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Post-KISS, Ace Frehley all about the solo work

Ace Frehley | PHOTO BY JAYME THORNTON

Ace Frehley | PHOTO BY JAYME THORNTON

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Rock band KISS is slated for a concert Saturday night at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre. Still missing from the lineup: Ace Frehley, a founding member of the New York glam metal luminaries from the band’s inception in 1973 until 1982, with two short-lived reintroductions before a final farewell in 2002. It’s not like Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley have forgotten about the legendary guitar player, though. Their ongoing war of words is still very much alive in the press, reignited after a highly publicized refusal to perform with Frehley and former drummer Peter Criss at KISS’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction this past April.

“It’s just two different camps now,” admits Frehley, who has since kept busy with a lucrative solo career, including his sixth album “Space Invader” which comes out Tuesday. “I just try to avoid all that negative stuff and let it roll off my back. Being sober almost eight years now I have to live my life that way.”

Although it was Frehley’s excessive drug abuse that reportedly often caused tension within the KISS camp, since cleaning up he says the effect is a more polished musician on his latest release. “I think the sound of this record, the production and the writing, shows that I am more focused these days. I think it’s one of the better records I’ve done in a long time.”

The album continues the once Space Ace’s obsession with sci-fi themes (“art and science were always my best subjects in school”) and took five years to make after a hefty tour schedule for 2009’s “Anomaly” and his 2011 memoir “No Regrets.” Its sound, led by the hard rock groove single “Gimme a Feelin,” is characteristically 1978, with elements of his debut solo album released that year on its sleeve.

“That’s the record that my fans have always cited as being one of their favorites,” he says of the eponymous title. It also remains the best-selling solo effort by any of the KISS members and remains a critical part of Frehley’s legacy. “During the recording process of ‘Space Invader’ I listened to it several times and tried to derive elements to incorporate into this new record.” As well, the guitarist attempted to tap into the sounds of the era by listening to his age-old favorites like Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Cream.

“They are still heavy influences on me today. I remember watching those guys and the Who and the Rolling Stones live, and there was always a little voice in my head saying you can get up there and do that, too. I decided that was what I wanted to do and nothing was going to stop me,” says Frehley, who grew up in a musical family in the Bronx and sang in the church choir but never had a formal guitar lesson.

When it comes to discussing modern rock, though, the guitarist is less flattering.

“I have to be honest, there hasn’t been a new rock group in a long time that has excited me.” He rationalizes, “A lot of the groups now maybe haven’t paid the dues that groups in the ’80s, ’80s and ’90s had to do. Today everything is so fast — a group of guys get together and, boom, they make a record with Pro Tools in a week. Maybe because of that, the depth of what they’re coming out with wasn’t what it used to be.”

Frehley hasn’t totally given up on the new industry construct though — following the release of “Space Invader,” he plans to tour in the fall and release a new memoir in the near future. He is rumored to be working on a covers album. And you never know, KISS just may come back around for him.

“It’s really up to Paul and Gene,” he admits, “but I’m the type of person to never say never.”



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