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.

eleven keys to indie band touring

2392252farsideone, always allow enough time to get from A to B to guarantee you aren’t late for load-in no matter what; sucks to start the night with excuses or an argument. if you’re gonna be late, you better call the venue or your booking agent so the club knows in advance.

two, arrive in a business like manner, there’ll be plenty of time to show your wonderful personality later on.

three, have one person speak for the band as it relates just about everything; … you don’t want each band member bothering staff, management or the sound man for that matter (sound check aside of course (often can’t be helped!)). Fine if they wanna make buddies after sound check, until then – shut up and get your gear on stage!

four, you are not rock stars yet, don’t forget it no matter how great the gig goes. the people running the place have seen it all before and will be more than ready to stereotype you as the beers flow and the ego hits over drive … stay cool yo.

five, the sound man is the most important person in your life: do what he says, be polite but not too friendly (or he may take the nite off), know how to sound check as a band in the shortest time possible, already know what you want in your goddamn monitor or ask for little to nothing, “get what you need” only, less is always more in this regard and, lastly, treat him with respect right outta the box and make him feel he is part of it. Never soundcheck full songs if you can help it.  Choose a tune to run that covers all the bases so you are able to hear your stage mix quickly and get out-of-the-way. Less is more in this arena. When you’re a star you can become a soundcheck diva, until then, plead the fifth. The better you sound check the better your chances are at the club because first impressions are often the most telling.

six, tell your friends there is no guest list and, if you have to put Mr. Big on the list, pay outta the bands pocket for the ticket and then have him added to the list – you will make a strong impression.

seven, after sound check, make yourselves scarce and don’t start drinking. if you are gonna be drinking early, don’t do it at the venue.

eight, always thank the soundman by his/her name from the stage and mention the openers / headliners at some point. you are there to make friends or you will never build your draw there.

nine, be seen listening to and enjoying the other bands on the bill, do not disappear backstage, it can empty a room out a bit and people start wondering when they are leaving too. you are there to make the club money, if they don’t, it wasn’t a good night no matter how good the board mix sounded in the van.

ten, humility and an eye on the prize is the only way you will make the venture, your gig that night, time well spent. the real clubs staff n’ mgmt. know who the real bands are even before they’ve heard’em, or think they do, and are right more often than not.

eleven, this one goes there ….know your rights and stand up for them if you have done all the above and still got the shaft, it’s a game, be ready to win it and bite your tongue here n’ there ….