An Interview with Ace Frehley: Still In The Groove

I grew up on classic rock. This also means that I have heard my fair share of the classic “Rock And Roll All Nite.” But if you dig deeper into the KISS catalog, you will find a number of timeless hits featuring infectious licks and riffs from guitarist Ace Frehley. The guitar work is what truly gave KISS that swagger. It has also influenced countless bands and artists, most notably, the legendary “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott of Pantera. Frehley is also the most successful original member of the band with the positive reception of his solo albums, including his 1978 release that was produced by Eddie Kramer and featured “Back In The New York Groove.”

Frehley is currently promoting his latest release, Space Invader, which is his first record since 2009. This album is just another staple in his career and features a tribute to another popular guitarist, Steve Miller, with a cover of “The Joker.” The collection of songs is a blast from the past, not only featuring artwork from KISS collaborator Ken Kelly, but it still has that ‘70s swagger. Frehley hasn’t lost his touch at all with his ability to blend riffs and solos into solid rock and roll. This rock and roll, which he has solidified his success and entry into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

I had the honor of talking to Frehley about his latest solo effort, recently released on eOne Music. Topics of conversation included producing records, using Pro Tools, and recording guitar solos. We also discussed The Legendary Roots Crew and The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, as well as album artwork and film scoring. Check out what Ace had to say below:

You wrote so many incredible riffs and licks in your career. Have you ever found yourself to be overly critical when working on new material?

The music just flows out of me. I thought the last record, Anomaly, back in 2009 was a good record, but the fans pointed out a couple of things. They wished there was a little more guitar work and that it was a bit heavier. I aim to please, so that is what I tried to do for this one.

And you did a great job on it.

Thank you. Have you heard the record?

Yes, a few times now. “Starship” might be my favorite, with “I Wanna Hold You” being second.

Great. I actually co-wrote two tunes with my fiancée, “Change” and “Immortal Pleasures.”

Oh yeah?

Yeah, it was the first time we ever collaborated on any composition.

Well it came out great.

I appreciate that. The album took about 10 months to record. I started in July of last year. I did most of the recording at my friend’s studio in Turlock, California, called the Creation Lab. It was like a farming community. I have attention deficit disorder, and having absolutely no distractions was great.

Writing and recording can be incredibly tedious and difficult at times. What was the most stressful thing about prepping the new record?

I have performed and worked on so many albums that it just all comes rather natural to me and is actually a relaxing process. The most stressful thing may be the solos, just because I know what the fans expect of me, so I try to divert my full attention into that.

Going into it, how do you approach a solo? I’m sure it is probably different for every song.

Actually, it is about the same. I mean, early on in the KISS years, I would try to have everything written before I even entered the studio. Now, I just try to clear my head, tell the engineer to hit record, and I just wail. Of course, we do a few takes, just like how you would do vocals. You would be lying if you said everything is always done in a take. Sometimes you take two, or three, or four, and you just choose the best representation. Like in vocals, you choose the best performance line by line.

Ken Kelly did the awesome album artwork for this album. You of course have a history with him since he did both Destroyer and Love Gun.

Yeah, that was a nice surprise. I have been talking to Ken for quite some time about working together. It was great when we ended up collaborating on the artwork for this record.

It came out great.

Yeah, the people at the record label created a design, I Photoshopped it a bit, and then sent it over to Ken, where he ended up creating the design. I actually saw him a couple days ago at a listening party for this record, and it was great seeing him and taking a few photos.

Oh, nice. I wasn’t sure what your take was on the importance of artwork now since digital has become the way to go. Although there is a resurgence in the selling of vinyl.

I always thought the artwork and vinyl was important, even if you look back to Ken’s work on Destroyer and Love Gun. If the artwork fits the album, it is a great thing, like we did here. I was very pleased with everyone involved with this record and everyone outdid themselves. I think me and Ken might print out lithographs of the artwork and autograph them and sell them on my website.

That would be a great collector’s item. I read that you are also working on a covers album? Was this inspired from your cover of “The Joker” on Space Invader?

Well, when we were making a deal with the record label, we originally intended this album to be 50/50, half original songs and the other half would be covers and remixes. But then when we were recording, the songs started coming out, so we sent them the rough mixes of them. We ended up making this an original album with the cover of “The Joker.” So the next release will be all covers and remixes. That will be the next thing.

You were also just on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon. To promote the record you sat in and played with his house band, The Roots.

Yeah, that was a great experience. Jimmy was great and The Roots are unbelievable, professional musicians.

Have you ever met The Roots before last week? What was it like sitting in with the band and playing with them?

Yes, I have known Kirk [Douglas] for a bit of time now. We met at the Gibson Showroom years back and we have stayed in touch. I don’t know if he had anything to do with getting me on the show, but it was great playing with him and the rest of the band and being on the Tonight Show to promote my new album.

You also have an in-store event tomorrow at Sam Ash in NYC. Are those hectic events for you, or is it sort of a way to relax and just appreciate the fans and the career that you have had so far?

No, they aren’t hectic for me at all. I have done conventions and events where I spend three days at a table taking photos or signing.

Congratulations on being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

That was a great night. It was great to be acknowledged by the people, the fans, everyone and to be accepted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. The acceptance speeches were nice and it was all great. My only regret is I wish Paul [Stanley] and Gene [Simmons] would have let us play. You would think with our 40-year history they would give us and the fans 15 minutes for TV.

Is there anything left in your music career that you would like to achieve or accomplish?

I am in talks with a few producers, and would like to get into scoring films or TV. I believe that is something that I would really like to get under my belt. I would also like to take some young bands into the studio and try to produce them. I have actually become pretty good with Pro Tools (laughs). So I would like to learn from some engineers and producers, and then get some young bands in, record or produce them, and give them some tips and all.

You also have another book in the works?

Yes, I am in the writing process now. I have a couple chapters finished already. The working title is No Regrets 2, but we will see about that (laughs).

Anything else in the works that you can talk about?

We are planning some tour dates in the fall for the U.S. and then hopefully over to Europe, Australia and Japan after that.

Ace Frehley’s new album, Space Invader, is available now through eOne Music. Stay tuned for more information and future tour dates on