The first of the six-part series of The Disc Dive examines the lasting influence and the historical context of the entire KISS discography with guitarist, Ace Frehley.
It is surreal to hear rock icon Ace Frehley talk about the emotions that are stirred up when he looks at a copy of the very first KISS record.
In exploring the discography of the legendary musician, Disc Dive host Ryan J. Downey started at the very beginning, with Frehley’s first contributions in KISS. When asked how he feels whenever he sees a copy of the record, Frehley refers to the album as a benchmark in his career. It was the first time his face was ever on a record and it marked the first time he had ever heard a KISS song on the radio.
Frehley would go on to revisit the constant struggle to maintain their mystique. He discussed how KISS made a concerted effort to never be seen in public without their make-up and how photographers would have to be paid off if they managed to get a picture of the band not in character.
Ace explained that there was an interesting dynamic that worked in the band’s favor however. At the time, magazines that published images if KISS in full costume were selling so well, it would’ve been counterproductive to pull back the curtain. However, Frehley does recall the very FIRST magazine to publish an image if the band without make-up, in CREEM Magazine.
Especially prolific early on, KISS would release their sophomore record literally months after their debut. Hotter Than Hell was referenced by Frehley explained how the follow-up didn’t have the same magic as self-titled album. Detailing how KISS has put so much time and effort into their debut, he added that that Hotter Than Hell was hastily written and didn’t have the same time their debut did.
Frehley did however acknowledge the importance of the artwork coupled with Hotter Than Hell. Working with revered photographer Norman Seeff, the Japanese esthetic and the iconic photography was a look that Frehley described as groundbreaking. He hadn’t seen anything else like it up until that point.
The 1975 release Dressed to Kill featured the band in full make-up, paired with sharp suits. Ace recalled how, at the time, the band was making all of $75 dollars a week and didn’t have money for suits. “We raided Bill Aucoin’s closet,” confided Frehley.
Downey would ask about the Frehley penned track “Getaway” on the Dressed to Kill record that featured Peter Criss on vocals. Ace would discuss how he didn’t feel comfortable as a vocalist at the time, so he offered the track to Criss vocally. He would go on to explain that his first recollection of being comfortable as a vocalist wasn’t until he performed “Shock Me” in front of 18,000 fans at Madison Square Garden.
Other than the band’s debut, Alive! was arguably the most important KISS record released in this first two years. Frehley would recount how that effort was really what made the band an international sensation. He explained that because the live shows were such a spectacle, the record functioned as a sort of souvenir, a keepsake for anyone that had ever experienced KISS live and a reference for those that hadn’t yet, but sorely wanted to.
Watch episode 1 of 6 exploring the discography of KISS with Ace Frehley on The Disc Dive with Ryan J, Downey.