Ace Frehley: The Time He Punched Tommy Thayer
Ace Frehley recently sat down with Ryan J. Downey at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles for a lively interview. The topics ranged from Ace’s new album Spaceman to Kiss’ album Music From 'The Elder,' the band’s farewell tour, punching Tommy Thayer and a lot more.
"Space Ace" discussed his eighth solo album, which he wanted to title "40 Years Later," but had a change of heart thanks to his former Kiss bandmate Gene Simmons. “I was doing a 'Vault Experience' with Gene in Miami. We were doing a Q&A… and I polled the audience,” he explains. “I said, ‘What should I call the next album? '40 Years Later?’ and I got a lukewarm response and then Gene says, ‘Ace, you should call the album ‘Spaceman.’ I said, ‘Okay, coming from you: great! I don’t want Tommy Thayer knocking on my door going ‘I’m the Spaceman.' I don’t think so. I do not think so.”
Thayer, of course, replaced Frehley in Kiss and wears Frehley's old makeup. But before he was in the band, he was their tour manager. Frehley told a story about a disagreement they got into at the end of a Kiss tour back in 2001. “The only women allowed in the dressing room are the women that dress us… we have a standing rule that no girlfriends or anything are allowed in the dressing room,” Ace says. “I had a girlfriend with me… and of course, she always had to wait outside. When Gene’s (wife) Shannon (Tweed) and Paul’s wife came on tour they just pranced around into the dressing room. I let it go, I didn’t make a big deal of out it." He continues, "On the last day of the tour in Australia, everybody has left the dressing room. So my girlfriend was standing outside so I said, ‘Hey honey come on in, nobody’s here.’ So five minutes later Tommy Thayer comes walking in and goes, ‘Ace, you know the rules: no women in the dressing room.’ I go, ‘There’s nobody here. It’s the end of the tour.' And he started being authoritative with me, so I gave him a shot.”
Frehley also opened up about Kiss’ 1981 concept album Music from ‘The Elder,’ and how the experience of recording the album led to his departure from the band. “During the recording process, I kept telling all those guys (producer) Bob (Ezrin), Gene… this is the wrong album for this period of time, I think the fans want to hear a heavy, hard rock album,” Ace explains. “They just had a deaf ear to me. They said, 'Just write a couple of songs Ace… we’ll worry about it.' I said 'It’s not going to work,' and of course, the album bombed. I guess I had a handle on what was happening.”
He adds, “Those guys (Paul and Gene) never had any street sense. It’s no fault of their own, I mean, Gene grew up in Israel and Paul grew up in Queens, but he wasn’t a guy like me who hung out on the corner candy store and got into fights and did crazy stuff. I always had my pulse on what was going on and I knew at the time. I would have bet a million dollars that [Songs From 'The Elder'] was going to fail. I didn’t want it to fail and actually, if you take that album out of sequence with the Kiss records. … It’s not a bad record. I did some great solos on it and there are some really good songs, but it wasn’t the right record for the time.”
Ace continues saying that if they never recorded ‘The Elder,’ he may have never left the band. “I like (the following album) Creatures of the Night, it’s heavy, it’s powerful, it’s everything we should have been doing when we were recording ‘The Elder.’ Yeah, I may not have quit the band, but you can’t rewrite history."
The guitarist also explains that Kiss scrapped an entire album after the success of their MTV Unplugged set. “The Unplugged thing happened and I think they were testing the waters. They actually had recorded an album with [then-Kiss guitarist] Bruce [Kulick] that was due to be released that they scrapped once Unplugged went over so big and the next thing you know I’m sitting in an office negotiating a reunion tour and the rest is 'Kisstory.'” (The album, Carnival of Souls, was ultimately released in 1997.)
Kiss will launch their End of the Road: World Tour next year. While rumors are rampant that Frehley will be taking part of the outing in some capacity, he acknowledged that there have been no conversations about joining the tour as of yet. “Something’s leading to something… everybody tells me that but I haven’t been asked… honestly,” Ace deadpans. “I had a meeting with those guys several months ago and they talked about retiring to me and that didn’t seem right either. So, who knows what’s going to happen." He continues, "I’m doing fine on my own, my career is on an upswing. I like producing my own records I don’t like anybody standing over my shoulder telling me what to do. I have a lot of freedom and working with Paul and Gene again, it would be different, but then again I’d probably make five to ten million dollars… so I might consider that.”
Ace Frehley will release his new album Spaceman on Oct. 19. Just last week, Ace ditched his solo group and hired Gene Simmons' backing band for his upcoming dates. He opted to go with a "younger and more hungry" group of musicians.
Watch the Entire Musician's Institute interview here.
'A Lesson in Kisstory' with Ace Frehley: