BRUCE KULICK (GRAND FUNK RAILROAD, EX-KISS) INTERVIEW:
December 9, 2009
Bruce Kulick has been very productive since his departure from KISS in 1996. He’s recorded three solo albums, released two studio albums and a live record with Union, has made countless guest appearances and has been a member of classic rock act Grand Funk Railroad, touring extensively with them during the past nine years. Recently I had a chance to talk to Bruce about his upcoming solo album BK3 which will be issued on February 2, 2010. I hope you enjoy the interview as much I as I enjoyed talking to Bruce – he’s a class act and a good interview.
Sleaze Roxx: How long in the making was the new album BK3? Where these songs lying around for sometime or is this all new stuff?
Bruce Kulick: Well it’s all new stuff, there is some stuff on there that dates back as a late as the end of 2003.On Audio Dog that was stuff that I hoped KISS would do but they didn’t. So that was stuff that had been sitting around. The reason BK3 took a little bit of time to record and release was that I had other commitments, obviously the touring with Grand Funk Railroad. The material on the record was basically written within the past five years.
Sleaze Roxx: You have some guests on BK3, did you have people in mind to sing specific tracks? Did you intend on singing all of them yourself at one point?
Bruce Kulick: The album evolved as it was being put together. Initially I had a group of songs that all fit together, some were heavy and some were pop. The first batch of ten featured a bit too many pop songs. In the end, once we got Gene and Nick Simmons involved on the record, the formula changed. It was at that point that I thought we needed to not have as many pop songs on there and pick up everything up a notch.
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve remained close with Gene Simmons, so I imagine you didn’t have to twist his arm to get him to sing on “Ain’t Gonna Die”. Was part of the deal that you would get Nick Simmons on the record too?
Bruce Kulick: That was one of those surprise things. I didn’t plan to have Nick on the record. Gene did suggest that Nick be involved and I think it was a great idea. I like the end result. Gene owns that track with the typical Gene ‘take no prisoners’ attitude, which is what Jeremy (Rubolino, producer) hoped to get out of him.
Sleaze Roxx: “Ain’t Gonna Die” could have been the next logical transition for the Revenge line-up. You could put that back to back with “Sweet & Dirty Love” and “Weapons Of Mass Destruction” from Gene’s Asshole album, which you played on, and it would fit right in there nicely. It’s like a cross between something from Revenge and Carnival Of Souls.
Bruce Kulick: Yeah I have heard people say that before. I didn’t write the music to sound like a Revenge song …it was to do a great song. If people happen to respond to the songs in that way it’s all good to me. People that have heard it like the songs and they have been very receptive. I happen to think that Revenge is the strongest album from the non make-up era, which I was proud to have been a part of. I also have to say I really love the Carnival Of Souls album, I know there are fans out there that really hate the direction KISS took on that record. Bob Ezrin (Revenge producer) was great to work with and I looked at getting that with Jeremy (Rubolino). I needed someone that was willing and able to push me like Bob Ezrin did, and I think I got that.
Sleaze Roxx: I love the collaboration with John Corabi on “No Friend Of Mine”, what a great track.
Bruce Kulick: I don’t always talk about John first because it’s just so natural for us to work together, you know what I mean? We’ve done some very underrated, but very strong, records with Union. My producer Jeremy was a huge Union fan and thought it was a good idea. I called John and we just tried to do the best thing that we could do. I’m very proud of that track and I think we got the best of John.
Sleaze Roxx: It’s really seamless, it’s like a left over Union track that you were holding onto for future use or something.
Bruce Kulick: It absolutely was in some ways. We wanted it to be fresh and relevant and everything, but there’s a chemistry that goes along with John and I working together and that’s what you’re responding to. The goal with these tracks was to come up with the best that John and I had to offer. I look back at the debut album and The Blue Room and there were a lot of strong tracks on those albums. There are so many songs that I rave about on those albums that getting back together with John was a great opportunity to represent the best of our talents. Actually you have 3/4 of Union on that track because Brent Fitz plays drums on it.
Sleaze Roxx: Did Gene Simmons sing background vocals on that one?
Bruce Kulick: Gene didn’t sing any of the background vocals. Jeremy sings some of the backgrounds and we had another one of our friends singing on there. I’d have to check the credits, but Gene didn’t sing on that one.
Sleaze Roxx: You also have Tobias Sammet and Eric Singer on “I’m The Animal”, how did that one work? Did you catch Sammet when he was in the States or was that sent via email files or what?
Bruce Kulick: Tobias isn’t as well known here yet, but Eric Singer has done some work with him on one of his side projects.
Sleaze Roxx: That was Avantasia right?
Bruce Kulick: Right. I heard that and I thought, ‘wow this is great’. I was talking to Eric and he was like, “I’m sure he’d love to do something with you, just give him a call.” It was very organic how all the people got involved. It was a challenge coordinating everybody that made it onto the record, let me tell you that. It was even hard to coordinate to get Gene on the record and he only lives 10 to 15 minutes away. Everyone has their schedule and it was brutal enough with all my touring with Grand Funk Railroad, so it was always a challenge.
Tobi (Tobias Sammet) was coming to town for a gig at The Key Club (with Edguy) and that worked out perfect for me because I was in town. I had a few days off and he was staying in L.A. for a few more days, so I came see the band. I love them and I arranged to meet up with him to work on the songs with him. We finished the song the next day and went into the studio to record. Jeremy was like, “who is this guy? And can he sing? Is he going to blow me away? I don’t want a guy on the album just because he’s big in Europe. I want a guy that puts on a performance.” As soon as Tobias opened his mouth Jeremy was like, “Oh my God this guy is great!” I’m really glad that the timing was right because we have a killer track.
It’s all about timing and that’s why it took a long time. I happen to think that good things take time. And there’s something about being spontaneous, “Dirty Girl” for example is a great power pop track that I wanted to record. I knew I couldn’t sing it so I was thinking ‘who can I get to sing on this?’ I had done the Rock N’ Roll Fantasy Camp and one of the counselors was Doug Fieger (The Knack), he laid down vocals on the track and I loved it. There wasn’t a master plan for the record. I can say that the only track that I had planned out was “Ain’t Gonna Die”, the track you mentioned that Gene sings on, but I’m really happy with the final product and proud of everyone’s contribution.
Sleaze Roxx: I also like the track you did with Steve Lukather, “Between The Lines”. It grooves along nicely and you and Steve trade licks and it doesn’t get too over the top. How did you get Steve to record the track?
Bruce Kulick: The Lukather appearance was also a surprise to me. I didn’t write an instrumental with a guitar dueling thing. What happened was the recording studio that drummer Kenny Aronoff recommended in North Hollywood, which I recorded at years ago, I think was with Gene…I didn’t hear back from the studio and I was thinking ‘what the hell is going on here?’ Lukather as I later found out was involved with the studio in some way, I emailed Steve, a really cool guy, very humble and of course a monster of a guitarist. As it turned out he didn’t have anything to do with the studio anymore but he got me in touch with who I needed to talk to about getting a specific room I was trying to book. Next thing I know I’m getting together for lunch with him, but before that I met with Jeremy and he asked “you’re going to ask him to play on your record right?” Jeremy was right because it made for an interesting and exciting track. I was really thrilled when I asked because he said, “let me know when you have it done and we can make plans to record.” It was about three months later I called him and we laid the guitar tracks down and there it was. I think he did a great job. It’s good marriage of melody and guitar playing that shredders should enjoy.
Sleaze Roxx: What are your plans to promote the album?
Bruce Kulick: Right now I’m doing interviews, talking about it and making people aware of it. As far as touring out of the country, there are people in Australia, Europe and South America that I’ve played with so those are definitely possibilities. Right now it’s hard to determine what I can do in 2010 until I see what the reaction is. I’m going to do everything within my power to let everyone know about the record, even if it means screaming at the top of my lungs (laughs). Everyone needs to check out this record because this record rules. I really believe in it and judging by early reactions people really get it and like it. I think the reaction overall should be pretty positive and this record isn’t only for the KISS fans, if you know what I mean? BK3 will transcend that fan base, because of the songs and the guests featured on it.
Sleaze Roxx: I was looking at your website and I saw that you attended the KISS show in Anaheim. So I imagine you have heard Sonic Boom? What are your thoughts on it?
Bruce Kulick: I have heard it. It’s not a record that I have heard a lot. I think I’ve heard it twice. I knew when it came to the live show they were only going to do two songs live anyway. I think they did two that night, I actually couldn’t stay for the whole show as I had a flight the next day to Europe and I still needed to pack. I think it was wonderful that they did a new record, I’m proud of Paul for taking charge and producing the record. It was great that they didn’t bring in anyone from the outside and he went for it. The end result was a fine record.
Sleaze Roxx: You and Eric Singer stepped aside when Peter Criss and Ace Frehley came back, Eric eventually returned and now Tommy Thayer is in the band. Were you offered the opportunity to wear the Ace paint? Would you have ever done that?
Bruce Kulick: Great question, I do get asked on occasion…to be honest I’m relieved that I wasn’t asked. Honestly playing the Ace role would be very awkward for me. It was very natural for Tommy to walk into that role, eventually being in KISS ran its course with Ace. If you followed KISS since the reunion with Ace and Peter there were a number of times where it looked like Ace was going to miss the show, so the band had Tommy dressed up as Ace backstage ready to go. They did a private gig that Ace didn’t take part in, Tommy played and then they did the promo for That 70’s Show, Ace didn’t want to do it and Tommy stepped in. Tommy played Ace in a KISS tribute band that was very successful. He’s a great guitarist and it was very natural for him to be Ace.
For me, I think after spending all those years establishing myself as the guitarist in KISS in the non make-up era, to then put on the paint wouldn’t be a good match. Of course I miss the guys and miss being in the band, but I think Tommy is able to do much more for them than I would be able to right now. Playing that role would not be as comfortable for me as what I used to do. If they did a Revenge era version of the band and I wasn’t there I’d be hurt, I’d be very hurt. I’m not hurt now and I think you can understand that sentiment.
Sleaze Roxx: KISS is notorious for having various session musicians or hired guns play on their albums. They had Kevin Valentine playing drums and Tommy Thayer playing guitar on Psycho Circus, how much did you play on that CD?
Bruce Kulick: They used some of the guitar work that came from a demo from “Within.” I played some bass on the Paul Stanley songs and I played some rhythm guitar on “Dreamin” which I wrote with Paul. I didn’t play the leads that some people wanted to credit me with, which was probably Tommy if you know what I mean? If it didn’t sound like Ace it was probably Tommy.
Sleaze Roxx: Wouldn’t it be great for a KISS fan, a Bruce Kulick fan and an Ace Frehley fan if you guys could join forces in 2010 for a tour?
Bruce Kulick: (laughs) Stranger things have happened! I keep myself open to all things. If you would have told me three years ago that I’d have Gene singing on my record, and his son Nick too, I would have said you were crazy. We’ll see what happens.
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve been in Grand Funk Railroad since about 2001 and continue to tour with them. Why hasn’t there been any new music? Is there a plan give us a new Grand Funk Railroad album in the near future?
Bruce Kulick: It’s been nine years now actually, which is crazy. Very fair question, the truth is, much like KISS where it’s Gene and Paul, Grand Funk is Don Brewer and Mel Schacher. We perform a pretty good set live, I’d love to be a part of a live DVD, but right now recording a new album is not really on their radar. I’m not frustrated by that at all because I also have my own thing and that keeps me busy during Grand Funk’s downtime. I think the band is meant to be a live band that people come to see in a live setting and enjoy. So right now it’s unlikely that we’ll be doing any recording, but if in the future things change I’ll certainly be telling everybody about it.
Sleaze Roxx: Bruce thanks for your time, I appreciate you taking some time to talk to us about the album. I hope it does well for you.
Bruce Kulick: Thank you very much and be sure to check my website www.kulick.net for updates. Take care.
Thanks to Bruce Kulick