Ace Frehley on KISS and His New Memoir, No Regrets
No Regrets: A Rock 'n' Roll Memoir is the new book by legendary KISS guitarist Ace Frehley. Assisted by Joe Layden and John Ostrosky, Space Ace pretty much hits it all: his young years in a gang, his audition to be in KISS (there was a job application), the band's rise, his drug abuse, leaving the band, rejoining the band, and then leaving the band again.
KISS fan or not, it's a fun read. Frehley's voice comes through, and his sense of humor shines through.
Frehley will be in town Tuesday, November 15, at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe. I called him in Chicago, to discuss his book, Gene Simmons, and the KISS' unlikely Lou Reed collaboration -- 30 years before Metallica, you dig?
Up on the Sun: Other than the financial benefits of writing a book, why right now? Why did you feel like it was time to put these stories on paper?
Ace Frehley: People have been have been asking me to do a book for years, if for no other reason than to hear another side of the story. Everyone has only heard it from Gene [Simmons] at this juncture. So you know, we started toying around with the idea in 2008, and finally the right offer came a long, [from] Simon and Schuster/VH1 Classic books, [and they] gave me about six months to do it, and then expanded my deadline by several months. It took me about a year to do it, but I'm happy with then end result, and it seems like everyone else is. I just found out that we're on the New York Times best-sellers list.
Yeah, congratulations on that.
Thank you. I'm thrilled.
So when you were initially told you had six months, did you think you would be able to do it in that time?
Well, I tried. I thought I'd be able to do it, but I have Attention Deficient Disorder, I guess from all the drugs and alcohol, or whatever. I was really struggling the last month, and I had to do some major rewrites with John Ostrosky, but, they extended my deadline, which allowed me to get a hold of some people I hadn't reached. I talked to some of my old bodyguards, family members...kind of opened up the floodgates for more stories and clarification on some points [laughs].
Space Ace, to the left. Printed in REAL KISS BLOOD.
It's a fun read. A lot of the book you address things I hoped you would. I sat down with the book, and was really hoping you'd address the blood in the ink story about Marvel Comics, which you do.
[Laughs] Yeah, I mean. I think I have a lot of interesting stories, because I was one of the craziest guys in the band. I think people find it interesting. Someone said to me, 'Why No Regrets?' I think it's a perfect title, but I don't think the title would work if I wasn't clean and sober. If I was still a mess, still getting in trouble with the law, and you know, drugs and alcohol, the title wouldn't make any sense. But I've put five years together of sobriety, and it's changed my life. I've got a new album, a new book, touring. The sky's the limit at this point. I'd love to score a film, act in some more films, maybe do some television.
You talk about the drug use and the booze, but despite your sobriety, this book doesn't feel like a parable, or you preaching any message.
I didn't want to come off like I was preaching sobriety, because it's a personal choice. I'm not against drugs and alcohol; I'm against the abuse of them. There's good in everything and bad and everything. I don't want to come off as preaching sobriety, I just want to say, 'This is what happened to me, this is how they affected me.' I would rather just be a positive example than try to tell somebody what to do.
I laughed when you talked about "Cold Gin" and how that wasn't a drink that you or any body was pounding in those days.
I was pretty much a beer drinker, in the beginning. People write songs -- it was just a catchy name and I had a great guitar hook for it. It just came together, that's the way most rock 'n' roll songs come together.
The chapter devoted to KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park was really enjoyable. It seems like you have a real sense of humor about it, unlike others in the KISS camp.
I have a sense of humor about...[laughs] the whole 'KISS Years.' I mean, it was a character: The Spaceman, it was just something I created. But it seemed like Gene always took his character more seriously, on-and-off-stage. All the merchandising, you know, the over merchandising of KISS. It was fun while it lasted, but I never thought that much about what I was creating. I've always lived in the now and looked toward the future. Gene's always lived in the past and tried to capitalize on it. Everyone is a little different.
At one point you call the band out as "dirty rotten whores."
We call can be whores at times [laughs]. Gene always used to tell me he'd dress up in a tutu and dance around in a circle if the price was right. It is what it is. Gene's pretty much admitted in the press and print that he's doing it for the money.
That said, you certainly aren't unfair toward him in the book. The story where he's pulling you out of a swimming pool makes it clear that you guys shared so much for a long time. There's some respect there, despite the differences.
Over the years we've both said some nasty things about each other, but you know, deep down inside there's a lot of mutual respect and love. We just created a monster, and I was there from the beginning.
You talk about the KISS audition. There was an actual job application?
Yeah, it was funny. Right then and there I should have thought twice about it [laughs].
What kind of questions were on it?
I don't remember. It was a long time ago. All I know is I had a red and an orange sneaker on [laughs].
You're last album with the group prior to the reunion was Music from The Elder, and Lou Reed rewrote the lyrics to one of your contributions.
One song had lyrics by Lou Reed, "Dark Light." That song was originally called "Don't Run," but I was just happy to finish that album and move on. Like I said in the book, I didn't think it was a good idea from the outset.
The scale of Reed's collaboration with Metallica is obviously much greater, but I can't helping thinking about Lulu. It's not the first time Reed has collaborated with a hard rock band. Some friends and I have talked about that.
Yeah. [Music from the Elder] isn't a bad album, it's just not a very good KISS album. If I had to do it all over again, it probably wouldn't happen. You learn by your mistakes, you know. Between that and all my abuses, I just thought I had to move on or I was going to commit suicide. I didn't have a choice, but nobody seemed to understand that. Maybe now, with the clarification of the book, I can tell everyone how I did feel, and maybe make some sense to somebody.
What's next? A follow up to Anomaly?
There's a couple songs that didn't make it onto Anomaly that I'm in the process of rewriting, three new songs I'm working on, considering some covers. Hopefully that will be out by next summer. No title yet, though.
Ace Frehley is scheduled to appear Tuesday, November 15, at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe.
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