An Interview With Jeremy Asbrock Of The Ace Frehley Band

Jeremy Asbrock Interview

Jeremy Asbrock Photography by Seteve Stierwalt

An Interview with Jeremy Asbrock of the Ace Frehley Band

By Andrew Daly

Few players exude the level of joy, professionalism, and love for their craft as guitarist Jeremy Asbrock.

Some know him through his current work with Rock City Machine Co.; others first experienced Asbrock’s fine playing via the John Corabi Band. But Asbrock’s biggest claim to fame may be through his work as an essential member of Gene Simmons’ and Ace Frehley’s solo bands.

With Simmons placing his solo band on hold, Asbrock has been playing nearly exclusively with Frehley’s band, handily covering the quintessential work of past Frehley cohorts Paul Stanley, Tod Howarth, and Richie Scarlet.

To say that Asbrock and his bandmates have been a revelation for Frehley would be an understatement, seeing as the veteran guitarist appears reinvigorated by the trio of Asbrock, Ryan Cook, and Philip Shouse, along with drummer Matt Starr.

As he continues to live out his dream, Asbrock took a moment with me to recollect his love affair with both the guitar and KISS, the latest music he’s working on with Rock City Machine Co., working with Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, and more.

What first inspired you to pick up the guitar?

Actually, it was Ace Frehley and Gene Simmons [Laughs]. I didn’t really know the difference between lead and bass guitar at that age, but I thought they were so cool that I wanted to play guitar. KISS was the first band I ever liked, and sides three and four of Alive II was the first record I ever bought. Ace’s impact on my playing cannot be understated. As I got older, I started listening to the same players that he listened to as well. When given a chance to play lead guitar, it’s impossible not to hear a little of Ace in my playing.

Who were your primary influences, and who influences you most today?

Edward Van Halen was the guitarist that probably inspired me the most, even though you’d be hard-pressed to hear him in my playing. He made me aim high because playing like him didn’t sound possible. He looked like he was having as much fun as possible playing. His rhythm playing probably had a bigger effect on me than his lead playing. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison because they took me to places other than bar chords. Jimmy Page, Joe and Brad, Pete Townshend, and Jeff Beck have shaped my style. Zal Cleminson from the Sensational Alex Harvey Band is one of my all-time favorites. These players all still inspire me. That’s why they are the greats.

Do current trends alter your style and technique at all?

I quit paying attention to trends when hair metal ended, and grunge took over. I’ve always just kind of liked what I liked. I don’t know if it’s even necessarily staying true to my roots. I play like the music I like to listen to. There are some different styles that I’ve gotten into through my journey as a guitar player, but nothing that really took over my style since I am pretty much a rock ‘n’ roll guitar player.

How did you first become involved with Ace Frehley’s band?

When I was playing guitar in Gene Simmons’ solo band, we did a tour of Australia, and Ace was the opener for the show. Ace asked Gene if he could use us, as it was too expensive for him to take his band over for the shows. Gene agreed, if Ace asked us, and we agreed (that wasn’t hard). It was also arranged for us to go to Japan immediately after Australia with Ace while over there. Ace asked if we would be his band on that upcoming KISS Kruise. Gene knew KISS’s End of the Road Tour was on the horizon, so he and other people in Ace’s world suggested he take us on full-time, so that was that.

What are the best parts about being in Ace’s band? Is it a challenge covering the aspects of Tod Howarth and Richie Scarlet?

The best part is that it’s the easiest gig you could give me, Ryan [Cook], and Phil [Shouse]. We are huge KISS fans. I’ve been listening to that music my whole life, so playing it is as natural as it gets. My approach is to play stuff exactly like the fans know it, so that’s not really a challenge. I have no interest in injecting my own “style” into any of Ace’s music. This isn’t about me or my ego. If we are doing any of Tod or Richie’s songs, I’ll play it just like they did.

What songs do you most enjoy playing live?

While I like doing Ace’s solo material for the fans that really want to hear it, I really love playing the classic KISS stuff. Ace wrote those iconic solos, so to get to hear them nightly, standing right beside him, is as cool as it gets. It’s what set my path, and the gravity of that is not lost on me. It keeps me in touch with my inner child.

Ace aside, which KISS guitarist is your favorite and why? Do you like the current lineup?

I wasn’t a huge fan of the guitar players as much as the band, but I can say Revenge is my favorite non-makeup album. Bob Ezrin worked Bruce [Kulick] very hard, and you can hear the results. I support the current lineup. KISS has a complicated relationship that I have no business forming an opinion on. I think it’s great that they have different lineups that span 50 years that people of all ages are still discovering and latching on to. Having said that, ’70s KISS is my KISS.

What guitars do you use? Do you prefer vintage or new?

I’ve been working with a brand called Vintage for the past six years. They make great, affordable guitars, and they’ve been very good to me. Some of their guitars play as well as any guitar I’ve ever played. Vintage (as in age) are great to play, but there’s too much risk in taking them out, and I don’t have the budget or space to be a collector. I have a 1977 Gibson RD Standard and a 1993 Cherry Sunburst Les Paul Standard that I love equally. The Les Paul is the one that made me love Les Paul’s and was my first, which I didn’t own until 2013. I had always gravitated toward Firebird-type shapes until I got my Les Paul. Those are my two “nice” guitars.

What amps and other gear are you using? Are you okay with Kemper’s, or do you prefer tube amps?

I do own a Kemper, and it’s my main amp these days. I love tube amps, but maintaining them got to be a headache, not to mention the weight of hauling them around. I worked with Orange Amps for years and still use them if I need that kind of thing. I can tell the difference in small venues. Tube amps will always win. But in big venues, you can’t tell the difference by the time it hits your ears through the PA. I use Michael Britt profilers almost exclusively. I have a ’68 Marshall profile that I lean on for most stuff.

Are you a pedal addict? If so, which do you like?

I’m not a pedal addict [Laughs]. I like to keep it simple. If I need one these days, I like TC Electronics because of its size and weight (or lack thereof). EVH has great pedals. Electro Harmonix and Dunlop as well. I like the classics if I really need one.

What other music are you working on? 

Ryan, Phil, and I have made an 8-song record produced by Marti Frederiksen (Aerosmith/Ozzy/Mötley Crüe) under the name Rock City Machine Co. (RCMC). It sounds like all the bands we love. It sounds new but very familiar. The first single, “Can’t Stop the Train,” is out now on all streaming platforms. Vinyl and CDs are at the printer now. We plan to scatter single releases until we can release the physical product.

Can you tell us anything about Ace’s new record and what your role will be?

All I know is that Ace has been working with Steve Brown from Trixter. They both live in New Jersey, not too far from each other, making it easy for them to work together. I’ve heard one song that was very good. I’m not involved, so there’s not really anything I can offer about it.

What’s next for you in all lanes?

The plan is to push Rock City Machine Co. as hard and far as possible. There will be live shows in the future. Gene Simmons has messaged us and expressed interest in continuing where we left off when KISS wraps up. I won’t count my chickens before they hatch, though. Ace has shows booked through 2023, so I’ll continue playing with him. I’m always open-minded because I’d like to think the KISS world isn’t the end of the musical road for me. It has certainly been an honor to become part of their musical tree twice over, though.

Jeremy Asbrock Interview

Jeremy Asbrock Photography by Seteve Stierwalt

Jeremy Asbrock Interview

Jeremy Asbrock & Ace Frehley –
Photography by Bob Dehart

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