INTERVIEW BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
ADDTIONAL QUESTIONS BY JOUKO VÄÄNÄNEN
Bob Kulick is an American guitarist and Grammy Award-winning record producer. If there ever was a “fifth member of KISS award to be handed out, Kulick 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 on last November when he appeared as a special guest for his brother Bruce Kulick and John Corabi who did an acoustic performance on KISS EXPO in Helsinki. The chat did last almost two hours, so there’s plenty of material to read, and for that reason, this interview has been split into two pieces. Read On!
WORKING ON THE PAUL STANLEY SOLO ALBUM
When the Paul Stanley solo album came out, it must have been great to get your name officially on the credits and let everyone know who you were, right?
Well, this was the great thing about playing “Tonight You Belong to Me” or something and having the solo on there and all of that and everybody going “Wow, what a great solo.” You go, thank you, but I never thought I’d play it live. Under what circumstance would I play it live? Well, if you did a solo tour. That’s what happened. I did a solo tour with Paul in 1989, so “Now I’m playing it in front of people”. There it was. That was gratifying to play my stuff in front of an audience who knew it, and I really made an effort to keep it faithful so that they would hear yep, that’s the solo all right. Fans were thinking like that’s the guy that played it all right.
About production of the album, it was done by Paul himself.
There was actually a producer, but then he got fired, so Paul did it by himself.
How do you like him as a producer?
Paul, if he was passionate about what he was doing, then I think he was really good at it. To just hand him a band to do is not really his thing. He had to feel like – he was very fussy about the songs. I remember he met with Guns N’ Roses about producing their record and I think they had a thing about the songs. I think he wanted some changes or wanted to hear some other songs or whatever it was. That’s fair enough.
Which kind of gear did you use during the recording sessions there?
Well then, I know we used a bunch of Paul’s guitars and my Les Paul which is now my brother’s Les Paul, and we used a bunch of Electric Lady’s Marshalls. I remember using one of those old TV model Les Paul’s on a couple of tunes which was Paul’s, and he said like, “Pick this up”. It was always fun to pick up a different guitar right in the studio and record because invariably the sound of the guitar and the fact that it’s a new guitar made you play something different. So like in a Lou Reed thing, you know, when I brought my Les Paul in, he was like, “Here, play a Strat”, so I merely put mine like “Okay, so Strat, sound more like Eric Clapton, “Layla” and, you know, you immediately make a reference point for yourself and then go from there. So but you know it was so long time ago. The sessions that were done in New York, the first half I put the Paul Stanley record went like really fast, but then we went to L.A to do the second half, and it took ten times as long.
What I’ve read from the books, the LA sessions were more like partying and have fun than concentrating the actual work…
Whereas in Electric Lady we would just show up, work up the tune and play and see you tomorrow night. Okay, great. I’m looking forward to it, it was great, had a great time. Whereas LA things, we were staying at hotels, we’re all out here in LA, and everybody would do rent-a-cars, you know, so what time we’re meeting over there tonight, 09:00, okay I’ll go to the beach, we’ll have things to do, you know. Flew a girlfriend in from Toronto and it was a party time, you know. It did take ten times as long, not as focused.
I think that your guitar sound really stands out great on Paul’s solo album.
My old Les Paul, my old Les Paul, sounded really great, yeah. I remember so many reviews, I remember one review, like Circus Magazine what I’m saying now we know what the band like with Bob playing the guitar. Somebody said it, and at least I didn’t have to say it. It was obvious but okay somebody else said, so, a point noted, that’s all. You know as I said, you know at a certain point, accepting your fate rather than driving you crazy is very important. So by that point, I had already accepted that I’m a sidekick, not in the band, but work with the band, and so I’ve accepted that, and to that extent, they provided me with this, which nobody else could provide me with. People like yourselves who are such fans that this is an ongoing thing, and they provided me with all the work, the Diana Ross thing, that was Gene. Gene calling me, “You want to play on Diana Ross’s record? Come to the studio in an hour. I’ve got this setup for you.” I went down there and played. And then come back tomorrow for the next song. Is she happy, she totally is, she’s stoked and over the moon about it. Okay, he helped me out, he helped me by doing, he helped himself because he brought somebody who knew could deliver what she needed, what he wanted to put on there, but it was the value for value relationship, and I thank you for me. Paul Stanley did the same thing to me with Raquel Welch. He ran into Raquel Welch, and her husband at a party and they were putting together a Las Vegas show, and they needed a guitar player to be the musical director, and so he gave them my number, and they hired me and so some extra work for me that I did.
So always, you were kind of a piece of cake, “Just ask Bob, he will always come and when you need him.”
Right, except for Blackie Lawless. [Laughs]
Speaking about Gene, at the same time when you were working on Paul’s album, Gene also wanted you to play on his album, right?
Yeah, it’s true, and I remember they had a big argument about it and Gene had to call me up and just say “I want you to play on my solo album”. I don’t know if they wrestled and one got pinned, but it was definitely something like, “I got Bob first, and you’ll have to wait”, so Gene had to wait, and that was that.
Gene didn’t seem to like your decision because you haven’t worked with him too much since then?
Maybe he felt spurned that I chose Paul over him like it was my choice, which it was not. I couldn’t be caught in the middle of an argument like that. It’d just be stupid on my part. So you had to understand that they were putting out four solo records. They wanted to have different people on the record, so I could see somebody making that argument. If I played on a couple of tunes, it wouldn’t have made that much difference. The cast of characters on Gene’s record was amazing. He had Steve Lukather and all the best musicians he could get. It wasn’t like the bottom of the barrel. He got the top of the food chain guys.
Do you have any overall opinions about the KISS solo albums in all?
Well, that they were actually able to do that and make it work says volumes for them and at the time to be able to give each guy, including Peter, a chance to step out, sing, come up with whatever your thing is and present it, I thought was an excellent opportunity for them. Ace certainly took advantage of it. He had a big hit. His “New York Groove” was the biggest of the hits on any of those records.
I think that it must have pissed Gene off when Ace did better than him [Laughs]
Of course, he was pissed off. It wasn’t Ace’s song, but it didn’t matter. He did a great version of it, and that’s what worked.
THE MUSIC FROM THE ELDER
I know that you have nothing to do with this album, but I must ask what your honest opinion about THE MUSIC FROM THE ELDER is?
Oh, THE ELDER, oh, oh my ELDER story is the following. Paul called me up one day, and he said, “I want you to hear this solo that I played on this song “A World Without Heroes”.” I went over to his apartment, put it on, and he said, “What do you think?” I said, “I had no idea you could play like that you sound great.” He was just like “You know why?” “Why?” “Because I thought, “Just play what Bob would play”.” That was the biggest compliment. I was like “Let me listen to it again.” and he was like “Okay.” I hear what he is saying all right I was so flattered, that’s my only comment on THE ELDER, and that’s it. The record wasn’t very good. Everybody knows that, but that moment for me was everything that he thought so much of me that he tried to be me! Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, you know, and so I thought to myself… Wow, I am so flattered.
There are many fans there who really do appreciate THE ELDER, including me.
Its music, it’s a matter of personal opinion and taste, and they all did stuff that is good on there. Yeah, absolutely but as far as you know the overall opinion is because it was a concept album that the concept you may have, you know, moved the songs a little bit this way or that way or less than what the Kiss fans might have wanted.
THE BIRTH AND DEMISE OF BALANCE
Let’s talk a bit about your early 80’s band Balance. Didn’t Paul do some backing vocals for the very first Balance album, right?
That’s right because he was a big fan.
The band which played on Paul Stanley’s solo album included Peppy Castro and Doug Katsaros with whom you later on formed a band Balance, so those sessions in a way gave the birth for this band?
Correct, because Peppy and Doug were both on there. That’s right. Well actually, Paul was friends with Peppy, and that is part of the reintroduction. I had met Peppy years ago. He reintroduced this, so that is true. Then the idea of having a band – of course, Peppy was a great singer back in the day – wow. He was a great singer. And then Paul was a huge fan. So that felt good to be able to have a record, and Paul says “I love your record.” And he’d name songs, and he’d be like “Wow!” It was really flattering. Because face it, they [KISS] were mainly fixated on themselves. In order, to be really successful pretty much – which is not to say you don’t listen to other stuff, but a lot of guys are like – they got the blinders on. Pretty much what they’re in to and everything else is “I don’t care”.
Balance was a quite short-lived band, and you eventually broke up after two albums in 1983. What led you to make another Balance album EQUILIRIUM in 2009?
Well, Serafino Perugino from Frontiers had been after me for years. “Could we do a Balance reunion album?” Why? It’s not like the band was successful. It’s like, “Yeah, well, we’ll put the band back together, and we’ll go out there and make millions again.” What? Which millions? So finally they came up with enough money, and I finally got them on the phone enough to say okay, so let’s try to do this. And some of it was good. The real disappointment to me was Peppy’s age had caught up on his voice. And so he didn’t sound as good as he sounded back in the days. He couldn’t hit some of the high notes that we might have wanted so it would have sounded more like the old Balance. But other than that, we had a good time doing it. And some of the songs were actually from back in the day. There were songs that either never got used or were something that was like not finished enough to use and then we just finished it and then wound up using it on this.
Correct me if I’m wrong, what did happen for Balance after IN FOR THE COUNT album was that many important people from the record company got fired so it got no promotions or whatever and soon the whole thing broke up in pieces. Was it something like that?
That is true. Unfortunately, the record got caught in a political situation with Sony at the time where a whole bunch of people got fired, and our album went with it.
Right, and it’s a shame because I think that IN FOR THE COUNT is better than the first one. After all, it’s a way more guitar-oriented album.
I thought so too. It was certainly more what I wanted. On the first record, some of the songs were really great songs, but I like the second one better. Yeah, and that was me pushing the label and the management… Put a little bit more on the guitars here, a little bit more attitude, a little bit more attitude, a little heavier, maybe score more with the AOR scene than try to have a hit single and all of that. But the band never really did much touring, and that was the sad part about it. It was partly because it wasn’t a five-piece band. We had different rhythm sections because of the circumstance. It didn’t work out exactly as I had planned but, on the other hand, it did create an enormous amount of opportunities, and I was able to do 20 other things while I was in the band. So it didn’t really hold me back.
You enjoyed some great success in Japan with the single “Ride the Waves” which was released after you parted ways with Portrait records.
Yeah, we had an opportunity in Japan. They loved this song that we came up with, and they did decide to stick us inside this car commercial. So they flew us to Tokyo. The next thing I know we’re in this car commercial, and it was hilarious because they put us in these costumes. It was like KISS. It was like we’re in KISS now. We’ve got sparkles on our faces and wore gold costumes like we’re from Mars.
I think that you did look like Village People on that cover … [Laughs]
Like Village People. I know it was hilarious. It was just like “Fortunately no one we know will ever see this”, but here we are talking about it years later. So yeah, yeah “laughs” It was too late at that point to say “What, are you kidding me? We aren’t wearing those.” It was too late. Oh, we’re stuck. [Laughs]
KISS KILLERS AND CREATURES OF THE NIGHT SESSIONS
Going back to KISS related questions… You were asked once again to help KISS out during the KILLERS sessions in 1982. That was a quite different time in KISS camp compared to glorious ’70s, so how those sessions were back in the day?
Yeah, by that time, they were tired of this, and they really wanted to have somebody in the band, and they were also just starting up on the CREATURES OF THE NIGHT record, as well. So Vinnie Cusano was around, Vinnie Vincent was around. There were other people that they checked out. The guitar player from Mister, Mister, came in and played the solo on “Creatures of the Night”, Steve Farris. It’s a phenomenal solo. Paul was like, “What do you think?” “ What do I think? I think it’s phenomenal.” “He didn’t fit in the band, though.” “That maybe, but I’d keep the solo if I were you”, which he did. I remember the thing with Vinnie Cusano, Gene saying to me, the guy’s a really good songwriter. That’s a plus. I said; obviously, he can play. We know he can play, but if he can write songs, but they both said it to me at the time “We’re just worried about the guy getting with the program?” Then, of course, it didn’t last long because he couldn’t. My brother was the total draft marine. Yes, sir, sir, yes, sir and did what they told him to do up until the point he gained their confidence and then they didn’t treat him like that anymore, but Vinnie didn’t do that, so he got his ass fired which was stupid. He should’ve made a plan to stick this out for two years, three years, whatever it would take me out there so that I can do me, and then bye to them, but he just didn’t do that either, and we know what happened after that. Sure, he had a deal and Mark Slaughter and all that happened, but it still ultimately crashed and burned. He destroyed himself. This is the sad thing that some people that have the gift, along with that gift is this self-destruct mechanism that somehow they either kill themselves literally or figuratively and I’ve seen both. I’ve seen those that kill themselves physically because they couldn’t deal with it and they couldn’t handle it, and I’ve seen those who kill their careers because they couldn’t do it. That’s sad because there’s somebody who for as much as he’s a nut and all that we would say about him and laugh about him, the guy has phenomenal talent. It’s sad. That, to me, is sad. It’s sad.
Right going back to KILLERS sessions a bit, the way how you play, it is entirely different to Ace Frehley style. How that thing came about?
At the time they were really infatuated with the Van Halen thing, so I had a guitar custom made with a Floyd Rose on it. I used that for “Partners in Crime” and all of that stuff. They were like, “Can you do some like whammy bar stuff?” Sure I can, but they were pushing the envelope at that point realizing that Ace Frehley’s style was not enough anymore and they wanted some more modern stuff there?
Right, the musical genre was about to change during that time.
Well, it was changing. Things were changing by then, just like the day Paul was just like, “So what if we took the makeup off? What is your opinion? What would happen?” I wanted to say what fucking took you so long now. Okay, he told me what I needed to know. Okay and then going back to it I totally got that too. Guess what. I saw that coming. I saw it coming. Unfortunately for my brother and Eric and especially sad to me, they had to doom that record CARNIVAL OF SOULS, you know. I thought that was a really good record and it got shelved for the moment until they were able to put it out later on they really busted their asses. That was the record that belongs to my brother, and I was really proud of him because I thought that he did a really great job of moving them from like you say from an old-style rock band into a little bit more modern sound without giving up what they were. It wasn’t like it was now they’re not even recognizable. No, they’re recognizable. So it’s drop-D tuning in one song. So what? It didn’t matter. What mattered was that they realized at that point that the money was going down rather than up and that the way to make the kind of money they were making was to, again, put the makeup band out there and tour, which they did.
But the final question about the CREATURES OF THE NIGHT, you are not playing on the album, right?
Nothing that I played went on to the record. You know there was somebody else, there was a bunch of people but the other guitar player that I’m going to mention is Robben Ford, who was friends with Michael James Jackson who was helping out as a producer. And so he played on, I can’t remember the name of the song, but he did play on the album.
PAUL STANLEY SOLO TOUR IN 1989
In 1989 you joined Paul Stanley’s solo band right after you quit with Meat Loaf?
Well, I quit more specifically for that, but that was specifically the opportunity I was waiting to get out. It was time to go on.
After all those years, it must have been great to be finally on stage with Paul and play those songs live in front of an audience?
Yeah, and it was time to move on in any case. I remember sitting around with Paul one night, and you know we’d just jamming and playing, and it was like, “What if we do some shows?” “Sure, why not?” “You know I had no obligation to the band for the next nine months we can actually do a few gigs, well, what do you think?” “Great, sure.” “We get a drummer; we get a bass player, we’ll go play”, and you know at first I was just like “Yeah sure” but then he was serious about it.
Was it surprising that he decided to do that tour?
It was surprising because this is the first time when we stepped out to do a solo tour. I mean the record was already done but what about the tour situation? But again, you have to remember by then Gene was doing movies and this and that and so Paul felt, “Why can’t I do a solo tour then”, and he straightened it out with Gene so that there was no animosity and no weirdness. Unfortunately, I know my brother felt plenty of that for a moment, and Eric Carr may he rest in peace, I know he felt bad about it because Eric Singer was able to throw in stuff that Eric Carr didn’t get to throw in. Because when it was Kiss, Paul was very, and Gene was very much like, “Nope, nope, not that, don’t play that.” They were very specific on what they wanted and what they didn’t want. Even on Paul’s solo tour, I remember I had a couple of instances where I was like, “So what about at the end of whatever song it was, jam out and I will give a cue, move in.” He’s like, “No way.” “Alright, what about we extend one of the solo’s and give me a little bit more room to spread out here.” “Why?” He wouldn’t change anything. He wouldn’t give me an inch more, anything! At the end of “Communication Breakdown”, “I can play a solo there”, and he goes “Nope.” “Okay.” So you know I tried, but he was very locked into what he wanted, and there were times where you know it’s just like “You know the song- whatever it was…(singing) make it a little more Ace like?” “Oh, okay, okay, sure, sure.” So you know there were times when there was that direction in which if you made a point of saying it, then he made a point, you know… I wanted him to be happy, and I wanted it all to go smooth, so there was no point in arguing with him, I realized that. You could probably, you know for the Paul Stanley gigs, you could start the stopwatch when we started and end it when we finish, and you would be within a minute or two every show because there was no…we never extended anything, never did anything. I’m not used to that. I am used to a tight band that can get up there and be able to improvise and extend and do stuff like that. Be able to just go with the flow. It’s not that kind of band. They are just not that at all. It’s not like keep going here, just keep going here. [Laughs] No way.
Actually, how did you know get that line-up together? Dennis came through Balance of course?
But how did Eric come in the picture? He had already played with Lita Ford and Black Sabbath before and…
… and with Badlands, so it was either going to be Chuck Burgi who was working with me at the time with the Skull thing, or it was going to be Eric Singer. And Paul went with Eric Singer because he thought he was flashier and I think he also realized that then he would have my whole band there because I was playing on Skull at the time and so Dennis and Chuck were going to be in the band, and he knew what was going on, it wasn’t a secret. I think he didn’t want to be backed up by my band so I think Eric was the better choice and it was great because I got to meet Eric and you know?
And the rest is KISStory… [Laughs]
Yeah, exactly. There is somebody who, you know, I would never have met him otherwise, or known the way I know him otherwise.
So there was no audition for the band at all?
No, we never did an audition. He knew what Dennis was capable of, so it was…especially because Dennis sang. But he knew Eric and again Paul’s not the kind of person if Eric had come in and stunk he would have fired him, and we would have got Chuck, that’s just the way it was.
You already mentioned how pissed off Eric Carr was about this tour and actually, Bruce told me that once he and Eric came to see your show and afterwards Eric told him, “That guy is going to replace me in Kiss”. Did you see that reaction as well once you did know Eric Carr pretty well?
Yeah, I remember hanging out with Eric when I was doing some of these sessions in LA. These sessions in LA, here you know as we’re talking about some of the CREATURES OF THE NIGHT or KILLERS sessions. And you know by that time he already had bad taste in his mouth about the gig. My saying to him, sometimes you have to accept things for what they are, and then you’ll make up for it later by doing something else. So you know unfortunately he tortured himself through the whole thing and then you know seeing Eric Singer play some of the KISS songs he played at the solo tour where Eric was able to throw in maybe a double kick drum thing or a little fill that Paul would never allow for KISS, you know, that wigged him out. He just thought, “Why is this happening?” Where it’s just like you’re overthinking it, there’s no reason to it. It’s not like Paul was doing this to threaten to leave. He couldn’t do anything without the main body of the band. We played clubs, and it wasn’t like he was trying to make it a point like, “I’m great, and I don’t need Gene.” Yeah, you do, you do need Gene because you can’t be as big as what that is without him. So yeah, you do, and he knew it. So to me, it was just like, again, do I frame that was Gene’s off doing a movie, and we’re doing Paul’s tour so what? But you know Eric Carr, he took it too seriously and just thought that this was the writing on the wall. “Oh, you’re auditioning other musicians.” No, he’s not. He just wanted to do something different.
Did you ever have any plans to expand the Paul Stanley tour outside the US or do some more shows in the future?
He had talked about Japan, he talked about Europe, but for whatever reason, it just never happened. I never knew why. Nor did he make a big deal up, we should do a video this way we have it, all you see is the bootlegs, that’s all there is. Nobody ever made any plan to do anything.
So that was it?
Yeah, because it wasn’t taken that seriously as I’m saying, if it was then there would be all of that, and it boomeranged in that you had a situation where he booked 12 gigs and then all of a sudden, wait a minute we got offers from…okay, then we’ll do a West Coast run if they’re going to put the guarantees down and doesn’t cost me anything, sure, why not. Because that was the whole issue, I mean we got the top of the line bus and the whole thing.
Okay, the last question about Paul. I remember that you mentioned on some interview that you also did some demos for LIVE TO WIN album, Paul’s second solo album, right?
That’s right but as producer only. Yeah, he came to the studio, and we recorded a few of the tunes, and we talked about it. You know he asked me, you know, can you recommend a drummer who can play this tune. “Steve Ferrone, you know Steve Ferrone?” “ Can you get him?” You know one of those, so he saw the value in that here’s somebody who knows all the cats, knows all the dimes, but you know ultimately again, I think he just latched on to those guys that he wound up using on that record and went and made a deal over at Henson for the studio. And you know I couldn’t take it personally, you know he came to the studio and recorded. We did a bunch of stuff, so he went to do a record someplace else. You win some, and you lose some. It is what it is.
Eric Singer, Bob, Paul Stanley, Gary Corbett and Dennis St. James in 1989
WORKING WITH BLACKIE LAWLESS
You’re best known about your long working relationship with KISS, your session work, tribute albums and production work but you also worked with band W.A.S.P. in the ’90s. How did you and Blackie Lawless decide to work together?
Oh, the Blackie story, yeah. Well, we met along the way, and you know he got in touch with me about the CRIMSON IDOL.
Didn’t you know him before that?
No, no, not really. So he tells me, “Well, it looks like I’m going to get rid of Chris Holmes.” “You’re going to get rid of Chris? Are you out of your mind?” So he contacted me, he contacted Doug Aldrich, he contacted a few people, Doug played on a couple of the songs, and then I played on a couple of the songs. Yeah, and they asked me if I wanted to be in the band. And at first, I was interested because I thought, yeah, I could play with W.A.S.P. that would be a pretty good gig. But then I realized what that would entail. What that would’ve entailed is being in the band and having to take orders from him and doing everything the way he wanted to do it and having to play somebody else’s stuff, and that’s just what I didn’t really want. But I thought you know what if this record is going to be something I’d be willing to do it but when it came right down to it, he now, he just didn’t approach me in a way that made me feel like I really wanted to do it. So I just said, “You know, I think I’m just going to pass, get somebody else”. You know the guy played the solo note for note, he made him learn the CRIMSON IDOL solo note for note and all of that It just wasn’t for me at the time. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
The making of CRIMSON IDOL took like forever. That must have been quite a painful process for you?
Blackie was one of the guys who do need a producer because he’s tremendously talented but unfortunately doesn’t know how to get the most out of his talent because he’s not objective about himself. Like most people, it’s hard to be objective, like you know, I have a partner, Brett Chassen, the guy is a drummer, the guy’s a phenomenal engineer, the guy’s a great singer, the guy’s a great producer. When I play the guitar, I take off my producer’s hat, and Brett Chassen is then the producer. “What do you think?” I ask because I cannot be objective while I’m playing. It’s just one thing, go again, I’m out of tune, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about creatively.” What do you think of that solo? I can’t be objective, what do you think? I think it’s great, play it again?” Yeah, all right, let me do one more just to see what else I come up with and but I trust his opinion because it’s hard for me to be objective. And that was the case for Blackie is that I saw him stumbling over things which were for somebody else’s decision. “No, no, no, that lyrics are fine, next song. The guitar sound is fine; let’s finish this track and move on.” There was nobody to do that. And so he grieved about all that, “You know trying to find an amp” …for what? You know he played me this part, and I’m just like “It sounds fine, what’s the problem?” It’s not exactly what I’m hearing, the producer at that point should have just said, “It’s not a big-ticket item, move on. Let’s move to something important; let’s go.” But I also realized that in Blackie’s case the longer it was a work in progress, the more he could play with it, talk it up, and not have the reality of somebody critique it. So that’s part of his whatever, malfunction or shall we just say the way he handles business. Also, once again remember that Blackie had his own studio. He took the money and then instead of going to a studio, he got a Series B Trident and put it in his house. So what he needed was an engineer then so that Mikey Davis would go down there and engineer but of course the gear always needs upkeep and this, that and the other thing, he didn’t realize what he’d let himself into. And again, I have a studio, but it’s not at my house. I have to go to it. And there’s the difference if it’s sitting in your house it’s not a studio anymore it’s your home setup. I like to; when I go to the studio I like to, I’ve gone to the studio to play. I’m not sitting around in my pyjamas [Laughs]
Some years ago I was interviewing Frankie Banali and when I asked about those CRIMSON IDOL sessions, and he said mostly the same things what you just said… So there was something wrong there.
Right, because Blackie couldn’t be objective, that’s correct, that’s right, that’s right. You know, and that’s where a producer just solves all the problems. Because ultimately even as the producer if the artist comes back to me and goes, “You know what, that track isn’t killing me.” So we’ll re-cut it. That’s all, it’s your record you got to be happy, but I got to put my foot down every time I think it’s necessary. Not the artist feels that they have to like, I’m not sure yet, and then they’re really like, then okay, all right, all right, we’ll indulge something else. But if you just give them the rope to just go, they might end up hanging themselves like Blackie. It just took too long and then the result was a disappointment, unfortunately.
But overall that album was a great one.
It was good, but it wasn’t a huge success that it could have been. I think it could have been much better. He should not be playing guitar. He’s a bass player. Play bass, I should have played with him guitars, the rhythm guitars had no balls.
It’s funny, some weeks ago I met Steve Riley, remember him?
Of course, I remember him.
He said that the biggest mistake Blackie ever made was the firing of Randy Piper and switched bass to guitar because he’s a better bassist than a guitar player.
Sounds like Lemmy, another one I knew. He’s an approach to the bass. Lemmy’s case it is what it is, but in Blackie’s case, it is possible that destroying the original band was the end anyway. But then you know it seemed to me once he got rid of Chris that that’s what it was headed for, it was headed for Blackie film. He didn’t want anybody else’s opinion. I remember after embarking upon the session, I was at the Rainbow one night, and it was one of those, it was Chris Holmes, “You took my gig.” “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute, WAIT a minute.” It was one of those, you know, I just had to pull the guy aside say, “Look, my opinion, the guy’s a fucking lunatic. You’re better off without him if that’s the way he’s going to treat you, just do your own thing dude. But I didn’t take your gig. I’m just playing on the record as is Doug. I didn’t take your gig. Nor do I want your gig.” I made it clear to him right up front because he was pissed. Who could blame him? You know, and every time I see Chris, he’s always smiling. Because he knows I was totally honest with him. Said the guy is a fucking pain in the ass.
Basically, it was just you and Blackie and Frankie who did record the whole album. At some point, Frankie left and then Stet Howland finished the drum parts. Was there anybody else involved with those recording sessions?
Other than Doug Aldrich, as I said, no. And Mikey Davis who was the engineer that worked with them and he worked with me on Skull project.
Once the album was finally ready, and the band decided to tour, did Blackie ask you for the live band as well?
Yeah, there was that one tour, like I said, I was just like I respectfully told him that I couldn’t do it. It was just after the CRIMSON IDOL when he was trying to put something together for that. Whatever was happening at the time I just felt was much more me and also the money was… he didn’t have too much to. If I’m going to back somebody up, which essentially this was, see if he had approached me and just said, all right I’m replacing Chris, will you co-write, will you play some rhythm guitar or would you do the leads, then I would have felt more like I’m a part of the band. Even if I hadn’t written anything if I did the rhythms, that it was more of me on there I could of, but there’s a lot of you wondering, it might be good to go out and do it, rather than I played a few solos like on everybody else’s records, so what. Like Diana Ross and everybody else and I played solos on hit records and… so what was the difference here? [Laughs]
Right but I still have to say that you’re playing some excellent solos on the album.
Thank you, the playing was a pleasure, and joy and the guy loved the way I played, and you know he kind of, he got Doug Aldrich to play all the really fast stuff that he really loves, and he got me to do the slower stuff like on “The Idol” which he felt like this guy’s vibe for this stuff like, you know, he kind of framed it as like Pink Floyd,” It’s like a Pink Floyd, and you’re doing what Pink Floyd would do to that song.” I was like flattered about that.
Now when you mentioned Pink Floyd, I was thinking that maybe Blackie was trying to create something larger than life with CRIMSON IDOL. Do you agree with that?
He was trying, and again you have to remember at the time he had the biggest managers, Rod Smallwood and Andy Taylor, they managed Iron Maiden. That’s how I met Bruce Dickinson and the Iron Maiden guys, let’s do Blackie, and I went to see them play in LA and Blackie was like, “Come backstage with me.” Okay, so I go back there, and now I’m hanging out with Blackie, and they’re meeting me as somebody who’s hanging out with Blackie. So they all like me immediately, you know I was part of the family, the Sanctuary family. So when I called Bruce Dickinson to sing on the Alice Cooper thing, he sang even though the manager said “Fuck Off, no way” but he sang because he wanted to sing. See that was an instance where I knew right from that point, you know what, when somebody’s that big of an artist, they don’t tell him what to do. He tells them what to do, or he holds his breath and stamps his feet, and they’re really unhappy. So I realized right after that experience, “You know Bruce Dickinson is not going to sing in this.” “Yes he is,” and so he did.
Although things went how they went with THE CRIMSON IDOL, you still did another album STILL NOT BLACK ENOUGH with Blackie just three years later.
I played on that too, yeah. You know again, I like working with him and the whole vibe of what he set up I like. It’s just the particulars…
Was that album any different to do than THE CRIMSON IDOL?
It was no different because it was the same problem again. No objectivity by the artist. It was taking forever to do it. And then he was offering a crumb. Here we get a little solo here and a little solo there. Okay, sure, again, I was a session guitar player for years. That was my job, so I never viewed it as, you know, like I’ll join the band this time. No, I just viewed it on face value. Okay, you like what I did, I can do some more for you, of course, with a smile on my face.
THE 90’S BANDS OF BOB KULICK
Like you mentioned earlier, in the 90’s you used to have many bands who you did work with. First of all, there was Skull. Whatever did happen to that band because after the album NO BONES ABOUT IT you kind of got lost from the picture?
Yeah, it kind of just came and went.
I have to admit that the album was a really good one.
It was very good but, you know again, the expectation exceeded what it was. Bobby Rock was playing as opposed to Chuck Burgi. I preferred Chuck even though Bobby is a great drummer and a great guy. And Dennis moved from bass to singing. We had a bass player who was a great bass player, Kjell Brenner; the guy was a phenomenal bass player but… the band, it just destroyed by itself because there was no real success for it. There was no real market for it. You know, we did a few gigs, and it just faded away.
I do remember all those ads in the magazines where you were posing against some black fabric, and it was only your head and barely arms shown there, it did look like a pirate flag. Do you remember those ads?
Right, but I liked the Japanese cover of the album I thought was pretty cool. They used a picture of me with the other guys, and I thought that it at least presented a band, whereas just now they just reduced to me in this, and it was just like… now people were really confused, “I don’t know what it is?” “Is it just this guy, is it a band or is it just his arms?” “We don’t know what it is?” Do you know? So it was just, it just didn’t work, and the name, while it was a great name, the music didn’t really follow the name and that was the other problem. You know being yelled at, “Make sure you have commercial songs”, but it’s Skull, we don’t want commercial songs. They want it to be SKULLLRR. You know so a little bit of this, a little bit of that and it turned into nothing, you know rather you make the commitment. It’s a commercial record, and we’re going to call it the “Do you know the Da’Da’s”, and there it is or it’s Skull and its “King of the Night” and “Guitar Commandos”, and that’s it without nothing that would resemble anything commercial.
A few years later you had another band called Blackthorne. The band was a kind of supergroup including you, Frankie Banali, Jimmy Waldo (Alcatrazz), Chuck Wright (Quiet Riot, House of Lords) and former Rainbow vocalist Graham Bonnett. That band didn’t last too long either, right?
Ah, the supergroup Blackthorne, yeah, the idea was great in theory and Graham Bonnet was a great singer but what I found out that I didn’t realize was that he’s not a songwriter which made it difficult. And also that he really hated the heavy side of music, it’s not his personal cup of tea. So you know like to sit and have a conversation, “So, what would you sing?” “Oh, I’d like to sing some Beatle’s songs.” Well, that isn’t going to work for us. We need to dish it out here, that’s not going to work. So the thing was doomed from the very beginning, because of him. And the rest of the guys were great. We had fun some of the songs I thought came out really, really great. But Graham was a disaster, we went to Japan and every opportunity we had to impress, we had a TV show to do, and right before the TV show his voice went, so he sounded like crap. I mean it’s like every inch of the way no matter what, he was able to screw it up somehow, and then it just became like, “You know what, never mind.” So that was another one record, sayonara.
I remember when I interviewed Graham some years ago, and he then said that Blackthorne was too heavy for him.
I know. It was too heavy for him. You know it was too heavy for him.
So that’s all about Blackthorne. After that thing went off, you had another short-lived “supergroup” called Murderer’s Row. What’s the story behind that one?
David Glen Eisley, he’s a phenomenal singer. The guy sang for Giuffria and Dirty White Boy, and he’s still one of my best friends to this day. We wrote that SpongeBob song together, that’s gotten all the notice and all that and he’s the singer on that SpongeBob thing so there is a song with us out there that actually really did something that somebody could hear what Dave and I would sound like working together, which was great. It was sad that the rest just didn’t click at all, but again by that time we were on the other side of the mountain, and it’s just like how seriously can I take this when the business is changed, and we aren’t trying to be the next thing, so people were fighting over the scraps.
And at that time, in the late ’90s, hard rock wasn’t the most fashionable thing…
Exactly so it was hard to be grounded enough to be something and stick to that.
THE LAST QUESTION
Okay, the last question, finally. Do you see that someday you’ll give one more try for another band?
I hope I’ll be working with Bruce and hopefully that will be the case.
If that thing comes into reality, you mentioned earlier about the singer situation, but if you and Bruce decide to go on tour, who would you like to have in the band then?
Well, I definitely have to have my partner Brett because he’s just such a great drummer. If you heard the Sinatra record, he’s the drummer on that. My co-producer, so to have somebody who’s an engineer, who is a producer and who’s also equal on his instrument is great. Because with the in-house band we also make a joke if I pick up the bass and he does a vocal we send stuff out to people like this Michael Jackson thing that’s what they’re going to hear. It’s only the two of us; they’ll get to hear what it is that we’re planning on doing with it because he can sing and I can play bass enough for the in-house band. So the two of us, I think, with my brother would be ideal because I like the idea of having two guitar players and this way that doesn’t fall apart when you go to the solos and all that. And you can be more musical and do more things. Somebody like Rudy Sarzo would be great on bass because he’s just a really good friend and a really good bass player. Somebody who doesn’t play a lot, somebody who’s a really easy guy to get along with. And the keyboard player that we work with on the Sinatra thing as well, Doug Katsaros, who’s also working on our Dee Snider thing, the keyboard player. I would have him as well and then maybe Ripper would be singing. That would be my ideal band.
Thank you, Bob!