He was the lead guitarist of the legendary rock band KISS. Now, he’s bringing his solo tour to this popular spot just outside the DC area

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Ace Frehley at Hollywood Casino (Part 1)

He shredded legendary rock riffs as the iconic lead guitarist of the classic metal band KISS.

Now, Ace Frehley bring his solo tour to Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races on Saturday, June 15.

“I’m not slowing down at all — if anything, I’m accelerating my career at this juncture in my life,” Frehley told WTOP. “Of course, I’ve got to do songs like ‘New York Groove.’ … You will hear me perform ‘Rock & Roll All Nite,’ you’ll hear me perform ‘Cold Gin,’ ‘Shock Me,’ ‘Rip It Out,’ all of the classic KISS songs, plus we’ll be doing ‘10,000 Volts’ off of the new album and ‘Cherry Medicine’ off of the new album.”

His latest album “10,000 Volts” (2024), released back in February, includes such out-of-the-world song titles as “Walkin’ On The Moon,” “Up In The Sky” and the instrumental final track “Stratosphere.”

“The reaction to this new album has been phenomenal,” Frehley said. “[‘10,000 Volts’] I wrote with Steve Brown. … On most of these songs, Steve brought me the music, I’d end up doing a guitar solo, doing the lead vocals and writing most of the lyrics. He engineered the whole record with me and it’s just a pleasure working with this guy. … [‘Up in the Sky’], if you listen to the lyrics, it’s so obvious I’m talking about UFOs. … I’ve seen three in my lifetime.”

These extraterrestrial references reflect his lifelong passion for science-fiction, which he’s enjoyed since he was a kid growing up in the Bronx in the ’50s. Frehley got his first guitar as a Christmas present at the age of 13.

“I never went to college, I never took a guitar lesson, it just manifested,” Frehley said. “I grew up in a one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx and used to be in a street gang called ‘The Ducky Boys.’ … What were the odds of me becoming one of the most famous guitar players in the world? Probably one in 100 million? But it happened.”

In 1973, he formed KISS with Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and Peter Criss, becoming famous for high-energy shows with the band wearing costumes and face paint. Frehley not only designed the band logo with double lightning bolts, he also created his own “Spaceman” persona (a.k.a. Space Ace) with silver stars over his eyes.

“We used to play at this club on Long Island called ‘The Daisy’ when we were formulating the makeup designs,” Frehley said. “We were experimenting. One night, I had come out with my whole face silver, I think Paul’s face was all red, but Gene pretty much started that demon thing. All the makeup has evolved over the years. When you look at my makeup on the first album cover, everything is just silver around my eyes, then I started doing dark around my eyes, then when I got the cape outfit with the mirrors on it, I decided to put blue eye shadow around my eyes.”

Two years later, the band delivered its most famous hit “Rock & Roll All Nite” (1975).

“I’m actually performing it again live, it’s in my set,” Frehley said. “You will hear me play ‘Rock & Roll All Nite,’ a new addition. I was speaking to some friends of mine; in fact, it actually may have been Steve Brown, who coproduced the record, and he recommended it, he said, ‘You know, Ace, ‘Rock & Roll All Nite’ is one of the most popular songs on Spotify as far as KISS songs go, it has one of the highest downloads.'”

Another one of his most famous riffs comes on “Detroit Rock City” (1976).

“I love that solo that me and Paul used to do, the harmony, but I don’t believe in taking credit for anybody else’s ideas — that was Bob Ezrin’s idea, that melody,” Frehley said. “He told us exactly what to play and told Paul what the harmony was. Things happened very spontaneously those days.”

Ironically, he does not like performing “I Was Made for Loving You” (1979), even though it was a huge hit at the time and was recently featured in the movie “The Fall Guy” (2024) starring Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt.

“‘I Was Made For Loving You’ is one of my least favorite songs to perform because my wrist cramps up,” Frehley said. “I know it’s one of our biggest hits, but I didn’t like the fact that it was disco rock. I’m really more hard core, I’m a blues-based rock guitar player and I like heavy metal. I would have never written a song like that and I don’t believe Gene would have either. … It’s not a bad song, I just don’t think it fits with KISS, just like ‘Beth’ didn’t.”

After his debut solo album “Ace Frehley” (1978) went platinum, he officially left KISS in 1982 to record two albums with a new band, the cleverly-titled “Frehley’s Comet,” before cranking out a dozen solo albums since.

Known for his array of “special effects,” including guitars shooting smoke, flashing lights and spinning pyrotechnics, Frehley was recently ranked in the Top 15 of Guitar World’s “100 Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarists of All Time,” while his solo on “Shock Me” (1977) was included in Guitar World’s list of the “50 Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time.”

Still, his favorite accolades come from fellow guitarists, from Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine) calling Frehley his “first guitar hero,” to the late Dimebag Darrell (Pantera) getting a tattoo of Frehley on his chest.

“My peers like John 5 or Slash, who’s a dear friend of mine, or Mike McCready from Pearl Jam, those guitar players come up to me and say that I influenced them,” Frehley said. “For almost every band that was younger than me when KISS came out, broke and became one of the biggest bands in the world, that album ‘Alive’ is like their Bible of learning how to play rock guitar, at least that’s what I’ve been told. … If I’m influencing somebody, that’s great.”

This year also marks the 10th anniversary of KISS being inducted into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. The legendary band just went on its farewell tour last year, but at age 73, Frehley is still playing his face off with solo tours.

“Now, on top of influencing guitar players, I’m also influencing people to get sober because I’ve been sober over 17 years,” Frehley said. “When I do meet-and-greets backstage, a lot of them will show me their [Alcoholics Anonymous] coin and say, ‘Hey, I got sober because of you. I figured if Ace Frehley could get sober, I could.'”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Ace Frehley at Hollywood Casino (Part 2)

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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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