According to Ace Frehley, his decision to leave KISS in 1982 cost Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley a pretty penny — $7.5 million, to be exact.
Reflecting on why he quit the band, Frehley told a Musicians Institute audience during a “live conversation” on September 25 that “KISS in the seventies was just like this roller-coaster ride for me. I was holding on for dear life. We were just constantly busy, and the drugs and the alcohol and all the partying in conjunction with that type of schedule just started to get to me. By the early eighties, I just wanted to jump off the roller coaster because I thought I was going to crash.
“I was sitting in my lawyer’s office prior to quitting the band,” he continued. “We had just gotten a $15 million contract. I’m talking to my lawyer going, ‘$15 million, that’s great, but every night I drive home to Connecticut, I want to drive my car into a tree because I’m not happy.’ He goes, ‘Okay, Ace, I hear that, but it’s $15 million.’ After about a half an hour, I said, ‘Look, you cannot spend money six feet under.’ He still didn’t get it. Unfortunately, when I left, they lost $7.5 million, which I feel bad about, because the contract stated at least three of the four [original] members had to be in the band. They [had already] let Peter [Criss] go, so when I decided to quit, I cut the contract in half and it went from $15 million to $7.5 [million]. I think they were a little mad at me about that.”
Frehley said that while it wasn’t easy to walk away from such a big payday, he felt he needed to do so. “I’m still alive — you’ve got to put that ahead of everything else,” he said. “I remember when I was at the richest point in my life, I was the most miserable. I’m sure other people have said that. I’ve met a lot of wealthy people who are miserable. It depends on how you make your money. There’s a lot of wealthy people who are crooked, and they’re probably unhappy with themselves and have trouble sleeping at night because it’s all on their conscience. That wasn’t my problem. My problem was I was doing too much — way too much.”
The guitarist also confirmed that both times he left KISS were by choice. “I remember the first time I wanted to quit the band,” he said. “Gene called me up and goes, ‘Ace, you don’t have to leave the band if you want to do a solo record. You can still stay in KISS. We’ll even take a break and let you do it.’ They didn’t want me to leave. They never wanted me to leave, and I quit the band twice. If you look at old interviews, sometimes they would lump me in with Peterand say, ‘Yeah, we fired Peter and Ace.’ They never fired me — I always quit. I want to make that clear.”