INTERVIEW AND LIVE PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
Ace Frehley is best known as the original member and lead guitarist of the legendary US band, KISS. In the early days of the group, Ace created his Spaceman persona and designed the original KISS logo. And later on, he developed unique stage theatrics, like the smoking, and rocket shooting guitar. Ace started his musician career in the late ’60s and played with such bands as Four Roses, The Exterminators, and Molimo before joining KISS in 1973. In the mid-’70s, KISS became one of the most successful bands in the world. ALIVE! , DESTROYER. ROCK AND ROLL OVER and LOVE GUN sold millions of copies worldwide, and the band was on the peak of their career Ace departed with KISS in 1982, and formed a new band called Frehley’s Comet. This band released its self-titled debut in 1987, followed by LIVE + 1 EP, and SECOND SIGHTING in 1988. Ace decided to drop the Frehley’s Comet moniker and issued 1989’s TROUBLE WALKIN’ under his name. The KISS reunion took place in 1996. The original lineup: Ace, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Peter Criss announced The Alive/Worldwide tour which became one of the most successful tours ever. The reunited KISS issued its new studio album PSYCHO CIRCUS (1998), followed by another world tour. In the year 2000 band announced its “Farewell” and Ace did his last KISS performance in the closing ceremony of the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. In 2007, Ace returned to the limelight with his new solo band. The new group: Ace, Anthony Esposito (ex-Lynch Mob), Scott Googan (Ex-Brides of Destruction) and Derrek Hawkins started touring in late 2007. The new Ace Frehley album ANOMALY saw the light of day in September of 2009. Ace and his band arrived in Finland in early December 2009, and then the band played in front of a sold-out audience in Helsinki. Then I had a chance to sit down with the Spaceman and discuss ANOMALY and various other subjects. I hope you like it!
(Unfortunately, Ace’s schedule was tight, and I only had six minutes with him but here’s my six minutes with Ace Frehley)
BACK IN THE GROOVE WITH ANOMALY
Welcome back to Finland. The last time you were here was in 1999.
It’s great to be back (laughs).
Well, first of all, we finally have a new Ace Frehley album called ANOMALY How satisfied are you with the response you have received so far on that album?
I think it’s overall been very positive. The new album has been doing really great both internationally and especially in America and Canada. Good reviews and fans seem to like it a lot. On this tour, I’m doing four songs from that album. It feels great to be back on tour again because I haven’t actually toured since the last year.
Like you’ve mentioned before, there’s some older material on the album. “Sister” was already on your setlist in the mid-’90s. Is there other older stuff, riffs, etc. on that album?
Most of it was written after 2004.”Sister” and maybe one or two other ones were originally older, but those were rewritten after 2004 or 2005? We started tracking in 2007, and here we finally are.
Is there any “leftovers” from KISS sessions on that album? For example, if I remember right, you wrote a lot of stuff for PSYCHO CIRCUS, but only one song was used on the album?
Do you mean if there are any leftovers? Well, I think… I can’t remember for sure? If there is anything used from KISS sessions? Perhaps something, but I’m not sure? I don’t know, I just got little mixed up there (laughs).
“Fox on The Run” is another successful example of the cover songs you’ve recorded during your career. You seem to be really good at choosing the right songs to cover.
I always enjoyed doing cover songs, and this time my friend Pam came up with an idea to take a shot with “Fox on the Run,” and it turned out really good.
What makes a song so special that you decide to put it on the album?
Well, a good song is a good song. “Fox on the Run” is a great song. Everyone thought it was a great song to do, so that’s how it came about. Well, I did “2000 Man”… “New York Groove” is a cover song and then there’s “Do Ya” and other ones as well.
Which song is your personal favourite on ANOMALY?
My favourite song is “Genghis Khan”. Probably because I started it just with the middle part of that song and it evolved during the upcoming months. I came up with that interesting intro part and then the “wah-wah” guitar solo at the end and all that crazy stuff. That happened over months and months of time. I put a lot of effort and time on that song, probably more than any other song. It was over a hundred tracks on ProTools, and it was the hardest one to mix. I guess, I’m really close to that song, and I’m thrilled with the way it turned out so for those reasons it’s my favourite song on that album.
Would you tell us something about the current band you have?
I found Anthony Esposito, the bass player, first and he knew the other two guys so I auditioned them and that was it. It was pretty painless. It’s nice, and we get along really well on and off on stage.
How much did you play on ANOMALY, I mean which other instruments did you play except your guitar parts and, of course, the vocals?
I’m playing all guitar parts, except for “Outer Space” where Derrick (Hawkins) plays some guitar with me, and I’m doing all the lead vocals there. I also played some bass tracks, but Anthony plays most of the bass on the album. Scott Coogan plays the drums on “Sister,” Brian Tichy did one track, and Anton Fig plays the rest. Marti Fredriksen did some keyboard and other stuff as well.
In production and recording-wise it must have different for you to work with a set of new tools, I mean ProTools is a great help in these days. When did you start to learn these new technologies?
I started pretty much learning ProTools around 2007, and now I’m pretty good with it. I mean during the mixing process I was actually back at the hotel doing editing on my laptop, I was like editing, doing samples for “Outer Space” and placing other samples on other songs, cut and paste things. I’ve got pretty good engineers on this record. Marti Fredriksen and Anthony Focx did a great job mixing it. I’ve never seen anybody edit faster than Marti Fredriksen. Jesus! (laughs).
What’s also great with ANOMALY is the artwork. Would you tell something more about it?
Well, I was just screwing around with something, some sci-fi ideas, and went through many different ideas and it just got evolved, you know? I started to design it over a year ago, and it went through many different evolutions, but in the end, the result came out really good. I can’t tell much more about it.
I have to say; it looks terrific!
Have you received any feedback of ANOMALY from your former KISS bandmates?
Nothing concrete… Maybe you’ve read something? I don’t know about it (laughs).
What is your opinion about the new KISS album SONIC BOOM then?
I think it’s a good record.
Does it sound like a classic KISS album in your opinion?
It sounds more like something they were recording in the ’80s, I think? It really doesn’t have the 70’s sound cause I’m not there! (laughs)
ABOUT INFLUENCES AND TODAY’S MUSIC SCENE
I know that this is the question everybody does ask, but who were your biggest influences as a guitar player when you started your playing career?
Jeff Beck was a big influence, Jimmy Page, Hendrix, Clapton all those guys I grew up with. Because of them, I started to play the guitar.
What if you could choose only one name, who it would be?
Maybe it would be Page, Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin. He’s probably one of the biggest influences on me. I remember when I was 16 years old, and I saw Zeppelin’s first New York appearance at the Fillmore. They were opening up for Iron Butterfly “laughs”. They just blew my socks off. They changed history.
How about vocal wise? Are there any singers who have influenced your vocal style during the years?
I don’t even think about singing. To me, singing is just about some kind of “have to do thing” because I play the guitar and write songs. I can’t have anyone else to sing for me. You know, my drummer Scott Coogan is a good singer. I get some breath every time when he sings a song on the set but, you know, to me singing is just a… I never considered myself a singer. I’m a guitar player, songwriter, and producer. I sing because I have to sing (laughs).
How about today’s music scene overall. How much do you follow what’s going on out there?
Well, you know? I’ve kind of been locked in studio recording and producing and mixing. I really haven’t paid much attention to what’s going on the music scene right now. There are a couple of good new groups there like Wolfmother. They have been out for a while already, but they kick some serious ass.
How about some other fashionable things like Guitar Hero? Do you have any opinion about new stuff like that?
Guitar Hero is fine. I think that anything that gets kids interested in music and gets’s them off the street, out of troubles, is great. I think it’s wonderful, but Guitar Hero is just a halfway, a half step, to the guitar. But still, I think it’s a good thing.
KISS AND TELL
There’s one guy who you have been working with for over 30 years, and he’s Anton Fig. You still seem to be very close friends. How did you first learn to know each other in the late ’70s?
I got introduced to Anton through Eddie Kramer, and we just head it off right away. We’ve been working together ever since. It’s always great to work with him because he’s one of the best drummers I know. He always knows what I’m looking for, and he usually nails everything with the first take.
Back in the late ’70s, when Peter was having a serious personal issue, Anton played the drums on DYNASTY and UNMASKED -albums. Was he ever offered to join KISS full-time then?
Actually, he was for sure at one time, but Paul and Gene then changed their minds.
When was that? After the DYNASTY album perhaps?
It was around DYNASTY or … no, it was after DYNASTY. It was more like around UNMASKED or something, I think?
At that time you were the most famous member of KISS. Did that cause any problems between the other band members and you at that time?
You mean which time?
I mean around about 1979-1980?
I don’t know about that. I just did… I always do what I do, you know? (laughs)
How about Eric Carr? Weren’t you two close friends outside of KISS as well?
Eric was a wonderful guy and a great drummer. God bless him.
Tell us something about writing the song ”BREAKOUT” with him?
That was with Eric. I remember I went over to Eric’s place in New York City, and we worked on that, and it developed out there. At the time Eric was kind of bummed because he couldn’t play on the record (The ELDER) though….
There’s also a rumour which says that at one point Eric had plans to leave KISS and start to work with you. Is there any truth behind that rumour?
No, I just tried to get him into the studio to play on a couple of songs during the album recording process, but Gene didn’t allow him to do that.
Was that for TROUBLE WALKIN’ album?
Yeah, it was.
Because our time is running out here’s the last question. What plans does Ace Frehley have after this European leg of ANOMALY is over?
There are Australian and Japan tours coming, and I want to start working on a new album next year. I like to do movie scores, work on animation, a book and maybe a talk show. (laughs)
Ace Frehley talk show sounds like an exciting idea. I can’t wait for that! Our time seems to be over now. Thanks and see you at the show!
MORE PICTURES FROM ACE FREHLEY’S SHOW IN HELSINKI !!!