Dimebag Darrell: Rock Soldiers
SABO How did you hook up with Kiss?
FREHLEY By answering an ad in the Village Voice that said, “Band with recording contract looking for a guitarist.” The first song they taught me was “Deuce,” and I loved it right from the first time they played it for me. When I came back for a second audition, they told me I had the gig—then I found out there was no recording contract. [laughs]
DIMEBAG DARRELL How did you react to the idea of wearing makeup?
FREHLEY Everybody in the band wanted to do a theatrical show, and obviously, makeup was included in that. At that time, Alice Cooper was really big and the New York Dolls were doing well, and both of them used makeup. So when they first asked me about wearing makeup, I thought it was a cool idea.
DARRELL Did you all design your own masks?
FREHLEY Yeah. We developed the makeup at a club on Long Island called the Daisy. The first night we played with makeup, Paul’s face was all red and my face was silver. I think Gene was the first to put makeup around his eyes and wear black lipstick. Then we all decided that we should wear white faces with designs around the eyes. I was always into science fiction and astronomy, so that’s how my image evolved.
GW Did the fact that the public had no idea what you looked like without makeup ever frustrate you?
FREHLEY No, I thought it was great. If everyone knew what I looked like back in 1978, I wouldn’t have been able to go anywhere. It’s funny—I get recognized a lot more today than I did when Kiss was at the peak of its popularity. To tell you the truth, the makeup let me live my life outside of the band much more easily. I had my anonymity back then, and today I don’t.
DARRELL I used to take the Double Platinum album and trace the embossed pictures inside to see what you guys might look like without makeup. [laughs] What’s the closest you came to getting photographed without makeup?
FREHLEY We were photographed a lot, but we always had bodyguards with us who would take the cameras and rip out the film.
DARRELL How did the band keep such a tight control over the photos for 10 years?
FREHLEY To tell you the truth, most magazines really didn’t want to print pictures of us without makeup. I can remember a couple of times where the magazines did get photos of us unmasked, but didn’t print them—they wanted to work with us. They knew that the band’s mystique was selling a lot of magazines for them, and they didn’t want to ruin that.
SABO To me, the band’s image and makeup were always secondary to the music, but I think a lot of people only saw Kiss for their theatrics. Was that ever a problem?
FREHLEY There definitely were times when I felt that the theatrics almost overshadowed the music. I never wanted the music to become secondary to the show. I can remember nights when I didn’t play very well, but I was very animated onstage—and people would tell me it was the best they’d heard me play in a long time. Then there were nights when I concentrated more on my playing and backed off on the choreography, and people told me I had an off night. It was then that I realized that the music was not the most important thing about Kiss. It was another contributing factor to my eventually leaving the group.
SABO When you were young, did you always see yourself becoming a musician, or did you have other aspirations?
FREHLEY I came to a crossroads in my life when I was 16. All my guidance counselors were telling me that I should go to art school and become a graphic artist. But although I knew I had the ability to do that, my heart was into playing rock and roll. Then I cut school one day and saw the Who opening up for Mitch Ryder in Detroit, and I knew for sure what I wanted to do.
DARRELL How many guitars do you own?
FREHLEY Only about 25. I used to have 150, but I dumped them when the vintage market bottomed out. If you remember, when Eddie Van Halen became popular, everybody started playing Kramers and Jacksons, and the vintage guitar market really dropped. And I didn’t want to get stuck with all these guitars, so I sold them. Man, I had mint vintage Gold Tops from the early Fifties with the tags still on them. I’m kind of sorry that I did that because today they’d be worth about a million dollars.
DARRELL Do you have a favorite guitar?
FREHLEY Yeah, my three-pickup cherry Custom.
DARRELL Do you use all three pickups?
FREHLEY No, just the treble. The other two aren’t even wired. [laughs]
GW Do you have a favorite guitar solo?
FREHLEY [to Snake] Well, Sebastian’s [Bach, Skid Row vocalist] favorite solo is the one in “Strange Ways,” and we’re playing that song live now, and I only recently realized how great that solo is. Sometimes you forget things you did a long time ago, and I’m really getting back into my older solos now.
DARRELL Are your solos spontaneous or do you work them out before you get into the studio?
FREHLEY I usually don’t figure them out beforehand—I just push the button and go.