Any rock star can play his or her guitar. As a founding member and lead guitarist for 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Kiss, Ace Frehley would make his instrument smoke, shoot and fly through the air. But Frehley, 63, who’s currently on tour promoting Space Invader, his first solo album in five years, says tricking out your guitar has a downside — and offers some firsthand cautionary tales as proof.
GENE’S CLOSE CALL
“Our pyro guy made this sophisticated bottle rocket that I could shoot out of my guitar. A couple times I hit the button by accident and I’d shoot one right across stage. One night I almost hit Gene [Simmons]! It caught him by surprise. We built in a safety feature so you wouldn’t have to worry about one taking out any fans — or bandmembers.”
LIGHTING UP (LITERALLY)
“I started using a smoking guitar in the ’70s. Sometimes it would falter. As a backup, I had a fuse coming out of the back of the guitar and a cigarette lighter on my Marshall amp. If Kiss was playing and the smoker didn’t happen, I’d walk over to the amp, get some feedback going like it was part of the show, grab the cigarette lighter and walk back to the front. Problem solved.”
WATCH FOR FALLING OBJECTS
“During my solo spot I’d hang my guitar on a hook and it would rise up into the lighting tresses. One night it hit something and slipped off, just grazing my shoulder. You know how heavy a Les Paul is? Imagine one with a battery pack and a box to protect it from the heat of a smoke bomb. If that had hit me in the head, we wouldn’t be talking to each other today.”
This article first appeared in the Nov. 22 issue of Billboard.