INTERVIEW AND PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA
Tod Howarth is an American musician from San Diego, California. He is best known as the vocalist/keyboardist/guitarist for the band Frehley’s Comet, former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley led. With Howarth, Frehley’s Comet recorded two studio albums FREHLEY’S COMET and SECOND SIGHTING, a live EP called LIVE + 1, and produced four promotional videos before the lineup dissolved in 1988. Howarth’s music career began in the early 1980s with hard rockers 707, with whom he released several albums, including MEGA FORCE (1982). Howarth has also performed as a live member with Cheap Trick and Ted Nugent and released four solo albums. The first solo album, SILHOUETTE, came out in 1995 and the latest OPPOSITE GODS in 2010. The newest project Tod is involved with is a brand new band called Four By Fate. The group also features Tod’s old Frehley’s Comet bandmate and a good friend John Regan, drummer Stet Howland, and guitarist/vocalist Sean Kelly. The band is currently working on its debut release, which should be out in the fall. Tod Howarth and John Regan arrived in Finland in May to participate in the KISS ARMY FINLAND’s organized KISS Convention, which was held in the club On the Rocks in Helsinki. And there I had a pleasure sit down with Tod and discuss his solo career, Frehley’s Comet, and of course, about Four By Fate, which is the future for Tod, right! Read on!
FOUR BY FATE
Marko: It’s been a while since we have heard from you here in Europe. Let’s start this way, tell us briefly what you are currently doing, what you are promoting, etc.?
Tod Howarth: No, thank you, Marko, for asking the essential questions because yes, I have fallen off the face of the radar, the face of the map here for quite some time. Yes, after Frehley’s Comet disbanded as we knew with me, John Regan, and myself in ’88, I went back to San Diego to start to procure some solo-type record deals. Consequently, while doing that, I ended up playing with Cheap Trick again from 1990 and 1996, all the while having my local solo bands out of San Diego and Los Angeles, and even though all the Cheap Trick years after the Comet, I was still playing and trying to sing and make new music. I had managed to put a band together and got it signed to a Gene Simmons label, and that was almost going to take off except for the fact that grunge had come in, and it eliminated everybody’s hopes as far as the mainstream.
Marko: It was just bad timing for all hard rock/metal bands.
Tod Howarth: Yes, it was horrible, horrible. So it was a good thing that back then, that Cheap Trick was at least out still playing, but I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. Bounce up to this year or this period, John Regan and I have been talking for the last three years about trying to get Frehley’s Comet back together for an anniversary show, and we had some people that were working again with Ace and in contact with Ace because we had not been for quite some many years. We managed to get a hold of Ace a couple of years ago and pretty much asked him directly and indirectly if he’d be interested in doing something with the Comet, just maybe a few special one-off shows here and there, and his interest was not too great. As a matter of fact, he said, “No, thank you,” pretty much. He just pretty much passed on it, so John and I thought, “Okay, I understand. He’s got his project and own things that he wants to do.” We decided to go ahead and put a project together, which has now become Four By Fate. We weren’t sure how far we were going to be able to go with it based on the economy, the interest, because Ace is not in the band, it’s just John Regan and myself and two other very talented musicians, Stet Howland from WASP and Sean Kelly from Helix, Crash Kelly, and another Canadian star called Nelly Furtado. He’s a fantastic player, my God he’s right, but anyhow, we got this band together, and we’ve just recently done three rehearsals in New York, and at the end of the, on the third day, we invited 50 Facebook friends to come in and enjoy the rehearsals. That was a lot of fun.
Marko: I have seen some photos and video clips from those sessions. It seemed that you all had a blast!
Tod Howarth: It was a blast; we had a great time. My vocals were pretty good for three days straight; we did three eight-hour days in a row. Actually, one day it was 12 hours, but we had a blast. People had a lot of fun and enthusiasm. It was a nice primer to the New York shows we’ll be doing on the 5th and 6th of June. So John and I are very excited about this, as are the other two guys in the band. Danny Stanton, our manager, booking agent, he’s excited. I’ve already written about half a dozen songs in a loose form so far for the band record, and Sean Kelly is writing as well. We’ve got a few outside writers that are going to make some contributions that have great songs.
Marko: Could you name any outside writers you’re working with now?
Tod Howarth: One guy is Pat Gasperini, and he is a musician as well, of course, and he is a friend of John Regan’s out of the, I believe, New York area, and he’s a prolific writer, and he’s a great guy. I’ve talked to him on the phone, and we’re already doing one of his songs live right now, and he’s got a couple of others that’s he’s working on, and it’s in the vein that I enjoy a lot, the style of music that I like, and hopefully, we can incorporate it to make it right for the band along with our writings and aspects from Sean and myself primarily. John is actually going to do some writing and co-writing as well. Still, Sean Kelly, the guitar player, and I are looking forward to doing some co-writing as soon as we can get together after the rehearsals’ hectic schedule. So that’s what we’re doing, as I’m waking up here; this is what I remember “Laughs.”
Marko: So you have a couple of songs written, and you have already played some new songs in the rehearsals. So how does that new stuff fit together with older stuff you’re playing with Four By Fate?
Tod Howarth: Well, that’s the thing that’s going to be, the old stuff is of 1988, we’ll just put it that way. Of course, it is; we’re not going to be able to change it or modify it to make it sound like the stuff from 1988; it’s not going to work, I think, in my mind because we have to kind of grow a bit. The mere fact that John Regan and I are playing and pretty much co-producing or producing it will help lend it some continuity to the previous materials that we’ve done. However, I hate to have to try to make everything sound like 1988 too much because I don’t even sing or write like that anymore. I mean, I do write, I can write like that, but my writing has changed so much, I guess maybe more matured after the last 27 years as my singing has, it’s different.
Marko: Your singing sounds different than it did in the ’80s because you’re singing from a lower key now. At least you did use that type of style on your solo albums.
Tod Howarth: On solo albums, I did that on purpose. In COBALT PARLOR, I sang a lot lower, I stayed out of the reeves, but yes, it’s changed a little bit. I want it to sound fresh, but I also want to hint at the past in it. So yes, we’ve got a task at hand trying to make it sound conducive.
Marko: I did see the setlist you had on the rehearsals, and I thought if you have plans to re-work some of the old stuff?
Tod Howarth: yes, John had a good idea he wanted to do. We were going to most likely re-record; I mean for recording, we were going to record “It’s Over Now”; we’re going to take that and turn that into a Four By Fate song. It’s just an idea to do that. Now, that’s not necessarily our rock song obviously, it’s the power ballad that I wrote for Cheap Trick to do, but we ended up doing it. I don’t know if we’d do anything else. That’s a good question. I have never thought about that, about re-doing some of the old rock tunes, maybe now that you mention it, that’s a possibility.
Marko: For me, that sound s like a good idea. Could you then use those re-worked songs as bonus tracks etc., for the upcoming Four By Fate album?
Tod Howarth: That’s a good point. We could change it. I think if we did, we’d have to change it up to make it ours, to make it more modern, which wouldn’t re-do “It’s Over Now.” We’ll do the same thing, I mean, I’m singing a little bit different than I sang back then, but yes, that probably is a good idea. Like some of the songs I sang, of course, we already did “Breakout” for a treat for a hospice thing for Canada, which was great. I had a lot of fun doing that.
Marko: As you said, you have a couple of shows booked for Four By Fate, like the one in Norway in August and another in New York with another former Frehley’s Comet member Richie Scarlet supporting. That will be a special show for the fans, for sure!
Tod Howarth: Yes.
Marko: I was going to ask about you and Richie. You never played together, but have you guys ever met in person?
Tod Howarth: Yes, we met. I think once or twice at a KISS Convention, and it was very cordial. He was very polite and way cool, and I hope I was, I think I was. I had no reason to be belligerent or an asshole to him because he’s a great singer, a great, for his character he’s a great singer, great songwriter, I think it’s going to be fun. I think it’s a very smart move to have Richie, for lack of better terms, for opening up for us, for playing with us, I’ll say playing with us. He’s a great gentleman, he’s got his own resume, he’s had it very well, and yes, I’m looking forward to having him play. It will be fun.
Moreover, I think it’s going to be more fun for the fans. It really has nothing to do with me; it’s like, “Okay, so what, what do I care?” Well, I think it’s going to be fun, first off, but being all upset about it? Not even close, and we never had any animosity. I think the only conflict we had was in the eyes of the fans, you know? That was about it.
Marko: You replaced Richie in Frehley’s Comet in the band was working on the first album abound 1987. Didn’t you ever meet during those days?
Tod Howarth: No, I never met him. I came from a whole different background of music style, singing, writing, California side. Of course, my background with the other big bands I’ve played with really had nothing to do with Ace and KISS style or my style. So yes, I never met, I met Arthur Stead because he played with John Regan in the John Waite band, and he’s a great guy too, but no, I never met Richie Scarlet at all.
Marko: I thought that maybe you should ask if Anton Fig would be available when you’re doing that show in New York?
Tod Howarth: That would be great fun. Yes, well, actually, David Letterman is retiring next year… So I’m not sure what he is up to then? God, I hope Anton, I’m sure he saved his money after 27 years because boy, he had a beautiful place in New York. I don’t know if he’s still got that now, but yes, it would be fun to play with Anton again. You know, Anton is quite the monster on drums; wow.
SOLO CAREER AND MORE
Marko: A few years ago, you were working on a follow-up for OPPOSITE GODS, and at the time, you were also working with your old band with Coco Blue. Is there something still going on with that project?
Tod Howarth: No, Coco Blue was a fun project that came about by Facebook, Facebook being very responsible for many things. Lately, it’s a good thing. The Coco Blue guys were all located in San Diego except for one of the guitar players is now in LA and, well, the bass player, my cousin; I guess he’s in Nashville because he’s a bass player for the band, Chicago. Still, it was a thing when we decided all to get together and record some fun tracks of our setlist from back in 1978, I guess, and that became just an idea for fun, and that’s all that was. We want, we’re thinking about doing another one, but it’s time permitting getting everybody together to do their homework for 12 songs is a little difficult. We all did it because we wanted to; now, it might be a little bit tougher to do it now. Now that really had nothing to do with the rock part because we did all kinds of fun, funky songs from back then. The soul stuff that I was working on to follow up with OPPOSITE GODS was again going to be just another solo record from me. Hopefully, I could try to put a band together, which gets increasingly harder as you age, and so do other band members because they don’t want to put in the time and effort because they’re just too damn tired.
Marko: All the time? “Laughs”
Tod Howarth: Yes, all the time. It’s like, “Oh, man,” but I was writing, I still am writing for two solo records; one will be a heavy rock, and the other one will be an acoustic rock in the sense it would be just piano and vocals or just acoustic guitar and vocals. I’m still going to pursue those, but now I’ve taken some of the songs that I was thinking about for my solo record and start to tailor them to Four by Fate.
Marko: A few years ago, you released a single “Cold Beach.” Does that present the style you’re going to do with your next solo album?
Tod Howarth: On my solo record, yes. Yes, very much so; I didn’t even have that song written. A friend of mine in Canada who has a video production company wanted to do a video on me and called me up and said, “Hey, come down to San Diego. I want to do a video of you,” you know, my new song or something, and I said, “Well, okay.” Well, actually at first I said, “Of an old song or what kind of video because a new song, I don’t have any written that will work right now,” and he says, “Well, a new song hopefully,” and I said, “Okay, well I got to write one.” So, in short, he said, well, I asked him, I said, “What do you want to do, what kind of style video, what’s the theme of it?” And he said, “Well, I want to do something with your off-road activities and your hobbies,” and so I smiled, and I said, “Okay, I’ll write one right now.” So I wrote “Cold Beach” for the video that had all my large, the dune buggy in the sand, and my part-time fun after San Diego. So I did that, and yes, I’m probably going to incorporate that into the solo CD, but now it’s going to be a couple of years old by the time I get that done but yes, a heavy style, heavier style, a little more up and going, up and get the type of rock and roll.
Marko: It’s a cool track.
Tod Howarth: Thank you, thank you.
Marko: And the video is also really cool. Everything clicks there.
Tod Howarth: Yes, it came out pretty damn good. There are things that I would have changed. I think, but overall I’m very happy.
THE FIRST MEETING WITH ACE AND JOINING FREHLEY’S COMET
Marko: I know the story of how you and John became friends during the Cheap Trick / John Waite tour, and that eventually led you to do an audition for Ace in 1986. Would you tell me something more about that audition and which songs you played with them?
Tod Howarth: Yes, the first time I was, John had called me and many months later had said, “Hey, that project I told you about, well it’s Ace Frehley from KISS, and he’s putting together a project, and we’re downsizing it and just making it a four-piece. Can you come out and audition?” I was like, “In New York?” He said, “Yes, I can that. I came to come out in two different ways. I can fly through there on the way to a Cheap Trick tour or on the way out,” because I was still actively playing with Cheap Trick, so I flew in. The first time to New York, and I don’t remember who the drummer was, and I don’t know if it was Anton or somebody else… Would John know? I’d have to ask John, but anyhow, I flew in and went to a rehearsal studio in New York, it was upstairs somewhere, it wasn’t SIR, it was some other rehearsal place, and I walked in; of course I meet John and Eddie Trunk was there, I met Eddie Trunk and then I met Ace Frehley. Of course, I had no idea what he looked like without the makeup, and I never really followed in his footsteps, what he was doing without the makeup. So I met him. I was like, “Oh, okay. Nice to meet you.” So we went through some songs that I had gone over, and it was fine. It’s always different playing with somebody when you have a perception of what they are, who they are, and of course, the band was good. John and drummer were smoking, and Ace was, of course, a fantastic player, and he was singing as well, and I forget what the hell I sang, I think I sang a couple of things.
Marko: You probably sang some KISS songs, right?
Tod Howarth: Yes, maybe some KISS stuff or even perhaps one of the songs they had already had the basic tracks for, but it was nice. It was nothing spectacular about the audition. I think Ace eventually told after I left that audition, Ace either mentioned to John or Eddie Trunk, “Yes, it was okay. I wasn’t that impressed.” So okay, because Ace, I think he was looking for a different style, maybe perhaps.
Marko: Maybe he was looking for another Richie Scarlet type of guy at first?
Tod Howarth: Yes, it was something like that, which probably worked very well with Ace at the time as opposed to my playing and my song style, songwriting style. So I ended up coming again because they knew a pretty good asset, I think, and that time everything clicked. I had my song, my original songs kind of mocked up for them, and of course, I think I learned some songs in more detail, sang my ass off, and that’s when they went, “Hey, this is going to work, this is the guy,” so that’s how that happened.
Marko: When you first time you met Ace, how you liked him as a person?
Tod Howarth: Just his personality? I thought he was when I first met him, and we were putting things together and finishing up the record, planning the tour. I felt he was extremely focused, and I thought he was extremely cordial. It was very giving and things that I want to do or sing or play, I’d say focus. He’s very focused; yes, he was on the money. He wanted to make this work; I think that perhaps the first time in a long time, he realized that not only did he need to make it work and want to make it work, but he had to make it work. It was a pivotal point in his career at that time to make a Frehley’s Comet come to be a viable band.
WORKING ON THE FIRST FREHLEY’S COMET ALBUM
Marko: When you joined the band, how much the album was already done by then?
Tod Howarth: A lot of essential tracks were already made, I think, yes, probably at least about half of it that I remember because I went in and embellished and added to some of the tracks that were already there. I put keyboards on some vocals and then, of course, lead vocals, background vocals on the tunes that were previously recorded waiting for me, and then I helped Ace with some of his vocal stuff and later recorded my songs and we went at it.
Marko: Actually, I have always been wondering why there are so many songs on the first album that have been written already a year before? There are songs on the album such as “Break Out,” “We Got Your Rock,” & “Calling To You,” all of which were written several years before the album was released. What was the reason for that? Were you a bit lazy, or were you suffering from a lack of material?
Tod Howarth: For the first one? Well, okay, that was in place before I joined the project and what Ace did… he writes, his momentum of writing songs then, I don’t know what it is now, but then I don’t think, I think he wrote songs that were near and dear to his heart but they weren’t plentiful. So I believe he probably acquired or co-wrote some tunes back then that were older or brought them into the project that he felt would be a good selection for him and the band to do. I had nothing to do with the song selection because I was never there at the beginning of this project. So he doesn’t write a lot of songs, he does co-write, and then he’ll do some signature tunes and write some signature tunes but back then and then he’ll have some friends or some acquaintances write songs, and he’ll help with that and those particular tunes, and therefore they become of his tunes. At least that’s my best understanding of it. So no, there wasn’t; the material they had picked was, I guess was out of this pool that they had been probably demoing and toying with the idea of doing or not doing, and they all made that decision before I came along.
Marko: How you ended up reworking your old 707 songs “Megaforce” for the album?
Tod Howarth: When Ace and I were sitting in his condo in New York, we were going through all these tunes that I had, tune ideas, and we had a good time. That was one of the better times I think Ace and I had together just laughing up about a bunch of stuff, but then he heard this song “Megaforce,” and not only did he like the song, but he was intrigued with the fact that the name of the song was the same as his record label. So it’s not a glorious reason why we re-did this song. As a matter of fact, I tried to convince them not to. I said, “You know Ace, that’s from another band that I’d really not, I’d just rather have that sit in the past and let it be where it is,” because at the time I had had some, not a great separation with the band from a, not so much a legal standpoint but just things that had happened I wasn’t too happy with but Ace said, “No, it’s a good song. Let’s re-write some lyrics for it. Here, I’ve got some ideas for a chorus and what do you guys think about this and let’s think about that,” so that’s what he ended up coming up with strike the drum, stand up and shout. I asked, we asked. I said, “Okay, yes, I guess we’ll see so this song,” but that’s how that came about. He was pretty insistent upon doing it.
Marko: Yes, and I’m glad you did it because it came out great.
Tod Howarth: It was a lot of fun. I was more pleased with it, I think than what I thought I would be when he first brought up the idea. I was like, “No, thank you,” and he’s like, “Yes, we’ve got to do this,” and I’m like, “Okay.”
Marko: I’m sure that most regular Ace fans don’t know that story and the history of “Calling To You” “Laughs.”
Tod Howarth: No, they don’t. It’s funny because I get some fans that will write, “I came across this song called “Megaforce” by 707. What is this? Did you guys get ripped off or what?” I said, “No, I wrote this song a long time ago for another band.”
Marko: Another interesting song on the album is “Into the Night, which was also a kind of savior of the album.
Tod Howarth: Yes.
Marko: It was a great pick, but how it ended up on the album?
Tod Howarth: You know, I don’t know. Russ Ballard wrote it.
Marko: I know, he also wrote “New York Groove.”
Tod Howarth: Yes, and then that’s probably where it came from, that songwriting bank. You would have to ask John because he would know more about that than I would, but I would imagine that there was because of the relationship with that symbol. I’m just starting to wake up now. That relationship with that song, with the “New York Groove,” probably helped promote something for Ace’s initial release, and I would imagine that’s where that came from.
Marko: Right, do you have any memories of shooting a video for “Into the Night”?
Tod Howarth: Oh yes, we drove all the way up to, my then-wife and I drove all the way up to San Francisco because we filmed it downtown in, I believe it was, I’m not sure if it’s the garment district or what they called the garment district back then. It was really close to the water, so it was a little bit chilly, not as cold as it is here, but it was cold, and we shut down some streets to film it, of course, and it was a pretty good time filming it. We had, let’s see, what else happened on that project. I’m trying to think of anything spectacular that happened other than the fact that we shot it in the middle of the night and early morning. It was cold, and it was fun, that’s all I remember, yes.
Marko: What’s also an interesting little fact on the album is that there are also some credits for Gordon Gebert. Do you remember how we came into the picture then?
Tod Howarth: About Gordon, Gordon’s credits, well, that sparked some discussion over the years. I think that his credit was, he had helped with bringing in and letting use his sampler for some of the songs, and in “Something Moved” and “Breakout,” we had some samples before the tunes. I had picked out certain samples for “Something Moved” that I wanted to use based on his supply of what he had, and I put that together. I think somewhere along the line it’s been construed or thought up that he came up or wrote those parts which he did not, and I told Gordon, well, I think we’ve had some direct discussions about it because I have no problems with the guy, I like the guy, he’s a good guy, he helped us out a lot. He did a lot of stuff for Ace that I don’t know about before I came into the project. He was there before I was, so what he might have contributed I may not be aware of, but I’m only speaking from the fact of I pretty much remember what it was for “Something Moved# and for “Breakout.” We wanted some sounds, and we just picked some sounds based on the banks of sounds that he had, and that’s about how that worked as I remember it. And I don’t care, giving him credit for being there and for supplying the sound, that’s fine because that’s what it was as far as I remember. Any major overly production thing, not so much, I don’t remember that.
Marko: I know that you have his book KISS AND TELL. How do you like it personally?
Tod Howarth: Yes, it’s an entertaining read, I think, for a lot of people, I’m not sure how the diehard KISS fans will think. That’s for them to decide, not me.
Marko: Right. There’s one more thing I want to ask about this period of the band, and it goes like this. You never did too much touring after the album was out, although it was well-received, and you had videos on MTV. Why didn’t you tour more back then?
Tod Howarth: No, there wasn’t. I think that what had to happen was we had to get out there and establish a name for ourselves. I mean, Ace already had his name, and we had some shows sporadically here and there, but then I think the next, it was accelerated to by the time we got some bigger tours coming up; it was almost the same time to record something new. So we kind of rushed into SECOND SIGNING to get that done so we could promote something brand new with the big tour.
Tod Howarth: The first tour, I don’t remember why or why not that we didn’t get out there more. Of course, I didn’t handle that, and I was just one of the lead singers and a guitar player, so I didn’t know anything.
Marko: Out of all Comet shows you did, and I’m sure that you remember that one particular show in London?
Tod Howarth: That was great, that was very special to me because I played there many times actually but notably three times with three different major bands with Ted Nugent, Cheap Trick and then Frehley’s Comet and yes, it was very special to me, and I’m looking forwarding to being able to go back hopefully somehow, someway but one time I say Jimmy Page there, he was there watching Jason Bonham with his band Virginia Wolf, they opened up for Nugent I believe, and another time I was there with Cheap Trick we played with Motley Crue, and that was a lot of fun, and then Bette Midler was at one of the Nugent shows there which is kind of neither here nor there, she just was there. But yes, Hammersmith was a great, fun show because we got to record the videos the day before, and then we got to do the show, which was a blast. Yes, very fond memories, the Comet for me was only about a year and a half.
Marko: That show must have been one of the highlights you ever had with Frehley’s Comet.
Tod Howarth: Yes, that was a pretty good reel for me, besides all the production videos we did and some of the fun shows we did in New York, the Beacon Theater. Yes, Hammersmith, it was nice.
Marko: After the first album, it was time to continue working on the second Frehley’s Comet album, which then became the SECOND SIGHTING. The band went through several changes at the time, so how was it like to start working on the second Comet album back then?
Tod Howarth: We got Jamie Oldaker in there because he played with John Regan and he was a different type of drummer of course, as everybody knows from Anton, and then from Billy Ward, he was a great drummer he just had a tendency, I guess, to play a lot of things in a lot of places that perhaps shouldn’t have been there and certain songs, probably a little bit of a rub there, a personnel rub between John and Billy. So that’s why Jamie Oldaker bought in, and we got him to do the record. We had some ideas for songs. Ace didn’t have a lot of songs, and he wasn’t as prepared, perhaps as he probably wanted to be or could be, I’m not entirely sure. I just know that he wanted to get some product out to help with the Iron Maiden tour, and what happened, at the time, I was writing a lot of songs and always writing because that’s all I would do, I didn’t have any other distractions. So I ended up contributing a lot of songs to that album. As a matter of fact, my idea was to have Ace and I do some more collaborating. I got something like “Loser In A Fight” I wrote, and it wasn’t a great song, but it was a fun song for Ace and me to sing together. I wanted to do more stuff like that, but maybe some cooler songs and that type of thing, but that never came to happen because Ace was sick a lot during that album, that recording. He had a lot of bronchitis, so we had to finish it up primarily, almost by ourselves a lot. Unfortunately, it was rushed, and the way it was rushed and then the perception from the fans with a lot of my songs on there and not enough, in the eyes of the fans, not enough Ace songs and so the rumors started that I was trying to take over the band and it was.
Marko: I remember that many fans claimed that SECOND SIGHTING was more like your solo album than an original Comet record…
Tod Howarth: Yes, and the first time I heard that, I go, “What?” I had no idea. It was Ace’s project, and it was his band. I thought whoever wrote the songs was still a band effort, but apparently, it wasn’t the whole deal, so the song got a lot of flags, and the album got a lot of flags for being probably hastily recorded and not enough Ace stuff on it. I understand that I really do. It upset me that perhaps “It’s Over Now” had to suffer as a single because of that. Putting that out as a third single and putting nothing behind it, the song had huge potential, and it just, I guess for all practical terms, it died a fast death.
Marko: Yeah, the album, it was forgotten soon.
Tod Howarth: Yes.
Marko: Eddie Kramer produced the first Comet album, but this time, you decided to produce it by yourself. In your opinion, how much that decision affected the final results?
Tod Howarth: I think the components there from the solitary perspective probably dropped off because Eddie Kramer had his tremendous resume, and of course he’s a great producer, a tremendous resume by himself, but I think that maybe perhaps that he wasn’t involved, he didn’t have his name on it. We, as a band, produced it with Scott Mabuchi. He co-produced it, and I thought we did a pretty damn good job. I really did. I don’t think it was that far off from perhaps the first album’s production values, but the first album also had Anton Fig playing drums and all his fiery. No disrespect to, no taking anything away or disrespect for Jamie Oldaker. Anton was just a more fiery drummer. So he had that component of a fiery drummer, the excitement of a new record, the first record by Ace and the fans waiting for it, Eddie Kramer’s name out there producing it. Those are components we could not match with the second record.
Marko: Again, some recycled tracks on the album like “Dancing with Danger,” which was written and recorded by one Canadian band…
Tod Howarth: I think those songs were probably reeled in because of the prior involvement that Ace may have had. I don’t know again the background of why it was pulled in; maybe Ace had some ideas of songs that didn’t quite fit, so he dragged these songs in. I re-cut that song, “Dancing with Danger,” on a tribute album many years later in ’97. Yes, I don’t know the origin of how it was written, but I can imagine.
Marko: “It’s Over Now” is definitely one of the few highlights on the album, but another is the video of “Insane.” I think you still do remember the video shooting really well? “Laughs”
Tod Howarth: The video, I’m saying this wrong, sorry. Yes, of course, that was great, that was probably the most fun because I had never seen so many beautiful women at one place in one time and unfortunately it took us two days to make that, damn! “Laughs” So we had to deal with that two days of hot women everywhere. “Laughs,” that was nice, yes, that was a lot of fun. There was a lot of waiting, a lot of waiting around. Of course, that’s true with any video, long video, or movie production. It just takes forever, but yes, we had fun with the women, we had fun with the band, we had fun with the crew, the people involved. It was exciting times, and we did that in New York in the New York SIR Studios. Yes, that was, wow, a lot of fun.
Marko: To be honest, that video is the most memorable thing about the SECOND SIGHTING “Laughs.”
Tod Howarth: Yes, for most people, it was, you bet. There were some seriously hot-looking women there…Oh man, there was a couple that was just stunning, and I got to be really close to them, nice.
Marko: It wasn’t that long time ago when Rock Candy Records re-released the SECOND SIGHTING.
Tod Howarth: Yes.
Marko: Have you heard it yet?
Tod Howarth: I have not heard it yet. I have been so damn busy at home with my preparation and the things that I’m doing. I’ve got some feedback going, “This is fantastic, I can’t wait to get it,” because I guess I’m going to have to buy it to hear it, which is fine because I’m kind of paying myself to a degree, but no, I am going to pick it up. I’m going to pick it up soon.
THE END OF FREHLEY’S COMET
Marko: The SECOND SIGHTING was released, and soon after, Frehley’s Comet did a big tour with Iron Maiden. But it wasn’t long after before you decide to quit with the band. What was the thing which broke the camel’s neck for you?
Tod Howarth: Broke the camel’s neck. That’s a good one. Yes, that’s precisely what happened. It was my understanding when we were out with Iron Maiden that the tour was going okay except for we were probably running out of money, and we did run out of money, and we had to stop right in the middle of the tour in New Orleans and fly home. That was very devastating because I was pretty much unaware that things were in such disarray. Had I known, maybe I could have voiced my opinion about modifying our financial situation so that we could have stayed out there longer. After that happened, there was talk about taking a little bit of time off, regrouping, and writing another album that would kind of pass maybe in the next half a year. I was thinking, “Okay, that’s fine.” Still, then the kicker for me was, it was brought about or mentioned or promoted that perhaps I shouldn’t sing and write any songs or very little for the third, what would be the third studio album, and that was, of course, that was crushing to me but also financially it would be even more so crushing because all the merchandising money that we had we put right back into the band. I made some money from touring, not a lot, but some money from touring, but the bulk of the money that I made was from songwriting. So it was a little bit of a not so much an ego slam. Still, it was a little bit of a slap in the face not to be able to sing anymore because I was coming into being a lead singer, and now I was not going to be a lead singer and nor was I going to be able to write any songs. So I felt like a business decision for myself. I thought, “I guess I better move on so that I can do by on my own,” which proved to be an extremely tough road, especially with the new music that was creeping in from the grunge era, which was even happening then, so that was a problem or what happened for my departure. I did call Ace, and I told him, I said, “Look, I’ve got to leave, I’ve got to quit.” He was not happy, he understood, it was a very good split, there was no anger, or he didn’t fire me because I was taking the band in the wrong direction or any of that bullshit. That was never the case, so all that is rumors that came out after the fact, I was not fired, I left.
Marko: But you haven’t been too much in touch with Ace after that?
Tod Howarth: Not much. Not really, nope. He went on to do his own thing. I still have a couple of KISS conventions, I saw him at some KISS shows, but it was very, I guess, kind of a strained meeting. I think the best meeting we had was just a year ago, a year and a half ago, at one of his book signings near San Diego.
Marko: Yes, in fact, I saw a photo of it on the net.
Tod Howarth: Yes, I went to see him. That was good, and we didn’t have a lot of time because I got up there late, but then we haven’t had a lot of communication since, here or there but not a lot. He’s been busy with his own life, as I have with mine.
Marko: Okay, Tod. That’s about it now. Thanks for your time, and talk more soon.
Tod Howarth: Marko, thank you so very much. I hope I woke up at more of the end, “Laughs.”