Katherine Turman | Village Voice
Two Naked Cowboys, one Spanish-speaking SpongeBob, a headless Hello Kitty, and an ersatz version of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” all vie for attention on a teeming, muggy, late-summer Times Square afternoon. Unbeknownst to the masses, though, the coolest cartoon character of all is dining on salmon sushi on the second floor of nearby Bluefin restaurant. Ace Frehley, Kiss’s onetime Spaceman, is still spacey after all these years: to wit, his just-released solo record, entitled Space Invader. It’s the 63-year-old guitar icon’s fifth solo outing since his self-titled effort back in 1978.
Frehley, in sunglasses and a striped button-down shirt, flashes back to that moment before the coordinated September 18, 1978, release of all four Kiss solo efforts. “We all had a big meeting sitting around the table prior to going our separate ways for those records, and the others were a little cynical to me, kind of hinting, ‘Hey, if you need any help, we’re here if you need us.’ As if I did need help, you know?” remembers Frehley with a slight hint of aggro. “It kind of just put fuel on the fire for me to work twice as hard on my solo record. We all know what happened.”
What happened was Frehley’s nine-song LP was both the critics’ favorite and best-selling of the solo discs (it went Platinum), thanks in part to a song that would become his hallmark, the Russ Ballard (Argent)-penned stomp-along anthem “New York Groove.” On August 12, some 37 years after he first recorded it, Frehley sat in with the Roots to play the song on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, the band laughingly following Frehley’s orders — “I think it’s just a cunt-hair faster,” he instructed between commercial breaks in his trademark nasal Noo Yawk drawl, as the tuba blatted out the tune’s signature riff.
Three or four times during the course of recording Space Invader, which took 10 months, Frehley “sat down and threw on my old ’78 solo album. I tried to take elements from that record and incorporate into this new record, because fans are always psyched that it’s their favorite Ace record.”
See also: Photos: Ace Frehley’s Space Invader Listening Party
One of those fans is Tom Morello, the revolutionary Rage Against the Machine guitarist who inducted Kiss into the Hall of Fame in 2014 with an elegant, on-the-money speech and was the band’s biggest champion in the behind-closed-doors nominating committee meetings. “I don’t think anyone, even the members of Kiss, would argue that Ace’s ['78 solo album] was the best one. It was fantastic,” Morello says. “His core sensibility was that he just wanted to rock, he had no artistic pretense, there was no aiming for hits, and it was just a great rock ‘n’ roll dude making a rock record.”