ACE FREHLEY – “If You Let Me Co-Produce This Record, I Guarantee It’s Gonna Be A Hit Record”

March 20, 2024, 4 months ago

By Martin Popoff

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ACE FREHLEY – “If You Let Me Co-Produce This Record, I Guarantee It’s Gonna Be A Hit Record”

“You know, we hired a guy that specializes in social media. He’s done a terrific job. I actually had a meeting with him yesterday to talk about the future.”

That explains why KISS legend Ace Frehley seems to be everywhere these days, prodding Gene and Paul, making videos, showing up in pictures with his classic fit and shades, but most substantially, delivering a brand-new album of totally Ace-faced originals called 10,000 Volts.

“It was the first time I’ve ever collaborated, and I think the results speak for themselves,” begins Frehley, 72 years old and still writing songs like klassic KISS mixed with all phases of his solo career, from Frehley’s Comet through to Anomaly, Space Invader and Spaceman.

Crucially, the album finds Ace collaborating on all the writing and production with Steve Brown of Trixter fame. The result is without a doubt Ace’s best sounding record, bright at the top and huge at the drum end. Plus there’s high-voltage guitar tone for miles, sumptuous bass and of course Ace’s vocals, which, well, even Ace points out, “I was a little nervous. I said to Steve, when we decided to track it, I said, my voice and my range is limited because I don’t really consider myself a singer. And he goes, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll hit the notes. Don’t worry about it.’ And he coached me and so I came out great.”

Mind you, Frehley’s talking about a specific song there—“Life Of A Stranger”—but you get the point. In the half-dozen interviews I’ve done with Ace over the years, he’s always been self-deprecating about his singing abilities. But yeah, what a weird song to cover. “That song,” explains Ace, “from the day I heard it, I thought it was a great song. I was watching the movie The Transporter. This is over 20 years ago, with Jason Statham, and over the titles, there was a song called ‘Life of A Stranger.’ But it was done by this gal, Nadia, and it was sparsely recorded, you know? And I never forgot it. I mean, it was one of the few songs that I’ve ever heard where the chorus modulated twice.”

The rest of the album, however, is chock-full of new songs so intrinsically Ace Frehley in anthemic glam rock goodness. “As far as my opinion is concerned, I think it’s one of the best records I’ve ever made,” muses Ace, who’s famously been quoted all over the place for saying things like, “My new record is going to make Paul Stanley look like an imbecile” and “This album’s gonna embarrass them because they can’t do a record this good. I dare them to.”

The ace in the hole, so to speak, has been Steve Brown. “Steve brought a lot to the table. I mean, most times when I’m recording, I have to pay an engineer on top of it, besides having guest writers. Steve’s been engineering ProTools for 30-plus years and he’s an excellent engineer. So pretty much it was just me and Steve in the studio alone when we were putting the songs together, and he would make sure it got onto the hard drive correctly. It was kind of effortless. Plus we hit it off right from the start; we had a natural chemistry that added to the excitement of the songs on the record and I think that comes through.”

Asked how in the heck Steve landed the gig and then fit so comfortably into Ace’s world, which one might approximate as a mix of ‘70s UK glam, ‘70s KISS, ‘80s hair metal and ‘90s power pop, Frehley figures, “Well, number one, I mean, he admitted to me that his two favourite guitar players in the world when he was growing up were myself and Eddie Van Halen. I mean, he had studied me from the time he was young. And so it was kind of his dream to one day co-produce a record with me. So he became very excited and brought a lot of energy to the project, including song ideas. So I was more than happy to meet him halfway, because prior to him getting involved, things were going slower. The record company was asking for new music and I was way overdue with my deadline. And once Steve got involved, we just hit it off like salt and pepper.”

“We would get a song in a day,” continues Ace. “He’d bring me a song idea. I’d write a bridge or I’d change a few things, do a solo, write lyrics, with his help. And then all in the course of a day, you know, we’d finish the song in a day. The first one we worked on was ‘Walking On The Moon’ and that went rather quickly. He had brought me this song; he had written the opening riff. But there was a line in the song saying, “Walking on the moon.” And I immediately grabbed onto that. I said, ‘Steve, this song has to be about walking on the moon in space.’ Because that’s my character; that’s what I’m known for. So pretty much I rewrote a lot of the lyrics with his help. I may have added a bridge; I don’t know. But we just got along famously, almost like soul brothers. Once we finished that song, I said, ‘Let’s just keep moving forward.’ And then like halfway through the project, if not sooner than that, I said, ‘I’d like you to be the co-producer on the record.’ And he looked at me and he goes, ‘If you let me co-produce this record, I guarantee it’s gonna be a hit record.’ And he kept his promise.”

Of the handful of drummers on the album, most esteemed is Anton Fig, who’s had a long history with Ace as well as KISS, given his work on Dynasty and Unmasked.

“Well, Joey (Cassata) is a good drummer, and he did some really nice playing on the record. But three-quarters of the way through the record, I called Anton and found out he was available. I said to Steve, let’s get Anton on a couple of these singles. I mean, as far as I’m concerned, Anton Fig is one of the best drummers in the world. He recently did a thing with Jimmy Page. I forget who played bass, but they did a tribute to Link Wray. And, actually Anton himself used to play with Link Wray. So, yeah, Anton has probably done a thousand records in his lifetime, because he’s the kind of guy that can go into a studio and knock off two or three songs a day. You know, within three or four days he’s got an album done. He works fast, which is the way I like to work.”

“We’re both on the same mental plane,” chuckles Frehley. “A lot of times I don’t even have to tell him where to put the fill or what to accent or, whatever, keep things simple. We have this level of communication; I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s like we’re so in-sync and on the same page. I don’t have to say hardly anything to him when I give him a track maybe with just a click on it. All I say is, ‘Anton, this song needs drums—go.’”

In fact, Anton almost wound up replacing Peter Criss back in the day. “I suggested we hire Anton as a drummer,” explains Ace. “And Paul and Gene… I actually talked them into it. They agreed to have Anton be the new drummer (laughs). And this was in the studio, like in the afternoon. And I ran over to Anton’s house and said, ‘you’re not gonna believe this, but you’re the new drummer in KISS.’ So he couldn’t believe it, you know, right? Here we are, one of the biggest groups in the world—he’s the new drummer. And within 24 hours, Paul and Gene changed their minds, like they do all the time.”

Asked why they felt they needed a new drummer in the first place, Ace says, “Peter was a good drummer, but unfortunately, he had that bad car accident. And after that, he had a problem with medication. He’s really never been the same after this car accident he had in California. It disrupted his life and he was having troubles, you know, just within his own self. And he brought that to the band. And eventually… I mean, I really didn’t want to fire him. Paul and Gene took me into the bathroom one day and Gene said, ‘Listen, me and Paul are 100% sure we want to get another drummer.’ So there again, I was out-voted. And I said, ‘Well, let’s put him in rehab and you know, hopefully he can get his act together.’ He was one of the four founding members. And unfortunately Paul and Gene didn’t see it that way.”

“Volume three is already in the works,” divulges Ace, on his next project, a new Origins covers album. “First thing we’re gonna do is figure out what songs we’d like to play. We also have a good idea of some of the guest stars we’d like to ask to perform on it. So far I’ve had Slash and Mike McCready from Pearl Jam. I had the singer from Cheap Trick do ‘30 Days In The Hole.’ I’ve had Lita Ford do ‘Jumping Jack Flash.’ I had John 5 perform on a Beatles song. There’s dozens of songs I could do, but I’d rather not talk about that yet. I don’t want to put the focus on the future at this juncture. Six to nine months from now I’ll be talking about it more. This album will be dying down, like they all do eventually. I’m really happy with the way this album turned out. I don’t think there’s any filler on the record. Every song kind of stands on its own merits.”

Whether it’s through the Origins series or right here on 10,000 Volts, the biggest take-away of a new Ace Frehley album is hearing Ace knock out solo after solo in his typically rootsy, traditional, highly hooky fashion.

“The guys that really influenced me were Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Pete Townshend,” figures Ace, in closing, in case you want to know how he arrived at his place as Space Ace. “And The Kinks, of course, plus the Stones and The Beatles. If I couldn’t figure out a solo back then, I’d slow the record down. I made it my business to figure out a lot of the guitar solos those guys did. And when it came time to audition for KISS, they played ‘Deuce’ for me, and they did an elongated version of the solo section. And I just played every riff I ever knew, that I’d learned from the masters, and I got the gig. So yeah, my style is the conglomeration of all those guitar players. I’m a blues-based guitar player and most of my idols are those blues-based guitarists. That’s how my style evolved over the years. People say to me, ‘You never took a guitar lesson’ and I say, ‘Well, those guys taught me how to play the guitar.’”

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