tod brought the song in. I didn’t know whether it was old or new, I just said okay, “This fits what we are trying to do here.” And we always got for that attitude. So, what’s this band trying to convey? What is this band about? And I thought that, it comes right of the gate function at it. So, it was good to me I liked it. Tod is a great songwriter as we know. So, I didn’t realize it was an old song; it was just a good song. I don’t have a problem doing remix of songs that are great songs, like we did do it for TROUBLE WALKIN. I don’t want to jump ahead in the interview, but if it’s a good song, it’s a good song. And if it fits the band, why not try it?
One of the greatest songs on the first Frehley’s Comet is “Into the Night”. Whose idea it was to pick it up?
John Regan: Thank you. I actually found that one, again re-make. I was always a Russ Ballard fan, and then Russ had written, “New York Groove” So, it made perfect sense. It worked once, a great song. So, I brought it to the table, played it for Ace and Eddie and they liked it and we went ahead and put it. And it’s probably; I think it was the first single. So, I guess with Atlantic and Megaforce I thought it was the most commercial of the bunch.
Do you have memories about shooting the video for “Into the Night?”
John Regan: Yeah, it was freezing. It was 3:00 o’clock in the morning in San Francisco, which it was the only time it would allow us to shut down the street. Which I still can’t believe they did, it’s a big city. You are not used to shut down the city’s street, but we managed to do that and I think the opening line in the song it was either 2:00 AM or 3:00 AM on the downtown street. It was that time on a downtown street. And it was exciting, I mean here we are, we are set in the middle of this huge intersection, and people are looking all around because people are still out at that time in a big city. But it was freezing cold, it was cold and thank God it wasn’t raining.
There’s one thing I would like to ask and it’s about Gordon Gebert. Was he involved with the first Comet album recordings or not? There are different stories about it for and against?
John Regan: The first album? Gordon? Nothing.
That’s interesting because Tod was thinking that maybe he worked on some effects used on the album like the beginning of “Breakout”?
John Regan: Let me go back. On the first album? You are going to think I’m crazy, but “Words Are Not enough”. I think what happened. And again, you have to excuse me some long time ago. “Words Are Not Enough” was an extra track for that record.
Yes, and it came out later on LIVE + 1 album
John Regan: Right. And if you listen to that, there is a sequence part in the beginning of it. And it’s very possible that Gordon did that sequence part. And we really thanked him because he was always there, always in the studio even though that track didn’t make it. Which now when I listen back to it, I love that track. I don’t know why that one got left off, back in those days they wanted like ten songs, now you can do 50 song record. Which I feels good because people are getting value for their money, a factor and the powers of being in a record company that limited to you then, you can push it maybe and actually 11 but they like ten. So, it is possible that Gordon did some sequencing that I wasn’t aware of. But I thought we met Gordon later on, but again I could be wrong.
Okay. So, do you have any opinion about his KISS AND TELL books?
John Regan: I didn’t read the book, everybody asked me, and I go ”Did you read the book?” And I said, “No. I saw the movie.” I was in the movie; I didn’t need to read the book. It’s interesting as last night we were speaking down here about that and Gordon and I had never really talked about why he did it and I didn’t ask him. But last night he offered that he wrote the book and I didn’t know this in response to some comments that Ace had made about him. One thing I can tell you about Gordon is he was Ace’s right hand man for a long time, and he really gave it a 110%. Whatever happened, and usually when this silly stuff occurred is over money. Which is ridiculous, because… When you have somebody point a heart and soul and supporting you and being there for you, and a lift occurs over money. It’s very sad, life is too short when you have a good friend, and you can’t put a dollar amount on that. So, Gordon had mentioned last night and if didn’t know that this was going on. Because once I left in 1990, and Gordon I think took more of a role on that I was kind of doing. Was just kind of looking after certain aspects of the business, my wife run a fan club, the Rock Soldiers fan club. And then when I left obviously we weren’t going to do that anymore, so I believe Gordon took that over and from what he said last night. That’s where this issue occurred, a monetary discrepancy, accusations. And especially when you are younger, “He said that about me. Well, I’m going to say that about him. What I’ve done, I don’t know.” Everybody is different and unless you are in, walk a mile in someone’s shoes you shouldn’t judge them. I just feel its unfortunate, because I do know how close they were. And I do know Gordon work really hard on Ace’s behalf. Again, I didn’t read the book maybe I’ll get a copy and read at home, on the plane today and find out what I did.
It’s really funny book to read. I highly recommend it for you. “Laughs”
John Regan: We talked about this last night with Gordon; there is so many funny stories. He should have had his own reality show, because you couldn’t even make the stuff up that he did.
TOUR LIFE, LONDON AND POSSIBLE FREHLY’S COMET BOXSET
Once the Comet album came out it did very well. It was played on TV, on the radio and the band was really visible in everywhere. But you never toured too much around the album. What was the reason for that?
John Regan: We did tour after the album was out.
Yes but you were not touring enough if in my opinion?
John Regan: Well, not enough you are saying? You know, touring is expensive, and videos were very expensive. And keep in mind we were on Megaforce, even though that we were with Atlantic and I thought they were generous. We didn’t get a huge budget through that first record, but then we had to do a couple of videos and they ate up a lot of money. Now you had to go to them for tour support. So, you just keep digging a deeper hole and more and more in depth. And touring can be very expensive. So, I remember being out most of that year and I would have liked to tour more, but the offers are the authors. What I really wanted to do, I wanted to get on as a guest support for KISS, and I thought that would have been phenomena.
Was that Comet tour with KISS ever even close to happen in real life?
John Regan: I mentioned it to Ace and I think he would have done it. I don’t know why it never got to… Here is what happened, I feel. These managers would come and go in Frehley’s Comet, and every one that we brought in I could immediately sense that all they were looking at was a KISS reunion. That was their big pay-day, because they were going to then get rid of the rest of us and go off into the sunset with Ace and get a nice fat check. And my responses to all of those guys were, “it’s okay”, I understand that I’m not going to fold that against you. But business one-on-one, the chore of it should be, “Let’s take Frehley’s Comet and Ace. And make it as successful as possible.” So that when you go to negotiate through this KISS reunion, you are coming from a point of strength rather than Ace is playing and balling out here. And that’s kind of, I think worth a card down the road. I always felt these guys were selling a show and not thinking of the big picture, let’s make Frehley’s Comet a success. Because when we came out, that first album almost went gold immediately. So, we never really had strong management. You know?
One thing I remember well about the Comet in the 80’s it was the show you did in London in 1988. Do you still remember that one?
John Regan: The Hammersmith Odeon. That was a great show and that was fun.
Tod was thinking that maybe that trip in London was the highlight of his whole Comet era. Do you feel the same way?
John Regan: It was. I think that was the pinnacle, we just went over there. It was like a wallowing, we shot two videos during our sound check. “It’s Over Now” and you would probably know the other one…
“Time Ain’t Running Out”
John Regan: Right. And literary just in between the sound check and the gig we shot two videos, so we maximized our time over in London and the show was just… It was fantastic. I remember, it’s not on the video thank God. I don’t know if you remember, I came out and back then they used to use this petroleum-based stuff to smoke the stage. They over smoked the stage, just like a spinal tap moment and it was slippery. And I came out and I just went right down on my back, I got up quickly when I looked at the video again. But it seems like I was laying on my back for about a half an hour.
I have seen it, yeah.
John Regan: It exists somewhere?
John Regan: I’d love to see that.
You can find it from YouTube… “Laughs”
John Regan: That’s funny. I just going down, boom. It was like, “What am I doing on the floor?”
Do you remember that one interview which you did with Ace for MTV’s Headbangers Ball. It was Mick Wall interviewing you?
John Regan: Yeah, I do.
Some of the live footage was later on released on LIVE+4 video.
John Regan: Yes.
It includes only a couple of songs So, I think you must have the whole show somewhere?
John Regan: No. I don’t think so. You’ve got them?
Some clips and tracks only.
John Regan: So, you probably know more about it than me? ”Laughs”
Well, I don’t think so but we are going to see the official release of that whole show someday?
John Regan: The entire show? I would love to. Someone had put me in contact; I believe Mitch Lafon put me in contact with a couple of guys in the States. They were trying to get to Megaforce to do a complete box set, which I would have loved to be involved and re-mastering. Putting that whole video out and I never really… It never got anywhere, but I worked from my service there. I said, I would love to work on it and put it together from the… I would actually like to include those demos from trying to get our first deal and just do a whole thing from the beginning to the end and everything included and make it a nice a box set, which is reasonably priced to hear that, record people. So, you are not ripping the public. So, there is one definitive collection of that particular moment and time from like 1983 to 1990. Which would have been the beginning of the band to, TROUBLE WALKIN. I hope it happens. I’m up for it, anybody who wants to contact I’d love to dig into that and get on and do it really well, so that everybody is going to enjoy it and we can be proud of it.
SECOND SIGHTNING AND TROUBLED TIMES
It’s not easy to put out another album after the success the debut but for you it seemed to be really difficult because you were going through so many changes at the time, right? So how it all went with SECOND SIGHTNING when you look at the whole process now afterwards?
John Regan: We decided to produce that one ourselves, which may have not been the best decision. But simultaneously Ace from working on that first album and touring, I don’t think we really had much chance to write material and the record company kept wanting another record. Actually bounce on through anymore, if you noticed. Though we waited awhile before putting the album out, we put out Frehley’s Comet and then life was one, like right on the back of that. That was a mistake, and I feel that was business decision and anybody can dispute this. I’d love to find the truth out, but we were at the point where we were going to be recouped in the money that they gave us for the first time which in layman’s terms, when you do a record and video and tours the record company puts that money upfront. You have to earn that before you start seeing your loyalties which were agreed to in the contract. But you know this, people really may not know. And from my rough calculations we reached that point quickly, because the first time on this went on in months. All over sudden, it just stopped which we thought it was rather odd. From what I read the record company claimed that there were terms on the first album, and record store buys 1,000 copies, they sell 800, they return 200. I always question that, because I would like to know where they are. In somebody’s garage somewhere? Where are the returns? But that conveniently list them off the hook, start paying loyalties. Given the fact that we immediately went and recorded Live plus 4 that put us more in debt. So, we were constantly in debt. And yeah, we were making some money from touring but it wasn’t that much because like I said touring is expensive. And Ace really fronted the whole start up for the band through a deal, a publishing deal. He got an advanced for publishing deal, that event went to start in November and he put a lot of his own money into that. Which is okay, it was his band. So, now we put out Live plus four and now they want another studio record. It was like, “Wait a minute!” We still didn’t have time to write material, I’m looking for material. Ace and I wrote, “The Acorn Is Spinning.” But that was just a fun afternoon, sitting around, goofing around. But Tod is like a song writing machine, he never stops. He’s like constantly creating. And we need to do an album; he’s got the bulk of material. Ace have brought some material with other writers that he had done, and we just went in and did it. Jamie had joined the band, so we just stayed with Jamie Oldaker. I had known him from my Peter Frampton days. When I joined Peter’s band in ’79, Jamie was just off to Eric Clapton -tour and he was in the band. Jamie and I were best friends. So, he staid and we basically cut what we felt was the strongest material at the time. And again at that point, Ace didn’t come up with too much though. So, we didn’t have an option. Should we have waited? Yes. And as I said they don’t do that, and you don’t notice that anymore. An artist will put an album out and let it run its course, even now they put singles out. It’s a completely different world, but you don’t see people like in the beginning with the Beatles and the Stones. There will be records coming out every month, money was flowing in but then the business model changed and because they had to lay out so much money for these records. There should have been time to recoup that money before you and give you time to also come up with some new stuff. Because when you put an album out, you are out on the road touring. You are going to have all the best intentions; there is very few people like Tod with that energy. I don’t have it, I know if I’m on the road and you do a show and then you travel to the next place and you get up, it’s very unusual for you to sit out and sit in for three hours and then try to write some new materials. You are just getting from one show to the next show, and with someone like Ace he was doing interviews everyday like we are doing right now. It was not like, we had the day off. He’s the star, he’s doing interviews. So, there is a lot of people vying for your attention.
And that was probably the reason that you again used some old stuff like, “It’s Over Now” which Tod had written earlier for Cheap Trick and then there was “Dancing with Danger” which also has interesting story behind it…
John Regan: Ace came up with that. It’s not his song, but he brought it in.
I know the history. It was written by one Canadian band which was managed by Dana Strum and for a way or another that song ended up for Ace’s album and it’s credited for Strum and Ace there…
John Regan: Wonderful. Isn’t that great? Welcome to Rock N Roll. I’m learning something from you today.
That’s life. But like on the first album, you also did some great videos for SECOND SIGHTNING like “Insane”. You do remember that one?
John Regan: That’s memorable for me. Did you see the European version of the video? Yes you are and that’s why you are smiling, you can’t see this on tape but he’s smiling already. Marko was smiling. And if you saw the video you would know why. “Laughs”
Tod said that the only bad moment about shooting that video was that the project only lasted two days to finish. “Laughs”
John Regan: Yeah, I know. Tod was having a real good time.
It wasn’t that long time ago, when Rock Candy records put out a re- mastered version of SECOND SIGHTING. Have you heard it yet?
John Regan: I haven’t, but I heard it came out well. Did they also put out the first record?
No. They just put out that one and TROUBLE WALKIN.
John Regan: They did, okay. I knew two came out, I wasn’t sure which ones.
When the album was released did you go out on tour again. First, you toured briefly with Alice Cooper and then you joined Iron Maiden tour. Something went wrong with the tour and you soon got dropped off from the bill. What happened back then?
John Regan: Here is what happened with Iron Maiden, probably one of our less pretty brainless managers at the time, who shall remain nameless. I almost put through the wall and hit him, I may. Whoever negotiated the deal with that, with the Iron Maiden didn’t put in our contract that if Iron Maiden canceled the show we would still get paid. Now, we were running pretty much day-to-day because it was expensive. Our guarantees weren’t that high, we had wanted the exposure being on the Iron Maiden tour. That Iron Maiden tour in United States did terrible. So, I’m going to use a figure, let’s just say that you are planning on bringing in, you are doing five shows and you are going to bring in a $100,000 that week and then your expenses and everything. Those weren’t the figures, but just making an example. By the end of the week you are pretty much okay, we made payroll. We can move on to the next week. Iron Maiden started canceling shows, so if we were getting 20,000 a show, all over sudden 20,000 shot now. By no fault of our own, we can’t go on and do a gig somewhere, because all of our equipment is with Iron Maiden. So, this started happening and one week I think they canceled two or three shows. And now we can’t pay our bus company, now the bus drives away which it actually did once. I remember Tod and me in a hotel going, “Isn’t that our bus driving down the highway?” We are looking out the window and here goes everything. So, really that particular incident was bad management and bad negotiating, because as far as I’m concerned. If I’m the head liner and I choose to not do a show for whatever reason, I would pay the support act because their bill just will come in and as if they got paid, and they didn’t cancel a show. We had no party canceling the show. That was just bad business, Iron Maiden’s, they weren’t drawing numbers. And the way it works when you are doing big shows with a lot of times, if you do not have enough presale the better of canceling the show and the promoter taking a loss than opening the doors and incurring extra cost of security and etc. Renting the hall. We were stuck in the middle and had nothing to do with Ace, Ace’s ability to perform. It was a bad situation with the, we weren’t looked after by the people who were handling our businesses.
Tod actually said that he quit with the band soon after because of financial reasons.
John Regan: Yeah. It’s a sad reality; Ace had gone through his KISS money. We went through the publishing money that he got for Frehley’s Comet, and it’s just it was so simple mathematics. It’s like we weren’t taking in enough to keep going, we couldn’t keep spending money. And those days we paid our crew the same exact amount of money as we took, and that was… I felt that was fair, because the crew is probably more important. Because if the crew wasn’t there, working hard. Nothing is going to work. So, we weren’t making a lot of money back in those days.
After the tour Tod and Jamie left and Frehley’s Comet eventually broke up, right?
John Regan: I see what you are saying; but it didn’t feel like a band split. It just, I think Tod wanted to go be more of a writer and I think the record company said, “Wait a minute! We got to lean as more towards Ace.” Which is probably in a business sense the right thing to do, and it was never sit down. Okay. We are done. It’s just kind of thing to do back then.
The next album, TROUBLE WALKIN, was released in 1989 but this time under name Ace Frehley. Why you decided to drop name Frehley’s Comet at this point?
John Regan: That was record company. It’s like, we need more the Frehley’s Comet thing. The first one worked, the second one didn’t. Okay, thrown that out quick. And again a typical record company in fashion that was the era when they stopped doing… It used to be called artist development. You’ve heard of like Bryan Adams?
John Regan: He had five albums on A&M Records before he hit. Back in those days record companies would allow you to build the fan base, around that late ’80s, early ’90s it was like, and ”This isn’t making a lot of money. Out.” And that’s kind of where we are at now, and it’s why you don’t have too many memorable bands. The bands that have been coming out recently and I love a lot of them, but you are not going to… KISS is around 40 years later; you are not going to see these bands around 40 years later. There is not that history there, because it’s just, “Okay. It’s the flavor of the month, next, next.”
The companies just want to make some fast money.
John Regan: Fast money, yeah. And you know what? There is also a theory that’s always going back; they want you to be a one hit wonder. Because if you get that one hit, and again going back to that you are not recouped. They are keeping all the money; they don’t have to pay you anything. Once you start becoming successful, they got to start handing your money back. It’s probably in their best interest for you to hit big and then go away.
Right. That’s the easiest way.
John Regan: Yeah, it is.
But let’s go back to TROUBLE WALKIN album. After somewhat disappointing SECOND SIGHTNING, TROUBLE WALKIN was back in track and its maybe the strongest Ace album to date.
John Regan: It’s the hardest rocking. Bringing Richie back, gave it that edge.
And Anton as well?
John Regan: Anton as well, yeah. Well, we started the album with Sandy Slavin playing drums. We started the album producing it ourselves, the geniuses that we were. Didn’t work, begged Eddie Kramer to come back. Which he did, thank God. And sandy is on one track I believe, but then it was like, “We know what works.” And Anton would have stayed in the band, had he not gotten with David Letterman’s show. Immediately after we recorded Frehley’s Comet, it happened simultaneously and it’s like, “Who’s going to say no?” You can’t, that’s a great… It turns out he’s been there almost 25-30, I don’t know how long he’s been with Letterman. But that’s something you can retire from and have a pension and everything else, which is unusual on a music business. So, we brought Anton back in and that album really kicked serious butt.
And Ace wrote some of the strongest songs he ever did, if you ask me.
John Regan: Yeah. I think again, we had time between SECOND SIGHTNING because we didn’t tour a lot from that. So, you get time to recharge, regroup. And that’s a perfect example of what we spoke about earlier. When given some time you can create, but when you are pressured… I have worked with Peter Frampton for 31 years on and off. Everybody is FRAMPTON COMES ALIVE! It was huge. It held the record for years of the largest selling live album. But that was a combination of three or four studio albums that really didn’t do great, that was like the cream of the, all on one record.
Just like what happened with KISS Alive?
John Regan: Yeah. But now it’s a huge hit. Now you are touring, you are doing interview. You are like being ripped apart by all the business people, and it’s, “Okay, kid. Write me another one like that.” Can’t do it, can’t be done. I don’t care who you are, exactly, you are not going to do it.
That’s so true. So, I think that after all TROUBLE WALKIN was a success, not too big in commercially wise but in musical wise.
John Regan: I do too, I do. I wish it had been more commercially successful.
Yeah but it didn’t help that at the time grunge started to rule the music world and hard rock was out of fashion thing.
John Regan: Exactly. Again, the timing, the grand new stuff was starting to come out. You are right, you are actually right.
One thing what I always wondered, why you decided to record “Hide Your Heart” for the album. I mean, it was already recorded by many artists, including Bonnie Tyler with whom you also played with? Was it just a little nuisance from Ace to the KISS camp?
John Regan: You know, I did not even know until AFTER we recorded the song with Ace that anyone from KISS had anything to do with the song. I thought it was a great tune when I recorded it with Bonnie, and submitted it to Ace for us to record. I think we did it justice as well!
On TROUBLE WALKIN’ sessions you had many interesting quests on the studio and it was also the first time when Ace and Peter worked together since their KISS days. How was their chemistry working in the studio after all those years?
John Regan: Peter is a joy to work with, and that time in the studio with him will always be a treasured musical memory!
Also in the studio were Skid Row who were huge KISS fans by then.
John Regan: They were great to record with. They obviously are BIG fans of Ace, and I believe they considered it an honor to be on that record and we considered it an honor to have them be part of it all!
THE END OF WORKING WITH ACE
You quit with Ace’s band in 1990. What broke the camel’s back and made you leave back then?
John Regan: What did? A combination, and I’ve never told anyone this in an interview. My dad passed away in 1990, he was ill. And I was kind of torn being out on the road when I should have been home, but at the same token Ace was starting to get a little too silly with his demons. And my deal from day one with Megaforce with Johnny Z and even with Ace was the longest you are trying to keep it together, I’ll be behind you 150% that if you start going off the rails I’m gone. I don’t need to stay on the titanic as it sinks. Because I was a young man and I had a family to feed, and no one is going to look after you better than yourself. And it just started getting stupid, without going into details. And it was like, the combination of the… I felt that I should really be around home, around my family and I should have been more. But I got there when… Death is not easy, but I was really feeling, “What I’m I doing out here?” Because I’m trying to move this project one step forward and the star is pushing it two steps back, and it just got completely frustrating to me. And it was time to go, and again I made that deal on. I’m a man of my word, I’m not going to be here if it starts getting really silly. And it wouldn’t have mattered if we were making millions of dollars or making nothing, it’s just more of the I didn’t feel it was right to be there anymore. And I’m not casting any aspersions on Ace or anybody else, it’s just that was the situation. I had to get up in the morning and look in the mirror and believe that I was being true to my chore, and I felt and I tried to live my life that way. Once I make a decision if I have given you my word, it’s going to happen whether you like it or not.
Was Ace angry when you told him that you’re going to leave?
John Regan: I don’t think, there was no even animosity or discussion. A lot of times I’ll do interviews and people read a lot more into, this most happens. Things don’t really happen now; it’s just kind of… It’s like, “Alright. You know what?” The pendulum swings one way and swings the other way. So, there was no… It’s just, “I’m done, and I’m out.” We had the stroll of the cameras back, because we had our last show on Anaheim, California. And again, I was handling the budget, so I knew the money and we were day-to-day. The last show when we licked up our pay from that show was going to get the buses all back, the trucks all back. Because you are going to fuel, you are paying people. And Ace decided that he didn’t want to do that show, and it was a sold out show, everything was set up, crew was there and he decided he wanted to go to Disney World. So, I’m like, “Seriously?” He gave us some note from a doctor that said, “Ace can’t come in to school today, because he’s got a sore throat.” That kind of a thing from breathing in his smoke, and that’s when you just go, “You know what?” Unfortunately he’s not thinking straight right now, and I can’t be around this anymore. Because now his decision to not be responsible, he’s put a lot of people in tough situation and that’s not cool. I don’t live my life like that. Again, if you are going to give your word to people you better do it. And when you want to know what the definitive moment was, that’s was that day. I said, “I can’t do this anymore.”
Did the show happen after all?
John Regan: No, he went to Disney World. We saw him going away and rented a convertible with his girlfriend. It’s like, “Really?” Now, we got to clean up this mess because the promoters weren’t happy, they had to return all the money. Now you’ve got lawsuits, because you chose to do something silly. And again at that point, it’s like I can’t be around this anyway. And I didn’t even know if that story has ever been in print, so you are getting a lot of first here. But it’s the truth.
Right. May I ask, how is your relationship with Ace nowadays?
John Regan: We saw each other… I kept trying to get a hold of him to do this 25th reunion, and it’s like I couldn’t get anybody to call me back, nobody. And I remember John when he was a literary a little boy and his parents used to bring him to the shows, and it was like, “If Mohammed will not go to the mountain, the mountain will have to go to Mohammed.” So, I heard he was at Chiller Theatre Convention in New Jersey. So, I got my car and went down there. And we had a nice… Again, I was never mad at him. It’s just you have to do what’s right in your life at the time. So, there was never any, a fight or there was no harsh words, never.
Ace is Ace.
John Regan: Without Ace on it, never. Actually the one time he got mad at me I tell you real quick. We were in San Francisco over to New York, we were in a High rise Hotel and I was talking to my wife and all over sudden as I’m speaking on the phone watching the door shake. And I’m looking at my soda and I’m looking at the sake and I said, “Man! This is an earthquake; I’ve never been in an earthquake before.” So, it shook me up. So, I call the road man. I said, “Look…” It was about 2:00 in the afternoon, 3:00. I said, “I’m going to go dance there as you just get a drink.” So, we were in Japan town, so I don’t think I can fight. It’s a Japanese restaurant. So, I just started drinking sake. I don’t really drink a lot. I’m drinking sake for hours, they had to come and find me. They take me to the show; I was pretty out of it. Somehow we played the show; I don’t even remember playing the show. The next day I get a call from the road manager, “Ace wants to see you, and he’s pretty upset.” I’m thinking, “He should be.” Because that was not pretty real responsible to me. So, I get in the room. Sits there, he’s like, “John, I got news for you. I’m pretty disappointed today, and I’m thinking well to myself. He goes, “Last night on stage…” And I’m getting ready for it, “You were out of costume.” So, the only thing he noticed is that I didn’t have my leather pants and stuff. He didn’t realize I was pretty much comatose, leaning against my arm. But yeah, that he kind of understood. There is so many good memories of the music and times we had. In life nothing lasts forever, and again our relationship never was… There was never any name calling or any of the stupidity or any verbal arguments, it’s just… It run its course, I still love to put that band back together and do ten shows. But that’s Ace’s call, and it should be Ace’s call, probably his name. But, Four By fate we are paying homage to that period of time. We are doing a lot of the songs that Tod sang, wrote and got some great new material coming up. Sean Kelly is phenomena; this kid is incredible guitar player. Incredible. And I have been fortunate to work with some of the best guitar players on the planet, and he’s right up there with them. And Stet is a great show man as you probably know.
Yeah. I have seen Stet, many, many times with different bands. One more question. Yesterday, Tod told me that you might have a plans to re-record some old Frehley’s Comet tracks with Four by Fate. Is that you would like to do as well?
John Regan: I have always wanted, I love, “It’s Over Now.” I love that song, and really it get that much attention because the record didn’t do anything.
Yeah. And it was the third single off from the album.
John Regan: It was? I didn’t realize that.
John Regan: I didn’t realize it was a single “Laughs” But, here you go. But that song I’ve always felt, and Tod wrote it for Cheap Trick. It’s a phenomenal song. So, we are going to look at that one. If you’ve got any suggestions let me know, I value your opinion and I want to thank you for bringing us here at Finland. It’s a dream come true for me, after decades on the road I’ve never been to this beautiful part of the world. So I have you to thank for that.
Okay John, now our time is up now. A million thanks!
John Regan: You’re very welcome Marko.
CHECK OUT JOHN AND FOUR BY FATE
A SET OF PICTURES FROM KISS CONVENTION IN HELSINKI 2014 feat. JOHN REGAN & TOD HOWARTH
PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJALA