The Stop Smiling Interview with ACE FREHLEY
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SS: Here’s a true KISS geek question. As a kid growing up, I noticed your wedding band matched your Destroyer moon boots. Was that intentional?
AF: I never even thought of that. Wow. When we got those rings, I don’t think the moon boots had been hatched yet. Maybe it was the other way around, I don’t know.
SS: You’re getting a considerable amount of press coverage with the release of your new CD. Why do you think there’s so much interest?
AF: It’s been pretty intense. I guess you don’t come out with a record for twenty years people want to talk to you.
SS: Let’s talk about your KISS days for a moment. Do you keep in touch with your former bandmates?
AF: I talk to them occasionally. You know, we’re old friends. We’ve been through too much together. People paint this picture like there’s the good and the bad, but everybody’s just trying to make a living. They take pot-shots at me once in awhile, but I guess that goes along with the territory.
SS: You’re speaking of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, I presume. Why do you think they take pot-shots?
AF: I don’t know. Maybe they’re worried [Laughs].
SS: The original members of KISS reunited in 1996 after 17 years. Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss and yourself. What are memories of the reunion tour?
AF: It started off great. It was really strange because we wearing our old costumes, and it wasn’t that different from tours from the past. I remember a couple of times doing shows feeling like I’d really gone back in time. It was bizarre. But as the tour progressed, things got weird, people started saying the same old things, pushing people’s buttons, and it wasn’t fun any more. It was like the early 80s all over again.
SS: What, specifically, were people saying?
AF: I don’t want to get into specifics. People started doing a lot of the same things that they were doing around my first departure [in 1982]. Making decisions without me. Originally it was put together in the spirit of we were all gonna kind of do this together, and the next thing I know, I’m feeling like a hired gun and I don’t have any say in anything. And that’s not fun. The four of us invented KISS and brought it to the world. It just wasn’t fun any more.
SS: After 17 years you were reunited. Was it all business or did you ever have moments were you hung out with the other guys in the band just as friends?
AF: It wasn’t like the old days. Pretty much everyone went their own way.
SS: You and Peter didn’t share your old bond?
AF: Not like we used to. I wasn’t really allowed to drink on that tour. It was a business. It was a machine. After we got into the day-to-day business of it, it made me remember why I quit the group in the first place [Laughs].
SS: On one of the Kissology DVDs that came out a few years ago, they talk about a Southern California concert that you almost pulled a no show. What happened?
AF: That was crazy. I was in New York and I had to fly in for the show and I’d missed a flight and I was having some family problems and my daughter ended up flying out with me. I think we had missed the second flight even. We were gonna land about an hour before the show. I know Tommy [Thayer, KISS’s road manager at the time and current KISS guitarist] was already in make-up. They had a chopper waiting for me when I landed that took me to Irvine Meadows. I put the make-up on in a half-hour and did the show. [Laughs]. I feel bad because I gave a lot of people some tense moments. And that wasn’t the only time. I feel bad about it, but I wasn’t all there.
SS: If you could go back in time, is there one show you did with KISS that you would want to relive?
AF: Probably Madison Square Garden. Maybe the time we did three nights there. Now that you mention though, there was a place outside of Washington D.C., a big place, I’m trying to think of the name of it, that was a real good show too.
AF: There were a lot of special nights back then, in the 70s. But then I woke up one day and it was a business.
SS: When did that happen, do you think? When did KISS go from being this glitter-punk New York street band to a business?
AF: It wasn’t one day, it’s just the way things started getting more about merchandising and became more about marketing than the music. I got involved in rock and roll because I loved it. And it was fun. And for a time, I said, “I’m the luckiest fuckin’ guy in the world. I’m doin’ something I love to do and I’m getting paid a lot of money for it.” And I was gettin’ to see the whole world and it was great. And then all of a sudden when you start reading contracts and fine print and you realize that people are deceiving you about this and that and your lawyer tells you it’s a lot more money than you thought, and it starts not being fun any more. You think that every one is doing it in the spirit that you think they are doing it, and then you find out there are ulterior motives.
SS: Who are you speaking about?
AF: I don’t want to mention names. It was people who were handling us. We had to sue our record company. We had to sue our business managers. And then the IRS takes a crack at you. It wasn’t fun any more and it’s all because of being mismanagement and people trying to take this and that they shouldn’t be taking.
SS: Getting back to the fun times —
AF: Yeah [Laughs].