Exclusive: Ace Frehley on the Yankees, being from the Bronx & new album "Spaceman"
As the original lead guitarist of Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inductees KISS, Ace Frehley has proven to be one of rock's most influential guitarists. After all, Frehley has been cited as a major influence on members of Weezer, Pearl Jam, Rage Against The Machine, Pantera, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. Also of note is that Frehley has also managed to have the most successful solo career of any KISS member, past or present.
The latest studio effort from Ace Frehley is 2018's Spaceman. Released by Entertainment One Music last month, Spaceman features two songs co-written with fellow KISS co-founder Gene Simmons. It also notably includes a cover of "I Wanna Go Back," a song first recorded by Billy Satellite, which Eddie Money helped make a big hit in the 1980s.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Ace Frehley himself by phone, and below are some highlights from that chat. As he noted, he was coincidentally wearing a New York Yankees shirt that day. More on the Spaceman himself can be found online at www.acefrehley.com.
Your last album was 2 years ago, which means that you are pretty prolific. Have you already started thinking about making another album?
Ace Frehley: I'm already working on Origins, Vol. 2.
If it's Origins, Vol. 2, does that mean it's another covers album?
Ace Frehley: Yeah. The whole concept is we do songs from bands that influenced me in my formative years as a guitarist. I'm going to try to stay true to that concept.
Speaking of guitar, I read that you don't play every day. Is that true?
Ace Frehley: Yeah, I haven't picked up a guitar since I got home from tour. (laughs) My daughter's correcting me. (laughs) I bought 3 guitars in pawn shops while I was on tour. When they got here, I pulled them out of the boxes and played them for 10 or 15 minutes. But I normally don't play that much unless I have an idea. I don't normally sing, I never do warm-up vocals, I just do it. Same thing when I perform live. A lot of shows I get there 5 or 10 minutes before I go on, I just get up there and do it. That's the kind of guy I am.
What are some of the things you like to do every day or almost every day? That you're passionate about?
Ace Frehley: Eat. (laughs) What I do every day? I eat, I drink coffee, run errands, you know. I like to drive my Bentley or my Jaguar around, computer stuff...
So you're not a baseball guy?
Ace Frehley: Nah, I mean, I used to play softball in school. I grew up in the Bronx so obviously I was a Yankee fan. In fact, I'm wearing a Yankees jersey right now. (laughs)
Do you have a favorite player on the Yankees?
Ace Frehley: No, not in particular. I don't follow sports that closely.
I have read that you're a real technology freak in terms of knowing how to build computers. What was your first computer?
Ace Frehley: My first computer was actually a Radio Shack 4K computer. Then I bought the first Mac that came out, I had a couple of those. Then I got a deal with Zenith Computers and they gave me $100,000 to promote their laptop series. They gave me probably $25,000 or $30,000 worth of PCs. After working with them for a year or 2, I realized that I liked working with Macs better. I traded in a lot of the PCs for Macs, I've been a Mac person ever since.
The early Macs you were allowed to customize a lot. You could switch processors, there were chips that you could buy, you could overclock processors, because I got involved in animation in the 80s, so you wanted to improve rendering time for your animation stuff, you could speed up the processors. I used to overclock them and put extra fans on them because they heat up, add the maximum amount of memory. The new Macs really don't allow you to customize them as much as the old Macs.
Is the Ace In The Hole studio a totally digital recording studio?
Ace Frehley: 95 percent of the people who make records today record the stuff in Pro Tools. But the whole idea of getting a vintage sound, using vintage microphones, vintage amps, and vintage pre-amps... That's what I try to do. I use old guitars, old microphones, that's how I get more of a vintage sound on my guitar and vocals and everything else.
The Bronx plays into your new album. How often do you get back to the Bronx?
Ace Frehley: Not very often, but when I do, it's a lot of fun. I go back to places I used to hang out in, past my old high school. Actually a couple of years ago I did a piece for The Village Voice where they actually made me go back to all the places I used to hang out and go to my old high school. They took photographs of me on the playground and all sorts of crazy stuff. It was a lot of fun. Come to think of it, that might have been the last time I went to the Bronx. (laughs)
So as the song goes, "you wanna go back."
Ace Frehley: You mean the Eddie Money song?
Sorry, bad joke.
Ace Frehley: That song, I hadn't heard it in a long time, and I was in bed with [partner] Rachael [Gordon] watching videos. We listened to "Two Tickets To Paradise," which I think was Eddie Money's first big hit, and then that song came out and I identified with the video so much. It shows him going back to his old high school, driving around his old neighborhood. I identified with it and listened to the lyrics and it's so well-written. The guys that wrote that song are better writers than I am. (laughs)
So in closing, any last words for the kids?
Ace Frehley: Any last words for the kids... Keep believing in Ace. (laughs) I don't think I'd let my fans down, you know? All the records have been well-received. It's been 7, 8 years since I started working again and I've been sober for 12 [years], and that changed my life dramatically. It made me more productive, more creative. Life's good today.