Former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley will headline the Patchogue Theatre...

Former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley will headline the Patchogue Theatre on March 3. Credit: Jay Gilbert

Original KISS member Ace Frehley has served as an inspiration for generations of guitar players. Newsday spoke with the 70 year-old Bronx-born axeman, ahead of his March 3 gig at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, about building his signature smoking guitar, the origin of his anthem, "New York Groove" and KISS’ early days on Long Island.

You’ve been on a tear since 2009. To what do you attribute this burst of creativity?

It’s probably my sobriety as I’m 15 years sober now. When you are drinking you think you need alcohol to be creative and come up with ideas, but in reality I’m more creative and have more drive without it. Alcohol is a depressant, sobriety is a motivator.

In 1978, each member of KISS released a solo album on the same day. Yours was by far the most successful. Did that cause tension in the band?

Not really. But it kind of made me realize that I was more creative away from those guys. It was then that the writing was on the wall for me that I would eventually end up going solo.

On the first four KISS albums you wrote material but you didn’t get behind the mic until album number six, 1977’s "Love Gun." How come it took so long?

The guys started pushing me in that direction. When I wrote "Shock Me" they thought it was the perfect song for me to do live. To this day I still don’t think I’m a great singer. My first and foremost thing is playing guitar. Since I don’t have a lead singer in my band, I sing. The fact that I have a Bronx accent makes my voice very recognizable.

Your song, "New York Groove" became and remains an anthem for the city that's played at ballgames and rallies. What is it about that song that gets people going?

I don’t know because I didn’t write it! (laughs) To be honest, I didn’t even want to record the song because I didn’t think it was very indicative of the other tracks on the record. My producer Eddie Kramer pushed me to do that song because he felt it was commercial sounding and had the possibility of becoming a hit — he was spot on. Things just kind of happen the way they are supposed to happen, I guess. I don’t put a lot of thought into the things I do, I just kind of let them happen organically. I find I do my best work that way.

What direction is your new studio album of original material heading?

It will be my signature style of guitar playing, which hasn’t changed in 45-50 years. I’m collaborating with an old friend of mine I grew up with in the Bronx, Peppy Castro from the Blues Magoos. He was an inspiration for me as a teenager. I remember going to the beach and hearing his music on the radio. He lived two blocks from me and I thought if he could do it, I could too. He made a career in rock and roll seem attainable to me.

What is the origin of your smoking guitar?

It was just an idea I came up with one day. I put a smoke bomb inside the cavity of my Les Paul where the volume and tone controls are. I lit it with a cigarette lighter and smoke came out of the pickups but it started to gum up the controls and I burned my leg a few times. I ended up developing one with a fake dummy rhythm pick up and redesigned it with an engineer. I used to use smoke bombs, now I use miniature fog machines inside the guitar.

Would you consider taking part in KISS’ final show?

I don’t know. That would have to be negotiated with attorneys. It’s not something I’m holding my breath for. If they want to go out with Tommy Thayer [Frehley's replacement in KISS who wears his makeup and space character costume] that’s their business. I don’t think the fans want that but pretty much Paul [Stanley, KISS vocalist/guitarist] and Gene [Simmons, KISS vocalist/bassist] call all the shots. It is what it is.

Do you remember when KISS used to play The Daisy in Amityville?

Yeah, that’s where we started. Those were interesting times because we were trying to figure out who we were. Our makeup would change from evening-to-evening. We were developing the image that eventually became internationally famous. It’s where we experimented and it was a good place to do it because we were removed from Manhattan and not under a microscope. Sometimes there would only be 50 people in the crowd!

ACE FREHLEY

WHEN/WHERE 8 p.m., March 3, Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, 71 East Main Street, Patchogue

INFO 631-207-1313, patchoguetheatre.org

ADMISSION $41-$81

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