Paul Daniel "Ace" Frehley ( //; born April 27, 1951) is an American musician best known as an original member of the rock band Kiss. He took on the persona of the "Spaceman" or "Space Ace" when the band adopted costumes and theatrics. Frehley played with the group from its inception in 1973 until his departure in 1982.
After leaving Kiss, Frehley embarked on a solo career, which was put on hold when he rejoined Kiss in 1996 for a highly successful reunion tour. His second tenure with Kiss lasted until 2002, when he left at the conclusion of what was purported to be the band's Farewell Tour. His latest album, Anomaly, was released on September 15, 2009.
Frehley was born and raised in The Bronx, the youngest of three children. He has a sister Nancy and a brother Charles, a classical guitarist. As a youth, Frehley was in a New York street gang called The Duckies with Steven Edward Duren (aka Blackie Lawless, who would later become frontman for heavy metal band W.A.S.P.). The Frehleys were a musical family, and when Frehley received an electric guitar as a Christmas present in 1964, he immersed himself in learning the instrument. "I never went to music school; I never took a guitar lesson, but everybody in my family plays an instrument. My mother and father both played piano, his father was the church organist, and my brother and sister both played piano and acoustic guitar." Frehley was always surrounded by music. Frehley started playing guitar at age 13. He lists Jimi Hendrix, Albert Lee, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and The Who as his main influences.
When Frehley's band, Cathedral, started earning a series of paying gigs, Frehley dropped out of high school. At the insistence of his family and girlfriend, Frehley eventually returned and earned his diploma. After graduation, Frehley held a string of short-term jobs—mail carrier, furniture deliverer, messenger, and liquor store delivery boy.
Growing up on the corner of Marion Avenue and 201st Street, off Bedford Park Boulevard (a/k/a 200th Street) and Webster Avenue in the Bedford Park section of the Bronx, Frehley graduated Grace Lutheran School at age 13. However, he was thrown out of two high schools and dropped out of the third. Two of the high schools he attended were DeWitt Clinton High School on Mosholu Parkway and Theodore Roosevelt High School on Fordham Road. It was in his high school years that he got the nickname "Ace" when he had the ability to get his friends dates. His friends said, "You are a real ace." It was also in his high school years that a guidance counselor encouraged him to get into graphic arts. (On a side note, Frehley did well in the arts department in high school. Later in 1993, he would use his graphic arts skills to produce art work from a computer and sell the work in an art gallery in New Jersey). His family did not have a lot of money, and in his teen years, Frehley got involved in street gangs. He would later credit guitar playing for "saving his life" as a member of Kiss.
Frehley spent the early 1970s in a series of local bands. In late 1972, his best friend, Bob McAdams (co-author of the book Kiss & Tell), spotted an advertisement for a lead guitarist in the Village Voice and showed the ad to Frehley. Both McAdams and Frehley went to 10 East 23rd Street above the Live Bait Bar. Frehley auditioned for Wicked Lester members Paul Stanley (rhythm guitar), Gene Simmons (bass guitar) and Peter Criss (drums). Frehley, who showed up wearing one red sneaker and one orange sneaker, was less than impressive visually, but the band liked what they heard from his playing. About three weeks after Frehley auditioned, the new group named him their lead guitarist. By January 1973, Wicked Lester decided on a new name - Kiss. Frehley designed the band's double-lightning-bolt logo (which has a striking resemblance to the Nazi SS, which Frehley denies having anything to do with it. Although Frehley at the time studied the Nazi Culture.). The band quickly decided to paint their faces for live performances, and Frehley decided to start painting silver stars on his eyes. When the group eventually decided to adopt a stage persona to go with their makeup designs. Frehley became "Space Ace". Later the stage persona would be known as "The Spaceman."
While Kiss spent their early days rehearsing and playing in empty clubs, Frehley took a job as a part-time cab driver to pay his bills. In September 1973, Kiss began to receive a salary from new manager Bill Aucoin that paid each member $75 a week. This enabled Frehley to quit his job.
Kiss released their debut album, Kiss, in February 1974—Frehley's sole songwriting contribution was "Cold Gin". Due to Frehley's lack of confidence in his own singing voice, however, the vocals were performed by Simmons. Frehley wrote or co-wrote several of the band's songs over the next few years but didn't record his vocals on a song until "Shock Me" (inspired by his near-electrocution during a concert in Lakeland, Florida), which appeared on 1977's Love Gun.
As lead guitarist, Frehley was known for his frenetic, atmospheric playing, becoming one of the most popular guitarists in the 70s and spawning a generation of new players. Frehley stated in the book Kiss: Behind the Mask that many guitarists have told him his playing on 1975's hit Alive! prompted them to pick up the instrument. Frehley is well recognized for using Gibson Les Paul guitars, including his trademarked model conversion Cara Guitars which filled the stage full of smoke during his live guitar solo.
Along with the three other Kiss members, Frehley released an eponymous solo album in 1978. His was the best-selling of the four, and the album's lone single — the Russ Ballard-written "New York Groove"), originally recorded by Hello — reached the Top 20 in the United States.
Frehley's songwriting presence within the group increased in 1979. He contributed three songs for 1979's Dynasty and three for 1980's Unmasked. While this was not the best time for Kiss on a commercial level in the United States, they were only just beginning to take off in other countries (mostly in Australia, where Dynasty and Unmasked are their highest-selling albums). But even as his songwriting role within Kiss was increasing, Frehley found himself increasingly at odds with the musical direction of the band. After Peter Criss left Kiss in 1980, Frehley was often outvoted 2-1 in band decisions, as replacement drummer Eric Carr was not a partner in Kiss and had no vote. Frehley's participation in the recording of 1981's Music from "The Elder" was far more limited than with previous albums. This was in large part due to his unhappiness with the band's decision to create a concept album rather than a straightforward rock album, and also, by Frehley's own admission, his "not relating all that well" to producer Bob Ezrin, who cut many of Frehley's solos from the recorded tracks.
Although Frehley appeared on the covers for 1982's greatest hits album Killers and studio album Creatures of the Night, he had no involvement with Killers, and minimal (no musical) input on Creatures of the Night. Frehley's last appearances with the band were the video for "I Love it Loud," a series of European promotional appearances in November 1982 and a band interview with MTV in early 1983 promoting their world tour.
In December 1982, Kiss began the Creatures of the Night tour without Frehley: he was replaced by Vinnie Vincent. However, Frehley retained a one-quarter share in the Kiss partnership until 1985. He received one-quarter of the profits for both Lick It Up and Animalize although he had no involvement with either record.
In 1984, Frehley started his post-Kiss solo career by assembling a band that included, among others, drummer Anton Fig (who had performed on Frehley's 1978 solo album and on two Kiss albums). Bassist John Regan (who had worked with Peter Frampton), whom Frehley met in 1980, was also an original member of the band as was vocalist/guitarist Richie Scarlet and keyboardist Arthur Stead. The group, whose name alternated between 'Ace Frehley' and Frehley's Comet, recorded a series of demos throughout 1984 and 1985. The band performed their first ever live show at S.I.R. Studios in New York City, NY on November 30, 1984, and played a handful of shows in the Northeast United States in March 1985.
After a few unsuccessful attempts at securing a recording contract, the group eventually signed to Megaforce Records and released their first album, Frehley's Comet, on July 7, 1987. The album was co-produced by Eddie Kramer, who had produced not only a number of Kiss albums, but Frehley's 1978 album and some of his 1984-85 demos. Anton Fig, now being the in-studio drummer for David Letterman's late-night television show, performed on the album but was unable to maintain a permanent commitment to touring. He played on the 1987 tour in the U.S. when Frehley's band played a double bill with Y&T, and new band (at the time) White Lion opening the shows. By the time the band began recording this album, Richie Scarlet had left the group to pursue other projects and was replaced by Tod Howarth. In addition, at some point between the initial Frehley's Comet shows in 1984-85 and their signing to Megaforce, the band had become a four-piece, with Arthur Stead no longer playing with the group.
Frehley's Comet, a mixture of hard rock and pop metal, was a successful return to the music scene for Frehley. The album peaked at #43 on the Billboard 200 (selling nearly 500,000 copies), and the single, "Into The Night," reached #27 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. "Rock Soldiers" was an autobiographic song, written partially about Frehley's April 1982 car accident. The video for "Rock Soldiers" received moderate airplay on MTV, particularly on Headbangers Ball.
Despite the positive reviews and healthy album sales of Frehley's Comet, Frehley was unable to maintain much commercial momentum. Two 1988 Frehley's Comet albums—the live EP Live+1 and second studio album Second Sighting peaked at #84 and #81, respectively. A pair of tours in support of Alice Cooper and Iron Maiden ended prematurely, with the band claiming lack of payment in both cases.
In order to reverse his band's declining commercial fortunes, Frehley dropped the Frehley's Comet moniker and issued 1989's Trouble Walkin' under his own name. Tod Howarth and Jamie Oldaker also decided to leave before recording started on the album, and were replaced by Richie Scarlet and Sandy Slavin. Despite the return to a more traditional hard rock style, Trouble Walkin' continued the pattern of declining sales, and peaked at #102.
One notable aspect of Trouble Walkin' was the guest appearance of Peter Criss, who provided backing vocals on several tracks, along with Sebastian Bach and other members of Skid Row. It was the first time Criss and Frehley had performed together on an album since Kiss' 1979 album, Dynasty, although Criss had shown up briefly at a Frehley's Comet show in Los Angeles in 1987, playing drums on a final encore of "Deuce". Frehley would return the favour by playing solos on Peter's 'CRISS' "Cat #1" CD on TNT Records, released in 1994. In contrast to the somewhat adversarial relationship Frehley had with Kiss (particularly Gene Simmons) throughout the 1980s, he and Criss had maintained good ties during the decade. In June 1995, Frehley's and Criss' bands embarked on the "Bad Boys Tour." These years (1993 to 1995) produced one of Frehley's most talented bands of his solo career, with Frehley on lead guitar and vocals, Richie Scarlet on guitar, Steve "Budgie" Werner on drums, and Karl Cochran on bass.
The beginning of the "Bad Boys Tour" was followed a few months later by Frehley and Criss both performing with Kiss for their August 9, 1995 appearance on MTV Unplugged. It marked the first time the original members of Kiss had performed in public since the end of the Dynasty tour in 1979. Fan response was overwhelming, and rumors of a full-fledged reunion circulated. By December, the paperwork for the reunion was completed, although no official announcement was made at the time.
On February 28, 1996, the original members of Kiss appeared (in full makeup and costumes) at the Grammy Awards to a standing ovation. On April 16, Kiss officially announced their reunion and plans for a tour during a press conference aboard the USS Intrepid. The Alive/Worldwide Tour kicked off on June 28 at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Michigan. The tour lasted through July 1997 and was a financial windfall for the group, earning $43.6 million.
The reunited Kiss issued Psycho Circus in September 1998. Frehley's lone song on the album, "Into the Void," was performed during the subsequent tour. The Psycho Circus tour, with new stage costumes (an updated version of those worn on their 1976 Destroyer tour), and a modified stage production from the Reunion tour, commenced in November 1998, after a Halloween Eve show at Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium for over 40,000 fans, the first 30 minutes broadcast live on FOX TV, and the entire show broadcast on nationwide radio. (At the Dodger Stadium show, Frehley and Kiss performed old classics "Nothin' To Lose" and "She" for the only time since they were together in the 1970s). But the Psycho Circus tour was not nearly as successful as the Reunion tour of two years earlier, and, after a Kiss movie "Detroit Rock City" which was a dismal flop in the fall of 1999, Kiss took a break until early 2000, when Frehley re-signed to join them for a final tour—the "Farewell Tour", beginning March 11, 2000. Frehley, expecting that the tour would be Kiss' last, chose not to remain in the band when it ended. His last performance with Kiss was on February 24, 2002, during the closing ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Frehley was soon replaced by former Black 'n Blue guitarist, Tommy Thayer. Thayer was an assistant of the band at the time, and had previously served in a variety of other roles, as well as having played Frehley in a Kiss cover band. Since Kiss now owned the copyright to Frehley's makeup and costume designs, they placed Thayer on lead guitar as the "Spaceman," and had him perform Frehley's well-known tricks (such as shooting rockets from his guitar) and sing Frehley's signature song, "Shock Me," moves which generated controversy and anger among some of the fan base.
Frehley appeared with Rob Zombie, Slash, Tommy Lee, Scott Ian, and Gilby Clarke on VH1's Rock Honors special on May 31, 2006. This supergroup played Kiss' "God of Thunder." He has also attempted acting (not counting a walk-on in the "...Thirteen Years Later" episode of Millennium or his part in Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park), making his debut in 2004 in Remedy, an independent crime drama produced by actor/producer Jonathan Doscher, with Sopranos stars Frank Vincent and Vincent Pastore, playing a drug dealer with a heart of gold named Johnny. In July 2007, a Dunkin' Donuts television commercial directed by Zach Braff began airing that featured Frehley playing in his Kiss makeup and costume.
Frehley was to play the Download Festival 08 (June 13, 2008) on the same day as Kiss, who were headlining. However, for reasons unknown, Frehley was moved to the Saturday (headlined by The Offspring), while Kiss remained as headliners for the Friday. He said, "I am very excited to have been asked to play at a festival like this for my English fans and I'm really looking forward to the day." Frehley also made an appearance (and played one of his own songs) at a Pearl Jam concert at Madison Square Garden on June 25, 2008 during an extended encore performance.
Frehley performed with Alice Cooper, Barry Goudreau (formerly of Boston), Chad Smith (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Chickenfoot) at the Berklee Performance Center April 26, 2009, as part of the 'Rock & Roll Supergroup' show. It was a benefit for a substance abuse facility in Arlington, Massachusetts, called 'Right Turn'.
His most recent album Anomaly was released on September 15, 2009. This date was chosen as it was three years since he had confronted his alcohol problem and stopped drinking.
Frehley embarked on a world tour, first in the US, then Europe, Japan, and Australia.
Recently on Eddie Trunk's XM Show in March 2010, Ace Frehley let listeners know that Gene Simmons has contacted him and Peter about rejoining Kiss for a reality show. No confirmation has come from either Simmons, Stanley, Frehley, or Criss. Frehley also mentioned on the show that he hopes to release a new album within the next year or two, plus another album that would contain songs Frehley worked on in the 80s and 90s but were never officially released. The title that was mentioned but has yet to be confirmed was Ace Frehley: The Lost Tapes.
Frehley made a brief appearance during the home opener of the New York Rangers 2010-11 NHL Hockey Season on October 15, 2010. He stood at one of the entrances to the ice and both sang and played guitar on a short version of New York Groove just prior to the start of the game.
Rumors of Ace Frehley’s suicide began to circulate around the Internet on Friday, February 23, 2007. The rumor stated that Frehley committed suicide by taking pills, and was reported dead at 2 a.m. Frehley responded by saying, "I don't know how this ridiculous rumor got started."
Ace Frehley is noted for using Gibson Les Paul guitars with three DiMarzio Super Distortion pickups. Gibson has marketed his own signature Les Paul models for about two decades now. Frehley came up with his trademark "smoking guitar trick" on one of the first Kiss tours in Canada. Frehley placed a smoke bomb in the compartment of his Les Paul where the volume and tone controls are located and lit it by hand, causing the smoke to come out through the humbucker pickups. After a couple of times, the smoke started to gum up the volume and tone controls and it stopped working. As a result, Frehley had to find a way to avoid this; after an alternative technique was found, the smoke stunt has remained a part of his act. Frehley also played a guitar whose body was covered in LEDs, as well as having invented the infamous rocket set-up that shoots into the air. It came from an earlier idea that he had of a fiber optic wire running up the neck of his guitar to a laser at the top of the guitar to "blow up things." However, Frehley took out the wire and put rockets on
|Date of Release||Title||Billboard||Certification|
|September 18, 1978||Ace Frehley||26||Platinum|
|July 7, 1987||Frehley's Comet||43||Gold|
|May 24, 1988||Second Sighting||81|
|October 13, 1989||Trouble Walkin''||102|
|September 15, 2009||Anomaly||27||17,000 copies in the first week|
|Date of Release||Title||Billboard|
|Date of Release||Title|
|April 8, 1997||12 Picks|
|January 20, 1998||Loaded Deck|
|January 24, 2006||Greatest Hits Live|