Former Kiss lead guitarist Ace Frehley recently sat down with Noisey’s Matt Sweeney at Electric Lady Studios in New York City to talk Kiss, guitars and technique.
The result is literally a jam-packed 12 minutes, as Ace shreds the Kiss hits “Deuce” and “Shock Me” while Sweeney supports him on rhythm guitar. Ace also demonstrates how he plays the “Deuce” riff, shreds on an impromptu performance of “Shock Me,” shows his distinctive string-bending and vibrato techniques, tears off some chicken-pickin’ licks...and much more.
Sweeney—who last year conducted one of the most informative and enjoyable interviews with Keith Richards we’ve seen—is clearly delighted to be interviewing and jamming with his childhood hero.
Frehley is currently enjoying success again with his latest album, Origins: Vol. 1, which cracked the U.S. Top 10 this year when it charted at Number One on the Billboard Hard Music chart, Number Three on the Billboard Rock chart and Number Six on the Billboard Current chart.
Here are six things we learned from his interview with Sweeney.
1. Ace went his own way early in life. (0:50): “I started playing guitar on my brother’s folk guitar,” he says. “My brother and sister used to do Peter, Paul and Mary songs, and the Byrds and stuff like that. But I was always a rocker, from day one.
“So I learned a few chords on that. And a friend of mine had gotten an electric guitar and one of those little amps with, like, a six-inch speaker. He plugged it in and turned the volume up to 10 and hit an E chord. And I was in love.”
2. For his Kiss audition, he jammed “Deuce” having never heard it before. (1:38): “I auditioned for them on 23rd Street [in New York City] in a loft. And it was just Paul, Peter and Gene. The first song they played for me was ‘Deuce.’ They just said, ‘We’re gonna play this song. It’s in the key of A…’ tuned down a half step, of course. And I just jammed and played every riff I knew while they were playing the rhythm part.
“Pretty much Gene and Paul have said in statements that after they heard me wail, they knew right away I was the guy.”
3. Gene Simmons dubbed Ace’s extreme string bends “Dinosaur bends.” (4:55): “You know what Gene used to do? Like, in some of my solos I have those weird bends [demonstrates by performing a bend]. He used to call them ‘Dinosaur bends.’
“No one ever taught me how to play, so I really don’t know what I’m doing, even to this day. I’m still…I’m just winging it.”
4. Songwriting comes easy to him. (10:09): “Sometimes when I’m writing, I get the feeling like it’s just being beamed into my head. Same thing with lyrics. You know, I have no problem at all writing lyrics. Sometimes I’ll write three verses in a half an hour. It’s never been an effort for me.
“Gene used to tell me that he writes one song a day. And I used to laugh, I’d go, ‘Why?’ [imitating Gene] ’Because of discipline!’
“I might not write a song for three weeks, and then I’ll write three songs over a weekend when I’m inspired, because that’s when you write your best stuff. If you feel confident and you come across confident, you can get away with it.”
5. His advice to young guitarists is enjoy yourself. (11:02): “My advice for anybody in life is just do what you enjoy doing. And don’t give up, and persevere. And practice, practice and practice.”
6. He’s one of the laziest guys in the world. (11:30): “I’m not good at discipline. I’m very undisciplined, and even with my style—it’s very unorthodox. But when you want something bad enough…
“You can read interviews with Paul and Gene, and they’ll call me like, I’m so lazy. And I am one of the laziest guys in the world, but when I work, I work. I go like at a hundred miles an hour, and then I won’t do anything for two weeks.”