Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Jul 4th 2008 5:00PM by Steve Baltin
Today, though, having completed a successful tour, currently working on a new album and being feted by a new generation of guitar slingers, Frehley is getting some sweet vindication. The "Space Ace" talked to Spinner about the wild ways of his past, his own guitar heroes and a recently resurfaced memory of being a roadie for Jimi Hendrix.
Why are people still picking up on the music 30 years after you started?
I don't completely understand it, but I know in a lot of those guitar solos and other stuff I did I put my heart and soul into it. So maybe that somehow comes through the speakers.
How old were you when you started playing guitar?
I was 13, and actually my brother and sister both played folk guitar, they were, like, folkies back in the hippie days and they were doing Peter, Paul and Mary songs and folk songs, they both played the piano and I was going, "Get me out of here!" And a friend of mine bought, like, a $25 Japanese electric guitar with a little amp with, like, a six-inch speaker. And I had been fooling around with my brother's acoustic, but acoustic didn't really do it for me. When I plugged in this electric guitar, put the amp on 10 and then just hit a note, it was like love at first sight. I was hooked, and from age 13 on it's been a love affair with me and the electric guitar ever since.
Who were the guitarists that turned you on?
Keith Richards and the Stones were big. Then, of course, you get the whole English invasion with the Beatles and a little later on Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Cream, the Who, huge influence. I never considered Pete Townshend a brilliant lead guitarist per se, but when it comes to chords I learned how to play rhythm guitar from Townshend. I listened to his chord work because it's just brilliant.
What are some of your favorite guitar moments in your own work?
That solo in 'Strange Ways,' 'Fractured Mirror,' I was just listening to that the other day. We were trying to work it up for the show, we were gonna do that and 'Ozone,' but I think we're gonna hold off on that until the next tour cause I don't wanna do it unless it's perfect. I'm not that good at critiquing my own work, I'd rather let other people do it. What do you think?
One song I just fell in love with recently, even though it's not a guitar song, is 'Hard Luck Woman.'
That's a good song. 'Calling Dr. Love' is a good song. I'm trying to remember the guitar solo 'cause I just can't hear it in my head. 'God of Thunder' I did a really cool solo on that. Gene was good with me in the studio. He used to like give me ideas. He'd go, "Ace, do the dinosaur bend here and then do something fast and then do this melodic thing." He'd help pull them out of me, 'cause back in those days I wasn't always present, even though I was there [laughs].
Do you have any stories from when you weren't there and present?
I was lucky enough, I don't know if that is the right word, but I was lucky enough to get drunk with Alice [Cooper] before he got sober [laughs]. It was hysterical 'cause I got invited to this birthday party and Alice was sitting at this table. I was on one side of him and Paul Stanley was on the other side. Paul wasn't drinking at the time, and, of course, I was a complete drunk and so was Alice, so we got along famously, and Paul was completely on a different level than me and Alice. But I think Alice got sober real soon after that.
You got to interact with a lot of people like Alice. Were there any moments that stood out to you as a music fan?
It's funny, I recently recalled a memory where I actually roadied for Jimi Hendrix's last New York appearance when I was, like, 18 or 19 at the Randall's Island concert. I had forgotten about it for years and I'm trying to find footage from that concert because I was on the side of the stage in lemon yellow hot pants and a black T-shirt with a snakeskin scar on it and I had hair down to my waist [laughs]. I ended up sneaking backstage because I looked like a rock star. I'm walking backstage and I was observing, it was like a festival and I was watching the guys in the band coming in and out and in those days they didn't have laminates or anything so I was just looking at the way the rock stars walked in and out to watch the other groups. I just looked at the guy like I was somebody and he just assumed I was in some band. And then I'm backstage mingling, I'm hanging out with Steppenwolf, Jethro Tull, Grand Funk Railroad, and finally somebody said, "Who is that guy?" What band is he in?" Somebody came up to me and said, "Who are you?" I said, "I'm nobody [laughs]." In those days they were different. They said, "Well, can you do anything?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "Can you set up drums? Can you tune guitar?" I said, "Yeah, I can do anything." Next thing I know I'm setting up Mitch Mitchell's drums for Hendrix. It was so surreal.
There's the thing of being the music fan turned into the artist, but you never lose that fandom.
No, you never do. It's just that I know how much I enjoy my privacy, so I never like to impose on other stars. I never go after people cause I know how much I don't like to be bothered when I don't like to be bothered. And a lot of the guys, Hendrix is gone...I never bumped into Clapton, at least not that I remember. I never met Beck. It's just one of those things where our paths never crossed.
Who the producer on the record you're working on now?
Me. It's a good cross-section of Ace Frehley heavy rock. It's more like the first CD I did with 'New York Groove' than maybe some of the more recent albums I put out 'cause I'm singing lead on all the songs and I wrote all the songs. So it's more of an Ace record.
How excited are you to have this record coming out and be on tour?
It's really an exciting time for me because for so many years people I worked with in the past maybe kind of bad-mouthed me and said I was screwed up on drugs and alcohol and couldn't function or this, that and the other thing; I was undependable. And that's just not the case today. So it's a good feeling to be able to come out and take care of business on the road and be clean and sober, show up on time and do interviews and have a great time, which kind of dispels all the negativity that's been laid down before me.
Do you feel vindicated by the album and tour?
I hope so, I hope that happens because for a long time I was missing in action [laughs]. And it's just nice to be back, it's nice to be cognizant of what's going on around me and reclaim my rock 'n' roll throne.
It's interesting you put it that way because I was at the Dimebag Darrell tribute show at House of Blues in L.A. and you could see from the interaction with the younger guitarists the respect they have for you. Are there any guitarists you've gotten that response from or seen your influence in them?
Yeah, John 5 is a good friend of mine. Obviously, Dimebag Darrell was a good friend of mine. I spent a weekend with him and his girlfriend at his place in Atlanta a couple of years before that incident happened. I never really thought about how many people I influenced, but I know it's been a lot. I probably would've practiced more if I knew that today back then [laughs]. But other than that it's something I don't ponder; today I focus on the now and the future. Life's good. I'm just happy to be alive. A couple of times I almost checked out.
Do you talk to the guys in Kiss anymore?
Yeah, Gene called me in November of last year and invited me to do his television show. I was just too busy. I speak to Paul every so often, three or four times a year. And I spoke to Peter in October. So we all keep in touch.
But at this point is the solo stuff what you want to be doing?
I like doing my own stuff simply because I'm in control of my destiny for the most part. Whenever I work with Kiss, Paul and Gene, especially Gene, are such control freaks they push my buttons because they make these stupid decisions without checking with me and it always makes me crazy. They got all that crazy merchandising; next thing I know we're selling caskets.
What was the craziest thing you ever saw your face on?
I don't know -- toilet paper, maybe [laughs]. You're killing me.
Any last words?
I just want to thank all the fans who've supported me over the years. I got the best fans in the world, and you won't be disappointed with the new record, trust me. I need to be vindicated [laughs].