By John Jeffrey
Being a lifelong KISS fan, performing onstage with one of the members of your all-time favorite band is a dream come true for any musician. For Philip Shouse, not only did he live the dream as being a member of the Gene Simmons solo band, but lighting struck twice for Shouse, as now Phil has become a current member of the Ace Frehley band.
Born in Decatur, Alabama, Phil got turned on to rock and roll by listening to his older brother’s record collection. His obsession with the guitar began in high school with recordings like Aerosmith’s ‘Live! Bootleg’ and Van Halen’s debut album. Shouse relocated to Nashville in 2004, and toured with a slew of rock and country artists.
Shouse also planted roots there with his own band “Thee Rock ‘N’ Roll Residency,” which had become a major weekly event in Nashville, where he and a revolving group of famous rockers, play a varied collection of 70’s rock.
Ever since Phil started playing guitar with the Gene Simmons Band in 2017, his rock and roll fantasy has been a non-stop whirlwind, as he continues playing bass for Ace Frehley and has also become a permanent member of the iconic German Heavy Metal band, Accept.
Phil Shouse has given RMS his exclusive story, from the ins and outs of working with both Gene Simmons and Ace Frehley, how he got to where he is today working with them both,and what the future may have in-store for this fledgling rock star.
Rock Music Star: Let’s go back to the beginning of this amazing journey of yours, working with both Ace Frehley and Gene Simmons. How did you first get hooked up with Gene?
Phil Shouse: We got hooked up through Ryan Cook. That’s how we have hooked up. Because Gene knew Ryan and Gene went to Ryan first to ask him about putting together a band for just a handful of shows in 2017. It wasn’t very many (initially). Ryan told Gene that he had the guys in mind right away. So that’s how we got it, it was him (Ryan).
RMS: And I remember reading when Gene was talking about putting together a band and doing those initial shows, it was originally announced that it would be kind of similar to what Paul Stanley was doing with Soul Station and that it wasn’t really going to be so KISS related. It was going to be more of like the 50’s and 60’s do-wop stuff that Gene likes, R&B and Chuck Berry kind of stuff.
PS: In the beginning, I don’t know if Gene really was sure (about the direction). He was going to try things, and he wasn’t sure how it was going to go. Nobody really had any idea how it was going to go. And the first thing that we had was a corporate gig, so we did learn some 50’s and 60’s covers, like R&B stuff, for that gig. For the next one, it was going to be in Cleveland, at the Agora for KISS fans, and Gene kinda realized and said, “Let’s drop some of these and play some old, cooler obscure KISS tunes.” Then it was, “What should we do?” So that’s how it kinda changed and in Cleveland, we broke the internet after that show. People were loving it and promoters started hitting us up for gigs.
RMS: How did you guys come up with those set-lists? Was Gene dictating the songs, or were you getting suggestions from the fans, or were you guys coming up with the ideas yourselves? How did you put together those amazing sets?
PS: All of the above. We hit Gene up with ideas all of the time. And he’d go, “Really? You think that one?” And we’d go, “Oh yeah.” And we’d play the song suggestions at sound check and if it went well, we’d try it live. The cool thing about Gene is that he never said “NO” to anything. Well, he did say “No. No. No.” to “No, No, No.” (laughs) Everything else, he was willing to try. And if it worked, it stayed. And if it didn’t, it went away.
RMS: How did it work out to have three guitar players in the Gene Simmons Band?
PS: Well, we just come as a package deal. But we sold Gene on the idea when we told him that we can do the song arrangements like the albums. So if there’s a dual guitar harmony, we can have that with the chords being played behind it, so it will sound like the record. Gene really liked the way it sounded and called it a “God Damned Guitar Symphony.”
RMS: Obviously, your first introduction to becoming part of the “Ace Frehley band” was when you did double duty backing up both Gene & Ace in Australia in 2018. Once KISS announced the “End of the Road” tour at the end of 2018, it was announced around the same time that Ace was permanently replacing his old lineup with you guys. Was this some thing you knew Gene was working on behind the scenes or was it a shock to you?
PS: It was a shock. We knew about Australia and then Japan, with only Ace, and then after that, it was nothing. When we did the (2018) Kruise with Ace, it wasn’t official. Then we did the Kruise and a few more shows and then it became official. I didn’t what was being talked about before, but something must have happened when we were in Australia, and he (Ace) liked how we sounded and everything. We didn’t know anything. We were just doing the job we were asked to do.
RMS: Was it awkward at all accepting the Ace gig, after hearing about how his old band was fired with no notice and Ace literally firing Richie Scarlet right after his wife’s funeral? Do you avoid the personal aspects of it and just accept it as business, or how do you deal with that?
PS: You know the human element always comes in. You never even like to hear about things like that. It is a business, but yeah, it was a little bit (awkward). What Ace decided to do on his own, it was a shock to us that the whole thing happened at all. We’ve always heard nothing but good things about those guys (Richie Scarlet, Chris Wyse & Scot Coogan), and I hope there’s no awkwardness towards us.
RMS: To me, it was almost reminiscent of when Eric Singer joined KISS after Eric Carr died. You’re obviously happy for Eric Singer, but having the transition happen on the heels of a death is obviously something nobody wants.
PS: I think it’s impossible to totally feel none of those things. We are all people and we are kindred spirits, and you never want anything bad to happen to anybody.
RMS: Could you compare and contrast for us the difference between playing in a band with Gene Simmons to playing in a band with Ace Frehley? And how was it decided which one of you guitarists would switch to bass for the Ace gig?
PS: I volunteered to play bass. Because obviously there was three guitar players with Gene. So when we got the Ace tour, I counted four guitar players (laughs). It really hadn’t dawn on me. It took me a few days to realize there was no bass player. So I said, “I’ll do it.” I wanted to so something different. And I want to say I’m really, really, having a fun time playing bass.
As far as the difference in playing with both of them, I can’t imagine two people that are more different. Gene and Ace are absolutely on the opposite sides of the spectrum. From what I’ve heard, in the original KISS lineup, Paul and Peter…all four of those guys….if you could have four opposites, you’d have four opposites. I can’t even figure out how they made it through a rehearsal. They’re all so completely different, but somehow, made this incredible magic happen.
Probably the main difference is in the time we spend with them. We NEVER see Ace, except show time. And with Gene, we were with Gene all of time. We traveled together, rode together, stayed together, ate breakfast together, had catering together. We were with Gene all of the time. With Ace, we only see him onstage.
RMS: With Gene, you guys were playing in the lower “full D” tuning, obviously because that’s what Gene has been doing with KISS since 2012, but I found it interesting that Ace has adopted the lower tuning as well. How did that come to be?
PS: It came about because we were going to use the same guitars when we did did both sets (during the 2018 Gene Simmons & Ace Frehley tour), so just for ease with transition, we asked Ace if he wanted to try to tune down another half-step, because he was already in “E-flat,” and give it a shot because our guitars were already in that tuning. If we had to retune everything or bring additional guitars, it was just going to be a hassle. So we tried it and Ace really liked it. A half step can make a big difference in singing, and it turned out he liked it and it just stayed.
RMS: I noticed from the one time that I was onstage with the Gene Simmons band, that the stage volume was surprisingly really low. Were you guys all using in ear monitors?
PS: No, we were all wedges and sidefills. We were all old-school. Same with Ace, no in-ears. That was another big difference between playing with Gene and playing with Ace, the stage volume. The stage volume with Ace is crushing loud! His guitar is set on “stun.” It is SO loud!! With Gene, we were pretty balanced, although Gene was loud too. But if a bass guitar is loud, it responds different (with volume). It’s not the same as a loud guitar, because it’s a different frequency. With loud bass, you feel it more than you hear it.
RMS: With Ace, you guys did the one off show at the KISS expo, where you played Ace’s 1978 solo album in it’s entirety. There was talk of having a second performance done in a proper venue, which would have been ideal to professionally record the performance for audio and video. What is the status of that project?
PS: I haven’t heard anything about that since the time that we actually did the show at the expo. I sure would love for it to happen, but I haven’t heard anything for that.
RMS: What about ‘Origins: Vol.2?’ Are you guys involved in that record or is that Ace pretty much on his own?
PS: Pretty much Ace on his own. I know Jeremy (Asbrook) cut a lead for it. I’m not sure what song, but Jeremy’s on it. I’ve heard some of it when Ace was having some mixes done and it sounds kick ass! Everything sounds really cool.
RMS: Do you have a year or six month plan for what you guys are going to be doing with Ace?
PS: We have stuff every month for the rest of the year. For November, we’re doing some Texas dates and then we have 2 runs in California. In December, we have some mid-western shows too. I’ve seen a few things pop up for next year. Some European festivals possibly, which would be in the summer, but I haven’t heard anything about what we’ll be doing leading up to that. 2020 is still coming together, but 2019 is booked up, and it’s booked up pretty good.
RMS: For any down time with Ace, do you and the guys have anything you’re doing together or individually?
PS: Thee Rock ‘N’ Roll Residency hasn’t completely stopped, but it’s been put on hiatus. It just became too much to do every single week. So now it’s more of Thee Rock ‘N’ Roll “occasional performance.” (laughs) It was just too much. We wanted to do a fresh show, and it just became way too tough.
This past spring, I was in Europe (playing guitar) with Accept, almost all of April and May doing these symphony orchestra shows, which was absolutely incredible. We all pick up stuff when there’s down time. Ryan manages a studio in town. Marti Frederiksen’s studio, and he’s the studio manager. He keeps busy with that also when he’s on the road. He has to take care of e-mails and “put out some fires” while we’re traveling too.
We all try to do different things, I’ll do a random session. Anytime I get some free time, even when I don’t have a whole lot booked, it just fills up. I’ll think I’ll be having a slow month, and then stuff always just comes in.
I also have a t-shirt company, called, “Mutt merch.” I also have to kind of take care of things on the road as well with that. I’m redoing the website for that right now (www.muttmerch.com), just doing some major things to be ready for the Christmas shopping season.
RMS: What you’ve achieved in your musical career thus far is absolutely amazing, do you have any other specific musical goals or other musicians you’d like to perform with as your career progresses?
PS: I can’t think of anything specific. Currently, I’m just really enjoying where I’m at, at the moment. I’m still working. You can’t stop. Whatever you’re doing, you can’t stop hustling, but nothing really comes to mind. I’m kind of happy with having whatever comes to me, come to me, because it’s been pretty great so far. I could have never have written this story. Playing with half of the lineup of the original KISS? It’s insane. Being as much of a big KISS fan as I am. And Gene was the last guy that any musician would have that he’s play with, because he had never done a solo thing before. That was completely from left field. And then so was this (playing with Ace). The whole thing, when I look back on it, it’s really crazy, and i couldn’t of written out this story in a million years.