Former Kiss Guitarist Ace Frehley Hits The Road In Search Of Sober Comeback


March 2, 2008

TORONTO — Former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley says he’s laid down the law, forbidding booze or drugs among all band and crew members along for his solo tour, which lands in Canada on Monday.

The recovering alcoholic and drug user – whose days with the legendary rockers exemplified the sex-drugs-and-rock ‘n’ roll cliche – says he has to keep such temptations at arm’s length.

“This time around, I’m real serious about my sobriety,” Frehley says in a recent phone interview from the 21st floor of the Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

“I’ve surrounded myself with sober people, so it’s really not that tough. It’s very comfortable for me at this point, I just hope I can maintain it. I believe I can, but one day at a time, right?”

It’s clear that keeping clean is top of mind for the genial Frehley, who launches into a description of life on the road by saying how nice it is “remembering what you did the night before,” and by referring spontaneously to his “clean date” – Sept. 15, 2006 – and his 17 months of sobriety.

“But who’s keeping track?” he cackles with laughter, one of several outbursts that seem to emerge at the slightest provocation.

Still, Frehley, speaking with a slow-paced gravel delivery, says he doesn’t regret much from his storied past, crediting those rocky experiences with bringing him to where he is today.

Frehley’s battles with addiction are said to have fuelled his split with KISS bandmates Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley in 1983, about three years after the departure of original drummer and party cohort Peter Criss.

While Simmons and Stanley committed to a drug-free lifestyle, Frehley indulged to excess, finding himself getting into trouble on a number of occasions, and dragging others down with him.

“I did some silly things in those days and (there were) a lot of car accidents and missed recording sessions and you know, this that and the other thing. I’m glad that all that mayhem and insanity is behind me,” says Frehley, who once led police on a 145-kph car chase in 1982.

“I’m probably happier now than I have been in a long time, I should have done this a lot sooner.”

Being on tour can be an especially hard test, and rebounding from a lapse in judgment is not easy. Frehley notes he fell off the wagon at a show with Tommy Lee two years ago and it took him the whole summer to get back on track.

“The road can drive you crazy,” says Frehley, who took on the persona of the “Space Ace” while with KISS.

“If you’re partying too much, that can wear you down, make silly decisions. I mean, look how many famous rock stars we’ve lost to drugs and alcohol.”

With his addiction in check, Frehley says he’s excited by the prospect of a career comeback, noting he’s planning to release a solo album in April inspired by his self-titled debut in 1978, which spawned the hit “New York Groove.”

The ’80s saw Frehley release more pop-oriented solo material under the moniker Frehley’s Comet, but it was that first disc that remains a favourite among fans. Frehley says he studied the old album for inspiration in crafting the new one, reportedly working again with friend and drummer Anton Fig, house drummer for “Late Show with David Letterman”.

But those expecting a preview at his concerts won’t get one, he says.

“It’s not that I don’t want to play a couple of the new songs but it’s like, everytime I do a concert it ends up on YouTube the next day. Everybody’s been waiting for this album for so many years, I really wanted it to be a surprise,” he says, going on to attempt a description in his heavy Bronx accent.

“Most of my songs are pretty mindless. You know, there’s a song called ‘Pain in the Neck’…there’s another song called ‘Sister.’ What are they about? I have no idea.”

“I can’t tell you how many times in the past people have come up to me and said, ‘Wow, I really understand what you meant in that song,’ and I have no idea what they’re talking about.”

“Usually, I just agree with them,” he says, erupting into another cackle.

The 56-year-old guitar hero says he’s all too aware that fans look up to him in more ways than one.

“I think a lot of people maybe partied a little harder than they normally would because they were fans of mine and they knew I was doing that,” he says.

“I don’t want to get up on a platform and tell people not to drink and use drugs, all I can do is say: ‘Hey, you know, maybe by my example, maybe if you’re thinking about turning your life around, I did it. Maybe you can do it.”‘

Frehley kicks of a string of Canadian dates Monday in Montreal, followed by stops in Quebec City and Toronto. Later dates include appearances in Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Courtesy of