One individual who rightly deserves the title "legend" is Ace Frehley, a man who surely needs no introduction. From co-founding KISS, his art contributions (KISS logo) and his many songs, Ace is one of a kind. He has been hard at work the last few years putting together his latest solo effort and now the unveiling is almost upon us. The new record Anomaly will not disappoint Ace fans as it has all the familiar elements of his past, in particular his first solo record. There are plenty of hard rockers sporting the signature sound solos we all know. But there are also some surprises on the record such as "A Little Below the Angels" and "Change the World"
It was a real pleasure to hear an advance of Anomaly and also an honor to speak with the man himself who answered a few questions about it.
antiMusic: Congrats on Anomaly. We've been starving for new Ace material and you didn't let us down. My favorite tracks are "Genghis Khan" and "It's a Great Life", although "A Little Below the Angels" and "Change the World" are pretty great also. There's some really interesting material on here. Was it a labor of love or at some point were you just looking forward to getting it out there?
Ace: It was a labor of love but a tedious labor of love.
antiMusic: You were working on material prior to the reunion in 1996. How much of what made it onto Anomaly dates back that far?
Ace: I think just that track "Sister. And maybe "Foxy & Free". The rest of the tracks were written more recently.
antiMusic: Every Ace fan knows of your status in terms of graphic design and the fact that you were ahead of the pack when incorporating digital art into what you do. Have you approached digital recording with the same enthusiasm?
Ace: I've always stayed away from digital recording because when I'm doing music, I don't want to think about numbers. You know the way the brain works. One side is the analytical side and the other hemisphere is the creative side. And to me, when I start doing too many numbers or have to figure out things like that, it kind of hampers my creativity. But lately, I guess because of all my computer knowledge from the past working with art, I've been able to make the transition finally. I'm quick enough on Pro-Tools now I can just make it happen quickly without having to think too much. Digital recording now is such a pleasure. So yeah, most of the tracks were done directly into a computer. Two or three tracks we recorded on two inch tape.
antiMusic: The thing that jumps out at you from the beginning is that the guitars are much more crunchy than on your past records --- excellent solo on "Outer Space" by the way. Did you feel you had a reputation for guitar work to live up to or was it simply a matter of your head space was more in line with a heavier guitar sound?
Ace: Thanks. Incidentally, that's a backwards guitar solo. I just wanted this album to be everything it could be and more. "Outer Space" was the first song I've ever recorded, I think, with drop D tuning, with the E string tuned down to a D. And I think it's more of a departure from my normal sound than some of the other songs.
antiMusic: Often there's one song earlier in the writing process that sort of sets the standard or the framework for the rest of the record, either lyrically or sonically. Was it like that for you this time out?
Ace: I don't think there's any one song that critiques the musical direction; I mean, my favorite song is "Genghis Khan". I think that along with "Pain in the Neck (which I had written in 2004 and then re-wrote in 2007) are the closest to the signature sound that I believe I have.
antiMusic: How did the record come together in terms of the actual songs? Which ones came out first and which ones were the late comers?
Ace: The first three tracks were cut in 2007 and they were "Pain in the Neck", "Too Many Faces" and "Change the World". And some of the tracks were re-written --- "A Little Below the Angels" I re-wrote three times. That was actually the most recent addition to the album. I wrote that the end of last year and re-wrote that only about six, eight weeks ago.
antiMusic: My favourite track is "Genghis Khan". It's a bit of a departure from anything you've done before. I can't wait to hear the whole thing. Did you set out to have something musically different when writing this?
Ace: "Genghis Khan" was a labor of love and it's also the most complicated song on the record. I feel --- it's hard for me to explain to you everything about the song. The second part of the song has another breakdown and I break into a different chord structure and I actually end the song with a wah-wah solo. That was over 100 tracks. That was the highest track count of any song. Probably the least amount of tracks was "It's a Great Life". I tried to keep that pretty simple. That one is about my Dad. Cuz the chorus on there was something that my Dad always said. He'd say "Paul, it's a great life if you don't weaken."
antiMusic: Of course, the die-hards know about your famous or perhaps infamous interview with Tom Snyder. And there is a song on Anomaly called "Space Bear" as well as the iTunes exclusive track "The Return of Space Bear" with some actual audio mixed in there. How did you come to put these tracks on here and did you maintain a friendship with Snyder after this interview because he looked really taken with you.
Ace: Yeah, we were talking after the show and we remained friends. Unfortunately he passed away a few years ago so I wanted to dedicate "The Return of Space Bear" to him. And basically what I did was overdub some of the original things I said in my studio earlier this year.
antiMusic: "Change the World" has a few lines that say when you were young you had lots of fun but now you can see it's time for a change. Are you touching on your sobriety here or are you using a broader or global vision?
Ace: Actually the mindset on that song was probably more political but not really. I actually wrote that song around the time between Obama and the Republican candidate. And I felt that we needed a change in this country and that as Obama. But I never really got too heavily into the political race but it was something that inspired me to write that song.
antiMusic: What was it about The Sweet song that attracted you to it? I had read that a few years back you were looking at possibly doing a Stones or Bowie cover? Why did this one make it over the others you were looking at? Any other songs or artists that you would like to have a go at covering on future releases?
Ace: Well, actually the gal who does my makeup came up with that idea. So I kicked it around with the guys and everybody loved it so we went with it.
antiMusic: Anybody else you would like to have a go at in covering on future releases?
Ace: I mean we tracked a few, a Stones song. I don't want to give it away because I want it to be a surprise but I tracked at least 17 songs for this CD so there's other songs there for future release.
antiMusic: What was your goal when starting this record? Was it to concentrate on songs? To make it heavier than many of your previous works or to highlight your guitar playing?
Ace: Well, #1 it was to put out a studio CD because it's been too long (laughs). #2 When I approached this record, I listened to my first solo record, pretty much because everybody said it was their favorite Ace Frehley record. So I tried to capture the flavor of that record on this album and more.
antiMusic: You've released this on your own label Bronx Born Records. Was this due to your lack of faith in the future of major labels?
Ace: Well, a lot of major labels have gone bankrupt and the ones that are still around aren't giving out the kind of advances they were five years ago. And after speaking with a lot of other artists who are still on major labels and finding out how they're treated, I just wanted to do my own thing.
antiMusic: Any other plans for the label? Is it just for your releases or do you hope to have a roster at some point?
Ace: Down the road, I would love to produce some other bands and pass on the knowledge I've learned over the years working with some great producers. That sounds like a lot of fun to me. But that's a little ways down the road.
antiMusic: Was it through Jack Ponti that you first met Anton and what is it about your friendship that has lasted almost 30 years?
Ace: I met Anton through Eddie Kramer. And ironically enough while we were looking for a drummer for that first record. Eddie recommended him and so did someone else on the same day. I just figured that if, out of the blue, two people recommended the same guy, it was fate. And then when we played together, it was magic. And it still is to this day. We've remained friends for a long time.
Morley and antiMusic thank Ace for taking the time to speak with us.