Spider/Shanghai - The Kiss Connection
In his recently published memoir, ‘No Regrets’, Ace Frehley reveals that he had hired Anton Fig to play drums on his 1978 solo album following two separate recommendations from close friends familiar with Fig’s powerhouse style. “Anton is an incredibly gifted, hard working drummer/musician and has been from a very young age,” states Amanda Blue. “He does 1, 2 even 3 things everyday to make more connections, do more sessions … this while he has a full day of work going on anyway. Back then he was doing every gig he could find … carrying his drums to Brooklyn on the train, you name it. People got to hear of him pretty quick in New York.”
On his first meeting with Ace, Anton recalls: “We were auditioning bass players and Larry Russell came by. He said he had this friend Ace from Kiss who was looking for a drummer for his solo record and recommended me. I went up and played with him a couple of times and he decided to use me. I did not know that much about Kiss at the time, but he was the first seriously big rock star that I came in contact with. At the same time we were talking to Eddie Kramer for our own project and he was going to produce Ace’s record - so that may have had some bearing too.”
Since then Anton’s place in Kisstory has been long confirmed when the band came clean some years ago on what fans had long suspected in that Fig had been engaged to play on all but one of the tracks on the ‘Dynasty’ album and also had deputised for Peter Criss on the entire ‘Unmasked’ album. However, once Criss’ departure had been confirmed in 1980 Fig had sensationally also been asked to replace the Cat on a more permanent basis.
In addition to being a member of Spider, Anton was really starting to become a leading session player (indeed, he and Keith Lentin had recently played with Link Wray), so how did the offer transpire and were his band mates aware?
“Ace took me out for dinner and asked me if I were interested in joining,” responds Anton who, until Kiss themselves revealed all, had himself remained silent on the subject in the years since. “I said I would let him know, but I knew immediately I was not going to do it although I agonized for months afterwards. At the time we (Spider) were in the top 40 and I wanted to continue on that path in my own band. I also liked playing in different situations (sessions) and did not want to lock myself into just that one thing.”
“I was aware of that offer,” acknowledges Keith. “Gene and Paul came down to one of our gigs at Trax in New York. They were looking very awkward in the dressing-room and one could feel that 'something was up'. They weren't the same as they had been in the past. Of course, we were very insecure - we really didn't want to lose Anton. I was totally blown away that he turned it down. Even his dad, who I had known well my whole life, couldn't believe that he stayed with us. He stayed loyal and to this day says that he made the right decision.”
"It was amazing that Anton turned Kiss down," adds Holly Knight, who has worked with KIss herself in a song writing capacity over the years since leaving Spider in 1981. "He would've been even richer by now. He would've looked good as a cat! But certainly he's had the opportunity to play with the best and most famous musicians in the world between David Letterman, the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame and those sessions and had a home life too. Yeah, money isn't everything."
Anton admits that the Kiss connection, especially also being managed by Bill Aucoin, certainly raised Spider's profile in the business. To a degree. "I got notoriety through Ace's record, but I could not talk about some of the other stuff I played on at the time, so that wasn't much help."
Since the demise of Spider and Shanghai, Anton has remained firm friends with Ace and was a founding member of the guitarist’s post Kiss outfit Frehley’s Comet and has played on the majority of Frehley’s solo output ever since, although has tended not to tour with Ace due to his commitments in David Letterman’s house band.