INTERVIEW BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS BY JOUKO VÄÄNÄNEN
Bob Kulick is an American guitarist and Grammy Award-winning record producer. If there was a “fifth member of KISS” award to be handed out, Bob would probably be the front-running recipient. Not only was he in the running to become the original lead guitarist for the band, but he has played as a session musician on ALIVE 2 and KISS KILLERS albums and Paul Stanley’s self-titled solo album. In the late 80’s he was a part of Stanley’s solo band. During the years, Kulick has appeared on several releases by Meat Loaf, as well as session work for Mark Farner, Diana Ross, Lou Reed and W.A.S.P. among others and has produced/played on countless heavy metal tribute albums. We had a pleasure to sit down with the man himself in November 2011 when he appeared as a special guest for his brother Bruce Kulick and John Corabi who did an acoustic performance at the KISS EXPO in Helsinki. The chat lasted almost two hours, so there’s plenty of material to read, and for that reason this interview has been split in two pieces. Read On!
WHAT’S GOING ON?
Okay, first of all, Bob, what’s going on with your career at the moment?
I’m doing great and it’s going to be very exciting next year. I’m just finishing up on Dee Snider CD. Dee Snider from Twisted Sister is doing a solo record of Broadway show tunes all done up in a metal and rock fashion. So we’re almost done with that. He’s currently filming Celebrity Apprentice. It’s the Donald Trump show which is one of the big reality shows in the States. So between that and this record which will be coming out in April, the show will be airing March through May. When you hear him dishing out what he’s dishing out on these show tunes, “Sweeney Todd”, and “Cabaret” and those songs which are great songs, but attacking them like he would any kind of metal tune or rock tune, everybody’s really gotten off on the slant that I’ve taken on the arrangements on this. So I’m excited about everybody getting to hear that. So that’s the first thing that’s up that we’re just about done with now. We’re just finishing up on. We’ve got a couple more over dubs and one other guest singer. There are a few guests on the record. Sebastian Bach sang on the album. Dee went and got some of the Broadway stars to show a metal guy how to sing a Broadway show tunes and that’s something totally unique that no one’s ever done. Patty Lupone from Evita sang “Tonight” and “Somewhere” our duet of West Side Story songs with him. Cindy Lauper sang “Hey Big Spender”. Bebe Neuwirth, who’s also a Broadway artist, did “Lola” from Damn Yankees. [Sings]”Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets”. So she sings and he sings. When you hear the arrangements, they start out and you’re like, what am I listening to? Well, it’s different because I created a little original piece of music to stick in the front or the back depending on the song so there’s a lot of me on the album. Dee’s visibility is so high now because of the show and because the guy, he’s a mega-talent. Twisted Sister, to me, was the least of what he’s capable of. I’m not saying that to put the band down in any way, shape or form. It was his vehicle to get to where he is now. Most people don’t think of him as an amazing singer, but I think when they hear this record, they’re going to hear an amazing singer because he’s an incredible singer.
So this is something what no one was actually expecting from him?
Right and he do give a slightly different perspective to those songs. So “Sweeney Todd” and those songs, if you’re familiar with any of those songs, the attack mode of those songs totally works. It totally works. So he picked songs that all of that would, you know, he didn’t pick anything too wimpy. He basically just made them all heavier. Then after that, I’m starting to work the Michael Jackson tribute album thing, which I think is going to be really fun. We’re going to use mainly young, new metal singers for that album. So this is not the usual formula that I’ve usually used with the rest of tribute albums and it will be a challenge to get some of the newer guys to sing. They’re amazing songs. And again, any of the songs, “Beat It”, “Bad”, any of those songs that have built in riffs, played with some real heaviness there, tune down like we’re doing… It already sounds like it’s the Michael Jackson song, but it just sounds totally different because of the tune down. It sounds totally [growl].
Could you name any of the singers who will make it to the Michael Jackson tribute album?
We just started tracking. So I have nobody to name yet because in order to get anybody to sing any of these, they’re going to have to hear them first. I dare not call somebody and say, “So, you want to do a vocal on “Beat It” for us?” “What’s the track sound like? I’ll send it to you when I get it” No, the best thing to do is, “I heard the song, I want to sing”. Thank you, that’s all. So that’s what we do now. I don’t know if you guys are familiar with the Sinatra CD that we put out through Eagle Records. It was the same thing through that. It was very, very difficult to get people to volunteer to sing a Frank Sinatra song until they heard what we were doing. “Oh, you’re mangling them. You’re making them heavier. Oh, it’s like Frank would have never liked this. “Exactly” That’s what we did to them totally.
Just like what you did for the Beatles classics on BUTCHERING THE BEATLES –album?
Exactly like that but there’s only more because, with the Sinatra thing and with Dee Snider’s thing, I’ve written pieces of music. The Beatles to me were… they’re gods. I didn’t want to try to stuff a piece of music into it. I couldn’t do that. I was just… extending a solo or something, that’s one thing. But to actually write a piece of music to sit in front of it like I did on these other records, I wouldn’t have the balls to do that to the Beatles. Sinatra, I didn’t care. Some of the publishers of the Broadway show tunes actually have heard some of the songs and they were like, “I can’t believe what you did with these songs!” I’m like, “Okay, okay. That’s encouraging.” But you know, at least nobody’s screaming and running in the other direction yelling, “blasphemy!”
Okay, besides being really busy doing these different projects with all those great artists, do you still have any plans to release your own original material?
It’s interesting you mentioned this. I finally have been able to have this long overdue conversation with my brother about the possibility of us doing a Kulick Brothers. So the label that was doing Dee Snider, I mentioned about that possibility and the label guy was just like, “Have you guys really considered doing this?” I’m like, yeah. I think now we should probably consider doing it. So it’s in the works.
That’s great to hear!
Yeah, I think so, too.
That’s something that the fans have been waiting for like forever.
Like forever, right. I don’t want to do cover tunes. I told him I want to write original material that would be the material that would appeal to the audience, not something trying to be something we’re not. Not try to be today’s flavor. Not try to change into something else. Just be ourselves.
Do you have any idea who’s going to handle the vocals on Kulick album? You both brothers are quite capable of doing some vocals by yourself too, right?
I think probably Bruce will want to sing a couple of songs because he’s a good singer. I don’t feel comfortable singing a lead vocal on anybody’s record, even though I can sing. I would like to get Ripper. Ripper Owens and a couple of people like that to do some guest vocals there.
Ripper Owens is one of the best in his genre.
For me, there are guys that are maybe close, but he’s top of the food chain. I mean, I worked on that record that we did with him. He’s a phenomenal singer. He hits notes beyond…Oh, he hits the high notes, but he goes “I can hit one higher!” “Really?” And he does. I remember when he played Universal Ample Theatre in Los Angeles with Judas Priest the first time he showed up there. We were all standing there like, “Alright, let’s hear it” you know. And like you said, the first time he got to that point where it was like, we were all like… Whoa!!! Listen to that. You know, and he would just dish them out. Whoa, did you hear that? That guy was a phenomenal singer, you know. So when I had the opportunity to co-produce his record, I jumped at it because he’s such a great guy. And we wrote a couple of songs together. I also like the idea of the way he did it like a lot of my records. Get a bunch of guest artists, and it’s a whole bunch of different people and that way it’s not boring. You know, who’s on this track? Who’s on that track? So that was fun.
Bob, John Corabi and Bruce Kulick in Helsinki’s KISS Expo 2011
Although you started your career as a guitarist you’re now mostly doing production work. Have you always felt comfortable producing?
Yeah. Well, yeah, right from the beginning it was just like, you know what. When the time comes, I want to be the producer. Because I just thought, you know what, I trust my opinion. [LAUGHS]
[LAUGHS] You are right.
And to a large degree, that’s what it comes down to.
So first of all, how did you first get the idea to start making those tribute albums?
It was never my idea. I worked for a company who started out doing these with my old partner, Billy Sherwood and I went and played on a couple of tracks, whatever it was we were doing. I guess it was maybe the Queen one or something. And it was like, you know what, this is fun. This is fun. We get some of our friends in here who are great players. So you got 40 or 50 guys in different bands on each song and I can get all my friends to play on this, it just seemed like a great idea to have some fun and make something that where the combinations of the people… I mean, I introduced Ripper Owens to Yngwie Malmsteen. Yngwie didn’t know Ripper Owens until Ripper sang on the track that Yngwie played on. Then Yngwie was like, “Holy shit, listen to that! I got to have that”. You know. I made the introduction for 20 guys and had like Zakk Wylde calling me once when I did the Alice Cooper one, “How could you put that horrible Dee Snider on my song?” I replied “Have you heard the track yet?” “No.” “Well, of course you couldn’t because it’s not mixed yet. But I will send you what he sang, and then you tell me what you think.” So I sent him a rough mix with Dee singing and Zakk calls me and he’s just like, “I had no idea he could sing like that. I just thought he was the Twisted Sister guy.” So every instance where something like that would happen, it would just turn into something else. Just like the Christmas record. You guys were hip to the Christmas record that I did with Eagle Records. I’m good friend with Lemmy, he’s good friend with Dave Grohl. I’m good friends with Billy Gibbons. So what if we get Lemmy, Dave Grohl and Billy Gibbons together on a song? Who would have ever heard that band before? There it was. So what seemed like… look a lot of people looked down their noses at it. I would rather produce original bands of course. But rather than do a crappy original band, to work with Dave Grohl, Lemmy and Billy Gibbons, I think I’d have to take that. So I never looked down my nose at it. I had fun with it. I viewed it as something that 1,000 years from now people last and the planet’s still there that somebody will go check it out. Billy Gibbons, Dave Grohl and Lemmy together, check it out. That’s what I thought to myself.
That’s sounds like a lot of fun, to work those things with all those great artists.
Exactly, that’s what I thought. Not like, nah who cares? Who cares what the song is. It’s the point that they’re playing it and they’re singing it.
Michael Schenker gave some critical comments about HEAVY HITTERS album when it was released. Would you tell what went wrong with that album or what did happen there back then?
Well, the Michael Schenker record unfortunately was not a tribute record. It was a cover tune record. So originally it was Michael Schenker album but then all of a sudden it turned into MSG. I remember calling the label and was just like, what are you doing? What are you doing? The guy’s like, “I can’t sell it otherwise. I’m going to have to do this.” I’m like, that’s not right. That’s just not right. I told him, I go, and I said I had nothing to do with that. That’s not my part of the program. I do the music. I was totally upset that that happened, but fortunately, Michael didn’t hold it against me because he did play on the Christmas record. So he didn’t hate me too much. He wasn’t like, “Bob Kulick, I would never work with…” no. I think he realized. I told him flat out, “If I were you, get a lawyer and sue him. This is not me, I’m not responsible.” I’m only responsible for the music. If you’re calling and saying, “You know what. The guitar sounded terrible and the singers were horrible.” That’s a different story. That’s my responsibility. That’s not what you’re talking about. You’re talking about somebody sticking a name on here that they had no right to do. Believe me. I was as upset as he was.
After all that it was great album in musical wise, if you ask me.
Michael played great. He was so much fun. I mean, to see him sit there and play like this with his pinky up like that was just mind blowing to me that he could be so good and not use his other finger. I just don’t understand. You know, he doesn’t use his pinky. He plays like this. That’s what it is. Not that his pinky is standing up here like that [Showing the pinky’s position]. But I offered him, because I’d broke my pinky, I said, I’ll switch with you. Since I’m going to use my pinky, you can see it’s slightly bad. Fortunately, as the surgeon said to me, you play guitar so your fingers are incredibly strong. If it were not for that, your finger would be a lot less than what it is now. So I was very lucky. But, yeah, the Michael Schenker thing, what a great guitar player he is. He’s really… his feel is so unique. He’s very unique I have to say. I’ve worked with almost everybody, and I watched them all play…
THE EARLY DAYS
Okay. Is it okay for you if we go back in time for a while?
Absolutely, let’s do it.
The classic question, at which age you decided that you are going to be a musician?
Well, it was something that, I guess in a way, you’re chosen rather than, you find that you have a gift. Then you realize that, you know what, use the gift. I had no idea that I was going to make a career of it at first. I kind of just thought of it as something fun, a way to get girls, a way to impress people, a way to do something other than the obvious. Once the Beatles and all of that happened, I saw myself as that. Then my life totally changed and I gave up everything else.
That must have been in the late 60’s, right?
Yeah, and again correct, but really in the 70’s when I was able to prove, like with the Meat Loaf gig. By the time you got to the point where I could get good gigs because I was good enough, that’s when you realize, alright you know what you have the gift and now you’re going to be able to use it. A lot of people have the gift, but they’re in no position to use it because they can’t get into a band because they live in Iowa or they live in Finland or somewhere where they can’t get that gig. Whereas I was lucky enough to be in New York where those gigs were, where the Meat Loaf gig was, where the Kiss gig was, where all those gigs existed because the people lived there, so I got to meet them under the best of circumstances.
Yeah, and you got to meet the right people.
Right and that’s when opportunity and talent met your fate. This was my fate. I didn’t realize it at the time, but subsequently now I see that this is all the way it happens to somebody. Where you’re given a gift even if you don’t’ realize it, and you go through life kind of as an idiot not realizing that this is your gift even though you just do it until it finally dawns upon you. You know like, I’m not a normal person. I didn’t have a normal life, did not. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I always say, no matter what happens from here on out, no matter what, I got to play with Alice Cooper. I got to play with Paul Stanley. I got to work with Lemmy and Dave Grohl and Billy Gibbons. It doesn’t get much better than that. Paul Stanley was my best friend. All of this stuff that went on in my life from my music career is a total blessing. It’s just something that I took advantage of that very few have the opportunity. I went to a party a couple of weeks ago. Slash was at the party. I’m trying to catch his eye because I worked with him once. He’s talking to some girls and I finally go over, and I go, “Hey, it’s Bob Kulick” and he’s like “I’ve been trying to get your attention. I recognize you, of course!” You know how much that means to me?
I can understand that, of course.
Of course, because somebody I respect, somebody who immediately went to, “I loved working with you. We had such a great time.” So there we go. Slash played on a tribute record because he thought it was worthy. Who sang? Roger Daltrey. Carmine Appice played drums and Mike Inez played bass. He thought that was worthy of playing on. He’s a really great guy.
At what age did you start playing guitar and what was the main reason to do that?
The why I picked up the guitar was because my cousin actually played acoustic guitar and played folk music. So at a family get together, she sat there and played a couple of folk songs. I remember my mother of course, “Why can’t you do that?” Well, I never played piano and I really never had any desire up until that moment to play an instrument. Although I did recognize, I think I was 7 or 8 and the class I was in went to an orchestra concert at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The orchestra played Ravel’s “Bolero”. I didn’t make it through the song. Tears were coming down my eyes. I realized at that point, “What’s happening? What’s going on?” That was the signal. To feeling emotion attached to music was something I’d never experienced up until that point. So when I got older and realized that moment had come, sure, “Would you show me how to play a few chords? I’d love to learn to play.” The connection was made. Well, here’s your opportunity now. Here’s your opportunity to play an instrument and see what that would be like. Not long after that the Beatles showed up, and then it didn’t have to be forced.
At which age did that happen?
I was about 15… actually even younger, when I first started playing I was 13. But, again, the take-it-seriously part obviously didn’t come until later. Like I said, once you have gigs that you’re like the Meat Loaf gig, I played with LaBelle, the KISS thing and so on. What happened just obviously was the – okay, well it’s going to be a whole list of people who you’re going to work with, obviously. My only real regret was that there was never, like, one band that I was in. I would’ve like to have been in a band that I could’ve been in for five or ten years and then be a producer, rather than I played with them, I played with that one, I backed up this one, then I worked with that one. But, you know, that’s the way the cookie crumbles, so to speak. I’m not complaining.
THE KISS AUDITION
I think that the most asked thing from you is the KISS audition. When you went to do that legendary audition for in 1973, how much you did know about KISS or Wicked Lester before doing that session?
I didn’t know any of them, even though they were around the scene. I didn’t know the Wicked Lester situation. I had just come back from a European tour. Actually, it wasn’t a European tour. It was an American tour with European bands. Uriah Heep was the headline act then. That was when I played with John Baldry – “Long John” Baldry. Right after that was when KISS had the ad in The Village Voice for looking for lead guitar player – Led Zeppelin like band. Led Zeppelin like band? I’ll have to check that out. That was the connection. That’s how they looked at themselves. They were sort of like Led Zeppelin.
So was it anything like that in your opinion?
It was for a minute. [Laughs]
Well, when you first played with KISS guys, how they were as musicians?
Well, we played, and it sounded really good, and I really liked Paul a lot and Gene. Peter I hardly remember at all. And I remember Paul calling me a couple of weeks later saying, “You know, the guy that played after you, that guy, you know, he kind of fits with us better even though you’re a better player, but we should keep in touch.” And we did. So that was really the good thing that came out of that was – and when I first saw them I realized, you know, this guy, he fits this band. I never had delusions that they made a mistake or anything like that. I thought that he was the right guy for what they were looking for as far as a songwriter and as far as a guitar player. He certainly gave them what they needed at the time. So I have nothing bad to say about Ace whatsoever. By the time when I had to be Ace, it was a whole other story then, you know, by the time it had gotten to that.
At that time, how much the guys had already created their future image, the makeup, clothing etc.?
They had a Polaroid with some prototype makeup. Now, again, back in that day – David Bowie, Alice Cooper and New York Dolls, so there were people wearing makeup. There were people doing stuff like that. Now, it was drastic, but there were still people doing that. So I remember saying, “This is all well and good, but isn’t the music the most important thing. If we’re just great, shouldn’t that be enough? Shouldn’t that be enough?” They agreed but said “Having a gimmick could give us an edge in other ways.” And I said, “Yeah, I’m not saying it wouldn’t. I’m just saying to you I wouldn’t want to count on that. I would want to count on the talent, and that would be sort of another selling point.” Well, a man actually wears facial makeup and they have guises that they assume. Okay. I didn’t think about it that much because it didn’t get that far.
While you were working with KISS in the 70’s, do you remember a guy called Sean Delaney?
In your opinion, how important person he was for KISS in the beginning?
He was very instrumental in the early part of their career. He was sort of like the fifth KISS, you know, in that he was sort of – they used him as a sounding board. “What do you think about this? What do you think about that?” Bill Aucoin was a genius at the marketing end, but as far as the music and all of the other stuff, Sean was little bit more attached to what, you know, that was. Plus, the guy – didn’t he write lyrics? Didn’t he write songs? He did. And he was a really sweet guy.
Have you read his book HELLBOX?
No. What did he say?
It’s a really sad book but he claims there that he had a role within KISS and also that did lose a lot of credits what he made for KISS but who knows the truth?
Well, I know that…
But you do see that he certainly had a role creating KISS?
He had a role. He definitely had but, you know, we all have to understand that sometimes when somebody is given an opportunity like he was that the managers are trying to protect the band. How? He wouldn’t have this opportunity were it not for you guys, so he should take his publishing and have his writer’s share because you’re doing him the favor of putting his song – his co-write – on your record. So there was some of that. I remember when “Naked City” was going to go on UNMASKED and my lawyer called and said, “I have the paper work now, and they want the publishing.” I’m like, “Really?” So he said, “What do you want me to do?” I said, “I don’t want you to do anything?” So I called Gene and I said, “So my lawyer just called and said that you guys want to take the publishing on the song. Is that right?” He’s like, “That’s right.” I’m like, “Do you think that’s fair?” “In this instance, no, but I’ll take care of it for you right now.” And he did. He took care of it right then and there. My lawyer called me an hour later, “Well, I don’t know what you said. I don’t know what you did, but you got your publishing.” So he was honorable and took care of me. He took care of me. I’ll never forget that because, you know what, he didn’t have to do that. And I would’ve just eaten it because that would’ve been the thing to do.
WORKING WITH VARIOUS NAMES IN THE 70’s
The KISS thing didn’t work out at first, but you then worked with many interesting artists in the future. One of them was Michael Wendroff. Tell us something more about him because he is not too well known artist in here.
Yeah, he’s a really good singer/songwriter who I got a lot of experience working with because it was really my first time doing a whole record. Most of the guy’s songs were all slightly different. It really gave me a good opportunity to try this and that out and gain some studio experience, which was very important. But he never really made it there, but he had some really good songs. He was a really nice guy, and through him I was able to meet a lot of people. And that was the other thing, meeting people and turning that into something more.
I remember that when he put out the album KISS THE WORLD GOODBYE and you asked Bruce to join the recording sessions, right?
Wasn’t that Bruce’s first recording ever?
I think that was the case. That’s right. It was funny because we were working with Meat Loaf at the time. See, back then I saw this as a value, I guess, like Michael and Rudy (Schenker), two brothers who play guitar, who can really play. The Meat Loaf situation, it worked out great, but I also realized that he needed his space. And hence, cut from then to now – other than us working together on this, that, and the other thing – you know, I don’t think he’s really thought of it as, like, yeah, the two of us up there with whoever. It’s going to be deadly because we both totally – you know, each of us can dish it out so double trouble there with two guys doing that. So that’s why now it just seems like a good time because that was the tease. All of that was the tease.
My next question is about your work with Lou Reed. He’s been in headlines lately, you know, for certain reasons and…
Well, that Metallica reason, that’s a good reason.
You worked with him in late 70’s for the CONEY ISLAND BAY album. How that thing came about back then and how was he to work with?
The thing with Lou Reed was – my brother and I we had another gig that we did together. We did this gig with this R&B singer named George McCrae who had a couple of hits in the States. So we played a show in Toronto, Canada and who shows up at this club? It was Mick Ronson and Lou Reed. I was like, “Holy shit. Mick Ronson and Lou Reed are here.” So after the show they came backstage and, you know, we were totally, like, “Wow, it’s Lou Reed and Mick Ronson!” And my brother and I both became friendly with both of them, but Lou got my number and about a month or two later he called me on the phone and said, “I’m in the studio. Do you want to come down and put a couple guitar things on some of the stuff I’m doing?” I was like, great. I went down to the studio, and the first thing he did was hand me his Strato and say, “What do you think of this guitar?” “This is an old Strato. This is a really beautiful guitar.” “Why don’t you use this guitar?” “Sure. Okay. So what do you want to do?” “I want you to play on this track. I want you to do some leads.” So he set me up, got it all going. I said, “Should I listen down a few times, make a chart, see what’s going on?” He goes, “That’s not what I want. I want you to go out there and just play what you feel to what you hear, off the cuff, no rehearsal. I want you off the cuff licks. No thinking. No planning. No knowing. If there’s a mistake, we’ll fix it”. I was just like, “Well, what’s that? What is that?” You know, so I went out there and, you know, when the chord went somewhere that I knew the lead didn’t follow, stop, and punch in. They’d punch in. But most of it I was just playing. Obviously, some of the licks stepped on the vocal. I had no idea what was going on, but some of them worked. And when I went in there he had this look on his face that was just like, “You see how great that is? No thinking? Just playing to what I did? So I want you to do the whole record like that.” I was like, “The whole record like this? Where I don’t even get to hear it? Can I at least listen once before going out there to play?” Nope.
That sounds really interesting method to make a record. [Laughs]
So that’s what I wound up dealing with. And needless to say, it was, you know, totally insane. But yet, that CONEY ISLAND BABY record there were two songs on there what I played. I thought that’s exceptionally good for what it is. It just fit. It just really worked. I wanted to tour with them, but he had a really bad drug problem back in the day as everybody knows, as is clearly documented. I mean, I will add this. I was enamored with Lou Reed because of the guitar players that he used previous to me on the LOU REED LIVE album. Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter, the guitar players that now play with Alice Cooper. I was headed right there, so that was the connection for me. It was like, look, you’re following those guys. You’ve just got to catch up now. So the Lou Reed thing was great, and he didn’t show up for the first day of rehearsal, and I made the mistake of showing the other guys some of the songs and got fired on the spot the next day. “You showed them some of these songs?” “Yeah, I just figured they’d be ready for you when you came in. We’d be able to play them rather than having to teach it to them.” “I wanted to teach it to them.” “I didn’t know that. I’m sorry.” “So now you have to be fired.” So be it. So off I went. I’m doing more session work, and who do I encounter now? Of course it was with Dick Wagner. There’s Dick Wagner working with this girl, Ruth Copeland and Daryl Hall. So that was the first time I met Dick.And the guy was everything that I wanted to be and more – an amazing guitar player, an amazing songwriter, somebody who totally had a clue about how to present stuff and what to do. And I had been working up this song, and I came up with a little guitar part for this thing he wrote and he kind of went, “Play that again? I love that.” “Great. Thanks.” It wasn’t a writing thing. It was an arrangement thing. But the fact that he now fixated on – this guy is good, and he knows his place. So when he came over to me one day and just said, “You know who Mark Farner is, right?” Of course I knew who he was. “It’s like, I’m going to produce his solo record and I want you to play on it.” I was thinking Mark Farner plays guitar. “What do you need me for?” “Well, I want two guitar players. I want you to play with, and then right after that it was Steve Hunter is going to work with Peter Gabriel and we’re doing this WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE tour in Australia with Alice Cooper. Do you want come to play with us?” So that was – again, like I said to you – being in the right place at the right time under the right circumstances. Sure, of course. And so when I see Alice now it’s the big laugh, you know, because he always jokes, he goes, “I barely remember you from back then I was so drunk”, which is true. He knows that it was the case, but he hardly ever remembers it. Although, I do recall the first day of rehearsal in Australia when we had that big guitar battle thing he came out to check it out to make sure that the replacement could play. I remember hearing his voice going, “You sound really good up there.” “Thank you.”
MEAT LOAF YEARS
The next obvious topic is, of course, your work with Meat Loaf. How was it to be a real rock star playing in arena shows after years of hard work?
Well, it was a lot of fun to actually… The drummer, Joe Stefko, worked with me with John Cale when I played with John Cale. And so when he got the gig with Meat Loaf, Meat Loaf was looking for two guitar players so he suggested me, and then I suggested my brother. So we went down there and auditioned, and we got the gig. So I never thought that Meat Loaf – I mean, I listened to the record, and I thought the songs were incredible. These songs are totally incredible – not my personal cup of tea other than maybe “Bat Out Of Hell”, which I was like, whoa, that’s really incredible, especially with Todd Rundgren’s guitar playing on there. It was another person from the scene that we all knew. We knew guys that worked with him, we’d met him, and the guy was a phenomenal talent. And he was a great producer. The guy produced a lot of stuff, including their record. I just thought, you know, all right, well, this will be a good way for us to break the ice and get out there and the Kulick brothers playing with some artists. I had no idea it was going to turn into what it did, especially at first. We opened for Cheap Trick, and we’re booed off the stage. Nobody knew the songs and they saw it as – what is that? It was like a freak show up there – a humongous guy in a tuxedo, a girl who looks like Betty Boop, and this huge band that’s like a metal version of Bruce Springsteen band, you know. Nobody knew what to make of it at first until the songs started to stick, and then all of a sudden we’d play some colleges, and now look at this response. People are singing along now and they’re cheering. Then I realized, oh, this is going to work. And of course, once the label realized – it became huge. The record’s one thing and we got that. But once they see this incredible touring machine, which had become very quickly – songs are very difficult to play, but after 30 or 40 shows, we were able to dish it out. So when you hear the reissue of BAT OUT OF HELL and you hear those songs played live by that band – “Bat Out Of Hell”, the tempo – I mean I don’t know how we played it that fast. I can’t even imagine. But I know that we finally got to hear – they were actually going to put that out. Just like the live DVD, that Eagle found last year. I was like “Oh my God, they found that show from Germany in ’78, oh.” So Bruce got copies, I got copies. “Did you watch your copy yet?” “No. And you?” “ I’m scared to watch it. Come over we’ll put it on together.” We were like two kids standing there holding hands watching it. Because we had no idea – are we in tune? Did we play good? Is this going to be embarrassing? At the end of the day, we watched three or four songs and I remember looking at him and I remember saying to him, “Wow, we were like a rock stars! Look at us there, we are rock starts! We were great! The band was great!” By then he was the one – Meat Loaf, who was suffering – flat here, flat there, what’s that? Where the band was like, “Oh my God listen to this band. It’s incredible.” So we made the most out of that and “Bat Out Of Hell” went on to be the third or fourth most selling record on the planet. It’s a classic record. I wouldn’t trade the experience. Later on, after my brother left, we all got fired and then I got rehired again. And in the ’80s, I did BAD ATTITUDE record with Meat Loaf. My brother was already about to join Kiss at that time.
BRUCE JOINS KISS
It’s a known fact that it was you who helped your brother to get a KISS gig. How did that actually go down since you were also asked to join in the band in many occasions?
I remember Paul Stanley calling me when I was in London with Meat Loaf. We were working at Abbey Road. That’s where we recorded, lucky us. We had a house not far from there across the street from Paul McCartney. So we were totally like, “Wow!” There we are working at Abbey Road and Paul Stanley calls and we’re like, “What’s going on?” And he says like, “The guitar player that we got, he’s got a problem.” “What does that mean?”…. I’d been telling them for years. By that time I’ve had bands – this was going on – “I couldn’t be in your band anymore, it’s not going to happen.” It was never meant to happen and I acknowledged it. But my brother – they were always like, “He’s got a beard.” “So he’ll shave.” “I don’t know if he fits.” “Why?” “He’s 6’2.” “Why doesn’t he fit? Why?” So they finally realized this could work. “You got your brother’s number?” So I remember my brother calling me afterwards saying, “Paul called me and it looks like I’ll be in London in a few weeks.” So I happen to still be there because we were still recording. So I went down to Wembley and I got to see my brother play with Kiss. And I remember thinking to myself, how stupid these guys are to say that this is the replacement guitar player when it’s so obvious – no offense to anybody else. But he was – the perfect fit on this band. I said to him, “You know what? This gig belongs to you, go get it. Go get this gig.” And he did and it was a great gig for him and I was proud of my brother.
It must have been great to see that finally happening since you saw really close when they did some wrong choices before that?
See the right choices – after the original thing went down the toilet and Ace went – you know my playing on – what I played on helped them “Larger Than Life”, “Rocking In The USA”, “All American Man”, all that stuff – “Nowhere to Run”. It really helped them because it helped build up Ace’s guitar image even though it wasn’t Ace. But it set the stage for my brother to come that somebody else was there that they could – and then they felt comfortable because it was my brother. Somebody in the family, somebody they knew. They knew he had the same work ethic that I did. That he was a reliable person that would do the job.
Did you ever think that this could have been your second change to step in and play with KISS?
No, I mean it was always the joke when Ace was going to leave. I remember the business manager would always be like, so look, Bob’s going to be in the band, we’ll change his name, we’ll get him a wig and we’d all laugh. But it was – and then the joke was, so what if I was in Kiss like this? Well what character would you be then Bob? I would be Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon. I thought that would have been the best outfit. There it is for them and… [Laughs] it was just a joke. They needed a guy with long hair. There was a part of that period of time in my life where I would have wanted to gotten a couple of the gigs that were available. But they only wanted guys with long hair and I had to understand that I didn’t fit the model of what they were looking for. But then as we all know, all of a sudden this became as much as that. And then the fact that I wasn’t losing my hair, nobody knew how old I was anymore and I just became “Oh its Bob Kulick. He’s easily recognizable.” So what was a disappointment and something that I had to live with my whole life losing my hair very young turned into something that I no longer consider anything other than as I said to you – the hand of fate, doing something that may not be understandable right away, but is understandable now. And somebody comes over to me and says, “God you look the same as you did 20 years ago.” Not really, but yeah, I guess I do, to you. I’m still not losing my hair. That was always my joke. I’m not losing my hair exactly. It’s already gone. [Laughs]
ALIVE II SESSIONS AND ACE FREHLEY
Speaking a bit more about your working with KISS in the 70’s, although you didn’t get the gig with them in the beginning you still remained close to the band and especially with Paul, right?
Yeah, Paul – the Paul connection – I was friendly with Gene. And I saw Gene a lot too. And Gene was more open to the writing of songs. I wrote a couple of songs with Gene, whereas Paul was less open to the writing thing and more open to just hanging with his guitar soloing buddy. We had a really great time. We’d go out to clubs, I never did that with Gene. Paul and I, we’d go out. We’d go to Kansas City or we’d go to the tracks or we’d go to clubs and hang out. We had a great time. Back in the day when he really wanted to live the rock star lifestyle, he got into his Porsche and drove to the club and it was like wow. In New York to drive any kind of car like that showed arrogance and money. And we go out and go to a restaurant or something. People would recognize him and come over and try to get his autograph and I would always be like “Wait till the guy’s finished eating” or whatever it was. So we became really good friends. It was a good period of time I thought, especially when I had that Balance band, because he was such a huge fan and so supportive. That was the other thing; they were so very supportive of the other things that I did. Which I thought was nice of them. Not that any of my bands opened for them or anything, but they came to check out Meat Loaf – they were always attentive enough to what was going on.
Your first recording session with KISS took its place in 1978 when you were working on ALIVE II studio tracks. That must have been closely guarded secret at that time. How long of a time did it actually take before the fans found out that it wasn’t Ace who played on all of the tracks there?
Yeah, it didn’t take too long, and I think there was actually an admission by Gene in one of the local papers saying that Bob Kulick coasted on the live side, it’s a live tune. It was one of those, so it wasn’t specific-specific when listing songs with names who they play this with, and there’s still arguments. People still say no, that was Rick Derringer. No, it wasn’t. Other people did play. Allan Schwarzenberg and Dick Wagner play on one of the records as well. I wasn’t the only one that did a ghost thing. There was a ghost drummer, obviously. So there were always several guests, shall we say, and just par for the course.
Did you meet Ace in person during those sessions?
Yeah, the only thing that happened, which is the classic story was that he was actually there. He was in the lounge lying on the floor, you know he was pretty drunk or whatever you know and they were trying to make a point to him, we have a deadline, we need to get this finish. To me this figure would jerk a knot up his butt, A Bob will play great, make him feel bad and then B we get it done and that he knows we can get somebody else. I mean it was the signal, you know, but ACE his old attitude was, because I remember going through the lounge on my way out, instead I didn’t want discourteous, you know. I’m heading out and he says “Great seeing you, so how was I?” I replied, “It was the best you ever played,” [Laughs] What else could I have said. I had to make the joke back and actually said it for him.
Have you met Ace recently?
I haven’t seen him recently, not in a long time. He was supposed to be on that Christmas record. He was the one that was going to sing, “Grandma Got Ran Over by a Reindeer.” That was going to be him playing guitar, and he cancelled at the last minute and I had Stephen Pearcy to replace him. Yeah, Ace was going to do it, and it was Carol Kaye with managing him at the time and I knew her from the KISS days and cleared the whole thing up and I was just like, “Oh Ace thinks this song is perfect for him. It is going to be hilarious thing, it would be great.” But then, “Hey Bob, its Carol, listen, Ace is going to bail out on this.” Why? I waited all this time, you know, so no, unfortunately, you know I would have like to work with him. I did think of him and did go and try to get him and then got a tentative yes until he chickened out for whatever reason.
Do you know that he’s been sober for the last five years?
Well good for him. I hope that’s the case, because you know over doing anything could be bad and that’s certainly his case.