When Ace Frehley Got Upstaged After Trading Signature Sound for Free Gear
Ace Frehley reflected on the time he traded in his signature guitar sound in return for free guitars and amps – and very soon regretted the move.
It happened around 1987, as the Kiss co-founder released his Frehley’s Comet album. As part of the promotional activity he was approached by Washburn, who wanted to build a custom guitar for him. That let to the uncomfortable experience of being upstaged at one of his own shows.
“Washburn got a hold of me, and they offered me a big deal,” Frehley said in a recent episode of Shred With Shifty. “They made a special guitar for me. They gave me a dozen fuckin’ stacks of [Laney] amps. And I said, ‘Hey, free equipment. I love it!’”
As it turned out, there wasn’t so much to love. “The guitar sounded like shit,” he said of the AF-40V, which can be seen in his video for “Into the Night” below, and was only on sale for a single year. “I remember this vividly – I was headlining and I think we had the group the Donnas or one of those female bands.
“And they were using Marshall amps and the chick had a Les Paul. And I said, ‘Shit! That’s my sound! I can’t get it out of this Washburn and these fucking Laney amps!”
Ace Frehley Says There’s No Formula for His Signature Sound
Frehley soon came up with a solution: “I just replaced all the amps with Marshalls, broke off my deal with Washburn and started playing Les Pauls again,” he said. “That’s the magic combination, as far as I’m concerned, for any hard rock guitarist.”
In a recent interview with Guitar World – when he discussed upcoming album 10,000 Volts – Frehley noted: “People always ask me about my formula, and I don’t have one. Since I was a kid, I’ve stuck with the same thing: just me plugging a Gibson Les Paul into a Marshall amp cranked to 10!
“People always tell me my tone is so distinct and recognizable; but it’s more that I know how to adjust the pickups and how to get the harmonics I did.”
Watch Ace Frehley’s ‘Into the Night’ Video
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Gallery Credit: Matthew Wilkening