Guitar Icon Ace Frehley Won’t KISS And Make Up


February 14, 2008

Legendary KISS axeman Ace Frehley is out of the band again, but he recently put his Spaceman costume and makeup back on for an unlikely gig.

Frehley can be seen in a hilarious Dunkin’ Donuts television commercial in which he shoots fireworks from his guitar in an office board room full of corporate executives.

“That was a one-time-only thing,” said Frehley, who called the Beachcomber from his home in upstate New York. “I’m not promoting KISS these days, I’m promoting Ace Frehley.”

He’ll perform Wednesday at Rams Head Live in Baltimore. “Everyone in my new band is starting to lock in together and we all get along great on and off the stage. Things are good,” Frehley said. “Sobriety helps. It’s much easier for me to tour now that I’m not waking up with a hangover every day.

“There’s an old saying, ‘The more you do, the more you can do.’ I just think it’s important that I get out there and show everyone that I’m trying to make a comeback.”

A forthcoming solo album by Frehley is in the mixing stages and may be released in April or May. Don’t expect to hear new songs such as “Fractured Quantum,” “Hard For Me” or “Pain In the Neck” in Baltimore, though. “I’m going to wait until after the album comes out because I don’t want everything on YouTube,” Frehley said. “I don’t think we’ll really be able to add more than three new songs to the set anyway. Everybody wants to hear certain songs from certain records. It’s hard figuring out what to drop.”

The album was tracked at Frehley’s estate. “I’ve been recording late at night. The only down side to having a studio at home is that my family is nearby, so it always seems like there’s some kind of crisis going on,” he said. “When I do record at someone else’s studio I can get away from it all and concentrate on the music.”

His former home in Connecticut included an underground studio where KISS recorded its 1981 album, “Music From the Elder.” “I don’t know why I built it underground,” Frehley said. “I would always choose the unorthodox way of doing things back then.”

Frehley co-founded KISS in 1973 and designed the band’s famous lightning bolt logo. Hated by critics but loved by metalheads, the theatrical quartet was named the most popular band in America in a 1977 Gallup poll. Frehley quit KISS as its career went through a rough patch in 1983.

The original KISS lineup reunited and put its makeup back on for a 1996 road outing which was named the No. 1 grossing tour of that year by Billboard. Frehley and drummer Peter Criss eventually left again; this time, however, band leaders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley slapped their makeup on newcomers. Frehley was replaced by Tommy Thayer.

“Tommy’s a sweet guy; he used to be my road manager,” said Frehley, who laughed and added, “Tommy used to be in a KISS tribute band — and he still is!

“Tommy is a friend; if someone is going to wear my costume and makeup, I guess I’d prefer that it be him. That’s not to say that I agree with it, because I don’t. But it is what it is.”

Criss has feuded in the press with Simmons and Stanley since the second KISS split, but Frehley said he keeps in touch with all three of his ex-bandmates. Criss’ recent solo album features a song called “Space Ace,” which is a tribute to Frehley. “Peter said he’s going to send me a copy of his album but I haven’t heard it yet,” Frehley said. “I still get along with everybody. I was always the peace maker, even back in the ’70s. If guys in the band were fighting about something, I’d always try to get them to calm down and talk about it.”

In 2005, Frehley re-appeared on stage at a Pearl Jam concert where he jammed on an encore version of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In the Free World.”

“One day my daughter said, ‘Pearl Jam is playing in Atlantic City (N.J.) and I want to go.’ I remember her blasting their records out of her room in the ’90s,” Frehley said. “She wanted to bring some girlfriends she hadn’t seen in 10 years so I took them to the show. Next thing I know, the band is inviting me on stage.”

Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready admitted that his solo in “Alive” copied licks from Frehley’s solo in the KISS song “She” … which is in turn borrowed from guitarist Robbie Krieger’s solo in The Doors’ “Five to One.”

“I steal from someone and then they steal from me and so on,” Frehley said. “That’s what rock ‘n’ roll does. It all goes back to the records from the ’50s and ’60s.”

In 2006, Frehley played the KISS tune “God of Thunder” at VH1’s inaugural Rock Honors ceremony with an all-star band. “That was a lot of fun. We didn’t even rehearse it with Rob Zombie (on vocals). I went to L.A. and rehearsed with Tommy (Lee), Slash, Gilby Clarke and Scott Ian and then we flew a private jet into Vegas,” Frehley said. “It came off great. Sometimes spontaneity can give a song a little edge.”

Unfortunately, Frehley said he also “fell off the wagon” at that show. He said he’s been clean ever since, though. “I’m a lean, mean rock ‘n’ roll machine,” he said. “I was going to the gym for a while, but my schedule is so busy right now that it’s a workout in itself.”

Frehley designed the Spaceman character because of his interest in science fiction and science fact. He claims he’s had more than one UFO sighting. “I saw them a couple of times when I lived in Connecticut. I’ve seen them go straight and then stop and make a right-angle turn,” Frehley said. “You can come to your own conclusion as to whether we have any kind of aircraft that can operate like that. Maybe we do; technology has come a long way in the past 10 years.

“It’s all speculation. But what I saw didn’t look like it was from this earth.”

A computer wizard who designed morphing video images for KISS’ stage show during his second tenure in the band, Frehley said he’s been experimenting with 3-D models and animation and would like to produce an animated feature with music at some point.

While he’ll always be associated with KISS, Frehley said he doesn’t spend much time looking back. “I wouldn’t mind writing a book at some point, but I don’t know if I’d want it to be an autobiography. There are still some confidentiality agreements and contracts that I’m bound to, but I don’t like to talk business,” he said. “I don’t have any interest in another reunion — but I never say ‘never.'”

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