“What impressed me the most was, at 72 years old, the guy still gets excited like a little kid, like a true rock fan... He had a lot of ideas”: Steve Brown details the inspiring process of working with Ace Frehley on his shocking new album, 10,000 Volts

Ace Frehley (left) with Steve Brown
(Image credit: Giovanna Melchiorre)

Since becoming a force on the New Jersey rock circuit at age 12, Steve Brown has made guitar playing the center of his life. His glam-metal group Trixter enjoyed success through the 1980s, culminating in their 1990 hit Give It to Me Good. Along the way, Brown shared stages with some of that era’s biggest acts and earned accolades from fellow guitarists, Eddie Van Halen among them. 

Since then, Brown has performed on Broadway in the hit musical Rock of Ages and played with former Styx vocalist Dennis DeYoung and ex-Rainbow and Deep Purple singer Joe Lynn Turner. He’s also had the special distinction of being the only guitarist to sub for both Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell onstage with Def Leppard. Here he tells us, in his own words, about working with Ace Frehley on 10,000 Volts

“I made two records with this band, Tokyo Motor Fist, which is Ted Poley from Danger Danger, Greg Smith from Rainbow and Alice Cooper, and Chuck Burgi from Billy Joel’s band. Ace’s girlfriend, Lara, and John Ostronomy, his manager, heard it and said, ‘This is phenomenal. Ace needs to do something more current and up his game.’ 

“Now, I’ve known Ace for 30-plus years and he’s very easy to get along with, so we hit it off, right off the bat. Walking on the Moon was the first song that we worked on and recorded. And with that song, we both looked at each other and we knew that our chemistry was magical. 

“Our working process was I would give him a rough idea of an arrangement. And luckily, in this age of digital, we both have Pro Tools studios in our houses. I want to be able to use everything that was recorded, and that’s what we did. It was a matter of just cutting and pasting, moving some parts around.

“I came up with the first couple of ideas: Walking on the Moon, Fighting for Life, 10,000 Volts, Cherry Medicine... I thought, ‘What would I want to hear as a fan?’ Like, with Cherry Medicine, I wanted to write a song that all the fans were going to identify with, but still be current. I’ve had people say that track reminds them of a Weezer song or reminds them of Green Day. But more than anything, it’s like his Kiss songs Talk to Me or Two Sides of the Coin – a simple Rolling Stones–type vibe.

“What impressed me the most was, at 72 years old, the guy still gets excited like a little kid, like a true music fan and a rock fan. He had a lot of ideas, like the bridge to Walking on the Moon. I get a call one morning from Ace who says, ‘I woke up at three in the morning and I had this idea for a bridge.’ He ran downstairs to his studio and in the middle of the night he’s cutting and engineering his own vocal tracks and guitar tracks! I had to cut that whole section in. 

“He was so inspired and so excited, like a young musician in his 20s that really gives a shit about making a great record and writing a great song and playing and singing. 

“I think this record sums up two things: It’s Ace’s best all-around songwriting record, and it’s also Ace’s best vocal performances he’s ever had on record. He’s done things that he’s never done before. We inspired each other to get the best out of each other.”

The Gear Behind 10,000 Volts

Ace Frehley's collection of Gibson Les Pauls

Just a few of Ace’s Les Pauls (Image credit: Press)

Ace Frehley

Ace Frehley's black three-pickup Les Paul Custom

Above: Ace's black three-pickup Les Paul Custom and (below) Blue Sparkle Les Paul that Steve Brown played on 10,000 Volts (Image credit: Press)

GUITARS Gibson Les Paul Custom (Sunburst, three-pickup), Gibson Les Paul Custom (Black, three-pickup), 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard (Blue Sparkle), Gibson Les Paul 1960 Standard (Tobacco Sunburst), Epiphone Randy Rhoads Les Paul (Made in Japan), Xaviere Pro930 semihollow cutaway (Blue Burst), Fender Stratocaster, 1963 Fender Precision Bass 

ACOUSTICS Ovation 12-string, Guild F-212 12-string, Gibson Jumbo (Sunburst)

STRINGS Ernie Ball .009–.044 

PICKS Dunlop .78mm medium

 Steve Brown 

Ace Frehley's Blue Sparkle Les Paul

(Image credit: Press)

GUITARS SBS VS200 offset, SBS MS260 Strat-style, Xaviere Pro500 LP-style (Blue Burst), Sola Custom (with Evertune bridge, tuned down one whole step)

ACOUSTICS Guild six-string, Fender Acoustasonic Jazzmaster, Takamine classical

STRINGS EVH and Dunlop strings, .009–.042

PICKS InTune, Extra Heavy GrippX