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Kiss Army Argentina interview with Bill Baker:

"I was in awe and proud at the same time that I was able to impress the person I was imitating."

Bill Baker and Kiss Army Argentina.

KISS Army Argentina: Hi, Bill. Since some time ago we wanted to contact you and here we are; thank you! First of all, please tell us how you became a KISS fan and, especially, an Ace Frehley fan. Bill Baker: I remember hearing "Destroyer" when it first came out...a friend had the 45 of "Dr. Love" and "Take Me". We were hooked from then on. I must have been around ten years old when I was first introduced to their music. KISS Army Argentina: Until the time in which you began to work with Ace, do you remember how many KISS shows you had attended, and how many Aces shows (during the Comets era)? Bill Baker: I know this is hard to believe, but unfortunately for me, I never got to see KISS or Ace back in the day. I first got to see Ace on the 1992 tour when my friends opened for him at "Hammerjacks" in Baltimore, Maryland. He wore the famous blue leather jacket that night.

KISS Army Argentina: As we know, you met Ace in 1990, in a KISS convention in which you were selling part of your personal collection of Jimi Hendrixs items and then investing that money in buying some Aces items; is this correct? Bill Baker: I didn't meet Ace at the convention, I met a friend of his who was trying to sell Ace's "Washburn" guitar. We ended up making a trade for the guitar, and I happened to meet Ace the next day when I delivered my side of the trade (Which was a rare "Marshall" guitar speaker cabinet). I was in the process of selling off Hendrix records and memorabilia, and that's how the subject of Hendrix came up over dinner. Ace told me he had "roadied" for Hendrix once. I had some video from that very show and Ace wanted a copy of it! I gave him my number and to my surprise he called me the very next day and our friendship developed from there. KISS Army Argentina: You had an Aces tribute band called Fractured Mirror, from 1993 to 1998, and you also organized kind of museums within KISS expos. Would it be right to say that maybe one of your best memories is when Ace called you to work with him after having watched a video of your tribute band? Bill Baker: Oh yeah, that's something I won't forget. I could hear the video playing in the background, and he kept saying "If I squint my eyes it looks like me playing!" and I'm thinking "Am I hearing this?" I was in awe and proud at the same time that I was able to impress the person I was imitating. The band kind of came together, it was all for fun and to play the music that inspired us. So getting my hair darker, the clothing and trying some Ace - like moves, just fell into place. After Ace saw that video and that I could actually play, he decided to give me a bunch of his old stage clothes for my collection or to perform in. I wore his tattoo jacket, "Comet" jacket, and the blue leather jacket at different times performing at the Expos. KISS Army Argentina: You started working with Ace fixing his guitars and amplifiers, and even though you did not get money from that, you did exchange your work for items that Ace gave you and for advice on guitars and equipment; is this accurate? Bill Baker: Sometimes he would pay for his repairs, but when I started to do guitar work, or if it was for amp repairs, tubes, speakers, etc....he'd find things to trade me for my collection. Would you say no? There's even items I had to turn down because I just didn't have the money or didn't want to take on that much debt. You can never have it all...... KISS Army Argentina: Did Ace ever request your advice to know to which era certain KISS items that he kept belonged? Did he ever ask you if you were interested in buying any of those items? Bill Baker: He never asked me for my take on what era things belong to... but rather he would tell me stories about things or I would ask him about specific items, and where he got them, or did he remember when he wore them? Boy I wish I could have gotten some of our conversations on video! What a film that would make! I doubt he would remember that much of those details today. He was pretty sharp back then. He told me all about the "Eagle shirt" I got from him for doing the work on the "Budokan". He had stories about getting the jacket he wore in Cadillac, Michigan and the guys that made it. He remembered exactly who made the "Comet" jacket for him, and told me the story about that famous purple jumpsuit (Circus Magazine pics with the "Veleno" guitar) and how it was given to him by the bass player of the "New York Dolls", but how it was originally white and he ruined his washing machine by trying to dye it purple. He said Jeanette had a fit and they had to buy a new one... KISS Army Argentina: Among some of the items that you used to have there were authentic costumes from the Love Gun tour, some others from the Destroyer and the Rock and Roll Over tours, the platforms that Ace used when KISS visited Cadillac, in Michigan; plus some guitar straps, shirts and other amazing things, such as the Smoking Les Paul guitar, or the costume Ace used for the Alive II, or his first costume in 1973, the eagle jacket! Please

tell us more about some of these fantastic items. Bill Baker: Yes, all of those things were just amazing. I was very lucky to have owned them. The experiences of obtaining them (not all came from Ace) was as memorable as the items. The Love Gun costume was just an amazing costume, I did have that full outfit & boots - the work on it incredible. The chestpiece from the Destroyer costume, and that's the one I wish I kept, was one of my favorites, I never owned the platforms for that suit, those were in Al Munson's museum (and later confiscated by Gene) and then there's the eagle shirt - given to me as a gift for the re-fret work on the now famous "Budokan" as well as having the star earring (which I still have!), I am still in awe of myself of all of the items I once owned. Now if I only still had it today..... KISS Army Argentina: You knew Ace closely after the release of Trouble Walking until the Reunion tour in 1996; why do you think that period was not that fruitful for Ace? Because he did not reach stability with his band (except for Richie Scarlet). And now he does not seem to be doing much also, in terms of frequency in performances and releases; what could be the cause in your opinion? Bill Baker: I don't think Ace did too bad during that period. In my opinion, I think that to have to tour once again, after the big "Comet" run and a short break, it wasn't easy to have to go out and do "Shock Me" all over again. And this time the clubs were smaller, so it was a step down. Less money, less merchandise sales, etc. but less stress and time away from home also. For me, it was a chance for me (and the fans) to see Ace up close. Lucky for me he always made sure I had a laminate and I could go wherever I wanted to watch the show. I got some great pictures because of that! Ace and I aren't the friends we once were. Our lives are different now. But if I see him I always say hello and we catch up. I'd have to guess that the autograph circuit is just as much fun if not more so that touring. And the hours are better! KISS Army Argentina: During the years that you were close to Ace, did you ever reach the point of touring with him, be it just as a friend or developing any specific task? Bill Baker: Sadly, I could never have abandoned my job here as a guitar tech, so no, I never did get to go on tour. But, if I had a task, it was getting the repairs done. Amp repairs or guitar repairs. That's how I traded with him, repairs for memorabilia. KISS Army Argentina: Out of all those tours of the 90s involving Ace the most attractive one for the fans was the 1995 one, with Peter Criss, known as the Bad Boys Tour. What memories do you have from those days? Did you befriend Peter Criss? Bill Baker: I never saw that tour. That was after the MTV "Unplugged" performance, and Ace's last call to me was just before that. KISS Army Argentina: Being a KISS fan opened many doors for you; for instance it gave you the chance to meet Ace. What other KISS members or former members did you also meet? What can you tell us about Bill Aucoin, whom you also met? Bill Baker: I got to meet a lot of people, and not just in KISS, other rock stars or other people that found out about my guitar work because of Ace. But Bill Aucoin was the best. Everyone knows Bill was gay, and that didn't matter to me, and every time I saw him he'd hit on me and the last time we got to hang out, which was in NYC at a small Kiss event, we all got so drunk he was telling my wife how he always admired my "physique" if you will. We always had fun, but I never really got into asking him things about Kiss. I just felt lucky that I was hanging out with him. I got a great picture of him posing with my book, which of course I gave him a copy of. I also like Dennis Woloch too, he's a great guy I've had fun hanging with him. We both were at the taping of a cable tv show in NYC called "Beyond Vaudeville" (that was included on the "Kiss Loves You" dvd) but somehow I was on the show and he wasn't. Not sure why, but we all still had fun, maybe he was just there to check it out. Peter Criss, he was always pleasant. Even now, he remembers me from the Expos, and his wife is really nice, they are great people and what's funny is that really good friends of ours live right behind him - and they say he's the quietest neighbor!

KISS Army Argentina: Regarding Ace, did you have the chance of working together in demos, or for co writing songs? Apart from Ace, did you become close to any other member of Aces band? Bill Baker: No, I never had any part in songs. I never even got to jam with him. I've gotten to be good friends with Richie Scarlet. To this day he and his wife Joann are good friends of ours. KISS Army Argentina: Unfortunately, one day Ace was in your life, the next he was notOne of the last times you met him, as we know, was in 1995; in that moment, did he make any comments on the KISS Unplugged or about the KISS Reunion Tour for 1996? Bill Baker: No he didn't. The Detroit Kiss Expo was our last time we hung out, and he didn't say anything. Our last phone conversation was probably in late June or early July of 1995. He was in his car heading somewhere and called me while he was on his way. He said he was sorry we hadn't talked or gotten together since the Expo, and that he had been busy, and we'd get together soon. He had warned me that he may lose the call because of the signal in the area he was in and sure enough, not to long after he said that, he was gone and that was it. He had never mentioned the reunion and I didn't know about it until a friend called me the day before to see if I was going. I had no clue! KISS Army Argentina: You no longer collect Aces items; you have been selling them for more than 12 years and you have only kept a few items that have a sentimental value for you; which items have you kept? Bill Baker: First and most sentimental is the star earring. I haven't gotten an offer that has convinced me to let it go. It's just an amazing item and it doesn't take up a lot of space, either! There's a lot of photos from the early days, and Peter even wore it in the "red Room" photos! I still have the all aluminum "Veleno" guitar and the purple jumpsuit from those famous "Circus Magazine" pin-ups. I still have the electric blue leather jacket, Jimi Hendrix shirt, a pair of jeans and a pair of boots (worn in the "Insane" video) from the '92 tour. Some handwritten lyrics, notes, some computer art he did (I have an ELVIS one still in my home workshop), and I still have a ton of original slides and negatives. KISS Army Argentina: You have stopped following KISS long ago; can you tell us why? Bill Baker: To me, Kiss was Kiss with the original members. This new version, it's just not what I like. I'm partial to Ace and Peter being in the band in the 70's. The original toys, the attitude, that's the real Kiss. Not the "Limited Edition, numbered".....etc. Kiss. And I'm into many other bands. KISS Army Argentina: After a long long time, in 2008 you met Ace again in which was his first tour after many years. What can you tell us about that meeting? Do you still keep in touch with him? Bill Baker: Ace just happened to be a guest for the very first time at a convention called "Chiller Theatre" here in New Jersey the same weekend that my books arrived from the printer. I had planned on taking them with me to sell, as I had a pile of 2000 books sitting in front of me with no distribution deal. It was all me to get this creation out there. And I knew first and foremost that Ace should have a copy. I spoke with his manager, someone I knew from years back, and he cut me into the line on Saturday morning and Ace was happy to see me and I gave him a copy and we got a few quick pictures together for the first time in 13 years. I had him sign one of my books to me as well. While it was great to see him again, and whenever I have the chance at a convention if he's there, I'll stop in and say hello, we are not "in touch", I don't have his number or e-mail. I did get a great photo with him another time at "Chiller" with some of the actors from the TV show "What's Happenin". That was fun. I hope there will be a photo op with another fun celebrity.

Bill Baker and Ace Frehley.

KISS Army Argentina: Have you read Aces autobiography and listened to Anomaly? If you did so, what is your opinion about them? Bill Baker: I did read it. I also gave him a huge batch of paperwork (an interview he did for a KISS book back in the 70's and some other misc. information) to help him with his book because I hadn't used it in mine. I thought he did a great job. I think that between his information and story, and my book with it's array of pictures and memorabilia, you have 2 great books on Ace. I'm proud to have produced one of two great Ace books! Anomaly, it's a good record. "Fox On The Run" is a great cover. I heard he's recording again. KISS Army Argentina: Some years ago, you finally released a book full of Aces memorabilia called Ultimate Fan Scrapbook. Please tell us about the process of selecting the material for the book. Bill Baker: Wow, it was something that took me 15 or so years to put together. When I was collecting Elvis books, some of them were done by fans and I thought, "I should do an Ace book like this". Sorting through all of the memorabilia, thousands of photos, slides, negatives, paperwork, posters, clothes, guitars......It was more like what I couldn't fit than what I could fit. If I ever do an E-book, I will expand it and put more text in there because I had to leave out stories like Ace using my name when he would check into hotels, and the time I almost went on for him at a show because he was very late. KISS Army Argentina: What can you tell us about your current activities and your plans for the future?

Bill Baker: Currently, I still repair guitars for a living. That keeps me very busy as I work at an actual shop Monday through Friday, and then I have work at home for friends or other players throughout the country that ship me their guitars. Right now I'm re-making an "Ace tribute player's" smoking guitar. I'm still selling my book through my website or on ebay as well as selling collectables now and then. We have 5 cats, and occasional foster cats, that my wife and I take care of as well as enjoying our home. We have lots of musical friends and go to their shows. To name of few of my favorites, that I love to photograph are Volbeat, HIM and Misfits... I enjoy photography as a hobby. Which maybe in the future I may do another book with some of my photos of these shows! You can check out some of my shots in the galleries on my website. (There are also links to their sites if you want to check them out further!) I was working with bass player Dickie Peterson from Blue Cheer and we developed his custom bass, and I'm working with the bass player from Volbeat now on a custom bass. I'm good friends with that band (they are great check them out!) and my wife and I even traveled to Denmark to attend my friend Jon's (the bands drummer) wedding. KISS Army Argentina: Finally, we want to thank you for this interview and for the chance of learning more about you and the years you spent with Ace. Thanks!! Bill Baker: Thank You for asking me to do it! I admire that you are keeping the KISS spirit and fans together united! Thank you for making me a part of it! Please visit www.theacefrehleyarchive.com or www.bluecheerfan.com to check out my websites and what I'm up to. I'm working on building up www.tunisbasses.com as well. Thanks again! -Bill B");

Interview by: Marcelo Garca and Diego Ferreyra (October 2013)

http://www.kissarmyargentina.com/