FORMER KISS GUITARIST BRUCE KULICK SAYS HE WAS “RELIEVED” THAT HE WAS NOT ASKED TO STEP INTO THE ROLE OF THE ACE FREHLEY’S “SPACEMAN”
Ruben Mosqueda of Sleaze Roxx spoke with former KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick, portions of the interview appear below.
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve been posting some clips on your official Facebook page and taking us into KISS songs via the riff or solo.
Bruce Kulick: Yeah, that’s been helpful to me in doing something positive with the tragedy going on at the moment. I think if I can bring some joy or distraction to someone, I’ve accomplished something. The fans have been hitting me fast and furious with suggestions. I can’t do them all. A lot of the suggestions I like. I will get to most of them. There’s some things that I can’t play from my earlier days in KISS. The material was just very different…
Sleaze Roxx: …You’ve been getting critical acclaim for you and your band’s performances on the KISS Kruise. There’s like the second wave of KISS non-makeup era appreciation happening here.
Bruce Kulick: Oh, absolutely, I feel like there’s a lot more attention from the fans when it comes to my era with the band. There’s a lot of fans that were introduced to KISS when I was in the band. They come from all walks of life…When I had to leave in ’96 after the success of the KISS Unplugged performance, people were aware of the musicianship that existed in the band between Eric Singer and I, but after 20 years of people hearing about KISS in makeup, it was kind of like “Star Wars” when it was rebooted, people went to see what it was all about. I understood that it was the original guys, they put the makeup on and people were excited to either see it again or see it for the first time. That carried on, then it carried on and it carried on [laughs]!
It then reached a point where Gene [Simmons] and Paul [Stanley] couldn’t continue with Peter [Criss] so they called on Eric Singer to step into the role and the makeup. Eric is such a tremendous drummer. I was genuinely happy for him. I still am. Then when Ace [Frehley] started dropping the ball, it was seamless for them to go with Tommy Thayer who does such a fantastic job as the “Spaceman.” If I had been asked to step into the “Spaceman” role, it would have been really awkward for me. I get asked by the fans a lot, “Well, why aren’t you there?” I think Tommy stepping into the role was a lot more natural than Bruce Kulick becoming the “Spaceman” and shooting rockets off of my guitar. I would have had to play the songs, note for note like Ace. I don’t think I could do that and remain happy in the band. Tommy does that to perfection. I was never required to learn the classic stuff note for note, but if you’re going to be the “Spaceman”, it would have to stay true to the way Ace plays it.
That’s not to say that I don’t play the classic songs with respect…while injecting my own style into them, …I would lose my “liberties” if I stepped into the “Spaceman” role.’m friends with Tommy. We’ve gotten closer over the years on the KISS Kruise. We’ve spoken a lot on the Kruise. He once said to me “Hey, I never got into the Floyd Rose whammy bar thing. How do you play Crazy Nights?” I said, “Don’t worry about it. Play it how you play it. It’s what works for you. I don’t take any offense and you don’t need to copy how I do it.” Tommy’s style is so much closer to Ace’s than mine. I have a unique style to my approach you can hear it on Tears Are Falling, Who Wants To Be Lonely, Unholy and even the acoustic solo on Forever. I am proud of my body of work for that era of KISS. I’m embracing it. The fans are embracing it. It’s all good.
Sleaze Roxx: It sounds to me like you were probably relieved that you weren’t asked to step into the “Spaceman” role and how you would have handled the feedback from the fans, because there’s a segment of the base, myself included, that have been critical of Singer and Thayer playing a “role.” There’s some brutal stuff that is posted online.
Bruce Kulick: You’re right. I was relieved. I think if I had been asked and done it, I think it would hurt. I know that Tommy and Eric avoid… I’m close to both but I’m closer with Eric. They avoid reading things online. Their best medicine is to just do a great job every night and not read that stuff. I’m shocked that sometimes someone will leave a snarky comment toward me. I’m like, “Really?” I don’t get into that stuff and I don’t like anything negative on social media and I never do or post anything negative. I won’t allow anything negative. There’s times I read something and I choose to ignore it. Everyone has a voice these days. They have a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone…
At the time when they swooped Tommy right in, I was already in Grand Funk Railroad, and I was, and still am, pretty happy with my role in the band. Sure it wasn’t KISS, but it’s a great gig. Now think of it from this angle. Let’s say they made the right proposition and I took it, then Ace wanted back into the band. Where would that have left me? No KISS gig and no gig In Grand Funk [Railroad]. Oh and by the way, this is my 20th year in the band.
Sleaze Roxx: I know you often get asked this, John Corabi just left The Dead Daisies. He’s been out doing his solo show in and out of that band. How close are you guys to firing up Union again? There’s an awful lot of ‘unfinished business’ with that band.
Bruce Kulick: Sure! I’m for it. That could happen in the future because there’s people that have interest in that band. John and I performed at a KISS Expo last year. I remember we couldn’t rehearse, so I gave John four, to five, songs to relearn…He was off the hook [laughs]! The promoter wanted us to do an hour long set. John was freaking out because there was no way we could realistically do an hour without rehearsal. That event in Indy got us closer again, because there was a period of time where he was just so busy that we didn’t see much of one another. We did see each other when The Dead Daisies did one of the cruises. We talked. I knew he wasn’t happy and I knew that was going to end for him. He’s amazing. He’s a one man band. He’s still got that amazing voice and he has a wealth of material to cover. I’m so happy for him and I’m sure we’ll pick that up again. I don’t have an aversion to doing Union again. I have always been proud of what John and I created with Union. If we get a chance to do it again in the future, I welcome it. Absolutely.
Sleaze Roxx: I’ll mention the KISS studio albums that you recorded and you give me a song highlight. Let’s start with Asylum.
Bruce Kulick: I’ll always say Tears Are Falling” but I’d say I think it’s a song that KISS has been playing at times and that’s Who Wants To Be Lonely. I think my band killed it when we did King Of The Mountain. See what you did? It’s hard to pick one! It’s really a powerful record and I didn’t even mention Trial By Fire.
Sleaze Roxx: What about Crazy Nights? You brought in Ron Nevison. It was keyboard heavy…
Bruce Kulick: Yeah, the keyboards are mixed heavy on that one, it was Ron’s vision. He was like “King Midas” with radio hits with Heart, Ozzy Osbourne and everything. I loved him, I know Gene was petrified. It was so funny. I think there’s a good balance. It was interesting to have a “‘pop rock” kind of producer to do a song like, No, No, No, for example. and it worked. He did make one glaring error. We should have done Sword And Stone. Crazy Nights is a fantastic song and title, co-written by Adam Mitchell and Paul. It’s the one song that Brian May really knows, so I’m his favorite KISS guitarist, you know what I mean? Because it’s the only KISS song he knows. It was a huge record in England. Crazy Nights is a record I’m really proud of.
Sleaze Roxx: What about Hot In The Shade?’ I really like Rise To It and Boomerang.
Bruce Kulick: Boomerang was me very “manakia” one day. I occasionally smoked some good pot back then and started to work on the riff. I know I was out of my mind. I know Paul hates that song [laughs]! Whatever. Eric Carr loved playing the double bass on that. Little Caesar is one that I really liked. I really need to explore that album a little more. I know there’s stuff on there that we can play on the Kruise. I think Hide Your Heart is a classic hit and of course how can you forget Forever?
Sleaze Roxx: At the time you were working on Hot In The Shade were you aware that Ace was also going to record a version of Hide Your Heart for his record?
Bruce Kulick: In talking to Paul, Bonnie Raitt had looked at it, Ace looked at it and ultimately recorded it. It didn’t matter. Paul felt it was his song and we were doing it. Paul actually had that song even earlier than that but he brought it in for the record. I’m glad he did. It’s a good song.
Sleaze Roxx: Then there was Revenge and you got a chance to work with Bob Ezrin.
Bruce Kulick: I’d like to do an entire set of just the Revenge’ record. God Gave Rock And Roll To You is such an anthem from my era of KISS — what production, quality and musicianship. Unholy and Domino are two great Gene songs. Spit is also unbelievable. Paralyzed — we did that on the Kruise— and I Just Wanna is another great song from that record. I contributed one song for Revenge and that was Tough Love. I think that was an important song for the record. That had a great riff. There’s also Heart of Chrome. Man, I just love that. Then there’s Carr Jam where we used the old Breakout”riff! If Eric hadn’t tragically passed, I don’t think it would have been looked at. What a book end to the body of work and a way to close Revenge.
Sleaze Roxx: Then there’s Carnival of Souls. I really love Jungle…
Bruce Kulick: Thank you. Yeah, we always did that with Union. I love that song, I’ve been doing that in clinics. I Walk Alone is a highlight for me. I think Rain is an amazing Paul song. The ballad I Will Be There is a strong one,.Hate is great because it set the pace. Childhood’s End is very cool. A lot of fans go crazy over that record. It’s not a favorite of Paul Stanley’s but that’s okay. I know sonically that could have been EQ’d better, when we mixed it. Producer Toby Wright had a vision and by that point, Gene nd Paul had let the cat out of the bag that they’d be doing the reunion tour. Gene and Toby were not that comfortable in the studio. Paul was thinking about… his boots for the tour. You know what I mean? I didn’t know that after we did Unplugged in August, that everyone was after them to do a reunion tour?
Here we were in November and why aren’t we recording? I’d call Gene and I’d ask, “Gene, why aren’t we recording? We have the songs.” He’d say, “I’ll get back to you.” He’d call back in like an hour, or two, to give me the dates we’d be in the studio. I was like, I’m having to remind him to get into the studio to record Carnival Of Souls? At the time, I didn’t know that they were in negotiations with Ace and Peter. I didn’t know that they were being offered arena and stadium tours, so from my point of view you can see how that behavior was very odd. So there we were in the studio, then at times, they would disappear to make phone calls. It’s funny how when you don’t have all the information, it’s not obvious, but when you start to realize the veil is lifted, then it all made sense. It was hard on Eric Singer and I when this happened. I stayed the course and things worked out. I do think it’s poetic that the only song that I sang in the band was titled I Walk Alone.
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