Ace Frehley interview for House of Hair Online
By Ray Van Horn, Jr.
HOH: Thank God about Peter, eh? That’s dodging a bullet.
AF: Yeah, that was a shock, but everything seems to be okay.
HOH: Since your self-created label is called “Bronx Born,” I wanted go back to your early days before there was such a thing as Kiss when you were growing up in the Bronx. How did you see your potential career going as a youngster once you’d picked up the guitar?
AF: Going back to when I was 15 or 16, I kind of knew I was destined for the big stage. I just knew. Don’t ask me how I knew; I just knew. A friend of mine who was a few years older than me, “Peppy” Thielhelm, he was in a band called the Blues Magoos and they had a big hit on the radio once when I was a young kid called “We Ain’t Got Nothing Yet.” This guy grew up two blocks from me and all of a sudden when I’d hung out with him a few times and then listened to his song on the radio, I said to myself, ‘You know, if this guy from the neighborhood can make it, why can’t I?’ It didn’t seem that far-fetched anymore, you know?
HOH: I dig how your new albumAnomaly kicks off with “Foxy and Free” and then “Outer Space.” They rock, they have a lot of bite and they’re as memorable as anything you’ve ever written. I’d say if you’re looking to get our attention out the gate with this album, you did it!
AF: I just wanted to make the very best possible album. I took a lot of time in the studio and with the mixing process. It came out pretty much the way I envisioned it. I don’t really have any regrets about the way the record sounds.
HOH: No matter what’s happened to you on the outside, you’re still the Spaceman to all of us, and on this album you have “Outer Space,” “Space Bear,” “Sister” and of course “Fractured Quantum.” What keeps you in tune with the universe to keep writing in such a cosmic vibe?
AF: You never forget about it. I’ve always been involved with extraterrestrial stuff and staying in touch with the other side helps me stay in tune with this side, if you can get that! (laughs) Everything isn’t as it seems sometimes and that’s because it usually isn’t! (laughs)
HOH: (laughs) I’m so glad to see Anton Fig lend you hand again on this album. That has to be special since he has the Paul Schafer/David Letterman gig. You’ve had Anton as a constant since ’78, and you know, he’s still one of the hardest hitters on the scene, pick your genre!
AF: One of Anton’s secrets—if you really study his playing—is he just makes a track swing and very rarely does he play on top of the beat. He’s usually playing just a little behind the beat, which is what John Bonham of Led Zeppelin gave to them, that plodding, heavy sound. I wish more drummers today would play that way, because it gives more heaviness and it just gives a better groove. Some drummers are always playing on the beat or a little ahead, especially speed metal. They should take note of the way Anton and guys like John Bonham play drums a little behind the beat, which gives it more of a swing—from my vantage point, anyway.
HOH: How special was it doing “A Little Below the Angels?” I think that song is just adorable and I thought that was gutsy of you to have that chat session with your daughter in the middle. Tell us about how you put this song together.
AF: That song evolved after I rewrote it twice. I recorded it once with a drum machine, I recorded it with Anton and I ended up rewriting the lyrics and the verses completely. In the final version I ended up scrapping the drums pretty much during the verse and the chorus and then popping them in during the bridge. I’m happy with the way it came out. I may release another version down the road so people can hear what it was like hearing the drums from beginning-to-end. With Pro Tools you have many different options how you edit a song. I think there’s a positive message on it and it’s pretty autobiographical too, you know?
HOH: (laughs) No doubt! That’s some of your heaviest bloodletting since “Rock Soldiers” and maybe even “Hard Times” before that!
AF: (laughs) Yeah, well, hopefully that means I’m growing! (laughs)
HOH: (laughs) On the flipside, you have your cover of Sweet’s “Fox On the Run.” You always nail your cover tunes, man, whether you’re talking “Do Ya” or “New York Groove” and I thought this one was on the dime as well. I’ve always thought the vocals on Sweet’s version run very parallel to your own so much to me it’s a natural thing you’d cover “Fox.”
AF: This gal that does my makeup sometimes for photo sessions, Pam, she came up with the idea to do that song. I mentioned it to a couple of friends of mine and one of my friend’s wives—who isn’t that knowledgeable about music—he was playing the original version by Sweet and he said his wife thought it was me! So I guess that’s maybe where Pam got the idea. I was always a fan of Sweet, but I hadn’t listened to their records in awhile. It just seemed like the right song at the right time.
HOH: I’ve always felt glam rock has figured into your sound, both in a Kiss and solo capacity. At times I feel like Anomaly might be your glammiest-sounding album to-date. What’s it about the glam sound that’s figured into a lot of your work?
AF: Well, you know, glam rock was a big part of the inspiration of Kiss, so it’s always been with me if you’re going to talk about my influences. Yet I have so many other influences too, which I guess is all mixed together. I don’t particularly see the glam rock sticking out that much, but maybe certain people perceive things differently.
HOH: To me, you put the exact care into “Fractured Quantum” on this album as you did the original “Fractured Mirror” from the ’78 solo album. This “Fractured” series on all of your solo albums has really become an extensive part of you.
AF: I originally did a bass guitar track and Anton played a live drum track on that one, but I ended up scrapping it. Marti Frederiksen programmed some drums, bass and guitar and that’s why the melody breathes; I’m real happy with the way that one turned out. It came out a little less complicated than it originally was but I think the melody shines through.
HOH: “Too Many Faces” along with some of the other songs on Anomaly are very personal, and given all that you’ve experienced in life leading into this album, do you feel tormented by too many faces or do you feel the reflection is actually bringing you some peace these days?
AF: I’m not really tormented. People sometimes read a lot more into my lyrics than they should. To me, “Too Many Faces” is a lighthearted song! (laughs) I didn’t really think too much about the lyrics; I just wrote them. There’s no torment. When I wrote the chorus, I thought about the way I used to look in the mirror when I was putting the Kiss makeup on. Mostly I thought about how a lot of different people wear different faces, when some of those faces create different personalities. To me, it’s all of the above! Plus, you’ve heard the term how some people can be two-faced? It happens.