ACE FREHLEY – “What Happened At The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame...”

October 6, 2014, 9 years ago

Martin Popoff

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ACE FREHLEY – “What Happened At The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame...” “...also fuelled my creativity to make this record better than it originally was, I believe.” So says Kiss legend Ace Frehley, referring to the well-documented snub and the resultant rampaging rocker of a record that is his new solo album, Space Invader.

On the follow-up to his well-received Anomaly album of five years ago, Ace raises the stakes, turning in a rumbling, heavy album of warm tones and fire from the underbelly of his past with Kiss.

Says Ace, sounding the most articulate and upbeat he ever has down the line, no doubt in large part due to his years of sobriety, “When I read reviews of Anomaly, and I talk to fans, a lot of them say they like the record, and thought most of the songs were good. But one of them major complaints was it wasn’t heavy enough, maybe, and there wasn’t enough guitar work. So I strived to do more guitar work, throw in some heavier tracks, and also tried to recapture some of the sounds from my ’78 debut, which a lot of fans cite as being their favourite Ace record.”



Lead single from the record, “Gimme A Feelin’” serves as the heart and hearth of the album, due to its boogie woogie feel, something found in quantity with classic Kiss, and also, curiously, within the likes of Ted Nugent and BTO from that era. As to where that comes from, Ace figures, “You know, that’s a good question. That song is a co-write with my assistant John Ostrosky. It’s unmistakably Ace. A lot of people who’ve heard this record immediately say it’s a throwback to early Kiss. And that’s a compliment too. But I just do what I do. I put out records that I think people are gonna wanna hear. I try not to be too self-indulgent. I listen to what my fans say, and like I said, I tried to make it a heavier record, play more guitar work on it. I think I succeeded in that.”

“But I’ve always been a blues-based guitar player,” continues Frehley, reflecting more on the boogie concept. “I always loved the blues, and the guys that I idolized when I was a teenager were the blues-based guitar players, you know, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton. Those are all blues rock guitar players. Hendrix kind of attacked the guitar from a slightly different vantage point, and I learned a lot from listening to Hendrix as well. Pete Townsend is probably one of the greatest rhythm guitar players of all time. He can play the same chord in 20 different positions on the neck. So by idolizing these guys and studying the way they put songs together, that’s how I learned how to do it.”

But there’s that US link from the British blues boomers toward the likes of Kiss and Aerosmith and Montrose, is there not? Jim McCarty, Leslie West...

“Well, Jim was an influence on me as a young kid, because I mean, I remember listening to ‘Devil With A Blue Dress On’ with Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels. Jim was the lead guitar player. I went to go see Mitch Ryder when I was like 15 or 16. I cut school, and lo and behold, the Cream and The Who were opening up the show—their first US tour. So I mean, that was the biggest bonus of my life. But ironically, later on down the road, I ended up meeting Jim and we became friends, and actually when I was touring with Frehley’s Comet, Jim’s band opened up for me at one point in the Midwest. So I kind of went full circle with Jim McCarty and we still stay in touch.”



Also a throwback to ‘70s values is how fat and powerful Space Invader sounds. This is stadium rock ringing loud, proud and true.

“I’ve worked with some great producers and great engineers,” muses Ace, who takes the production credit on the record. “I’ve learned little tricks over the years. You have to be careful with digital recording, because sometimes digital recording can come out sounding harsh. So when I record, I try to use all analog gear, to try to recapture that older sound. Warren Huart, the guy who mixed the record, he has an old SSL board, and has all this old tube gear, and everything went through that board, you know, before it went to hard drive. So that’s one way to achieve more of a vintage sound, things like working with the tape reverbs: we were using old tape reverbs, not digital reverbs.”

Hearkening back to the legendary ’78 debut, Ace continues to take instrumentals seriously. “I’m really thrilled with the way ‘Space Invader,’ the title track, turned out,” explains Frehley. “I wrote that in one afternoon while the mixing process was going on. That was an instrumental (laughs). And I had spoken to the record company and they go, ‘Hey Ace, we need the title track.’ I go, ‘Yeah, I know’ (laughs). So I wrote it one afternoon in the hotel room. I came into the studio, to check a mix that Warren Huart had done, and I said, ‘Why don’t we try throwing down this vocal idea I have on this song?’ It wasn’t even called ‘Space Invader’ yet, and boom, it just happened, in a couple of hours. And then Warren got on the mic; he sang the high part on the chorus. I mean, it was just magical. It was like it was meant to be. I really like spontaneity. I still listen to that record and hear things that just happened spontaneously. And the same thing happened with ‘Past The Milky Way.’ That was an instrumental. I wasn’t sure which song was going to be the instrumental. It was either going to be ‘Past The Milky Way’ or Starship. And there you go again. One day I just decided to write... came up with the lyrics in the hotel room for ‘Past The Milky Way’ and we knocked that out in one day, and that evening we threw the solo on. We did three or four passes and pieced it together. Came out great.”



As for the space theme, which was of course part of his character with Kiss, Frehley figures, “The whole idea of the spaceman was my idea and it comes from my childhood. You know, loving sci-fi movies, loving science, loving, astronomy, fascinated with space travel. We landed on the moon. It just goes hand-in-hand with me. Science and art were my two favourite subjects in school. I never took music, though. I never even took a guitar lesson. Strange, right?”

Responding to the more than favourable press Space Invader is getting compared to what Kiss is up to these days, Ace says, “Well, I’ve read some reviews that say that. I just do what I do—and people review it. You know, but I was a big part of Kiss, and a big part of the sound of Kiss in the ‘70s. And I know Tommy Thayer’s been trying to copy me since he got in the band. But Gene Simmons said in his acceptance speech at the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame: ‘Often copied but, but never duplicated.’ Something to that effect.”

In closing, it ain’t so much of a chip on shoulder per se, but the seeds were planted for Ace to create such a solid record here in 2014, again, from way back, during the experience of the four simultaneous solo albums the Kiss guys made in ’78. From that quirk-riddled quartet, history has proven that Ace Frehley was the clear winner.

“I felt I had something to prove,” reminisces Ace. “You know, I felt I had something to prove, and when I feel that way, I’m fired up. It was like, I’ll show you. Because prior, going into the studios, Paul and Gene kind of made a comment to me that, if I needed any help, don’t hesitate to give them a call. But I took it more as a sarcastic remark. I walked out of the meeting saying to myself, I’ll show you what I can do on my own, you know?”

As for the fan response once the four albums hit the street (as the joke goes, shipping gold, and returning platinum), “They didn’t even want to of knowledge it. And I think Gene, to this day, will say that his record sold more than mine. But they’re always trying to rewrite history. Go figure (laughs).”

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