ACE FREHLEY - Known as the
"Celestial One", "Mr. Excitement" or simply to the legions of KISS fans as the
Spaceman, Ace Frehley with his impressive lead guitar riffs and stinging vibrato
has been a major influence on rock guitar for over two decades. Artists such as
Pantera's Dimebag Darrel, and Skid Row have named him as in influence. Ace also
creates excitement onstage with his spaceman persona with his 6 foot , one inch,
175 lb frame staggering around the stage, his knees bent, and his back arched,
totally aloof from his surroundings. He is of course also known for his stage
theatrics, which include the burning guitar during his solo which is then put on
a wire and sent up into the air, and then he gets another guitar with a rocket
launcher and shoots rockets.
Offstage, Ace Frehley is quiet and keeps to himself, but however has had a long
battle with alcohol and other substances but is now healthy. His current
interests are computers, science fiction ( his interest in science fiction
inspired his Spaceman persona), and reading about the International Space
Station. A beloved member of KISS due to the fact that he has come from humble
beginnings, to make it big in one of the greatest rock bands in the world.
Paul Daniel Frehley was born in the Bronx, located in New York City on April 27,
1951. He also grew up there. Ace was born with brown hair and brown eyes His
father, Karl, was an electrical engineer, and his mother Esther was a homemaker.
Ace was born the youngest of three children. He has a brother Charles, who is a
classical guitarist and a sister Nancy.
Growing up right off of 200th St. and Webster Ave , Ace graduated Grace Lutheran
School at age 13. However, he got thrown out of two high schools and dropped out
of the third. Two of the high schools he attended were DeWitt Clinton High
School and Roosevelt on Fordham Rd. It was in his high school years that he got
the nickname, "Ace" when he had the ability to get his friends dates. His
friends said, "You are a real Ace." It was also in his high school years that a
guidance counsellor encouraged him to get into graphic arts. ( On a side note,
Ace did well in the arts department in high school. Later in 1993, he would use
his graphic arts skills to produce art work from a computer and sell the work in
an art gallery in New Jersey. ) His family did not have a lot of money, and in
his teen years, Ace would get involved in streetgangs.
He would later credit guitar playing for "saving his life" as a member of KISS.
Ace was always surrounded by music. His father played piano as did his mother.
His father was the church organist. Both his brother, who is a classical
guitarist, and sister both played piano so according to Ace , "guitar didn't
come hard to me at all." Ace first started playing guitar at age 13. He lists
Jimi Hendrix, Albert Lee, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling
Stones, and the Who as his main influences.
What made Ace really want to make guitar playing his career however, was when at
age 16 he saw Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels with the Who and Cream as the
opening acts. In fact, Ace considers Pete Townsend to be his all time favorite
guitarist. ( On a side note, Ace acted as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix, he set up
Mitch Mitchell's drum kit. Sadly, it was to be Jimi's last New York appearance).
From then on, Ace knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life. Self taught,
he did learn from his friend Peppy Castro from the Blues Magoos how to play
barre chords. The first song Ace ever learned was "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a
Lovely Daughter", by Herman's Hermits.
Prior to Ace's joining KISS, he played in bar bands, and the like. In 1969, Ace
played for a band called , Magic People. According to KISSTORY, Ace played in
other bands such as The Muff Divers, The Exterminators, and Four Roses. The only
recording experience Ace had prior to KISS was with a band he joined circa 1972
or so named Millemo. Millemo had a contract with RCA records and recorded
several tracks but they were never released. Ace also worked as a cab driver for
a time to support himself. It was also during this time period while Ace was
trying to establish himself as a musician that in 1970, at age 19 he met his
girlfriend, Jeanette. They later married on May 10, 1976 and on July 9, 1980 ,
became the parents of their daughter , Monique who will be 19 this July.
On January 17, 1973, Ace went to a loft on 10 E. 23rd. St. near Fifth Avenue in
Manhatten, New York City where Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, and Gene Simmons were
auditioning for guitarists to finish creating their ultimate band. He was
answering an advertisement for a guitarist in the magazine " The Village Voice"
which said, "Guitarist wanted with flash and balls. " He walks into the audition
with an orange sneaker and a red sneaker. He walked in, ironically enough, on
Bob Kulick's audition. After Bob Kulick auditions, Ace, Paul and Gene talked for
a bit and then the group jammed on "Deuce". Gene told Ace that it was in the key
of "A" and as for the solo, "go for it". Well, Ace played a ripping solo and a
week later, he was in the band , which later named itself: KISS.
In the early days of KISS, when they played clubs like, Coventry, the Daisy, and
started experimenting with makeup, Ace created his Spaceman persona. One idea he
had was to spray his hair silver. He also designed the KISS logo (refined by
Paul Stanley) which is still used to this very day. The double s in KISS were to
be like lightening bolts. (This comes from Ace's talent in graphic arts. In
fact, on the 1996-97 Reunion Tour, Ace designed the 4 solo faces morphing on the
screen from his computer.) It was at the Hotel Diplomat, where KISS met Bill
Aucoin who promised them a record deal within two weeks.
For the first few albums in KISS' career, Ace wrote only one or two songs, and
did not have a lot of confidence in his singing. He wrote " Cold Gin" for the
first album,"KISS" (1974), but had Gene sing it. Paul and Gene always pushed him
to sing but he wouldn't. For "Hotter than Hell" (1974) the second album, he
wrote "Parasite" and "Strange Ways" but Gene sang the former and Peter sang the
latter. Both songs contained blistering guitar work by Frehley, as did the whole
album. He also co-wrote "Coming Home" from that album as well with Paul a song
which Paul sings. For "Dressed to Kill" (1975), Ace wrote "Getaway" which was
sung by Peter as well as the acoustic part of "Rock Bottom" which Paul not only
sings but wrote the hard rock part.
"Shock Me" from the 1977 KISS classic "Love Gun" features not only great lead
work by Ace but his first lead vocal. (On a side note, technically, Ace first
sang lead on a song called "Queen for a Day" for the Rock N Roll Over album that
did not make the final cut). He recorded his singing in a rather unique way, by
lying on his back, in the dark. The reason this was done was because he was
nervous and did not want anyone to see him sing. "Shock Me" is a fan favorite
and a concert highlight. After Ace would sing "Shock Me" on tour in the 70's, he
would start his guitar solo which featured his guitar being set on fire and
explode. He would then come out, and finish the solo with a second guitar.
Ace did eventually become more comfortable singing lead. He sang "Rocket Ride"
on the fourth side of ALIVE II. When KISS recorded the solo albums, Ace sang
lead on all his tracks. He played all guitars and bass with the exception of two
tracks, which were done by Will Lee, who is the bassist for the band on David
Letterman's show. Playing drums was Anton Fig, who comes into the KISS picture
also. (Fig, not only plays in Letterman's band, but played on most of the tracks
on "Dynasty", except for "2000 Man" and "Dirty Livin" and the entire "Unmasked "
( 1980) album).
It was also during this time that Ace's battle with the bottle was getting to
dangerous levels. With the success of the ALIVE (1975) record, Ace who liked to
drink started to become lackidasical, and unfortunately fell to the excesses
that came with being a rock and roll musician (alcohol, drugs, sex, friends,
"so-called friends). He missed a couple of recording sessions for "Destroyer"
(1976), because he wanted to leave early and play cards with his friends and the
producer, Bob Ezrin, who Ace did not get along with, replaced him on a couple of
tracks, one being "Sweet Pain" with a sessions player named Dick Wagner. Also,
Bob Kulick played on all songs on the Alive II( 1978) record due to Ace's
inebriation, with the exception of Rocket Ride.
Ace's relationship with the rest of the band, particularly Gene and Paul were
strained at best. The one member of the band that Ace was the closest to, was
Peter. Like Ace, Peter grew up in gangs and liked to party. The two were kindred
spirits. Gene and Paul on the other hand were straitlaced, in the sense that
they were very businesslike and didn't partake of any drugs or alcohol. ( On a
side note: by the time the group toured to support Dynasty, the whole band were
not speaking to each other).
The recording of his solo album was a definite musical release for Ace who at
the time felt Gene and Paul were holding him back. Not only that, he had a hit
from it (the only KISS member to have one from all of the solo albums), " New
York Groove", written by Russ Ballard which charted to #13 on the charts.
On "Dynasty"(1979) Ace wrote two songs and sings three. He wrote, "Hard Times",
and "Save your Love" and sings the cover of "2000 Man" from The Rolling Stones'
"Their Satanic Majesties Request" album. It is during "2000 Man" where Ace
places his guitar solo on the Dynasty tour with new stage theatrics: after the
guitar burns, it goes up in the air on a wire that Ace hooks the guitar on. Then
with the second guitar, he has a rocket launcher which he uses to shoot a
"rocket" into the light trussle. (He also used "2000 Man" on the 1996-97 Reunion
instead of "Shock Me" in some shows. Now, he uses, "Into the Void" from "Psycho
Circus" (1998) ).
The recording of "Unmasked" ( 1980) had Ace writing and singing "Talk to Me",
"Torpedo Girl", and "Two Sides of the Coin". Unfortunately, Peter and KISS went
their separate ways in May of 1980, and Ace lost not only his buddy in the band
, but since each member had an equal say in the band's business, he lost a
voting member. The new hire, Eric Carr , while an excellent musician was just a
hired musician and had no say in any major decision. While Ace and Eric got
along ( in fact, Eric Carr co-wrote "Breakout" which appears on Ace's solo album
post KISS with his band , Frehley's Comet, titled "Frehleys Comet" ), Ace felt
increasingly isolated since he was easily outvoted by Gene and Paul on major
decisions. This situation helped to set the stage for Ace leaving the band.
If anything was a catalyst for Ace's leaving the band, it was the recording of "
(Music from) The Elder " ( 1981). This is Ace's least favorite album. Ace
disagreed with the overall direction of the album which was a concept album ala
Pink Floyd's "The Wall". He also was unhappy with the choice of the producer,
Bob Ezrin, who he did not get along with at all during the "Destroyer" sessions.
He sings on one track , "Dark Light", and wrote it as well. He also wrote the
instrumental, "Escape from the Island." Ace did not want the album released
because he felt they should be doing a harder sounding album, but he was out
voted by Gene and Paul. He was also angry that Ezrin cut out alot of his guitar
solos. "The Elder" is KISS' least selling album in its catalog.
During the recording of "Creatures of the Night" (1982), Ace got into a car
crash in July of 1982. He had already decided to quit KISS and did not
participate in the recording of the album. He took part in the promotional tour
for the album and his departure was announced in November 1982.
During the years following his leaving KISS, Ace went through peaks and valleys,
both personally and professionally trying to establish himself as a solo artist.
In 1983, he formed a new band which consisted of John Regan ( Peter Frampton) on
bass, Richie Scarlet on Guitar and Vocals, Anton Fig on Drums, and Rob Sabino on
Keyboards. Arthur Stead also played keyboards for a time. Also in that year, he
got into another car crash with his 1983 DeLorean where he drove 110 mph against
traffic on the Bronx River Expressway. He was drunk and lost his license for a
couple of years (repeat offence).
Ace went on a club tour circa 1985 with his band and continued to shop demos to
record labels. In 1986, he signed a record deal with John and Marsha Zazula of
Megaforce Records. On May 5, 1987, Ace's band, now known as Frehley's Comet
releases their first album, "Frehley's Comet". There is a lineup change, Tod
Howarth , replaced Richie Scarlet, who left to pursue a solo career, on guitars
for the album and for the tour. Howarth also played keyboards as well. Billy
Ward replaced Anton Fig, who was contractually obligated to the David Letterman
show. They also drop the keyboardist, and leave the lineup as a quartet.
The first single from the album is, "Into The Night." which is shot in San
Francisco, and also features the Washburn AF-40 model guitar that was designed
for Ace. (Ace never played this guitar in concert, he always used his Gibson Les
Pauls). The album features the anti drinking song, "Rock Soldiers" which was
inspired by his 1983 DeLorean car wreck. The song was co-written by Chip Taylor
who is the brother of actor Jon Voigt and the writer of the song, "Angel of the
The next release for Frehley's Comet was 1988's Live + 1, the "1" being the
recorded track "Words are Not Enough". The live portion was recorded on Sept 4,
1987 in Chicago at the Aragon Ballroom and the live songs on the record were:
"Rip It Out " from Ace's 1978 solo album, "Breakout" and "Something Moved", both
from the Frehley's Comet album , and " ALIVE II""s "Rocket Ride". This gig
featured Anton Fig on the drums.
On March 19, 1988 the band recorded a live concert in London's Hammersmith
Odeon. Jamie Oldaker was the new drummer at this point. Several songs from this
live performance were put on an official tape titled "Live + 4" which included
songs such as "Rip it Out", " Something Moved", and KISS classics such as "Cold
Gin" and "Shock Me" along with the video for " Into the Night," "Rock Soldiers",
"Insane", and "It's Over Now". The video was released in early 1989.
At the end of May, 1988, Frehley's Comet released its second album, titled
"Second Sighting". Some of the songs featured are , "It's Over Now", and
"Insane" The band in July of that year opens for Iron Maiden. The album does
poorly whereas the first album was in the top 50 on the American charts. The
band unfortunately goes through another personnel change as Tod Howarth leaves
In 1989, Ace releases "Trouble Walking" under the name Ace Frehley. Since the
predecessor , "Second Sighting" did not do so well, it is possible the record
company felt that maybe the new album will sell more copies under the name ,
"Ace Frehley". The album features "Do Ya" a song originally done by ELO , and
the Move. Richie Scarlet is back in the band, and Anton Fig is playing drums on
the album on all tracks with the exception of the title track which is done by
eventual touring drummer, Sandy Slavin. Interestingly enough, old KISS comrade,
Peter Criss sings backups on the album. Eddie Kramer produces the record like he
did the first one, along with Ace and John Regan. "Trouble Walkin' " does not do
very well on the charts. The band tours in 1990 to support it. John Regan leaves
the band, and Ace loses his record deal.
Ace continued to tour clubs. He did the KISS expo circuit to for meet and greets
with fans and for the q & a sessions. His tours were called, "Just for Fun"
tours. He went through many lineup changes. After John Regan left , he had bass
players such as Mark Normand, and James Lomenzo (White Lion) before finally
getting Karl Cochran who co authored "Into the Void". He also had drummer Sandy
Slavin leave in 1992, and Greg D' Angelo (White Lion) replace him , until Steve
"Budgie" Werner in 1993 was the drummer until Ace returned to KISS in 1996. The
one person who stood by Ace from 1989 or so was the man who was in the original
Frehley's Comet who left to pursue a solo career: Richie Scarlet. Richie stuck
with Ace through thick and thin for over 15 years.
In 1995, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss hooked up for a North American tour titled,
"The Bad Boys Tour". The title of the tour obviously played on their reputations
as the KISS member who partied a lot and trashed hotel rooms etc. On the tour,
Peter's band, "Criss" would go on first, then Ace's band and then Peter would
come on during the end of Ace's set and jam for a couple of encores. On both of
their parts, there was apprehension, but as the tour went along, they started to
feel more comfortable with each other.
In July, 1995, Ace was inducted on the Hollywood Rock Walk of fame by himself.
The reason this happened was when in May, 1993 when KISS was being inducted in
the honor of KISS' 20 year anniversary, Ace was not wanted there. In fact, Gene
and Paul were said to be willing to boycott the ceremony if Ace showed up. At
that time, circa 1992 or so, Ace was in a war of words with Gene and Paul which
was unprovoked by him ( Ace). However, the tempers appeared to have cooled
because at the same time Ace and Peter were doing the Bad Boys Tour, KISS were
conducting their own "Official KISS Conventions" where they would have a q & a
and an acoustic set of songs of anything the fans wanted to hear. At the Los
Angeles KISS Convention in June 1995, Peter attended and sang "Hard Luck Woman".
Peter and Ace both were invited for the New York KISS Convention but could not
because the convention conflicted with the club tour. However, another
opportunity rose when MTV asked KISS to perform for their "Unplugged" Series.
Ace and Peter were asked to come and they did, they met in August of 1995 at the
SIR studios and rehearsed and in Ace's word's " the magic was there again".
There was some doubt since the original members had not played in 15 years, but
once they got it together, it worked. At the Unplugged, they performed "2000
Man", and "Beth" with just the four originals and Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer
sitting out. Bruce and Eric came back for "Nothin' to Lose" and "Rock n Roll All
Night" (confetti and all).
The "Unplugged" Special was a catalyst for the full fledged reunion tour, along
with the apparent goodwill amongst the original members. During 1996, they
practised putting on the makeup and went through weight training. Ace had to
relearn all his solos and leads. The band made a surprise appearance on the 1996
Grammy Awards and did a pre-tour show at the KROQ Weenie Roast.
Before a sold out show in Detroit's Tiger Stadium on June 28, 1996, Ace Frehley,
after going through all the ups and downs of his personal and professional life,
took the stage with KISS and reclaimed his position as a true guitar great. From
that first day on the tour to end, night after night, he showed the world how a
true rock guitarist does it. I would like to add a personal note if I may, I had
the pleasure of seeing the last night of the four night run at New York City's
Madison Square Garden. It was on July 28, 1996, and just watching Ace perform
was an experience I will never forget. I will always remember his singing "Shock
Me" and "New York Groove" and his stage moves. One thing he did do that will
make what was my first KISS show ever, unforgettable, was that he pointed up at
me, not once, but TWICE!!! That I will never forget. He was also playing sober
on the tour, which was a great thing to see.
After the 1996-97 tour concluded, KISS recorded "Psycho Circus" which was
released September 22, 1998, and produced by the late Bruce Fairbairn. The song,
"Into the Void", by Ace Frehley and Karl Cochran is the only song written by Ace
to make it on to the U.S. release of the album. "In Your Face" is on the
Japanese release and has Ace singing but Gene wrote it.
It is believed that Ace plays on two tracks on the US release of "Psycho
Circus", "Into the Void", and "You Wanted the Best, You Got The Best". Ace also
sings part of "You Wanted...." Ace also plays on "In Your Face". The tour in
support of the cd started Oct 31, 1998 with a 3-D show during certain songs.
Ace, along with his bandmates, appear on "MadTv," an episode of "Millennium",
right before the tour. They also shoot their scenes for the upcoming feature
film , "Detroit Rock City." and do a photo shoot for a Playboy issue during
breaks in the tour schedule.
In conclusion, Ace will be remembered not only for his body of work with KISS
but for his originality as a guitarist and a major influence on guitarists over
the world. He will also be remembered for his comeback from the abyss of
personal problems and professional disappointment to reunite with one of rock's
Bio courtesy of www.kissinuk.com