In Chicago for an impressive show on Wednesday, November 9th that drew on his KISS, Frehley's Comet and solo material, Ace Frehley sat down with me backstage at House of Blues to chat about his feelings on the city of Chicago, his time with KISS and the recent release of his new book No Regrets.
Q. Ace, you've been sober for five years, you released your fourth solo album Anomaly in 2009 and your autobiography No Regrets just came out November 1st. Does it feel like kind of a career rebirth for you?
Ace: Yeah. Ya know, you do the right thing and you get rewarded… at least that’s the way it’s supposed to be! I just got a phone call from my book agent telling me that I’m number ten on the bestseller list, the New York Times. One week out. Here I go from guitar hero to best selling author. I mean, I’m overwhelmed.
Q. What made you finally decide to give the book a shot now?
Ace: Well, people have been after me over the years to write a book for a long time if for no other reason just to give another side of the story, ya know? Basically, everybody’s only heard from one person and that’s Gene Simmons. So, finally, you hear the other side of the story. So you decide. The reader decides!
Q. You're five years sober now. How does it feel being up onstage sober after all those years?
Ace: It’s better than ever. Everybody tells me I’m playing better and looking better than I have in years. It’s nice to remember what you did the night before. It’s nice not having to deal with hangovers and all the insanity of alcohol and drug use. That was a turn of events that became a nightmare.
Q. Who were some of your influences as a guitar player as you started to form your sound?
Ace: The whole English invasion from The Beatles to the Stones to Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck. All those guys were big influences on me. Led Zeppelin was a HUGE influence. Cream. The Who, Pete Townshend.
Q. In No Regrets, you talk about the times you worked as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin... You've toured with just about everyone... Given all of your experiences, what would you rank as your favorite moment on a stage?
Ace: Well, the night I roadied for Jimi Hendrix was like an out of body experience (chuckles). I was just nineteen years old. Probably the thing that stands out in my mind with KISS is playing Madison Square Garden ‘cause we’re from New York and every musician dreams about playing Madison Square Garden.
Q. Let's talk about KISS. How did "The Spaceman" costume come to be? Did it find its way here from Jendell?
Ace: (laughing) Oh, I don’t know. I was always fascinated with sci-fi and it was just a natural extension of my personality.
Q. You were no longer in the band when it came time for them to give it that first shot without the makeup. That said, what was it like for you the first time you had to do that?
Ace: It was a little scary. I was insecure. It took me awhile to feel comfortable in front of an audience without the KISS makeup. I didn’t know how people were gonna react because nobody had seen me without the makeup. But it’s not a problem anymore, thank God!
Q. In the book, you talk about the fact that "I Was Made For Lovin' You" was a KISS song you were never terribly fond of playing live but what were some of your favorite KISS songs to play?
Ace: Probably “Deuce.” “Cold Gin.” “Rock and Roll All Nite” was always fun because the first thing that was running through my mind was “Hey, this is the end of the show and the confetti is coming down and NOW we’re gonna have a REAL party!”
Q. Is it true that you once challenged the rest of your KISS bandmates to an IQ test and outranked everyone with a score of 163 (genius)? That had to drive Gene crazy...
Ace: Is the story true? Sure. But how valid is an IQ test, ya know?
Q. One of the more infamous stories in the book has to do with a "friend" of yours back in the day... Who came up with the term "Betty White?"
Ace: It might’ve been my guitar player Richie Scarlett. It was one of those people in that era. The Frehley’s Comet era. We affectionately called cocaine “Betty White.” (chuckles)
Q. Well this is the second time in the past few years that you've played House of Blues in Chicago in support of Anomaly. With KISS, I think you played just about every venue here at some point. Any fond Chicago memories?
Ace: I love Chicago! The windy city! I was just talking to my tour manager about playing The Agora years ago with Frehley’s Comet. I remember playing [House of Blues] the last time and I’m sure tonight is gonna be just as good if not better so I’m really looking forward to it. I’m just happy to be here and I appreciate all the support over the years.
Click HERE for a review of Ace's Chicago concert on November 9th at House of Blues.
(This interview was conducted by Jim Ryan. A special thanks to Beatlemaniac, Ace fanatic and KISSologist Gregory Alexander for his input. Go "like" him on facebook. Do it now.)
Ace Frehley with Joe Layden and John Ostrosky
VH1 Books (Simon & Schuster)
Released November 1, 2011
Buy it HERE
Visit www.acefrehley.com for more information