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, 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 counsellor 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, 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 the trio of 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. 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 stage personas to go with their makeup designs, Frehley became "Space Ace", later the stage persona would be known as "The Spaceman."
The SpacemanWhile 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. Indeed, 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.
According to Gene Simmons in Kiss Behind the Mask, Frehley was drunk most of the time on tour, except for on stage.
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 1980s 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.
Exacerbating the situation was Frehley's escalating erratic behavior and substance abuse. In April 1982, Frehley was involved in a serious automobile accident (drummer Anton Fig was the driver). In May, he led police on a 90-mph car chase on the Bronx River Parkway. This incident led to a $600 fine and a six-month suspension of his driver's license. 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.
Solo Career/Frehley's Comet
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 Tod Howarth. 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 20, 1984.
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.
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, "Rock Soldiers," 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's 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 favor 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's bands embarked on the "Bad Boys Tour." The shows ended with Frehley and Criss joining each other to perform "2,000 Man", "Beth", "Nothin' to Lose" and "Rock and Roll All Nite."
KISS reunion and beyond
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 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 commenced on November 12, 1998 (a Halloween show on October 31 at Dodger Stadium had several songs simulcast live on FOX's Mad TV), and was followed by the "Farewell Tour" beginning in March 2000. Frehley, expecting that the tour would be Kiss's 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.
Return to solo career
Frehley was soon replaced by former Black 'n Blue guitarist, Tommy Thayer. Thayer was a manager for Kiss at the time, and had previously served in a variety of other roles for Kiss; he had assisted Frehley in relearning some of his guitar parts for the Alive/Worldwide Tour. Since Kiss now owned the copyright to Frehley's makeup and costume designs, they placed Thayer on lead guitar as the "Spaceman", a move that generated controversy and anger among the Frehley fan base.
Frehley appeared with Rob Zombie, Slash, Tommy Lee, Scott Ian, and Gilby Clarke on VH-1's Rock Honors special on May 31, 2006. This supergroup played Kiss's "God of Thunder." He has also attempted acting (not counting a walk-on in Millennium or his part in Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park), making his debut in 2005 in Remedy, an independent crime drama 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.
In 2007, Peter Criss dedicated the final track of his new solo album, One for All, to Ace. The song is unmistakably titled Space Ace and features biographical lyrics and a very Pink Floyd-like atmosphere.
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), whilst 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 appeared on April 2, 2009 at the opening of the Hard Rock Cafe at Yankee Stadium performing "New York Groove" with Scott Ian, Frank Bello, and Anton Fig.
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.
Ace is currently embarking on a world tour, first in the US, then Europe, Japan, Australia and back in the US.
ACE FREHLEY's new DVD, Behind The Player will be released by Season Of Mist in Europe on January 15th and IMV, a Los Angeles, CA-based producer of interactive music content and video game systems, on…Continue