Ace Frehley on his covers album and his top guitar solos

by Greg Prato

Frehley names his top guitar solos in Kiss and explains what drew him to the songs he covered on his Origins Vol. 2 album



Although Ace Frehley has certainly penned (or co-penned) quite a few rock classics – "Cold Gin," "Parasite," "Shock Me," etc. – he has always had a knack for selecting cover songs by others, resulting in some of his best-known tunes. In case you forgot, I'm talkin' 'bout his biggest hit, "New York Groove" (penned by Russ Ballard), "2000 Man" (by Jagger-Richards)," and "Into The Night" (another penned by Ballard).

So it made sense when Ace went "the all-covers route" with 2016's Origins Vol. 1, which saw Kiss' original "spaceman" take on tunes by the likes of the Stones, Hendrix, and Cream, among others. The album was such a success that four years later, Ace released a follow-up, Origins Vol. 2.

Here, Ace goes track-by-track through Origins Vol. 2, explaining what it was about the originals that got his attention. And also, we couldn't resist asking him to name his top Kiss guitar solos and explain how he comes up with them. That breakdown is after the track-by-track.

"Good Times Bad Times" by Led Zeppelin

That was the first Led Zeppelin song I ever heard on record because it was the first song on Led Zeppelin I. I was lucky enough to see Led Zeppelin's first New York appearance at the Fillmore East when I was a teenager – they were opening for Iron Butterfly. They just blew me away. I knew from the minute I saw them that they were going to be huge. And of course, we all know the history behind Led Zeppelin.


"Never In My Life" by Mountain

I was always a big Mountain fan. Later on in life, I became friends with Leslie West because we met on the road and he invited me to his house for dinner. He was always a guitar player that impressed me, because he never played really super-fast solos. He always did melodic, bluesy guitar solos, but he knew where to place the notes. He was a master at that.

I saw Mountain perform a couple of times. I also became friends with their bass player, Felix Pappalardi – he came to a couple of Kiss shows and came backstage with his wife. But Leslie always impressed me as one of my favorite blues guitar players. I love that guitar riff. It was an obvious choice for me.


"Space Truckin'" by Deep Purple

That was recorded several years ago at the Creation Lab in Turlock, California, at my friend Matt Swanson's studio. It wasn't quite up to snuff for Origins Vol. 1. Then I tried to revisit it this time around, and redid some of the vocals, redid the guitar solo, and changed the arrangement a little – did a little polishing here and there. It turned out much better.

[There's some fun wordplay to complement the intergalactic riffs in "Space Truckin'." We thought there might be some hidden meanings among the pony trekkers and Canaveral moonstops, but when we checked with Deep Purple lyricist/frontman Ian Gillan, he said there was nothing literal in this joyride across the galaxy.]


"Jumpin' Jack Flash" by The Rolling Stones

I've done several covers of Rolling Stones songs over the years. I probably could have sang it, but I wanted to get a different twist on that song, so I called up Lita Ford, who is a good friend of mine. She sang "Wild Thing" on Origins Vol. 1. She came over for the weekend, and I coached her on that vocal. I got a really good vocal performance out of her. I was just thrilled with the end result.


"I'm Down" by The Beatles

That was a song I always loved by the Beatles because it was not really that indicative of a Beatles song. Most of the Beatles songs had three-part harmony and were well put together and well-written, but "I'm Down" was more of just a kick-ass rock n' roll number more in the vein of Chuck Berry.

I gravitated towards that song. I didn't realize it was written in 1965... it's a long time ago. But I got John 5 to play the guitar solo on the opening and he did a wonderful job.


"Politician" by Cream

Great guitar riff. Always one of my favorite Cream songs. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to sing it, so I just did a rough recording of it and tried doing a vocal to it. It turned out I could pull it off, and then we got serious about it.

It's my daughter Monique's favorite song on the record. I think one of the special things about that song is me and John 5 soloed simultaneously in the middle, and then we crossfaded our solos going from left to right. So, if you listen to it on headphones, you get a different perspective.

Whenever Ace does a cover song, does it take him back to the days of when he was first learning guitar? "Absolutely. All of the bands that wrote those songs on Origins Vols 1 and 2 were bands that influenced me greatly when I was growing up as a teenager and learning how to play guitar. I never took a guitar lesson, so I pretty much learned how to play guitar by listening to Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, Keith Richards... the list is endless."

"Lola" by the Kinks

I'm a huge Kinks fan. I did a Kinks song on Origins Vol. 1 – "Till the End of the Day." "Lola" was always a great song. I think it was a little ahead of its time because when it came out, the whole idea about a transvestite was a little racy back then. Today, nobody cares whether you're in the closet, out of the closet, or standing next to the closet. [Laughs]

I was lucky enough to get my girlfriend to sing harmonies on that track, which turned out really well. I think it could be a single.


"30 Days In The Hole" by Humble Pie

I'm a big Humble Pie fan, but there's no way I could reproduce a Steve Marriott vocal. He's just too good of a vocalist – may he rest in peace. I thought of Robin Zander because we used to tour together in the '70s. Cheap Trick used to open for Kiss, and we became good friends during that period. And then I bumped into him at an autograph signing several years ago, and he expressed interest in singing on one of my records, so I called him up and he was more than happy to take a stab at it. I think he kills it.


"Manic Depression" by the Jimi Hendrix Experience

I've been friends with Bruce Kulick for years. We did the Kiss Kruise several years ago together – his band was on the cruise with my band and several other bands. When Bruce found out I was doing Origins Vol. 2, he expressed interest in performing on it. We're both Hendrix fans. He picked "Manic Depression" and we tracked it, we sent it to him, and he did a great guitar solo on it. Then we "riffed out" towards the end of the song, during the fade. I was really happy with what he did.

"Kicks" by Paul Revere and the Raiders

That's probably one of the older songs, and a lot of my fans probably won't even know who Paul Revere and the Raiders were, because they came and went. They weren't a huge band, but when I was a kid, I used to come home from school and they'd be on TV. I was exposed to their music, and I always liked the song "Kicks" because it had a great riff.

Now that I listen to the lyrics, I realize that it's a really good anti-drug song, and it's a good message for the youth of today. I also added a guitar solo to the song, which didn't exist on the original. My co-producer, Alex Salzman, helped me put together that solo and three-part harmony. I kind of "Ace-ified" it a little.


"We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" by The Animals

That was another song I had recorded several years ago up in Turlock, California, and it didn't make it to Origins Vol. 1, but I revisited it and redid the solo and vocal, made the song a little less monotonous by shortening some of the lyrics and did some editing. I think now it's a much better song.


"She" by Kiss

My live band had been performing "She" before the pandemic hit. My record company called and said, "We need a Kiss bonus track," so that was the first song that came to mind. The guys in my band all sing lead, so I let them sing lead on that song live. It gave me a chance to showcase my touring band on this record. I was really happy about that – they did a great job.


Frehley's Top Guitar Solos in Kiss


Which are your top 5 guitar solos in Kiss?

The solo in "Deuce," "Shock Me," "Strange Ways." I like the solo I did in "God Of Thunder" – it was just a different type of solo. Gene used to call it "dinosaur bends" when I would bend the strings really heavy – the low string. And maybe the solo in the live version of "Rock And Roll All Nite" – it's just a nice, Chuck Berry kind of solo. Reminiscent of older rock n' roll songs.

One solo that seems to get overlooked is the one in "Dark Light."

That album [(Music from) The Elder, 1981] was never a big record, so it never got the attention it deserved, but that solo was a lot of fun to do. I think I recorded it up in Canada. We recorded a lot of the record at my home studio in Wilton, Connecticut, and then we decided to record the rest of the record up in Bob Ezrin's home in his basement. I think I did that solo up in Toronto.

"Rocket Ride" has a great solo, too.

That's a fun solo. All my solos just kind of came off the top of my head. I don't know where they come from. I never took a guitar lesson. Before I do a guitar solo, I kind of empty out my head, hit the record button and let it go. I try not to think. I do my best work when I don't think. Once I start thinking, it becomes too thought-out.

September 17, 2020
Ace talked about songwriting and collaboration when we spoke with him in 2016. His website is acefrehley.com. Here are more interviews you might like:

Gene Simmons
Leslie West
Lita Ford
Richie Wise

Fact or Fiction: Kiss

Photos: Jay Gilbert (1) Dove Shore (2)

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