Ace Frehley discusses Les Paul and his new CD

by Clay Howard

If you were male and grew up in the late 1970s, odds are, you were a fan of KISS. If you are a guitarist between the ages of 35 and 45 and living in 2009, it’e probable you picked up the guitar because of Ace Frehley. Ace Frehley has influenced plenty of guitar players. With his signature riffs pouring forth from his low-slung Les Paul, it is hard to imagine a cooler figure. At a time when disco was taking over the radio, KISS was still delivering “the rock.” In fact, Love Gun was my first album, and it is still hard to imagine my mom going out to buy it for me. Frehley released his first solo album in 20 years, Anomaly, on Sept. 15. I had scheduled an interview to chat about this release, however on the day of the interview the legendary Les Paul passed away. Frehley, a personal friend of Les Paul, took the time to speak to me about his CD and his late friend.

Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. I know today has been a busy day for you, and I am sorry for your loss of a personal friend, Mr. Les Paul. The Les Paul has always been your instrument of choice, with not one, but two signature models. Yeah.

Beyond the instrument, his innovation and influence are incalculable.

I don’t know how many people really understand how instrumental he was in multi-track recording, not just as an innovator in making and designing great guitars, and his playing and records that he did with Mary. He was just a giant. He was a sweetheart of a guy. I was lucky enough to be able to call him a friend, I was lucky enough to jam with him, trade stories and listen to a couple of his jokes. He was always a fun guy who seemed like he loved life, and that is probably why he lived to be in his nineties. Again, I am sorry for your loss, and his legacy will always be felt in the music world. I would like to talk about your new CD, Anomaly, out Sept. 15. This is your first CD since 1989’s Trouble Walking. Obviously you have been busy since that release, with the six-year reunion with KISS. Are some of these songs from that period before the KISS reunion?

There is one song on the CD that is from prior to that period. The song called “Sister” is a song that I actually performed back in ’90-’91, but most of the songs are songs that I have written and produced here in New York. I am happy with the way it turned out, even though it took a long time to put together, but I think for anyone who hears it, it will be worth the wait.

From the clips that I have heard, it sounds great, and definitely has the same feeling as your classic solo debut from 1978, which a friend of mine recently called “the last great KISS record.” I tend to agree with that statement, by the way… and Anomaly is truly a solo release. You wrote, produced and even designed the artwork. Yeah, you know it is pretty much my baby. I produced it, except for the one cover song, “Fox on the Run,” which was done by Marty Frederickson. You know, I came close to having it done in 2008, but I am glad that I didn’t. From the time I was gonna say, “That is it,” some songs were written, some things were rewritten and the process of recording is an ongoing thing with me. The problem with producing is I never know when to stop [laughs], especially with digital recording. You have so many parameters you can edit, change and alter, you basically have to just one day say, “This is done.” [laughs] I finally got to that point a couple of months ago.

I think all your fans will be very pleased with the results. You know, I kinda feel like I did after that first solo album when we all went off and did our own things and I made the record with “New York Groove.” I remember after that was mixed, I was listening in the car, and I had a really good feeling about it…. I kind of feel like that about this one.

I also want to congratulate you on another significant aspect of the release date. Sept. 15 will be the three-year anniversary of your sobriety. Thanks. I am more focused, I am writing better songs… every aspect of my art has gotten better. But it took a while for me to realize that. Your old thoughts and ways are telling you that you need all that stuff to do great stuff, but once you get out of it, you realize that it is a lie and, you know, you do better work without it.

From what I have heard of Anomaly, that definitely shows. Thanks for taking the time today to talk.

Clay, it was great talking to you. Hey, one day at a time we get through this crazy life, right?