by Jaan Uhelszki/the Morton Report
While Gene Simmons closed out the season of Family Jewels on bended knee, asking Shannon Tweed, his long-time companion and mother of his two grown children, to marry him, his former bandmate Ace Frehley is getting ready to release his autobiography titled No Regrets: A Rock 'N' Roll Memoir. In stores and available for Kindle on November 1, 2011, it's coming out on Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Shuster.
Although a canny writer, Frehley enlisted the help of New York Times reporter Joe Layden to help him pen the 288-page tome, although what he needed the most help with was making sure he remembered everything accurately - having spent much of those years in an alcoholic haze. "It's hard for me to remember a lot of stuff, so what I've been doing is getting together with people I used to work with and usually they have better memories of situations than I do. You know, old bodyguards."
As a result he has a no-holds-barred book that will rip the mask off all those apocryphal (and not-so-apocryphal) KISS stories. For the record, Frehley performed with KISS from its inception in 1973 until his first departure in 1982. He was persuaded to rejoin KISS in 1996 for their reunion tour. His second stint lasted until 2002.
Frehley talks to us about his years as Space Ace, why he was forced to room with Simmons in the early years, and what it really felt like getting electrocuted, and being sober for the past five years. If he told us all that, imagine what he's held back for the book.
"I had an argument with Gene and Paul who said that because they write most of the material that I was not very bright. So I said, 'You'd be surprised how bright I am.' I bought these IQ tests, and Paul and I took them. There was no fooling around; we timed it and went by the rules. Paul's IQ is 140, which is very good, near genius. Mine is 164, which is genius. I always knew I was brighter than the next kid; I was just bored."
Looking back, how do you think people looked at KISS?
I think a lot of musicians, serious musicians, when they look at KISS, just write us off as clowns. I understand it, you know? The other day I was listening to Alive IV and even Alive II, and I really wasn't happy with the mix. Stuff like that started happening more and more often. Paul and Gene would make decisions without consulting me, and it got really frustrating.
What do you know now about life that you didn't know when you first started with KISS?
Well, I'm a lot more apt about business matters. I was pretty out of the loop back then. And after you get screwed four or five times by different people, you start reading the fine print. I have a much better overview of the business. I look at it as a producer, I look at it as a songwriter, I look at it as a performing artist. And it's nice to be able to do that, and not just look at it as a rock star. Because sometimes a rock star's view is slightly jaded and colored by the people around them who want maybe don't always tell them the truth.
The biggest thing that happened is I got sober. All my creative powers were unleashed. I wasn't sedated. It's funny, my whole life I was saying to myself I need this stuff to create, only to fine out later on in life, I'm more creative without it. There's that sick little voice in your head that tells you you need it to socialize. You need it to do this, you need it to do that. And none of it is true. It's just your insecurities coming out, which everybody has whether they want to admit it or not.
When you were drinking a lot did you still pick up the guitar?
No. But then I never practiced every day. I don't like to practice. I like spontaneity. When I don't play guitar for a week and I pick it up, it's better.
Did you feel your talent was undervalued when you were in KISS?
Well, it seemed like it. Paul and Gene never wanted to give me the credit that was due. It was like in a lot of instances they tried to bury the fact that I did A, B, C, and D. I can't remember Paul or Gene ever saying, "Wow, that was a great solo." On some of my classic guitar solos that were on their songs. But what goes around comes around. They have a new album coming out and I have a new album coming out, and you know what's going to happen. People are going to compare the two. That's all I'm going to say about that.
In 1977 the Gallup poll named KISS the most popular band in America. How did being on top affect your creativity?
I think it gave me false confidence. For a while I believed that we were better than we were. I think we got complacent with our music and the show. It's like when you're on top, where do you go? I told Paul and Gene from the outset that the The Elder album was a huge mistake, and they didn't listen to me. I knew at that point in time we needed to do something heavy and powerful and strong. I was really frustrated doing that project.
Could you be who you are now without having been in KISS?
I knew I was destined to be a rock star. I just knew it, like I've always had the power of foresight. I feel right now exactly the way I felt after I finished mixing my first solo album New York Groove. That was a special record. I feel that same way now and hopefully history's going to repeat itself. I'm in a good place. Like in 2000, after I left the reunion tour or the farewell tour, whichever the fuck it was - the never-ending tour.
I had been abusing a lot of things and I wasn't in good shape and it took a while for me to get my wits back. But I'm probably stronger now than I've ever been in my life, and I need to let everybody know I'm back. I know for a while Paul and Gene weren't saying good things about me, and that's okay. Everything that comes around goes around.
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