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
John Storyk (2013)
Renowned studio designer recalls his work on Ace Frehley's Ace in the Hole Studios in Wilton, CT
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
Ron Nevison (2012)
A celebration of the 25th anniversary of "Crazy Nights" featuring an in-depth discussion with renowned producer/engineer
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
Non-KISS Band Members
Derrek Hawkins (2011)
KISS fan and former rhythm guitarist in Ace Frehley's band recalls his stint with the Spaceman on tour and recording "Anomaly"
Art Lindauer (2011)
Guitarist/vocalist discusses working with a pre-KISS Eric Carr in the cover band trio Flasher.
Adam Mitchell (2010)
Songwriter/collaborator recalls working with KISS, Vinnie Vincent and writing songs on "Killers," "Creatures Of The Night," "Crazy Nights," and more.
Bobby Rock (2010)
Powerhouse drummer recalls his wild ride with the Vinnie Vincent Invasion.
Rich Circell (2008)
Lead singer discusses working with Ace Frehley in pre-KISS band Honey.
Mike McLaughlin (2006)
Guitarist on his personal musical path and work with Peter Criss, Criss' "One For All" album, and much more
John Henderson (2004)
Musician shares his memories of collaborating with a young Paul Caravellos (Eric Carr) and his memories of Carr's pre-KISS bands
Neal Teeman (2003)
Uncle Joe drummer discusses working with Paul Stanley in pre-KISS band formed in 1966 and assistant engineering "Alive!"
Victor Cohen (2002)
Rhythm guitarist/keyboard player discusses working with Eric Carr in the Cellarmen
David Bartky (2002)
Bassist recalls his musical beginnings and collaborating with Eric Carr in the Cellarmen
Phil Naro (2002)
First lead vocalist of Criss recalls work with Peter Criss and ex-KISS guitarist Mark St. John
Jason Ebs (2002)
Final lead vocalist of Criss discusses his musical background and working with Peter Criss just before KISS' reunion in 1996
Robert "Bob" Pryor (2001)
Guitarist discusses his musical influences and working with Eric Carr in the Cellarmen
Ron Leejack (2000)
Wicked Lester guitarist recalls collaborating with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley prior to KISS
Ross Berg (2012)
A detailed conversation with the author of "Gene Simmons: A Rock 'N Roll Journey In The Shadow Of The Holocaust."
Paul Grein (2012)
Yahoo Chart Watch blogger and certified chart expert provides a current breakdown and analysis of KISS' Nielsen SoundScan totals.
Larry Harris (2009)
Former Casablanca executive dishes on his must-read book, "And Party Every Day: The Inside Story Of Casablanca Records."
Todd Schorr (2004)
Artist discusses designing the album cover for Peter Criss' first post-KISS solo effort, 1980's "Out Of Control."
Charles Frehley (2001)
Brother of Ace Frehley discusses his sibling and his own musical career.
Two years ago today marked the return of Ace Frehley with the release of "Anomaly." (Has it already been two years?) As with each KISS member-related album release, fans' opinions remain divided and every minute detail has been dissected. Factually speaking, Ace's musical comeback turned out to be the highest charting of any original members' latter day solo albums, with "Anomaly" scoring a debut at No. 27 on the Billboard 200. And like most projects, Ace received many assists from the band members, musicians, studio professionals, and various people behind the scenes who contributed to the album. Most importantly, Ace found himself back on the beam in terms of his health and sobriety.
Talkin' Ace And Anomaly
By Tim McPhate
Enter Derrek Hawkins, a Westchester, N.Y.-born musician who grew up as a big fan of KISS and Ace's guitar work and ultimately found himself, in an interesting twist of fate, playing in Ace's band. "He was one of the coolest f***ing people to work with, ever," says Hawkins. In addition to being his touring rhythm guitarist, Hawkins proved to be an indispensable part of Ace's team, acting as a creative sounding board, attending all recording sessions and doing everything in the studio from setting up drum mics in the wee hours of the morning to working up demos and playing rhythm guitar.
KissFAQ chatted with Hawkins about what it's like to grow up as a KISS fan and find yourself playing next to Ace onstage, his take on the "Anomaly" album, and the inside scoop on why he wouldn't have picked "Outer Space" as the lead single, among other topics.
KissFAQ: Derrek, thanks for taking time to talk to us today.
Derrek Hawkins: My pleasure.
KF: I'm betting you may have been a big KISS fan growing up? What's your KISS story?
DH: My dad got me into KISS when I was 5 years old in 1975. [We] bought "The Originals" and for a 5-year-old kid, that was the ultimate! [They were] superheroes and they actually played music. And they were from New York, and that was huge for me.
KF: What inspired you initially to pick up the guitar? And when did you start playing the instrument?
DH: Of course, Ace was my first influence.
KF: I figured (laughs).
DH: Yeah, he was. I have blonde hair and it always made me mad that KISS had black hair and I never had black hair, and I could never understand that as a kid. But, Ace was my guy when I picked up the guitar. It was probably just like any other kid in the '70s, from '75 when I first heard them until 1980 -- that was all I cared about. I didn't like baseball [or anything else], except maybe "The Incredible Hulk." Other than that, it was KISS.
KF: After the KISS fixation, what other bands did you eventually get into?
DH: I got into Ozzy and Randy Rhoads. That was my next one. And after that, I kind of got into the Smiths and Echo & The Bunnymen and that kind of stuff as I got older. I had my own band and we were really into Suede and the Brit pop stuff. I was really into Bernard Butler from Suede for a long time, and Johnny Marr from the Smiths. That was basically my diet for the next 20 years.
KF: Putting you on the spot, what are your top 5 KISS albums?
DH: Top 5 KISS albums? Definitely "Dressed To Kill," "Destroyer," "Alive!," "Hotter Than Hell," and "Rock And Roll Over."
KF: Can't go wrong with the classic stuff.
DH: Yeah. I was totally full on into them in the later part of the '70s, but I think once I was older and revisited it, I really like them up to 1976. They were dangerous and scary, almost kind of like the way Marilyn Manson was when he came out. When you look back at them up to 1976, to me it was a different band. Ace was on fire. When you watch "KISSology," those 1975 and 1976 concerts, he's on fire. They were a dangerous rock band.
KF: Definitely. My favorite show from that era is Winterland '75 in black and white. The whole band is feeling it and Ace is totally dialed in.
DH: He really was. His moves...he was almost like Jimi Hendrix. You could tell he was a Hendrix fan because he had all the moves down. And his vibrato was second to none. A lot of people don't give him credit for that. That's one thing when I started playing with him, it was almost like being a little kid again. When he would go into a solo, [the drummer] Scotty [Coogan] and I would look at each other and go, "He's doing it! He's doing it!"
KF: Being a fan, it must have been quite the turnabout to actually find yourself working with Ace?
DH: Yeah, and the funny thing is I lived probably 5 minutes from him my whole life! And in the '80s we had local bands and local bars, and Ace was a staple at the local bars. He would be known for getting onstage. And Richie Scarlet was from the area. And I never met them. Every one of my friends had a KISS story, or an Ace story. Whether he was drunk at the bar or got onstage with a band. And I was the only one who was really into him and never got to meet him. So when we started playing together, he said, "Derrek, where did you grow up?" I said, "I grew up in Bedford." He's like, "How did we not run into each other?!" I was always more about practicing my guitar so I really was never into that bar scene. But once we started working together and I got over the initial, "Wow, it's Ace Frehley," he was one of the coolest f***ing people to work with, ever.
KF: That's a nice segue. You started playing with Ace in 2007. How did you land the gig?
DH: Anthony [Esposito], the bass player, and I were really good friends in New York City. I was living in the city at the time, and we played in a couple of local bands together. Anthony connected with Ace through his jeweler at the time -- they were both in Alcoholics Anonymous. And his jeweler thought it would be a good idea for him to work with Ace because Ace was just kind of getting his act together at that time and needed some good people around him. I wasn't in Alcoholics Anonymous, but I had my head on my shoulders and I was a good guy, and Anthony and I were good friends. Anthony called all his friends to come in and try out when Ace decided to put a band together. There were guitar players from every local band in New York and they all looked like KISS or Nikki Sixx. And I walked in looking like Johnny Rotten and not looking anything like who would be in the band. Anthony just pulled for me and he got me the gig. I'm not even sure if Ace thought I was the right guy for the band, but Anthony pulled for me and said, "This is my boy."
KF: Going into "Anomaly," were you attending studio sessions with Ace for the album?
DH: Pretty much every day. Before I even joined the band, they had the basic rhythm tracks for the album done. Anthony, Ace and Anton [Fig] were working together because Anthony had a recording studio in Manhattan and that was kind of like a cool place for Ace to go and work. They had all the basic tracks for "Pain In The Neck" and "Sister" -- all that stuff was basically recorded. I guess they got those tracks done and Ace had his studio out in Westchester and said, "I want to do out there and do the rest of the record at my house," so he could be comfortable in his own environment and do his guitar solos and his vocals. His studio was down at the end of the driveway so he could wake up and walk to the studio and hang out there and be relaxed. It really worked out well for him.
KF: On a 1-10 scale, how involved on the album would you say you were?
DH: Well it would depend by what you mean by "involved." I was more of a cheerleader because Ace was playing guitar -- he really didn't need any other people playing guitar. This was one of the great things about Ace, he was one of those guys who didn't have to ask anyone for their opinion, and he would turn to me and go, "What do you think of this? Or, "What do you think of that?" He would even go so far as, "Do you want to play guitar on something?" I was like, "Ace, it's your record. Nobody wants to hear me play guitar on it, whether its a rhythm track or something like that." He was serious, "I want to get you on this record." I said, "I appreciate it, man," but I swear to God I couldn't add anything that he wouldn't already have done. He really wanted everybody who was there to be involved in some way. The only thing that I really had a lot of involvement with was "Outer Space," which I don't think was even the best song on the record.
KF: You played rhythm guitar on that track?
DH: Yeah. Actually, I demoed the whole thing. His assistant [at the time] Frank Munoz had this group of friends who had a song. And that's the thing about Ace, he was open to anything. His ego wasn't so big to say, "Nah, I didn't write this so I'm not gonna do it." He was like, "No, bring it in." He would even ask me, "Derrek, got any demos?" And he would listen to them, and sincerely listen to them. It wasn't lip service.
So this "Outer Space" song came in, and I don't really know if Ace was too into it. But people were like, "This is up your alley, it's called 'Outer Space'..." He said, "Ah, I don't know what I can do with this." So, myself and Alex Salzman, one of the engineers, who is also a great musician, we took it up to his studio and did a whole demo of it. We ripped it apart and put it back together and tried to make it a little more contemporary for Ace. When we got the demo, it was very Monster Magnet-y. We turned it around, and I don't even know if we made it Ace-style, but we played it for him and he said, "Ah, it's not really my cup of tea." He had plenty of great songs, and then a couple of months later toward the end of the record, we threw it back up again, and everybody was, "Damn, this sounds badass!" So, that's when Ace was like, "Alright." And then seriously, Tim, he went in the studio and he was like, "Just throw up a vocal mic." And this was with a drum machine playing the drums, and he went in and he busted the vocals out in two takes. Two takes.
KF: No kidding.
DH: Two takes. It was the eeriest thing because he was sitting in the control room with us and he's like, (mimics Ace's voice) "Ah...." He goes in there and all of the sudden Ace Frehley comes out of the monitor. It sounded like "Rip It Out" or something like that. After he did that, we had Anton come up. None of us were really such great engineers, we took the whole night setting up the drums because Anton was coming up to play drums on the track. And it was a nightmare. We were there -- I got there at 8 and [we were] there until like 6 in the morning, setting drums up. I was sitting there playing the drums to get the sounds, and Ace was yelling at me, (mimics Ace voice) "Hit 'em f***ing harder!" I was like, "Dude, it's like 5 in the morning. He said, "I don't f***ing care. Anton's coming here. Hit 'em harder!"
DH: It was funny. And then I was like, "I got to go home and get some rest." I went home and fell asleep for an hour or two, and then I went back to Ace's house and Anton did the drums.
KF: That's interesting how Ace seemed hesitant about "Outer Space." I'm curious, if you had your choice, what song should have been the lead single off "Anomaly"?
DH: "Sister," absolutely. Or "Foxy And Free." The thing is though, "Foxy And Free" would have been my choice for the first single. It used to be called "Hard For Me." And the lyrics were instead of (sings) "Foxy...and free," it was, "You make it hard...for me." And that lyric was so much better, and, I don't know why, [but] Ace wanted to change it so bad. That would have been awesome had he kept the lyric the same way.
KF: Whose idea was it to do the backwards guitar solo on "Outer Space"?
DH: That was Ace's idea. Again, I don't think Ace was really so into that song. He was just trying to do anything to make it interesting. He originally did a backwards guitar solo on "Speedin' Back To My Baby," and he was very proud of that. And I think he was trying to go for something sort of like that. I don't know what other people think of that solo, but I think he was like, "Ah, let's just try this." I think he did that song more for what other people were telling him to do.
KF: How was Ace in terms of taking suggestions in the studio?
DH: If we said, "Ace, why don't you just sing it this way," or, "Why don't you maybe cut that verse or go to this key change?" -- he was always open for it. Always. I'm telling you, he was one of the easiest people to work with and I've worked with a lot of musicians over the years. When he walked in a room, like if we were doing a show or an appearance, you knew who the boss was. You know what I mean? I've never seen this before, Tim, I'm glad I did get to see it, because when he walked in it was like "Grease." You know when the rest of the T-Birds walk in a room and they're like goofs, and then when Kenickie and Zuko walk in the room, everything changes? (laughs) That's what it was like with Ace. He would walk in the room and all of the sudden, the Fonz showed up. But when we were behind the scenes, backstage, he was like, "What do you guys think about the set?" "What do you think we should do second?" He was very, very cool that way, but there was never any denying who the boss was when he walked in the room.
KF: Gotcha. Going into the solos on the album. There's a camp of fans who really like the album and the solos. But some have said they really don't sound like "classic Ace." What's your take?
DH: I agree [with the latter.] He was working with people who wanted him to excel, but, and I'll say this, I think having an outside producer would have probably pulled that out of him a little more. You know what I mean? He's great, believe me. He can play like Ace, like nobody else obviously, and sometimes that would come out. But a lot of times there's something to be said for somebody really pushing you hard. And he pushes himself really hard when it comes to that. Believe me, he takes it so seriously. But sometimes the guys in your band aren't the ones who are going to know how to make records like that and get the best out of you. Even with the "Outer Space" solo, he could have turned that around and did like the "Rip It Out" solo, which is f***ing monumental. He could have but.... And you know, there's some songs, like the "Genghis Khan" solo is f***ing amazing.
KF: That's my favorite song on the album.
DH: That solo... I remember sitting in the studio with he and Alex and we were listening to that and high-fiving each other because I never heard him modulate like that. And that's the thing, he could do it and he plays off the top of his head, but then he'll turn around and do it right again. He'll come up with a lick, and you're like, "Well, he's probably falling down the stairs and just landed on his feet." But he actually does it again.
KF: In commenting on the making of "Anomaly," Ace said that he was becoming quite proficient in Pro Tools. Did you have a hand in helping to get him up to speed?
DH: I think we both had a hand in helping each other out. Of course, I had my home Pro Tools studio setup and he'd be like, "Derrek, you know how to run Pro Tools?" I'm like, "Yeah." He goes, "Alright, then you're recording me tonight." I sat there and I was s***ting bricks. He's like, "Well, edit that part." I'm like, "Wait a second, dude. I'm not there yet. I can push record for you and tell you if it sounds good." (laughs)
But that gets back to some of the fans saying the guitar solos weren't classic Ace, I think if he had someone there the whole way through, like an assistant who was there that he trusted, he probably would have been able to let go of the reigns a little bit and relax and be a guitar player. Which I think he did more when Alex got involved, because Alex was a genius with Pro Tools and the first guy who actually walked in and Ace was like, "Alright, I trust you. Now I can sit back and just play."
KF: What about Marti Frederiksen? How did he enter the picture?
DH: Marti got involved when we were doing "Fox On The Run." That was, I think, the last track we did for the record. It was actually Mark Weiss, the photographer -- they were doing a photo shoot up at the house for the album cover -- and Mark's girlfriend suggested that Ace's voice sounded like the singer from Sweet, Brian Connolly.
DH: She said, "Your voice sounds just like his. 'Fox On The Run' would be so great for you do do." And Ace was like, (mimics Ace's voice) "Ah, you know, well when I did 'Do Ya' it was a suggestion from one of my band members and it didn't work out. I don't know if I want get involved with the bulls***." She was like, "No, but you actually sound just like him." And I've always thought that as well. So when they started working on the song, Ace said, "This actually sounds pretty f***ing cool." So they went with it.
KF: Ace has always done cool cover songs.
DH: "2,000 Man" was the best. I loved playing that song live.
KF: Ace's songs are one of the high points on "Dynasty."
DH: Ah, dude. I remember we were playing a show in Calgary on the first tour and it was the first time Anthony and I got into a fight. Well not a fight, but an argument. For the whole tour, I was pushing, "Can we please do '2,000 Man'? '2,000 Man!'" And every show we played, people would shout out for it. And Anthony was like, "We're not doing it. We're not doing it." And I was like, "Fuck that, man. We're not doing it!" We had this big argument about it. And that night we did it, and it was the biggest applause we got. So, it was stuck in the set from then on.
KF: Two years later, what other tracks on "Anomaly" stand out for you?
DH: "Pain In The Neck." "It's A Great Life," only because of the meaning behind it. It's about his father.
KF: That's right.
DH: I actually am getting choked up right now thinking about it, but when he played it for me, that whole chorus, "It's a great life if you don't weaken," that's a phrase his father always told him. And it's not a bull**** thing when he says, "My daddy told me." He would tell that story all the time so that song sticks out for me. People may not think it's the best song, but it's the meaning behind it that actually gets me. And "A Little Below The Angels" is one of the other ones, because he was so proud of it. He had it all mapped out the way he wanted it. Seriously Tim, he had it mapped out. "Ok, so this is going to happen here. My daughter is going to say something this here. And I'm going to do this here." And I was like, "If it happens, it happens." But it was one of those things, he actually pulled it off. He had a vision for it. And "Genghis Khan," absolutely.
KF: Into the subject of touring, Ace got back on the road in late 2007. He was sober and it was his first time being on the road in a few years. Were there any concerns about him being on the road?
DH: Nope. Not one. Not one. Like I said, I drink. I'll have a glass of wine. It was one of those things when I first joined the band, it was one of those no-nos, "You don't drink around Ace." And we were playing a show in Chicago and my girlfriend flew out to see us play and I wanted to spend an extra day with her but we were all going home. Ace was like, "Well look, Derrek, I'm staying here in Chicago. Why don't you just tack on another day and you can fly home with me." I was like, "That's great. Thanks, man!" So it was one of the first times I actually got to sit down and talk to Ace. We were sitting in the airport and were just shooting the s***. And we started talking about drinking and stuff. And I was like, "Maybe, I'll have a glass of wine." And he goes, "I thought this whole time you were sober because you never drink in front of me." I was like, "No." He said, "Derrek, I don't care if you drink. Have a drink. It doesn't bother me. I don't have to have one." So from then on, it was totally cool. I've never seen him have a problem with it, ever.
KF: That's awesome.
DH: He's committed to it. I know his life is better, I know he is in a happy place. He's got a wonderful girlfriend. It's one of those things where I think he realizes what it did to him, and he doesn't need it now. I think he thought he needed it before.
KF: How often did the band rehearse before a tour and during a tour?
DH: Like mind-numbingly....too much. It was a lot of rehearsing. Ace has got his s*** down and he wants to hear things the way he wants to hear them. Although, when we got onstage, you couldn't hear s*** because it was so loud.
KF: I was at the Viper Room show in September 2009 and that was a great gig. But thank goodness I had my ear plugs.
DH: Yep. It wasn't my guitar man. It was all him. (laughs) You heard a little mosquito in the background, that was my guitar.
KF: Did you feel that there was a point when the band started to gel live?
DH: After we did the Halloween show, the second show I did with him, we did a little mini tour that ended New Year's of 2008. We kind of got each other's gist then. You know, we're all good musicians. So if you play a long time and you understand rock and roll, you know what to listen for and you know who to follow. Scotty was the backbone so as long as you lock in to him, everything's cool. And Scotty locked into Ace so you really couldn't go wrong. As far as locking in, when Ace is on guitar, you can't hear anything else. It's like a friggin' jet going by.
KF: There was talk at some point about Ace performing "Dark Light" from "(Music From) The Elder." Was that ever formally rehearsed? And were there any other rarities rehearsed?
DH: Oh yeah. "Escape From The Island" we had down. "Dark Light" we had down. Ace and I figured that out together, all the guitar parts. We were going to start doing it with the band. I think we were going to try and do that in Japan and Australia. But we ended up not going to Japan and Australia so we didn't get around to doing it. Pretty much the whole '78 solo album we had down. We had "Fractured Mirror" -- Ace and I had "Fractured Mirror" down. There's actually a YouTube video of us playing it.
KF: Was that your idea to film that?
DH: No, that was actually Frank's idea. Frank was a really good idea guy.
KF: What about any Frehley's Comet stuff?
DH: There was talk about "Into The Night" and stuff like that. But I think coming back, he wanted to get back into the vibe of just the old rock and roll stuff.
KF: I was looking at the photo of that Halloween gig when the entire band got done up in Ace's makeup? Whose idea was that?
DH: Yeah, that was when we opened for Alice Cooper. I think that was Anthony's idea. Anthony contacted this girl out in L.A. who was a makeup artist and she did everybody's makeup. It was pretty quick too. It was pretty cool.
KF: What about the jump suits? Whose idea was that and what did you think of it?
DH: That was Anthony's idea. (laughs) I wasn't too psyched about the jumpsuits. That was one of the arguments Anthony and I would always have.
KF: Still have yours??
DH: Oh no. I left it on the bus. (laughs)
KF: It seems that Ace never mounted a proper full-scale comprehensive U.S. tour in support of "Anomaly" -- it was more a patchwork tour and scattered dates. Was there an attempt to do a full tour?
DH: I don't really know what happened. We did a small tour after the Alice Cooper gig. We did a small Midwest tour and went over to Europe between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Those are the last shows I played with them. Christmas came and Australia was coming up and there were some personal things I had to deal with so I couldn't continue on. I don't know if the wheels kind of fell off [the tour] or whatever, but it kind of lost momentum.
KF: I know you said it was personal, but can you talk about why you departed the band?
DH: There was a little bit of tension between Anthony and myself. And a lot of it had to do with the jumpsuits and the direction. It was really kind of corny. But it got to the point where I'd rather have kept my friendship going with Ace and the guys instead of having tension on the road. I'd rather stay friends. So I decided it was better for me to go home. And I left a lot of stuff undone here at home as far as my marriage and stuff. I had to come back and take care of things here.
KF: That's understandable. Was there a little part of you that was disappointed that you weren't continuing with the band?
DH: Um, no. When I left, I was like, "I got this out of my system. And I got to play with Ace, and we're friends." And I cherish that a lot. But maybe a couple of months later, I was like, "S***, man I shouldn't have quit." But I was basically playing KISS songs and it was a ton of fun for awhile. But if it's going to cause problems, like the personal things, than I'm not going to stick around for my ego and fight it. It was Ace's thing, it wasn't like a band. I mean it was a band, but it was his thing. And that's just what the focus should have just been on. That's what I wanted the focus on and other people really didn't understand that.
KF: Do you still talk to Ace? Have you kept in touch with him?
DH: Yeah, once in a while we'll chat. He'll send me a text. His girlfriend, Rachel, and I are friendly so she'll keep me updated on what's going on. I think he's out in San Diego now. I don't think he's living right down the road from me now.
KF: He seems to be bicoastal these days.
DH: I think he still has the house here. I'm not sure if he's living out here. The last time I saw him -- I guess it was July or August. He just gave me a call out of the blue and I went over to his house and had some pizza. It was good to see him -- I hadn't seen him in well over a year. And it was a nice to reconnect with him.
KF: One other question going back to "Anomaly." Of course, there was a bit of friendly competition with KISS releasing "Sonic Boom" about a month after "Anomaly." Was there any talk about this in Ace's camp? And what was the consensus on the album?
DH: Oh, of course. We were wondering what [their album] was going to be like. I was so deep into working with Ace at that time that of course I wanted to listen to it and see how Tommy Thayer played on it. I heard the first leak of whatever song it was they leaked out first.
KF: "Modern Day Delilah."
DH: Yeah, that one. Honestly, I just didn't like it. To be honest with you, Tim, I loved KISS. Loved them. Like I said, from the first album to, even up to "The Elder." I even liked "Unmasked." I think "Is That You?" is one of the best songs. That's a pretty kick-ass song.
KF: I like that one too. A guy named Gerard McMahon wrote that one.
DH: Really? I never knew that.
KF: Yeah. Paul really made it sound as if it was a KISS song.
DH: You know, I know we're talking about Ace right now. But I think Paul Stanley is the most underrated frontman in the world.
DH: He's the biggest rock star in the friggin' world. I'm a huge Paul Stanley fan too. When I was a kid, I loved Ace. But after I started listening to other things, but then I went back to it, I was like, "You know what, Paul Stanley is actually my favorite too."
KF: Paul and Ace's 1978 solo albums are neck and neck for me.
DH: That reminds me of another really cool thing about working with Ace. He would tell really cool stories about making his solo record back in '78. Save for a couple of songs -- I think Will Lee played bass on a couple of songs, but Ace played most of the bass on the record. And he still has the P-Bass that he played on that record. It's the best-sounding bass in the world. It's like a feather, it weighs nothing. And it's just the best-sounding bass. When we were doing demos for, I think, "A Little Below The Angels," and I was putting some bass down and I got to play that bass. I was like, "This thing is great!" And I was doing some of my demos at my house. I said, "Do you think I can borrow your bass?" He was like, "Yeah, take the one I did the '78 album with." I got to take it over to my house and use it for a couple of weeks. I swear to God, he was the coolest guy.
KF: Nice. So, back to "Sonic Boom," you didn't really dig "Modern Day Delilah"?
DH: Well, we heard it and we were like, "Well, it's not bad." (pauses) It's just not the KISS that I loved when I was a kid. And it could never be that again. Even putting the makeup on. Even "Psycho Circus" and what not. It just wasn't.... For me, I have a really high opinion of what I think they should be. It just lets me know that they were more than just the makeup. Because back in the '70s they were actually a pretty badass rock band that just happened to wear makeup. As they went on and got back together and put the makeup on, they were a different band. I was a fan of them up until, I'd even say the "Killers" record. I was still holding on a little bit there, you know what I mean? What was that, 1982? I was still holding on and then I was full-on Randy Rhoads and AC/DC. [But] I would still go back to the old KISS records.
That reminds me of another funny story. When we were rehearsing for the first tour, we were going through all the songs we were going to learn. Ace knew I was a fan, but I didn't have the heart to tell him I was a fan of the band up until '82. I wasn't necessarily a huge fan of his solo stuff after that. He was like, "We're going to learn 'Into The Night.'" I was like, "I don't really know that." He goes, "Derrek, I thought you were a fan??" I was like, "Yeah, I was a fan of KISS." (laughs) And he just cracked up. He never took anything too seriously, he started cracking up. That's him. He really has the best sense of humor, and a heart of gold.
Another thing I really learned from Ace was how to read people quickly. He'd put his hand out and shake everybody's hand, but he could figure somebody out in a second. Like right when they opened their mouth. And that was it. Either you were in, or you were out. And he wanted people to get to the point. A lot of people beat around the bush, especially when they're around somebody and they fawn over them. He didn't deal with that s***. The only person he wanted fawning over him was the promoters. That was it. Other than that, he wanted people to feel normal around him. And he'd cut the bulls*** right out. "Get to the point," that's what he would say.
I guess from being famous for so long, you kind of waste a lot of time with people telling you bulls***. He knows how to cut through it. And I learned that from him. I learned how to cut through people's bulls*** really quick. I learned so much from the guy.
Back to the KISS record. Ace was like, "Eh...it's alright. It's not bad." He never said anything negative about it. He was just, "Eh, I think my record's better." He would never ever s***talk them. He loved Paul. It was more like business stuff [that bothered him]. I think Gene was the only one he was really kind of like, "This guy's an a**hole." He thought Peter was great. I think he really, really likes Paul Stanley. I remember we were having pizza one night when we were rehearsing and Paul called him and he jumped up and ran out the door to talk to him outside. It was pretty cool. It was like getting a phone call from an old friend.
KF: Have you ever met any of the other members of KISS?
DH: I haven't. I always wanted to meet Paul Stanley. I'm not too concerned about Gene Simmons. But Paul Stanley I definitely wanted to meet, but never had a chance to.
KF: "Anomaly" did really well out of the gate, debuting at No. 27 on the Billboard chart. Was Ace excited?
DH: Um, he was, I wouldn't say, ecstatic. He was definitely psyched. You know, he's a cool guy. He never really shows that kind of excitement. He was like, "Yeah, I know it's a good record."
KF: Like the "Grease" thing.
DH: Exactly. Anthony, Scotty and myself would be goofing around and Ace walks in, and it was like, "Well, there's the boss." He would kind of laugh at us, and be like, "Guys, be cool."
KF: So you mentioned you kind of got out of KISS around 1982, so I guess you don't have a take on Vinnie Vincent and his guitar playing??
DH: I actually listened to them. I was always interested in what came out. Vinnie Vincent, I thought was great. I wasn't a huge fan of his solo stuff. I mean he played like really fast.
KF: He was a little over the top.
DH: Yeah, over the top fast. But he was...I mean the "Creatures Of The Night" record, I know the guy from Mr. Mister played on "Creatures Of The Night," which was a really big surprise. But I thought Vinnie's playing was really good on that. And on "Lick It Up," I thought he was really good too. Ok, I take that back. I was actually into them up until "Animalize" when Mark St. John was in the band. I was really into hearing this new guy that they got, and that's the new album I got into. That's the last album I bought.
KF: Getting further into your career. You were in Stabbing Westward -- how did that come about?
DH: Yeah. I was with them for two years. I did some session work with them and then I did their last proper studio record. I don't necessarily think it's a good record. I wasn't really a huge fan of the band. I kind of went in and did guitar work for them for a friend of mine who was managing them. And it turned out they needed a permanent guitar player. Because through all the other records various members would play guitar on it and they would just hire somebody for the road. The keyboard would play guitar, and the drummer would play guitar. And I think for that last album they wanted to try and have somebody that was not an industrial guitar player. I was friends with the producer and I was friends with their manager so they brought me in and I don't think it's a good album.
KF: Which album was this?
DH: Their last one, it's just called "Stabbing Westward." It's my least-favorite record from them.
KF: I was checking the credits on my Sammy Hagar "Marching To Mars" album and I saw you credited. There's got to be a story there?
DH: (laughs) There's a funny story there. It's one of the best stories of my life. I am going to put Sammy Hagar up there with Ace as far as being the coolest guy I've ever met. Just the f***ing coolest. I was in a band in New York, this was my proper band, it was called Closer. And we were signed to Revolution/Warner Bros. in '95. In '96 we went out to San Francisco to make a record. So we were in Sausalito at the Record Plant and I'll never forget this day, Tim. They walk the bands through to check out the studio the first day, "This is where you are going to be recording. This is the front-desk lady. This is the kitchen." And we're walking down the hall and some guy walks out of one of the studios and I can hear the playback of whatever they are working on. And I was like, "Is that Sammy Hagar?" And I didn't realize honestly how big the Plant was as far as the acts that went in there. I guess that's Metallica's home away from home. But yeah, it was friggin' Sammy Hagar. He was doing the "Marching To Mars" record and it was just after he quit Van Halen, or was kicked out.
As we were in the studio, there's interviews with Eddie Van Halen and Alex Van Halen bashing him and the guy never said a f***ing word about them. He was just like, seriously, the coolest guy in the world.
Of course, we had to do the whole meet Sammy Hagar thing so we went into his studio and he was so f***ing cool. He's like, "Who plays guitar here?" I was like, "I do!" He was like, "Dude check out this guitar. And this amp over here..." Just a really super cool guy. So we were working on our record and they were working on their record right across the hall from us. And [producer] Mike Clink was doing that record. He came over and he noticed we were all wearing boots one day. So he said, "Look, we've got this one song called 'Marching To Mars' and what I'm going to do is mike your feet up and you guys just stomp." He played the song in our headphones and we just had to stomp our feet, the four of us. It was the funniest thing. So for about 15 minutes we did that and then we did it again. He overdubbed it in and it sounded like this big huge march. And then toward the "Is there life in the universe?" chorus, there's the big gang vocal, that's us as well. Everybody who was in the studio that day was in that session. And here's how cool Sammy Hagar is. For I'd say five years after that, I would get a check for like $40 every once in a while (laughs). That's the coolest thing in the world.
KF: What happened with Closer?
DH: We had an album called "Don't Walk." It was very Brit poppy. Like Oasis, Radiohead sorta stuff. We got dropped. You know, the record didn't do well and we ended up just splitting up. The singer Harley [DiNardo] and myself had a real cool band called Mirror People and we were working on our following in New York City. That's when I got the call for Stabbing Westward and I left and went out to California.
KF: That Sammy Hagar story is great. I'm a big of both eras of Van Halen and I remember when they split with Sammy and I was really bummed.
DH: That reminds me, I have a funny David Lee Roth story. Wanna hear it?
DH: This is priceless. This is like, I don't know, 1999. Right before I was with Stabbing Westward, I was living in Manhattan. I was out one night with a couple of friends of mind, this girl and this guy. And we walk into this bar called Sway. And we're just walking through, it's almost the end of the night, and there's this table, like one of those half-moon booths. Everybody is packed into this booth, and right in the middle is friggin' David Lee Roth. Just like sitting there with a big smile on his face, like "This is my castle." But it was the weirdest thing, he was just sitting there smiling. So we're hanging out and the girl who was with our group, she was really pretty, and I was hanging out with her. And we were sitting there and the next thing I know, David Lee Roth is sitting in between us. I am just like, "This is f***ing so cool. David Lee Roth is hanging out with us." He wasn't hanging out with us, he was trying to get the girl.
So he's chatting with her and we were trying to get in on the conversation and I'd be like, "Yeah, that's so funny. I know, I know" And he was just ignoring me. Totally has his back to me for like a half an hour. I'm trying to get in on the conversation and he's just ignoring me. He's all about this girl. So finally I was like, "Wait a second, I just read the David Lee Roth book." Finally, I said, "I'm just going to say something." After he was like totally ignoring me, he wouldn't even look at me, I actually tapped him on the shoulder, and he was like, "What?" And I go, "Mr. Roth, I just wanted to say I read your book and I really thought it was great." And he turns around and faces me, smiles and puts his hand out and shakes my hand, and he goes, "Thank you very much." And he turns around and ignores me again. (laughs) It was the funniest thing. It was like a really genuine handshake and then he turned around and went right back to work.
KF: That sounds like Diamond Dave. You don't happen to have a Gary Cherone story too, do you?
DH: I don't. (laughs) Actually I was talking to Frank Munoz about Gary Cherone [and Van Halen]. I was always like, "That's such a bad set-up." I couldn't see that working. And Frank was actually pretty good friends with Gary Cherone so he was like, "No, it was great." So we'd have a little argument about it.
KF: Another thing I came across is a track that you played guitar on by an artist named Michael De May, "World Gone Mad."
DH: Yeah, we recorded that downstairs in my house.
KF: Your solo is pretty ripping.
DH: I don't even remember what that song sounds like. (laughs) I think it was one of the first songs I recorded when I got Pro Tools.
KF: It thought it was interesting in the sense that you have a lot of chops, and here you were playing rhythm guitar in Ace's band. Obviously that's not the extent of your skills.
DH: No, no, no. I still practice as much as I can. Every day. Every single day I play for a couple of hours. It's not like I just sit around and jam, I practice. I'm totally serious about it.
KF: What are you up to these days? Any current projects?
DH: Right now I'm trying to find bands to produce. That's more where it's at. I'm getting to writing again. Honestly, after the Ace thing I decided I'm just going to play guitar for myself but it gets to the point where I miss playing out. I miss playing with other people. It's funny that we're talking about this, I was actually putting something together this week, and I just had a rehearsal tonight. I drove up from Baltimore today and I had a drummer waiting for me when I got home. And I was just jamming with him a little bit.
KF: A couple of final questions. Ace has a book coming out in November. Are you going to pick it up?
DH: I'm absolutely going to check it out. Hopefully I'll get a free copy, but I'll buy it anyway. (laughs) I'm one of those type of people. I don't think I've every downloaded a free song ever. When people are like, "Just go to Napster or go to LimeWire." I'm like, "No, I refuse. I will buy it."
KF: There's a lot of talk about what is actually going to be in the book.
DH: I don't know. I hope there are some interesting things that I haven't heard. I know he contacted a lot of people from his past to help refresh his memory on things. So hopefully there we'll get some good stories and it's not something we've read before.
KF: If you're a betting man, do you think Ace records another studio album?
DH: I don't know. I don't know if he wants to. He definitely could. He's very prolific. He can write a song just like that. It's just a matter of if he wants to do that. When we went out the first time, you know we did that tour after the Halloween show in 2007, and it was kind of a tour they threw together. I think they went about it the wrong way. I don't think it was handled the right way so I think it kind of turned him off to it. I don't know if he wants to go on the road. And that's another thing, he's 60 years old now. It's a hard thing for a guy his age to get on stage. I'm not saying that in a bad way, because I'm 41 and it's tough enough for me.
KF: Paul will be the last out of the original members to turn 60 next year. Reality is setting in.
DH: Yeah. The only way to really get out there and make money with a record now is to tour. You have to go on tour. And I don't think that [Ace] wants to.
KF: Do you think Ace will ever be onstage with KISS again?
DH: I think so. I honestly do. I think they'll do something. Something will happen.
KF: When KISS was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, fans were thinking if they got inducted they'd do something for that.
DH: Yeah, there was talk about that. That was gonna happen, and then it didn't happen. But...it can't not happen. They're part of music history. I don't think that they would let something like that just fall away. If Gene can make a dime out of it, he'll do it somehow. (laughs) I honestly think they will at one point. Put it this way, I think that Ace will probably be able to go out and do one-off shows like he's been doing and I think that's as far as it will go, Tim. And KISS can keep going on and doing what they're doing as well...but somebody will always go see the original members. I know I will, because I know Ace and know how cool he is. He is really f***ing cool. He's a cool guy. The real deal.
KF: What's your fondest memory of your time with Ace?
DH: Fondest memory? Driving out to Anton Fig's house. I mean there's so many. You know, taking the plane with him from Chicago to New York, that was really special. Flying to Europe with him when it was just me and him on the plane and he came back to check on me because I was back in business class and he was in first class. It was like 3 in the morning and I was sitting there with a glass of wine. So he comes back and he's like, "Hey buddy, you ok?" And he looks down at my glass of wine and says, "I guess you are ok." (laughs) But driving out to Anton's house was really, really cool. We were going out there to do the demo for "A Little Below The Angels." It was pouring rain and I remember the three-hour ride out there in the car was really cool. And sleeping over at Anton Fig's house was pretty cool too.
KF: A sleepover at Anton Fig's house?
DH: Yeah. We were in the guest room. It was like "Laverne & Shirley." It was pretty funny. I'm really honored that I got to meet all these guys and play with them. It really was a huge part of my life. It's something I'll always treasure. I'll always put Ace up there as one of the coolest people.
(The KissFAQ thanks Derrek Hawkins for his time and wishes him the best of luck with his future musical endeavors!)
September 15, 2011