Heart of Steel: Interviews

Interview With BRUCE KULICK
Interview By Lord of the Wastelend 

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Though he’s been out of the spotlight since he left KISS in 1996, Bruce Kulick has remained busy with bands like Union featuring former Motley Crue vocalist John Corabi as well as his current stint as touring guitarist for Grand Funk Railroad. Bruce has also released 2 solo albums, including the excellent new TRANSFORMER disc. Unfortunately, he made a reappearance in the news early on October 16th when he was shot by a stray bullet outside a Hollywood club. I was given the opportunity to talk with Bruce and get the real story about what happened that night, as well as his thoughts on KISS, his own solo material and his autobiography. Sadly, I was alerted just 4 hours prior to the scheduled interview that Bruce’s father had taken ill and was hospitalized which was expected to put our interview on hold. Being a long-time KISS and Bruce Kulick fan, I was disappointed that my chance to speak with one of my most revered artists was not going to happen. I don’t have to tell you that when the phone rang and it was Bruce on the other end what a pleasant surprise it was. Given the circumstances, his effort to keep the interview time went above and beyond the call of duty. After dealing with musicians who talk to you like they’re doing YOU a favor or don’t bother to call AT ALL, it was a real treat to have someone whose music I grew up listening to turn out to be such a nice guy. Before I had even asked a question, Bruce wanted to know where I lived and how I was fan. Plus, he sent me a free CD! Enjoy this interview with one of music’s few true “gentlemen”.

First of all, I’m happy to be able to be sitting here talking to you today. As a KISS fan since I was 13 years old, when I saw the headline splashed across the Internet, “KISS Guitarist Shot Outside Hollywood Nightclub”, my heart sank. It’s been 18 days since the shooting, so how are things going in general?

Well, in general, pretty good. The only thing crazy today is that my Dad’s in the hospital, so I’m dealing with that now. He’s pretty old. I tried to send you an e-mail this morning but I was having problems with my AOL e-mail account. I’m actually visiting my parents and I just came back from the hospital then I have to go eat with my Mom because she’s lonely because he’s not here, so if we can do this in about 15 minutes, that would really help me out.



Absolutely! I appreciate you even taking the time to talk today under the circumstances. Let’s get right to it…I’ve read a few conflicting reports about the shooting that occurred a couple weeks ago. Can you give me the “real” story?

Sure. I wasn’t at the Rainbow Bar & Grill. I was just leaving The Key Club to see my friend Brent Fitz, who used to be in a band, Union, with me perform with Vince Neil. Everything was all great at the club and when I’m leaving the club, you have to walk a little bit up the block to cross the street because Sunset Boulevard is kind of crowded and they make you use a certain sidewalk to get across the street. I’m not even at the corner of the first block when all of a sudden I hear gunshots-and to be honest I didn’t know what it was-but all of a sudden I felt something crazy happen to my leg and then I realized they were bullets when the other one whizzed by my ear and kind of nicked my head, which was really scary. At that point, I was thinking how can this be happening and I’m thinking there are dead people up the block and that I’m just really lucky that that’s all that happened because who knows? I had no idea what was happening because I didn’t see anybody in an argument or a fight or with a gun. I told my friend that I was walking with to get down and take cover but by then there weren’t any more gunshots. You could hear that there was some sort of commotion up the block but I didn’t know what. My friend asked me if I was okay and I said, “No, I’m not”. Fortunately there was a deputy who worked with the Hollywood police who came over and said the ambulance was coming. I was trying to call 911 on my cell phone but it was busy. I think everyone that was on that Rainbow patio was trying to call 911 also knowing that somebody was shooting a gun. I didn’t really know much about what happened until much later when they took me to Cedars-Sinai. I was very fortunate that the temple would was just a scratch that bled and scabbed over and was a little swollen, but obviously didn’t go through my head but it was close. For a leg injury, even though I’m in pain from it, it could have been much worse too. It went directly through the side of my leg above the knee missing a bone or an artery, which are the really bad things a bullet can hit so they did some tests to make sure that was what happened and basically sent me home! I was s shot, treated and released (laughs)! Oddly enough, for a bullet that passes through your leg, they don’t suture you or anything. They just let the body heal itself, so right now I have two very funny looking scabs. The first week they were oozing and messy and really ugly but right now they’re just really weird, just two scabs on the side of my leg.



Are you able to walk at all?

I am walking. I can feel it. It bothers me. It’s not terrible pain where I’m on heavy drugs or anything but I’m still not happy about it! I’m lucky to be alive and I know how bad that could have been with such a random act that it was. It was not much different than getting caught in some kind of drive-by, or being in a bank when someone starts shooting. The whole thing was pretty crazy. Everything has been quite surreal since then to be quite honest. I haven’t been able to make much of it one way or another. I’m just happy to be alive! When food tastes good, I’m very happy if you know what I mean (laughs)!



I guess you appreciate life a little bit more after that!




Is there any lasting damage or is it too soon to tell yet?

Right now, the doctors feel I can make a full recovery. I don’t know how long it takes to really feel normal again. They can’t say for sure because it’s a bullet. It’s not a surgeon going in and doing it the perfect way but all things considered, I’m pretty fortunate.



You have a show with Grand Funk Railroad coming up on Sunday. Will you still be playing that show?

Yeah, I’ll be going on Friday. I was just in Winnipeg over the weekend. The doctor told me last Thursday that I could fly and I’ve been doing physical therapy to get the leg stronger because I was off it for a week. It’s weird how that feels when you lie around for a week with a lot of antibiotics and drugs in you. Just getting around is hard. Outside of being extremely cold, I’ve done okay with it. It doesn’t feel all right but it’s not like I have to stay at home either and for that I’m really grateful. So anyway, I’m flying to Fort Lauderdale on Friday and then I’m flying up to Toronto to do a KISS expo and then I’ll be back home on Monday. For the rest of the year, I’m really going to be taking it easy. I was going to go to Europe and do some dates in the second half of November but those are postponed because it’s just to hard to deal with right now.



Will those dates be made up eventually?

I’d like to but I don’t know when I can. Before I venture out and make a big trip to Europe, I want to really feel 100%. I know I can do the Grand Funk gig and get up to Toronto. It’s not just my name on the marquee, it’s the whole band so I may not be running around on stage but I’ll be playing well.



Well I’m sure all the Canadian KISS fans will make you feel at home in Toronto on the weekend.




On a bit lighter note, you have a new album out called TRANSFORMER. How is the album doing so far?

This is the second solo record of mine. The first one was called AUDIO DOG and I’ve just been doing it myself, selling it myself over the Internet. In fact, I did just get distribution in Canada through a company called Plastichead. They’re based in Vancouver, in fact. I’m not sure what kind of stores they service but it’s in the system, let’s put it that way. They got their first shipment a couple weeks ago actually. It wasn’t anything timed with my “incident” if you know what I mean (laughs)! A guy who works for that distributor is a KISS fan and he contacted me. They’re fairly large. I used them also in Europe. We were able to get a certain number of discs out there and that works for me because even though I sell a lot of them through my own website and personal appearances, it’s nice to get some distribution so people can find it. Obviously the orders have increased a bit since I had my incident because of all the publicity it got…not that I asked for it that way (laughs)! It’s a great record. It’s not on a label. I did it myself and it sounds as good as someone putting it out through a label. It just makes more sense in this day and age for an artist like myself to be able to have total control over it. There are a lot of famous artists that are doing things the same way as myself maybe on a larger scale, like Prince but taking that control and not having a label tell me what to do and how to do it is quite empowering. The people are getting a really honest vision of what I’m into, so for that I’m very proud. I’ve gotten some really nice reviews for it. I remember one newspaper down in Florida reviewed it right next to the Led Zeppelin DVD (laughs), which is crazy to me! He gave me three stars and gave Led Zeppelin five. To me, the Zeppelin is ten times five if you know what I mean because they’re a brilliant band and one of my favorite bands EVER! But just to be reviewed on the same page is really an honor. But again, because I do it all myself, I can still make money and it’s really about the fact that I can get my vision out there and for that I’m very grateful. There are a lot of artists who are very talented that are in their bedrooms and there is just no way for them to get their music to anybody. At least I have this fan base from the KISS years and my other groups that I’ve worked with since KISS, people are aware that I’m out there. And now that I got shot, people who forgot about me are aware that I’m still out there (laughs)!


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Speaking of your post-KISS groups, is there any chance that Union will get back together? I was really sorry to hear that the band was on hiatus because the first album was probably my favorite record of 1998!

Well thank you! We did THE BLUE ROOM after that as well as a live album, which is a little harder to find. I actually get a lot of people asking about Union. I thought we were a terrific band and we have those three discs out that people can enjoy. I don’t think we’re going to get together to do something but I am working on a DVD with a friend of mine who owns one of those DVD companies that puts together live band stuff. He is the same guy who did the Eric Carr story on video and DVD.




Yeah, that’s right. The DVD is about halfway done actually. If I didn’t have my issues this month, I think we’d be a little further along but either way, it looks likely that we can get this thing put together in the spring. The artwork is all done. There’s still some songs that have to be edited because what it is is a couple of performances that we did before we went to Argentina back in 2001 and then we have a link to another performance we did at a musician’s institute which is kind of cool because it was in a theatre and the footage of it is really tight. Then we had live gigs in Argentina and Sweden-big live shows that we didn’t have a lot of cameras for but we have enough to intersperse with the other concerts. Then there’s a couple of bonus tracks that I want to put on that are the original demos that we got the record contract with and a couple songs that we didn’t put out on record and that’s going to be on there. There will also be a link to a page with ALL the merchandise we put out, which is nothing compared to a band like KISS but still interesting, you know? I would like to think that people would like to see those items, from the promotional merchandise to the things from some of the other countries we went to. I’m very excited about it! At least it’s halfway done. I got to see it about a week before I got hurt and I’m very pleased. On TRANSFORMER, I actually asked John to sing one of the songs. There’s a song that I knew that I couldn’t sing because it needed a really aggressive bluesy-rock voice and that’s not my vocal style so he sang that song and Brent’s the drummer on BOTH my solo records. He was the drummer in Union, as you know, so one of those tracks on TRANSFORMER is a kind of mini-Union reunion! It’s a song called “Just My Life”. By the way, do you have either record?



I have AUDIODOG but I haven’t got TRANSFORMER yet.

Well give me your address and I’ll make sure that Nancy (Kulick.net webmaster) gets you one.



She actually has one on the way! I was hoping to get it before the interview but it hasn’t shown up yet.

Oh, OK. She may have already sent it but with Canada, it may take a little longer. I’ll double-check for you and make sure you get it. It could be there tomorrow! (NOTE: In fact, the CD showed up two days later-thanks Nancy J!) I’ll mention it to her tonight if I speak to her so she’ll be aware of it. Usually I’m pretty good at being on top of things with interviews and all but right now I’m all confused with what’s been going on (laughs). I have other friends, of course, that helped take care of me because I’m not married or in a real significant relationship with anybody but Nancy has really helped me out since I got hurt. I’ve basically relied on her for everything. But we’ll take care of it and make sure you get the disc.



That would be great, Bruce. I’d really appreciate that! Another thing you’ve spoken of in the past is your autobiography called HONORABLE DISCHARGE. Is that still going to be released?

Yeah actually last month because I knew my schedule wasn’t going to be that busy, I was going to get into it but then this crazy thing happened. But now I’ve got a great chapter for it!



I was just going to say that maybe it’s a good thing you got delayed in getting the book out with this latest “development”!

As much as I’d like to have said it was ready six months ago, it’s not a story that’s going to go away. As time goes on, I remember even more things that I want to include in the book. The guy I’m writing it with has been in the industry for years but this year he got a really great job over at Warner Brothers and Atlantic who keep him crazy busy, too. But the rest of the year is quiet and I’m looking forward to that so I’ll be able to take some time and make some progress with it. I’m actually hoping to get it out next year.



Is it going to be a book like Motley Crue’s THE DIRT with lots of mud-slinging or will it be a more serious book?

To be honest, that’s not really my style. There are certain things that I had frustrations with in being in KISS but I knew what that gig was about. I could never write a book like THE DIRT because I’m not a recovering heroin addict or an alcoholic who killed somebody in his car, you know (laughs)? My life isn’t quite like that but I still think I have a compelling story of what it’s like to fit in with one of the biggest bands in the world and I’ve worked with other interesting people who we haven’t really looked at too much for the chapters. Artists like Michael Bolton, Mea Loaf, Billy Squier. All around, I think it’s a great story. I know when THE DIRT came out-and it’s a great book by the way, I did enjoy it. When I talked to some business people, they were like, “Well if you can write something like THE DIRT!” and I thought about it and even if I wanted to make up something about Gene and Paul, that’s not what I want to do. That’s not who I am. I didn’t sleep on the floor of a roach-infested apartment with five guys. That’s not my upbringing. That’s not my story. I was just a nice guy from Brooklyn who loved music and was turned on to playing guitar. I worked at it, met the right people and was given opportunities that I was able to make a career out of. I think that’s a great story too, but the big publishers want to hear you’re going to slag someone so bad or you’re just total scum that survived (laughs). And that’s not me.



In their eyes, that’s what sells, right?

I still think my story could sell, too, but more than likely I’ll self-publish and put this thing out myself so the people who really care about me-who are the ones I want to get it to-will really enjoy the book.



On the topic of KISS, if you were asked to rejoin the band would you do it?

A lot of people have been asking me, “What if they asked you to put the makeup on and be Ace?” In one way, that’s a real uncomfortable position to be in because many people know me after all these years as Bruce. I wouldn’t say outright, “no”, but I would be asking how much job security there is? How long will you be doing this? I’ve got a great gig with Grand Funk Railroad that I don’t want to give up. There’s no way I would want to do one tour as Ace. It seemed obvious for them to move on with Tommy Thayer because, first of all, he was already working for them, and second of all, he doesn’t have a 12-year history as himself with the band, and thirdly, he used to be an Ace Frehley in a pretty popular cover band in the early 90s. It seemed like a no-brainer to put Tommy in the makeup and say instead of him being their tour manager and who works for them in many capacities, “OK, now play guitar!” I do miss the guys. I do miss the music. I’m still very proud of everything I contributed but it never came up. I was never asked so I didn’t have to make the decision. But if I had been asked, I wouldn’t have said yes unless I knew I was taken care of. With Tommy, if Ace wants to be back in the band, he can go back to being tour manager, you know? Where would I be? I wouldn’t leave a great gig like Grand Funk just to fill in for Ace. I think that’s why I was never asked.



Do you think that was the position Eric Singer was put in when they brought him in for the Japanese and Australian tours in Peter Criss’ makeup but as soon as Peter decided he wanted to play again, Eric was out?

Well they never made him any promises I know that. At the time, it wasn’t like he had a conflicting issue either. It was easy for him to say let’s go. In fact, I think he was even able to keep his commitments with Alice Cooper. He didn’t appreciate the fact that he thought he was going to be playing the Symphony gig. He was told about it and then all of a sudden Peter Criss is playing. I’m not sure if he was asked again if he would do it but I’m sure he’d want some guarantees.



Have you seen the KISS Symphony performance?

I only caught little pieces of it. I thought the idea of it, as much as it’s been done with a lot of other rock bands before is cool but…to be fair, I really haven’t seen the whole thing. I was in Australia shortly after they did it to do my own solo tour and a lot of people were telling me about it. Most of the people in Australia seemed to really enjoy it.



It was a fantastic show! Quite a spectacle. Everything and more that I expected it to be anyway.

That’s the best country you could do it in, too. I’m not sure how it’s been received here. The KISS/Aerosmith bill is a wise one, though. I’ll probably catch them in L.A.. I was going to see them in Las Vegas but then I got hurt so I didn’t go.



How much input did you have in putting together the KISS Box Set that came out in 2001?

I got a credit because they really wanted to make it complete. I had a couple of weird studio things that I offered them and they did wind up using a few things. I was always good with DAT tapes and keeping an eye on things. Do you remember what it was?



It was the “Outro” from the CARNIVAL OF SOULS bootleg that didn’t show up on the final album.

Oh yeah, I still had that on a DAT tape. I was always there for the mixing. There was also the demo for “Little Caesar” that I think they considered as well. I showed them a few other things but they just used those and I obviously appreciate the credit for it.



What are your feelings on the CARNIVAL OF SOULS album? It came out 4 years after it was recorded and received a lot of negative feedback from fans that thought the band had lost their way. Even Gene and Paul seemed rather hesitant to promote it.

Well, I’m glad it did come out because I didn’t think it would. Let’s put it this way, the record company pays you, or rather Gene and Paul, to do a record. You do the record and take the money. What do you think they’re going to do? “We’re putting it out! If you don’t want us to put it out, then give us back the money” (laughs). It’s not like they’re going to say, “Okay, we’ll just keep it on the shelf forever.” So they put it out.



I really enjoy that album and I’ve received a lot of flack for saying so, but I think that you and the rest of the band were taking a risky but interesting step in your career. Musically, I think the band was at the top of its game!

Thanks. Well, we were just trying to do a bigger, darker REVENGE. There are some moody moments on there that people have blamed on me but that’s where the band was headed. It’s not like I took the direction. I did get to contribute a little more with the co-writes.



You had co-writing credit on 9 out of the 12 songs on the CD. That was also your first lead vocal performance, as well, with “I Walk Alone”.

Yeah that was pretty wild! I feel that I’ve grown a lot since then but it was nice to have the opportunity, which I really do appreciate.


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How do you rate yourself as a singer?

Well I’ve worked with some great singers so I’d think I’m average but I think people appreciate it. I’ve found that even though I don’t have the range or the conviction I’d love to have, because I really mean it when I’m singing, that’s why people like it. I have had some people review me against big bands with singers and they say that the vocals are weak but I only really care about my fans and they do want to hear my voice. They want to hear me tell the story and sing the song and I appreciate that. I’ve been spoiled though. I’ve worked with a lot of really great singers so I know I’m not on par with them but I like the fact that when I’m singing a song, it’s something that came straight from my hart and my mind. For the two solo records, the lyrics are mostly mine. For AUDIODOG, I had some co-writes but I wrote all the lyrics myself on TRANSFORMER. It’s good for me to have my own little voice.



If you had to name your most favorite and least favorite KISS albums, what would they be?

I love REVENGE obviously. I wasn’t always wild about HOT IN THE SHADE. There are a couple of good tracks but there are too many songs on it. It had kind of a loose direction on it as far as I’m concerned. Of course each album I was involved in had songs that were really terrific. The records didn’t always come out exactly as I had envisioned it but in general I don’t want to complain. I feel CRAZY NIGHTS featured me a lot because I had a couple co-writes. REVENGE certainly showcased the band in a positive way. I’m just glad I was in there long enough so it wasn’t just a little blip, you know? I was there long enough to make an impact on the band.



You mentioned HOT IN THE SHADE and this is a question that I have never seen asked…how did Michael Bolton end up co-writing “Forever”? Did you introduce him to the band because you worked with him in the band Blackjack right before joining KISS?

Yeah I introduced Michael to Paul. Of course, Michael knew who Paul Stanley was but he had never met him. At the time, Michael was just starting to break as a solo artist and as a songwriter and Paul liked to experiment in writing with different people, so that’s how that happened. They got together in L.A. and wrote the song. I don’t think they’re buddies now or anything (laughs) but it was a great co-write that became a hit for us. Michael once said that he’d love to write a big power ballad for KISS so there you go!



It’s a great song!

Many people still use it at weddings.



It’s my favorite KISS ballad. It’s WAY better than Beth, in my opinion.

Thanks. I was really happy with the solo too. People always ask about that.



When I see that video, I still get a chill during the solo actually. When I saw the MTV UNPLUGGED performance that KISS did, you executed that solo flawlessly-and live in one take, no less.

Well, thank you very much!



You did another project with Eric Singer called ESP. Will there be a follow up to the ESP album?

There’s no plans for it. There’s a couple business people who have talked to us about doing one but it was just cover songs that were fun to do at the time. It took a lot of work to bang out that record. It’s not always just quick and easy like you’d think. If we could get together and rehearse and record 10 songs pretty quickly maybe then. It was just a fun thing. Ace Frehley got to play on “Foxey Lady”, but no plans right now.



When you played with Ace at the UNPLUGGED show, was that kind of a weird thing?

Yeah it was weird. It was obviously the beginning of the end for me but I always knew that would happen at some point. I also knew that MTV was very interested in whether it could be a reunion which of course was a catalyst for them to go off and do it and quite successfully too.



If I had to craft the true “Last Show” that KISS would perform, it would feature each and every living member of the band, including Mark St. John, Vinnie Vincent, yourself, and Eric Singer in a big jam session at the end much like you did on the UNPLUGGED show.

Well I wouldn’t say no to that, but it would be weird if 4 or 5 of them were in makeup and then what happens to those of us who aren’t in makeup and the outfits (laughs)?!



(Laughs) I guess you might stick out a little on stage!

It’s like when I go to the KISS Expos and these people dress up like Gene and Paul, Ace and Peter and they’re these giant creatures walking around and there I am in my leather coat (laughs)! That’s one of the odd things about the band but that’s also what made them famous. Do you have one more so I can get upstairs and be with my Mom?



Sure…last one. Your 50th birthday is coming up in December. Looking back over your career, do you feel like you still have a lot to say musically in the hard rock/heavy metal world?

Well I see people like Paul McCartney who I saw twice last year and kicking total ass and he’s 60 or something. Jagger is still out there. Some of the guys in Grand Funk are a little older than me. Gene and Paul are older than me too. It doesn’t bother me as much. That fact that I could have died a couple weeks back makes me REALLY look forward to 50, you know? I guess in some ways before it was like, “OOOOH!!!”, now I’m okay with it (laughs).



(Laughs) 50 doesn’t seem so old anymore?

No, 50 doesn’t seem so old (laughs). I certainly don’t feel it either, even with my injury. I’ve been in great shape lately, which is really helping with my recovery, of course.



Well, I hope you carry on with a safe and speedy recovery, Bruce. I wish you all the best and best wishes to your Dad, too.

Thanks a lot. Remember to send me you address information again and I’ll make sure Nancy has sent you a disc.



Absolutely. I appreciate it. Thanks Bruce.

Thanks again, Sean. Good talking to you. You be well. Thanks again for everything.


Thanks to Nancy at Kulick.net and Rhonda at Saenz of the Times PR for setting up the interview.

Band Website: www.kulick.net