Ace Frehley,
The Best of the 2014
TVD Interviews

The Spaceman. Say those two words to almost any rock and roll  fan and the instant recognition of Ace Frehley will be met with a still vital memory from a childhood love of Kiss. For some, it might be a funny story—like the now infamous interview on the Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder—or how nearly getting electrocuted on stage inspired Ace to write Kiss’ classic, “Shock Me.” Maybe you’ll hear they too, along with many others, stood in front of the bedroom mirror pretending to play “Deuce” or “Love Gun.” The former cab driver from New York City is in an elite group of rock guitarists who have made such an impact on people.

During his time with Kiss, Ace crafted some of the most memorable riffs in rock music. His live stunts in the ’70s became the stuff of legend—the smoking Les Paul that floated up to the top of the arena, the guitar that lit up or shot fireballs from its headstock. These and other over-the-top aspects of Kiss’ stage show would change the face of rock and roll and would become ingrained in the minds of every Kiss fan for years afterward. Unfortunately alcohol would become a monkey on Ace’s back which led to his exit from the band. This burden stayed with him throughout his post-Kiss career, both solo and with Frehley’s Comet.

Presently enjoying a life of sobriety, Ace made his comeback in 2009 with the critically acclaimed Anomaly. Now, in 2014, Ace is about to unleash his first new album in five years, the aptly titled Space Invader.

This new life hasn’t been without its own public trials however—mainly with his former bandmates. After a media circus surrounding Kiss’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year, there’s been a tug of war in the press, ending the induction celebration on a sour note. Looking past this and forward to the arrival of Space Invader on August 19th, we took the opportunity to talk to Ace about the new album, sobriety, and sure, vinyl.

Hi Ace! How’s it going?

Great! I’m in San Diego, looking forward to going to New York next week. I’m doing Jimmy Fallon on Tuesday night. I’m sitting in with The Roots.

I heard about that. Sounds like that’s going to be pretty awesome.

Yeah! I’m doing some signings and other press, radio and stuff. It should be a great week.

You’ve been clean and sober now for, what about eight years?

Yeah, it will be eight years on September 15th.

Congratulations, that’s amazing.

Thanks.

What has been the most surprising aspect of sobriety, for you personally?

I think it shows in this new record, I was really focused when I went in, I knew what I wanted and I went after it. It’s nice to wake up the next day and remember what you did the night before. There’s a lot of plusses to sobriety.

What can fans expect from Space Invader?

I don’t know, they’re gonna have to read your review! [I get the Ace laugh.] It’s heavier, it’s a heavier record, some catchy hooks, more so than the last record, I believe.

I feel like Anomaly was kind of your big return, and getting the engine back to running speed, now Space Invader is Ace running wide open. Do you get that feeling?

That’s a good way to categorize it!

You can trace Ace cover songs way back to “New York Groove” and “2,000 Man,” and “Fox on the Run” on Anomaly. How did you decide upon redoing Steve Miller’s “The Joker”?

The record company came up with that. eOne Music and Ken Gullic. They came up with “The Joker” and I’m glad that I followed through with this idea because I think I did a good version of it.

Oh yeah, it turned out great. “Past the Milky Way” has sort of a Blind Faith, “Can’t Find My Way Home” vibe to it. Was that intentional or was that just what ended up naturally happening?

It’s funny you say that, because I covered that with a friend of mine who I’ve known, god, since the days of the Bronx. Another friend, who actually worked with me on “The Joker,” when I sent him the mix of “Past the Milky Way,” he goes, “It’s very Clapton, the guitar work is very Claptonesque.” He’s right, you know? Those guys, like Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Hendrix…those are the guitar players I idolized when I was a kid.

So, do you think you might have had Clapton in the back of your mind when you were writing that and that’s how it ended up expressing itself?

No, I didn’t have him in the back of my mind. When I do solos, I kind of empty my mind and just go with the first thing that comes to me. I think Clapton’s style of guitar playing probably inspired me subconsciously when I was doing those riffs. “Past the Milky Way” was recorded in the last two weeks of mixing. I just did all that solo work in one evening after we had finished the vocals.

It really is a great song.

Thank you!

You brought the “Fractured” series to a close on Anomaly with “Fractured Quantum.” Is “Starship” the beginning of a new series or just honoring your tradition of closing the album with an instrumental?

Well, I’m honoring my tradition because I think my fans would have been upset if I didn’t do an instrumental. It’s always fun to do an instrumental, and I guess, just from listening to “Starship,” you can tell I had fun with that one.

Did anybody see George Jetson?” [Ace tosses this out at the end of the song “Starship.” —Ed.] Was that just off-the-cuff, or what?

[Laughing] To be honest with you, I did a version of “Space Truckin’” [by Deep Purple].

Really?

Yeah, it never made the record. On that version, I said that on the fade. After we tracked “Past the Milky Way,” my drummer Matt Starr called me up and said, “Hey Ace, you should pop that sound bite on the end of ‘Starship.’” I think he was spot-on with it. So I pulled up that track, cut and pasted it into the end of “Starship,” and it worked great.

I was listening to “Starship,” and t’s such a good song and for having no lyrics, it’s very emotional—a lot of your instrumentals are very emotional songs—and then as it’s fading out, kind of spacey, all of a sudden, “Did anybody see George Jetson?” followed up by the trademark Ace laugh.

[Laughs] Yeah, I think the fans are gonna get a big kick out of it.

I did! They will. It’s a guarantee.

Great!

Is Space Invader getting a vinyl release?

Yeah, I just ok’d the test pressings.

Kiss had a major impact on not just music but the actual vinyl packaging as well—the covers, the extras, all were ahead of their time and launched rock albums a step forward. What was your perception of all this? Were you into it?

I thought we had some great packages.

Some of those album packagings are famous to this day.

Right.

Is Space Invader going to have any special packaging?

I’m not exactly sure what the package is going to include at this point. We’re still formulating that.

We talked a bit about the vinyl release of Space Invader. Are you still into vinyl today? Are you a collector?

Oh yeah, I have about 6,000 albums.

Oh my god.

Yeah! Right now, though, a lot of them are in storage ’cause they take up too much goddamn room!

They do! For all the plusses and minuses of MP3 versus vinyl, MP3 is a hell of a lot easier on moving day.

Tell me about it!

Do you still keep a home in New York or are you solely in California now?

I still have my place in New York, but I’m trying to make California my home base. It pretty much has taken over. Most of my stuff has moved out here.

The winters are a hell of a lot easier.

Oh, yeah. Well, when you get older, you know. The winters aren’t as fun.

It’s staggering the number of famous rock guitarists who have said “I stood in front of my mirror and pretended to be Ace Frehley.” The list of them goes on and on. Do you ever get used to hearing that? Does it ever surprise you?

It’s not something I think about much, you know? When I was a kid, I tried to emulate my idols—Jimmy Page, Pete Townsend, Hendrix. Clapton never moved me that much. [Laughs] The other guys did, though. I think the same thing, you know?

Who were some of your earlier idols from your younger days?

You can’t help but be influenced by guys like Elvis, Little Richard, they really created rock ‘n’ roll. Obviously, the Beatles and the Stones. More so the Stones. I was always kind of drawn to the bad boys, you know?

Kind of par for the course for Ace of the ‘70s.

Yeah, you could say that.

SpaceInvaderCover

Artist Ken Kelly did the iconic artwork for albums like Destroyer and Love Gun and now he’s done the cover art for Space Invader. How did that come about?

I started talking to Ken about doing a cover for me in about 2007. We just couldn’t get it together for Anomaly. When it came time to do a cover for this album, we had the concept—me coming out of a spaceship. We weren’t sure if it was going to be a flying saucer, or something more like the one that’s on the cover. There was different variations and artist’s renderings of different ideas. We sent them to Ken, and he just came up with a great cover.

That’s awesome—the cover came out great. Did it kind of give you sort of a “full circle” feeling? He did an album for you over thirty years ago and now he’s doing it again…

I think the cover matches the record, and it kind of tied up the whole “space” theme with a nice, big red bow. [Laughs]

So, Space Invader comes out next week?

Yeah, on the 19th of August.

What’s your near-term plans for after the album comes out? U.S.? Europe?

Yeah. We’re putting shows together for the Fall. I’d love to go back to Europe, Japan, and Australia next year.

I know I and a lot of others can’t wait to see you back on stages in America. It’s probably been since not long after Trouble Walkin’ that I’ve seen you onstage.

Yeah, I’m really looking forward to performing some of these songs.

To kind of touch back a little bit on your new outlook on things that your sobriety has brought on, have you considered revisiting some of the music from Frehley’s Comet, or from Trouble Walkin’, or is that just going to kind of stay in the past as you move forward?

You mean live or on the record?

Either one.

My next album for eOne is going to be all covers and remakes, so—absolutely! Some of the songs from the era that you’re talking about are in the running.

That sounds excellent. One final thought—where do you see Ace Frehley—or what do you see Ace doing in 5 or 10 years down the road?

I’ll always be writing songs and recording. I’d like to do less touring and more producing. Right now I’m in touch with two different producers about doing a score for a film. I’d like to do an animation, and score that. There are a lot of things I haven’t done that are on my bucket list. What can I tell ya?

Ace Frehley Official | Facebook | Twitter
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 8/11/14.

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