INTERVIEW: Bruce Kulick (Solo artist and Grand Funk Railroad guitarist, ex Kiss)

We talk new music, coming downunder and the meaning of life...

 

Bruce Kulick may well be best known for his time in iconic Rock band Kiss, and some may argue that during his 12 years as guitarist with the band after the short stays of both Vinnie Vincent and Mark St John, he gave the band a new lease of life, a certain stability and their best of their make-up-less material. But his career has been, and is, much more than that, currently playing his trade with Grand Funk as well as performing solo he’s a man always on the move. In May he comes down to Australia for both the Kiss Konvention and a series of dates that take in places he’s never been before like Newcastle and Bunbury.

Bruce: Hi Mark

Mark: Hi Bruce good to see you again. Thank you for taking the time to talk to the Rockpit today. It’s been a while since I last saw you many years ago at the Corner Hotel when I lived in Melbourne.

Bruce: Cool, that was a while back, is it still there?

Mark: Still there and still going strong, still putting on great shows.

Bruce: Good to hear.

Mark: And you’re coming back to see us in May. For those that have seen you before, and those that have been waiting patiently like the good folks in Bunbury Western Australia what can we expect? Has the show changed over the years?

Bruce: Well really for me I don’t get there that often so I’m not so sure it’s so much that the show changes it’s more that I’m getting the chance to find new places I haven’t played before and that for me is pretty important to me. My manager and I have always talked about that, you know when you go to Australia you always gotta play Sydney and Melbourne but it would be great to play some other places. There were some tours where I almost didn’t survive because Brisbane didn’t have the turn out I hoped for, Adelaide didn’t have the support that I hoped for and that killed the successes in the other two cities, so I just broke even coming there. I didn’t regret doing it but for a while it made me really ‘gun-shy’ about visiting some other places. Now that was a long time ago and I think now in many ways, and I don’t use the word flippantly at all, but maybe my ‘legend’ has increased, I don’t know, maybe more people are aware of it as more and more people enjoy Kiss, more and more generations discover their music.

Mark: Being based here in Perth the most isolated City in the World there’s a lot of people talking about the tour announcement, and pretty happy that you’re making the trip over.

Bruce: OK, that’s great, that’s actually one of the spots that I’m most happy that I get to visit again. I was there with Kiss in ’95 and probably with Meatloaf, I can’t be certain ‘cos that was a super long time ago, but I do know that Eric Singer and myself went back there to do like a combined Drum Masterclass/Clinic type thing there together.

Mark: There’s a lot of Kiss fans here and a lot of excited people so hopefully when the interview comes out a lot of those people will jump on board.

Bruce: Let’s hope so, you guys spread the word; I mean that is so far away from everything. It’s really great to get to Western Australia again it’s been a long time.

Mark: Then when you get here as George Lynch once told me, it’s just like California without the people.

Bruce: Well I remember Perth was in the news a lot when that plane that they never found went down, they were gonna look that way out in the ocean off you guys.

Mark: Last time you were in Australia must have been in 2015 when you did those Masterclasses?

Bruce: Well in ’15 I had to do everything, because if I’m going to come for a couple of weeks I want to perform and I want to work, so I did a couple of Expos , and then it was in Melbourne but at least an hour outside, whereas these Melbourne ones which Peter Criss will be at too, are centrally located. But then I went off to do one gig with Sister’s Doll who were terrific and that was in Adelaide and there were no other gigs planned but I was doing Masterclasses for Allan’s the big music chain. And I really enjoyed those, and then, in Sydney there’s that famous ‘Frankie’s Pizza’ place and I sat in with the House Band, and that was a blast I had a great crowd there. I can’t do that this year as I have a Sydney gig, but I am doing a couple of days at the Expos and I enjoy those as that’s a good way to share a little bit of ‘behind the curtain’ of Kiss when I get the play with the tracks and talk about what I’m doing and what came to be, so it’s a lot of fun for the fans.

Mark: So this year the show line-up features ‘Four By Fate’ and ‘Sisters Doll’; it’s interesting that you mentioned playing before with Sisters Doll because they’re actually originally from a country town in Western Australia that’s about two and a half hours South of Perth.

Bruce: Well I didn’t know that.

Mark: When you see them tell them you’ve always wanted to go to Collie!

Bruce: I will I’ll give them a hard time! I know you have some remote places out there, my manager once pulled a joke on me, and told me we’d got a gig in some little mining town and I said ‘You gotta be killing me I’m not going there’ (laughs). But let me tell you those three brothers are not only super talented they are also wonderful people, they’re great. You now I know they’re fans of mine so they’re not going to be disrespectful but anything I shared with them musically to make them understand the music we were gonna play with the Kiss songs – they just absorbed it like a sponge. It was incredible and it really made me so proud, and then to see them since ’15 to go on and do ‘Australia’s Got Talent’ and make it to the finals and then have the support of their fans to record a record, I’m very, very, very proud of these guys. And they’re doing all of this themselves, they don’t have like a millionaire ‘puppet master’ these guys are driven.

Mark: I’ve know the guys for years, and you’re right we’re pretty proud of them too and they’ve got you down to Bunbury which is sort of their old back yard and the last time they played there only a few months ago I heard they pulled a really big crowd.

Bruce: That’s great and I hope that those people will come out and support this bill because it’ll be a great show. I just talked to another girl who wondered why we were playing there – she said it’s like an hour and a half out of Perth and really remote! And I said come on isn’t Perth really remote anyway and we’re playing there! It’ll be interesting and I know my manager is really excited; he’s quite the World traveller so he’s thrilled (laughs)!

Mark: It will almost certainly be the most remote place you’ve played in your career and people from there will be telling their kids in years to come!

Bruce: I think so, but with Grand Funk we’ve played some pretty remote spots, like the Indian Casino in the middle of nowhere where I’m wondering why my cell phone won’t work!

Mark: You’re always a busy guy, you’ve a clinic in Tacoma Washington State coming up, then you’re playing with Grand Funk in-between visiting us, what keeps you going?

Bruce: Oh that’s a great question! Well I do have to admit that I love playing my guitar and performing for people and you know that one thing leads to another kind of thing with every opportunity that you get. So if it’s a good idea and logistically you can do it I sometimes don’t even look at the financial aspect, I do things for free as well, if it’s appropriate. Like there’s a thing I’m going to do soon for autism, I didn’t really promote it a lot yet but I will, and it’s at City Walk here at Universal (in L.A.) and I’m going to sit in for one song with an autistic band and I have a feeling that they’re going to play so well you’d never know. But I don’t know, I guess I could say that ‘have guitar will travel’, even though I hate travelling! I’m really a homebody who likes nothing better than being on the couch with my wife and relaxing but I know that is never going to round me out as a career person, and I am driven in my career. So I guess there is this ambition and there is this desire from people all around the world who want to hear my music and hear me play guitar that drives me. And I’m glad I have that opportunity and I don’t disrespect it, I welcome it and I want to do the best I can always.

Mark: It’s certainly been a great career so far, I first heard you when you started with Kiss way back in 1984, and you’ve played on 3 of my favourite albums by that band, but there’s so much more to your career than that, playing with Meatloaf as you say and all of the Projects since and before that. Looking just to your time in Kiss though do you have any particular favourite moments of your time in that band?

Bruce: Why thank you, well certainly during the Kiss years it was incredible, I used to always hear about the big festivals especially the Donington Festival in England which was huge. And as you know Iron Maiden are kings in England of course and they actually headlined the one that we played – Iron Maiden, Kiss, David Lee Roth, as well as the first international trip for Guns N Roses – there were over 100,000 people at the show.

Mark: And I was one of them, I still have the T-Shirt!

Bruce: Really you were there in ’88.

Mark: Yes probably my favourite of the 5 I went to as a kid.

Bruce: That’s so cool.

Mark: It’s always a festival with a big place in my heart and I love it to hear, especially from American musicians about how revered it was. I grew up a few miles down the road so it was always a very local thing for us!

Bruce: But gigs like that, and growing up in the US, Madison Square Garden was another – I saw all my heroes there – as a teenager I got to see Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, you know it was remarkable that within six months of joining Kiss I was at Madison Square Garden.

Mark: I spoke to Peter Criss a month or so ago and he said that was the absolute pinnacle of his career performance-wise.

Bruce: Yeah, if you grew up in New York and you played Madison Square Garden you’re the hometown hero, definitely.

Mark: Those Anniversaries are flying by at the moment – I remember when Carnival of Souls was 20 years old and that was one of the last Kiss albums you played on, I have the ‘Final sessions’ and you get to sing on there too – was that something you always wanted to do on a Kiss album?

Bruce: ‘I Walk Alone’! It was actually very organic how it happened, it wasn’t a masterplan, I’ve worked with a lot of great singers and Gene and Paul are tremendous singers and to be honest I never really expected to get the chance to sing a song on a Kiss album but I worked really hard on the demo of that song and between Gene and I it went back and forth many times and it was pretty remarkable how the song was created but I kept singing the demo because that way I could show the new arrangement with all the tracks and sessions that I’d created in my home studio, which was pretty crude but I was able to ‘bring it home’ and show how we could do it in the real studio. So it was actually Toby Wright our co-producer who said “he has to sing that” and Gene and Paul weren’t so sure from what I was told, but Toby fought for it and so I sang the song, and Gene and Paul did the high ending part and the chorus and the rest is history, it was a pretty prophetic title for me. I’m actually hoping I may be able to perform it with Sisters Doll when we get to Australia.

Mark: That would be so cool, for me though it’s not all about Kiss though. I loved the Union that you did with John who I talk to quite often these days, three great albums in the space of a few years from 1998-2000- though you are on ‘hiatus’ I believe I don’t think you ever officially split. Are we ever going to hear any more Union?

Bruce: Yeah it’s a great question and I have to be honest, all of us these days are just like super-busy, and I’m real proud of everybody, but John especially, especially over the past couple of years with The Dead Daisies – it’s incredible what he’s done. And Brent of course had years with Slash, and Jamie does a lot of work here in L.A. But much as I’m proud of that music and I would never say never, we’ve not got any plans to do any more recording at this point, but we’ll see what the future brings.

Mark: But you are going to be playing some for us though? At least one track?

Bruce: Ah there’s that question again I got asked earlier and you know as much as I’d love to look at some of it I just don’t have the time with all the Kiss songs there are to play and all of the solo material as well so I’m not going to lie and say there is going to be a Union song on this tour. I should take that under consideration for next time!

Mark: Maybe a few chords for those in the know?

Bruce: Yeah maybe a few chords for those in the know! Then I’ll go into a little ‘Heavy D’ or something!

Mark: I’ll get a little sign made up!

Bruce: Yeah make up a sign! (laughs)

Mark: We traditionally close with the same two questions, and it’s that time of the interview now so here we go: If you could have been a ‘Fly on the Wall’ in the studio for the creation of any great album, just to see how the magic happened. What’s that album for you and why?

Bruce: Well you know the kinda Beatles fan I am I’d have loved to have been there for Sargent Pepper when they were really getting ‘out there’ and fortunately now that there’s this big celebration with it being 50 years now from the release there’s a lot of stuff coming out about it so I’m really salivating about it all and hoping that I can learn more about how they made such an iconic record.

Mark: Absolutely ground breaking and Peter Criss’ pick too! I guess if they went into the studio today they could have made it in a fraction of the time, but with it being so easy these days would they have been as creative? I tend to think not.

Bruce: That’s a good thought. And now, when you think about it, that’s how they can take old cassettes of John Lennon and put a Beatles sounding song around them because of how sophisticated the software is. And I love all the remixes too I think George Martin’s son has done a fine job of continuing The Beatles catalogue in a very healthy way.

Mark: And the final question we always leave the easy one for last – ‘What is the meaning of life’?

Bruce: Haha! You set me up there! Well The Beatles part of me say ‘love’ is the meaning of life and it’s true because you know you gotta love what you do, and hopefully you’re in a healthy loving relationship with your family and your significant other, and you know I find that as hard as I make thing, because I’m such a perfectionist, it’s my passion to do things right and my love of what I do and what I can do that pushes me and drives me. So as much as that in one word it sounds kinda sappy, you know when you think about it the people who are truly successful they love what they do. And the people that maybe aren’t the richest or most successful in business if they have a loving family, great children and a tight loving family – they’re a success. You can’t put a value on that, maybe in some ways that’s even more valuable. So ‘Love’ I’ll stick with that.

Mark: A great answer and so well put. There’s so much more music that you’ve been involved in that I wish we’d had the time to talk about.

Bruce: We’ll save it for the next time. That might be over there so pick a few more questions and we’ll have a flat white over it. Thanks Mark, I appreciate it I look forward to seeing you for that coffee.

Thunder Down Under Australia tour 2017

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