In conjunction with it's Back In The Solo Album Groove series, KissFAQ has published an interview with drummer extraordinaire ANTON FIG. "The Thunder From Down Under" revisits his work on ACE FREHLEY's 1978 solo album, meeting Frehley and working on the album's demos, and offers insight regarding some of his favorite tracks such as 'Rip It Out' and why "Ace Frehley" is not only an important part of the Spaceman's evolution, but one of the favorite albums he has ever played on.
Q: Anton, what was going on with your musical career in 1978?
A: "I was playing around New York in the rock scene. I had moved down from Boston where I had gone to music school and got a music degree. I studied classical percussion and jazz. So I was pretty much heavily into jazz all that time but when I moved down to New York I got back into rock, which is what I had grown up playing as a kid in South Africa. And I think around that time I had done a record with LINK WRAY called Bull Shot. I was in a rock band called TOPAZ; some of the guys in the band had gone off to play with BOB DYLAN. Through that I got to play with ROBERT GORDON and Link Wray. So I was kind of touring around and playing with Robert and Link and at the same time I had formed my own band with some fellow South Africans. At the time we were called SIREN, but we became SPIDER. We were rehearsing and actually looking for musicians around that time. We had a loft downtown in New York."
Q: I think that's where your connection to Ace comes in. I understand that you came to play with Ace through a bass player named Larry Russell, who was auditioning for Spider. How did Larry bring up the Ace opportunity?
A: "Well, he was auditioning for us and he said to me, 'I've got a friend, Ace. He's doing a solo record and he's looking for a drummer. I think I can get you an audition'. You know, I had heard of KISS. But to me, KISS was a band on the side of a bus basically. It was a lot of advertising and marketing but I didn't know the material that well. Anyway, I went up to play with Ace. He did four demos up at a small studio in Queens or [maybe it was] the Bronx. And we did 'Rip It Out' and three other songs I don't remember. We barely spoke. I just kind of played with him. I mean, I asked him if he was the rhythm guitarist [in KISS]. I didn't even know. He asked me to come up and do another four songs with him. And then there was also another connection through Siren. Eddie Kramer was interested in our band and he was also going to produce Ace's record. I knew Eddie. I had never really worked with him but I knew him. After the two demo [sessions], Ace asked me to do the record. I was about to go on a five-week tour of Europe with Robert Gordon and Link, so I went off and did that. And when I got back, I think the next day I went up to the Colgate Mansion in Connecticut and we recorded most of the album there."
Q: If you think back to the demo sessions, did you feel an instant chemistry with Ace?
A: "I felt like I could play his music really well. When we did 'Rip It Out', when it came time to record it for real, he played me the demo and said, 'I want you to do exactly the same fills that you did on the demo'. Those fills I just did off the top of my head. I didn't really give it any thought. I sort of copied myself from the demo so obviously something was working right from the get-go. But I felt like we could just play well together."
Q: Anton, do you remember thinking that Colgate Mansion was an odd locale to record the album?
A: "Not really. LED ZEPPELIN had done something like that beforehand. To experience the world of real rock stardom firsthand was new to me. Of course, I had seen it in magazines and all that, but to actually go to a big mansion and play, this was a whole new world for me. The way we did it, I was set up on a stairwell. There were these stairs and then a landing and then another staircase. So I was set up there. Ace sat right next to me and his amps were in the dining room or one of the big ballrooms. And we recorded a lot of the songs, maybe three-quarters of the record, just with rhythm guitar and drums. You know it was in the old days - no Pro Tools, no clicks. There was a remote truck outside where the studio was. That's how we did most of the record."
Read the full interview here