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Full Throttle Rock

Interview: Bruce Kulick

Posted on October 16, 2013 at 8:45 PM

Put simply, I am crazy for all things Kiss. They have been a ruling force in my life since I was in school. In that time I have seen the band go through many changes, with many degrees of success or failure. One of the bands best decisions was to bring Bruce Kulick into the fold in the mid 1980s, in my view, this move helped the band stay relevant and fresh during this period. By the mid 1990s the original band reunited for a reunion world tour and Kulick found himself on the outer, but instead of moaning and groaning about it, like so many others would, Kulick remained on good terms with the band and move on, forging a career of his own with John Corabi in Union and as a solo artist. So when a member of the ‘Hottest Band In The World’, current or past, wants to give me a call, that is an opportunity I am going to take.


Rock Man: You have had a long outstanding career playing with some of the biggest names in the music industry, could you have imagined your career would take the shape it has?


Bruce Kulick: Well you know, the more I go back and look at all the things I have done the more I realize, while I was doing then, of course I was excited and as professional as possible, but I did not realize the impact that all the things, especially the Kiss years, would ultimately have. Even prior to that the dual lead guitars for Meat Loaf and touring the world for the Bat Out Of Hell Tour, you know, when it first came out, I mean that album is still huge and the version of that record you buy now has a couple of live tracks on it featuring Bob (Kulick) and I. So I am very blessed to be a working musician all these years, could I have imagines it? … not completely, definitely not.


RM: Who are some of the artists or guitarists that influenced your musical upbringing?


BK: Well you know, it all started, I mean, I need the mention The Beatles before anything else, because that was such a huge moment, the Ed Sullivan Show here in America, it was quite remarkable to experience something really magical musically and then their kind of vibe about how it is to be a band and play music, kind of changed our culture and I am very, very pleased, as much as I will be nearing 60 at the end of the year, I am happy that I grew up in that era that I can enjoy that. Because from The Beatles everything else started to fall into place with bands like The Who, Led Zeppelin and Cream and The Rolling Stones and all, and Jimi Hendrix had to go to London to make it, you know, the whole British Invasion was fascinating to me and I was a huge fan of all the bands that came out of that time. And that music is still timeless, I really think there is no mystery why The Beatles is still huge and Hendrix is on the cover of magazines. So strictly guitar hero wise, I will say someone like Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck and later on a guy like Eddie Van Halen who kind of supercharged some of the stuff he heard from Clapton and those were the people, Eric Clapton I need to mention of course, being a huge influence on me loving guitar. So it was never a dull moment in my bedroom with what to listen too and what to try and pick up.


RM: In terms of the Kiss albums you were on, which one do you think was your best guitar performance or your favourite to play on?


BK: You know it is a great question, obviously fans have different favourites of their own, there is highlights on all the albums I always felt. I am going to give you the answer, really if I had to stick with one record it would be Revenge, because I just felt between Bob Ezrin’s production and the commitment of the band at the time I really felt it was one of our most cohesive, strong, hard rock melodic efforts. The lead guitar was in your face, take no prisoners, you know, balls to the wall, but I have to say I am very fond of the acoustic solo on Forever, I think the melodic guitar playing on Tears Are Falling are important moments in my Kiss years. Some people think Carnival Of Souls is the best record the band put out, you know, but for me, as much as I am proud of a lot of stuff through those years that record really held it together for me in, I felt, like a big showcase for me.


RM: Two of my all time favourite drummers are Eric Carr and Eric Singer. You have been in the fortunate position of playing with each of them, can you tell me a little something about both of them?


BK: Well you know, Eric Carr, when I first met him he wasn’t that pleased about the politics that was going on in the band and I kind of was really upset with him because there I was for the first time touring in Europe, limousines first class, sold out concerts and he was kind of mopey (laughs). So I kind of had to yell at him and say “Do you realise how lucky to are?”, and playing wise, I mean the guy had this huge kit, he was extremely talented, he also was a great singer and could write songs, he became my closest friend in those years of Kiss and we worked together on some of his music for his cartoon idea called Rock Heads and we have some co-rights with Kiss and I was very close with him. The hardest thing about my relationship with him was purely that struggle that he had about how to be happy in Kiss and as much as that sounds crazy, every job has, and every band has, like family pecking order and emotional issues, you know what I mean? and unfortunately he let his issues bother him a bit. But I was still very dear to him and he was very funny, very amazing with the fans, it did not matter how cold it was in Sweden, he would go outside because they could not let them all in the lobby and he would sign autographs, he is that kind of a guy. And obviously it was very sad loosing him at such a young age, you know, but everyday there is something that comes in and I am very close to his sister Loretta and the family, I am always scanning more photos that I find that fans send. Now Eric Singer, obviously we had to find someone who could replace those big shoes in Kiss and Eric was a really strong player from Ohio that lived in L.A. so that was a good advantage. When he sat in for some of the Revenge sessions just prior to, I think, Bob Ezrin and the band decided he would be the right guy to record the record and then join the band and they liked his blonde hair at the time. We became quite close, obviously he has done a great job with the band, he was a different kind of drummer also, obviously very strong in that whole rock and roll sense, but Eric certainly, he was really a Kiss fan, he went to see them in Ohio when he was young and he kind of knew some things about the band that Gene and Paul forgot. I remember when he came into the mix I was like, “Oh you really were there?” and it was kind of interesting how he was able to help, in some ways get us back to some of the roots of the band and of course I am talking about that whole Revenge, MTV Unplugged, that era, those years between 92-95/96. But Eric and I have continued to do work since, even though of course, for a little while not in Kiss and then Alice Cooper and then back in Kiss and now, very much in Kiss and he has been a real important wheel of the car, the way I like to look at Kiss with the four wheels, he is certainly doing his job, he is just a very talented drummer and I consider him one of my closest friends.


RM: As Kiss fans we all think we know Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, but you worked with them for twelve years, so you would know them better than we do, what are they really like away from the spotlight?


BK: Well, a lot of what obviously the fans are exposed to, even though there is so much access now with the internet and things like that, but a lot of what they get is the professional Gene and Paul, how they like to present themselves absolutely as rock stars, the creators of this giant monster called Kiss. So there is no doubt that when they are ‘On’ I will call it, they are ‘On’, they are so gifted at being rock stars, I have always discussed with friends and just recently I was interviewed for the Kiss movie which should come out next year, the official Kiss movie, and we talked about, well, how did it go with Gene and Paul?, how incredible eloquent and professional and they are able to make, you know, very strong fences, it almost looks like they just have a writer but they do not, they are just brilliant at explaining themselves and how they see Kiss, okay. But behind the curtain, in many ways it is not that different, Gene is, he has got a huge heart and he is very, he can be extremely, not the hard core business guy that you know. I think people really saw sides to Gene that were, incredibly, the curtains were drawn on his TV show, which is part of why it did so well and even though we know reality TV, a lot of the situations that are set up are scripted, to a certain extent, I was really shocked and I was so happy about the show because those sides of Gene were being exposed to families. By the way, the families that really soaked it up and loved it were not necessarily Kiss fans, but they got the complexities of hanging around with a rich, arrogant rock star kind of guy with his Playboy wife and two kids, who are jewels in the rough, you know. So it was really the best way to show the way Gene is, and Paul, Paul prefers to be more private, although is has done his paintings, he has done events like that where you see an artist, you do not see a musician, you do not see the “How ya all doin’?” rock star on stage, if you know what I mean?. He is very proud of that, he is very creative, he is not as willing to, like, “come on into my home, set up the cameras”, and he is a more private guy. I know he is wonderful with his family, his wife Erin is incredible, the kids are amazing which is a real testament to Paul, you know, I see Evan once in a while in the neighbourhood, he is a fine guitarist. But I have to admit that Paul is probably a little more protective of those elements of his life and who he is as a person, he is very serious about what it is to be the rock star, so he kind of protects the other side of his life a lot. He can switch off between the Paul that you just hang out with and then the Paul that is going to be in front of the fans, that is pretty incredible that he is able to do that the way he does, but again, to the fans he is going to be more The Starchild.


 RM: Having experienced this first hand, tell me about the Kiss fan and what makes them so different from other rock fans?


BK: Well, I have got to admit they really do attract, I think being a fan, you could be a Star Wars fan, I do not think there is fundamentally a huge difference between fans of different genres, meaning a sci-fi fan could be pretty similar to a Kiss fan, actually in my mind. But just being specific with Kiss, they are very loyal, yet many of them, not the majority, but many of them will also criticize but still be there for the band, many will support all eras, many will be a snob and just like say, only the original four, only the make-up, you get what I mean?. So they kind of split off into opinions and passions of the band, you know, I remember for a while, I am a huge Beatles fan, that I was like, “No I do not want to listen to anything from the first couple of records, that is primitive Beatles. No I want to listen to Magical Mystery Tour, trippy complex music”, you know, and of course now it could be a rough demo from 62 and I am happy to hear it because it is the Beatles, okay. So I kind of change with that as well, but honestly the Kiss fans are a unique, wonderful breed that I am very blessed to have been exposed to of course, because they have created a career for me, you know, it is as if I am still in the band but I have not been with the guys since 96 and it is incredible to still be such a part of the family and everything. So I am really quite blessed about the fact that they are the way they are and that they are so passionate about the band and they really just want to celebrate the group and boy, you know, one thing about them they do not ever seem to hang it up, which is great.


RM: Can you tell me about your time with Union and are you hopeful that one day John Corabi and yourself can find time to record another Union album?


BK: Fair question, in fact last night I was talking to Brent Fitz, the drummer, because he lives in Las Vegas, but there were a couple of things that came up that he would give me a call about and we were talking about that subject, both knowing that as much as we want to do it, it is just something to keep in our back pocket that could happen in the future. John and I have done a lot of stuff post-Union together, we have toured together, he has been on my record, I have been on his new acoustic album and of course he is the singer when Eric (Singer) and I are able to tour as ESP (Eric Singer Project). But really it is something that could happen, I do not want to dangle the carrot to much and say “Yeah”, but we have talked about the fact that in the future we could do a record. I mean, it was a terrific band, I am very proud of everything I did with those guys, tremendous musicians and even Jamie Hunting, the bass player, who I have had the least contact with, lately he is the bass player with Roger Daltry, so he is out there, you know, he is such an incredible musician. So in time who knows? but the important thing is the fans are still talking about it, I am planning on, because of Brent and I discussing Union, we discussed getting an official Facebook page, you can find it through mine, and I want to include more content and just keep it going and keep the romance that some of the fans have for the band, because we have not forgotten about it, it is just not the time to do it yet.


 RM: Your last solo record, BK3 was in 2010, are there any plans to release another one soon and if so, will it be like BK3 with vocals from guest singers as well as yourself or will it be more in the style of the previous album Transformer?


BK: Right great question, I really do not completely have an answer. I am always writing, okay, and regarding my BK4, we will call it, I just do not have a firm plan to how I would do it. The important thing is that I am staying creative, archiving good ideas, more and more serious about trying to write stuff and I obviously, it cost a lot of money to do a record the way I want to do a record, because I am not going to do it in my bedroom, I am going to use a professional studios and the real gear and everything and I might go the route of a pledge music thing, but I would not do that until the songs were ready. And then in essence I am pre-selling it, you know what I mean? and who would be involved? and what? you know, I just befriended Joe Satriani at a Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp up in Napa Valley, the wine country, and he invited me, you know, he bought my CD I could not believe it, I get the email order Joe Satriani, I am like… What?. But what a great guy and what a brilliantly talented guitar player, he did a great job at this quick three day camp up at Louis M. Martini winery, it was like a hybrid kind of camp, not just a regular fantasy camp it was involved with wine making and it was fascinating, but Joe was like, what a guy. So obviously when something like that happens and I create a “You are great” and him saying to me “I want to get your record I really dig you” I am like “Wow”, that makes me think “Can I ask him to guest on a song?”, you see what I mean? I start thinking about that, which takes me back to BK3 where I was able to ask guests to help me out. But I do not have a firm plan yet, all I know is I have been very driven, especially since I am done with the summer crazy Grand Funk Railway schedule, that I want to archive songs and move forward with staying creative, there are a lot of projects for next year I need to accomplish, I have also been writing with my brother, we have talked about doing an EP, we do not want to get crazy with a full blown record but I think the fans would love a nice appetiser like an EP from the two of us. And I do not know who would sing that yet, we have not even figured that out, but the important thing is we have a couple of really cool rock tunes that I think the fans would really like and that has taken us, God, we have been talking about that since the beginning of this year, so it takes time.


 RM: Someone pointed out to me an interesting statistic the other day, you have been in Grand Funk Railway longer than you were in Kiss. It has obviously been a great experience, what can you tell me about being part GFR?


BK: Well, first of all Don (Brewer) and Mel (Schacher) are just an incredible rhythm section and Don was always really important in the band in the sense of the song writing and singing too, even though I have to be fair to Mark Farner, who is a friend of mine, I have done some work with him at fantasy camp, you know, the trippy part about Don is he wrote there biggest hit and sang it, We’re An American Band, you know. So when they were first putting this together, when Mark went solo, and had to figure it out, first they found this amazing singer who lives in Arizona now, this guy called Max Carl who could really cut all the vocal stuff and he also plays guitar and he is a songwriter, but he is not a lead player the way I am and I am really glad I got on that short list of ‘Okay, let’s get a lead guitarist’, and I get to really jam out, the Kiss fans that have come to the shows, we have not left North America, to be quite honest, but the Kiss fans that have come down cannot believe every song has a guitar solo from me, you know. I have a big featured solo on Inside Looking Out, I do the Star Spangled Banner, it has been a great gig, these guys are really talented, like I said before as a rhythm section they are incredible and we obviously do a lot of the hits, I mean the difference between all these years I have been doing with them is it is all about just gigging live, like doing theses weekend fly dates, we do about 35/40 gigs a year and that seems to be what each year is, Casinos, State Fairs, City Festivals, sometimes a private event for whatever, that whole ‘classic rock’ thing is popular in America. Bands like ourselves and Blue Oyster Cult, from Kansas to Styx and all that, they can go out and really stay as busy as they want, you know, so I am kind of glad we do not do too many gigs in a year because this way I am able to do other things. But honestly, what a great gig because the musicianship is extremely high and it is fun to play those songs and I never get tired of them and the reaction is always great, I cannot complain at all about the fact that some people do not know who is in the band or even do we really know all their songs, it does not matter, we play what we play so well that people always go home with a big smile on their face saying ‘We want more’. And of course the market difference between Kiss and this, Kiss was putting out an album every year/year and a half or whatever, the product is always coming out and Don and Mel really have not been aggressive in any way about saying ‘Okay lets record’, we do some new songs in the set, but we have not, the record business we have seen it change so much in these twelve years, this is my thirteenth year, not sure what to do about that and that has got to be their thing, their comfort level, business wise, to say ‘Okay lets put out a single, lets do a video, lets do a DVD’, and I feel bad that we have not gotten to aggressive about that, one thing we are good at is entertaining the crowd for the 80 minutes on stage and we always bring down the house, cannot complain at all, it has been a good gig.


RM: Once again Bruce, congratulations on all your success so far, on behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock Magazine I would like to wish you all the best for the future.


BK: Thank you so much, man.


For more information about Bruce Kulick check out the website at Kulick.net



Categories: Interviews

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