Ace Frehley InterviewBy Sal Serio October 22, 2009.
Ace Frehley Interview
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Interview With An Anomaly — The Original Alien, Ace Frehley
Legendary lead guitarist Ace Frehley is no stranger to playing Madison, Wisconsin, having appeared here no less than seven times with his former group KISS, but the November 7, 2009 Majestic Theatre show marked the first time Frehley has played MadTown as a solo performer. In fact, the Majestic gig will be only the fifth live performance he’s made since the release of his long awaited CD Anomaly this past September. Wisconsin’s Frehley fanatics were also lucky enough to witness a November 6th appearance at Potawatomi’s Northern Lights Theater in Milwaukee. I asked Ace about his recently postponed Australian tour, which will be another first for Frehley as a solo performer.
“The original booking was three days, three shows in a row, and the promoter, after the positive response, said why don’t we postpone and do it in January when we can have days off in between in case we want to add an extra show.”
Ace also confirmed that the postponement allows he and his band to work up some of the Frehley-penned KISS songs from the Dynasty and Unmasked era that were popular with Australian audiences. I then asked about the current US tour and the reaction to new songs in his recent West Hollywood Viper Room set.
“(The reaction has been) great, we’re working on (the new songs) right now. I like to mix it up, and this tour we’ll be pulling out some surprises that no one’s expecting. (This) is just a short run prior to doing a European run, prior to the Australian run. Then hopefully we’ll do a whole world tour and another run in the states, maybe next summer, and do sheds and stuff. I’m looking forward to coming to (Madison). I’ve got all good memories (there), it’s a good rock ’n roll town.”
When asked about the formation of his own label, Bronx Born, and his commitment to sobriety in recent years, Frehley had the following comments:
“Having complete control made me feel a lot better after all that hard work. I didn’t want to just hand it off to some label and have it get lost in the shuffle of 25 other releases.”
“(Sobriety has been) great! Twelve step programs are always a big help in making you stay on the straight and narrow, and I’ve got a lot of friends. I don’t like to tell anybody not to drink because I’m not against drinking, but it stopped working for me and I got help. Since I stopped drinking my life has gotten much better, the album turned out great, and I’m more focused and more productive.”
This led to a conversation about former KISS band mate Peter Criss, who has a song called “Space Ace” on his 2007 One For All CD. It’s lyrics spoke directly about success and failure, and going straight. Criss also has had a recent bout with breast cancer.
“I thought (the song) was cute, it was a nice tribute. I spoke to him a couple weeks ago and he’s great.”
It’s hard to speak with a legend like Ace Frehley and not ask for his thoughts about heroes of his as well as popular musicians who saw him as a major influence, so our chat turned to the topics of two guitarists recently passed: Les Paul and Dimebag Darrell.
“I have great memories of (Les Paul). He was a wonderful guy and a great human being. I don’t think a lot of people realize how many things he invented. Besides the electric guitar, multi-track recording, reverb… just a slew of stuff. He changed the face of the music industry from the ground up.”
“Dimebag was GREAT! I was just in Dallas doing the Ride For Dime (benefit). It was great to see (Darrell’s long time girlfriend) Rita again and some of his friends, and to jam with some people all remembering Dimebag, so it was a treat.”
I reminded Frehley that Dimebag had a tattoo of Ace’s face inked over his heart, to which he laughed and replied, “Yeah, that was pretty nuts!”
Prior to the release of Anomaly, there had only been a couple of Ace’s solo songs released on compilation CDs in the 20 year span since 1989’s Trouble Walkin’. Speculating that there was more material in the vaults, I prodded him for details.
“There’s a lot more songs. I have 100 reels of two-inch tape of stuff that’s never been released. Once I get some time I want to go in there and start transferring it to digital and (start) editing it. I want to put out a CD, or double CD, called The Lost Tapes.”
In 2005 Frehley played the role of drug dealer Johnny in the film Remedy so I asked if there was more acting in his future.
“I get offered parts all the time, but I have no time to do them. I’d love to be in a sci-fi movie. I was actually offered to do a guest spot on Stargate Atlantis. I couldn’t coordinate that with my schedule but more things like that will be coming up now that I’m back in the mainstream, and touring, and have the whole machine in place. I’ll be more available. I did the national anthem a few weeks ago at the Chiefs/Giants football game. That was a big thrill, and more stuff like that is going to start happening soon.”
Which reminded me that I had read about Ace recently sitting in with Pearl Jam at Madison Square Garden.
“Yeah, we did “Black Diamond”! I knew of Pearl Jam and (my daughter Monique) was a big fan and got me more into them. Then when I met them and realized what nice guys they were, I got into their music even more. Mike McCready is a good buddy of mine. We text each other all the time.”
A humorous anecdote documented about Ace Frehley’s original audition for KISS in January 1973 had to do with him wearing one red sneaker and one orange sneaker.
“That was by accident! I bought a red pair of sneakers and an orange pair of sneakers and I was rushing to get ready for the audition, and by accident in low light I put on an orange and a red sneaker. That story stayed with me forever, but it’s the truth!”
One of my closing questions had to do with Frehley claiming in his KISS days to be from the planet Jendell.
“That’s where I’m from — I’m not of this earth, I’m an alien! (laughing) That’s where I go when I need to cool it and chill out…”
Photos by Kevin Britton. Special thanks to Kymm Britton at 60 Cycle Media.
This interview appeared in Maximum Ink music magazine in print and online.