A Night With The “Spaceman” Who Forged Metal.
By Jet Pace
Having interviewed numerous musicians, one of the most common and important questions I always ask is “Who were your early influences?” “KISS” is ultimately included in answers that many legendary musicians give. Recalling all, Pete Evick, lead guitarist and organizer for Bret Michaels Band and founder of Potomac Records described attending his first KISS concert at age 15. The wailing guitars, the lyrics, costumes, makeup, sets, the way the music swept over him and moved the excited crowd. There were many more special effects throughout that night that fully captivated young Evick, launching his body, mind and spirit into the “forever realm” of Rock ‘N’ Roll. Beyond music, one interesting outlook Evik and Ace Freely share is a huge appreciation towards fans which Evick is not shy about when it comes to meeting and greeting crowds. Ace’s outlook that fans made KISS popular, famous and gave them all good lives remains solid. Ace knows fans would love seeing the original band perform again and has past expressed that the group owes the world that much in appreciation.
Beyond KISS, Frehely has continued producing great music. Initially wanting to name his first solo album “40 Years Later” he decided on “Spaceman” at Gene Simmons suggestion. “Spaceman” included a rendition of “New York Groove” which continues to be loved by fans far and wide. Ace and Gene collaborated on 2 other songs for the album “Without you I’m Nothing” and “Your Wish is my command,” Ace recalls “it took approximately 40 minutes to create both.” He attributes “Without You I’m Nothing” as having inspired his favorite guitar solo ever. Ace also shared that “Rockn’ With The Boys” was about his days performing with KISS. He had originally created the sound in the 70’s. Back then he loved the chorus but wasn’t happy with the verse or bridge. Revisiting all, nearly 45 years later, he said “it just all came together” his way for “Rockn’ With the Boys.” Today, Ace often says he has very much enjoyed the freedom of calling the shots in his own production company.
Speaking with Randy “The Arsonist” Cooper lead guitar and present founder of Victory Season, past co-founder of Texas Hippie Coalition and lead guitar for Emperors and Elephants, Randy deemed KISS one of the greatest Rock bands ever. So inspired by Ace in his youth, Randy sought out Les Paul’s and tried putting smoke bombs inside his guitars. At age 16 while attending the “Creatures of the Night” tour in Amarillo Texas he caught the body of the smashed guitar Paul Stanley hurled into the crowd. It was Ace who signed it years later, despite young Cooper’s inability to swing the hefty “meet and greet” fee after the show. Noting Frehley as one of his all time “Guitar Hero’s,” Randy later met and played with Ace at the “Ride For Dime” concert when Ace was drawn to use Randy’s Marshall’s. During sound check Randy and his crew roared with applause after Ace blew one of those amps. Randy shared “Yeah, whatever Ace needed was his … I mean I am who I am all because of Frehely.”
While touring world wide with American Head Charge, drummer Christopher Emery recounted many bands who were strongly influenced by KISS, among them were Static X, Slipknot, Dez Fafara from Coal Chamber now Devil Driver, Whit Crane from Ugly Kid Joe, Wednesday 13 and many more. “We were all captivated” by the full package of powerful music and ultra cool stage presence. One thing they all agreed on is that Ace produced the best solo album, a consensus shared by the world. Emery recalls how much influence KISS held over every aspect of AHC from stage presence, to cohesiveness, to guitar riffs. “As a young Beatles fan I missed out on KISS,” that is until bass guitarist Chad Hanks who was heavily into KISS, turned Emery on to them. Emery relayed that Hanks, who passed away nearly 2 years ago, was an avid collector describing that his apartment looked like a KISS shrine. “Hanks always took KISS memorabilia on stage with him too, like Ace action figures.“ Emery shared that Chad, was laying down some killer riffs hugely influenced by Frehely. “They weren’t as flashy and crazy as say … Eddie Van Halen, that’s because Ace really knew what he was doing,” He perfected some of the coolest scales and modes in order to take the whole band “to 11” on stage rather than each star competing. “Like in the song “I Wanna Rock N Roll All Night” … continued Emery, “those basic solos were tight with a group of guys that knew how to do their parts to bring the group together … straight to the top”
True that, aside from peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches, Ace Frehely has long valued a team approach where each band members playing is cohesive and ignites the energy and performance of all. In fact, he changed up band members to his present crew for just that reason which was apparent on stage. Aside from being showered with picks front-center which I couldn’t grab due to photographing the show, it was totally COOL seeing Ace interact with the crowd. He was relaxed and genuine when he spoke. He welcomed the audience far and wide thanking all for years of continued support. After that, well, … they pretty much “killed it” on stage … song after song, after song including “Rock Soldiers.” “Mission To Mars,” “New York Groove” … rolln’ on into the night. Introducing “Rock Soldiers” he shared “I’m not preaching to anyone. This song is about going through all of that to get where I am today. If you wanna drink and do drugs, that’s your business. Some people do that fine but not me.” In another interview he relayed wrapping his car around a tree saying “All that makes for is being non productive, pot makes you lethargic. I’m much more focused on my skill, my music.” He believes he’s a better than ever producer and song writer without all of that. Loving the magic of good stage presence, he performed with his famous “smoking” Les Paul. He laid down “Mission To Mars” beautifully. In an earlier interview, laughing, Ace said “I feel like my songs get beamed into my head, like I’m getting help from extraterrestrials up above. I can’t write em down fast enough.” The lingering sunset didn’t give way in time to showcase his flasher/light up Les Paul. Created in 1979 by Steve Carr, Ace rode out an incredible “New York Groove” then rang out some powerful solos while the rest of band regrouped. What an awesome night with Ace Frehely, the “Spaceman” who forged metal.
MHF Magazine/Jet Pace