Over the last 20 years, Ace Frehley has done a reunion album and full-makeup tours with the classic Kiss lineup, appeared in a very funny Dunkin’ Donuts commercial and dropped by VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show, just to name a few of his high-profile accomplishments and appearances.
What he hasn’t done is release a new solo album. That changes with this month’s release of Anomaly, the first on Frehley’s own Bronx Born label. Frehley recent discussed the work involved with Anomaly, his new signature Gibson Les Paul guitar and what he remembers from making his first solo album during the heyday of Kiss.
Medleyville.us: Have you been storing up new songs over the last 20 years, or did the songs that are on Anomaly come together more recently?
Ace Frehley: “The majority of the songs were written more recently. I think the oldest song besides the remake of the Sweet song ‘Fox on the Run’ is ‘Sister,’ which I wrote 15 years ago or something like that.”
Were you just waiting for the right time to do another solo album, or were there other reasons why you didn’t do a solo album sooner?
Frehley: “I was slated to do a solo album way back when, when I was offered the Kiss reunion tour. I put it on the back burner to do that tour, then one thing led to another (laughs). I’m still trying to figure out why it took me so long. It is what it is: It’s finished, and I’m really happy with the end result.”
You produced the album with the exception of the cover of “Fox on the Run.” Talk about working with Marti Frederiksen on that particular song.
Frehley: “Working with Marti was a great experience. I learned so much about digital editing from him. He’s a lot like me in the fact that he likes spontaneity and he likes to do things really quick, not draw things out.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody edit Pro Tools faster than Marti Frederiksen. I mean, when we tracked ‘Fox on the Run’ … he programmed a drum track real quick and threw down a bass line, and I threw down a couple of Les Pauls and did a scratch vocal that turned out to be the lead vocal. Marti through on some vocal backups, I threw down a guitar solo, and in about four and a half hours, we had the track.”
Were there any unexpected challenges or surprises that came up during the recording process?
Frehley: “I sometimes struggle when I write something really quick and bring it into the studio to record. Tracking it sometimes doesn’t come out the way I heard it in my head, and I struggle with that.
“One of the songs that I went through the biggest struggle with was ‘A Little Below the Angels.’ That song was re-recorded probably four times; we were just about to mix it, and I said, ‘I have to rewrite those verses – they’re not right.’ Then I rewrote the verses, threw down a vocal and flew back to LA with Marti. We mixed it, and then I said, ‘You know, I don’t like the way I’m singing the verses. I’ve got to re-sing them’ (laughs). So I went back to New York and redid the vocal on my own. I put my daughter on the track; she’s talking to me.
“I was flying back and forth from LA to New York six or seven times – it was nutty.”
Is the Bronx Born label just for your releases, or will you be releasing albums by other bands as well?
Frehley: “I think probably down the road I’d like to produce some younger bands, take them under my wing and pass on the knowledge I’ve learned from working with some of the greatest producers in rock ‘n’ roll history, like Eddie Kramer and Bob Ezrin, just to name a few.
“My home studio is pretty much a professional studio, and I’m probably going to eventually have a whole multimedia complex. But that’s down the road: Right now I’m focusing on Anomaly and a tour in the fall with the band.”
Does having your own label cut into the time you’d normally spend on creative aspects?
Frehley: “I try to keep business stuff to a minimum and leave that to people who are better at business than I am, and I try to focus on the creative aspect of the label.”
How does your second signature Gibson Les Paul guitar differ from the first?
Frehley: “It’s more aesthetically different than sonically. The new model is going to have custom-wound Gibson humbucker pickups to my specs; I’m not using DiMarzios. The color scheme is going to be more of a blue burst than a cherry burst. The knobs and the inlays on the neck are going to be slightly different, but sonically, it shouldn’t be that different from the first model.”
Looking back at the four Kiss solo albums that came out in 1978: Who came up with that idea, and was everyone in the band onboard from the start?
Frehley: “Off the top of my head, I can’t remember who initially came up with that — it might have been Neil Bogart. But I liked the idea immediately because there was a lot I wasn’t getting across on a regular Kiss album. I felt doing my own solo album would help create a vehicle for everybody to see what I could do alone. I was all for it.”
Was everybody up to speed on what each guy was doing, or did you each go off and do your solo album and then catch up with one another later?
Frehley: “If my memory serves me correctly, everybody just kind of went his own way and did their own thing. We really didn’t share information. I mean, I had no idea Gene [Simmons] was going to have all those guest stars on his record; I had no idea what tracks Paul [Stanley] was working on or Peter [Criss], and conversely, they didn’t know what I was doing. I basically rented a mansion in Connecticut with Eddie Kramer, brought in a mobile truck and tracked the album.
“I was real happy with that record. I remember driving around listening to rough mixes. At the time, I was living in Westchester, N.Y., and I was constantly driving back and forth to Connecticut listening to rough mixes and making notes. I’d pull over and write down ideas.
“I kinda feel right now the way I felt then. After I finished that record, I had this feeling of satisfaction in that everything that was in my head pretty much made it onto the two-inch tape. I kinda feel that way now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if history repeats itself 30 years later and I get some really good reviews on this – I hope.”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
Ace Frehley in-store appearances (schedule subject to change):
* Sept. 15: Best Buy – West Hollywood, Calif.
* Sept. 26: Vintage Vinyl – Fords section of Woodbridge, N.J.
* Sept. 27: Looney Tunes – West Babylon, N.Y.
Photo by Kevin Britton