Ace Frehley

The Space Ace Returns To Outer Space

Ace Frehley

On a hazy, hot and humid night in July, Nickelback was celebrating their latest album going double platinum with a killer show in Holmdel, NJ. In the middle of the set, front man Chad Kroeger told the crowd that he had a surprise in store. As Nickelback launched into a cover of AC/DC's "Highway To Hell," the crowd silenced for a moment and then exploded in cheers for the special guest guitarist who had taken his place stage left to play lead. When the song was over, the band looked as excited as the audience to be on stage with one of the true guitar gods of rock and roll.

The legendary Ace Frehley launched a million guitar lessons and made his mark as one of the truly innovative and trailblazing axemen in music as an original member of KISS. The Space Ace has been cited by acts as diverse as Pearl Jam, Garth Brooks and the Melvins as an influence and his place in history is established as a player who affected everyone who came after him.

Outside of KISS, Frehley has released four solo albums, the last one dropping in 1989. Fans are now eagerly awaiting the September 15th release of his latest, "Anomaly," set to mark the latest step in a storied career and reset the bar for thunderous riffs and heavy effects. The lead single, "Outer Space," manages to blend the feel of his classic 70's work with his innovative 80's solo sound to create a heavy, modern, hard-rock crunch that is ready for the arena or iPod near you. Listening to this album in light of the last two decades of rock and roll, it's easy to hear how things have come full circle and back to where it started.

Chorus and Verse asked Frehley about his first album of the digital age and he shared his thoughts on "Anomaly" and how a man who has shaped rock history looks to the future.

During a Nickelback show at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ, you made a surprise appearance playing lead during a cover of "Highway To Hell". How did that appearance come about and did you enjoy being on stage with a band that was clearly thrilled to have you there?

What a great night! Nickelback and I are now under the same management team, so that's how I got invited to jam the AC/DC song with them. We all hung out after the show. Very special night.

You've been cited by an endless list of guitar heroes as a primary influence not only in getting people to pick up their first guitars, but also shaping their sounds. Are you comfortable with owning such legendary "guitar god" status and is it something that you feel an obligation to live up to?

The ironic thing is I've never taken a guitar lesson in my life! (Laughs.) What can I say? I'm blessed to have musicians, some very successful, some just starting out, say that my playing is the reason they picked up a guitar.

I recently filmed an instructional DVD where I teach, or attempt to teach (laughs), my KISS songs "Cold Gin" and "Shock Me". It'll be out in stores around the same time as the CD ["Anomaly"].

On September 15th, you're going to be releasing your fifth solo album, "Anomaly". How long have you been working on this material? After four other solo albums and your work with KISS, does it still excite you to release new material and seeing how fans react to it?

I feel the same way I felt when I was about to release my 1978 solo album. These are strong songs, man. Some songs I arranged a few months ago, some date back to 1994.

What's great is, not one particular track sticks out as the obvious favorite. Everyone that's heard the entire record has his or her own favorite song. That's never happened to me before. "New York Groove" was the standout hit in '78. Who knows which song will be "The One" off of "Anomaly"? That's up to the fans.

Your first signature guitar with Gibson is one of their best-selling models of all time and they are going to release a new one to celebrate the release of "Anomaly". How involved are you with the design process and what do you consider the most important elements of a great guitar?

Completely involved. I flew down to the Gibson Headquarters in Nashville in April and I sat down with all the designers and threw around my ideas of how the new guitar should look like. I'm very excited for everyone to see it.

You produced most of "Anomaly" and are releasing the album on your own Bronx Born Records. Did you enjoy the production and technical aspects of doing the album? As someone who is so well-known for your live shows, do you think about how songs will work on stage when you're in the studio, or do you go all-out in the studio and worry about recreating the tracks on stage later?

I know if I had had an outside producer, I would've finished this record years ago, but it wouldn't sound like it does today. It was hard work assembling the musicians and the song arrangements myself, but in the end I can say this is a true Ace Frehley album.

I'm very proud of "Anomaly". As far as the live versions... who knows?... haven't gotten that far yet! (Laughs.)

Talk about the album's first single, "Outer Space". What gear did you use to record that track? Do you feel that the sound of "Outer Space" has the vibe of your best work that fans love and are there new technologies that allowed you to achieve sounds on this album that weren't possible before?

My gear is pretty basic... my Les Paul, a Marshall stack and head. Anton Fig played drums on that track and Derrek Hawkins played rhythm. He used my Les Paul, an Ibanez seven-string and the slide part was played on a Telecaster. It was standard tuning drop "D". The solo was recorded backwards using a plug-in on ProTools. Does that answer your question? (Laughs.)

How do you hope fans will react to "Anomaly" and what are your plans to promote the music? Do you expect to tour with the new material and are there any other projects that you'd like fans to watch out for in the months ahead?

I've teamed up with Rocket Science in Los Angeles and their marketing team is doing a great job getting the word out about "Anomaly". Today, everything is Internet driven. In the old days, a press release could take up to a week to circulate; now I've done video blogs that can be uploaded and seen around the world in a matter of minutes. It's crazy!

I just did a web commercial for "Anomaly" and there's a guy wearing a Trouble Walkin' t-shirt who says he's been waiting 20 years for my new album. I think that speaks for a lot of my fans, but I'm sure "Anomaly" will be worth the wait.

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Matt Mrowicki

Matt Mrowicki founded Chorus and Verse in 2001. He is a rock star designer and technologist, Internet professional, content creator, and entrepreneur specializing in web development, IT consulting, branding, social media and online marketing.