Thursday, July 23, 2009

KISS His Axe: An Exculsive Interview With Bruce Kulick

KISS His Axe: An Exculsive Interview With Bruce Kulick
by Jeb Wright

Bruce Kulick first came to prominence in the band KISS, where he played lead guitar from 1984 to 1996. Nowadays, Bruce plays lead guitar for Grand Funk Railroad and, occasionally, releases solo CDs. Coming soon is Bruce's third solo effort titled BK3. Unlike his first two efforts, Audio Dog and Transformers, BK3 will feature a heavier sound and many contributions from some of Kulick's famous friends, including Gene and Nick Simmons.

We caught up with Kulick fresh off the stage at The Moondance Jam in Walker, Minnesota. Bruce gave us a sneak peak behind the making of BK3 as well as talking about his role in Grand Funk and his place in the history of KISS. Bruce is open and honest about his career, including if he would have put on Ace Frehley's makeup if asked. Read on to learn more about the upcoming album and Bruce Kulick as both a musician and a man.

Jeb: Grand Funk Railroad has a bit more guitar in it with you in the band.

Bruce: In some ways, I even get featured more than KISS with this band. Every song has a solo, other than "Some Kind of Wonderful," which would not be appropriate. When I was getting into bands from the late 60's and 70's, I loved power trios. I remember seeing them on television and thinking, "That's great. The drums are pounding, the bass is thumping and the guitar is soloing." To be able to be in the band now is amazing. I play with more gain than Mark [Farner] but I respect his signature riffs.

Jeb: Tell me about BK3. Is this going to be out on your website?

Bruce: The product you are holding was put out just for Australia. I have not put out a solo record for three years. I mastered it on Thursday, so all eleven songs are ready. I had more than half the record done before the beginning of the year. I had some gigs booked in Australia for guitar clinics. They love KISS and they love me. I had not had any product for a while so I did a limited edition of 1000 of these Eps. I have a song on the album with Gene [Simmons] and one with his son Nick [Simmons]. I didn't want to give them away yet. They are great songs; there is no filler on this record. The three songs on the EP are great songs. The first one I did with John Corabi singing. The next track is one that I sing on and the last one is the only instrumental that is on the album. Steve Lukather is on the instrumental along with Kenny Aronoff. Eric Singer plays on a track on the album. Doug Fieger from the Knack played on a track too.

Jeb: He is sick, isn't he?

Bruce: He is dealing with cancer. I met him at one of the Rock n' Roll Fantasy Camp gigs that I do. I knew I could not sing the song so I asked him to do it. He came in and knocked it out. It is a perfect fit for him. I have several featured guests, which is different for me. This time out, I wanted to really make it the best I possibly could. Once I got Gene on board, and he offered up his son Nick, I knew I was on my way. I got gutsy and thought, "I am using a studio that Lukather used to be involved with. I am going to ask him to be on the album." Neal Zlozower did the artwork and the photographs. He was really digging the heavier songs.

Jeb: When will the final product be ready for release?

Bruce: It will probably come out about the same time as the new KISS album, not by design, it will just be ready then. I have talked with some people about putting this out with a label but, as you know, the business has become more and more crazy over the last few years. I can't tell you what is going to happen at this point. I want to get it out in the fall, one way or the other.

Jeb: Did you make a wish list of guests you wanted on the CD?

Bruce: No, it was very organic the way it all happened. Eric pushed me to get in touch with Gene. Gene mentioned Nick to me and Doug was a person I thought of because I knew the song would fit him. I played him the song and he loved it and banged it out. There was no grand design to it. It is the best of my solo albums. Sonically, it is terrific.

Jeb: Everyone says the new one is the best. Is this REALLY the best?

Bruce: I know, everyone says that. The first one was my first time jumping in the water. I loved the music but it was started off with songs that were left over in the closet. The second one, I saw growth in and it was a good album. This time around, I had some management people telling me I should have some guests on my record. I wasn't really open to that. Corabi sang a song on my second record but that was no big deal as we had done the band Union together. Once I realized that Gene would do it then the floodgates opened up. It really set the tone for the album and the heaviness. There are also enough pop songs to keep those people happy too. It is like with KISS . . . We could play "Forever" or we could play "War Machine."

Jeb: I am looking forward to hearing you and Lukather jamming on that song.

Bruce: You're going to love it. It is a terrific track. We didn't really know where to put Steve. I played the themes and then he played a lot of the other stuff. I went and filled in the gaps of what he did that didn't work. Sometimes he starts a phrase and I finish it. He played my guitar but he still sounds like Luke. He is a monster. I am glad it is the only instrumental because it makes it stand out more.

Jeb: Max Carl plays one of his songs in Grand Funk. Is there any thought of playing one of yours in the set?

Bruce: At one point, I asked Max if he would want to sing a ballad that I had been working on. It turned out that song didn't fit on this record, so we didn't put it on the album. Grand Funk has so much history. I bring a certain thing on my resume but that does not mean I should be imposing bringing in a song. Max wrote a hit single that really fits into the set. I have had my fans say, "Play 'Rock n Roll All Nite.'" No way. It doesn't work like that. Max had a huge hit with "Second Chance" with 38 Special and it fits into the set nicely. The drum circle thing is another song Max had on a record. We do it are own way. How many bands set down all of their instruments and play drums? The rock guitarist plays tambourine on it. We have a great show and I don't need to put my influence, other than my guitar talent, on it.

Jeb: You said Eric Singer had to push you in order for you to ask Gene. Why the hesitation?

Bruce: It was in case he said "no." Once we had the date booked, Gene came in and we didn't even have all the lyrics ready. Gene asked if we could do something for Family Jewels and we said, "Sure." So, that ended up being on one of the episodes. They show a snippet of Nick in the studio with us. It didn't end up being the song that Nick sang on the record but it is very cool.

Jeb: That had to be a trip for you. You knew Nick when he was a baby.

Bruce: I found these pictures of him as a goofy two year old. He loved it. I am in a lot of the little clips in the show from when the kids were really little. They were born in my era of the band.

Jeb: Do you still stay in touch?

Bruce: My relationship with all of those guys is terrific. I can't complain about any of it. I was not asked to play Ace. It makes perfect sense for Tommy [Thayer] to do that. I have got a lot of support from everybody. Gene has not made it out to see Grand Funk yet but Nick made it out. I don't think he knew what to expect. Gene told me that he couldn't stop raving about the band. We did a show not far from his college and I got him VIP and backstage. It was fun.

Jeb: Would you have considered playing Ace if you had been asked?

Bruce: I always have this theory in life where you never say no. But I wasn't asked so I can't give you the answer to that. I do miss being in the band. If that is what it took to be in the band then I guess I would have considered it. I would not have done one of those yo-yo gigs like Eric had to deal with. Peter [Criss] was out then Peter was back in. That wasn't too comfortable for Eric. At least he had Alice Cooper to fall back on. Everything Eric tells me about the new record makes me excited for them. They actually banged it out together without running to famous producers or co-writers. There is no reason the band can't do it themselves. I am really looking forward to hearing it.

Jeb: You're okay with your place in KISStory.

Bruce: Absolutely. The fans know I have never said or done anything to poop on it. It was a blessing for me. I always treat it like an amazing thing to cherish. I knew my role in KISS. You can want the spotlight and all but you are not going to get it. They are huge performers and they are songwriters. I was happy to be the guitar player. I got some songwriting and a bunch of exposure. It is a wonderful feeling to have a kid recognize me because he saw me on MTV Unplugged with KISS. I can always say, "I played with KISS." KISS is one of those ten or twenty bands in the world that everybody knows.

Jeb: With time behind you, do you ever look back and say, "I can't believe that happened to me."

Bruce: People send me pictures and I look at the scene and think, "Wow, I was there." It is not like I went through it in some drunken stupor. I was totally aware of what was going on and I cherished my years in KISS. There are not that many things from the past that really shock me. I enjoy seeing old concerts with me playing with the band. I don't enjoy watching me because I am very critical but I do realize that there is a lot of great history . . . or KISStory as you say.