An Anthem for Every Shredder: on Tour Life and Ace Frehley’s Spaceman

“This album gets off to a more rocky than rocking start, but don't worry—there's some gold in this rock & roll coal mine.”

Milk and cookies, rum and Coke, me and KISS; I can safely say that without KISS, I wouldn’t be the shredder I am today. Mind you, I’m writing this review of Ace Frehley’s new Spaceman from my tour van while I keep “Rockin’ With The Boys” (and Girl) night after night.

The 67-year-old Ace is singing about the things I hope to still be doing when I turn 69. For those who don’t know, Ace is THEE bad boy of KISS—a Taurus whose solos rock so hard that his shredstick (guitar) emits fire and smoke. In his heyday, he would consistently wrap cars around telephone poles, glue his hotel room furniture to the ceiling, and zone out into outer space. While he might not be partying to the nines anymore, Ace arguably has the most successful and awesome solo career out of any KISS member.

Ace Frehley’s so ssik that ex-band member/KISS axe-grinder Gene Simmons makes a couple appearances on this record, despite the harsh words he’s been throwing around the last 20 years. This album gets off to a more rocky than rocking start, but don’t worry—there’s some gold in this rock & roll coal mine.

The album opener “Without You I’m Nothing” is a subpar piece of shred at best. This album (and this song especially) features some forgettable lyrics about Ace’s hard living over C-grade riffing, so I couldn’t help but think the whole thing was going to be a bummer.

What followed, however, struck so deeply that I found myself cranking this song to hype me up every night of tour. Track two on Spaceman—”Rockin’ With The Boys”—is an anthem for every shredder who has ever spent their nights rocking out to people in rooms that were empty, packed, or somewhere in between. You can slag on Ace for singing about how hard he’s rocking night after night with his homies, but it’s the truth! If I could write an article about just how ssik “Rockin’ With The Boys” is, you better believe you would be reading a college thesis right now.

“Tour buses make me wanna jump out the door/I’m sick of truck stops and shit on the floor.” Though I have dreamed of touring ever since I first saw School Of Rock in the fifth grade, tour life is often not as glamorous as it sounds. It sure is awesome, but some things do get old—the hotel rooms, the downtime, and the hours in the car listening to Vanessa Carlton can wear anybody down. But what doesn’t get old is when you are rocking with the boys. Ace sings about the two things that keep him going while he continues to melt faces around the globe: his lover at home, and his gang of shredders on the road. While I call my mom from the road more than I call any romantic interest, “Rockin’ With The Boys” is by far my favorite Ace Frehley single since his mid-‘80s run with Frehley’s Comet.

My favorite songs on this album are the more upbeat and uptempo ones. “Your Wish Is My Command” features a co-writing and co-shredding credit from Gene Simmons. This sounds like a song that could have been left off KISS’s 1980 power-pop album Unmasked. Open chords and a sing-along chorus which lay atop the pouncing bass that classic KISS was known for. Again, though, forget the lyrics, because my high point in this song is when Ace Frehley yells “Abracadabra!” before launching into a face-melting solo.

The following track “Bronx Boy” happens to also be the lead single. At first, I was a little put off by the song. Senior citizen Ace Frehley singing about how badass he is?

[Verse 2]
Better watch out
You better stay awake
’cause this is our turf
And there’ll be hell to pay
We got our switchblades
Our homemade zip guns
We’re in a rumble
Soon as the night comes

[Chorus]
Bronx Boy
Just trying to exist
I never played with toys
Don’t give me bullshit
I’m just a street kid
We seek and destroy
Now there’s a bunch of it
I’m just a Bronx Boy. (Bronx Boy!)

I thought Hmmm, this is cheesy, but then I thought about the endless hours I’ve spent as a kid with my crew playing shows, trying to get booked, and trying to spread our shred; maybe only I see it this way, but “Bronx Boy” as a song is a testament to Ace’s growing years in gangs trying to earn a spot in the world while making a name for himself.

The compressed production to me is by far the biggest problem with this album. I can put up with the filler songs about nostalgia and rocking, but the biggest setback is the muddled mix. Sure, it’s highly unlikely anything will match Ace Frehley’s 1978 solo debut, but it’s a masterfully produced album that is stripped from muddled fat and filler songs. While I may not dive deep into most of Spaceman ever again, you can probably count on me cranking “Rockin’ With The Boys” on every playlist I ever make for the rest of my life!

A photo of my best bud and me when we won a contest to hang with Ace Frehley and Gene Simmons.

Channeling 50 years of hard rock heritage, Ben Katzman’s DeGreaser deliver heavy shredding and posi vibes. Currently based out of Miami, they’re dedicated to spreading the shred worldwide.

Formed in 2014 amidst the dirt and frenzy of Boston’s electric DIY community, DeGreaser is the unruly lovechild of one Ben Katzman (previously of Guerilla Toss and White Fang), a self-trained shredder with deep roots in Miami’s metal scene yielding an undying love for KISS, Van Halen and the Ramones. Playful yet earnest, DeGreaser celebrates the rock and roll ethos, but with a dedication to the core belief that you can only be cool by being yourself. Mix in an obsession with astrology, cults, soaring guitar solos, and all things John Travolta, and you have yourself a potent cocktail of rippin’ good times.

The band has toured and played shows across the U.S. with La Luz, Mannequin PussyColleen Green, Tall Juan and countless other fellow shredders. Their new album, Quarter Life Crisis, was produced by Colleen Green and is out now on BUFU Records.

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Wagner)