ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, MARCH 12, 2008
By Steve Newton
When Kiss played the Commodore Ballroom back in early 1975, the band had just released its second album, Hotter Than Hell, and was about to embark on a rocket ride to untold riches and fame. Thirty-three crazy years later and KISS guitarist Ace Frehley is heading back to the historic haunt to once again test the rafters with his spiralling Les Paul licks.
“We’re doin’ that ballroom again,” he notes, on the line from a Toronto tour stop, although he doesn’t recall the details of his debut there. I, for one, will never forget the pre–Great White sight of Gene Simmons spewing a huge ball of flame that damn near ignited the old stage’s red-velvet curtains. “A lot of crazy things happened on-stage,” recalls Frehley. “I was oblivious to most of them, though.”
This time around, there’s no out-of-control pyrotechnics, blood-spewing, or greasepaint. But Frehley’s still got a few tricks up his sleeve. “My guitar’s still smokin’,” he reports. “And I still use the light-up guitar for ”˜New York Groove’, you know. No rockets on this tour, but hopefully the next one.”
Whether you’ve ever been a registered KISS Army member or not, you’ve gotta give Frehley—who’s clean and sober, has a new band going, and has a new CD set for release in May—credit for staying in the game. The guy could just as easily sit on his 56-year-old butt and spend his days counting KISS cash, couldn’t he?
“No, that’s in the bank,” quips the jolly rocker with a laugh. “I’m travelling from town to town, doin’ interviews. I got a few more to go, and then I got to shoot over to sound check. I’ll grab a bite and then the next thing you know I’m on-stage, and then I’m movin’ on to the next town.”
Frehley’s current set list includes several KISS classics—including tunes he wrote such as “Cold Gin”, “Parasite”, and “Shock Me”—and material from his ’80s solo career. But don’t expect him to preview tunes from the upcoming album, his first since 1990. “I’m not doin’ any,” he explains. “You know, this album’s been so many years in the making, I didn’t really want to give any of it away, ’cause I’ll do a show and the next day it’s on YouTube.”
Frehley took part in the hugely successful KISS reunion tour that started in 1996, but bailed out in 2002, claiming it wasn’t fun anymore. A guitarist named Tommy Thayer is sporting Frehley’s silver face paint in the latest version of KISS, which also has Eric Singer in the cat makeup originally worn by drummer Peter Criss.
“Most of the fans I talk to aren’t really happy with that,” he says, “but I have no control over that. It is what it is, you know. Gene and Paul decide to do somethin’, then they do it.”
The relationship between Frehley and Simmons has been volatile at times. Simmons has been known to slag the guitarist’s work ethic in books and magazines, but Frehley takes it all in stride. “Gene likes to be sensational with whatever he does, but deep down inside he’s a teddy bear, and he loves me to death.”
Simmons’s soft and cuddly side doesn’t appear in the sex video that’s currently turning people off all across cyberspace. Frehley hasn’t seen the clip, so I tell him he should consider himself lucky. “That’s what I heard,” he replies, busting out another of those hearty Bronx guffaws.