Bruce Kulick is probably best known for his work with the multi-platinum selling group Kiss during the bands non-makeup years. Kulick spent 12 years with the band prior to the group’s 96/97 reunion tour which featured all four original members clad in their signature makeup. Bruce went on to play in several other projects such as Audio Dog, BK3 and is currently the guitarist for Grand Funk Railroad. Media Mikes caught up with Bruce recently to discuss his career as well as his tour plans with both Grand Funk and former Motley Crue vocalist John Corabi.
Adam Lawton: You joined Kiss while they were still going through somewhat of a transitional period. What was it like for you stepping in to that situation?
Bruce Kulick: I was aware that the band sort of hit their peak in the late 70’s early 80’s. They were still doing good stuff but “Music From The Elder” was a weird time for them. I was always aware of the band as I lived in New York and my brother had done some work with them. After things didn’t work out with Vinnie Vincent I knew that they were looking for people. When I saw that they got Mark St. John it made sense as music was really changing at the time. Bands like Van Halen were very popular on the scene. I think it was important for them to find a guy who was a hot shot, gunslinger type player who could do all of the tricks as opposed to someone like Ace Frehley whose style is rooted in that of Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix. When it came time for the Animalize tour to start Mark was having some health issues and wasn’t going to be able to tour. My brother had recommended me to the guys as did Mitch Weissman who is a singer/songwriter. When I first started working with Paul and the rest of the band they asked me not to cut my hair and told me I would need a guitar with a Floyd Rose so I could do some of the tricks that were popular at the time. I went in and played a solo on one song and did some little fills at the end of a couple others. After that is when they asked me to fill in for Mark. I was thrilled that maybe it was just going to be for a few weeks but it turned in to 12 years. When it was all said and done that I was going to be the new guy I remember getting a pep talk from Paul where he told me that he wanted me to be very competitive with my playing and that I should be able to cover both the older material and the new stuff. I was very grateful for the opportunity.
AL: On your website you have done several Kiss album retrospectives that are very in-depth. What was it like looking back on your work for those albums?
BK: For me celebrating stuff like that has always made a lot of sense. I found that if I don’t do it now I’m not necessarily going to remember more if I was to wait longer. The whole thing came out of an offer that came through for me to visit Australia and do some shows. I have always been well received there and this was going to actually be my third time there. The promoter said we needed an angle and it happened to be the 20th anniversary of “Revenge” being released so they asked me if I could do some things from that album. It was like a giant light bulb went off in my head. I was given some DAT tapes of the sessions by Bob Ezrin and I realized that I had a treasure trove of material. Things just started coming back to me from those sessions. The clinics I did over there ended up becoming very long even though I didn’t play much but the fans were mesmerized. From there I decided I would have to write all this stuff down and find a good time to release it on my social media sites. After I did the first one I started realizing the anniversaries for these other albums and followed suit with what I had done with the “Revenge” piece. I had a really great time going through the stuff I collected over the years and thinking back about all those stories. We raided all of my closets and boxes of photos and such to find things related to the particular albums I was writing/speaking about. I am always being asked about doing a book and your basic book talks about this tour or that tour and what you thought about certain people. It’s not my style to throw anyone under the bus so I just didn’t want to do something like that. I would rather do something like what I am doing. I don’t have a title or anything yet but even after things are posted on line I end up finding more stuff that could be included in those stories. Each one of these look backs is sort of a chapter. It’s very exciting to be able to tell these stories from an era of the band that doesn’t get a lot of attention.
AL: Is there a specific piece from your work with Kiss that you are most proud of?
BK: There are highlights from all of it but I would have to say working on the “Revenge” album really said a lot. We spent a lot of time on that album and really paid attention to detail. I thought the “Unplugged” album was another really great piece. I never realized how tight we really were on that show. The band looked great and it was filmed really well. Even though un-beknownst to me that was the catalyst to end my career with the band it was still a great performance. I am very proud of my work on that.
AL: You are currently playing guitar with Grand Funk Railroad. Can you tell us how that opportunity came about?
BK: The industry is actually pretty small and you never know who you are going to meet. Years ago I played with Michael Bolton and we ended up opening for Bob Seger. Don Brewer was Bob’s original drummer and he is actually doing shows with Bob on his current tour. We met then and later on at another music event we met again so I was on the short list when Don and Mel Schacher were looking at putting together a new version of Grand Funk. Once they had a singer in place they reached out to me but I had to think about it for a little bit. They were looking for a guy who could forge his own sound while not hurting the stuff from the past. This was similar to what I did with Kiss. I ended up going to Michigan where Mel lives and we rehearsed in a show room at a nearby casino. Things were pretty easy right away and it’s amazing that here I am 13 years later gigging with Grand Funk.
AL: Did you have to spend a lot of time reworking your sound/tone when you first joined the band?
BK: Not at all. I really do what I do well. To be honest I get to play a solo in every song and I am not trying to imitate Mark Farner’s tone in any way. I have always had this talent for picking out signature riffs that people identify with and they want to hear those a certain way so I try to keep things as close as I can. You definitely have to make things your own so you don’t come off too stiff or clone like. I like to take my finesse and add it to the Grand Funk material. They are another one of those iconic bands.
AL: Can you tell us about some of your appearances/tour dates for the coming months?
BK: Grand Funk just keeps adding dates. The site was just revamped and it looks really great. Things are always being added to it so people should definitely check it out. I also have a string of acoustic dates with John Corabi. He and I have a certain chemistry that just works together. When I realized Grand Funk wasn’t going to be as busy this spring due to Don working with Bob Seger I got a little more aggressive with the people I know in Europe who book shows. We tried to work things out so that we could take the Eric Singer Project over but unfortunately Eric couldn’t commit due to various Kiss things that were in the works. The promoters still wanted us to come so John, I and Chuck Garric who plays bass in the Eric Singer Project and who also has his own group happened to have some shows that are double booked with us. During those shows the plan is to do the acoustic thing and also jam as an electric group. There aren’t that many gigs on this run as its set up to fit in between my Grand Funk gigs. I never seem to have the ability to say I am free for two months or something like that but that’s not a bad thing. I am glad the band keeps me busy.
AL: Have you thought about putting out a new album with any of your other projects?
BK: It’s been 3 years since my last solo album “BK3” has come out and it is time for me to get some new material out. I have been writing and compiling some things so I like to think that I can get something out this year. I have mostly been looking at doing some gigs with my brother when time permits. People seem quite excited about seeing a Kulick brother’s thing. We are also looking at a few songs to possibly record for an EP. I am always a phone call or an email away from working on another project. Every day is exciting.
AL: Are there any other things going on with you lately that you can tell us about?
BK: I just got back from Europe where I appeared at large event called “Movie Days”. That was a lot of fun. I get excited myself meeting people who are iconic. Especially sci-fi people as I am a big fan of that genre. I have done many Kiss conventions around the world that are specifically unique to Kiss but this was only my second time I think appearing at a more movie themed event. I like when fans are excited to meet me and I get it because I am a fan myself. Getting to meet people I idolize is really amazing. That’s something I love about the entertainment industry.