Rock ‘n’ roll and heavy metal would not sound, look, or feel the same without Paul “Ace” Frehley, also known as a “Spaceman.” Among hundreds of accolades, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted him in 2014 as a co-founder and the original lead guitarist of KISS. Guitar World named him in the Top 15 of its “100 Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarists of All Time” and spotlighted the lead from “Shock Me” on the “50 Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time.”
Frehley’s first stint with KISS began in 1973 when he joined the band after answering their ad in a music magazine. After much work, hard training, and many tours, KISS achieved their big breakthrough with the multi-platinum-selling “Alive!” – album, which was released in 1975. In the 70s, KISS was one of the biggest bands in the world. Their highly theatrical live show was spectacular, and the band sold tens of millions of albums, including “Destroyer”, “Love Gun”, “Rock and Roll Over” and “Alive II”. In 1978, Frehley released his solo debut, “Ace Frehley,” which attained platinum status and emerged as the highest-selling of the four KISS solo albums in the Soundscan era. After departing from KISS in 1982, Frehley embarked on his solo career. In 1987, he released the successful LP “Frehley’s Comet,” followed by “Second Sighting” (1988) and “Trouble Walkin’” (1989).
In 1996, Frehley reunited with KISS for a successful reunion tour, marking the first time all four original members of the band performed live together since original drummer Peter Criss’ departure in 1980. They announced their return to the studio after the tour to record a new album. The resulting record, “Psycho Circus,” was released in 1999. After concluding the “Farewell Tour” with KISS in late 2001, Frehley left the band and resumed his solo career. In 2009, with the release of “Anomaly,” Frehley made history once again. His 2014 album “Space Invader” secured the #9 spot on the Billboard 200 and became “The only solo album by a past or current Kiss member to reach the Top 10 on the chart.” In 2016, “Origins Vol. 1” debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top Hard Rock Albums Chart and within the Top 5 of the Billboard Top Rock Albums Chart. He continued his success with “Spaceman” (2018) and “Origins Vol. 2” (2020).
In late 2023, Ace Frehley announced the release of his new studio album, “10,000 Volts,” out due on February 23, 2024. Produced and written by Ace and Steve Brown (Trixter), the 11-track “10,000 Volts” sees Ace perform what he’s best known for: electrifying, hard-hitting, riff-heavy rock’n’ roll. Now, with the release of the new album approaching, it was a good time to call ‘Spaceman’ and ask more about the new album, the man’s future plans, and a few selected subjects regarding Frehley’s former employer.
First and foremost, I must express that it’s an honor to talk with you tonight. There are numerous topics to explore, but let’s start with the new album, “10,000 Volts”.
Ace Frehley: You’ve heard the new record, I assume?
I’ve had an advanced copy of the album for a month now. First and foremost, I must extend my heartfelt congratulations to you because the reception of the first single, ‘10,000 Volts,’ has been outstanding!
Ace Frehley: Thank you! This is the biggest response I’ve ever gotten for a single. I mean, “10,000 Volts” has broken all my past records, and it feels great. You know, on Spotify, there are over 1,000,000 streams, and on my Facebook, there are over 4000 comments. It’s mind-boggling. I mean, there’s no way I’m going to sit and read 4000 comments. “Laughs”
It definitely seems that you’ve done something right this time. You collaborated with many individuals on this album, like Steve Brown, Bruno Ravel, and others. How did you put together this amazing team to work on the album?
Ace Frehley: Well, before connecting with Steve, I had collaborated with Peppi Castro from the Blues Magoos and a few others whose names escape me at the moment. I worked with my old engineer, Alex Salzman, who was involved in the “Spaceman” and “Origins” albums with me, and some of the songs sounded fine. They weren’t bad, but they just weren’t great. My fiancée, Lara Cava, convinced me to give Steve Brown a call. She said, “Trust me, I have a feeling about you and Steve.” So, I called Steve, and he sent me this song, which became “Walking on the Moon.” In the chorus, about halfway through, there was a line, “Walking on the moon,” but it didn’t end the chorus. I called him up and said, “Listen, get your ass over to my studio, and let’s rewrite this song. I want to call it ‘Walking on the Moon,’ and I want the chorus to end with ‘walking on the moon.'” That’s exactly what transpired; we recorded it the way he had written it. After listening to it, I felt it was really good, but I thought it needed a bridge. He looked at me like I was crazy. I said, “Trust me; I have more years under my belt recording and writing.” I said, “Give me 15 minutes; I’ll write a bridge.” And I did, and it worked. Now, everybody’s happy.
You have mentioned in several interviews that, in your opinion, ‘10,000 Volts’ is your best album to date. I’m curious to hear what you think sets it apart and makes it better than ‘Trouble Walkin’,’ the debut of ‘Frehley’s Comet,’ or the 1978 solo album – which happen to be my favorites from your catalog.
Ace Frehley: You know it when you have it. “Laughs” Having Anton Fig back on board for three songs felt great. He played drums on “10,000 Volts,” and he just killed that song. That’s why the song has such a driving feel. When he plays fills, he does them effortlessly. I’ve been working with Anton Fig since 1978. He recently moved and bought a house in Piermont, which is about 40-45 minutes from me. Hopefully, on “Origins Volume 3,” which will be my next album after this one—I can’t believe I’m jumping ahead—there will be a lot more of Anton Fig’s playing because, as far as I’m concerned, he’s one of the best rock drummers in the world.
He recently did a tribute to Link Wray with Jimmy Page, and I forget who was playing bass. I think it was in New York. He’s a highly sought-after and well-respected drummer in the business, having played on 500 to 1000 albums. Once, he was in The World’s Most Dangerous Band, on the David Letterman show for years with Paul Shaffer, who is a friend of mine. We always got along famously from the day I met him to today. It’s like, you know if I don’t see him for five years and then we reconnect, it’s like it was last week. We just have that type of relationship. When it comes to working with a drummer, sometimes you have to give a lot of instructions, like, “At this point, I want a drum fill; at this point, I want you to change the beat or play double time,” and so on. You often have to do that with many drummers because that’s what I hear in my head, and I’m paying you to do it. However, for some reason, Anton kind of reads my mind, and everything he plays is exactly what I had going on in my own mind.
Yeah, I must say that I’ve been a huge fan of Anton since the ’78 album, and I’ve been following his career since then. He has played with a wide range of artists, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times; he’s always been really nice to me.
Ace Frehley: He’s a great guy.
Besides Anton, who else played drums on the album?
Ace Frehley: Anton Fig played on “10,000 Volts,” “Cherry Medicine,” and “Fighting for Life,” a powerful, driving song. Joey Cassata played a significant role as the drummer on the record, and he played on tracks like “Constantly Cute,” “Blinded,” and “Back Into My Arms Again.” Jordan Cannada, whom I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting, played on “Walking on the Moon.” Typically, after I completed my lead vocal and guitar solo and possibly doubled the rhythm track with an octave guitar, Steve would finalize the song in his studio with other musicians, allowing me time to tour and pursue my own activities.
Well, now I know who played drums on the record, but who else contributed to the album besides you and the drummers?
Ace Frehley: Oh, I can’t say enough about Steve Brown as a guitar player. If you ask Steve who his two biggest influences were, he’ll say me and Eddie Van Halen. And we all know how amazing Eddie Van Halen was. So, one day, I was sitting in the studio, and we were just taking a break, and he had one of my Les Pauls in his hand, and I said, “Why don’t you play me some Eddie Van Halen stuff?” And he was playing Eddie Van Halen stuff note for note. It’s stuff that I can’t even play. And he’s just fantastic, you know; he’s doing all the background vocals on every song except for “Constantly Cute,” which had the pre-chorus, and the chorus is my beautiful fiancée, Lara Cove, singing on that. She’s the one who came up with the title but didn’t even realize it because, and I’ll tell you how it happened. We were looking at photographs of me, you know, from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, 2000, and so on and so on. I was saying to Lara, “I’m starting to show my age here. I don’t know if I should get another facelift,” because I’ve had two. “Laughs”
And she goes, “You don’t need anything. You just dropped 45 lbs. Jesus, you look great.” And she said, “You know you’re constantly cute.” And then she continued talking, and I had to stop her, and I said, “Laura, shut up for a minute. Please, just stop.” I got on the phone with Steve Brown. “I said, come over here. We have to write a song called ‘Constantly Cute.'” And yeah, within 10 minutes, the lyrics started flying into my head. I write lyrics really quickly. Yeah, most of the lyrics that I’ve written on this record, I’ve written within 30 minutes to 45 minutes. Sometimes, it’s almost as if aliens are beaming the words into my head. I can’t write them down fast enough. It’s always been like that. I’ve always been a good lyricist, and I never really struggled writing lyrics for a song. When I talk to other guitar players and musicians, they say, “Jesus, you know, I wrote this great musical track, but I’m stuck because I can’t write lyrics.” I say, “Well, send me the track, and I’ll write lyrics for you.” It’s not that difficult if you just have a concept about the song. I’ll give you a perfect example. The seventh song on the album is called “Blinded,” and we tracked that song. But prior to tracking it, I said to Steve, “Look, most of these songs are about chicks, you know, and let’s try to get away from the girls.” So, I said, “Let’s try this. Let’s write a song that’s current and about current issues on the planet.” I know artificial intelligence is something many people are discussing—the dangers of artificial intelligence and so on. If you listen to the lyrics of “Blinded,” the last two lines are, “Zeros and ones rule the world. Zeros and ones got us by the balls. There are cameras everywhere.”
You have to face the facts. We’re victims in the web of despair because we can’t get away from computers. Let’s face it: if all the computers shut down in the world, there’d be mayhem. The thing I’m most concerned about is that Google is building robots that are smarter than any human on the planet and can beat the top chess player of any country. And the reason for that is they have access to 20,000 computers and they run the game through the software and so on. No human being can remember that many games or have access to, you know, hundreds of thousands of chess games that have transpired over the years. So, they’re number one. The problem we’re facing right now on the planet is that we’re moving more and more towards artificial intelligence, and if they ever become self-aware, we’re in trouble. I’m talking about artificial intelligence (AI). Once it becomes self-aware, we’re in trouble. Once computers and robots realize that we can flip the switch off, they might get nervous. I read an article last week where heads of scientists and CEOs said, roughly 40% of them, that AI could pose a significant threat within 5 to 10 years. Global warming, on the other hand, will take a bit longer. Even if the United States rushes to implement regulations to slow down the development of artificial intelligence, we can’t control what Russia and China do. So, we don’t want them to surpass us, and we have to continue the race. But, you know, there’s a price to pay for everything you do.
Ace Frehley: Can I ask, what are some of your favorites on the record?
There are many songs I really like, such as “Blinded” and “Fighting for A Life,” but I would still say that “Back Into My Arms Again” is my favorite song on this album. And that’s probably because I’ve heard the song many times before. Why did you decide to record that song close to 40 years after it was originally written?
Ace Frehley: Yeah, it’s a beautiful song. I wrote “Back Into My Arms Again” about 35 40 years ago and it was right after I had left KISS and I formed Frehey’s Comet. And I’m still trying to figure out in my mind why I never put it on the first Frehley’s Comet album. But if you go on YouTube, you can find the original demo, “Back Into My Arms Again.” It’s not bad, but it’s nothing like the version I did for this record with the production tools we have today.
The last song me and Steve wrote together prior to “Stratosphere,” which is the instrumental is “Cosmic Heart.” And I love that song “Cosmic Heart” because it just is so powerful. For some reason, all the girls love “Cherry Medicine.” You know, my fiancé has tons of girlfriends. She’s friends with all her old high school, you know, friends, and she always has girls over the house. So, ultimately, I’m down here working on my record, and when I got rough mixes, I wanted to get that feedback. And I can honestly say 95% of the girls always said that “Cherry Medicine” is the best single on the record. We’ll find out if they’re right because “Cherry Medicine” is being released in conjunction with The Record on February 23rd, and I’m shooting the video on February 9th.
Is it okay to ask a few questions about your former band, KISS?
Ace Frehley: Well, I owe you a few more questions, so shoot.
One significant period came to an end when KISS played their final concert at the legendary Madison Square Garden on December 2nd. Contrary to fans’ expectations, neither you, Peter Criss, nor Bruce Kulick appeared at the show. Now that over a month has passed, what thoughts and emotions does that evoke in you?
Ace Frehley: I don’t really understand what happened six or seven to eight months ago when Paul and Gene were in the midst of the “End of the Road” -tour. They were saying really nice things about Peter and Bruce Kulick and me. They were saying, “We called Ace, we called Peter, and they’re going to be on stage with us and play a few final songs,” you know, “brotherhood” and all that bullshit. And then, the last month, once the show was sold out and they didn’t need our help to sell out any more tickets, Paul Stanley went on the Howard Stern show and said, “Well, if Ace and Peter got up on stage with us, you might as well call the band Piss.” That was completely opposite from what he was saying 6-7 months ago, and I don’t know why he said it, but it pissed me off, and after hearing that, I decided I wasn’t going there. Even if he had invited me and given me a personal invitation after he had hit us below the belt with that comment, I would not have gone there. You know, I can play rings around Paul Stanley on guitar. I can even sing better than him and don’t have to use backing tracks. “Laughs.”
It became earlier quite clear what you think of Paul Stanley, but what kind of relationship do you have with Gene Simmons nowadays?
Ace Frehley: Me and Gene are still very close. When I heard that he collapsed on stage in Brazil, I was concerned because I’ve known Gene since 1973. I immediately emailed him and said, “Gene, are you OK?” And miraculously enough, he got back to me in 5 minutes and said, “Hey, so I’m doing fine. We were playing in the jungle. It was 106° and very high humidity, so I wasn’t prepared for it and wasn’t hydrated enough. And once I sat down and got hydrated, I was able to finish the show.” And I just wrote them back, “Well, that’s good to hear. I’m glad it wasn’t anything more serious.” But you know, that’s the kind of relationship I have with Gene.
In 2018, you were with your band on the KISS Kruise, where you also performed with KISS in an acoustic show. What kind of experience was Kruise like for you?
Ace Frehley: How was the KISS Kruise for me? Well, a lot of things weren’t planned. And I’ll never forget when Doc McGhee came into my cabin an hour before KISS was supposed to perform an outdoor show. And he said, “We’d like you to do the acoustic set with us.” Yeah, So I hadn’t brought an acoustic guitar with me, so they brought me over acoustic guitar. The strings were really heavy. And you can’t play guitar solos on heavy strings. You need a light gauge. So, I sent the guitar back and said, “Throw light gauge strings on,” but they still weren’t light enough. But somehow, I got through the set, and after that song, I never heard from them again for the rest of the cruise or the rest of the crew either.
Something like two years ago, John Regan, your former bass player, passed away.
Ace Frehley: Yeah, God rest his soul.
I was thinking about how much you keep in touch with your former bandmates. I’m not talking about KISS, but Frehley’s Comet, former Ace Frehley solo band members, etc.
Ace Frehley: I stay in touch with people, whether or not I’m playing with them. For example, I fired my bass player five years ago because he started drinking on the road. I’ve been sober for 17 years, and I can’t have alcohol in the dressing room. It went from ginger ale to Coca-Cola to half gallons of Scotch and vodka. I told him what happened is he had a new girlfriend who liked to drink, and she wanted to have some alcohol there. Unfortunately, he ended up losing his job over it, but we still remain friends because he knew I was right. “Laughs”
How about Richie Scarlet? He was one of the original members of Comet and later rejoined your solo band for several years before he parted ways with the band a couple of years ago.
Ace Frehley: We have been dear friends for years, and it was tough for me to fire Richie. When I hired my new band, it was the same group that toured Australia with me and Gene. Gene had initially hired them to promote the Vault experience. Gene was kind enough to invite me to join him and play, which was a lot of fun. He was supposed to go to Japan with us, but something came up, and he had to cancel Japan. So, I ended up going to Japan with Gene’s band. We did about a dozen shows, and when we returned to the United States, I called Gene and said, “I like this band. Do you mind if I use them?” I think he was then gearing up for another KISS tour, so he had no problem, and that’s how that worked out. They came as a package deal, and because of that, there was no room for Richie and the band anymore.
Last year, you participated in the very interesting Creatures Fest -convention, where other former KISS members, Peter Criss, Bruce Kulick, and even Vinnie Vincent, were also present. What was that experience like for you?
Ace Frehley: Well, I’m really good friends with Bruce Kulick and his wife, believe it or not. That convention we did, where Bruce, Vinnie Vincent, and I got together in Florida or somewhere, was the first time I met Vinnie Vincent. It’s hard to believe, considering it’s been 30 to 40 years since he replaced me when I left KISS, and for some reason, our paths never crossed. But he was a real sweetheart. We got along famously. I didn’t realize he was as short as he was and he had some feminine traits, but he can still play, and we had fun. Bruce is a great guitar player. He played with Grand Funk Railroad for several years. But I recently heard that he quit, so I don’t know exactly what Bruce is up to these days.
You know, there aren’t many people in the music business I don’t know. One night, I was at Studio 54 getting drunk with Keith Richards, and he asked me if I would go to the after-hours party with them. I was drinking champagne that night. Of course, he’s drinking Jack and Coke. So, he said to me, “What are you going to drink?” I go, “Well, I’m going to stick with the champagne.” He goes, “You can’t come unless you drink Jack Daniels.” I go, “Well, there are a couple of chicks over here who would like me to go back to their apartment..” So, I think one of them was Janice Dickinson, the supermodel at the time. And you know, so that never happened, but we had fun at Studio 54. I shook hands with Mick Jagger one night, and then we both collapsed. It was hysterical. Our bodyguards got us together in the balcony of Studio 54, which was actually an old movie theatre renovated into a disco. I shook Mick Jagger’s hand, and he shook mine. But we were kind of losing our balance. I went this way, and he went that way because we were all loaded. And that’s how I met Mick Jagger. But you know, between that and now, I’ve met all the groups that are younger than me at one point or another.
Maybe you could name some bands, aside from the Rolling Stones, that have stayed in your mind all these years?
Ace Frehley: Some bands I’m closer with than others. For example, Rush opened for KISS multiple times on an American tour that we did, and I became very close with Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart, and Geddy Lee. I loved Rush, and we were good friends. After the shows, those guys would come to my or Peter’s room, and we’d all drink beer and smoke pot all night. Alex used to draw this crazy face, put a bag over his head, and punch a couple of holes so we could see him smoking a joint. We’d just entertain each other and get loaded. Many times, I’d be rolling around on the floor; it was a hysterical time. And let me tell you the jokes Peter Criss used to play.
Peter Criss used to mimic this crazy, drugged-out doctor named Dr. Rosenbloom. He would put on glasses and mess up his hair. We’d take turns getting up on this little podium we had set up in the room. That’s how we entertained ourselves and got through the tour when we weren’t hanging out with chicks. Once chicks came in, that usually broke up the party a little sooner than we had expected. It was just crazy times. “Laughs”
It appears our interview time is coming to an end now, but I have one final question for you. I know you have plenty of shows coming up in the USA, but I’ve also heard a rumor that Ace Frehley won’t be playing any shows in Europe this year due to some passport issues. Can you provide some information about the current situation regarding that?
Ace Frehley: Well, there’s a good chance I can make it to Europe in late summer if I get my passport renewed. I’ve been having issues with renewing my passport because I have some problems with the IRS (Internal Revenue Service), and it’s not really the passport bureau but the IRS. Since I owe the IRS a couple of hundred grand, and they just instituted a new law that if you owe more than $50,000, they won’t renew your passport. Luckily, I have some really smart attorneys working on it, and there are ways around it, so hopefully, I might be able to get my passport within two or three weeks. If that happens, I will be in Europe this summer. If it doesn’t happen, I will be in Europe next summer. But I’d love it to be this summer because it’s been too long since I did all the festivals there.
Our fingers are crossed. Hope to see you on tour soon, Ace, and thanks for this interview.
Ace Frehley: Thank You Marko.