ARTISTS / EVENTS
The Spaceman Returns!
by Lisa Sharken
Ace Frehley’s first solo release debuted in 1978, when each member of KISS simultaneously released solo albums. As it turned out, Frehley’s was the one that fans and critics liked best, and it scored a hit single with a cover of Hello’s “Back In The New York Groove.”
Shortly after leaving KISS, Frehley’s Comet was born, releasing a self-titled disc in 1987. “Rock Soldiers” was its standout track. Two more albums followed in the consecutive years. Though he continued touring, no more official albums were released and fans were hungry for new material. Now after nearly 20 years, The Spaceman decided the time was right and he was ready to deliver the goods with Anomaly.
The huge advancements in recording technology over two decades made it easy for Frehley to put his ideas together. Being quite computer literate, he adapted to Pro Tools quickly and was able to combine traditional and modern methods to capture sounds. In this interview Frehley talks how things came together and detailed the assortment of gear he used in the process.
Why the 20-year gap since your last album?
I knew how important this record was going to be and I didn’t want to put it out until it was right because I knew it would be looked at under a microscope. You wait 20 years to put out something and it better be good! I hope people like it! I really took the time to do the solos on this record. I didn’t just throw them together. I think everyone is going to be pleasantly surprised. This record is not that different from the very first solo record I did — the one with “New York Groove” on it. It parallels it in some ways. I’m playing almost every instrument. I’m doing all the guitar work and all the lead vocals, so it’s a bona fide Ace Frehley solo album. I’m also playing bass on three or four tracks. Marti Frederiksen played bass on “Fox On The Run.” The rest was Anthony Esposito, who was my touring bass player. Scott Coogan played drums on one track, Brian Tichy played on “Fox On The Run,” and Anton Fig played on all the other stuff.
I think my favorite song is “Genghis Khan” because it’s probably the most unique track on the record. It starts off with an acoustic intro and I think we had over a hundred tracks of samples and sound effects. The opening acoustic guitar part has this weird tuning that sounds Middle Eastern. I have no idea what the tuning is so I’ll have to figure it out to do this song live! It’s along the line of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” in a way, but it’s not that kind of song. It has stops and starts, and then it breaks down again. The whole thing culminates with a big wah solo at the end.
What did you use to record the tracks?
I used mostly Marshalls, old Fender and Vox amps. I have tweed Fender Harvard and Princeton amps from the ’50s, and an old Vox with a couple of 10-inch Bulldog speakers. It’s very old and falling apart. The Marshalls were 100 watt 900 Series through a 4×12 with old Celestion 25-watt speakers. Once in a while I used a Peavey 5150, just for a little change in color. I rarely record amps simultaneously. I usually record a guitar track with a couple of mics on one cabinet and then double it, maybe with a different amp or guitar.
As far as guitars, I’m a Gibson guy, but I use old Fender guitars. I have around four Strats and five Teles. I played Rocklahoma last July and the day after the show I hit some pawn shops. I found an old Strat and Tele from the mid ’80s. I think I got both for $1,000. The Tele sounded so good that I put it on four or five songs I had already recorded. It had that early Jimmy Page sound, when he used a Tele. I used it on “Genghis Khan,” “Change The World,” and a couple of others. I used the Strat on a couple of tracks, too. I have another cream white Strat from the ’80s with a rosewood fingerboard and big frets that I used. Then I found an ’83 Strat in a pawn shop on Santa Monica Boulevard that sounds great. When you play it without an amp, it’s nearly twice as loud as my other Strats. I guess it’s just very resonant. So I used those and a couple of others here and there.
I used Les Pauls on everything. I always use a Les Paul through a Marshall or a small Fender amp to record the bed tracks and then I start overdubbing. I have a bunch of Ace Frehley signature models that I used. I played them on the KISS reunion tour. I used a couple of those and a couple of Standards. Gibson made me a couple of ’59 Reissues in the ’80s that sound great. There’s a sunburst Standard that I bought for about $2,000. It looked like the ’59 Les Paul that I used to have and used on my first solo record. It’s got nickel hardware and the finish is all faded. As crazy as it sounds, when I played it, it felt and sounded a lot like that guitar. I used that on a lot of the tracks. That guitar was probably made around 2005 or 2006 and it sounded just as good as the old ones. It really did! It’s one of my favorite guitars. I played it at the House of Blues when Dimebag was inducted into the Rock and Roll Walk of Fame.
There are also about six or seven acoustics that I use for recording. I use a couple of Taylor 6-strings and 12-strings. I have Gibson 6- and 12-strings — a J-200 and J-100, and a couple of old Ovations. I bought both of them in pawn shops — one in Chicago and I got the other in Tampa, Florida. I love going to pawn shops! You always find something.
For all of my bass tracks, I used an old beat-to-hell sunburst Precision Bass that sounds wonderful. It may be a ’68. The wah on “Genghis Khan” is an old Vox.
How does your live rig compare?
In the studio, I use whatever works that day and for that particular song. Live, I use a rack of Marshall 100 watt 900 Series heads and the rackmountable Line 6 Pod as a backup, in case the amps go out. I use a straight amp sound except when I do the solo with the smoking guitar. Then I use delay with a lot of repeats on it. But I usually don’t use any pedals.
Story & Photos © Lisa Sharken, All Rights Reserved. This material may not be reproduced in any form without written consent from the author.
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