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 Peter Frampton’s band and his work with the former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley. Regan worked with Ace from 1984 to 1990, and he played on three studio albums FREHLEY’S COMET, SECOND SIGHTING, 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, Robin Trower, David Lee Roth, and Billy Idol, among many others. Currently, Regan is a member of a band called Four by Fate. The group also includes Tod Howarth, Regan’s old bandmate from his Frehley’s Comet days. Regan and Howarth were invited to be 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 exciting 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 we’ve been trying to put Frehley’s Comet back together for our 25th anniversary for about two or three years. And couldn’t seem to make it work, and oddly through enough, 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 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 work that night.
You also have one old friend playing with you in the New York show.
John Regan: Richie Scarlet will be on the bill, so it’s going to be all a whole night of Comet. Ace Frehley in case, so it’s going to be a groove on.
Maybe you should ask Anton Fig to join 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. Maybe we can then pull him away! “Laughs”
You said that you and Tod have 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 tremendous 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 be wonderful to do the 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 I planned to go by ten cities and maybe come to Europe for a couple of shows. But it 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 about Frehley’s Comet and his later years with KISS?
John Regan: Really?
Yeah, and Richie is probably going to be a part of it. He actually told me that project last year.
John Regan: I didn’t know that. I would imagine that 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 listen to that because it was a reasonable period 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 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, and I hope he calls me. You got my number Ace, contact me.
THE EARLY YEARS WITH ACE
If you don’t mind, can we also discuss the old stuff?
John Regan: Go for it.
Let’s go back to the year 1980 when you first met Ace. When and how did it happen in the 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 studio floor, and I just walked in and stepped over him and only saw that’s Ace Frehley. Said, that’s nice. So, I walked over to him, and I went to work. That’s where we started; Ace had been out of KISS. I had stopped Peter Frampton, the artist I was working with from 1979 right up to 2010. But he had taken a break in ’83, so I was 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, and 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 made me want to be a Rock N Roll guy, and it wasn’t for money. We had no plans to put a band together, and it was just three people just getting together, as we did in the garage in the old days that play 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: I had worked with Arthur Stead earlier when I was playing with Peter Frampton. That’s how Arthur joined in. We recorded a bunch of demos, and I believe we had a record deal with a label called Bronze. And I guess for whatever reason that felled in, which was disappointing as we put a lot of work into the demos, we were excited about them. I think they still exist somewhere. 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 went our separate ways, and we were sad that it didn’t work out.
It happened because 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 Smith 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 sessions. Anton Was one of the number one drummers in New York and the known world?
Like just mentioned, you did many demos with Ace in the early days, but a lot of that stuff remains unreleased. I would ask those tracks because many fans have heard the rough demo versions of songs in the past. First of all, here’s a song called “Girl Can’t Dance,” written by you and Ace?
John Regan: I do not 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 Arthur Stead and Ace wrote that.
“Catch Me When I Fall”
John Regan: Not sure of the writers on that one.
“Back on the Streets,” a song was 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, and there might even be some input from Richie Scarlett. 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.
12 PICS and LOADED DECK albums are both kinds of “best of” releases, along with some unreleased stuff as well. You were the producer etc., of 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 many 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. I 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 than 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 a market for putting both 12 PICKS and LOADED DECK. I always 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 than 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 about the early days, but let’s jump to when Frehley’s Comet was put together again. That happened in early 1987, and soon later, the band started to work on the first album together. How did that everything happen back then?
John Regan: What happened was around 1987 through Eddie Trunk, and we owe it to him. He convinced Megaforce Records and Jonny Z to sign Ace and give him a shot. He championed our cause, there would have been no record deal with Megaforce if it were not for Eddie, and I am convinced of 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 albums. And it’s like, “Wait a minute now.” I’m in John Waite’s band”, but I really loved playing with Ace and Anton, and we were going to have a group, and we had Eddie Kramer producing. So, 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 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 immediately struck up a friendship, and I noticed that he was like, 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 the keyboard. Then I find that he plays guitar and said, “I’ve got guys I would like to try out now.” Kick them out; we were in the 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 just stayed, and then we continued working on the record. Tod brought his songs to the project, which helped.
Tod Howarth told me yesterday that he had the feeling that after he had finished 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’s voicing in on any 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 for 27 or eight years. I guess it just felt natural, and we asked him to stay.
When Tod joined the band, half of the album was already recorded. How much he re-played guitars 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. We 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.
There’s one thing, I always wondered when the album came out. How did you decide to record “Breakout” on the album, originally an old KISS demo written by Ace and Eric Carr?
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 me. 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 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 would ask something about “Calling To You,” which was originally titled “Megaforce.” The song was a minor hit song by Tod Howarth’s old band 707. Was that a problem for you or especially for Ace?
John Regan: I was not aware of 707; again, I’m a New York guy and 707, I believe, 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 for 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 a remix of great songs like we did it for TROUBLE WALKIN’. I don’t want to jump ahead in the interview, but it’s a good song if it’s a good song. And if it fits the band, why not try it?
One of the best songs on the first Frehley’s Comet is the old Russ Ballard song “Into the Night.” Whose idea was it to pick it up?
John Regan: Thank you. I 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 felt it was the most commercial of the bunch.
Do you have memories of shooting the video for “Into the Night?”
John Regan: Yeah, it was freezing. It was 3:00 a.m. in San Francisco, which was the only time it would allow us to shut down the street. I still can’t believe they did; it’s a big city. You are not used to shutting down the city’s street, but we managed to do that, and I think the opening line in the song 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 cold, it was cold, and I thanked 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 various stories around it?
John Regan: The first album? Gordon? Nothing. Let me go back. On the first album? You are going to think I’m crazy, but “Words Are Not Enough.” I guess what happened. And again, you had to excuse me some long time ago. “Words Are Not Enough” was an extra track for that record.
Yes, and it was released later on with the LIVE + 1 album.
John Regan: Right. And if you listen to that, there is a sequence part at the beginning of it. And it is possible that Gordon did that sequence part. We thanked him because he was always there. He was 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 a 50 song record. I feel good because people are getting value for their money, a factor, and the powers of being in a record company that is limited to you then, you can push it maybe and eleven, but they like ten. So, is it 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.
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 spoke 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. I can tell you about Gordon that he was Ace’s right-hand man for a long time, and he gave it a 110%. Whatever happened, and usually when this silly stuff occurred, is over money. This is ridiculous because when you have somebody, point a heart and soul, support you, be there for you, and a lift occurs over money. It’s unfortunate, life is too short when you have a good friend, and you can’t put a dollar amount on that. Gordon had mentioned last night, and if he 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. I looked after certain aspects of the business, and my wife runs a fan club, the Rock Soldiers fan club. When I left, 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 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 feel it’s unfortunate because I do know how close they were. And I do know Gordon worked 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 an entertaining book to read. I highly recommend it to you. “Laughs”
John Regan: We talked about this last night with Gordon here in Helsinki. There are so many funny stories. He should have had his reality show because you couldn’t even make the stuff up that he did.
TOUR LIFE, LONDON, AND POSSIBLE FREHLEY’S COMET BOXSET
When the Comet album came out, it did very well. It was played a lot on MTV and radio, and the band had a lot of visibility. But you never toured too much around the album. What was the reason for that?
John Regan: We did a tour after the album was out.
Yes, but you were not touring enough, in my opinion?
John Regan: Well, not enough, you are saying? You know, touring is expensive, and the videos were very expensive. And keep in mind we were on Megaforce, even though we were with Atlantic and 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 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 wanted to do, I tried to get on as guest support for KISS, and I thought that would have been phenomenal.
Was that Comet tour with KISS ever even close to happening 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 reality. Hmmm… Here is what happened, I feel. These managers would come and go in Frehley’s Comet, and everyone 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 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.” When you negotiate through this KISS reunion, you are coming from the 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.
One of my best early memories of the Comet 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 thought that maybe that trip in London was the highlight of his whole Comet thing. Do you feel the same way?
John Regan: It was. I think that was the pinnacle, and we just went over there. It was like a wallowing. We shot two videos during our soundcheck. “It’s Over Now,” and you would probably know the other one…
“Time Ain’t Running Out.”
John Regan: Right. Literally, just in between the soundcheck and the gig, we shot two videos, so we maximized our time over in London, and the show was just 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 lying on my back for about 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 was going down, boom. It was like, “What am I doing on the floor?”
Do you remember that interview that you did together with Ace for MTV’s Headbangers Ball? It was Mick Wall interviewing you?
John Regan: Yeah, I do.
Selected songs were released on the LIVE + 4 video later on.
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 will 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 touch 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 in and re-mastering. I would have loved to put that whole video out. It never got anywhere, but I worked from my service there. I said I would love to work on it and put it out, and I would like to include those demons from trying to get our first deal. I would love to do the whole thing from the beginning to the end, and everything involved, and make it a nice and reasonably priced box set. So, you are not ripping the public. So, there is one definitive collection of that particular moment and time from 1983 to 1990, which would have been the beginning of the band, too, 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 thoroughly so that everybody is going to enjoy it and we can be proud of it.
SECOND SIGHTING AND THE TROUBLE TIME
It’s not easy for anyone to put out another album after a very successful debut, but at least you tried. If you look at the whole thing now afterward, how did you succeed with the SECOND SIGHTING?
John Regan: We decided to produce that one ourselves, which may not have been the best decision. Simultaneously, Ace from working on that first album and touring, I don’t think we 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 a while 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 a 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 quickly reached that point because the first time on this went on in months. All over a sudden, it just stopped, which we thought was rather odd. From what I read, the record company claimed that there were terms on the first album, and the 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 lists them off the hook; start paying royalties given the fact that we immediately went and recorded Live plus 4 that put us more in debt. So, we were always in debt. And yeah, we were making some money from touring, but it wasn’t that much because traveling is expensive, like I said. And Ace fronted the whole start-up for the band through a deal, a publishing deal. He got advanced for a 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, and I’m looking for the 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 songwriting machine. He never stops. He’s like continually creating. And we need to do an album; he’s got the bulk of the material.
Ace has brought some material with other writers 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 group in ’79, Jamie was just off to Eric Clapton -tour, and he was in the band. Jamie and I were best friends. So, he stayed, 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. 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 an entirely different world, but you don’t see people like at 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 come up with some new stuff. Because when you put an album out, you are out on the road touring. You will have all the best intentions; there are 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 when 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 later 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 every day like we are doing right now. It was not like, and we had the day off. He’s the star; he’s doing interviews. So, there is a lot of people vying for your attention.
That was probably why you decided again to use 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 an 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 Dana Strum managed, and for a way or another, that song ended up for Ace’s album. And it is now credited for Strum and Ace?
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 the SECOND SIGHTING like “Insane.” Do you 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 negative thing about that video was that it only lasted two days to finish. “Laughs”
John Regan: Yeah, I know. Tod was having a really good time.
It wasn’t that long time ago when Rock Candy records put out a remastered 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. But they only put out SECOND SIGHTING and TROUBLE WALKIN’.
John Regan: They did, okay. I knew two came out. I wasn’t sure which ones.
When SECOND SIGHTING was out, you first toured briefly with Alice Cooper, and soon later, you joined the Iron Maiden tour. But on that tour, something went wrong, and you soon got dropped off from the bill. What happened 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. Whoever negotiated the deal with that, with the Iron Maiden didn’t put it in our contract. If Iron Maiden canceled the show, we would still get to pay. Now, we were running pretty much day-to-day because it was expensive. Our guarantees weren’t that high, and we had wanted the exposure being on the Iron Maiden tour. That Iron Maiden tour in the United States did terribly. So, I’m going to use a figure, let’s say that you are planning on bringing in, you are doing five shows, and you will bring in $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 following 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 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, that particular incident was bad management and bad negotiating because I’m concerned. If I’m the headliner and I choose not to 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, and 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 the extra cost of security, 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, and we weren’t looked after by the people handling our businesses.
Tod 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 such simple mathematics. It’s like we weren’t taking in enough to keep going. We couldn’t keep spending money. And in those days, we paid our crew the same amount of money as we took, and I felt that it 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.
However, after the tour, Tod and Jamie quit, and Frehley’s Comet eventually broke up.
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.” This is probably the right thing to do in a business sense, 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 the name Ace Frehley. Why did you decide to drop the name Frehley’s Comet at this point?
John Regan: That was a record company. It’s like, we need more the Frehley’s Comet thing. The first one worked, the second one didn’t. Okay, it has thrown that out quickly. And again, a typical record company in a fashion that was the era when they stopped doing… It used to be called artist development. You’ve heard of Bryan Adams? 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 many of them, but you will not make it. KISS is still around 40 years later, but you will not 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.”
I think it’s because those companies 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 begin 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 the TROUBLE WALKIN’ album. After somewhat disappointing SECOND SIGHTING, TROUBLE WALKIN’ was musically back on track. Fany fans think that TROUBLE WALKIN’ is Ace’s strongest 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 and produced it ourselves, the geniuses that we were. It didn’t work, and we 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 great. It turns out he’s been there almost 25-30, and 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 in the music business. So, we brought Anton back in, and that album kicked serious butt.
If you ask me, Ace wrote some of the strongest songs he ever did for that album.
John Regan: Yeah. I think again. We had time between the SECOND SIGHTING 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 didn’t do great. That was like the cream of them 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, and you are doing interviews. 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. You are not going to do it.
That’s so true. So, I think that TROUBLE WALKIN’ was a success, not maybe commercially, but music-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 becoming the out of fashion thing.
John Regan: Exactly. Again, the timing, the brand new stuff was starting to come out. You are right, and you are right.
I always wondered you recorded “Hide Your Heart” for the album. I mean, it was already recorded by many artists, including, of course, KISS, but also Bonnie Tyler, with whom you also played with before. Was it just a slight 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 in the studio. It was also the first time 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 the guys of Skid Row. They’re known as huge KISS fans.
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 found it a privilege 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, and he was ill. And I was 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, and 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, no one would look after you better than yourself. And it just started getting stupid, without going into details. And it was like, the combination of everything. I felt that I should be around home, around my family, and I should have been more. But I got there when… Death is not easy, but I was 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 entirely frustrating for me. And it was time to go, and again I made that deal on. I’m a man of my word, and I’m not going to be here if it starts getting silly. And it wouldn’t have mattered if we were making millions of dollars or making nothing. It’s just more of that I didn’t feel it was right to be there anymore. And I’m not casting any aspersions on Ace or anybody else, and 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 true to my chore, and I felt, and I tried to live my life that way. Once I decide 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. Often, I’ll do interviews, and people read a lot more into it; this mostly happens. Things don’t happen now; It’s like, “Alright. You know what?” The pendulum swings one way and turns 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 in 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, the 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 into school today because he’s got a sore throat.” That kind of a thing from breathing in his smoke, and that’s when you 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 many people in a challenging 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.
May I ask, how is your relationship with Ace nowadays?
John Regan: We saw each other recently. I’ve 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 does not go to the mountain, the mountain will have to go to Mohammed.” So, I heard he was at the 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 were any harsh words, never.
Ace is Ace.
John Regan: Without Ace on it, never. 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 roadman. I said, “Look…” It was about 2:00 in the afternoon, at 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 drink a lot. I’m drinking sake for hours, and 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 understood. There are so many good memories of the music and the 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 runs its course, and 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. We are doing many of the songs that Tod sang, wrote, and got some great new material coming up. Sean Kelly is phenomenal; this kid is an 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 showman, as you probably know.
I have seen Stet, many, many times with various bands. He’s great—one more thing. Tod told me yesterday that you might have plans to re-record selected Frehley’s Comet tracks with Four by Fate. Is it something that really might happen in the future?
John Regan: I have always wanted, I love, “It’s Over Now.” I love that song, and it gets that much attention because the record didn’t do anything.
It was the third single off from the album.
John Regan: It was? I didn’t realize that.
It was “Laughs”
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 to let me know, I value your opinion, and I want to thank you for bringing us here to 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