"We were on our first tour of Canada and I got some fireworks and said to myself, 'I wonder what would happen if I put a smoke bomb inside my Les Paul' ? I put it in the cavity that holds the potentiometers. It was just a regular store-bought smoke bomb with a fuse that I lit with a cigarette lighter and smoke just started pouring out of the pickups - and it looked great. But I had to keep changing the volume and tone controls because smoke kept getting in there. Eventually I got together with a designer and we figured that it would be better to modify the guitar and isolate the effect in the rhythm pickup, which I don't use anyway "
-Ace Frehley (Guitar World , September 1996)

  On this page, I'll be talking about Ace's live solos. I originally hadn't planned to go into this topic at all, but as I built the site, I realized that this is such an integral part of Ace and his style, that it really does relate to the Signature Les Paul, albeit indirectly. It really is one part of Kiss' live show that still makes people go "WOW" and ask how it was done. Especially since nobody else in the world does this but Ace !

Shooters

   Looking back at pictures, video tapes and DVDs, the "Hotter Than Hell" tour of 1974 seems to be where Ace's trademark solos find their roots. The first "trick" to work it's way into the show and Ace's solo, was the firework shooting guitar. In Kiss' early days, Ace only had the one Tobacco-burst Les Paul Deluxe...the one that would eventually have the 'star-shaped' decal on the head. So, this was the one that started it all. The original effect was a very simple little firework that shot a few sparks, a puff of smoke and some colored streamers about 10 to 12 feet. It was attached to the back of the head of the guitar and Ace triggered it with the thumb of his left hand. The effect is clearly seen on the Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, CA concert footage, from January 31, 1975.
  The first "Shooter" effect lasted through to the end of the "Alive!" tour and was not used at all during the tours for "Destroyer", "Rock And Roll Over", "Love Gun" or "Alive II". I'm confident to say that the effect was cut from the show because of the need for Kiss to play larger and larger venues and the fact that a bigger and better but safe-to-use effect just didn't exist, in the mid-'70's.
  By 1979, however, technology and money would lend themselves to the re-introduction of the "Shooter" on the "Dynasty" tour. By this point Ace's "Shooter" had moved up the ladder to a 3 pickup Black Custom. The fireworks were again mounted on the back of the head of the guitar in a double cylinder unit. Ace would again trigger them himself; this time with his right thumb pushing down on what is traditionally the tone knob for the bridge pickup on a Les Paul. The workings of this new version of the effect were conceived by Ace and refined by Kiss' guitar tech, at the time, Steve Carr. Ace's target was his smoking Les Paul ... which Ace would play during the first part of his solo ... and was now hanging by a wire, high up above the stage, in the lighting rigs.  Ace would trigger the firework, which shot across the stage and up. When it hit the hanging guitar, a small, secondary explosion was triggered. The fireworks never actually did any serious damage to the first guitar or the lighting rig. But, the effect was very cool !!!
   The basis for this effect would return, with Ace, on the "Reunion", "Psycho Circus" and "Farewell" tours of 1996 through 2001 and the effect trigger would still follow the 'push-button' principal established in 1979. For the "Reunion" tour, Ace used a modified '57 Reissue Black Custom. The last change came with the "Psycho Circus" and "Farewell" tours, where one of Ace's Signature series guitars, from the Gibson USA shop, would take over this role. No matter how you slice it, this is really something that Ace and only Ace does !!!
Smokers

  It's a little hard to tell exactly when Ace's recount of "being on tour in Canada and going into a fireworks store", actually took place. In January 1975, during the "Hotter Than Hell" tour, Ace's guitar didn't smoke. By January 1976, during the "Dressed To Kill" tour, it did. So, between those two dates we know the 'Smoker' was born. The problem is that Kiss only played in Canada....anywhere in Canada....once in 1975. That was in London, Ontario on the 25th of July. Maybe the idea came on an earlier Canadian tour; which is possible since their very first gig, in support of the first album, "Kiss", was on February 5, 1974, in Edmonton, Alberta. In either event, the "Smoking" guitar would eventually become synonimous with the name Ace Frehley. If you saw Ace play, you saw a smoking guitar !
  When the smoker effect began, it was very 'low-tech'. Since he had only one guitar, (the one with the star-shaped decal) that guitar was the original 'Smoker'. As the band began to make more money,  Ace could afford a second Les Paul. The second (or new) Tobacco-burst Deluxe would take over as the smoker and his original guitar would suffer less abuse.
  Prior to the show, a smoke bomb was placed into the potentiometer cavity, in the back of the guitar with the wick left hanging out just enough to be lit with a lighter or a match. The smoke would work it's way though the body of the guitar and eventually find it's way out, through the pickups, potentiometers and toggle switch cavities. If you watch carefully, on the video from the "Alive" concerts, you can see Ace drop the lighter or match after the effect is lit. At ths point, there was no 'glowing' pickup.
  Around the beginning of the "Destroyer" tour, Ace expanded on the Smoking guitar effect by adding what would appear to be a pickup becoming "white hot" as he played his solo. This was achieved with a slightly more 'high-tech' approach. Ace's guitar (still the one without the 'star shaped' decal) would have a hole drilled into the side, just between the jack for the guitar cable and the strap button. This was actually an XLR jack where a mic cord was plugged in. The mic cord was taped together with Ace's guitar cord and run out to the stage. A phantom power signal, from the on-stage monitor desk, was run through the mic cord supplying power to the halogen bulb, which created the "white hot" pickup effect and ignited the smoke bombs. The two cords and a piece of tape are clearly visible in the pictures to the right.
  The "white hot" pickup was actually a small halogen light bulb, like you'd find in a regular sound board lamp. They plug straight into an XLR input, on the board and illuminate the board, for the sound tech. The bulb was inserted into the pickup cavity usually occupied by the rhythm pickup. Ace had the real pickup removed (he never used it anyway) and had a plastic insert, which looked like a pickup put in it's place. In the picture to the right, you can clearly see how the rhythm (front) pickup is far more recessed into the pickup cavity than a normal pickup would be. During his solo, Ace would punch in the plastic insert, with his pick, just as his roady would turn on the phantom power, running through the XLR cord.  The smoke would continue to pour out and now that visual was enhanced with the glow of the "white hot" pickup ! Very simple, but very smart and totally in keeping with a band that was so visual, in every respect.
  In late 1976, Ace's original smoker was retired and replaced with a similar looking, but newer Les Paul Standard. I can only guess that the original smoker simply became too beat up to continue and was retired. To the untrained eye, the new Standard looked much the same as the original smoker but by the late 1970's, Gibson no longer produced the 'brown-ish' Tobacco-burst color of Ace's original guitar. The only Tobacco-burst they offered was now a more 'yellow-ish' color with a very dark, almost black outter ring. For the "Rock 'N' Roll Over" tour, the new Stanadrd remained as a 2 pickup version. However, keep in mind that it was just prior to this that Ace got his 3 pickup Cherry-burst Custom and since he liked the 3 pickup look so much, he began inserting another piece of plastic which resembled a middle pickup, on his new smoker. So, by the "Love Gun" and "Alive II" period, Ace's smoker was a new Les Paul Standard, with a new finish, a fake middle pickup and a revision to the mechanics of the effect.
  For this 1977/78 version of the smoker, the XLR cord was taken away and the rear of the guitar was completely hollowed out.....Yes, drilled into and cut away !!!!! Although most of us develope a nervous twitch when you think about routing out the back of our guitars, this would be the way the effect was produced for the rest of Ace's touring years. Within the newly created cavity, there was room for a battery pack which initially held 4 'D' sized batteries, two smoke canisters and a sealed area which housed the halogen bulb. Ace could now control the light and the smoke, himself, with the volume knob, usually used for the rhythm pickup. It basically worked just like a dimmer switch you'd have in a house.  During the "Love Gun","Dynasty" and "Unmasked" tours, Ace would continue to use the plastic insert, which he punched in with his pick when it was time for the smoke and light to come out.
  As I indicated in the section above, the way the smoking effect was set up in 1977 is pretty much the same way it works to this day. Ace and his guitar techs had achieved the ultimate spectacle in a guitar solo and there was no reason to revamp it again.
  There would only ever be three other changes to the smoking guitar effect. These were the guitars themselves. In 1979, the role of the smoker now fell to a 3 pickup Black Custom (1 pickup, 1 piece of plastic and a pickup insert). In 1996 it was a 3 pickup Cherry-burst Custom (1 pickup, 1 piece of plastic and a pickup insert). In 1997, after Ace's Signature Series guitar was released, one of the production models, from Gibson USA took over (2 pickups and a pickup insert) for the remainder of Ace's tours with Kiss. With a return to his solo career, the smoker duties went back to a 3 pickup Cherry-burst Custom.
April 1, 1975 - Burbank, CA
January 25, 1976 - Detroit, MI
11

THE SOLOS

  As live guitar solos go, Ace's were/are pretty basic. They were/are typically performed in the key of 'A' (even if the song the band was playing wasn't in 'A') and followed his usual "blues box position" religiously. Hey, if it ain't broke .... don't fix it ! His 'sloppier' style of playing would help to add some spice to what would otherwise be a pretty straight forward interlude.   One of Ace's greatest contributions to lead guitar playing, yet one that he gets very little (if any) credit for, is the technique known as tapping. Although the roots of tapping go back as early as the 1950's and Genesis guitarist, Steve Hackett was using it regularly, by 1971; Ace was the first 'mainstream' guitar player to utilize the technique, going back as early as 1974. Ace's variation on the technique pressed the edge of his pick, instead of his finger-tip, against the string. This would limit him to using only the high 'E' string, but, the sonic impact it made was huge ! Ace really laid the foundation and paved the way for the players in the 1980's, who took the technique to the next level.
  The chart below ties all of the "Smokers, Shooters & Solos" together.

Kiss  -  1973/74
"Acrobat" song in key of 'E'
Unknown guitar type
Each member of the band would take a solo

Hotter Than Hell  -  1974/75
"Watchin' You" song in Key of G-minor
Tobacco-burst Deluxe (with star-shaped decal)
First shooter

Dressed to Kill / Alive  -  1975/76
"She" song in key of G-minor
2nd Tobacco-burst Deluxe (no star-shaped decal)
Shooter gone / First smoker  / Ace used a match or lighter to ignite the smoke-bomb
Guitar effects  - Delay

Destroyer  -  1976
"Cold Gin" song in key of A
2nd Tobacco-burst Deluxe (no star-shaped decal)
1 AC power cable and 1 instrument cable into guitar / Trap-door fake pickup / Smoke & light controlled with the neck pickup tone knob / Guitar on a 'steel pyramid' stand at the end of the solo / Explosion from inside the pyramid stand
Guitar effects - Delay, Phaser, Octaver

Rock 'N' Roll Over  -  1976/77
"Cold Gin" song in key of A
New Tobacco-burst Standard
Smoker / Trap door fake pickup / Smoke & light controlled with the neck pickup tone knob / Guitar on a 'steel pyramid' stand at the end of the solo / explosion from inside the pyramid stand
Guitar effects - Delay, Phaser, Octaver

Love Gun / Alive II  -  1977/78
"Shock Me" song in key of A
New modified Tobacco-burst Standard
Smoker / Trap door fake pickup / Smoke & light controlled with the neck pickup tone knob / Guitar on a 'steel pyramid' stand at the end of the solo / explosion from inside the pyramid stand
Guitar effects - Delay, Octaver

Dynasty  -  1979
"2,000 Man" song in key of A
Tobacco-burst Standard used during the Love Gun tour
Smoker / Trap door fake pickup / Smoke & light controlled with the neck pickup volume knob / Small hook on the back of the head flies guitar into the light rigs
**Note - I believe this guitar to be the one Steve Carr talked about trying to fix after it fell from the lighting rigs and snapped it's head, shortly after the beginning of the Dynasty tour. It was then replaced by ...
New 3 pickup Black Custom
Smoker / Trap door fake pickup / Smoke & light controlled with the neck pickup volume knob / Small hook on the back of the head flies guitar into the light rigs
**Note - This Shooter was originally intended to be the "Laser" guitar that Steve Carr talked about.
2nd new 3 pickup Black Custom
Shooter / Aimed at the Smoker hanging in the lighting rigs / 3 shots controlled by pushing the rhythm tone knob
Guitar effects - Delay, Octaver

Unmasked  -  1980
"2,000 Man" song in key of A
3 pickup Black Custom
Smoker / Recessed fake neck pickup / Smoke & light controlled with the neck pickup volume knob / Small hook on the back of the head flies guitar into the light rigs
2nd 3 pickup Black Custom
Shooter / Aimed at the Smoker hanging in the lighting rigs / 3 shots controlled by pushing the rhythm tone knob
Guitar effects - Delay, Octaver

Reunion  -  1996/97
"Shock Me" song in the key of A
New modified Cherry-burst Custom
Smoker / Recessed fake neck pickup / Smoke & light controlled with the neck pickup volume knob / Small hook on the back of the head flies guitar into the light rigs
2nd 3 pickup Black Custom
Shooter / Aimed at the Smoker hanging in the lighting rigs / 3 shots controlled by pushing the rhythm tone knob
Guitar effects - Delay, Octaver

Psycho Circus  -  1998/2000
"Into The Void" song in the key of E
New Ace Frehley Signature Les Paul
Smoker / Recessed fake neck pickup / Smoke & light controlled with the neck pickup volume knob / Small hook on the back of the head flies guitar into the light rigs
2nd Ace Frehley Signature Les Paul
Shooter / Aimed at the Smoker hanging in the lighting rigs / 3 shots controlled by pushing the rhythm tone knob
Guitar effects - Delay, Octaver

Farewell  -  2000/2001
"Shock Me" song in the key of A
New Ace Frehley Signature Les Paul
Smoker / Recessed fake neck pickup / Smoke & light controlled with the neck pickup volume knob / Small hook on the back of the head flies guitar into the light rigs
2nd Ace Frehley Signature Les Paul
Shooter / Aimed at the Smoker hanging in the lighting rigs / 3 shots controlled by pushing the rhythm tone knob
Guitar effects - Delay, Octaver
January 31, 1975 - San Francisco, CA
"Watchin' You" - Hotter Than Hell tour
January 26, 1976 - Detroit, MI
"She" - Dressed To Kill / Alive tour
January 28, 1977 - Detroit, MI
"Cold Gin" - Rock And Roll Over tour
August 13, 1976 - Houston, TX
"Cold Gin" - Destroyer tour
September 2, 1977 - Houston, TX
"Shock Me" - Love Gun tour
December 20, 1977 - Largo, MD
"Shock Me" - Alive II tour
July 8, 1979 - Largo, MD
"2,000 Man" - Dynasty tour
April 4, 2001 - Melbourne, Australia
"Shock Me" - Farewell tour
November 22, 1980 - Sydney, Australia
"2,000 Man" - Unmasked tour
March 4, 1999 - Gothenburg, Sweden
"Into The Void" - Psycho Circus tour
April 12, 1997 - Toledo, OH
"Shock Me" - Reunion / Lost Cities tour
July 25, 1996 - New York, NY
"Shock Me" - Reunion tour
1987 - London, England
"Shock Me" - 1st Frehley's Comet tour
March 8, 2008 - Toronto, ON
"Shock Me" - Solo / Rocket Ride tour