|Tod Howarth - Frehley's Comet|
|Written by Gaz E|
|Wednesday, 09 September 2009 13:20|
Ace Frehley was always the coolest member of Kiss for the more clued-in fan. Tears that were falling after Ace's staggered departure from the band were dried with the promise of new material from the Spaceman. After what seemed like aeons, Frehley's Comet appeared on the scene, complete with a musical dynamo who shared guitar and vocal duties with Frehley. His name was Tod Howarth and, happily, he has agreed to talk exclusively to Über Röck about his career......
What bands or musicians influenced you to first take an interest in music?
My first interests in music were The Beatles. I was about six years old and they came on the Ed Sullivan show, and I was hooked; all those girls screaming...yes, I thought, this is for me...
Later in early years, it was Black Sabbath, Humble Pie, Jeff Beck, T-Rex, The Babys, Aerosmith, Steely Dan, then Van Halen and onto the 'hair' years.
707 was a dream group for me back then. I had just moved to Los Angeles and after paying my dues in some local original projects, one of which was my own, I ended up looking for bigger bands in trying to move up the musical ladder. Then I was told about 707. I went to see them at the now long gone Starwood in Hollywood and thought, I could do this project. It wasn't as heavy as I wanted but the songs were good and I could play guitar, keys, sing and hopefully write some songs for them. As fate would have it, I later found out that they were to audition a new keyboard player, however I got to them way too late as they had hired someone else. Six months following this disappointment they let him go and called me... so after two auditions and a few meetings with the guys I joined up and we toured with REO Speedwagon for a few legs of their Hi-Infidelity tour - this would turn out to be the biggest tour (as far as crowds go) I'd ever do.
The band did well and we had fun. We moved to San Francisco and recorded another album called 'The Bridge' which was shelved after the death of our label's owner. The poor project went through some real difficult financial times.... We did a title track for a movie called MEGAFORCE with a new lead singer but the movie was a bomb and the tune got put at the end of the flick with very little fanfare. 707 finally came to an end in 1983 and we all went separate ways. It has been mentioned in the last few years that we do some touring and maybe some new material but the band's members, including myself, have other lives and responsibilities that pretty much prevent that from happening.
707 toured with REO Speedwagon in 1981 - how was this? We've heard strange tales about Kevin Cronin & Co from other bands!
REO Speedwagon was a good band back then and a very popular one. We did share some events that took place with them, but nothing out of the ordinary. There was the furniture out the window stuff, hot chicks everywhere of course, and then some chemical rumors. A good friend of mine is their newest guitar player, Dave Amato - he played with Ted Nugent after I did.
What were the circumstances surrounding you being asked to play with Cheap Trick?
On my joining up with Cheap Trick, I had played with Pete Comita and Jon Brant shortly after arriving in Los Angeles - before joining 707. They were in and out of a band relocated from Illinois called 'Valentino'. When each one of those guys respectively played with 'Trick and a need for a singing keyboardist came up, they had mentioned me. By that time, however, I was with 707 and couldn't do the gig, then after that I was with Ted Nugent and my name (I believe) came up again but I still couldn't do it. Finally in 1985 I was free and Trick's management got a hold of me. After three auditions - because at first the band wasn't too sure about me - I practiced their set, by myself, and flew out to a tour and just joined in on stage. No rehearsals. I have been with them on and off since then.
Most recently I did the 'Live at Budokan' 30 year anniversary show in Japan 2008 and was to do the last big tours with them but 'something' happened and it turned out not to be financially feasible for the budget, I guess. I have done special shows here and there for the last few years but with the economy (I believe) it's easier for them to do it as a four piece.
Tell us how you were recruited to record and tour with Ted Nugent....
When 707 was doing the BIG tour with REO Speedwagon we had done many shows and summer fests with many big bands of the day. Some of them were; Rainbow, Loverboy, 38 Special, Ozzy, Ted Nugent....
Ted had liked 707 because the band had some members that had hailed from his home state - and that we were a pretty good band live. We ended up doing many shows with Ted and he came to find out that we might be looking for new management. His manager, Doug Banker and he decided to help us out and begin the works for the transition. This fell apart for many reasons, mainly because the band disolved at that point, but we had gotten Ted to look into recording at the Record Plant in Mill Valley (over the bridge, San Francisco) for his up and coming new album back then - as a result of that he'd asked Kevin Russell, the lead guitar player for 707, and myself to sing backups on the record. So we did. It was fun and all, but the band, 707, was done. A few months later Ted's camp got a hold of me and asked if I would do the winter tour to support that new album 'Penetrator', of which I did.
How did you find the Nuge's notorious politics?
I never thought about Ted's politics back then, I was all about fast cars, music and women! I thought that he had a great gift of gab and was very good with the media! I just read his book 'Ted, White and Blue' and as a conservative Republican, I agree with most everything that he says really, but back then, just a series of pops and clicks to me!
All Kiss fans were eager to hear material from Ace's new band Frehley's Comet, featuring Richie Scarlet on vocals and guitar. Suddenly, or so it seemed, you replaced Scarlet - can you describe this chain of events and tell us how you joined the band?
The whole Comet line-up happened for a reason, at least from what I remember. I met John Regan when he was with John Waite - from The Babys - and I was with Cheap Trick. We had toured together and I always enjoyed listening to their sound checks - the band was solid. John and I met, and during our conversation I had told him that I played more guitar than keys really nowadays and I also sang and wrote songs. It turns out that this was the right thing to do because he 'banked' it, and called me about six months or so after the tour to suggest that I come out to audtition for this project that he was working on - that project would turn out to be the Comet. Yes, Richie was in the band along with a keyboard player Arthur Stead, very good musicians, but with Ace on the 'wagon' (needing to stay away from temptations) and it being a better financial split it was deemed that they should scale back to a four piece with someone who could write, sing lead, play keys and guitar......and that would turn out to be me.
We all know that drummer Anton Fig would never quit his TV 'day job', but he did actually play some dates with Frehley's Comet - how were these shows and did you ever hope that he would become a permanent band member?
Anton was smart, keep the Letterman gig! He ended up having a two week vacation and we were about to let go of the then current Comet drummer Billy Ward (not Sabbath's) so he (Anton) slipped in and we recorded it. The guy was, is, unbelievable, one of the best drummers that I've ever played with. Of course, Ace and the rest of us were trying to get him to join for good, but he knew better. This business of music is so up and down that he could not take that gamble.
I was lucky enough to see Frehley's Comet at the band's solitary UK date at Hammersmith Odeon in March 1988 - what memories do you have of playing this show?
What a great show, I will always remember that because YOU and the fans there just loved us, damn! Plus I have played there now with each of my BIG bands. Also, the day before the concert we had shot the videos for 'It's Over Now' and 'Fallen Angel' and I think 'Juvenile Delinquent' so there's that memory. We were set up for the live video for the concert so it just made sense to shoot the production vids. I remember singing my song 'Something Moved' and the response was so great - it was like everything that I'd ever done and struggled for was right there and worth it. The crowd was great.
Tell us about the live show to promote the album 'Second Sighting' when a couple of Ace's well-known former bandmates joined you onstage....
Ah, at the Limelight. Another great night - boy you've done your homework, nice job! That was another great evening. We had been rehearsing at SIR and KISS was there (in the smaller room, believe it or not) doing their rehearsals..well things were very cool between Ace, Gene and Paul at that point I believe, so somewhere in the mix there they decided that it would be a smooth thing to have them come up and 'jam' the night that we played the Limelight. Man, that was fun... and the party afterwards was epic, wild women, booze a'flowing, but most of all great ear candy for the fans....way sweet. Another high point for the memory bank!
After our 1988 tour rudely stopped while out with Iron Maiden, things went from bad to worse. We were out of money, bankrupt really, and when we all ended up at our respective homes, the 'label' had decided that for the next studio album, Ace should sing and 'write' all the tunes for it. I understood the business side of this decision but the reality was that it was the only real way I was making a living - writing songs, hence the publishing money that would come of it. So I had to call Ace and bow out. It was a very hard decsion because I had poured my musical heart out into the band with the tunes that I had written for them. The probable end of my lead singing didn't help either, I can't lie and say that it wasn't a shot through the heart personally, because it was. I thought maybe I should try to go it alone. Every person at one point or another has to make these tough life changing descisions. The proverbial rock and a hard place there.
Do you look back fondly on your time working with Frehley? Ace was always my favourite Kiss member, so I would hope everything about your time with the band was great!!!
Oh yes, very definitely. There were rough times as with any band - some way worse than others - but ours was really a walk in the park and I am forever grateful to this man. Ace and I had some really great times, however I think that some people have lied to him over the years and distorted my opinion of him. Nothing but respect. I do miss the Comet.
Are you aware that there is a UK tribute act called Rocket Ride dedicated to playing all manner of Ace Frehley material? There's some Frehley's Comet material in their set - that has to be flattering, right?!
I have heard of them! And yes, any time that a fan/musician tells me of their covering of a Comet tune - I'm very flattered! I can't wait for some young group to cover my tunes from the Comet...what a real tribute!
GOOD question. You know every freaking tune means so very much to me. The production on them is no way as clean as the great studio days, as I'm working with 100's of dollars versus 100's of thousand dollar studios! Oh well, a song is a song and most fans don't care as long as they get the real power and delivery of emotion from their favorite artists...and I do deliver....
Yet another good one, that would have to be a toss up between (what my fans would really know) 'It's Over Now' and 'Something Moved' .....probably 'It's Over Now' - It's me and my melodies, and my Steinberger...
Finally, the ÜBER RÖCK 'N' ROLL Test!!! Ten random either/or questions to see just how cool you are!!!
Random UBER test!? Nice.
Guitar or Keyboards?
Guitar, that was a hard choice as I played keys first but, again, my Marshall and Steinberger...
Ace Frehley or Tommy Thayer?
I'm sure that Tommy is a great guy up against a lot of angry fans but it would have to be ACE.
Anton Fig or Max Weinberg?
Anton Fig, freakin' hands down.
Ted Nugent or Rick Nielsen?
Two terrific icons, wow, but Rick Nielsen, larger than life real cartoon! Great stuff, writer.
Gene Simmons or Satan?
Gene - He gave me a record deal! And Satan wouldn't have me (as I'm agnostic).
Okay, this is a trick question as I can't give up either.....BUT if I had to...'me loves the women!
Rock Soldiers or Dream Police?
Ouch! Ah, er, hmmmm......'Gotta have my Dream Police' - love that band!
John Regan or Ronald Reagan?
I'm republican but I'd go for John! He is a very talented and smart man, a great friend.
Boston or Chicago?
Boston, even though my cousin Jason Scheff is the Chicago lead singer, bass player - sorry cousin!
Richie Scarlet or Tod Howarth?
Richie's a great guy, guitar player, but nothing beats my songs and vocals - It's gotta be me!
Wanna read all about Tod's 'Gig From Hell'? Click here!!!!
Check out Tod Howarth's official MySpace profile - www.myspace.com/todhowarth