Ace Frehley interview

Interview – Ace Frehley

Ace Frehley 2024 photo

Affectionately known as The Spaceman, Ace Frehley is a Rock-n-Roll legend from another stratosphere. Famously recalled a co-founder of KISS, and lead guitarist during their peak successful years, in the decades since his exit from the band have been chalked full of creativity. Launching his solo career with 1978 acclaimed Ace Frehley album, featuring the chart topping “New York Groove,” the years to follow would include a slew of other music, a second stint with KISS between 1996-2002, guest appearance on other’s albums, his 2011 autobiography No Regrets – A Rock ‘N’ Roll Memoir… and the list goes on.

Back at it in 2024 with his electrifying new solo album 10,000 Volts, Frehley captures an energy and mood across 11 songs that Rock fans will love. Gracious for all the good fortune that has come his way, Ace Frehley recently sat down to chat about his music, 10,000 Volts, the KISS years, what is really important in life, and more. 

Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in Rock-n-Roll music for many decades now. Obviously, you built a legacy through KISS and you extended that legacy with a very successful solo career. Before we dive deeper, briefly tell me, how would you describe your journey in music to this point?

Ace Frehley – It’s been pretty crazy. I don’t really plan the things I’m going to do. When I decided to leave KISS, it was the spur-of-the-moment thing the first time I left the band. I just wasn’t happy anymore. I started playing music and performing with bands because I was having fun. Towards the end of the first time I left KISS, it wasn’t fun anymore. The Elder came out in 1981 and it bombed. Even though I told them it would, they didn’t want to listen to me. It became very difficult working with people that you aren’t on the same page with.

Cryptic Rock – Understandable. You went out and built yourself a solo career that honestly is probably the most successful of any KISS member outside of the band.

Ace Frehley – Yeah. I believe that’s true. I’m just happy. I just do what I do every day and hope for the best.

Cryptic Rock – That is a good outlook. You also have a very distinctive guitar style. When you left the band, did you feel like you were able to explore that more in your solo work and in your other projects?

Ace Frehley – Absolutely. I had a lot more freedom. I actually decided to leave the band after the success of my 1978 solo album with “New York Groove.” I realized the month I was away from Paul, Gene and Peter, and it was just me, Eddie Kramer, and Anton Fig on drums… I came up with more interesting things. I was a lot more creative because Paul and Gene like to do things a certain way, and I like to do things a different way.

If you can’t get a song in two or three takes, maybe it’s time to take a break and go on to another song. Sometimes they do 20 or 25 takes of a song. I just look at the guys to say, “We’re never going to get it this way.” I talked them into quitting for that day. We came back the next day and got it in one take. It loses all its spontaneity. I’m a big one for spontaneity and coming up with things that you don’t really think about or prepare for. It’s been like that my whole life, and nine times out of ten it works.

Kiss destroyer
Kiss – Destroyer / Casablanca (1976)
Kiss Love Gun
Kiss – Love Gun / Casablanca (1977) 

Cryptic Rock – You just have to trust your gut feeling. That is what music is really about. You could be a highly educated student of music, but you have to trust your gut feeling.

Ace Frehley – Yeah. I’ve always gone with my gut. When something doesn’t feel right, I express it. When people don’t listen to me, I get frustrated. After a while, I just say, “Okay, it’s time to leave.” That’s what happened with KISS, unfortunately.

Cryptic Rock – Understood. Again, outside KISS, you did some really cool things as a solo artist. In the 2010s alone, you have been very active. You released Space Invader in 2014, and released a few albums since then; the two cover records included. What has this past 10-year span been like for you?

Ace Frehley – I just try to surround myself with people that get me excited, and I get them excited. Together, things start getting magical. That’s exactly what happened with Steve Brown, who co-produced my recent album, 10,000 Volts. I was working with a couple of different people and it wasn’t really knocking me out with some of the songs… even though they weren’t bad.

I got together with Steve and it just seemed like everything we worked on turned into magic. I asked Steve if he’d co-produce the record with me and he said, “Sure. We’ll make a great record.” The rest is Ace-story. (Laughs) 

Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) Yes it is! The album, 10,000 Volts, came out on Friday, February 23rd. That said, this is an energized record with a lot of great songs. What was the inspiration behind the music for this album?

Ace Frehley – The inspiration was pretty much me and Steve collaborating on these songs. He’d bring me an idea, a lot of times I’d rewrite the lyrics, and he’d give me ideas for solos. He’s a great engineer; he’s been engineering Pro Tools for over 30 years. So, I didn’t have to pay an engineer to work on this record. Steve was just really fast, quick, and knew what he was doing.

That made it a lot easier to work on a song. When you have an idea, and you’re not able to put it down right away, sometimes you forget it. I’m a lot like that. If I don’t put a tape recorder or digital recorder down on my desk, and I start fooling around with my guitar, I’ll come up with something good, but then I’ll forget about it. Then I listen back on the digital recorder and I say, “Oh, that’s something good.” With me, things come and go real quick. With Steve, it was like that. He was really fast, he gave me great ideas and I bounced great ideas off him. Between the two of us, the album came out much better than I had anticipated.

Cryptic Rock – The album came out great. The riffs are strong and the energy is right-on. You also have a mix of lyrics here that go from a little more light-hearted topics, to some more introspective ones about the world today. For example, “Blinded” is very topical for our present day life.

Ace Frehley – Yes. We were about halfway through the record and I said, “Steve, most of our songs were about girls.” I had been reading some articles about artificial intelligence and how dangerous it could be if it’s left unchecked. I said to Steve, “Let’s write a song about something current that has nothing to do with women.” Since I’m a computer wizard, I came up with the lyrics really quickly. The song came together fast.

That’s just the way we worked. Both Steve and I can play guitar, bass; plus we both can sing lead and harmony. We also both have our own studios in our basement. It’s really easy to just come up with ideas and implement them without having to wait or catch up to somebody else who’s behind you. We work really fast. On some of the songs I wrote the lyrics, or rewrote some of the lyrics, in 30 minutes.

Ace Frehley 10,000 Volts
Ace Frehley – 10,000 Volts / MNRK Heavy (2024)

Cryptic Rock – Very interesting. You certainly have a good balance on the album as a result. You are also someone who is a fan of Sci-Fi. Science fiction has sort of become a reality in many ways in our modern world. Would you agree? 

Ace Frehley – Yeah. A lot of Science Fiction has become reality. I think in the next 5 to 10 years, it’s going to become even worse. There is a song that goes over the liner notes of the movie The Transporter (2002) with Jason Statham. It’s by a gal named Nadia, it’s called “Life of a Stranger,” and that’s the only song we didn’t write on the record. I remember hearing that the very first time I saw the movie and I thought it was a really good song. I just thought it needed to be beefed up, made heavier, and with real drums thrown on, not a drum machine. Finally, I got a chance to do it. I was thrilled with the way it came out. The only thing I was really concerned with was about being able to sing it; because the chorus modulates twice, which doesn’t happen in very few songs. In fact, I can’t think of another song where the chorus modulates twice.

Cryptic Rock – That is very true. Your take on the song works really well in the mix of this album. You are currently performing in support of the album in March, April, before more later in 2024. Will there be a good mix of your older material within the setlists?

Ace Frehley – We had already performed “10,000 Volts” a couple of times before. We’ll probably work in the second single, “Walkin’ on the Moon.” We will also play the third single, “Cherry Medicine.” We’ll have those three songs to play around with live. I think I’m going to add a couple more KISS songs to the set; because you know KISS isn’t performing anymore. I think there are songs that kids want to hear. We decided to add to our set, “Shout It Out Loud,” and “Rock and Roll All Night.”

Cryptic Rock – Well, that should be a great set then. It sounds like there will be a lot of fun material involved. 

Ace Frehley – Yeah. There will be stuff from my older records, our newer records, plus four or five KISS songs. In February we did three shows with that set. We ended in “Shout It Out Loud,” “Deuce,” and “Rock and Roll All Night.” The place went completely crazy and everybody was up on their feet. It was amazing! We realized those three songs go really well together to end off a set. Everything is going well live.

I recently released my music video for “Cherry Medicine”; which I think is going to go over really well as the third single release from the record. I’m really excited to hear what the fans are going to say about the record; because so many people who have heard the record say it’s great. They say it’s this, they say it’s that, but the proof in the pudding when the fans hear it. I’m hoping that they’re going to love it. I think I’ve worked on this record now for over a year. It’s just a lot of energy, a lot of work and there is a lot of thought behind the songs. I’m hoping for a great response from the fans. I think I’m going to get it…. I’m praying I’m going to get it.

Cryptic Rock – Chances are people are going to really enjoy this album as more and more people hear it. As you mentioned, KISS is no longer performing and you are mixing some more KISS songs into your own set. You were a part of KISS during the peak years. When everything was firing on all cylinders, and KISS was the biggest band in the world, was that ever overwhelming?

Ace Frehley – It was like being on a roller coaster you couldn’t jump off. You had a show the other night, or you had to do a movie, or you had to do a record. It was a little scary… because I just felt like I was locked into this band. I had to wear makeup, I had to wear a costume all the time, and there were some days that were a lot of pressure. Sometimes we’d have to go to radio stations with the makeup on and it was almost too much for me. Then the four of us did solo records, and mine turned out to be the best. That made me realize that I was more creative away from Paul, Gene and Peter than with them. The writing was kind of on the wall for me after the success of that record.

Cryptic Rock – Those days with KISS were certainly a monumental time in the world of Rock-N-Roll. It is understood that you like to be spontaneous, but do you have any more ideas in the bank? With 10,000 Volts, can we expect more new material sooner than later? 

Ace Frehley – I always have ideas. I have plenty of songs pre-recorded already. Some of them make it on the record, some of them don’t. I try to always put the 10 or 11 best songs on the record and move forward. If a song doesn’t make it, it doesn’t make it. “Back Into My Arms Again,” I think is a good song. For some reason, I never recorded it live on a record. Then, Steve and I were in his studio, and we were just listening to 8 demos. He came across “Back Into My Arms Again,” and he said, “What the hell is this?” I go, “It’s an old demo I wrote 35, 40 years ago.” He goes, “Let’s listen to it.” He listened to it for about 30, 40 seconds and said, “This song’s great. We should record it.” I said, “Sure. Let’s do it.” We recorded it and it came out wonderful. The fans were very excited about it; because they heard the demo on YouTube first, but this new version on the album is so much more superior in its production. My voice is stronger.

My voice is stronger on this whole album. I really don’t know what to attribute it to except to the fact that I’ve been singing a lot over the last several years and touring. I don’t really take vocal lessons or anything like that. I never took a guitar lesson. I can’t explain. I have no explanation as to what I do. I just do it.

Ace Frehley 1978 album
Ace Frehley / Casablanca (1978) 
Frehley's Comet
Ace Frehley – Frehley’s Comet / Megaforce (1987)

Cryptic Rock – That is the beauty of it. Sometimes no explanation is needed.  

Ace Frehley – Yeah. With the song “Life of a Stranger,” if you listen to the end of The Transporter movie, it starts off with her doing a vocal. I started it off with a lead solo and I broke right into the verse. I like the way my interpretation came out, I think it came out really good.

Cryptic Rock – When you talk about it and listen to the original “Life of a Stranger” side by side with yours, it is certainly a great interpretation. Last question. As a fan of Science Fiction, what are some of your favorite Science Fiction films?

Ace Frehley – Oh, one of my favorite Science Fiction films is Forbidden Planet (1956). Second one is probably that one with Michael Rennie, The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). Those two come to mind right off the top of my head. My favorite movie ever is The Wizard of Oz (1939). Figure that one out!

Cryptic Rock – Nothing wrong with that. It is a classic, timeless film. 

Ace Frehley – Yeah. I watched it recently, it was in 1938, and it still holds up! It’s the same way with my 1978 solo album; it holds up with “New York Groove” on it. People keep saying that’s the best album I ever did. I’m thinking that possibly this album, 10,000 Volts, may surpass it. It’s definitely up there. 

I’m going to be 73 in April. Luckily, I’m taking care of myself. My fiancé, Laura, is a personal trainer. I eat organically and I dropped 40 pounds in the last year and a half. Everything seems to be working in my favor. Trying to stay closer to God, closer to my family, and help people out that need helping… that I maybe couldn’t have done before. It’s hard to explain. I just wake up in the morning and say, “Well, what’s the best thing I can do today? Who can I help out? Do I have a song idea?” Next thing I know, it’s like midnight. (Laughs) 

Cryptic Rock – It sounds like you are in a very good place right now in your life and musically. That is all positive. 

Ace Frehley – Yeah. A lot of it has to do with my fiancé. She’s the one that actually talked me into getting together with Steve Brown. She knew Steve Brown in her early twenties. They’re both from New Jersey. When I fell in love with her, I moved in with her in New Jersey. We ended up buying a bigger estate where I could put a recording studio in. Ever since then, things have just been getting better and better.

Ace Frehley Cryptic Rock Magazine
Ace Frehley at The Paramount Huntington, NY 7-2-19 / Photo credit: Andrew Fiero Photography

Cryptic Rock – It seems like you found the Yin to your Yang. We are all looking for someone to balance us out. When you find it… nothing is better.

Ace Frehley – She is my soulmate. There’s that old saying – behind every great man is a great woman. I believe that wholeheartedly. We don’t argue very often. I remember my last girlfriend I had in California. We would be arguing every other day and it was a nightmare. I lucked out. I prayed to God and I said, “Please send me an angel” and he did! 

There is nothing like family. You can be in a Rock band, be successful, and be a multi-millionaire… but without family, you have nothing. I used to tell my girlfriend in California when I was just living with her, “Not everything is money and living in a mansion… what would it be like without you? You want to share it with someone. If you don’t have anyone to share it with, you can go off the deep end like a lot of rock stars have in the past.

Cryptic Rock – That is true. On a smaller scale, people in general have lost touch with what is really important in life in today’s world. There are a lot of narcissistic personalities out there; and people need to be more grounded.

Ace Frehley – I watch the movie Extraction (2020) with Chris Hemsworth recently. In this movie his character in India and in this really tough neighborhood. While watching it, I’m saying to myself – “I can’t even imagine what it would be like to live like that.”

We get complacent and we take things for granted. When something happens, you realize that without family and without your health, you got nothing. I don’t care if you got $500 million. If you’re not healthy and have a family, it means nothing.

Ace Frehley 2024 Tour Dates:
March 28, 2024 – New York, NY – Sony Hall
March 29, 2024 – Woonsocket, RI – Stadium Theatre
March 30, 2024 – Rutland, VT – Paramount Theatre
April 12, 2024 – Rome, NY – Rome Capitol Theatre
April 13, 2024 – Carteret, NJ – Carteret Performing Arts & Events Center
May 31, 2024 – Sandusky, OH – “Ohio Bike Week” @ Jackson Street Pier
June 28, 2024 – Marion, IL – Marion Cultural & Civic Center
June 29, 2024 – Decatur, IL – Lincoln Square Theatre
August 10, 2024 – Beaver Dam, KY – Beaver Dam Amphitheatre
August 21, 2024 – North Tonawanda, NY – River Theatre
September 6, 2024 – Hinckley, MN – Hinckley Amphitheatre
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