Interview Preview: Ace Frehley

18 Apr 2015

To many, Ace Frehley is not of this planet - his guitar work consistently cited by rock historians and musicians alike as the alien egg that hatched an entire universe of authentic, badass Rock 'n' Roll.

 

In 1973, the self-taught guitarist famously strolled into an audition with his guitar and amp, wearing one red sneaker and one orange sneaker. Refusing to fill in any application paperwork, he plugged in and began to play. Two weeks later, he was a fully fledged member of a little band named KISS.

 

Fast forward a few decades and innumerable debauched episodes on the road to world domination, and Ace is back in Australia with his new album Space Invader.  You can read our full feature interview and extensive coverage of his tour in Issue 4 of Collide Art & Culture Magazine. But in the meantime, here's a taste of what's to come:

 

 

Firstly how do you feel getting on stage now, do you ever get nervous?

No I don’t get nervous, I make other people nervous!

What's your writing process like these days? Has it evolved over the years?

Actually it hasn’t changed very much. When I track songs, I usually track them with a drummer and a click track then I work in the bass and add the guitars and vocals on top of that.

Have you ever had any mishaps with the smoking guitar over the years? I know you were famously electrocuted with a mishap that brought about one of the trademark KISS tracks ‘Shock Me’.

Way back in the day when I would use the powerful smoke bombs, yes! A couple of times it actually burnt my leg and my hand. It even burnt part of my costume. But what I’m using these days is miniature smoke machines inside my guitars, so there’s no heat. I use LED lights now instead too.

 

 

Were there any other Spinal Tap like moments that occurred, perhaps during the days of Frehley’s Comet and your solo work? Were there many times the Pyro didn’t go off at the right time?

Oh yeah, the pyro misfiring (laughs). One that comes to mind right away is Gene flying up in the air during 'God of Thunder'. One night, one side of his harness fell out and he was left hanging sideways - it was dangerous, you know! And the other mishap that comes to mind immediately is when one of my smoking guitars used to fly out of my hands - one time a hook slipped off the cable and came flying down at me. It just grazed my shoulder and smashed, but if that had hit me in the head I wouldn’t be talking to you right now!

I read that you’re planning to re-record ‘Cold Gin’ and ‘Parasite’ for your upcoming covers album is that still planned?

I’ve already recorded them, it went great!
 

What Zeppelin track are you planning to cover for it?
 

I haven’t decided on a Zeppelin one yet. I don’t want to give out anything too early because I don’t even know when it’s planned for release yet, but I’m looking forward to it!

I saw you’re working on another book now after No Regrets. How is that going?
 

It’s going great, there’s so many stories that weren’t told in the first book - I could probably write five books! A lot of very juicy stories are on the way! (laughs).

 

 

Do you still keep in contact with Peter Criss?

I speak to Peter occasionally, but the last time I saw him was last year when we played at Eddie Trunk’s 30th Anniversary. That was an amazing night.

Did you get to read Peter’s book Makeup To Break Up? There were some interesting stories in there about you, to say the least!

I skimmed through it, like I skimmed through Paul's book. His memory on certain things isn’t what my memory was, but who knows! The truth is probably somewhere in the middle (laughs).

I know you’re a big fan of Plan 9 From Outer Space. Are you pleased that KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park ended up with the same kind of cult following as Plan 9?

Oh, I’m a big fan of Plan 9! You know, Paul and Gene have pretty much made it known that they’re not happy about the film but I think it’s a riot! I never took that film seriously from the outset, it was good fun.

 

 

What was your reaction when they decided to choose an African American stunt double for you and they had to go to all the effort of making him white all over?

(Laughs) I was really happy with him! He was certainly the best gymnast of all four stunt doubles. When there was the flips near the roller coaster area I came out looking the best, that’s for sure!

What are your thoughts on certain people in the industry who have expressed the opinion that Rock ‘n’ Roll is dead?

Are you referring to somebody who has a long tongue? (laughs). I don’t think Rock ‘n’ Roll is dead, I think it’s very much alive in the hearts of people who believe in it.

 

 

 

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Background photos and art by Roberto Ferri and Frank W. Ockenfels 3