Ace Frehley, co-founder of the legendary KIss and 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, continues his reflections on a lifetime in music with the release of ‘Origins Vol. 2’, a thoughtful and exciting collection of new covers.
No stranger to cover versions throughout his entire history – having recorded, rebranded and repossessed such notable nuggets as “New York Groove”, “Do Ya”, and “I Wanna Go Back” throughout his 8 studio albums – this new compendium contains songs that have all inspired and shaped the legendry guitarist’s life jukebox.
Of course, Frehley’s latest offering follows on from the ‘Origins Vol. 1’ covers album which was released back in 2016.
HRH Mag recently caught up with Ace Frehley at home in California to get the lowdown on his latest release, as well as his career in Kiss and his plans going forward.
After the release of the first ‘Origins’ record, did you feel like now was the right time to revisit your covers project?
Yeah, the album was done at Christmas time, but because of the pandemic, the release was delayed until September. I think I picked up where I left off.
There’s quite a wide spectrum of artists covered on the record, varying from legendary hard rock and blues bands. With the tracklisting on this album were you looking to represent as many different musical styles as possible that have influenced you over the years?
The songs on the album are songs that influenced me as a teenager when the English invasion came to America and guys like Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Pete Townsend, The Beatles and The Stones. Those are the guys that taught me how to play the guitar.
When you were going into the studio to record ‘Origins Vol. 2’, did you already know which tracks you were going to record or did it all kind of come together in the studio?
No, I didn’t know. We did one at a time. We didn’t plan ahead and pick out all twelve songs from the beginning. We just started going through my album collection and I started thinking about the songs that influenced me. It was an ongoing process and very spontaneous.
You’ve got a whole raft of guests on the record, including the likes of Robin Zander, John Five, Lita Ford and Bruce Kulick. How did those collaborations come about?
Well, they are all friends of mine. I asked them to perform on the record and they were more than happy to do so. Lita spent the weekend at my house. I’ve known Lita since she was in The Runaways. They used to open for Kiss. I’m good friends with Robin. I’m good friends with Bruce. I’m very good friends with John Five. So yeah, they were more than happy to help me out on this record.
Did you have each song in mind for the artists to perform on the record or did they kind of choose the songs themselves or did it just happen when you got into the studio with each guest?
The only song that I had prepared to do with Bruce was “Manic Depression”. Because we’re both fans of Jimi Hendrix. And, I’m pretty sure Bruce picked that song and I was more than happy to do it.
When you’re going in to record such unmistakable tracks, like “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” or “Lola”, do you enjoy the challenge of trying to put your own stamp or interpretation on these kinds of classic numbers?
Well, the album was a lot of fun to record because it brought back memories of my childhood. Also, it gave me the ability and allowed me the ability to put my stamp on it and it “Aceify” it. You know, my vocals, my solos, my arrangement – which I kept pretty close to the originals. I’m a big fan of Humble Pie, but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sing a Steve Marriott song because my vocal range is limited. So I incorporated the help of Robin Zander for that. As far as “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, I’m sure I could have sung it, but I thought it would have been a nice twist to have a woman sing “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and Lita just killed it. I coached her for two days in my own studio in Rancho Santa Fe, California. And she did a wonderful job.
Now that you’ve got these two cover albums behind you, is there a plan to continue in this series and do an ‘Origins Vol. 3’ at some point?
Yeah, after my next studio record. Right now, I’m writing songs for my next studio album, which is untitled at the moment. And, after that’s completed then we’re planning on doing an ‘Origins Vol. 3’. So the answer is yes.
What is the timeframe for your new studio album?
I don’t know – with the pandemic, everything has been pushed back. So I don’t know. All I know is I have free time now because all of my concerts were postponed. So, I’m starting to record as soon as my studio is finished. I’m building a new studio in the new home I just moved into. So, I will probably start tracking in about three or four weeks.
I know that there is one Kiss track on the record, which is “She”. Out of the whole vast Kiss discography, what was it about “She” that made you want to record that song in particular?
Well, I had been performing that live with my touring band and when the record company asked for a bonus track, I thought “She” was the perfect vehicle. Not only because it’s a great song, but we had been performing it live with my touring band and I was able to showcase the vocal ability of my touring band. They did a great job on that; I thought the harmonies were spot on.
The album has done well. I’ve seen some great chart positions. Have you been happy overall with the response to the record so far?
So far about 80% of the interviewers have made the comment that they think ‘Origins Vol. 2’ is better than ‘Origins Vol. 1’. So that’s exciting.
You’ve had a long and successful career in the music industry. Would you say that you still have got the same fire in your belly as you did when you first started out?
I’m actually having more fun now because, you know, in Kiss I had to deal with Paul and Gene’s egos. As a solo artist, I control my destiny, produce my own records, write my own music for the most part. And, I’m having a better time now than when I played in Kiss.
Out of all those Kiss records that you recorded, do you have a favourite? And if so, which one and why?
‘Dynasty’ was a great album, and the ‘Alive’ record was a great record. And then the reason I mentioned ‘Alive’ is because most guitar players cite that as the reason why they picked up the guitar and how I influenced a lot of guitar players in America and probably around the world as well.
It’s funny that you should mention ‘Alive’ because that was the very first rock record I ever got as a kid. So, it’s kind of the album I grew up with as a teenager. Those shows back in the seventies were groundbreaking. You were household names and there was so much hysteria surrounding the band at that time. How did that feel for you? Was it something that you enjoyed? Or did it ever get a bit overwhelming?
It became overwhelming at times, you know, putting the makeup on day after day. It was pretty much like a rollercoaster ride. The thing that annoyed me the most was the over merchandising of the band, which I blame on Gene. And, that was one of the reasons I left the group in 1981.
With the whole mystique and the enigma behind the masks, I mean that must have added a lot of pressure for you. Was that something that ever concerned you or were you happy when the band decided to unmask?
It added pressure in certain ways, but in other ways, I could walk around without the makeup and nobody would know who I was. So, you know, I had my anonymity and on stage, I was the Space Man.
How do you feel at the minute with Kiss being in the midst of their “End of the Road” tour? Is that something that you’re still open to the idea of getting involved with when the tour reprises? Or do you think that you’re now happy to put that chapter behind you?
I haven’t been invited, but if I am, it’s going to cost them. I’m not going to do it for free.
It’s been a little while since we’ve seen you over here in the UK. When things get back to normal again, and we can enjoy live concerts again, is the UK on your agenda to come back over here?
Yeah, I’d love to do a European tour once the pandemic is dissipated and it’s safe. I miss playing in Europe. European audiences are wonderful. I’ve always been well-received in the UK and the fans are great and they’ve given me a lot of support over the years. So yes, I miss performing there. But, you know, right now everything is up in the air because of the virus.
What are your plans going forward at the moment?
Well, I’m finishing up building a recording studio where I’m going to start recording my new studio album, which is unnamed. And I have no idea when it’s going to be released, but that’s the first thing on the agenda. And then, like I said, after that’s released, I’ll start working on ‘Origins Vol. 3’ and hopefully, by then concerts will have gotten back to normal. Plus, I’m working on a second book, ‘No Regrets Two’ is the working title and I’m also working on a score for a sci-fi movie, which I can’t really talk about at this juncture.
‘Origins Vol. 2’ by Ace Frehley is out now via on Steamhammer / SPV.
Words by Adam Kennedy, Photography by Jay Gilbert