PETER CRISS’s drums definitive on FREHLEY’s 1977 KISS classic “Rocket Ride”

For those in denial or worse, I wanted to write a short piece here on why the drummer on Ace Frehley’s “Rocket Ride” off the studio side of 1977’s KISS ALIVE II is indeed, 100% zero doubt, PETER CRISS.

Over the years many have shared their foggily diluted memories of who played what on the other 4 tracks off the studio side of the 2-record set. The Demon has asserted that at the very least it’s “absolutely PETER CRISS on “Larger Than Life”” even if it is the ever-proud Bob Kulick on lead in Ace Frehley‘s stead on that and perhaps all the others on side 4 (save “Rocket Ride” of course) ….but then again even Eddie Kramer can’t quite pin it down when trying to reel in the years.

Without the benefit of a time machine, we’re left with one option — to analyze the drumming on the track. When I do that, I have no doubt it’s PETER CRISS. A relief too because, for years, if anyone has told me KISS sucks, I’ve popped on “Rocket Ride” and watched their eyes widen, often declaring “Jeez .. I had no idea!!”.

Here’s why we know it’s PETER CRISS on “Rocket Ride”:

ACROBAT >  It’s really good and, with the benefit / first-time-in-KISStory anomaly of no Simmons/Stanley on the track, stands as a KISStoric kick in the teeth in that it foreshadows the revelation that would be Ace Frehley’s solo debut under the KISS banner a year later.

BETRAYED > Peter’s snare roll style matches. On all of his recordings with KISS (esp. those with Kramer) his snare work is definitively his own and what I dig the most. It has flourishes of jazz in attack, ghost notes, ebbs ‘n flow and a snare sound that mirrors Motown as well as the big band drummers like Gene Krupa he grew up idolizing.

CRAZY KNIGHTS > Peter’s ride cymbal style & treatment is loose, softer and has more interplay with his snare and bass drum than most hard rock or metal drummers. It compliments the song nicely with fun stops n’ starts that typify Peter’s playing on all of his recordings with KISS. Same can be said of his hi-hat use on this; it’s singular in style and, as always, playful yet always the complimentary back beat a song requires to ‘happen’. I’ve noticed, when Peters’ on the hi-hat, there’s a slight skip in his beat as he pulls off the hi-hat a skosh early before the snare tap, similar to Charlie Watts who usually entirely skips the beat on the hi-hat when hitting his snare. But as Peter does it, he drags a quiet few snare notes with his left hand as his right returns to the hi-hat. It’s subtle but is on “Hard Luck Woman”, “Dr. Love”, Mr. Speed” and tons of others as he got better and better with Eddie at the helm. He also has a couple fills he loves: One is a simultaneous bass drum & cymbal crash, a ‘tag’ as some folks call it, after a quick snare roll and an other he loves to pepper in is the one in which he leads with a tom smack in to the snare riff, and back again, like on the intro to “Shock Me” or “Got Love For Sale”.  It’s a Ringo Starr fill that informs Peter’s approach to his verse-chorus transitions in general over the years …and I dig it.

DONTCHA HESITATE > Peters notoriously inconsistent drum ‘parts’ (a constant refrain from Simmons/Stanley) are in evidence here too verse-to-chorus as they aren’t quite flushed out per se. Perhaps because they were binging on blow at the time, but the drum parts never quite duplicate themselves. Probably because it doesn’t matter in a certain school of thought where the take with the vibe wins the day. See, studio drummers / musicians pride themselves on that seamlessness, often at the expense of a take with energy or feel. Rockers and ”studio cats’ are always at odds. Sometimes they are the answer. They can do it the same each time, like robots, or like Eric Singer, but Peter Criss thrives on giving it a feeling, catching the moment, just like Ace. He reportedly couldn’t play the same thing twice if he tried but that’s what makes him an authentic feel musician, interacting with the music and the other players, verses learning it for perfections sake – the enemy of all great rock & roll. That’s why KISS always recorded live in the studio, to catch Peter’s best take. Later, when the band splintered and were desperate for hits, that changed: que Unmasked & Dynasty and everything that came after.

EASY AS IT SEEMS > The outro full-kit-in-use rapid-fire attack is pure jazz exploding into a rock arena, and echoes the ‘end of song’ flurries Peter was doing on the road with KISS at the time. To this day, Peters’ drum volley and Ace’s Page-inspired solo guitar on RR’s coda is not only the coolest KISS moment on analog tape but one of most explosive few seconds in the history of rock. Incredibly, KISS never played the song live and, although Ace does it almost every show, he’s never even tried to make the songs ending part of its live presentation, because (wild guess) he can’t seem (or bother) to relearn it and, more centrally, nobody else can pull off that drum break! Well, Anton Fig might, but had he played on the track, I believe it would have been completely different. The ideas are Peters, not Antons, that’s clear to this KISStorian. If you wanna hear how different Anton is from Peter, listen to Dynasty or any of Ace’s solo stuff he’s on. He’s a monster. Prolific click-track-like precision with genius flare and an uncanny knack for adapting to any artist or musical style. That’s why they brought him when Peter was going mad, and he did a damn good job of pretending to be Peter Criss on Unmasked. Anton is more versatile and obviously easier to direct given the dynamic, but he’s not Peter Criss and his feel is way more buttoned down. Dynasty proves that, and Peter dots the ‘i’ on “Dirty Livin'” which, as I revisit, was a more viable single than “Hard Times”. As much as I love the latter, man would I like to hear the radio edit for a “Dirty Livin'” joint push, or for that matter an EDM version today? I think it’s Paul’s falsetto on IWMFLY that might have pushed some fans over the cliff to exodus. “Dirty Livin'” seems as I hear it now to perhaps bridge the disco gap without a full KISS sell-out, thanks largely to Ace’s bitchin’ guitar work throughout and the stellar Vini Poncia mix, with Criss on the drums.

FANFARE > Finally, I gotta tell you people, when you then listen to the drums on the other 4 cuts on side 4, they too are absolutely Peter Criss on drums as all of the aforementioned tenants of his playing are on full display. Sound, attack, feel, pocket, and the flams, I forgot to mention then ever-present dynamite Peter Criss flams!

GIMME MORE > Put it to you this way, having done KISS’s original demo, Love Gun, Rock & Roll Over and both live albums, on which it must be noted Kramer has commented “the only stuff we didn’t have to touch at all on the live recordings were Peter’s drums and his vocal mic”,  why would he have brought in another drummer for the studio tracks? He didn’t. Peter plays amazing drums on all of the Kramer produced KISS albums and, on another score, is hands down the best natural singer in the band. Plus, Eddie’s too cool to have let it play out that way. KISS was a band he helped mold into shape and I sense Eddies too much a purist, and probably more loyal as a dude than most. He would have endeavored to make it work with Peter and that story simply doesn’t exist. Sure, Eddie knows Peter went off the rails at some point, but it wasn’t on his watch.

HOOLIGAN > All I ever wanted to be was Peter Criss. Over the years I’ve realized it wasn’t just the the voice and the drumming, it was an attitude we all picked up on early, just from the photos of the band, regardless the ballad. That detached yet inspired “I wanna rock & roll!” bravado that defines defiance. Who the F else could dress up like a cat and still be cool? The guy who believed in it and became it. The Catman .. or ‘Cat’ as Ace calls him. Peter, like Ace, provided the built-in, hyper social, legit street aura ballast KISS needed for folks to buy in out of the box. Without their vibe, talent and attitudes, I get the sense it would have never gotten off the ground. Vision and drive is one thing, but authenticity always rules. Finding Ace & Peter was a shrewd masterstroke that Gene & Paul ought to embrace more often, and will in coming years.

Heck, “Rock & Roll All Nite” has got more to do with Peter & Ace than the guys who actually wrote it. Go figure, or pop on “Rocket Ride”, the definitive Peter Criss & Ace Frehley KISS track.

 

 

FREHLEY still celestial on “Spaceman” (E-One)

Now that the gloves are off, I thought it a good time to finally weigh in on the ever-rocking Ace Frehley‘s latest voyage, the self-produced Entertainment One release Spaceman, yet another aural sortie that finds the celestial one in a good place making vibrant new rock.

If you’ve been hiding under a rock, or have given up on new rock & roll altogether, you may need a wake up call — Ace Frehley is one of the few old school true hard rock cats left carrying the torch with any efficiency. In the past decade, Frehley has put out (countem’) four albums, all with stellar cuts & euphoric rock moments worthy of his ever-ascending pedigree and any playlist.

Reality is, a lot of folks sold out, gave up or can’t quite give a fuck enough to figure out how to get their fans new music. Ace …you know, the notoriously lazy drunken lay-about, decided when he got truly sober years ago to take over the main command deck, learn the new tech cold and bring it on home ….to his home studio. He’s cut out the flack and has been doing what he loves to do most, and you can feel it in his records; Ace is in his element. With what he’s endured, it’s a miracle he’s alive, not jaded and is still in love with rock & roll.

Spaceman may not be the very best of the four, but it’s f-close at moments and is as endearing as anything he’s ever released. In fact, when the final chapters of KISStory are written, I believe there a number of songs, sentiments & performances on Spaceman that will end up as major notches on the time capsule.

Relistening to it here today, a smile came over my face as I found myself breaking on through the turbulent atmosphere to the other side …kinda like the gravity that used to hold me down somehow just didn’t exist no more?!

The album features long-time, par-excellence Ace Frehley Band member Scot Coogan on drums on most of the record with the exception of the re-appearance of Anton Fig on “Pursuit of Rock & Roll” and guest jams by Matt Starr on “Rockin’ With The Boys’, “I Wanna Go Back” & “Quantum Flux”. Ace plays most of the guitars and bass, minus Gene SImmons’ singular playing on “Without You I’m Nothing” …count down’s comin’ on, here we go:

WITHOUT YOU I’M NOTHING > A ballsy, earnest rocker co-written with former band mate Gene Simmons that wouldn’t have worked (ie – been convincing) coming from Simmons or KISS. Frehley though knocks it out of the park with a great lead vocal, edgy semi-autobiographical verse lyrics and a bitchin’ solo that quickly re-affirms why you developed a taste for the Blue Koolaid way back.

“Now through the years, I’ve hit some walls, with no regrets .. when we’re apart I get the blues”” 

ROCKIN’ WITH THE BOYS > More straight talk from Ace delivered with customary ‘don’t sweat it’ chill. This one grows on you like a new pair of favorite jeans and the comfy feel continues into the solo as Ace eases back on the throttle, laying in behind the beat to get ‘back’ in NY groove.

We’ve had our differences, now don’t make a fuss, we’ve had the best of times” 

YOUR WISH IS MY COMMAND > Co-written also with Simmons, ‘Wish’ features a similarly luke-warm Simmons chorus / title benefiting again significantly from Ace’s well-honed pop sensibility on the verse melody & lyric. An ill-fated reunion of sorts, no surprise this is the only tune on the album that feels a little forced. Like with most old flames, you often find once is enough.

Seen many miracles, don’t be concerned, so few are chosen”

BRONX BOY > More street cred and a great P&L statement from Ace that takes us back to the ‘hard times’ as a teenage gangbanger that he may not have escaped were it not for his guitar & considerable swagger, drunk or sober!

“I’m just a street kid, we seek and destroy, I lived so much of it, I’m just a Bronx Boy.” 

PURSUIT OF ROCK & ROLL > A rock anthem to rival KISS’s many arena driven-forays over the years. Ace’s ‘State Of The Union’  is a rocket ride with Anton Fig burnin’ up the drum kit and Frehley high on the fumes, literally shouting out to The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and even The Beatles.

“Don’t want no strife, ‘cuz it’s the enemy, that gets into your soul” 

I WANNA GO BACK > It’s almost impossible not to love this cover of the Eddie Money hit. The choice, and Ace’s delivery of the bitter-sweet Money lament, is flat-out charming, further illuminating Ace’s range and deep love for a great hook, regardless the artist or era. It wasn’t a guitar tune until now, and it’s a fucking cool departure.

I wanna go back, and do it all over, but I can’t go back I know”

MISSION TO MARS > Were I Ace’s manager I would have tapped the glorious  “Mission To Mars” as the lead single (or “I Wanna Go Back”?) as it’s perhaps Ace’s best vocal since “Rip It Out” and tracks us on radar somewhere between ’74’s “Parasite”, ’89’s “Lost In Limbo”, 2009’s “Outer Space” and Elon Musk’s flying Tesla. Wonder how many times Frehley left the pavement in his DeLorean?

“My ships off course, by some unknown force ….Between heaven and earth, you know we’ll always be first, and that’s why”   

OFF MY BACK > Even if it’s now clear Ace never heard Spinal Taps’ “Bitch School”, this tune is super catchy and boasts the hottest solo on the album. If not Ace’s rawest Frehley fret  attack ever from the get-go, the solo outro shifts to urgent blues phrasing reminiscent of Leslie West of Mountain or Rory Gallagher!

“We go in circles with no end in sight”

QUANTUM FLUX > The closer is, as is tradition for Ace, a continuation of the instrumental epics that started in ’78 with the haunting powerhouse that is ‘Fractured Mirror’.  No exception to the fleet, ‘Flux’ is transcendent and takes Ace and us out of orbit into emotional time-scapes, reverberating key influences Jeff Beck & Jimmy Page while remaining pure Ace Frehley through and through.

The crazy thing is that, with Ace, you can go back. He still gives me that feeling. There’s ‘Space’ on board …Ace’s got you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

KISStoric ‘Anomaly’ finds FREHLEY at his best

IMAG0357That’s right; Ace Frehley‘s last solo effort, Anomaly, deserves a revisit and is in my opinion (in need of) a little more love. It was like no one really gave it the recognition I thought it deserved. I didn’t have this blog then. I might have gone Postal on it. Maybe the only critics who reviewed it wanted metal. What they got was a well-rounded rock record with several well-played left turns by Frehley that may have thrown them off.

The fact is this album shows us Ace at his very best breaking new ground that shows a continued maturation, if intermittent, of the scope of his material. There are at least five, maybe six songs on Anomaly that I feel show how great Anomaly was and Ace.  I don’t know how anyone, even if they had never heard Ace, could come away from it thinking anything other than that he is a crafty, fun songwriter, a bitchin’ guitarist and a really cool singer with his own sense of style on all fronts. Singular ….an Anomaly, on several levels. All it should have taken was one of the really great tunes from Anomaly for someone to shout out to the music world “Wow, this is really good shit!” but, when you are a former member of KISS, there are few pats on the back. That’s not conjecture, that’s KISStory. Hey, it’s not like (even) the old band mates are gonna put in a good word either, right? To prove the point, I present (via Youtube)  “Change The World”, an evolved-Frehley masterstroke full of love with all kinds of here-to-fore unseen Spaceman influences coming into blurry view. It may the best song he has ever written, with “It’s A Great Life” and “A Little Below The Angels” and as close 2nd and 3rd. Ace mentioned the summer of love at the Rock Hall induction in April and this tune harkens back the youthful optimism of the hippy generation he was very much a product of.  Maybe that’s why it possesses a reflective nature and sincerity seriously lacking in KISS in general. Scan0009 (5)Sure, I love the classics, and it’s hard to beat “Rocket Ride”, but these are superior tunes by and large. And, yeah, you can’t beat the first solo record but, in a way, Anomaly betters it at several key moments that frankly eclipse all KISS-related recordings, all KISS forefathers included. As Ace suggests in “Pain In The Neck”…take a reality check — once you’ve added “Genghis Khan”, “Foxy & Free”, “Pain In The Neck” and the emotive continued Frehley reprise of “Fractured Quantum” to the mix, what you’ve got with Anomaly is a bit of a, hate to say it, monster record. I sure hope Ace knows how good Anomaly was and continues right where he left off with his forthcoming Space Invader.

UNMASKED gets better every time

Yup. As David St. Hubbins of Spinal Tap would say: “Check me on this…am I losing my fucking mind?” UNMASKED is way better than I remembered. Maybe’s it’s the high-end turn table and brand new Shure headphones that aided in this recent KISSTory lesson? In any event, some random observations and quips in no order….

Well, swear to God, it’s actually a cool mix. I give Vini Poncia long overdue high marks for how he transformed KISS on Unmasked,  They wanted pop, and they got it.  Each song gets a slightly different treatment one may only catch on a great system, or with the speakers spread far apart, or in headphones, or on an actual record. A band? If it doesn’t sound like a band, it’s because it wasn’t – in terms of dis-function, it may KISS’s White Album.

Guitars? There is not a bad solo on this record, they all just fit like a glove. Paul’s on “Shandi” is a crowning achievement and Ace’s are easy as it seems and right-on high points of each track, as is customary.  Really catchy and singable. In fact some of his most ‘pro’ sounding shit, period. I hear drop in’s here and there on guitar to carry small parts through that I believe are Paul as I really can’t imagine Ace sitting through the process to add color on such poppy stuff, at least not the stuff that he didn’t write.  Plus, Paul usually knows what he wants already. he must have done the solo on Gene’s “Your All That I Want” as well and, during its’ fade, Paul is stellar is not, dare I say better than Ace? Damn right dreamy. The rhythm guitars are also nicely distinct throughout the record . If you listen close, they are a tad more intricate also than the standard KISS fare ….you’ll see.

Drums? It’s the drum sound that sucks the sheer life out of the record, from the kick to the snare and on and on, save for “Shandi”. On the other cuts, the cheez-verb is a serious distraction. Not that Anton doesn’t play really well-crafted, tight drum patterns/parts on every tune, he does — but the snare sound alone is enough to make you want to look for one of Pete’s old Pearl snares in the vault. It’s second only to the disaster that was the drums (especially the snare) on Hotter Than Hell.  It’s a damn good Peter impersonation by Anton but, even as a kid when I first heard it, I was like “Wow Peter sounds really good on “Torpedo Girl” huh? Maybe he was trained by Krupa after all?

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The Spaceman? Unless your high and full of shit, it’s clear Ace’s contributions shine far above everything else on the album. While we don’t know the behind the scenes on Unmasked (yet), I find the quality of his cuts here fly in the face of everything Gene & Paul have said about the Spaceman’s lack of effort to bring in new material. The fact that Ace to get “Torpedo Girl” on the record speaks volumes to pecking order of the day. He played the bass and apparently all the guitars on his cuts and they are super-duper, no? Go back and listen – headphones.

Our Starchild? With “Shandi”, “Easy As It Seems” and “Is That You”, a cover, Paul’s tunes verge on minor pop revelations (at least in KISS terms) and are downright gutsy in retrospect, as if he literally was able to forget who he once was, and what they once were entirely. That shipped sailed when “I Was Made For Loving You” hit the airwaves in ’79.  If Dynasty was the KISSco record heard around the world, Unmasked was the full-departure that set the table for the next ill-conceived experiment; The Elder.

The Demonic Bat-Lizard? Gene’s whole thing gets a little fractured on the record but I still say “Naked City” is a semi-cinematic KISSterpiece in production, vibe and content. I feel it’s a way under-rated snapshot of the demon in reflective flux that highlights his versatility as a songwriter and singer.  At one point in the tune, one can even hear the influence of The Police in the bass line and quasi-reggae / faux-sca guitar tags. It’s very cool. In fact Gene’s baseline’s on the record are pretty out of the box and don’t sound like anyone else. Pretty fun.

Oh yeah, great back vocals all over this record and the keyboards? Take them out and you’ feel a sadness no KISStorian wants to feel, betcha.

It’s almost an arrogant effort and I still love it, better with every listen somehow. Perhaps for that very reason, because KISS does what KISS does and well, no matter what it is. No one seems to want to talk about or remembers anything about it leaving me to wonder if they planned to angle Unmasked‘s promotion over-seas from the albums inception? I’ll assume they knew they couldn’t risk a proper US Tour in support of the album but to everyone else, KISS were still legends. In America, they had sold out and Unmasked was the final stake in the their rock coffin, not The Elder.

I bought a Van Halen shirt right after I heard Unmasked year and wore it every other day.  Even though I bought The Elder too, only Creatures could have really brought me back as it did, setting the table for the kick in the ass that was Lick It Up was for all of us holding out hope.

Except for the bubble-gum finger snapper “What Makes The World Go Round” and the regrettable chorus of “Tomorrow”, both Starchild offerings, I don’t know if I would change a thing on Unmasked and even then, how could I? You wouldn’t either!

TOD HOWARTH talks shop

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How did you originally catch the rock & roll bug?   Well if The Beatles were the definition of Rock and Roll in 1964 then there it was! But I think that the real heavy rock for me was Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Humble Pie.  I learned a lot about melodies, harmonies and song construction from the Beatles and kept within those guidelines right into my ‘heavier’ introductions.

Who are your favorite 5 rock singers of all time?   Good one, as it depends on one’s definition again, of a ‘rock’ singer!  I was influenced by singers over the years but perhaps didn’t realize what would become my favorites until later – realizing how they in fact shaped my own style (even though I don’t sound like many of them) ….John Lennon, Steve Marriott, John Waite, Steve Walsh, Layne Staley.

Can you describe your first time meeting Ace Frehley?   It took place in New York on my first audition. I was flying out to do another leg of a tour with Cheap Trick then and I combined the trip to meet up with the future Comet band.  I walked in, saw John Regan of course, Eddie Trunk was there (however I had no idea who he was) and then there was Ace.  I truly would not have known him sans makeup because I had never ‘looked’ him up through the pages of countless rock magazine articles – I seldom read those and never gravitated to KISS photos and articles because my personal musical interests were elsewhere.

Ace shook my hand as we were introduced and he was very pleasant, enthusiastic about the project and I imagine thrilled to be completing the group to really get out there and tour. I do remember that the impression that I got was, ‘Wow, cool guy, he’s happy to be here and play and very positive about what he’s doing and where’s he’s going’

This in itself was very refreshing as I had been through a few projects with tons of negativity and that was a drain on me over time. Ace looked good and he had a tremendous presence about him at that time.

He let you play a number of leads or record and live, was that something you had to fight for?  Not one bit. In fact I had told him that I wasn’t a jammin’ lead player nor a spontaneous one as I’ve always considered myself to be a singer/songwriter that played solid rhythm guitar/keys.  I believe that he was disappointed to a degree that I wasn’t asking to play more leads so as to bounce things off each other. I can play lead (obviously) but my compositions are melodies and notes that I hear in my head and then have to learn them.

I did want to play the lead on “It’s Over Now” after I tracked it because, well I thought that it suited the song. He had no problem with that at all. That’s when I gained HUGE respect for him as he was very confident in his guitar talent (had every right to be) and let me have that one.

Of your Frehley’s Comet song contributions, which track are happiest with today? (mine may be “Calling To You”)   Ha!  Cool that you like the old ‘MEGAFORCE‘ title “Calling To You”!  Mine would be a toss up, somewhere between “Time Ain’t Runnin’ Out”’ and “It’s Over Now”. 

How was it working with legendary producer Eddie Kramer?    Eddie at that time was a great guy, big resume and I learned more about him as we worked together, again, I really didn’t know that much about him either! He was very diplomatic about his ideas and brought great humor and results in the studio all at the same time. I don’t have any recollections that stand out about the times in the studio…besides the personal banter and jokes that we had between all of us.

Guitarists often say no two drummers are alike: how would you describe the feel difference between playing with legends Anton Fig and Jamie Oldaker behind the kit?   Well that saying is so very true.  I think that perhaps in the past I may have eluded to the opinion that Anton was better suited for the Comet initially, but then Jamie was so very instrumental in the feel in at (the very) least the track “It’s Over Now” …. he became the stellar standard. So it really becomes the definition of the ear listening.  Anton was flat out powerful, rocking, pounding and wild and the proverbial mosh pit for the ears – full of raw energy.  Jamie was moreover rock solid with the depth of a feel the escapes many drummers from track interpretation. The way he laid the snare down…..monumental.

What is your 2013 solo release Opposite Gods about? (its pretty fucking heavy dude … and I heard you sing like Bowie!?)   This solo effort has a plethora of inspirations that are all real life with exception to “Dancing Through The Pain” which was a dream. I have songs on here about my adult children, and their trials in life, a song about one of my very best friend’s Harley accident, which paralyzed him from the waist down, a tune about the shallowness of today’s ‘talents’ One about my dog! And just one political tune – of which I don’t do normally but could not help to sing about what I see here in America.

Cool that you can hear ‘Bowie’ in my voice!  I can imitate him dead on!

Yes. it’s very heavy, but I’ve always been heavy – until I start to sing! Ha!  I love deep dark material but I also write in an adult contemporary style like my Winter CD  When I record my heavy stuff it’s just that to me, heavy… but my voice really isn’t a ‘heavy’ type timbre so it becomes a little less threatening!

You highlight your adrenaline junkie hobbies nicely on your website: is that what drew you to rock & roll originally, the rush of it all?   No, the draw was – reflecting and understanding what I went through back then in the ‘60s now – acceptance and acknowledgement. My early life was a little rough, nothing too traumatizing but enough for me to search out some attention – and then of course a lot of that would evolve to women! The Beatles had that, well …. Hell, I wanted that too!

How did your recent appearance on the TV show Wipe-Out come about and was it fun?   I got my ass kicked!  I ‘trained’ for about three weeks swimming (which I ended up using a lot of) and general biking, weights, but no where near as much as I would need.

I had been watching the show for a while and being that ‘adrenaline junkie’ that you saw on my website I thought, ‘Man, I wanna do this!’  So at 53 years of age then, I decide to drive up to Los Angeles and audition. I wrote to them first of course and was immediately accepted to do as such and they loved me.

Upon arrival to the set in the mountain area of the northern Hollywood area I noticed that they had just recently cut all the weeds around the course – deadly for me as I’ve huge allergies which affect my breathing.  This was not the entire reason for me getting my ass kicked but it surely didn’t help.  I qualified I believe the 8th fastest time out of the final 22 or so but there was no chance that I could compete after the first real round (the one filmed for TV)  because they were to film the second round only a few hours after my initial ass kicking.  I had no second wind to give.

I had fun though, but realized that I was in fact, 53 years old then. I’m now 56!

FxF-cover-FBWhat’s the new project Four By Fate about?  Four By Fate is a brand new project / band that is the result of a few key industry players.  John Regan and I have kept in touch over the years, more so in the last few trying to get Ace back into the fold to do a 25 year re-union show/tour/concert for the 2012 (or around this time) year.

While having trouble getting through to him on a direct questions, it was posed to him by third parties where he expressed no interest.  He had his solo band and was happy rightfully so, doing that and other events.  In the mean time John and I were asked to collaborate with a Canadian KISS aficionado named Mitch Lafon on contributing tracks, re-recordings to his project; KISS 40 year anniversary tribute A World Without Heroes CD that would benefit a cancer hospice.  A great cause.  We did so and while doing this we were hooked up with some fantastic musicians via the internet style of recording.

Meanwhile, John had struck up a great business relationship with Danny Stanton of Coallier Entertainment and through a quickly morphed idea of getting John and I plus perhaps some musicians from the KISS project together to do a few quick shows, it whittled down to an actual band that would power on as a heavy melodic rock band using a few songs from Frehley’s Comet as a jump off point.

The line up is as follows: John Regan, bass guitar, backing vocals, Sean Kelly, lead guitar and lead/backing vocals, Stet Howland, drums, lead and backing vocals and me on lead vocals, guitar and keys.

With John’s and my extensive resume, Sean Kelly’s and Stet Howlands credits (Nelly Furtado & W.A.S.P respectively) we felt that we could initially pull from the big bands we’ve played with material wise while quickly developing our own which would be ‘Heavy Melodic’.

The new band was announced this last Tuesday and has it’s now website already, www.fourbyfate.com We are all doing homework at this very moment in preparation for the up and coming events that will unfold soon!  – TOD HOWARTH

ANTON FIG talks shop

frehleyWhen did your love affair with the drums begin?

I don’t remember ever deciding to play drums. I was always interested and drawn to the sound of them as far back as I can remember.

Who were your heroes growing up and do you still listen to them?

Earl Palmer – though I did not know it was him at the time Mitch Mitchell, Ginger Baker, Ringo, Keith Moon, John Bonham –English Invasion guys

Tony William, Elivin Jones, Jack deJohnette  –

Just to name a few – and yes I still listen to them

What was your first full kit?

My grandfather bought me a snare and bd at age 6 and every year added a drum – so I had a full set by the time I was 9 but it was a mutt of a set

Did the playing the drums come naturally to you or does one have to work hard at it to get to your level?

It came pretty naturally but when I work at it it pays huge dividends. There are periods in my career when I practice more than others and that always pays off.

What’s your kit of choice these days?

I endorse Yamahas – they are very consistent and good. I don’t use the same set up each time – especially in the studio – and enjoy changing the configuration to suit the music or just give myself a different perspective on things

What is the greatest drum track of all time?

Impossible to answer but anything by Tony Williams

I also love Mirolslav Vitous’ version of Freedom Jazz Dance – Jack de Johnette is the drummer

What’s your favorite thing about being in the “The World’s Most Dangerous Band”, and now The CBS Orchestra for all these years?

Steady work with great musicians and guests, high visibility, great hours – a dream job and life changer

Is it me, or is Dave even more into your musical guests these days than ever?

Dave is a very keen listener and appreciative of the music. He is very supportive of our band  – which is great for us

You guys are also the house band for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, any favorite magic moments so far?

It’s always great playing with the originals. You see how good they are up close and why they were groundbreakers and have endured through the years

You’ve worked with Ace Frehley as far back as 1978 when you played on his first solo album, did you guys have fun getting back together to track Anomalyin 2010?

I love that first album and have worked with Ace and maintained our friendship over the years since then. It was great to be back in the studio with him again. It’s always good to see him. – ANTON FIG

ACE FREHLEY in Rochester

FrehleyTroubleWalkingFI was in college at Colgate in upstate New York about an hour south west of Syracuse and I got my buddies Ken & Chris to drive to Rochester, at least two and half hours away, to see Ace Frehley at CrossCurrents (don’t look for it, it’s gone) in Rochester, NY. Ace had just released Trouble Walkin, a record I was pretty amped about and one that helped define the difference between he and the new KISS who had just released, Hot In The Shade.

I was a student DJ at WRCU, 90.1FM, at the time and had contacted MegaForce Records, Ace’s label, to see if I could interview him. As it turns out I talked with now famous rock radio mogul Eddie Trunk from That Metal Show on VH1 Classic who approved a “ten minute in-and-out interview…… time permitting”. I should have read between the lines but was so excited I believed it would happen. It Didn’t.

I remember asking Eddie “how’s the tour going?” and all he said, hurried to get off the phone…”yeah man, it’s an abortion”. To be honest, totally green in the industry at the time, I had no idea what he meant. Crazier than that was the dank smell of weed wafting out of Ace’s backstage door upstairs there at CrossCurrents — it could have been Bob Marley’s dressing room!

First few rules in A&R broached and observed unwittingly that evening: Play it cool or get bounced and whatever (apparently) the artists wants is how it goes pre-show. I was happy with the near backstage glimpse and brief interaction with what looked to me like hardened criminals / roadies. They were cooler than me to be sure, and a little scary. Ace was in good hands I figured.

ace_boston02When we got there they did have my name at the door so I got in for free armed with my small Craig cassette recorder. Pre-show we waited in what was one of these two room rock clubs with a bar room and then the show room which would make for difficult drinking logistics. We would end up in the first row, clinging to the barricade with giant-like 24-once beers that had to last us but, as it turned out, did not. By the time we drank them Ace had not come on just yet and we had to pee so bad we peed in the giant now-empty cups and poured them on the floor which seeped behind the barricade towards the stage. Ace’s roadies had to scurry with big brooms to mop it aside away from the cables and were looking hard at folks when they realized it was urine. They were pissed to say the least but we stayed cool… “wasn’t us, swear to God”.

Anyway, before that, I tried a couple of times to go and interview Ace and was sent away. The last time I explained that Eddie had set it all up and asked “So what’s the word? can we do this?” and he replied “The word is Thunderbird…..sorry, not gonna happen tonight pal” and that was it.  I had no idea what the reference was but it sounded cool LOL.

I don’t recall much about the show besides a broken bottle fight between two chicks that caused the crowd to rear back and the fact that bassist John Regan came out for the encore with like a SRV / Hendrix type cowboy hat with the round silver button things around the brim. I was so buzzed I actually for a split second thought it was SRV and we were gonna have a jam. Ironically, they launched into Ace’s only blues recording “Remember Me” and even my Jimmy Page aficionado friend Kenny was impressed. Ace was on.

Sandy Slavin was on drums in place of Anton Fig who played on the record and it was my first time seeing Richie Scarlet in the band and I gotta say he immediately fit great and the Trouble Walkin’ album documents it well. Pity: they should have cut Scarlet’s tune “Animal” but I’ll let that go some day. But for the first time in Ace’s solo career the album felt like his band sounded live — raw and rowdy. Weird how Ace almost ignores the release these days. Someone should pull him aside and remind him playing only half of ‘Trouble Walkin'” (the tune) live is a real disservice. What a fun rock record, worth a revisit KISStorians.