STORY WRITTEN BY CHRIS CAMERON
For 21st Century Media
Ace Frehley, founding member of the rock band KISS, has had a busy year. The rock/metal guitarist sometimes known as “Space Ace” for his out-of-this-world performances and his sci-fi stage persona, recently released his first album in five years titled, “Space Invader,” he got engaged, and he was inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame with his old bandmates from KISS.
The long-time New York native moved to the West Coast to live with his fiancé, Rachel Gordon, who shares some of the songwriting credits on his new album. Moving to San Diego has helped fuel his creativity.
“It’s a less stressful place and moving here allowed me to focus on the songwriting,” Frehley said.
The guitarist has Attention Deficit Disorder and sought out a quiet studio in California to write and record the new album.
“I don’t have a formula for writing,” he said. “Sometimes it starts on an electric or acoustic guitar just as a melody. It might come to me in the morning or if I’m driving and I’ve noticed that if I buy a new guitar, playing it always inspires me to write new songs.”
Frehley notes that he has about 60 guitars in his current collection, but that collection exceeded more than 150 instruments at one time. Within that collection are the guitarist’s signature Les Paul models manufactured by Gibson and Epiphone.
“Space Invader” is a return to Frehley’s 1978 self-titled debut album, which featured one of his best known songs, “New York Groove.” Songs on “Space Invader,” such as, “Gimme’ A Feelin’” and the title track evoke the retro sounds that fans love.
“It was a conscious effort to recreate those sounds,” he said. “Fans always said that the 1978 album is their favorite, so I went back and listened to it while we were recording this one and tried to capture that feel.”
Even the cover art on the album, is a 1970s throwback. Artist Ken Kelley, who created the cover art for two of KISS’s best-selling albums, “Destroyer” and “Love Gun” designed the cover for “Space Invader.” The album features a drawing of Ace standing on the steps of a rocket ship engulfed in lights and smoke, an appropriate cover for an album whose title track appeared almost out of thin air.
“The title track was the biggest surprise for me,” Frehley said. “It was originally written as an instrumental and we were in the process of mixing the tracks when I wrote the song. I wasn’t expecting it.”
The guitarist has had his shares of ups and downs over the years, living the rock n’ roll lifestyle to the extreme, from smashed cars, a house fire, to a near-death electrocution on stage, but the one constant positive in his life has been the guitar, an instrument that he picked up when he was 13 growing up in The Bronx.
“I was hanging out with guys from a gang, getting into trouble,” he said. “By the time I was 15 I was gigging, playing at churches and at schools so when the guys would call me up and ask me to go rob a warehouse or steal cars I’d tell them I couldn’t because I had a gig. Most of those guys either ended up either dead or in jail so I always say that playing the guitar saved my life.”
He joined KISS in 1973 and remained in the band until 1982 and rejoined in 1996 until 2002 for a reunion. In 2014 the band was inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, but did not perform together at the ceremony.
“Ultimately it was the fans who were hurt,” he said. “Gene [Simmons] and Paul [Stanley] wanted to perform with the new lineup and Peter Criss and I threatened to boycott and it ended up with the band not performing, which was a missed opportunity.
“The press makes it out like we hate each other, but that’s not the case — I stay friendly with all those guys. We created a body of work that has withstood the test of time.”
The “Cold Gin” songwriter has also struggled through years of substance abuse but has been sober for eight years. Despite these struggles he has no regrets.
“I learned through recovery programs that you can’t have regrets,” he said. “You have to stay in the now and look towards the future and not dwell on negativity. I had to go through all that stuff to get to where I am today.”
Today the guitarist is in good spirits and is looking forward to returning to the stage to reconnect with fans.
IF YOU GO
What: Ace Frehley
Where: The Keswick Theatre, 291 N Keswick Ave. in Glenside.
When: Concert is at 8 p.m. on Nov. 26.
Admission: Tickets range from $29.50-$95.
Info.: For tickets call the box office at (215) 572-7650 or go to www.keswicktheatre.com.
For more on Ace Frehley go to www.acefrehley.com.