Interview with Bruce Kulick (Kiss/Grand Funk Railroad)

You’ve just released your latest solo album BK3 how do you feel now that it’s out?

It’s a big relief actually. It’s taken so long doing the actual CD and making all the industry moves with the labels as I have one in Europe and one in the U.S and also getting the distribution to happen. With my first two records I only did small numbers with people that I knew through my website…..from the trunk of my car, as I like to say. In the end there was a lot of work and I was really anxious about it. Now it’s out and the reaction has been wonderful, everybody has been raving about it, it’s absolutely fantastic. The sales, considering I’m an independent artist who’s never really put out anything officially, has been very respectable so everyone’s really happy. I’m thrilled that it’s out there. It’s great.

Why did it take 6 years to release? Was this something you were doing in your downtime from your other projects including Grand Funk Railroad?

I’m a very hard worker when I have an actual goal that’s attainable but I have other gigs that take up a lot of my time, those gigs incidentally helped to fund this record, as this record cost me money to make and it clearly sounds that way too. I spent a lot of time getting things just right and I have to thank my producer Jeremy Rubolino for helping and pushing me to get better studios, better engineers and such like. If it meant doing something three times to get it right, we did it. There was a no compromise kind of attitude and it wasn’t about throwing around money needlessly it was we just wanted to get it absolutely right. When he said “Here’s a strings arranger” I just didn’t want to do it on the keyboards. I wanted to do it properly. I wanted real strings, not samples so that all took time to arrange. I also wanted all my guitar parts to be done with a mike in front of a speaker and not using software. You can do a good demo that way and software has come a long way but I’m old school. With all the attention to detail in making this record and my other work, it meant that it took 6 years to make a record which is kind of crazy.

When was the majority of the material written? Did many of your early ideas make the final cut or did you do a flurry of writing closer to the actual release?

The first thing for the record was “I’ll Survive” that I wrote at the end of 2003. In 2004 we wrote a lot of stuff and by 2006 we’d recorded 10 things but the flavour of the album changed a lot when Gene Simmons committed to it and then he offered Nick his son. I always knew that I could use Corabi and we did a great song together. Tobias Sammet, I didn’t know about to begin with and I didn’t know who would sing like Doug Fieger, who has sadly just passed away.

On the album there’s a fantastic list of guests appearing on the album including Gene Simmons and Eric Singer from Kiss, John Corabi, Tobias Sammet, Steve Lukather, Nick Simmons and Doug Fieger from The Knack. Before I go on and talk about their contributions, it was really sad news to hear about the recent death of Doug. What are your memories of working with Doug?

The song that Doug sings on the album was in that first batch of 10 that I wrote in 2006. It was just a great Power Pop Rock tune and I knew I wouldn’t sing it and we needed someone like Doug to sing that on the album. I met him at the Rock’n’ Roll Fantasy Camp. I knew of him but I didn’t know him. I used to bump into him at the local guitar shop as he was quite a guitar collector and had an impressive collection. I remember getting him an article in one of the big U.S guitar magazines called Vintage Guitars and they showed off his collection. He was a very sweet guy. He had a beautiful home and when we went round there he showed us his collection. I was really blown away by them. When we first played him the song he said he loved it. He wasn’t that interested in changing this bit or that bit, he was very agreeable. When he came in to sing it, it didn’t take him very long. I was running a little late getting to the studio and he and Jeremy, my producer, already had a pass down. I then made some suggestions when I arrived and he sang it again and he added some tambourine and harmony vocals and that was it. It was very quick and I was very excited about it. I was very fortunate to be able to work with Doug.

If this was Doug’s last recorded vocal then he’s certainly gone out on a high. It’s such a catchy song, have you considered it as a single?

In the US they used the song with Nick as the first single because of not only his performance but also because of the popularity of Gene Simmons Family Jewels TV show. Radio may move over to Gene’s song next but if they want to use Doug Fieger’s song then that’s fine. I don’t want it to look like I’m trying to make any advantageous moves because of his loss. I want to be careful about that but I have a great track which shows his talent so clearly. Actually it’s on the give away CD with this month’s Classic Rock magazine. They won’t mention anything about his passing though as it was already manufactured and printed before then.

Probably the most notable name on your guest list is Gene Simmons. How did he become involved?

I always had a fantasy of Gene being on the album. I just had the guts with Eric Singer’s encouragement to ask Gene and he said yes right away so I was really happy. I have a really good relationship with Gene and Kiss hadn’t recorded anything at that time since Psycho Circus and the song on my album was very different to what was on that record and also on Sonic Boom which has just come out. I think mine is more of the Revenge or Carnival of Souls style. It was really exciting for me.

When you asked Gene did you think that his son Nick was going to do a vocal too. What happened there?

Gene offered me Nick very quickly and I knew that he had aspirations as a singer. He sounds quite like Gene too and he does a fantastic job on “Hand of the King”.

Talking of “Hand of the King” that has a great Zeppelin driving groove to it and features a great solo from you. What’s the story behind that song?

When Jeremy and I wrote that we weren’t sure who was going to sing it. We had some melody ideas and we thought that once we found who was going to sing it there might be some adjustments. We knew it was a big track in that style that we liked. It has a similar feel to the material we were doing in Union with Corabi and we knew when we were recording it, it was going to be a big sounding riffy type of track. When we knew Nick was going to be involved we threw a few tracks at him and sure enough he immediately gravitated to that song. There’s a real interesting combination between his genetics and with this Jim Morrison thing too. There was this real dark imagery, comic book type of thing to the song and it’s something that I’m real proud of. I actually did a kick off party at The Cat Club and he was up doing that song so that should be on an episode of Family Jewels at some point.

It’s good to see your old mate Eric Singer showing up too. It must have been good playing with him again?

He did a great job on the “Animal” track and he’s been very supportive and he pointed me in the direction of Tobias Sammet too. It’s always a pleasure working with Eric, he’s a great guy.

Were you not tempted to get Gene and Eric to play with you on one song like in the old days?

Yes, what was ironic about that, was that the original song that Tobias sang on had the working title of “Gene Rocker” and we thought Eric could play drums and we’d get Gene into it. He liked it but he wanted to take it in a whole different direction and for me I’d already cut the drums, the bass and guitars and I had the vision as to what the song should be and I just didn’t like where Gene was going with it so we decided to write something brand new. Eric was so funny about it, he was like “What d’yer mean, Gene’s not singing that one?!!” He didn’t know the creative process that I was working on and Gene was trying to turn it into something completely different. I think he’s pretty damned happy that Tobias is singing on that song.

Did you think about asking Paul Stanley to take part too and have a Revenge reunion?

I didn’t want to make it a complete Kissfest but to be honest it’s very ironic that you mentioned his name. You said earlier that you liked the solo on “Hand of the King” well that was played on a Paul Stanley Ibanez PS10 from 1979 so that’s something of a tribute to Paul on that. It’s a vintage model and when I told Paul about it he was really flattered as he thinks those guitars are great. When we were picking the guitar to play on that, we were looking for the one with the best sound and all the arrows were pointing to that Ibanez. So in a very oblique way Paul is there.

Another notable guest appearance is John Corabi who puts in a superb performance on “No Friend of Mine”. What surprises me about John Corabi is how he isn’t talked about as being one of the finest Rock singers of the last 20 years. He really is an underrated talent.

I agree with you. You know, he didn’t have his proper day in Motley Crue but I have to admit that he was fantastic on the Union records and I think I got the best out of him on my record and he’s really proud of it. Jeremy was a real fan of Union and he was excited about being able to produce something with John.

Are you hoping to work again with John in the near future? Maybe another Union album?

The drummer on most of the album was Brent Fitz who was the drummer with Union and he’s actually just got the gig to play drums with Slash. John and I worked with Eric Singer together and we do some Union songs in the Eric Singer Project. I like the fact that people ask about Union so I hope that in time something might happen.

Having a few different singers on an album could have resulted in something rather disjointed but this album has a real cohesive feel about it and everything works so well together. Did you have any doubts about using different singers at first?

No, not really because the material was so fine tuned that even going from something as Heavy as Gene to something maybe more Pop as a singer like Doug there’s still some common thread through all of the material from the guitar playing and production. I’d like to say my guitar playing is the glue between everything. A lot of it was about the right combination of songs. There were things written later on, it’s almost like a recipe where you’re making something but you feel it’s missing something, that one ingredient. The last song we recorded was the opening track as up until then we didn’t really have a clear, opening track. Me and Jeremy decided to try to write something that really grabbed people’s attention and says “Hey!! Look at me!!” That was done last summer so that last song was done some years after other material on the album but it all fits together so well.

I think if anything, it leaves you wanting more. When I heard Doug’s song I wanted to hear more Power Pop and when I heard John singing “No Friend of Mine” I wanted to hear more dirty Riff driven Hard Rock. I’d say the diversity on the album is its strength and it keeps it very fresh.

That’s really good, thank you. I think it’s pretty diverse too and it keeps it interesting for me and I hope anyone that listens to it too.

When you faced up to Steve Lukather in the studio, what were your thoughts just before you started playing? He’s such a unique talent, were you wondering why on earth you asked him to appear?

Ha!! I’ve known Steve for a while and he’s a monster on the guitar but he’s also a very humble, sweet guy. It happened by accident as the drummer Kenny Aarnoff recommended a studio to me that I hadn’t used in quite a while in L.A. I knew Steve had something to do with the studio so I got in touch with him about the studio and he suggested doing lunch. Before lunch Jeremy was all over me saying I had to ask him to play on the record and I was saying “Oh, no don’t intimidate me like that, he’s a scary guitar player” and all that sort of thing. I asked him and he was kind enough to contribute his talent to the album.

When you guitarists get together, do you swap any guitar tips?

I’ve seen Steve Lukather give a master class at the Fantasy Camp. I was sitting in the audience like a camper. I do like to watch other players especially ones that I really respect, doing their thing so that I can kind of learn. Most of the time that we’ve been able to jam has been up onstage in front of people where we just go for it. We actually didn’t record the guitar parts at the same time. I did the theme and chorus’s then I let him do what he wanted to do and Jeremy and I did some editing and I put in some of my parts in there so it was kind of unusual but was still a very exciting thing to do. I didn’t really want to take up too much of his time in the studio. He’s so talented that it didn’t take him long.

How did it actually work with your guests? Did you send them the songs and tell them what you wanted or was there more interaction than that?

I was happy that I always had the guests with me and Jeremy. We didn’t send them the track and then have them do their own thing. It was very collaborative and maybe that’s another reason why they all sound so good. We were all on the same side to make this sound great, there was no dissention at all. Everybody was really excited doing this. They all knew that Jeremy and I spent a lot of time getting a big guitar, bass and drums sound and to put a great vocal performance on top of that you get something that you want to share with people.

Was there anyone who you would have liked to have on the album that maybe wasn’t available to contribute this time but you may get next time?

Yeah, but I only really approached those people that I thought would be possible for the album. I had a nice fantasy list that would have been fun to do like Paul McCartney and Jack Bruce and I could go on and on but everyone that we asked came through for us so it was great.

What I really enjoyed about the album is that it highlights your guitar work without it being an overbearing guitarists solo album. It’s not just a blur of notes it’s more of a song based album. Is that what you set out to make?

It was always going to be about songs. As much as I can play flashy, I’m not a shredder. For me the guitar work should always compliment a catchy song even if they’re heavy or have big riffs or they are just Pop and that’s the idea with my record. That is a stereotype that I need to fight sometimes as people always think “Oh, here’s a guitarists solo album, it’s going to be a wankfest!!” Some guitar albums are like that but for me it’s interesting to hear music.

Although it is a song based album, there are still some great guitar moments on there too. One of the highlights for me is the fantastic solo on “I’m An Animal” which really is you at your most explosive. How do I go about putting a solo together like that?

To be honest, that solo was a very unusual one. The main body of the solo I did for the original demo and I remember Jeremy being thrilled with it and him saying “You’re not going to be able to beat that one!!” I asked one of the engineers what they thought of it as it wasn’t really recorded how we planned on doing it and he said” I can make that work, that’s great”. I was relieved and that was one take and sometimes when stuff happens it just happens and you don’t even know why but you just put it together and it sounds right. So there you go but I’d hate to have to learn it and do it again!!

Your guitar playing seems to show a greater degree of versatility than say during your Kiss days. Do you feel that your playing style was more restricted in Kiss?

Well, throughout the years I was able to showcase a lot of different styles with Kiss, from “Unholy” to “Forever” which are both very different but when you are doing a solo record I do like to be able to edit and choose and since the material will be a total reflection of my thing then I think that always gives you a better opportunity to show what you can do on the guitar with the technique, the melody and the tones and textures. Certainly on some Kiss albums it needed only a certain tone from me but here I can play around with different guitars that’s why the packaging shows lots of pictures of unusual guitars not just the typical Kiss looking guitars.

Which guitar do you favour playing?

My favourite one is the Les Paul I’m holding on the back of the album. It’s been in my family for a long time and it’s a really great sounding Les Paul.

I remember you once said that you didn’t like playing acoustic guitar that much. Do you still think that way?

No, in fact if I said that I’m not sure why. Maybe they had heavier strings and they were hurting my hands, I don’t know . To be honest, since “Forever” was so important for me in the Kiss catalogue I do enjoy playing an acoustic guitar. I didn’t really do an acoustic song on BK3 but I have done on other albums like the last song on Transformer. I do like playing acoustic a lot. Actually the acoustic you can hear on the intro to “No Friend Of Mine” is Jeremy playing. He was like “hey, I like these inversions” and I heard him play it and I said “Why don’t you just play it?” He knows how to show parts on the guitar but he doesn’t consider himself a guitarist. I just let him play it on the album and actually at The Cat Club I had him come up and play it on one of my acoustics so that was cool.

You recently played a couple of release parties at the Cat Club in Hollywood and also at the Kiss Coffeehouse, how did they go?

The Kiss Coffeehouse wasn’t actually a gig as it was very small and would be like playing in your local coffee joint. It can hold about 65 people. Would they have liked me to play something? Sure, but it wouldn’t have made the crowd any bigger if I had. That was a really cool meet and greet and they got a lot of goodies. There was press that showed up too so it was really cool and went really smoothly. The Cat Club was the one that really impressed me as I basically took a club that was popular but not really packed out every night, and between Nick and the fans and the buzz on the street and everything the place was packed to capacity and there were over 200 people in there. I had a great time and played a short set. It was a sweatfest but it was wonderful.

Do you have any plans to take a band out onto the road?

It’s possible. There’s people who’ve reached out to me that I hadn’t heard from for a while so people are aware that I have something really serious that I’ve just put out so who knows. I’m trying to work that out but I’m also very busy as guitarist for Grand Funk Railroad. If I can’t make it over Europe until November I think people will still know who I am and will want to come out.

Will you be playing material from the whole of your career?

For the setlist I always like to do the era of Kiss that they don’t do. Now that I’ve got three solo records out there’s plenty of material for me there. In Australia when I did some gigs back in December I had a great 20 song setlist. I only had one BK3 song in the setlist then but this year I’ll have more. It’s pretty easy picking some Kiss gems from all the years I was involved.

What about chucking in “Fools Game” or “Save Our Love” from your stint with Michael Bolton? Everybody’s Crazy is one fine Melodic Rock classic. I think that would surprise fans of Michael’s more ballad orientated material!!

Wow, now you’re going really far back!! I don’t know but if I did, I’d have to have Michael there. It’s a great record.

Could you ever envisage a scenario, time permitting, where there are 2 versions of Kiss one with the makeup and another with the Revenge line up playing the 80’s and 90’s material?

I would think that’d be a terrific line up of course and it would be really interesting but I wouldn’t expect the phone to ring as we wouldn’t be wearing the make up or anything and until a promoter comes up and says that they want a no make-up Revenge tour then it won’t happen.

Just a quick question about the KKB CD that came out recently which dates back to 1974. Can you tell me a little about this?

The fact that I found the original reel to reel tape of my first band, we’d never even done a gig, I was pretty excited. I’m really proud of it. A friend of mine said that I should put it out there. It was really innocent and very true to who we were at the time. We were just trying to be like a Creamy kind of King Crimson almost. I just printed up a limited edition of 1000 of them and it did quite well and I’m really proud to get it out there. I know Classic Rock magazine showcased one of the songs and I was getting orders through that . It was ironic that we never got to do a gig but it was a good band.

Now that your new solo album BK3 is finally out what have you got planned for the coming year?

This is all about promoting BK3 and Grand Funk Railroad takes up about a third of my year so I still have plenty of time to do other stuff so hopefully I can play some shows with my own band too.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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