Interviewed by Brian Rademacher
Date: May 8th, 2005
Hey, Bruce what’s up? What are you doing today?
Well I going to see my Mom and I am preparing for a DVD that my brother Bob and I are going to do which is an instructional video. I am preparing the guitars for that. It will be cool. I am teaching five KISS songs that should out later this year. Then I am back on the road with Grand Funk. I have a couple weeks off in May, July, and August which are peak season for Grand Funk. Everything is going good. The dates in European were fun.
What was the first album you bought?
“Are You Experienced?” by Jimi Hendrix. It was quite amazing and I think my brother told me about a song called “Hey Joe” that record I remember buying. Then I got Simon and Garfunkel because I liked that kind of stuff as well. It was pretty varied with different styles of music back then. But I really liked the British rock music. I was influence by early Black Sabbath records. I bought most of my records at a department store.
What was the first concert you attended?
My first concert… it was quite an exciting one. My brother use to go to these Murray the K shows out in Brooklyn. We were living in Queens, NY at the time. Murray did one in midtown Manhattan. The Young Rascals were the headliner but the opening acts were The Who and Cream and that was unbelievable. I guess that would be circa 1966 and that was quite remarkable. I was about thirteen years old and if it was not for my brother, I would have not been hip enough to go see these things.
What kind of kid were you in school?
Actually, I was a good student. I was into the music thing and started growing out my hair in an afro kind of way. A lot of kids thought if you’re a hippie that you were not a good student. But I was a good student. I got along with a lot of my teachers. The only thing that was a hassle was if there was a teacher’s strike. There use to be crazy strikes like that a lot back then because they did not want to pay the teachers a decent salary. I was on the audio visual squad, so I used to get out of some classes to set up the projector and sound. It’s not I’m an amazing engineer but I do have a talent for putting things together. It was helpful to get out of some classes to do something more mechanically oriented like my music.
What song sticks in your head today as a young man?
“Glad All Over” by the Dave Clark Five. That is how I learned my C and F chords. It’s ironic that Paul covered it on one of the KISS things. I knew there were holes on my guitar since I was doing C, C, F over and over again.
What was the first band you were in before you released any material?
There was a guy in Queens were I grew up who was a big Jack Bruce fan. He wrote some original material and was quite creative a bit progressive actually. Kind of Yes meets Cream. We were just a trio and our drummer was named Guy. We did do originals. I wrote one song that I co-wrote with him and I do have the tape of that. It was very interesting material and some of the songs would even hold up today. It never went anywhere and we never even gigged. We rehearsed really hard and when we recorded it we never used over dubs. We just went live in a room. We didn’t even have a name for the band it was just me, Guy and Mike Katz. I gotta find those tapes. I remember one time when I was touring with KISS, I heard from Mike, and I pulled the tape out for Gary Corbett. He said yeah this stuff is cool. This tape was done in the very early seventies and it’s still really cool.
What is your favorite guitar right now?
I am a huge Les Paul fan. The two ultimate guitars are a Stratocaster, Fender, and Gibson. Gibson has been reissuing ‘59 Les Paul and if you did own one and if it was in good condition and the flame of the wood was there, it is going for up to a quarter of a million dollars. They have become the Stradivarius now.
There is a store here in Los Angeles called 'Norman’s Rare Guitars' and a lot of rock stars go there. Some of my guitars that have ended up at the Hard Rock Café were traded with him. But he happens to have one of those reissued Gibson’s and I knew Paul Stanley has quite a few of them. So there it was at Norman’s. I never really have one of those reissues. It was a used one but in really good shape and I played some before the ‘59 reissue. They are trying to make the neck the same as the 59’ issue but this is too big for me. I was not comfortable whatever, but I got a good deal and this guitar is truly incredible. I have been playing it in bed every night. This is my new crush. When I look at the serial numbers, it’s wild because it is exactly my year of birth. I found my Holy Grail with an affordable version of the 59’ Gibson. I am certainly not going to spend two hundred thousand dollars on one.
As a member of Kiss, what was the feeling when they asked you to join the band?
I walked in on a very unusual way. I had a very healthy attitude to the whole thing from the start. I figured hey, if I am only in the band for two weeks, well that is good on my résumé. Ok if I’m in for two months, it’s amazing on my résumé. Any longer then that – well, I really didn’t think at the time I would actually be in the band for twelve years without the make-up.
They gave Mark St. John as much of a chance that they could and they gave him that final chance. I knew they are not going to dig this. They were going to ask me. I had the home team advantage. There I was already six weeks on the European tour where I was the guitar player. I knew the routine already. By the time they tried to see if Mark could fit I really had a big advantage over him. I didn’t have to hope. I would just let it naturally take its course and that’s what it did. It wasn’t a huge surprise. It wasn’t like it was a one day audition and they said yeah you’re it. I can’t tell you I enjoyed getting the gig because I worked at getting the gig.
Does a new member of Kiss ever become a partner?
Never! That’s the way Gene and Paul always done it. Gene and Paul owned it even when they had Peter and Ace back in the band for the reunion. They were paid well but they were not equal partners. Gene and Paul treat Kiss as a company that they own. You’re paid well enough to be happy if you got the gig. But if you think you’re going to waltz in and become an equal member forget it. Vinnie Vincent thought that. Vinnie played that completely wrong because he wrote songs and thought he was an equal partner. There were so many perks (which I am still experiencing from Kiss) - why would you screw that up? He really didn’t get it. That is not the way a business works.
What does a rider consist of for Bruce Kulick?
Ha ha. I’m pretty simple as I just want spring water and I don’t want it cold. Everyone tells me “I made it cold just for you - I put it in the freezer.” But I just want it room temperature please. I’d like some deli sandwiches with some turkey sandwiches and just simple stuff. I don’t want lavish things! Just a couple of towels! I would like a dressing room. I would like a bathroom. I am not of the style of asking for M & M candies as to make sure there are not brown ones or I won’t perform.
You have played with so many great musicians. Who would you like to play with that you have not yet?
I always wanted to jam with any of The Beatles. But now I am down to only two alive. I’ve seen McCartney a few times. He really has an excellent band right now. I dream about jamming with Paul McCartney and Ringo Star they are my original heroes.
What was your most memorable moment as a Kiss member?
There are so many highlights. Certainly playing at Donnington with 107 thousand people. Playing Madison Square Garden coming from New York. I remember seeing Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix there and just playing on the same stage was incredible. Certainly “Unplugged” even though that was my last performance with Kiss. We sounded so good and when we played it really showed the strength of the band. Eric and I were doing that with Gene and Paul. What a good band we were. The acoustic track “Forever” was great.
What was the wildest thing that happened to you on stage or tour?
There are many “Spinal Tap” type things that happen in every band. I will always remember the lights going off and walking into Gene. That wasn’t fun. There were many times we were led down the stairs to get on the stage and we didn’t know where we were going. I remember one time we were doing some interesting pyros that moved around depending on the show. Just by instinct I remember where this one pyro was and I really wasn’t paying attention and I moved over here and “poof” that thing went off!! If I would have stayed there five more seconds I would have caught fire. There must have been an angel watching me.
Were you working on any projects with Eric Carr before his passing?
I helped him write some material for Rockheads. We also wrote some songs hoping that it would catch Gene’s eye or Paul’s. Whatever I could use was on the “Rockology” album. It wasn’t like me and Eric had a side project or anything. We were busy enough in Kiss. Whenever I worked with Eric I enjoyed it. I only wish we would have not just channeled everything for Kiss.
Did you think that Gene and Paul would ask you back after Ace left again?
You have to remember Ace left in a very strange way. I’m real clear about it. It’s as if Tommy Thayer has been Ace’s understudy since the reunion tour teaching him the riffs. Tommy did a great Ace in the band Cold Gin years ago. Not all the Kiss fans are aware that Kiss had situations where they had to do some things with Tommy. They did not really announce it during a tour. A TV thing here… a private gig there. There was every intention for Ace to do it and Ace just didn’t come. With Ace being such a part of the dysfunctional family being Kiss, I think it really put the pressure on Gene and Paul to move ahead and figure out what to do. They usually took the path of less resistance.
I never looked at me not having the opportunity to be Ace in Kiss as a bad thing. It made sense to have Tommy do this. Like I said, Tommy was the understudy and obviously at one point it would happen. I know it is hard for Kiss fans to understand. I know having the original members has more value for the promoters or at least it has been recently.
The Aerosmith tour was really important and when Ace wouldn’t commit to that (which is crazy) and they had to move on. That would have been such a blast to play and hear Aerosmith every night. But that is why Peter ended back in the band. Ace wouldn’t commit. So Tommy is on guitar and Peter’s on drums. That is a whole other thing then say, having Eric Singer playing the drums (who was earlier playing drums in Kiss just prior to that tour down in Japan and Australia.) But by the time they were going to Australia to do the symphony tour, Peter didn’t show up so Eric was now the drummer.
So this past year they just gave up. Peter was useless and not interested and Ace was lost. So Eric and Tommy replaced Ace and Peter. It has nothing to do with musical talent or personality thing. It made more sense for Tommy to do that thing with Kiss. Plus I have a really great gig now playing in Grand Funk. It’s a terrific band, I love the guys and they pay me well. What if I was suddenly in Kiss and there is no guarantee and Ace wants to come back next month? What am I supposed to do? I don’t want to lose a good gig with Grand Funk. What happens during a month Ace needs some money and says “hey Gene what’s up this month?” You know they will take him back right away.
I heard you did the “Star Spangled Banner” at a minor league baseball game. How did that come about?
Yeah. I actually sang it at major league games too. I did it for the Marlins down in Florida and I did it for the Expos up in Canada which was really fun.
What is the biggest difference in playing with Grand Funk compared to KISS?
It’s very similar. You take a band that has classics hits that have sold millions of records and that have a lot of fans. The Grand Funk fans are a little different then Kiss fans. They are still loyal and faithful like fans are. So you always want to do it your way but get the essence of the riffs. I think I have the knowledge of how to do that. If you hear me play “Deuce” I am not ripping off Ace note for note. I do it enough with my signature riffs. The Grand Funk fans are great and I made a lot of new fans. They don’t even care that I was in Kiss. I am embracing the way Mark wrote those songs and I’m doing it my own way.
Tell us what 'Rock n Roll Fantasy Camp' is all about?
It was amazing. I got called by Jack Blades from Night Ranger and he is the counselor. They have some special guests, artists, speakers that get paid a lot of money. I think this year it was eight thousand dollars to attend. You get a week of amazing things. There are no walls and you’re hanging out with all these counselors like Dickey Betts or Roger Daltrey who are very approachable. For me, it was an experience that was amazing. It was hard work because it was long hours but what I ended up doing was actually getting eight guys and one girl to play a WHO song. It was pretty rough but we pulled it off. We received the hardest working band award. It was a lot of fun and I am sure they will ask me back again.
How was the turnout at the Cincinnati Kiss Convention?
Good. There was a freaky kind of storm the night before and a little bit that day. The weather was not that good. It’s funny because the next day I was in Stockholm and the weather was gorgeous and in April in Ohio there were snow flurries. But I got to jam with some of my friends.
What are your feelings about the current line-up for Kiss?
Maybe you mean with Eric and Tommy. My complaints have nothing to do with Eric and Tommy. It’s just what does Gene and Paul want to do with Kiss now. I mean, OK, Gene did a solo record and is very ambitious with other projects that have nothing to do with Kiss and Paul is working on a new solo album which I know is going to be terrific. I wish him well with that and but it would not be a surprise if he does not tour with that lineup although I am sure that will be fun for him. But if they are really serious to continue Kiss in a creative way, they can all get together and work on a new album as a band, but it is very hard for those guys. It is very competitive and they always have the history haunting them as well as the make-up haunting them. So I can’t put myself in their shoes to know what it feels like to carry on. I mean, come on - that is nine years of a reunion. Haha... that's a little weird! It’s like if the money is there, obviously it’s almost like taking the make-up off would be smarter. But maybe not…
If you had a chance to wear the make-up, what would you be?
Hey they put Tommy in Ace’s make-up and they put Eric in Peter’s make-up. I think they are tired of thinking up a new character. I just made a joke and said ok I will be the Dog!
Do you have more tour dates for the ESP (Eric Singer Project)?
Well you know what’s interesting is that, first, Union has a DVD out that is doing really well and I am pleased. I booked these dates in January in Japan and our drummer Bret is in a band called Theory of a Deadman which is getting a lot of push. So he could not do that. So I asked Eric Singer if could he help out and do these shows in Japan. So that worked out really well and the fans loved it. The fans in Japan know Eric from the times he was in Kiss and touring Japan. Just because Eric played a few dates with us, fans thought he was the new drummer. He wasn’t and that got a little annoying. I’ve gone many times to Europe and picked up a band there and played as a solo artist. I’ve created a good reputation over there that I wanted to nurture. I told Eric we can go do this I’m not saying this should be UNION I’m not sure what it should be. But the more we talked about it the more obvious it was that it should have become ESP (ERIC SINGER PROJECT). That’s when we announced the six shows as ESP. It was cool for Eric because this was the first time Eric saw his name on a marquee as a solo artist. The dates went really well. It was a blast. I would like to do more with UNION and/or ESP.
If you had three wishes what would they be?
I hate violence. It’s everywhere. I wish that there can be a peaceful co-existence between all the countries in the world and all the people.
My second wish would be if everyone could have good health. I hear so many stories about dying of cancer. I experienced it with Eric. I wish people could just pass away with a natural type death.
My third wish of course is to nurture my ability to play guitar and to be creative and be successful.
Do you donate to any charities?
Yes. I donate to the Cancer Fund for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. I love animals and I give a donation to the Pet Adoption Fund.
Coming from New York City, what was your feeling during 9-11?
Well I realized that there are some really evil people in the world. I did know people who were near by. I realized that the world was going to change now. Our civil liberties to us cannot presume that our neighbor is not plotting to blow up the world. It’s a horrible feeling.
I use to tour back in the seventies and I use to hear the word terrorism. But to see it here in America was horrible. There are always going to be people who hate us. I am proud to be an American but I am not always proud of what our government decides and does. But that’s part of being American but I can say that without being persecuted and that’s the beauty in that.
Certainly the Middle East and the way things have gone on there (which has been going on for a century) are quite different than us. I’m not proud of everything we represent meaning a lot of things are based on greed and money and profit. But a holy war does not make a lot of sense either.
My parents went though World War Two. How crazy was that? I have friends who had relatives that were in concentration camps that have the tattooed numbers on their arms. How insane is that? Just think of the scare we are going though and fear of the terrorists and wondering what could happen and there have been some really horrible things that happened in our life time. It’s part of living.
I am going to mention a few words tell me what comes to mind:
Gene Simmons - Money
Paul Stanley - Creativity
Eric Carr - I see Hershey chocolate bars. He loved Hershey chocolate. I also think of big hair!
Ace Frehley - Someone who doesn't stand very easily
Contract - Lawyers
Favorite - Good food
Fun - Laughing at a funny movie
Ego - Bad thing
Touring - hard work but exciting
Would you like to say anything in conclusion?
I want to thank everybody that is supportive of my career. Please visit my site http://www.kulick.net