The return of the Spaceman

Original Kiss-guitarist Ace Frehley celebrates being three years sober as he releases his first album in 20 years.

Ace Frehley

BACK NEXT YEAR: Ace Frehley, here pictured live in Oslo last June, says he will be back in Europe in 2010.

Foto: Roy Hilmar Svendsen / NRK

The former Kiss-axeman last released a solo-album, «Trouble Walkin'», in 1989. Since then, he has toured with former bandmate Peter Criss, rejoined Kiss, recorded and toured with Kiss, left Kiss for the second time and once again battled alcoholism.

Ace Frehley "Anomaly"

OUT NOW: The new album by Ace Frehley.

But this week Ace Frehley returns with a vengeance, releasing his new album «Anomaly» two weeks before his old band returns with their first record in 11 years, «Sonic Boom».

On the day of release, NRKs Roy Hilmar Svendsen sat down with the original Spaceman for a chat on all things «Anomaly», his daily battle with his old demons, touring, old songs.

And yes, of course, Tommy Thayer.

NRK: Congratulations on your new album, «Anomaly». The day is finally here, after 20 years. How does it feel?

ACE: It feels wonderful! It’s been a lot of long hours in the studio, some nervous moments when I couldn’t find someone right to mix the album, frustrations and all that. But that’s behind me now. I’m very happy with the end result, and I’m thrilled. I’m very excited about unleashing it to the world today.

NRK: Some of the songs really took me by surprise. «A Little Below The Angels» and «It's A Great Life» doesn't sound like anything you've ever put out on record before. What’s the story behind those two?

ACE: It’s me growing as a songwriter and producer, and letting people hear a different side of me. I’m very glad I was able to do that. If I was still a member of Kiss, I wouldn’t be able to break into that territory. That was one of the reasons I left the band, because I wasn’t feeling fulfilled creatively and needed to move forward with my own stuff.

Ace Frehley

NEW GUITARS: Ace Frehley is celebrated by Gibson Guitars with a brand new blue signature model, in addition to the classic cherry sunburst from 1997 (right).

Foto: Kevin Britton

NRK: It seems like you're in a much happier place now than, say, 15 years ago?

ACE: Yeah, that’s definitely true. It should be no surprise to anybody, as I’ve been sober for three years today. That has really greatly enhanced my life and allowed me to be more creative and more focused. It’s to everybody’s benefit, but the one who benefits the most from that, is me (laughs).

NRK: Speaking of your sobriety: Last year you were touring clubs and arenas, and playing festivals - places where drugs and alcohol are very much part of the scene. What's it like to be that close to your own demons on a nightly basis?

ACE: Well, there was no alcohol or drugs allowed on the tour. There was nothing backstage. But that’s something I'll have to learn to deal with in sobriety. I live with my girlfriend, and she occasionally has a glass of wine. And I’m OK with that. That’s something that comes with time. If you have a year or two of sobriety under your belt, you learn to deal with it. I don’t foresee that as a problem in the future. It just gets easier every day.

NRK: The oldest song on your new album is called «Sister», a song you played live in the mid-nineties. Was that one ever considered for «Psycho Circus»?

ACE: You know, I don’t really remember if I submitted that to Paul (Stanley) and Gene (Simmons) when we were gearing up to do songs. I think I might have saved that, because I knew it was a good song and I wanted to save that for my solo project, I believe.

NRK: Still, I know you brought in a lot of songs for the album, and only «Into The Void» made it.

ACE: Yeah, well, you know, there’s a lot of competition with those guys. They’ve rejected a lot of my songs over the years, and I never understood why. But being a solo artist now, I get to share all my songs with the world. Then everybody can judge how good the songs actually are.

KISS på scenen i Oslo Spektrum 19. juni 1997.

BACK IN MAKE-UP: Ace Frehley with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley on stage in Oslo on June 19th 1997. - I can still use the make-up, but I have to pay them royalties, Frehley says.

Foto: Eeg, Jon / SCANPIX

NRK: It's common knowledge now that Tommy Thayer and Kevin Valentine played lot of guitar and drums on «Psycho Circus». On the outside, the magic was back. How was life on the inside?

ACE: Paul and Gene were up to their old tricks, telling me we were gonna do a record, and then using other people on their songs. Working with them on «Psycho Circus» was another reason why I decided to leave the group again, after the Farewell Tour.

NRK: Eight years ago you played on the Kiss Farewell Tour. In a few weeks, they will have a new album out and they're going out on tour again. How do you feel about the current state of Kiss?

ACE: I don’t know. How do you feel about it? (laughs)

NRK: Well, I’ve always been a fan of the originals, but then again I’m happy that the band is still around. But what do you think about Tommy Thayer wearing your make-up and costume?

ACE: The current line-up is something that Paul and Gene decided to put together after I left the band in 2002. Gene said to me: «If you’re not gonna come back out with us, we’re gonna put Tommy in the make-up». What was I gonna say, «don’t do it»?

NRK: ‘Cause they own the make-up, right?

ACE: Yeah, they have the rights to the make-up. I mean, I can use it too, but I have to pay them royalties. And they have to pay me royalties when they use it. You know, the thing that bothers me the most, is when I go on the internet and read the fans’ comments, a lot of them seem upset and ask why they didn’t design a new make-up, like they did with Eric Carr and Vinnie Vincent. That’s a question you’ll have to ask Paul and Gene.

Tommy Thayer i Kiss på Koengen

«NICE GUY»: Ace Frehley states that he has no problem with his replacement, Tommy Thayer, here pictured live in Bergen, Norway on June 1st 2008.

Foto: Roy Hilmar Svendsen / NRK

NRK: I met Tommy Thayer in Germany last year, and he seemed like a great guy.

ACE: Yeah, Tommy is a nice guy.

NRK: Do you two still keep in touch?

ACE: I haven’t talked to Tommy in a while. He was our tour manager on the three tours I did with Kiss. I don’t have a problem with Tommy. But it seems like the hardcore Kiss-fans have a problem with the make-up and are upset. And if that’s the case, then it bothers me. But there’s nothing I can do about it at this point.

NRK: The new Kiss-album leaked online today. Have you heard any of it?

ACE: I’ve only heard one song, «Modern Day Delilah».

NRK: What did you think about it?

ACE: I thought it was a good song. Paul’s always been a good songwriter, a good singer and a good frontman. The only thing I didn’t get from the song, was that vintage sound from the 70s. I remember reading something earlier that both Paul and Gene said it was gonna be the best album in over 30 years. It sounded like something they could have done after I left the band in 1982.

NRK: Going back to the 80s, you did a lot of demos in the years before the first Comet-album, songs like «Audio/Video (Catch Me When I Fall)», «Back Into My Arms», «I Got The Touch». Will they ever see the light of day?

ACE: Yeah, probably, somewhere down the road. I have a storage-room filled with tapes of old demos that I’ve recorded over the years, even going as far back as the 70s. So maybe one day, when I have the time - which I haven’t had in a long time – maybe I’ll go in there and put out something. «The Unreleased Demos of Ace Frehley», who knows? (laughs)

Ace Frehley

MIGHT RELEASE OLD SONGS: Ace confirms that he still has all his old demos, and that a collection or box-set of unreleased material may appear some time in the future.

Foto: Roy Hilmar Svendsen / NRK

NRK: Speaking of old songs, I just saw that you played «Getaway» at the Viper Room recently. Do you have any other surprises in store for the fans when you go back on the road?

ACE: Sure! But if I talked about it, it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it? (laughs)

NRK: That’s true. On another note, I've noticed in recent interviews that you've already been talking about the next album. Do you already have material ready for it?

ACE: Yeah! We recorded 16 songs for this album, so I have four songs in the can that might make it onto the next CD. But I continue to write all the time. I’ve already written a couple of new songs since this album was mixed. So yeah, the next album will be out a lot sooner than 20 years from now (laughs).

NRK: Can I ask you to make a list of the five coolest riffs by Ace Frehley?

ACE: Riffs or songs?

NRK: I’ll let you decide.

ACE: Well, that’s something you should ask the fans. Obviously, «Cold Gin» comes to mind immediately, when you talk about riffs. On the new album, «Space Bear». Maybe «Pain In The Neck». You know, I really don’t think that much about stuff I’ve done in the past. «Parasite»… And probably «Into The Void».

NRK: Five great ones! Thank you so much for your time, Ace! Hope to see you back in Norway really, really soon. You have any plans of touring Europe?

ACE: Yeah, we’re putting something together for 2010, so hopefully we’ll meet again!


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