INTERVIEW AND LIVE PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA
Bruce Kulick has had a long and successful career in the music world. He is still, and probably will always be, best known for his twelve-year-long KISS career. Kulick joined the band in 1984, but before that, he worked for many years with artists such as Michael Bolton, Billy Squier, Blackjack, and Meat Loaf. When KISS decided to put the makeup back and reunite with the original members in 1996, Kulick founded a Union group. Later on, he has released three solo albums and worked as a session artist on numerous projects, including the very successful Avantasia albums. In 1999, he was asked to join the legendary Grand Funk Railroad. And now, 17 years later, he is still with the group. Kulick arrived in Helsinki last November. He was a special guest at KISS Army Finland’s annual KISS Expo. He did not only perform with local KISS Army members and other guests, such as Mr.Lordi and drummer Bobby Rock, but he also did a long Q & A session, meet and greet with fans, and much more. The next day I had the opportunity to sit down with Bruce. We discussed his recent KISS Kruise performance, Helsinki Expo, a possible new Kulick album, and how the future overall looks like for him.
KISS EXPO HELSINKI 2017
So, in brief, how was the KISS Expo in Helsinki for you?
Bruce Kulick: First of all, there were a lot of new elements that have impressed people. That’s exciting for the fans. The fact that many different people performed was obviously a big bonus with some unusual songs being played, which is wonderful. Then I was doing a Q&A, and there was a lot of new fresh news to talk about, so that was valuable. So, I think in many ways, this one did have a lot of special moments. I think that the people, who made an effort to go, had a special time. The people that decided not to go missed out on this one. Just like the people who say like, “Oh, I didn’t go on that KISS cruise because some special things happened there.” So, I am very happy with the event, and in some ways, it wasn’t as hectic even as my smaller clinic style event a few nights before in Norway. So, I was pleased overall. I know there were a lot of challenges you guys had with the last-minute venue change and all that. But the most important thing is that the fans had a good time, they weren’t complaining about anything. My meet and greet was something special. I know I have to keep it limited. So that’s why I got to charge a little more. But those people whom I did get a chance to have a one-on-one discussion with them a bit, besides signing their stuff and everything, I think it was a big win for everybody.
That’s great to hear because most people don’t understand what it takes to organize a thing like Expo and make it a success.
Bruce Kulick: All these expos are always like a crazy animal. It’s not easy to make it work. So, I give you a lot of credit for trying it and making it work. Expos are a wonderful connection to fans, and I think the fans that missed this one really missed out on something special.
THE KISS KRUISE
Bruce Kulick: First, I’ll tell you that how the cruise was for me. I did two prior cruises before this. One was kind of like a motorcycle rock and roll thing in Brazil. There I was the solo artist, and I used the South American players.
When was that cruise?
Bruce Kulick: Probably about four or five years ago? Then the other band was Marky Ramone. So, he did a set of Ramones songs. Then there was a European band that I don’t remember the name of, but they were kind of progressive Jethro Tull or something. But they had a following. So, I had one, one night. It was a four-day thing, but there were three nights of entertainment. Okay. Lots of cover bands and stuff. It was fun. The weather was crazy on my night, but that was my first cruise, and then I got it. I was kind of like; I didn’t know what to expect before that.
Was it kind of the same type of cruise how the KISS Kruise was? I mean, the boat stopped on the Islands, and there were tons of all kinds of activities all the time?
Bruce Kulick: Yeah, you can make some stops. So, I never got off the boat actually, because I was just relaxing. I had to play on the first night of the cruise. On the second cruise I took, the ship was even bigger than the Norwegian Pearl. The first one was not as large as the Pearl. The “Legends of Rock” Cruise was with Grand Funk, and ironically Ace was on it. So, Ace got to see me with Grand Funk, and I got to see his set, which was kind of fun. We had Peter Frampton, Greg Allman and Foghat with us there. They immediately asked Grand Funk to do the following year, too, which is not up to me, but Mel and Don didn’t decide to do it. But that prepared me more for something like KISS, even though the Pearl was smaller than that ship. So, I kind of already had experience with rock cruises. I know my brother was never on one. So, he didn’t know what to expect. So now I know what to expect from boarding a cruise, filling out the paperwork. What the rooms kind of look like, the food, the accommodation, the vibe. The elevators and how it’s like a little moving hotel with a sun deck to play on and theaters. But there is no doubt; KISS could sell out that cruise forever because it’s so well done. I was very impressed with the production and with the attention to detail. If you’re a KISS fan, that’s Disneyland to you. If you’re a fan of stuff like that, if you want to celebrate KISS, there is no better way than take a vacation and do the cruise. It’s not about how much you eat, or drinking too much or whatever. It’s just you’re immersed in this entire experience of all things KISS, and you could look at it like you’re trapped by it. But you’re not. It’s really something to celebrate. Everyone was aware that I couldn’t stay on the entire cruise because of the Grand Funk schedule. I was never committed early enough to do the entire cruise. So, I exited in Mexico, and this was a little bit of a challenge for me. I would have preferred to have been able to get on the ship for the five days. But quite honestly, no matter where I went, I run into the fans. Everybody was just having a wonderful time. It was exciting for them. The Sixthman people are professional, and they’re an excellent company to work for. So, I was very impressed with it. They understand Gene and Paul’s vision of KISS perfectly, and they’re taking the convention tour to a whole another level. I have nothing but good things to say.
In my opinion, these KISS Kruises are a kind of continuation of the KISS Conventions, what the band did in the mid-90s. Do you agree with me about that?
Bruce Kulick: Yeah. In a way, it is, and this is the first time I have said that. But usually, I would have my wife with me, as people bring their significant other if they can. But with two days, I wasn’t going to do that because my schedule was terrible. But the point is, I kept telling Lisa when I could speak to her from the Kruise and tell her about it, that is the BEST thing for KISS fans. It’s the most exciting thing you can do. Of course, seeing the band live or getting a new product is always cool. But this is better than any of those things. You can’t compare it to anything else.
I remember when I was on the Kruise for the first time, it was like: “Yeah! This cruise is going to be unique and a once in a lifetime thing.” But I have been on every Kruise since then; it hooks you up very quickly.
Bruce Kulick: Right, but you’re not the only one, though. When I did the meet and greet on the cruise, it was more than three hours, and there were… I know visitor passes. When they show you the pass, it says was how many times you have been on the Cruise. I was shocked at how many of them, how many people had been there almost every time. I totally get it. I do. So, what can I say? I think it’s brilliant and it was about time. Of course, they invited me, and I think they’ve now re-invented something that needs fresh things in some ways. That’s kind of how they reached out to me. The idea that Paul had for the panel was brilliant. In a way, that’s like an expo. We talked about it earlier, that you didn’t know what it would be or whatever. But I just hope, I can only see them sustaining us, and I hope I’ll have another opportunity.
PREPARING FOR THE KRUISE
The set-list that you played on the Cruise was absolutely brilliant, and many fans went crazy about it. There were so many deep cuts and songs which were never played live before. It was something that the fans were after for, I’m sure!
Bruce Kulick: Right. People were crying. It was wild. I mean, it wasn’t hard. I’ve performed a few of those, but never with a band like that necessarily.
It was amazing to hear songs like “Who Wants To Be Lonely,” which KISS never played.
Bruce Kulick: Right. I’ve done it in some countries. Again, not with 2,500 KISS fans in one place. I have to admit that having that audience, I could have chosen even deeper tracks, but “Tough Love” was one of them, of course. Bob’s choices were natural, obviously. The best of Paul’s record and then of course “Nowhere To Run,” which is a very deep track.
I was waiting for “I’m A Legend Tonight” too, but I do understand that you can’t perform 3 hours in a row “Laughs.”
Bruce Kulick: Is that on Paul’s record?
No, no. It’s on KILLERS
Bruce Kulick: Oh, KILLERS? And Bob played on it too?? Okay. I know we had a chat about it recently, and you mentioned other songs that we could always look at if we get the opportunity again. Ironically, he says to me like, “So you have like another six songs too, right?” and I was like, “Yeah, of course!!!” So, it’s really interesting. If you look at the KISS catalog without the solo records, I’m sure there are over 300 songs. Although you probably know that you will usually hear the same 50 or 40.
Or 30 “Laughs”
Bruce Kulick: Yeah, yeah. Maybe. So apparently, there was only a minimal crossover from myself and my brother to theirs. That’s why people were crying. We worked hard. Bob was over my home rehearsing for a few days, where we went through all the parts. We discussed things; we learned things. Then we rehearsed in Vegas for two days, and we had an opportunity to record the rehearsal. Since all our schedules prevented us from getting together again, everyone could practice with the recordings. So that’s what we did to get it tight.
How familiar was Bob with the ’80s stuff?
Bruce Kulick: Some of it he knew only from Paul’s solo tour. But I’ll be honest. I didn’t like how he was looking at it. Because I’m not so sure Paul could have shown him exactly how I played it. So, there was that re-learning. Then for me, there were some things that Bob had to share with me regarding Paul’s stuff. I have a nice app on my iPad that I’m able to slow things down. I can slow down the pitch that we sang, so I can study things and then loop something. So, I could keep practicing. Then with anything you recreate in the studio, you have to learn how to… we can’t do harmonies everywhere, the song has this and that, you know? So, you figure out the best way to make it work before you go on stage. But I’m very proud of how everything went.
I have been wondering about KISS because there are so many great songs on the ’80s albums that were released even as a single like “Turn On The Night” and “Who Wants To Be Lonely,” but still, the band never played those live?
Bruce Kulick: Yeah, I know, but I don’t know why! You got to ask Paul and Gene, as they are in charge of the setlist. It’s my benefit in a way that they never did them because I like the songs. I know all the parts because I was able to show my brother what to do. And Todd’s and Brent’s rhythm section is great. They’re KISS fans, and they’re super talented. They learned everything pretty naturally. So, that was easy. So, Bob and I’s important thing was to split up the parts right, and I’m good at that. When I was asked to do some of the old stuff with KISS, remember that I wasn’t really asked to play precisely like Ace unlike Tommy. So, at times I had to feel my way around the material. But still, Paul would say like, “What are your parts?” So, I could kind of figure it out. I’m discussing with the guy who actually wrote it; besides, he played on it. So, it’s very funny how many of the musicians I’ve used to back me. They’re not really clear about certain things. KISS is more complicated music than people might think. I especially know that from working at the Fantasy Camp as a counselor, when Paul was a guest and Gene was a guest. I worked at some of those camps, and the campers had to learn KISS songs. It was interesting how some people didn’t really know how those songs need to be played. I’ve seen tribute bands that are good, but they just missed little nuances that are important. So, I love that. I know all the secrets. I remember going to Paraguay, and I had a band that nearly won the version of the American Idol TV show there. I don’t know if it is called Paraguay Got Talent or anything. But I saw some of their stuff on YouTube with a huge production. It was amazingly TV filmed, it was great, and I think it was “I Love it Loud” which they performed. But something was wrong. So, I got a chance to rehearse with them before we did my gig. Then it was really a pleasure to say like, look; this happens like this. Listen to this.
So, what was wrong with their playing then?
Bruce Kulick: I don’t remember if it was just the turn-around at the end of the verse, the “pa paa, pa paa.” Might they have switched it around? Which unless you’re a musician, you wouldn’t know. Which is why a lot of artists…. doing the recording is one thing, but when they played live, they decided to do it differently. But I know it. I also know all the little nuances in the music. Let’s say if I played “War Machine.” Gene was like, “no, don’t do that, just play the riff.” So little things like that. I had been around these guys, I played with them, and I share that stuff.
NEW BK SOLO ALBUM?
It’s been seven years since you released the latest solo album, BK3. Do you have plans for another one in the future?
Bruce Kulick: I have been so busy with doing the live gigs. Which is the way a musician makes money now. That’s the fact that as much as I’d like to see it be different. It’s the only way to actually make any money because the records don’t sell anymore. Even if I did it, some of it, at home, you’re still looking at a sizeable amount of money to record the drums properly and get the vocals done right. You’re still using a studio and mixing and engineering, and I would first have the songs ready. You need to have an idea of who is performing on it. Because I’m a solo artist in a sense, but I’m not like the lead singer like the way some of the fantastic people I’ve worked with, so, I don’t know? But do I know that the only way to do it, and I started to call it BK4, but you get what I mean, is I’d have the songs ready, and I’d have to do one of those pledge music campaigns?
It’s a great way to work. Many artists have done good results that way.
Bruce Kulick: Of course. That’s the only way now. It’s also how some amazing new products are developed. But I would never want to ask people for money unless I had the music. So, I need to figure out what I want to do.
But if we forget the project’s financial side, you’re a creative person too, right?
Bruce Kulick: Yeah, I want to be creative. I know. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been on new music like a BK4. But last year, even though they’re not necessarily an artist that you’ve ever heard of, I met a guy I did a session for. He came to see me at the expo, and he plays in a Swedish band called The Wires, and I did lead guitars for the song. I love being creative that way too. I’ve probably done a dozen sessions this past year.
Speaking about the former bands, is there any life left in Union?
Bruce Kulick: Anything is possible. John’s been really busy. Probably the easiest thing to do is not a whole record, but just to get a song together. Even my brother mentioned it to me.
As you said, John Corabi busy with Dead Daisies, and it’s a good place for him. I do understand that.
Bruce Kulick: Yes, exactly. So that’s why Union should not be at the top of my list of things to do. But having Brent involved with something, of course, is more or less at the top of my list.
I heard that Union bassist Jamie Hunting is going to move to Las Vegas soon. He’s been out of the music business for a long time, but maybe he’s about to do return in the fold now?
Bruce Kulick: Really? Good, good. I’m glad. I follow him on Facebook a bit, but I haven’t actually spoken to him a lot. But I have to let him know that the Swedes and Finns, the Finland people say hi! to him. So, I don’t know what’s going to happen in 2018. But what’s interesting is that I feel in many ways rejuvenated in a sense, even though it’s still the same thing. Meaning my guitar and my KISS history, I seem to have tapped into… it’s like the oil company is always drilling. I found new deposits to offer. So, the marketing that I did with the platinum package for the banana guitar. It was so successful, and I was so proud of it. It sold out very quickly. I could have offered those twice as much, maybe three times as much. But I just wanted to keep it limited, and I wanted to do it and not be frustrated. Like, why isn’t everyone buying my new record?
You spent so many years in the same band with Gene, who is the master of marketing, so you should know how to do the business “Laughs.”
Bruce Kulick: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. But there is more of that kind of thing that I can offer in the future. So, the possibilities for 2018 are extremely exciting for me. It means so much to me that I realize that doing something I love is appreciated. The KISS Kruise VII proved that to me. So, KISS and Sixthman may decide to explore more new things to present to the fans and mix things up.
Do you think that, because there were so many positive things happening this year, that there might be even more demand for Bruce Kulick in 2018?
Bruce Kulick: Yeah. In every way, I’m more confident about my abilities. All I can do is really control my career, my destiny. When it came to the gig, I know many things had to be discussed with my brother. Brent and Todd were not involved in the beginning when we were asked to be on the Cruise. It’s amazing how organically it all came together. But again, just like I would love to say that there are certain things that I think Grand Funk could do a little differently. But it’s not my place. It’s just like with KISS when I was there for 12 years. It wasn’t my place to tell them what to do or what not to do. It’s their thing. But I do know if I want to look at Bruce as a brand, okay. Bruce Burger or whatever. I am feeling more confident or more knowledgeable of what I think would work. I don’t want just to make a fan happy. I want to be proud of what I’m doing as well. So, I’m in a good place. I have to admit emotionally and even financially, I’m very proud of myself. But I always have a good team behind me. They’re people that you wouldn’t necessarily… some you know, some you’ve heard of. I’m not the one person that doesn’t have… I don’t make all the decisions. I make the final decisions. But I know who to reach out to, to test the waters, to be sure.
How much do you have the pressure to make your career decisions based on the finances?
Bruce Kulick: Look, every opportunity that comes up, that Jewish part of me is pretty good. Where I realize, all right, that’s enough money. No, that’s not enough money. I tell you quite honestly that the best thing that a person in life can know is that there are certain times when it’s better to say no. It’s not because you’re trying to be primadonna or be bad to the other person requesting something. It’s just that there is a time when you have to see a big picture and see if it works. I’ve learned a lot. That’s part of what I’ve had a lot of discussions about with my brother because he hasn’t been out there for the past 20 years doing what I’m doing. Not whenever I did something that I want, it did work out the way I wanted it. You learn from it. But that’s life, and that applies to anybody’s life and career. Successful people fail all the time. Gene is one of the most successful business people I know. There are plenty of things he will try, and some don’t work. Look, the KISS Football Team didn’t survive. It did well, but it failed. The failure is not a failure. Because what happens is that, then you learn another lesson. So for me not being in KISS anymore, easily I could have crawled up in the corner of my bedroom and never left my home. “They left me behind.” “My life is over.” NO. Life always has challenges for everybody. I have gotten very wise… Look, it took a while for me to figure out after KISS and how to go from Union to my solo records to gigging with Grand Funk. Then, embrace my KISS years and learn how to develop that and present it to the fans. Again, how do you manage the “brand of Bruce?” I am, in a sense, a product, which you need to understand. Saying NO I was important as saying YES. I’m very much a win-win guy. If I am going to do an event, I want it to be successful. I want both sides to be happy.
THE CHOICES OF LIFE
As you said, you get all kinds of offers all the time, and there’s simply not the time to do everything, even if you want to. Have you missed some interesting offers or projects you would have liked to do, but those didn’t happen for various reasons?
Bruce Kulick: Certainly, I get requested a lot of interviews, podcasts. There are sessions I say no to. There have been situations where people wanted me to get involved, and I couldn’t. When something is presented, they would think it is a good opportunity to do some dates somewhere. I look at the schedule, and then I look at the money, and then I know what it would take for me to do it. I go like, no. Now, yes. Does money make a difference? Maybe? But I’ve even turned down sometimes when I know that I could have done well, but it would be too hard. It would be too hard when I mean, and I wouldn’t really be able to prepare properly. I wouldn’t be able to perform my best. One missed thing was a corporate gig, which would have been insane on my workload, and I missed playing again with Nancy Wilson. Another was a fun paying gig on the East Coast, but the same night as the Rock Godz Award I got in Hollywood in Oct. So, all in all, having those problems is a sign your work is in demand, and that’s a positive thing. I was very nervous about the Cruise thing. I did a gig with Grand Funk on a Saturday night at a Casino, a really nice one up in Syracuse, outside Syracuse in New York. So, I’m up at 04:00 in the morning to get to the airport, to take a flight. Two flights. From Atlanta to New Orleans. To then get picked up from and board the ship. To then perform at 09:00 a.m. Then I leave in the middle of the afternoon when everybody is like, “wow.” I got to get on two flights, and I don’t get home till 11:00, and then I’m one day at home, and then I’m out of the house at 05:00 in the morning again to fly to Ohio. Which turned out to be the gig was on the last day of the Cruise. Which is why I had to leave the cruise because there is no guarantee I’d get to Ohio from New Orleans in time. All that worked, but anything could happen, and fortunately, as my Lisa knows, I work so hard to be prepared. Grand Funk is not a big challenge. Although ironically, like anything in life, you think you know everything that’s going to come. Then there is always that curveball they say or something different. Grand Funk decides to change the setlist. They said we need to add a couple of songs that we hadn’t played in 10 and 15 years. One of them is called “Heart Breaker,” which is all about freaking lead guitar. I’m like on top of studying for the Cruise, and I have this travel schedule. Now here I am with Grand Funk practicing the song that’s like the lead guitar was a very good part of it. Not just like, okay. That is a guitar solo. No. There is a solo in the second verse. There is a solo after that. There is a solo after the third chorus. There is a solo out there, and there is a stop. In the guitar, there is no… you know what I mean? I’m like, I’m laughing with Lisa going, okay. Can you believe this? We haven’t changed the show in 10 years. The week that I got to go to the Cruise, they want to incorporate the new song. So that’s what I’m saying. That’s why sometimes you got to say no. When you think, I could have predicted that?. Okay. I couldn’t say no to the band. No, no. I don’t have time. I got to be prepared for my KISS Cruise. You can’t do that. So, what happens? I don’t have that night where I could watch TV and relax with my wife. I got to practice. What happens? I’m traveling with a guitar that I don’t usually have to carry with me. What I’m I doing? I’m practicing in the hotel room. Then going to soundcheck and practicing the Grand Funk song and the cruise songs. So that’s what I’m talking about! “Laughs”
In the late ’90s, after the Union thing fell apart, what did you actually do in the late ’90s before you got the Grand Funk gig? Did you do auditions for any other bands at that time?
Bruce Kulick: I can’t really think of some opportunity that was… Grand Funk came along at the perfect time. Okay. Union was starting to… no matter how hard we worked. We just kept hitting the wall. The timing would have been nice if we opened for KISS or Def Leppard or Cinderella or anybody. Somebody should have given us an opportunity to be seen. At that time, it was very hard. So, there we are, struggling and touring and sleeping in a van. It was a sad time, and I never understand it. But I was still really proud of the guys and the music we did.
But did you do any auditions etc., for other bands at that time?
Bruce Kulick: No, I didn’t really… when I got that call about Grand Funk. I remember…
When that actually happened, when you got a call to join Grand Funk?
Bruce Kulick: It was in 1999, late ’99. We knew that Union was quieting down, and we were going to do… I wanted to do AUDIODOG, my solo record. So, I started to work on that. Because I said, if I have to sell it out of the trunk of my car, it is what I used to say. Now I think of how everything is doing itself and all the artists; it’s all in-house. I was way ahead of things. But it made sense back then. Because yeah, independent labels were helping some of the rock bands. But it didn’t sustain them. It couldn’t. The major labels didn’t take over unless you had a hit. How do you have a hit on an indie label? It’s almost impossible. So anyway, when Grand Funk, when Don Brewer approached me, I called Larry Mazer right away. I didn’t really have a real manager at the time, but he managed Union. He knew the music of Grand Funk. You know about him, he was working with KISS during some of my later years in the band. He was hurt he didn’t get the job to manage KISS with the reunion tour. But for whatever reasons, Gene and Paul chose Doc. Larry was just like, “Grand Funk is awesome!” You absolutely want to explore with us, and this could be amazing. I thought about it. I was going like, well, like KISS… by the time I joined KISS, and it wasn’t about being Ace. By the time I joined Grand Funk, they weren’t trying to exactly re-create Grand Funk by replacing Mark Farner with a lead guitar, lead singer guy. They had the right voice. This guy Max is in the band has got an amazing voice. He is still singing in the original key. He’s like 62, but he can sing anything. Or Robin Zander, I don’t know how they do it? They’ve taken care of it, or they’re blessed. Just like some guys kept their hair and some didn’t. Okay. But the point is it was Grand Funk Mark II, version II. So, I’m the lead guitar player. Max is the singer; sometimes he plays the guitar. Sometimes, in the beginning, he played the keyboards too. Then we have a keyboard player because Grand Funk had, of course, Craig Frost, who plays with Bob Seger, but it has been seventeen years now, the same five guys in the band. Okay. Why is that successful? Because we’re talented and Don is very strict about everything. It’s a highly professional band, not a big production. I’ve learned a lot from them. Like we’re always on time. We always do the right things. We were very nice with the promoters. There are no egos. It’s really amazing when you think about it.
THE STORY OF RATED X
A few years ago, you were briefly involved with the band caööed Rated X, which was a kind of supergroup. But in the end, you were not a part of the group which released the album. What’s the story behind you and the band?
Bruce Kulick: I think you’re talking about the band I was with Joe Lynn Turner and Carmine Appice, right? And what happened with that, the Frontiers wanted to put together a supergroup. Joe Lynn Turner is a great singer. Actually, one of my biggest Spotify things is that heavy metal Christmas song with him because he’s a great singer. I’ll tell you the story about the band. We didn’t have a name. I jammed with Carmine and Tony (Franklin), and that was wonderful. Tony is a fantastic bass player, and Carmine is a legend. I work a lot with Vinny, his brother, because he does the Fantasy Camp. But Carmine… the three of us jam some ideas. I loved it. Frontiers didn’t like what we were jamming on. It could have been an interesting band. But they were looking for more melodic stuff. So, I understood what they were looking for, and that’s what Frontiers is into. I did write a few ideas that I did demos for, and a guy from Italy was involved. And it became Rated X, yes. There was a guy named Alessandro from Italy who played keyboards, and he was working with the label a lot. He was helping bands to put things together. So, he started to get all the songs together and what everybody was going to do because everybody lived in different places. It was not necessarily recorded in the same place. Everybody knew their parts, and they were all demoed up well. Joe Lynn Turner got very excited about it. He saw the potential. He was very insistent on or thought that we would get very powerful offers, let’s say from festivals. Those festivals are important; I get it. I understand how a lot of fans love the festival gigs because they see so many wonderful bands and there is some money there. But at that point, I had been probably fourteen years Grand Funk so, I was not going to commit and tell Grand Funk, without saying, give me some information. Like, say like, okay, here is our offer for you. Are you available these two weeks, because this is what it would be? This all before we even started to record, and you want a touring commitment? I was honest. I tend not to bullshit people. Because I easily could of say, YEAH, sure, and of course I didn’t. So Joe Lynn Turner told the label that Bruce is not going to commit to doing this! The record deal had nothing to do with a touring commitment. Tony Franklin was with Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Carmine is all over the world all the time. The next thing I know, my lawyer manager gets told me that “Okay. You can’t be in the band.” That’s the real story. I don’t mind talking about it. After all, I see how I’ll never regret not being truthful about it because I would hate to tell someone, “Yeah. I’m available,” and then when it comes up, and I look at the money, I go like, well. No, I can’t do it. In the end, they first had a guy from Night Ranger, Jeff Watson; he looked at some of the songs. They didn’t like what he was doing, and I know he’s a good player. They didn’t like what he was doing. Then they went to Karl Cochran. Okay. Great guitar player. He played with Eric and me in ESP on the first album. Karl was perfect for that because he played with Joe before, but then he had a stroke. That was so sad because he did the video. I was actually really happy for the guys because I said like they’re a great band. They can go off and do things. So, I was happy for them, and I saw the video, and then Karl got ill. Then they did have another guitarist. He might have been from Finland or something, but he helped them out; he finished the record. I think he did a few of the songs. But when it came down to an actual commitment to do something, then Tony wasn’t there. So, I thought that was pretty ironic.
It’s a pity that the project didn’t work out better for you because of the album, which the band put out, it was ok but nothing special. It would have been interesting to hear what you could have brought in to those songs.
Bruce Kulick: Yeah. So, it was something that I was willing to do as a project because I think we could have made a very interesting album. I think my guitar work with Joe and Carmine, and Tony would have been really strong. But it fell apart. I was disappointed because I put a lot of work into it, and I didn’t make a dime. In fact, it cost me money because I did do demos and spend time with contracts and all the preparation you need to do.
Do you still have those demos and recordings somewhere?
Bruce Kulick: I have my demos. Some of those songs, because they were really my songs, I could probably do those as part of BK4 or whatever. Actually, we examined them well, but they were kind of written with thinking of a band like that. But I don’t know. So that was a project that I had a funny name for it, “Fakakta (Yiddish slang word).” “Fakakta” means it was fucked, because I had to give it a name because that’s what it felt like.
The project got fucked up right from the beginning, “Laughs.”
Bruce Kulick: I would have stayed there if it would have been as it was originally presented to us. These four guys all have their careers. But they’re going to come together to do an album, and then you see what happens. That’s honestly why post-cruise, I was able to sit down with my brother. Brent and Todd are very clear that they would love to do whatever comes in their way. That makes sense for them too. If there weren’t a Guns ‘N Roses, they’d probably be very busy with Slash because he’s touring a lot. I had to explain to Bob: “Look, I’m in Grand Funk. I can only do so much else because that gig is really important to me. Because it has been consistently rewarding musically, both in the sense of me being a performer, a player. I’m playing great music, and I’m consistently being paid.” It’s a miracle to have a steady job with something that you love, which is music. So, I can’t turn my back on that. Nick Simmons saw us; he loved it. Gene and Paul. They know it. Eric’s been on our shows a couple of times. Ace enjoyed it too and said, “Your guitar should be louder,” “Laughs,” but it’s not all about me. But it’s not the Ace Frehley band; it’s not the Bruce Kulick band. It’s Grand Funk Railroad. Did we do KISS songs? No. Of course not. Grand Funk is quite an iconic band and influenced many other bands. You know that. You should have seen Michael Anthony. I ran into him at the airport one time, him and Alex. I said I’m coming from the Grand Funk gig. “That’s right; you’re fucking playing with… my God! I love those guys.” That was probably about six years ago. When they were working with, I think it was the David Lee Roth when they did a couple of days. They were very influential for bands like that; you know that.
THE END OF KISS
You’re not a KISS member anymore, but you’re always going to be a member of the KISS family, or that’s what they always keep on saying. The question goes, it’s the fact that the guys aren’t young anymore, and nothing lasts forever. So, what do you think, how the band will end their amazing career?
Bruce Kulick: I don’t know what they’ll do. I have no clue “Laughs.”
But if you had an option to do something with them, even a one-off thing, would you do it?
Bruce Kulick: I get where you’re going with your question. And I can’t really predict Paul and Gene. I was aware there could have been the opportunity to have me play with them on the Kruise. Maybe just be asked acoustically to play. They didn’t ask, and I was relieved in a way. I know the fans could expect it, but the focus for me on the cruise was to do a great set with my brother, and I knew the value of that was strong enough without breaking into the inner circle of the four current members of KISS. I can see Gene inviting me on a solo gig, and naturally, Paul’s Soul Station, being so unique, wouldn’t maybe work with me sitting in. I love that project he has, and I know it means something to him. It’s like when I do the jazzy stuff with my wife. Everyone has their story with KISS, but you’re asking that big question, would they be willing to make some kind of end, some final concert that could include even other former members or me. I have no idea really how it would happen. I played great what those guys. I respect them, but it’s their decision.
They’re not doing many songs from your era nowadays, but they did “Every Time I Look At You” acoustically on the Kruise.
Bruce Kulick: Yes, and I did that terrifically with my wife in New York. That went over great. But I have no idea how they’d ever end it. I doubt it will go through a Motley Crue style contracts. But the important thing is that obviously, everyone should be aware of that. I don’t think they’re done yet, and I do think that… I don’t think they know how it would be over. There was always the crazy discussion of replacing some of them in the future, and KISS then carries on. That brings up a whole another kind of like, “What!” Who could be Paul? Who could be Gene? Some tribute bands have talented guys that are in the right vibe. But that’s still a very odd idea. The whole thing is kind of strange. They’re already a brand that will go on forever, no matter if they performed or they didn’t. But how might they end it, or would they embrace everything, all eras? The Hall of Fame was a great opportunity for everyone, and of course, that might have happened. Meaning I could have been involved with Ace and Peter and them and Tommy and Eric. But the Hall of Fame refused it. But I was there cheering them on, and I was very proud of the induction, even without me being inducted. Kind words spoke my name by both Gene and by Tom Morello, and that meant the world to me. So, to me, I felt like I got rewarded. It was great. They flew me out like I was currently in the band. I wasn’t in that circle for many years, so I don’t know when that would happen again regarding performing with them. It’s their decision to make. I am just glad I got to perform on the Kruise for the fans, and everyone was talking. They weren’t talking about me performing with KISS; they were talking about what I did with my brother and Todd and Brent, which means I got the job done.
Definitely, but at the same time, everybody was eager to see you doing at least one song together with your old bandmates.
Bruce Kulick: Yeah. So, in the same way, there was no way that Gene was going to come out and do “Domino” with us. But whatever. It’s been a really interesting year to wrap things up. I have to admit. I will say that both the cruise and a lot of the other things I was trying this year with offering some things. I’m exploring some stuff with my wife. I’m doing a lot of session work. I am very, very thrilled with my accomplishment this year, 2017. I’m hoping for more exciting things in 2018, and who knows what’s going to happen. I’d love to do the cruise again. I got to explore things if there is a way to make it work with the Grand Funk or with Bob. Especially if Brent and Todd are available, but I can’t say what’s going to happen. That’s what makes it exciting. Nobody knows.
Our time seems to be up, but there’s one more bonus question. The whole KISS community is curious about ex-KISS guitarist Vinnie Vincent’s long-awaited return to the limelight. It seems that it will happen in Atlanta in January. What are your thoughts and feelings about that because you two also share a small piece of KISSstory?
Bruce Kulick: I truly wish Vinny the best and that the Atlanta KISS Expo lives up to its potential. What a smart way to celebrate, in a positive way, your contributions to the iconic band KISS. There is no doubt; his contributions are part of Kisstory. And sadly, the lack of his presence at KISS related events or even gigs of his own is long overdue. “Fingers crossed” it’s a success!
This was all about it this time. I hope that 2018 will be the year of the Bruce, and maybe we’ll meet again on the next KISS Kruise!
Bruce Kulick: Thank you, Marko!
PICTURES OF THE KULICK BROTHERS SHOW IN KISS KRUISE VII