Former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley says he finds it “confusing” when other musicians cite him as an influence. He also recalls his doubts as he geared up to cover the Beatles classic “I’m Down,” which was released last week.
The track includes guitar work by John 5 and features the pair trading off against each other toward the end. “I met John 5 when Kiss was rehearsing for the reunion tour,” Frehley tells UCR. “He came to the rehearsal studio, and I met him there. We’ve been close friends ever since. He’s played on several of my albums. and he always does a great job. He’s really, really fast in the studio. Usually, most of his solos are first or second take.”
Frehley notes that John 5 “can play all sorts of music, [like] country – he can fingerpick and stuff. I never really got the hang of that. But I think I do what I do good, supposedly, considering so many guitar players cite me as the reason why they play guitar. Never taking a guitar lesson, it’s kind of confusing to me when I think about it, how I’ve pulled that one off.”
A Beatles fan since he first heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” Frehley says “I’m Down” was another favorite, but he was doubtful how to approach it at first. “I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to sing a Paul McCartney song, but somehow, I pulled it off,” he explains.
“What sticks out to me about that one in particular is that it’s one of the great Paul McCartney rock ’n’ roll vocals. It’s just one of those songs that he typically shreds his voice on. In more recent years when he’s been touring, ‘Helter Skelter’ is another one he does that with. It’s really impressive to see a guy well into his 70s still just shredding it on songs like that. I think that’s what’s kind of fun about a song like ‘I’m Down’: You can just go for it and be as rock ‘n’ roll as you want to.”
Watch Ace Frehley’s ‘I’m Down’ Video
Now that his new album of cover songs, Origins, Vol. 2, is all set for release on Sept. 18, Frehley is turning his thoughts to writing new music as well as building a studio at his new home in New Jersey. “The Origins records are a lot of fun, but the songs are written by other people,” he notes. “When you write your own songs, it’s more gratifying when people appreciate them.”
Still, Frehley says he “never [has] a plan – I just write. I sit here and I see where it goes. There’s no concept, there’s no rhyme or reason. I just start writing songs that come into my mind and develop it into a studio record.
“I don’t believe in forcing things. I think things should just happen naturally. To me, the most important thing when I record is having spontaneity and just going for it. If you don’t get it in two or three takes, take a break and go back to it later. If you try to do something too many times, over and over again, it loses that spontaneity.”