Early Ace Band Member Speaks
(Thursday, October 16, 2008) Rich Circell was lead singer in Honey, a band Ace played with around 1968/9. Little was known about it... Until now!
Photo courtesy Rich Circell
KISSFAQ.com: Tell us a little of your background and how you became interested in performing?
Like many others it was The Beatles on Ed Sullivan that did it for me. I knew I had to form a band and have all those girls screaming for me.
KISSFAQ.com: What was the first record you bought?
I remember buying Runaround Sue and then Four Seasons records. I loved the girl groups too, like The Ronettes.
KISSFAQ.com: What was the first band you saw live?
I saw The Beatles at Shea Stadium but I was very far away and could not really hear them. When I was older the one show that stands out in my mind was seeing The Who and Cream at a Murray The K show in New York. Mithch Ryder and Wilson Pickett were also on the bill. I also saw Jimi Hendrix open for The Monkees at Forest Hills-that was a classic. All those Monkey fans did not know what to make of Hendrix.
KISSFAQ.com: You were the vocalist in Honey. How did you become a singer and did/do you play any instruments?
I just picked it up on my own and by listening to records. I would say I was most influenced by The British Bands. One major regret I have was never playing an instrument. Of course I fooled around with tambourines, cowbwells, conga drums, etc.
KISSFAQ.com: What do you recall of your first band?
My first band was called The Wrong - I never liked the name, just as I never liked Honey as a name either. If I remeber correctly Honey was Paul's idea and everyone kind of went along with the name. Getting back to my previous band, my drummer ended up in Honey and on certain dates my keyboard player also. We played all the British Invasion stuff and did write several originals. We did some recording with the person who was handling The Lemon Pipers and Steam. To my knowledge none of those demos exist. I would love to hear them today.
KISSFAQ.com: From first becoming active in bands, what was the sort of timeframe prior to Honey and when was that band active?
I was in several bands right up to joining Honey, but I must admit the timeframe is a bit of a blur. The Wrong was my band right up till the time of joining Honey - I hope that helps.
KISSFAQ.com: Had you known Paul Frehley prior to being in Honey? If so, how?
KISSFAQ.com: What do you recall of your first encounter with Paul Frehley?
It was very interesting to say the least. I had heard through the grapevine that a band in The Bronx was looking for a singer, so I showed up for an audition in somebody's basement. Paul asked me to sing a few Rolling Stones songs and maybe even a Humble Pie tune although I'm not sure on that last one. At the end of playing together for awhile he turns and says to me - we are playing in a club on Friday and that was pretty much it. I guess that was his way of saying I was in his band.
KISSFAQ.com: Did you have any lasting first impression about him?
He was a man of few words, but his guitar playing was awesome. He could play any lead or solo note for note. He would always stand close to me onstage with his guitar slung very low. He had the look of a rock star, and the chops to back it up.
KISSFAQ.com: What happened to Honey's second guitarist?
I think we pretty much phased him out, although I liked the sound of the 2 guitars.
KISSFAQ.com: What sort of music and where did Honey play?
We played many local clubs in the New york area. Our set consisted of many British bands music. Here is a list as I remember it. Jumping Jack Flash, Brown Sugar, Street Fighting Man and many other Stones tunes. Several Jethro Tull songs, I don't remember the exact titles. Zeppelin, The Who and Hello Susie by The Move. We did an Alice Cooper medley featuring Be My Lover and Eighteen. One of our favorites was Come On Up by The Rascals, of course we did our own version. We also did some Nazz including Not Wrong Long and Under The Ice. Vanilla Fudge-Keep Me Hanging On. A few clubs that stand out in my mind are The Rustic Pub in the Bronx. Fantasy East which was near 238 St in The Bronx, and The Fore and Aft in New Rochelle.
Image from Auction...
KISSFAQ.com: What sort of guitarist was Ace at this time?
I will say that Ace was a super guitarist even then. Very innovative and he would hear something once and play it perfectly. Even then he marched to his own drum.
KISSFAQ.com: Who else was in Honey?
On band members I remember we originally had a second guitar player named Tom, but I can't recall his last name. Our bass player was Tom, and his last name may have been Stella. Our drummer was Angelo DiGeronimo and I sang lead- my name is Rich Circell. We were joined for awhile by a keyboard player named Lee McNulty.
KISSFAQ.com: What do you recall of the first Honey gig?
I felt at the time like I was just along for the ride. We went over well but we knew we had to tighten things up. We had a limited set list at that time.
KISSFAQ.com: Describe Honey's best gig? Where/how/what/why? I guess this means most memorable!
I would say one we did at the Fantasy East in The Bronx was the one I really remember. The sound and song selection was great. We did our usual stuff but with some James Gang thrown in. I remember the crowd was really into it and lots of people took pictures.
KISSFAQ.com: Did Honey ever open for bigger bands or play gigs with other acts?
We always played alone.
KISSFAQ.com: Do you recall any disasterous Honey gigs?
One which stands out in my mind was when our bass player threatened bodily harm to Ace. It seems Ace wanted to be in a new position on stage and had moved the bass players equipment without asking him. That did not go over well and I was asked to be the go between. This guy would have killed Ace for sure. We ended up playing but you could feel the tension all night long.
KISSFAQ.com: Did Honey ever record any of their gigs?
Maybe on some old cassete players but I have never heard any of them if they exist.
KISSFAQ.com: Did the band write any original material? If so, what sort of material was it and who were the primary writers?
I wrote original material along with the keyboard player but we never performed it with Honey.
KISSFAQ.com: What happened to Honey? Did the band break up, or Ace leave?
I remember it getting to the point where nobody liked each other much any more and things really seemed to fall apart.
KISSFAQ.com: Did you continue in bands?
That was it for me. The music business had left a sour taste in my mouth.
KISSFAQ.com: What word pops into your mind the moment you hear "Paul/Ace Frehley?"
Unique. Strong willed and a non conformist.
KISSFAQ.com: Did anything Ace later did in Kiss remind you of him in Honey?
The way he held his guitar and some of his solos.
KISSFAQ.com: Did you follow Ace's career and/or keep in touch with him?
I had a conversation with him at a part about music and he was telling me about a new band that he would be getting involved with. He talked about high heels, makeup, spitting fire etc. I have never seen or spoken to Ace since.
KISSFAQ.com: Any last words!
It has been a blast reliving these great old memories. I would not have traded the experience of playing with Honey for anything. It was a great period of time for me. Thanks for giving me the chance to share my story.
Thanks to Rich for taking the time to read let alone answer this long Q&A!.
Ace @ Chiller II
(Wednesday, October 01, 2008) From the Chiller Site: "Attention! Ace Frehley will not be signing any guitars or pick guards and will be charging a fee for autographs (as do many of our guests)! Guests set their own prices for autographs (just in case you were about to ask us "how much?")".
Ace @ Chiller
(Tuesday, September 22, 2008) Ace will be appearing at the Chiller Theatre Toy, Model, and Film Expo on October 25. Check the Site for details.
Minor Ace Album News
(Wednesday, August 20, 2008) It may not have reached the same level as "Chinese Democracy" or Paul Stanley's "Live To Win" DVD, but apparantly Eddie Trunk who reports, "Got a call from Ace Frehley inviting me over to hear some new mixes of his album. When I do I will file a report here." Progress indeed!
Ace on Christmas album?
(Wednesday, August 13, 2008) Some sites have been reporting that Ace will be performing on a track on the "We Wish You A Metal Christmas, and a Headbanging New Year" CD
due from Eagle Rock/Armoury Records (ARMCD-502) on October 13. The specific track cited is "Grandma Got Ran Over By A Reindeer." However,
Ace's involvement appears NOT confirmed, since PR from both the record label and artist management excludes his mention. In the case of the
latter, Tracii Guns & Bob Kulick are mentioned as the guitarists for the track (probably as lead and rhythm respectively). However, regardless of whether Ace performs on the album
there are some other KISS/Ace connections with Bruce Kulick performing on "Rocking Round the Xmas Tree" and James Lomenzo performing on
Ace on new Jam Pain Society track!
(Thursday, August 7, 2008) Jam Pain Society opened for Ace during his solo shows in December. The relationship turned into the band recording a track with Ace, "The Ride," is included on their new album, "Black Light Messiah" released in Europe on July 18. The album is expected to be released in the US on August 12. It's a rockin' track, so check it out! You can hear the track on
Jam Pain Societies MySpace page or download from iTunes.
New Interview with Ace...
(Tuesday, July 8, 2008) Ace sheds light on some of his history in a new interview with Steve Baltin for Spinner. "Once upon a time, Ace Frehley stood atop the hard-rock guitar-player mountain, delivering thunderous riffs on Kiss staples such as 'Calling Dr. Love,' 'Strutter' and 'Detroit Rock City,' songs that helped lead the makeup-wearing quartet to '70s rock-god status. But while Gene Simmons created a business empire that rivaled Disney in merchandising, Frehley went the way of so many '70s rock stars, namely into drugs and drink. It was a point that reached home a few years ago when Simmons started saying publicly he wouldn't work with Frehley again because of the substance abuse.
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."
Ace news on Eddie Trunk...
(Tuesday, July 8, 2008) Eddie Trunk has posted a bit about Ace, HERE: "Also just hung up with Ace Frehley who is also looking forward to the gig. Ace is now off the road as far as touring. He explained to me that he simply could not focus on getting his record done, getting a website launched, and other things, while touring. His plan is to do the Rocklahoma gig, then spend the Fall getting the CD finally done, with another run of dates end of the year or early next year. Ace also said he had a blast playing recently with Pearl Jam at MSG and he hopes his next run of shows can be bigger places maybe as a special guest. The festivals in Europe were also really cool he said, and he did not see Kiss or any of the members when they both played the Download Festival (they were on different days). Ace sent me a few photos from Sweden and the UK which I will post on the site."!
Ace Jams with Pearl Jam...
(Thursday, June 26, 2008) Ace Frehley made a guest appearance with Pearl Jam at their 6/25 show at New York's Madison Square Garden. Ace jammed with the band for "Black Diamond," which was sung by Pearl Jam members Matt Cameron (Drums) and Mike McCready (Guitar). Read the whole article, HERE!
Ace SHM-CD Solo Album Reissue...
(Wednesday, June 25, 2008) The SHM-CD mini-LP reissue of Ace's classic 1978 solo album was released in Japan today.
Ace's "Intro" tape...
(Wednesday, June 18, 2008) Ace has been using a new intro tape for his show. Check it out, HERE!
Ace at Donnington...
(Sunday, June 15, 2008) Ace concluded another series of tour dates with a performance yesterdays at the 2008 Download Festival at Donnington in England. Ace played a shortend 40 minute set on the Tuborg Stage, the day following his former band-mates KISS' performance at the same festival. Ace's latest tour has seen him visit Sweden, Norway, Germany, and Holland, for his first ever solo performances in each of those countries.
Stunning Ace video...
(Monday, May 19, 2008) Ace fans have been craving recordings from his current tour, and now there's a stunning contender. Ace's performace from the Nokia Theatre in New York City on April 4 is circulating as a video, blowing other videos from the tour out of the water. Check out this sample!
The sample features part of Ace's medley, including the webmaster's favorites "Torpedo Girl" and "Speedin' Back To My Baby." Kudos to those who put the video together - this site can't tell you where to get it, just that it exists. DON'T PAY FOR IT!! And check out the multimedia page for much more!
Ace to "Meet" European fans!
(Saturday, May 17, 2008) Ace is apparently planning "Meet & Greet" sessions at his in Norway, Germany, and Holland shows in June. The European tour, Ace's first on the mainland as a solo artist, starts in Sweden on June 6, concluding in Tilburg, Holland on June 12 (current dates scheduled). Ace will also play the Download Festival at Donnington in England on June 14.
Ace to play Rocklahoma...
(Friday, May 16, 2008) Ace Frehley has been added to the line-up of the Second Annual Rocklahoma in Pyror, Oklahoma on July 13. Other bands playing on Sunday include: Queensryche, Tesla, UFO, Zebra, and others TBA.
Cool interview with Anthony...
(Wednesday, May 14, 2008) Marko Syrjälä conducted a comprehensive interview with Ace Frehley band bassist Anthony Esposito. Not only does the interview cover the history leading up to the current line-up, but it touches on the studio, and Anthony's other work. It's an excellent interview! Read the full interview at Metal-Rules!
YouTube video from Richmond...
(Sunday, May 4, 2008) A bit of video is surfacing from Ace's tour that kicked off in Richmond, VA on Friday. Hopefully more details to follow! Below are bits of "Rip It Out" and "Parasite."
Q&A w/ Ace Frehley: Rocker kisses old habits goodbye
(Friday, May 2, 2008) By Aaron Beck, The Columbus Dispatch
Ace Frehley helped start the rock group Kiss and remained a member from 1973 to 1982. He returned for a reunion tour in 1996 and continued until 2002.
These days, though, the New York-born singer-guitarist, 57, cites his 19-month stretch of sobriety as his crowning achievement.
"Doing this sober, I remember what I did the night before," said Frehley, whose well-publicized drug and alcohol problems spurred his original split from Kiss. "It makes things a little easier."
Frehley, at work on his first solo album since 1989, will head to the Newport Music Hall on Saturday to perform with a new band. The group, he said, won't play anything from the upcoming album -- "I want it to be a surprise when it comes out" -- but it will serve a "good cross section of Kiss songs and my solo stuff."
Frehley offered other observations while taking a recent break from his home studio in Westchester, N.Y.
Q: Although you won't play new songs on your latest tour, how would you describe the sound and vibe of the new disc?
A: I'm trying to recapture analog sound and get away from the digital stuff. I'm getting back to basics -- kind of like the stuff I did on my first solo album with Kiss (Ace Frehley in 1978). Most people cite that first album as my best album, so I've been trying to revisit that and pick up where it left off.
Q: When did you last hear that album?
A: I very rarely listen to my records, but I've been listening to it in bits and pieces in my car. It's hard, because of my schedule, to listen to any record from beginning to end. I think a lot of people have that problem today; the kids are downloading everything.
Q: So many people picked up a Gibson Les Paul because they saw you with one. Why did you always gravitate to that guitar?
A: If you talk to musicians, most of them will agree it's kind of a no-brainer. If you play hard rock, you pick up a Les Paul and you plug it into a Marshall amp, and you really don't have to do much more.
Q: When you designed the Kiss logo, did it just come to you one day or did it evolve?
A: I think I was playing around with it one afternoon and came up with it. . . . I was on some Web site the other day, and they were talking about the top 10 logos of rock 'n' roll, and it was, like, the Stones, I forget what the second one was -- and Kiss was third. It's crazy when you think about it.
Q: What about your makeup?
A: I was always fascinated with the science-fiction stuff -- that whole scene -- and I just started playing around with it. It's bizarre. It just happened.
When I write a song sometimes, it's like I'm not writing it. It's like somebody's beaming the information to my head; as fast I can write the lyrics, it's coming out of me. . . . The makeup was that kind of the same thing. It's almost like somebody up there sent it to me.
Q: Why did Kiss inspire so many people to start bands?
A: Why were we so successful? I don't know. I just accept it.
Q: When you see your face tattooed on an arm, does your jaw drop?
A: I'm just flattered someone would go that far, and I just try to take the time to autograph something or talk to them a little when I have the time.
Q: When will you rejoin Kiss?
A: I don't see that happening. I think we had a great run, and the reunion was a great tour. I mean, I just don't see myself running around onstage in makeup these days. In my spare time, I have fun riding around on my Harley. Going back to that whole scene -- it was fun while it lasted, but no thanks.
KISS' spaceman is now grounded in solo life
(Thursday, May 1, 2008) By Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune
Ace Frehley shocks us with candid comments about his old bandmates (and that laugh is pretty scary, too).
He has the most uncool laugh you'll ever hear. It's a bit like a high-pitched hyena cackle, but with a New Yorker's nasal accent mixed in. Every Kiss fan shuddered the first time they heard it. That laugh, though, is one of the reasons Ace Frehley always was the coolest member of Kiss. The band's original guitarist never seemed to take the band as seriously as his pompous, mouthy bandmates. Of course, Frehley was often too wasted to take much of anything seriously during Kiss' heyday, but as he said in a phone interview last week, "For me, rock 'n' roll should always be fun."
Clean and sober for 19 months now, Frehley quit Kiss once again in 2001 after a five-year "reunion/farewell" outing and said he's having a new kind of fun on his first solo tour in 13 years, which brings him to First Avenue on Thursday. He's also releasing a solo album later this year. These ventures follow recent TV appearances on VH1's "Rock Honors" and "Rock and Roll Celebrity Poker Tournament" as well as -- most surprising/charming of all -- a fireworks-filled Dunkin' Donuts ad directed by "Scrubs" star Zach Braff. Although he's clearly not making Kiss-sized money as a solo artist, Frehley believes he's getting the last laugh over his former bandmates.
Q. Do you think it's a fair tradeoff doing a solo tour? That is, you don't have to put the makeup on, but you also don't get to play as big a venue.
A. I don't even think about the makeup. I took the makeup off in 2001, and I really don't plan to put it back on. As far as the smaller audiences, usually the smaller places have better acoustics and you're closer to the people, more intimate. A lot of times that can be a lot more fun. I'm used to playing arenas with a pit and security guards between the band and fans; there's always that distance. The places I play now, people can touch me. As long as they don't get too intimate, you know? [Laughs/cackles.]
Q. It's been well over a decade since you did a solo tour. How are things different now?
A. For me, things are definitely better because I'm clean and sober now. That puts a different twist on everything. It's great to wake up without a hangover and not remembering what you did the night before. Life just seems to be getting better all the time.
Q. Was it harder to stay sober when you toured with Kiss?
A. Not really. If I was having a good time and everybody was doing the right thing, I might've stayed. It just turned into the same nonsense that led to me leaving in '82. It all started happening again. For me, rock 'n' roll should always be fun. That's the reason I got into the business. When it's not fun anymore, it's time to move on.
I just had to leave because it wasn't fun anymore and I wanted to move on with my solo career, which I left on the back burner when I rejoined the group in '96. It was time. It was billed as the farewell tour, and then the reunion tour. They're still doing shows in Europe now. That wasn't the whole concept of the way it was presented to me when I jumped on board again.
Q. How do you feel about them touring with [former roadie] Tommy Thayer in your place, with the same makeup?
A. I really don't think about it [laughs], or I'd rather not think about it. I have no control over that. The fans don't seem too happy, though. What Kiss is doing right now reminds me of like what some great fighters have done in the past when they come out of retirement, when they should have just rolled up the towel. That's the way it seems to me now. It's getting embarrassing.
Q. What can we expect to hear on your new album?
A. There are some good heavy rockers, some instrumentals, some midtempo stuff. It's the classic Ace Frehley sound and writing. I think everybody is going to ultimately be pleasantly surprised. I can't believe it's been like 15 years since I put out a studio album. Where the hell did time go [laughs]?
Q. Every Kiss fan knows your 1978 solo album was the best of the four members'. Did you have something to prove then, and do you have anything similar to prove now?
A. I always felt like I had something to prove when I was a member of Kiss because we were all so competitive. Those four solo albums speak for themselves. I don't think I have anything to prove now, because I'm some kind of legend, I guess. All I need to do now is kind of reinforce that. Positive reinforcement, you know [laughs]? I think my new CD is going to do that.
Q. Your most genius song in my mind, and many fans' minds, is "Rocket Ride," with rock's best sexual innuendos outside of AC/DC. What do you remember about recording it?
A. I wrote that with our tour manager, Sean Delaney, who passed away a few years ago. We were all whacked out of our minds when we were doing that [laughs]. I actually had a recording setup in my attic at the time, and it was hot as hell, the air-conditioning wasn't working. It was just an entirely crazy recording session. Things aren't crazy like that anymore these days, fortunately.
Q. Your recent Dunkin' Donuts commercial reinforced how you don't take yourself too seriously, or at least your Kiss persona. Was that the point?
A. I've never taken anything I've done too seriously, and when people take it too seriously I just tell them to calm down. Like the Stones said, it's only rock 'n' roll. This isn't, you know, the Spanish Inquisition [laughs]. That's another thing about Kiss. Sometimes those guys take the whole [expletive] deal too [expletive] seriously.
Like I said earlier, I got involved with rock 'n' roll because it's fun. It's not really work to me. When I'm having fun, at the end of the day I say, "Wow, I'm having a great time. I can't believe I'm getting paid to do this." That's the way it should be. When you're on tour you should be having a great time. That's what it's all about. For some reason with Kiss, it stopped being that.
Ace Frehley gains new perspective on music, life
(Thursday, May 1, 2008) By Regis Behe, Tribune Review
Ace Frehley had visited Rapid City, S.D., many times prior to a solo concert in March. This time was different. The morning after the show, there was no hangover, no fawning KISS fans partying with him until the dawn's early light, no deleterious carryover from the night before. "After I woke up the next day, I went to see Mt. Rushmore," he says in advance of his show Sunday at Mr. Small's Theatre in Millvale. "I played that area before and never went to see it, and it just blew me away.
"I'm enjoying that element of my life. I didn't do a lot of sightseeing when I was touring before, and it's great."
Frehley himself is in good shape. He is sober, active and recording a new album he hopes to release in the summer -- although, he admits with a laugh, it probably won't be out until December. But it is his legacy as the lead guitarist in KISS that still overshadows everything he does, that still brings out soldiers young and old from the KISS Army, when he performs live shows. When told that many guitarists point to him as an influence, Frehley quickly cracks, "If I knew in my 20s that so many people would emulate what I do, I would have practiced a little bit more.
"But that's something I try not to think about too much. I try to stay in the now and think about the future rather than think about the past and what went down. Somebody just asked me in an interview, 'What do you think about when you hear KISS?' ... I had some great times with KISS. I had a lot of fun. But that was then, this is now. I don't see myself going back. I have fond memories of the band, but I'm looking forward to doing my stuff."
That includes the current tour and the new album, which has everything from heavy rockers to slower instrumentals. Frehley is especially keen on "Genghis Khan," a song he says is in the same style as Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." Another tune, "A Little Below the Angels," is a mid-tempo song with "a nice hook to it, something you could hear on the radio," he says.
All Frehley needs to do is let the album go. "My biggest problem is that I'm never happy with what I do," he says. "It's always a trade-off. There's no such thing as perfection, but the closer to perfection, the better it is. Sometimes I'm so close to stuff, I've got to get away from it for a while. Being on the road was good because it put my head in a different place. When I came back, I threw some of the tracks on and they sounded good to me, but I know I can do a little better. That's where I am now."
Until the album comes out -- whether that's the end of May, the end of June or the end of the year -- Frehley plans to continue touring. He's dipping into the KISS catalog during live shows with "Deuce," "Parasite" and a medley that includes "Torpedo Girl" and "Five Card Stud," along with a few tracks from the forthcoming release. And he is especially pleased that, at 57, he's playing better than he has in years.
"I just keep moving forward, trying to do the right thing," Frehley says. "Getting sober really helped a lot. I just put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. It seems to be working."
Ace Frehley kisses his old band goodbye with no regrets
(Thursday, May 1, 2008) By Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ace Frehley: "I wake up every morning and thank God I'm alive, 'cause there were a lot of times where I almost didn't make it."Let's just cut to the juicy part and then work backward.
How does Ace Frehley feel about seeing someone, namely "He who isn't named", strutting around the stage with Kiss wearing the Space Ace get-up with the silver stars on the eyes? "It is what it is," he says on the phone, sounding like one of Tony's boys on "The Sopranos." "From what I read on the Internet, the fans aren't too happy about it. I don't want to go there ..." he pauses, then adds, "Am I crazy about it? Nah, not really. It is what it is."
Rather than donning his patented Kiss outfit and playing to thousands of screaming fans with explosions going off behind him, the 57-year-old Frehley will play to several hundred at Mr. Small's Sunday with his four-piece band. According to Frehley, it's his choice.
The guitarist from the Bronx was an original member of Kiss, the last one to join in 1973. He was the band's guitar wizard and best musician throughout its heyday, up until 1982 when he left due to a combination of musical differences and substance abuse. Frehley then rejoined Kiss for a reunion tour in 1996 and stayed with the band through its badly named Farewell Tour in 2002, all the while still struggling with alcoholism. Why did he leave that time?
"I just got tired of the nonsense," he says. "I got into rock 'n' roll because it was fun. In the early days we had a lot of fun with Kiss. We were all out there to just do it. When it became this big business machine, it kinda took away the spontaneity of the whole thing. Then, I did the reunion tour in '96 and it started out great. It was almost like old times. By 2001, I basically had enough and wanted to go back to my own stuff."
His own stuff is a solo career that is arguably the most successful among the fab four. When Frehley, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Peter Criss released simultaneous solo albums in 1978, Frehley's sold the best and was the only one to score a hit (No. 13 for the Russ Ballard-composed "New York Groove"). After leaving Kiss, Frehley released three more solo records and toured as Frehley's Comet, but it now has been 19 years since his last album, "Trouble Walkin'." The good news for Frehley fans is that the long-awaited follow-up is just about ready. It was supposed to drop this month, but has been pushed it back till summer.
"The stuff sounds real good," he says, "but everyone's been waiting for this record and I'm just trying to make it better. There are like two more tracks I want to cut, just to round things off."
His biggest inspiration and his template for the new record, Frehley says, is that 1978 debut. "It's probably more like the first record than anything else. Most people cite that as the best Ace Frehley record and I've been listening to it and trying to figure out why. I'm trying to recapture some of that. I want this record to be extra special."
In advance of the release, Frehley is on the road fronting a band that features second guitarist Derek Hawkins, drummer Scott Coogan (ex-Brides of Destruction) and bassist Anthony Esposito (ex-Lynch Mob). While they all contribute with vocals, most of the burden is on Frehley, who historically has been shy at the mike.
"To me, singing is a necessary evil," he says. "I consider myself a guitar player and a songwriter, and because I write these songs I gotta sing them. I remember last year when I was thinking about putting the band together, some people were saying, 'Ace, you should get a powerhouse frontman.' But a lot of these songs I've been singing for years, either solo or with Kiss. What's this front guy going to do when I'm singing lead? Play a tambourine," he says, cracking up.
The set list consists of songs from the old solo albums, as well as Kiss classics like "Cold Gin," "Deuce" and "Love Gun," but he's holding back on the new material because he doesn't want it to turn up on YouTube and kill the surprise before it's released. As for Frehley's signature flashy guitar work, we've seen him doing much of it with Kiss under the influence. He has been sober since leaving the band in 2002, and he says it shows in his playing.
"I think I'm a little more accurate and more focused. When I drink and perform, I was maybe a little more animated, but there were more clinkers and I played sloppier and stuff. I'm just more focused now and more in charge."
Like most metal stars from his generation, including Ozzy himself, Frehley isn't too big a fan of the modern, heavier bands. "There are some good bands out there," he says, "but some of the screaming stuff lacks melody. I mean, if I have to choose between the two, I'll take something where I can pick out the melody -- something where when you walk away from it, you can hum, something that will recirculate in your brain. Some of the best guitar solos are the slower ones. You can't really hum something when you're playing 3 million notes per second."
For inspiration, he reaches for the classics. "I listen to a lot of the old stuff I used to listen to -- Hendrix, Zeppelin, The Who, Cream, Jeff Beck -- the stuff I grew up on. It still works today, whereas a lot of music when you play it today it really sounds really dated. A lot of the groups that influenced me, they still sound good."
Does he put Kiss in that category? "I guess some people might," he says. "I don't like critiquing my own work. Let other people do it."
Ace versus KISS at "Download"
(Wednesday, April 30, 2008) UK Classic Rock Magazine has published some classy comments by Ace's former bandmates about whether he would join them on stage for an encore, like Joe Perry did on a couple of occassions in 2003. Considering the Ace and KISS dates have now been separated the point is irrelevant, but somewhat sad.