Dimebag Darrell: Rock Soldiers
GW What about the smoking guitar solo at the end of “Shock Me,” on Alive II? Was that rehearsed or spontaneous?
FREHLEY That one was kind of planned out. I basically did the same solo every night, with minor alterations. You know, I can remember going to shows as a little kid and watching guitar players who played their solos exactly the way they did on the album, and that always impressed me. I don’t like guitar players who try to be cool and play something completely different from what’s on the album, and I don’t think the fans want that. To me, when you change a solo, it’s almost like changing the lyrics of a song, and I think it disappoints the fans.
DARRELL Do you know a lot of theory?
FREHLEY I don’t know shit from shineola. [laughs] I think that’s one of the reasons that I’m original—I never took lessons or had any formal training.
GW Do you think you’re more respected as a guitarist today than when you were in Kiss?
FREHLEY I’m probably a more legitimate guitar player today than I was during the Seventies. I think it’s because I’m a survivor and still playing after all this time, and people respect that. But I think there was a time when it was almost uncool for serious musicians to like Kiss. We were considered more of a teenybop group because we were on the cover of 16 magazine all the time.
SABO When I’m onstage, certain things tell me whether I’m having a good night. What do you feel when you know you’re playing well?
FREHLEY Sometimes when I’m playing lead, I get a jolt of electricity that runs through my arm down to my hand that tells me I’m really smokin’. The strings become butter and the guitar almost plays itself. It’s a feeling I can’t explain, and it’s only happened about a dozen times in my whole life. I wish it would happen more often.
DARRELL Speaking of getting “jolted,” what happened that time you got electrocuted onstage?
FREHLEY Man, that was flipped out. It happened in Lakeland, Florida. We were touring with the big set, the one with the two staircases that’s pictured inside Alive II. Gene ran down the stairs on the first song and I walked down nice and slow—my balance wasn’t so good. The power in the building was weird that night, and when I came down, I just grounded out as soon as I touched the metal railing with my hand. I couldn’t let go. Once I got loose, I just fell back—I was out. I had burns all over my fingers. When Paul realized what had happened, he told the audience I was having a problem. They all started chanting my name, and that kind of got me going again. It took at least 10 minutes for me to get back to feeling somewhat normal.
DARRELL What gauge picks and strings do you use?
FREHLEY Medium picks and Gibson .009 to .046 strings.
DARRELL What about amps?
FREHLEY I’ve been using Laney amps lately.
GW Where did you get the idea for the smoking guitar?
FREHLEY We got some smoke bombs when I was on the road with Kiss in the early days, and it occurred to me that if I put a bomb inside the casing of a Les Paul, drill a hole in it and let the fuse stick out so I can light it with a cigarette lighter, the smoke would have to go through the wire channel and come out. And I did that for three or four shows until I realized that I screwed up all the volume controls. [laughs] That led to me hooking up with an engineer and designing the one that I use now.
DARRELL Does it have a time limit, or will it smoke for as long as you want?
FREHLEY I use different sized smoke bombs for different venues. I make the bombs myself, and how big I’ll make the bomb depends on the size of the room. I can tell how long it’s gonna burn just by looking at it.
DARRELL I was listening to Alive II the other day, and your voice was definitely weaker in those days than it is today. Have you been working on it?
FREHLEY Well, I don’t practice and I don’t warm up before a show, but it helps that I’ve been singing a lot in the past six months or so. Your voice is like a muscle—when you sing a lot, it gets stronger. Three or four years ago I wouldn’t have been able to sing “Detroit Rock City” for an encore—my voice just wasn’t strong enough. But now I’m having more fun onstage because I can belt it out a little more.
DARRELL I’ve heard rumors that you used to lie on your back in the studio to hit the high notes. Do you still have to do that?
FREHLEY I didn’t lie on my back to hit high notes—I did it because I was nervous and I didn’t want anybody to see me sing. [laughs] I made Eddie Kramer lower the lights and I laid down so he couldn’t see me through the glass, and that’s how I sang my first lead vocal, which was “Shock Me.”
DARRELL Using one word for each of you, describe yourself, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss and Paul Stanley.
FREHLEY I don’t know—Spaceman, Monster, Catman and Poser. [laughs]
SABO Is it true that the reason you, Gene, Peter and Paul did your solo albums in 1978 was to keep the band together?
FREHLEY Well, we did need a break from each other. But if I hadn’t done the solo album, I probably would have stayed in the band. When I got away from the rest of the band and did my solo album, I finally realized what I could do on my own. I found I was much more creative.
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