The New York drawl is unmistakable. So too is that famous cackling laughter – and it comes often. “I’m feeling great,” says Ace Frehley. He has every reason to be. It’s been a good year for the guitarist. In April, he and the other founding members of Kiss – Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Peter Criss – were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. In September, Frehley’s new album, Space Invader, hit the Top 10 in the US. And, after decades of rock’n’roll excess, the ‘Space Ace’, now 63, recently celebrated his eighth year of sobriety. But, as his new album proves, Frehley hasn’t mellowed with age. And he has some strong words for his old bandmates.
Q&A: Ace Frehley
The original Kiss guitarist on old wounds, old habits, his new album and a new Kiss tour he should be part of.
Space Invader is the best album you’ve made since you left Kiss for the first time, in the early eighties.
It’s definitely one of the best records I’ve ever done. I put my heart and soul in it.
The album includes a cover of Steve Miller’s hit The Joker. Is that a joke in itself?
Well, I did it a lot heavier than Steve Miller’s version. I picked it because of the opening line: ‘Some people call me the space cowboy...' It just added to the theme of the album.
Is it a concept album?
It kind of turned into that. I had the title for the album and an idea for the album cover – me coming out of a flying saucer, very tongue-in-cheek. So I started writing songs that were more theme-oriented, like Starship and Past The Milky Way.
The last time you were involved in a concept album was in 1981, when Kiss made Music From ‘The Elder’. And that album didn’t turn out too good.
Tell me about it. If The Elder had never happened I might not have quit the band. It’s not a bad record, it was just the wrong record at the time. I was saying all along: “We gotta do a balls-to-the-wall heavy metal album. That’s what the fans want.” But nobody listened to what I said. And the rest is Kisstory, right?
You walked out of the band then, and again twenty years later.
I’ve never been fired from Kiss. I quit in eighty-two and I quit in 2002. Paul and Gene may try to rewrite history and say I was let go because I had a drug or alcohol problem, but the reality is I always delivered in concert and in the studio.
When you quit in 2002, Tommy Thayer joined as your replacement – and wore your signature make-up design. Why did you let that happen?
They didn’t want me to leave. Gene called me and said: “Ace, we want you to play this Australian tour, but if you’re not going to do it I think we’ll get Tommy to replace you.” I never even answered the call. I decided I had to leave again at that point, because I’d picked up alcohol and drugs again and I was getting into trouble. It took me a while to get my head screwed on straight. But in 2006 I got sober, and I’ve been sober eight years. Eight years and three days [laughs].