KISS Related

Mitch Weissman (2013)
Background vocalist/original "Beatlemania" cast member recalls his contributions to Gene Simmons' 1978 solo album and his work with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons on albums such as "Animalize" and "Crazy Nights," plus a potpourri of KISS stories and tangents.

David Snowden (2013)
Longtime KISS fan and former head of the Vinnie Vincent Invasion fan club talks "All Systems Go" and various KISS-related topics

Mark Opitz (2013)
Producer details his work on "KISS Symphony: Alive IV"

Bruce Foster (2012)
Grammy-nominated musician discusses working with KISS and playing piano on "Nothin' To Lose"

David Wolfert (2012)
Grammy- and Emmy-nominated producer recalls working with Peter Criss on his first post-KISS solo album, 1980's "Out Of Control"

Bob Ezrin (2012)
Legendary producer details "Destroyer: Resurrected" and the making of the album

Lydia Criss (2012)
Author discusses the second printing of "Sealed With A KISS" and various Peter Criss- and KISS-related topics

Jean Beauvoir (2010)
Songwriter/recording artist recalls collaborations with KISS on "Animalize," "Asylum" and more

Kenny Kerner (2010)
Recalling KISS' early days with the co-producer of "KISS" and "Hotter Than Hell"

Eric Singer (2010)
Exclusive interview with KISS' current drummer regarding a variety of topics

Ace Frehley (2009)
KISS' original Spaceman details his first studio album in 20 years, "Anomaly"

Bruce Kulick (2009)
Non-makeup-era axeman discusses KISS tenure and latest album, "BK3"

Mike Japp (2005)
A discussion with KISS collaborator on the "Killers" and "Creatures Of The Night" albums

Dick Wagner (2004)
KISS' favorite "ghost" guitarist discusses his guitar playing on "Destroyer" and "Revenge"

Jesse Damon (2003)
Former member of Silent Rage on his collaborations with Gene Simmons

Stan Penridge (2000)
Peter Criss' right-hand man talks Chelsea, Lips and working with the Catman

Bruce Kulick (1999)
Guitarist talks Union project with John Corabi, Eric Carr and ESP

Sean Delaney (1998)
A brief encounter with the "fifth" member of KISS

Bob Ezrin (1998)
Former KOL webmaster Michael Brandvold grills the legendary producer regarding his work with KISS

The Other Side Of The Coin

By Julian Gill

While doing a bit of web surfing for any possible information about Ace Frehley's family for my KISS Album Focus "Pre-KISStory" article, particularly about his brother Charley who had, according to Dale Sherman's Black Diamond book, musical connections with his brother, I came across a site for "The Bridge Band". The brief bio of the band caught my attention, "Charley grew up in a family in which music was always encouraged, especially singing in his church choir. Charley chose music as his major and was part of the 60's college folk scene. As a teen he played in bands with his brother Paul, now known as 'Ace' Frehley of KISS fame" (TheBridgeBand.com). I let Mike, at KISSONLINE know, because it made a very interesting piece of KISS Konnectivity - something which would interest fans.

With that I knew that it would make an interesting conversation to talk to a man who shared a common interest, with his brother Paul "Punky" Frehley, and a man who was now making his own music. What I would like to make clear to the fans is that I approached interviewing Charley as a musician in his own right, not as the brother of so-and-so, so I guess you can expect that I did not ask if "Ace did this or that", or similar. Those so inclined should check out the marvelous Bridge CD for a taste of different music than you might be used to from a Frehley. Thus, let me introduce you to 'The Other Side Of The Coin', Charley Frehley:

[Introductions] Charlie briefly discussed his current job and some recent promotions that are going to lead to interesting and challenging developments in his working (non-music) life.
Charles Frehley: ... I still find time for music.

KissFAQ: I hope so, you've got to!
CF: I spoke with Michael when he first emailed us and we discussed the link into KISSONLINE and that's been going very well. We've been getting a lot of activity as a result. It's a really nice thing.

KF: I hope the activity you're getting isn't the result of people expecting you to be the mirror image of your brother?
CF: Yeah, but that's the thing, I'm 'the other side of the coin'. That's how I always described it. You know, Paul [Ed. Ace's real name is Paul Frehley] and me, we're two sides of the coin: He does the hard stuff and I do the easy stuff! However, I'm getting more into up-beat. I've been a songwriter, trying to go professional - haven't had a lot of luck. Haven't really pushed it as much as I should have. In fact I've just finished a recording for a song that's going to be in the hand's of Marc Anthony by the weekend. I've got a friend who knows one of his relatives and he's facilitating that.

And I wrote my first Spanish ballad with Flamenco guitar and Spanish lead. It came out so great. It starts off in English. My wife is Puerto Rican, so she translated the verse and chorus into Spanish, and we wrote another little Spanish verse. It starts out in English, starts out with a slow section, nice easy flowing, you know, finger picking. And then it goes into a Flamenco strum with Spanish lead and the singing is very powerful and punchy. It's about the games people play with each other. That's the subject in terms of where they argue and such. You know, every time you can see the song in your head, you ain't sure that it's going to sound that good or that way when it gets onto tape. And when it does, it's really cool... and it's going to get to Marc by the weekend. And if he doesn't want it, that's OK. He's my first pick for the song, but there's a lot of Spanish artists looking for music. A lot of guys trying to cross over the way he did. So there'll be a lot of people I'll shop it around to. That's a great song.

KF: Well good luck to you with that.
CF: I believe in what I do more than I have in the past and that's the first thing you need to do...

KF: That's the big step to take...
CF: I have a 27 year old daughter, and she's been writing poetry and short stories since her early teens. She showed me her poem yesterday, called "Growing Pains", it's going to appear in a published collection of poems that's coming out this spring. The poem was an experience for me. It was a relatively short poem, maybe ten or twelve lines, but each line was rather lengthy. But it had a flow to it and the only way I can describe it was that I felt like I was on a swing in the backyard, hooked to a tree branch, and I was just swinging back and forth. And the rhymes came out of nowhere. The way she constructed the ideas, it's an amazing poem. And she has like 75 or 80 of them. That she's written, and I was like show me more of these please!

It's nice, you know, I'm at a point in my life where I'm 51, I've been married for 30 years, I've got a great marriage, I've got two great kids. You know, my son, he's into techno music and he's an incredible keyboardist. And he's getting to be an incredible drummer. I was listening to him play in the house the other night... I mean it's really loud and it really drives me crazy on one level, but he's getting, his timing in terms of the licks he does on the drums is just getting frighteningly good. It's the whole family - the apples don't fall far from the tree, look at Ace. My father was an amazing classical pianist, my older sister, an amazing classical pianist - she could have gone to Julliard. She went to Hunter High School in Manhattan, was really smart and had a great average, and she was studying piano during that period. After three years she was playing Mozart piano sonatas, and she was playing them brilliantly, like way before you're supposed to be able to do that. She probably could have gone to Julliard, but she decided to study something else, and then she became a housewife. She sings, and has a great voice...

But talent all over the place. And my son, he got a major share. He's just all music - 21 year's old. The world is his oyster, he's just ready to go, and he's just got it all. I'm going to start working on some projects with him soon. I have an Ovation guitar that I bought in 1968 that I still play and it's a deep body Ovation guitar. You know how all Ovation guitars have a plastic back, originally they had a smooth surface on them, and then sometime in the 70's they switched to a roughened surface. But my guitar is a deep bodied Ovation and it's like a classical styled guitar. It's called the Josh White model.

KF: I'd like to congratulate you on your Bridge CD, and I read a review that said that the bridge, "give you a collection of twelve songs that can be described as music, as pure as you can get. The notes come out of your speakers, crisp and clear as a summer breeze". Is that the aim of your music, an artistic purity, or it simply a fortunate expression of yourself?
CF: We write from the heart. We write very slowly and methodically, and over the years we have developed a relationship in terms of our music, the way our guitars sound. You know, for example, in "Julie Y", Jerry plays the first part of the recurring sequence, and then I come in with the other half. It "breathes", we have a very similar finger style, but we always try and create a diversity in what we do in terms of the arrangements. He'll capo up high and catch the high notes, and I'll play open or capo down low, so we broaden the range of what we're doing. But we're always looking to do something inventive and interesting, and something that's going to sound nice musically between our guitars and voices.

We're both old ex-Choir boys, Jerry almost got chosen for the Vienna Boy's Choir, and from the time I was 8 or 9 years old I was singing solos in the junior choir in church, and then in the senior. And I sang solos in my college course, so we both have a good solid musical background, but we both have a great feeling for harmony. And those are the elements that we put into out music.

KF: That really came across. I gave the CD a couple of listens so far, and was thinking Peter, Paul, and Mary, very similar in the harmonizing, and of course Simon and Garfunkel.
CF: I learned how to play guitar listening to those people. Mid 60's, by 1965, I was 15 years old, and I was sitting and listening to Paul Simon's stuff and figuring out the songs. The first song I ever figured out for myself was a Peter, Paul and Mary song, one of their old traditional folk songs. And that's how I got my chops, I just started working. I never took lessons. I had played piano and understood something about music, and I just wanted to do it on my own. I just took the music of the day and used it as a basis for teaching myself how to play. And I just grew with it. And then I studied classical guitar for like four years, and studied music. Jerry and I both have families and kids, and we both did music back in the 60's, and kind of lost our way with it, and just got into working and taking care of our families and just playing on our own. And then we stumbled upon each other in '94 and the rest we made happen.

KF: And before '94 were you just not doing much music or was it just around the house pick up the guitar?
CF: I was working with a guy in the early 80's and he was a copy-writer for a big ad agency, a rich guy. He had his own personal problems, but we tried to work together. He was doing the lyrics with me doing the music. But it was just such a weird situation. He got involved in drugs and stuff. He was one of these guys involved in things he shouldn't be doing and I was kind of caught in the middle of it and I just ended up bailing out. That was the only attempt that might have generated some type of activity for songwriting for me.

Other than that, I'm a working man. I take care of my family, spend time with my wife. I've got a good relationship with her. Everything's nice and solid in my life and now I'm addressing the music. And I have the self-confidence just to go out there and just do it. I've got a lot of songs that I've written as much as ten years ago which I'm going to start recording and try to get published and get to people. All different types of music.

KF: Now the material on the Bridge CD, how long had that been in the works? Was that strictly just you and Jerry, since '94?
CF: That's me and Jerry. He writes a song and then brings it to me, and then we work out the arrangement. I work out my guitar part and harmony and vice-versa. Occasionally we have worked on songs and written songs together, but we don't do that as a general rule. But we develop the songs slowly and we just make sure that they are a style that is uniquely ours. And also that the songs say something. Like the song "I Can Only Hope It's So", he wrote that about children and the questions that they ask.

I wrote the song "All Around" about the environment as we should all have concerns about the environment. I have fantasies about one day playing that song at the Rain Forest concert 'cause it would fit perfectly with the theme of that, but who am I? I'm not James Taylor and all the big names that play there... If you listen to the words it touches on everything from the rain forest, the ozone depletion, and all those things, but it's done in a nice musical format. I love music and I love writing, and I love making my own stuff sound beautiful, but also have a relevance. Which you don't always find in a lot of popular music. It seems to work for us.

KF: And is that the aim of your music, to have a "message", but to be very musical, very pure?
CF: Many of our songs are exactly that. We're trying to express an idea and make a comment on something. That is important to us. Others are just observational kinds of things. Like "Millstones, Barrows, and Porch Swings", observations of life compared to visuals. Jerry got the idea for that when we were driving up to the All Folks Festival in Kingston, Ontario, that we played at in 1997. We were driving through upstate New York and he would see a house, and in front of the house would be a wheel-barrow. And it's been converted into a planter. That wheel-barrow used to have a job, used to have a function. But now it has a new function, which is different, but not necessarily any better or worse. And the same thing happens to people, as they get older what they do changes.

KF: A good metaphor...
CF: That's a wonderful song, and we named the CD after that. That cover art was done by Jerry's sister who's a professional artist, I'm sure there's a credit on the cover [Ed. There is: Cover art by Lucy Taylor]. She teaches at local colleges, and also does shows at art galleries, and she did that as a mock up. Just a quick idea of what we wanted. When she actually did the final rendition, we liked the mock up better, so that's what we stayed with.

There's talent all over the place... We've been having a good time, and we've just been trying to get noticed... And I'm getting emails from all kinds of KISS fans saying "I never knew Ace had a brother", and "I can't wait to get your CD", that's what a lot of them say...

KF: A lot of them may be in for a shock!
CF: A lot of these people who were diehard KISS fans when they were 15 in the 70's are now maybe 40. And a lot of people's musical taste does mellow a bit. The nostalgia connected to the KISS music of the 70's is something they still strongly relate to, but maybe these days their tastes in general have changed. As a matter of fact a few emails I got made reference to exactly that. Our music doesn't speak to a teenage crowd. It speaks to people who are more thoughtful and have some sort of life experience because I'm 51 and Jerry's a few years younger, and we draw from our life experience in these songs and if you don't have that there's not a lot you can connect with. We're just doing the best we can, but we're getting noticed in some ways and it may end up opening up some doors.

KF: So, where were you born [Ed. I've read Bronx and Brooklyn, so wanted clarification]?
CF: Paul and I were both born and raised in the Bronx. My mother just moved to [] because she's elderly. My father passed away last March, and she stayed until the end of July when we found and assisted living place very close to my sister. Out there the assisted living places are much more reasonably priced than they are in New York City and it just worked out better. She's living out there and she's doing wonderfully. I'm so happy for her, because she took care of my father in his declining years. The past four or five years where he ended up becoming a total invalid.

KF: That would have been tough.
CF: That was very stressful for her, for anybody, to spend 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, taking care of him. And having home help aids come in. It was hard for her, very hard for her. And I was there all the time helping her and supporting her. And then he finally passed, very quietly and calmly, he just stopped breathing, one Tuesday afternoon back in March. But she's very happy now. She's got activities to be involved in. She has friends at this assisted living place. She loves it there. And interestingly enough, one of the kitchen helpers noticed her name, Esther Frehley, and being a diehard KISS fan this woman inquired and when she found out that Ace's mother had just moved in to this facility she went ballistic! First of all my mother invited her in, because my mother's the sweetest, dearest person you'd ever want to meet. And she had all the pictures on the walls. The family shots from their 50th wedding anniversary with Paul and his wife and all of these family things.

And she ended up telling people about it and bringing people knocking on my mothers door. In a very nice way, and they didn't stay long, and I said, "Mom, be careful", because it could get completely out of control. She would just bring people in and they would meet her and they would look at the pictures and just be awed and fascinated. She had lived in New York, her whole life, since the age of 21 and she was relocated at the age of 80, to a place that was totally unfamiliar to her. And this process of this woman doing this in fact made her feel so comfortable, because everyone then knew her, and everyone knew about her, and everyone would say "hello" to her. And she would say to me, "Charlie, everyone's so friendly and nice to me", and it just allowed her to make the transition in an effortless kind of way. So I really thank Paul for that, that his fame was able get her feeling comfortable in this new environment. My sister's just five minutes away, and is there every day, and her daughter just gave birth, so she has a great-grandson to watch grow up. She's very happy.

KF: What's the alleged 'German' connection with your family? Did your parents emigrate to the US or was it an earlier generation?
CF: Well, my father was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. His family was Dutch. My Mother's father moved here around the turn of the century and there is a book that outlines the entire history of the town that my mother grew up in. It's a town called Norlina, North Carolina, and about ten years ago someone put together the entire history of the town which included my Grandfather Robert Hecht, who came over here with his brother. My grandfather, his family in Germany were so rich that there was a special word in German to describe them, and I don't know what the German word is.

But that's how rich that Hecht family was. And the deal was that my Grandfather was supposed to marry a woman for political or economic reasons, was not interested in doing that, so he just left and came to America with his brother. My mother was the youngest of, I believe, seven children, and there was a book that has photographs and the entire history of the town... We used to go there every summer for two weeks and stay at different Aunt and Uncle's houses. I'd just feel like a farm boy for two weeks. Paul and I would do that. We'd cut corn and I'd throw bales of hay on the truck. It was just totally relaxed farm life of the late 1950's and early 60's, totally different from living in the Bronx.

KF: You are Ace's older brother, and have a sister Nancy, what's the age split?
CF: I'm a year older than Paul, and Nancy is six years older than him.

KF: It's often been said that your parents had a musical household, in what way, and how was music a part of your family life growing up?
CF: My father played piano all the time. He had studied classical music for many years. He had planned on being a professional musician, but the depression hit and his mother got ill and he was a student at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, and I believe he had to drop out of school to come home to take care of his ailing mother. He never finished graduating and he was never able to pursue his musical dream. But he was also an incredible mathematician and engineer and he was just great with numbers.

He ended up making a living as an engineer winding various types of motors and designing transformers and motors for various companies. He worked for elevator companies for many years doing all their work. An elevator motor burns out, bring it to Carl, he fixes it, and it runs forever. He was just very very good at what he did and he worked until he was 84 years old winding elevator motors... The only reason he stopped doing it was that the company moved out of the city - they moved from the Bronx up to Pelham, which is right across the northern border of New York City and the building they were moving into did not allow for space for a mechanic's shop, so he was just out of the picture. So he needed a job. One of the customers of this company offered an 84 year old engineer a job, unfortunately they could only find a space in the basement, and he was unwilling to work all day in a place that had no windows or ventilation and he ended up retiring.

And gradually, within a few years, his health began to decline, and then one hospital stay led to another, and then he had a minor stroke. And then he was in his upper 80's. We had a snowstorm and he lived a good 2 miles from where he worked and he walked there, in the snow to get to work, and he was 83, because you don't miss a day of work. He was born in 1903... there was only one way to do it, he'd tell me, the right way.

Jerry and I are on top of things, we try to be good husbands and good parents and good workers, and everything works out. We don't find many obstacles. The only real obstacle we've had has been trying to promote ourselves in a way that's going to get us some attention. I've never thought of utilizing my brother for that. He's never approached me with really wanting to do that or been receptive to the idea. He does what he does, and I do what I do.

KF: I guess it's nice when the 'other side' come knocking wanting to talk to you and hear about you and your music because it's been well known for a while that you played guitar, that there's a rumor that you used to give Paul some lessons early on?
CF: We learned how to play guitar together. Right around 1964/5, when the Beatles were just doing everything, just turning music around. Everyone wanted to grow their hair long and play guitar so Paul and I both did that around the same time. It's just my orientation was to learn chords and learn how to strum, and he right away, he didn't want to deal with chords, he just wanted to pick out the notes and turn the volume on the amp all the way up to the top. That's all he wanted to do. Even before he could really play, that's all he wanted to do!

We all went through some growing pains, my ears are still a little sore from that! But he learned quick and within a year he was so, without lessons, proficient. It was just amazing. There was this one song we played by this group The Blues Magoos, they had a song, "We Ain't Got Nothing Yet", and there was this little guitar instrumental part [raising scale], and after one year, self-taught, he nailed that perfectly. He was like 15 years old and he was playing with that kind of dexterity. Just natural talent. And then between Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, and all those guys that became so popular in the late sixties... He was in bands playing all their music and he just developed his chops using them as a baseline and then he just developed his own style. He had great music to learn from and it was just a great time in music when there was a lot of great stuff being produced.

KF: The British Invasion...
CF: He was covering all of them, just playing in bands with 17/18 year old guys, playing at high school dances. He was playing Clapton music, stuff from Cream, and Zeppelin stuff. It was all covers. But it taught him the subtleties of rhythm and was a good school to go to!

KF: Now, were you ever in bands with him?
CF: Yeah, a couple, very early on when we were still in high school together. We were in a band called the Micro Organism, what can I tell you! That's what it was called. And we didn't gig much, we just actually practiced for a while and then it just kind of fell apart. We were just young kids. I was like 16, Paul was 15. I brought him in to play lead, and a drummer, a friend I knew from my school. It was just kid's stuff. But I'd already seen that Paul was really on his way to being a great great guitar player. That's all he wanted to do. He said, "I'm gonna make it, I'm gonna make it".

And he just stuck with it. I stuck with it in the sense that I was going to school, I went to college, and I ended up switching my major from physics to music. And I took a full time music curriculum for two years at Bronx Community College, and I graduated with a two year associate degree in music. I studied classical guitar and had to do frequent recitals. I passed the curriculum with no problem because music was just easy for me. And then I went to City College and I got almost up to the end of my senior year but financial pressures and my daughter was a couple of years old, it was 1975 when I dropped out before I finished. I got up within 12 credits of a BA. But a lot of responsibilities and it was a hard time for money, and I just couldn't handle the workload.

KF: In the early days, did you ever run into Larry and Sue Kelly?
CF: I knew him and he was Paul's lead singer for a good long time... I can't really remember the name of the band [Ed. Some of Ace's early bands included The Exterminators, The Four Roses, Muff Divers, Honey & The Magic People]. But I remember going to many gigs and hanging out with Larry.

KF: Now, once Ace got into bands like Molimo, did you ever get to hear any of that material?
CF: I went to see him at the Village Gate play with Molimo one time and it was a soft sort of band, kind of reminiscent of Spanky & Our Gang with a female lead singer. That poppy kind of sound. Paul would play lead on some songs, he would play acoustic on other songs. He was always into ballsey heavy metal. Zeppelin was the ultimate. That kind of thing you see with KISS, the punchy strong rock rhythms that he could play his wailing lead guitar to. So Molimo really didn't cut it for him. It was just something to do until the opportunity came along. And that was when he saw the ad in the paper... He went to the loft on 23rd Street and the rest was history.

KF: Did you ever see KISS?
CF: Oh yeah, sure, over the years many times. Back in the 70's the limo would pick us up and we'd be treated like royalty. And we'd go to the pre-concert catered gig, and afterwards there was always a party. We had one party in a health club on East 56th Street - they rented out the whole health club for the party and we were sitting around the pool. They once rented out a ballet school somewhere off 5th Avenue somewhere in the 70's between 5th and Madison. This really post, beautiful building, with high ceilings, so we had the KISS after-concert party there. It was a lot of fun.

KF: Apparently your father gave Ace his first guitar on his 14th birthday...
CF: I guess that would be that Zimgar starburst that he had. It had terrible action, it was awful. I think the first real good guitar he got was a knock-off on a Stratocaster, that wasn't a Fender, but another brand. Ultimately, it was Les Paul all the way. When he saw Jimmy Page playing a Les Paul and Eric Clapton playing a Les Paul, that was it. He would always get his guitars and take them a part, he would d take out the pickups and look at everything, and understand how everything worked, and then he'd put them back together again. Then he'd take day glow paint. He was an artist. He told me in the 80's that he was thinking about publishing some of his computer graphics stuff. But he would always take his guitars, and using day glow paint, he would just paint them. And we'd have black lights and the guitars would glow. He was always into art.

KF: How often do you gig with 'The Bridge'?
CF: We play locally in Borders Books and Barnes & Noble frequently. We've been recently working on material and we're starting to schedule gigs. April's all filled up. We have one showcase in March. Right now we're spending time contacting new venues in our area. There's a place called the Minstrel Coffee House in New Jersey which is a very nice venue, which some big names play out of on a regular basis. It's a well run organization. We've approached them and we're going to be trying to at least start as an opening act there. And maybe there's some KISS fans in New Jersey interested in coming to see us.

KF: Since I don't want to take up your whole day, what are your plans for the Bridge?
CF: We want people to hear our music, because we think that there's lot to offer in our music. My partner's trying to get us noticed . Through the KISS website, and generating some activity. This might translate into some KISS fans coming to our shows. We're doing a showcase at Sam Goody's Store in Roosevelt Field on Long Island on March 17th. We're looking to make some appearances on some local Television shows. Ace has a brother who plays a totally different sort of music. There's this connection, that might be a point of interest.

I'd like to give thanks to Charley for taking the time to talk about his music, his family, and his and his brother's youth. If you'd like to check out more information about the Bridge band, visit their website at http://www.thebridgeband.com/ where you can find out more about the band's live dates. The CD is available from:


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