A Clean and Sober Ace Frehley Discusses Kiss' Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Debacle and More

by Jeff Kitts
Posted May 22, 2014 at 11:56am

This is an excerpt from the July 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of this story, plus features on Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Page, Albert Lee, "The Album that Changed My Life," the history of Taylor Guitars, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, columns, tabs and reviews of new gear from Fender, ESP/LTD, Vox, Boss, Sterling by Music Man and more, check out the June 2014 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.

At 63, legendary Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley is clean, sober, engaged to a pretty blond and enjoying life—much to the chagrin of some of his former bandmates. In the following interview, he speaks openly about his healthy attitude, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame debacle and his upcoming solo album, Space Invader.

This year started off innocently enough for Ace Frehley. Just one week prior to Christmas 2013, the former Kiss lead guitarist learned that he and his comrades in the original Kiss lineup—Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and Peter Criss—were finally being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after 15 years of eligibility (and 15 years of outcry from the Kiss Army).

A cause for celebration, no doubt—and a golden opportunity for the four founding members of the legendary rock band to perform onstage together again for the first time since October 7, 2000, the final North American date of their Farewell Tour.

And then, somehow, it all imploded. In the weeks preceding the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on April 10 in Brooklyn, New York, Kiss became the primary focus of every public and private discussion surrounding the event after they announced that there would be no Kiss performance—let alone a Kiss reunion—that night.

To make matters worse, the band members seized every opportunity to lambast one another in the press on a seemingly daily basis, effectively rendering what was supposed to be a triumphant reunion performance loaded with all the blood-spitting, fire-breathing, makeup-running pageantry that fans had been clamoring for all these years into a pitiful non-event.

“I was like, Jesus Christ, after 40 years of support you can’t give the fans 10 minutes?” says a still worked-up Frehley over a cup of black tea at Guitar World headquarters in New York. “The fans wanted it, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame wanted it. But Gene and Paul didn’t. It’s sad. They definitely lost some fans because of this decision.

“I think the reason they didn’t want to get together with the original members was because they’re afraid of history repeating itself. When we did Unpluggedin 1995, you saw what happened: because the fans were so excited about me and Peter playing with those guys, they had to scrap their last record [with then-current members Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer] and do a reunion tour [with Frehley and Criss in 1996]. Although at this point I don’t think Peter could do a two-hour show and a full tour. But I still got the chops. I definitely blow [current Kiss guitarist] Tommy Thayer off the stage.”

It’s obvious that Frehley is fired up, and with good reason. With the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame fiasco behind him, the clean-and-sober Spaceman is able to focus on the things in life that make him happy, like living in San Diego with his pretty blond 47-year-old fiancé Rachael Gordon, writing books, working with Gibson on various signature guitars and recording new music. Space Invader, his first record since 2009’s top-notch Anomaly, is due out in a few weeks, and Ace couldn’t be more excited.

“I haven’t had a drink in more than seven and a half years, and I feel great now,” says the 63-year-old guitarist. “I’m writing great songs and I’m singing great, and I’m super excited about this new album. It’s gonna be even better than Anomaly. I played some tracks for a couple of guys I was considering using for mixing, and the first thing out of their mouths was, ‘God, your voice sounds like it did on your 1978 solo record.’ Unlike some other people, whose voices aren’t maybe what they used to be. Not to name names, or anything.”

Your love affair with alcohol during Kiss’ heyday—and, well, all through the Eighties and Nineties—is well documented. Do you miss it? Are there days when you want a drink?

No. I haven’t had the urge to drink in a long time. And I don’t miss the hangovers, I don’t miss the smells, the late nights at the bars, or the people. I was hanging out with some pretty shady people in my heavy-drinking-and-coke years. I was in some situations that really could have gone sideways. I was just lucky. And you have to realize that my fans used to emulate my behavior when I was a crazy man—“Ace is a party animal, let’s go get loaded!” Then they’d go crash their car, and I’d feel terrible.

Now it’s turned around. And when someone comes up to me and says that they haven’t had a drink in six months and that they’re doing well because I am, that makes my day. Maybe that’s one reason why God has kept me alive. By all rights I should have died a half dozen times already, so every day above ground I’m thrilled.

Did you think Kiss would ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

I knew that [the Hall] had to buckle to popular opinion. It was only a matter of time. We were first eligible 15 years ago, so I knew it would happen eventually. I mean, how can you exclude Kiss, one of the biggest American rock groups in history? Even though we didn’t perform, I’m still thrilled to be in it.

Where were you when you found out that you were being inducted?

I was at home in San Diego and got a call from my manager. Then, about a week later, I got the “congratulatory” call from Paul and Gene. And I could tell that there was some hesitancy on their part about the whole thing. I was asking them if we were gonna play, and Gene avoided the question by saying, “Well, we’re just looking forward to getting the four of us up there together and celebrating…whatever.” It was a noncommittal congratulatory call.

Then, about a week later, I was told that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame absolutely wants the four original members to reunite, and I said, “Great, I’ll do it.” And there was silence from Gene and Paul. And finally it was shot down. The next thing I heard is that Paul and Gene wanted to perform with the current Kiss lineup [with Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer]. And I said, Well, that’s kind of a slap in the face. I mean, they’re not even being inducted. I have to sit through a Kiss cover band when I’m receiving an award? I don’t think so.

I also heard at one point that they wanted me to perform in makeup with Tommy at the same time. I really didn’t want to be onstage with Tommy, but I said I would do it, as long as I got to play the bulk of the songs and that I could wear the Destroyer costume. Then a few days later [it was], “No, we’re not gonna play at all.” It was almost like they were trying to bait me, so that if I said no to anything they would just blame me for there being no performance. I was almost going to boycott the whole thing.

This is an excerpt from the July 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of this story, plus features on Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Page, Albert Lee, "The Album that Changed My Life," the history of Taylor Guitars, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, columns, tabs and reviews of new gear from Fender, ESP/LTD, Vox, Boss, Sterling by Music Man and more, check out the June 2014 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.


Add a Comment
0 Comments

Similar Guitar News

Kiss' Gene Simmons Declares "Rock Is Finally Dead" (9/8/2014)
According to Gene Simmons of Kiss, rock is dead. "Rock is finally dead," he told Esquire. "The death of rock was not a natural death. Rock did not die of old age. It was murdered." Simmons blames file sharing and the fact that no one values mu...
Show Review: Kiss — Still Creatures of the Nighttime World (9/1/2014)
Kiss brought their 40th Anniversary Tour to the First Niagara Pavilion in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania, Sunday, August 24 — and were greeted by a packed house. They played what amounted to a greatest-hits set that included "Deuce," "Love Gun," "...
Dear Guitar Hero: Former Kiss Guitarist Bruce Kulick Talks Getting Shot, His Proudest Guitar Moments, Signature Guitar and More (8/18/2014)
He’s a former Kiss guitarist from their makeup-free era in the late Eighties and early Nineties. But what Guitar World readers really want to know is… What is the story behind your new Rock N’ Roll Relics guitar? — Michael Steadman I was first i...
Kiss Guitarist Tommy Thayer Discusses 'Montrose' — The Record That Changed My Life (7/30/2014)
Kiss guitarist Tommy Thayer chooses (and discusses) the record that changed his life. MontroseMontrose (1973) “I came of age in the early to mid Seventies, and in that era, the most influential album to me was the first Montrose record. "I stil...
Kiss Co-Founder Paul Stanley Talks New Autobiography, 'Face the Music: A Life Exposed' (4/2/2014)
Paul Stanley has risen to international fame playing the role of the Starchild in Kiss. However, in his upcoming autobiography, Face the Music: A Life Exposed (HarperOne), the guitarist discusses two other roles he has played that have affecte...
Nothin’ to Lose: Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley Go for Broke As They Weigh in on Kiss Guitarists Past and Present (3/31/2014)
In this feature from the April 2014 issue of Guitar World, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley go for broke as they weigh in on Kiss guitarists past and present. ACE FREHLEY GENE SIMMONS As a musician, you have to hand it to him. He knew his stuff. An...
Former Kiss Guitarist Ace Frehley to Release New Album, 'Space Invader,' in June (3/31/2014)
Former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley will release a new solo album, dubbed Space Invader, June 24 via eOne Music. The album, Frehley's first since 2009's Anomaly, will feature "at least" nine new songs, according to a statement, plus a cover of the...
Gene Simmons Talks About Setting His Hair on Fire and Convincing Eddie Van Halen Not to Join Kiss (3/13/2014)
This is an excerpt from the April 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of this story, plus an interview with Paul Stanley and much more Kiss (not to mention the Scorpions, three kings of acoustic shred, the hottest gear from the 2014 NAMM Sh...
Book Review: Kiss’ Paul Stanley Lets It All Hang Loose in Autobiography (3/3/2014)
It’s no insult to the band to say that Kiss have always been about window dressing. For years the members hid their true identities behind cartoon personas and hard rock anthems that were powerful and exciting, but did little to reveal the men ...
Kiss Guitarist Paul Stanley Talks Ace Frehley, Peter Criss and Being Ignored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (3/3/2014)
This is an excerpt from the April 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of this story, plus an interview with Gene Simmons and much more Kiss (not to mention the Scorpions, three kings of acoustic shred, the hottest gear from the 2014 NAMM Sh...
Kiss Decide Not to Perform at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony in April (2/24/2014)
Kiss won't rock and roll all night — at least not the night of April 10, when they'll be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The group, which turns 40 in 2014, can't decide on which version of the band should perform at the ceremony. ...
Parody Video Chronicles the Fictitious Story Behind Kiss Power Ballad "Beth" (1/10/2014)
You know a song is a classic when someone parodies it. Well, here's a parody — in video form — of the story behind "Beth," Kiss' highest-charting single. The monster ballad, which is credited to Peter Criss, Stan Penridge and producer Bob Ezrin,...
Nirvana and Kiss to Join Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (12/17/2013)
The ballots are in — and Nirvana and Kiss are headed to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The inclusion of Nirvana is no surprise; they were odds-on favorites from the start. The band, which has been accepted into the Hall in its first year of eli...
Photo Gallery: Original Kiss Members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss Perform Together at Hard Rock Cafe (10/25/2013)
This past Wednesday night, original Kiss members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss performed together onstage together for the first time in 13 years. The former band mates were on hand at Hard Rock Cafe New York City to celebrate the 30th anniversar...
Nirvana, Deep Purple, Yes and Kiss Among 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominees (10/16/2013)
Nirvana — Guitar World's current cover stars — are among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 2014 nominees. This latest batch of hopefuls also includes Deep Purple,