Andy Timmons Explains What Made Ace Frehley Stand Out, Recalls Weird Way He Played Van Halen’s ’Eruption’

Rock guitar virtuoso Andy Timmons looked back on original Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley and how his writing and playing style made him stand out back in the day.

Best-known for his extensive solo instrumental rock work, Timmons has a fairly lengthy career as a band member as well. And, just like many guitarists of his generation, he was inspired by Ace Frehley, something that we could, in many ways, notice in his material. Although there are obviously many old-school guitar players with superior technical skills, Ace stood out for his more down-to-earth approach, if you will, focusing more on memorable parts rather than virtuosity.

And speaking to Final Resonance TV, Timmons pointed out how important Kiss was for his development as a musician. While discussing this, the musician also mentioned Stevie Ray Vaughan as someone who had a somewhat similar approach (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“I always say, Stevie Ray, man — it’s not like he knew a million things, but he just played this finite vocabulary better than anybody else, with more heart and more soul.”

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And the “finite vocabulary” is in no way a downside but rather a focus on a specific style of music and making things more appealing. And that’s exactly what Ace Frehley was doing with his lead parts in Kiss, according to Andy. He continued:

“But Ace was the right guy [for Kiss] because it was the standard kind of blues rock licks he was learning from the British Invasion, the Yardbirds guys — Clapton, Page, and Beck, of course — but he just put it together in a really cool package and really composed great solos that are very memorable.”

He then drew a parallel to Slash, explaining how he and Ace are very similar in this regard.

“I always liken him to be like the Slash of his day,” Timmons added. “He never really quite got the muso respect that maybe he really did deserve because of all the players that he inspired. And Slash, he always plays these really wonderfully composed, great vibey solos.”

During the interview, Andy also reflected on the late 1970s and hearing Van Halen’s “Eruption.” Of course, he was far from the only guitar player to be blown away by Eddie Van Halen and his advanced two-hand tapping. And yes — Eddie wasn’t the first one to apply this technique. However, his very unique approach to it and the perfect moment to release something like “Eruption” turned him into one of the most influential electric guitar players of all time.

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Looking back to the days of Van Halen’s self-titled debut record release, Timmons recalled trying to play the guitar instrumental, offering:

“So by then, I’m up and running for a couple of years playing in my first band and, again, when I heard ‘Eruption,’ it really got me. We put that in our set immediately.”

“I didn’t know what tapping was, but I’d seen a picture,” he explained. “We didn’t have video of it, but there was a Guitar Player feature — I saw somebody was playing with the hand behind the fretting hand or whatever. So that’s how I played ‘Eruption.'”

Despite these challenges, Timmons was so impressed that he couldn’t help but keep going at it.

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“And I was pulling it off and moving the hand,” the guitarist continued. “It was just a bastardized way because nobody in my town had figured it out, and that sounded close to me. I knew it wasn’t right, but at least I could kind of do it.”

Although Eddie became famous for it, others did it before him, at least to a certain capacity. Most notably, in recent years, people are rediscovering former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett’s two-hand tapping. Last year, Hackett discussed his first experiences with tapping and basically figuring it out on his own when he was a kid.

“I was so young when I discovered that,” Hackett recalled. “And I just thought it sounded brilliant at the time. No, I never could have imagined it.”

“I was just messing around, and one day, I realized then when you’re hammering on and off with your right hand – which became an important technique because it enables you to play incredibly fast – I remember thinking about it and coming to the idea that I could do something on one string without necessarily having to move to another.”

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“And then, when I applied that to the whole of the fretboard, I found that I could do some incredible things.”

“It’s an extraordinary technique, becoming the mainstay of many heavy metal players. I suppose I’m thrilled to have been the granddaddy of that.”

Photos: chascar (Andy Timmons CD Party 1), b8ddy h8lly (Ace Frehley-10),

Author

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.