Ace Frehley Talks Creative Process, Guitar Style + Cover Songs
Ace Frehley's career is thriving once again. After releasing the well-received Space Invader album in 2014, Frehley has been working on a covers disc and touring around the world. Frehley recently took some time out of his schedule to speak with Loudwire Nights host Full Metal Jackie about his creative process, doing cover songs and his influential playing style. Check out the interview below.
What changes about the creative process as you mature musically and what stays exactly the same?
Well the creative process hasn’t changed that much for me. I mean, like, the way I recorded my 1978 solo album was pretty much me and a drummer we went in the studio with Eddie Kramer and we cut basic tracks and then I started layering guitars and bass and vocals. And that’s pretty much the way I’m doing it today. It’s just that today I’m a little more aware of what the hell’s going on. [laughs]
You've recorded cover songs throughout your career as a solo artist and with KISS. How much do you revert to feeling like a kid whenever you play songs by bands that influenced you?
Oh it’s always fun to do covers, you know? I mean sometimes it’s really refreshing to do someone else’s material. And that’s why I’m so excited for this new CD I’m doing for eOne because it’s exclusively covers and remakes. So it’s going to happen a lot faster because I don’t have to write lyrics or write arrangements because they’re already written. I just kinda have to go through the motions and give it my interpretation. So it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m tracking at least six songs this week. But the creative process is pretty much the same.
The style and sound of your playing is distinct. It's influenced so many different guitarists. Why do you think your playing has resonated with so many people?
Well I wasn’t classically trained. I don’t know how to read sheet music and I never took a guitar lesson. So I think my style is slightly unorthodox compared to some other musicians out there. And maybe because of that a lot of guitar players who just play by ear, like, the way I started out. They gravitate to my style of playing because it’s not necessarily the way a schooled musician would play something. I don’t know ... that might be one of the reason. The other reason is I’m a pretty flamboyant guitar player. I invented all these special effects over the years: smoke and guitar, light guitar, rocket guitar. So, that may have something to do with it too.
Musically, you've done so much. What's changed most about your goals whenever you're making new music?
Well, the goals haven’t changed that much. You try to write a good, catchy song with a hook. I mean if a song doesn’t have a hook, pretty much, you know, I put it aside. You want something with a good hook and a good verse and a catchy bridge. Once you got the format down it’s pretty much putting the icing on the cake, you know? And usually the guitar solos come last.
Ace, so much drama always seems to surround KISS and the relationship with the band. Those headlines aside, what do you cherish the most about Peter, Gene and Paul?
Well I mean I think it’s just terrific what we created back in the early '70s and it’s still alive and it’s still going on even though I’m not in the band, it’s still going on. But the songs will be made forever and I’m proud of my body of work, and I think it has stood the test of time. And, my last album was received really well and I’m thrilled about that. And you keep going forward, you know?
When you were younger you were famously quoted as saying that rock and roll saved your life. Today, years later, clean and sober, what does rock and roll do for you now?
Well, rock and roll initially saved my life, then it almost killed me [laughs] between all the partying and the drugs over the years, but only by the grace of God did I get sober eight years ago. And, you know, when I think back it’s been a crazy roller coaster ride but somehow I landed on my feet. It may have something to do with the fact that I grew up on the streets of the Bronx and was involved with gangs at an early age, so I’ve always been kind of a survivor. I’m just happy to be alive and being able to create great music and having it received well. Everyday above ground is a great day.
Thanks to Ace Frehley for the interview. Space Invader is currently available at Amazon and iTunes. To see where he's playing, check here. Tune in to ‘Loudwire Nights With Full Metal Jackie and Tony LaBrie’ Monday through Friday 7PM through midnight online or on the radio. To see which stations and websites air ‘Loudwire Nights,’ click here.