Monday, March 15, 2010

Ace Frehley: Navigating with the Spaceman

by Rich Tozzoli (
Engineer Rich Tozzoli Talks with Ace Frehley about His New Album, Anomaly

Having been one of the engineers who helped capture his new sound on Anomaly, I was able to get to know a different guy than the stage persona known to most of the world. Ace, who also produced the album, is celebrating his third year of sobriety, and you can tell: a deep passion for all things guitar shines through on this record. Forever experimenting and always open to new sonic ideas, he carved out a hard-hitting record that reminds many of his 1978 eponymous solo debut.
I caught up with Ace between tours to reflect on the making of Anomaly, his influences, and what lies ahead for him.

When you were getting ready to record parts for Anomaly, you often walked around the studio playing the guitars unplugged. What were you listening for?

That’s what I do when I first buy any electric guitar. I always try to hear what the instrument will sound and feel like without any amplification. I discovered that when you’re shopping for a Les Paul, Strat or Tele, nine times out of ten, whichever one is louder and feels like the whole body is resonating, that one usually sounds better through an amp. Also, when you’re not sure how old the strings are, it’s real apparent that they’re not bright if you play without an amp.

Sometimes we used big heads with a cabinet, and sometimes we used small amps. From a playing and recording point of view, what does each give you?

I’ve always fooled around with little amps, even as early as the first Kiss records. I’d use them in combination with a 4x12 or a Marshall stack. It works well when you blend those sounds together. As much as everyone tries to recapture or fabricate a Marshall stack with a plug-in or whatever, there is nothing like the real thing. So when you combine big and small amps, you simply get a variety of tones. Small amps bring different textures that can’t be replicated, either.

Most of the time, the signal path was straight in: just guitar, cable, and amp.

Yes. I guess I’m pretty much a purist. I really want what’s coming out of the amp to go into the computer or whatever we’re recording on. Once it’s in there and it’s right, you can always tweak it with plug-ins or by pumping it out again and re-recording. But when you get a really good amp sound direct, it can help you give a really good performance. The most important thing is capturing that performance, and if we need to change the tone a little bit, we can effect it down the road.

How did you decide on using the blend of Les Pauls, Strats and Teles?

I’ve been doing that since my first solo record. I had a couple of old Teles and Strats lying around, and I discovered it just created a great blend. Since they all have completely different harmonic ranges, they can create a much fuller sound when mixed in with each other. You can also get a lot of different sounds, depending on how you split them in the mix. I also discovered that I’ll play something slightly different on a Strat or Tele than I would on my Les Paul, simply because of the difference in the body and fingerboards. If you double something on each of those guitars, it’s slightly different in the way you finger it. When you put them together, that little difference makes it that much better. I remember recording Destroyer with Bob Ezrin, and he told me to knock my guitar a little out of tune before I did a double because the frequencies would make a rub with each other. And it really worked!
Read the rest here

No comments: