Bruce Kulick hardly needs an introduction being the lead guitarist for Kiss from 1984 – 1996, member of Grand Funk Railroad and also formed a band Union with John Corabi. With the Thunder From Down Under Tour underway including Adelaide this weekend Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles had a chance to talk to the legendary Bruce Kulick about his career in music.
Another tour, the love affair with Australian continues. It must be exciting times being in Australia to start this tour?
It is, I know every time I sign up for a tour for Australia you have this big international trek you have to psych yourself up for that. Once I’m there I feel very comfortable, I have so many great friends there from over the years, the fans are wonderful. In some weird way it has become my second home I guess. I just wish it wasn’t so far away.
It must be good this time doing an extended tour playing in different cities?
Once I head down I’d like to have some extra songs to switch around from night to night but the real key is that I’m hitting these new cities, which is quite exciting but a lot of the other trips I had to do so many other things. One night I’m doing a clinic, one night I’m doing a gig, one night I’m sitting there with a band, then I’m back to a masterclass clinic. I’ve done trips like that to make it worthwhile. If I’m over there I’d love to holiday and relax but I’m really there to perform and work. This is exciting that these seven gigs and two expos is rewarding work and I’m quite flattered of the opportunity.
When you look at your back catalogue it must be a tough job working out a set list that best represents yourself and the Kiss fans happy as well?
Always a challenge! It is a challenge and the problem is even if I promised that I would only play from my era that’s not really fair because I used to really enjoy playing some of the makeup era songs from Alive III that we always played really well but I play them my way. Songs such as Deuce, Love Gun and things like that. It is really interesting, how do you choose a set?
It is wonderful to be from a band that has such a large catalogue, think of that too, it is a huge challenge and I have interviews with some people saying will I have time to do some reunion songs with the band I had with Corabi. I don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about stuff like that because there is so much from my Kiss years and solo thing to I usually put on the backburner. I might do one from BK3 when I’m there but it is hard to give up those amazing songs for some of the great Kiss stuff I put my mark on, make up or non-makeup.
Are the Kiss fans a bit demanding in terms of what they what to see you play?
If you polled ten Kiss fans I think you would get a different list from every one of them. I don’t think you can be perfect with this.
Gene Simmons has been talking about doing the classic Revenge album show. If you got the call is that something you would go for or have you moved on in a different direction now?
I welcome any possible thing that would include me representing and being a part of my Kiss years. I don’t have any issue with that but remember you started that question with Gene has been talking… Alright he is talking about, so now they have to put it in to action. I don’t like to get too excited until I see the action, you know what I mean.
Is the relationship still strong with those guys?
Oh yeah, they came to my wedding in 2014 and I was just emailing Gene this past week. I have a killer picture from one of my friends little two year old daughter with her tongue out wearing a Kiss t-shirt. I love sharing that stuff with the guys. Paul is someone I like to share guitar pictures with and stuff like that. There is a great relationship there that I share with those guys and Eric Singer I’m very close with and friends with Tommy as well.
There’s been a lot of talk about Sisters Doll, how did the involvement in recording a song on their album come about?
When I played with them in 2015 they had their first record out and worked really hard to back me and learn the material. They did an incredible job and not only are they really talented they really absorbed every morsel of instructions I gave them. I admired that, I’m like a boot camp teacher by the way when I want to rehearse. I thought that was great and by the short months after I was gone they were on Australia’s Got Talent and making it all the way to the finals was remarkable they were able to self fund through their fans to help them create the new album. Then they reached out to me and I was willing to help by performing on one song. I’m really proud of the guys, they’ve done a lot since I left them in 2015. I’m looking forward to working with them again.
Do you still enjoy all the Kiss conventions?
There is no doubt that the conventions that if you’re a real fan of the band, if there is a convention for it that’s the way to go. It is so much fun to be able to get up close and meet the artist that you admire. I think it is an incredible opportunity for a fan certainly with Peter Criss there. Any Kiss fan close to Melbourne would be foolish to miss the two days of the convention. I’m doing a Q&A and clinic as well and I get to pull back the curtain of what’s behind the scenes of recording the song. They can watch me perform the song which is incredible, I enjoy that to. Then there’s the performance at night and to think about everything they are getting is incredible. I’m not familiar with ticket prices and what is relative but you’re getting a tremendous day.
Do you get to hear a lot of interesting stories from fans and what impact you have had on their lives or find out something about yourself that you didn’t know?
Absolutely, the best part is when someone tells me they are a musician and that I inspired them, that is incredibly flattering to me. The oddest ones are like, do you remember me? I met you in the elevator in Sydney in 1995. I’m thinking you can’t be serious right? It would be a little different if it was the hottest chick on the planet. I’d remember her!
The other crazy thing is when they want an autograph on their body and then they are going to do a tattoo. I do a lot of those, that’s pretty remarkable! I’m fans of people to and I know it is a little surreal when you meet someone you are an admirer of. What falls out of your mouth can be pretty insane. I give them a pretty wide berth because I find when I personalise it a bit that gets them a little more centred as it can get a bit strange so I need to focus them a bit.
When you look at your career with Kiss what stands out some of your most significant achievements that you are most proud of?
I grew up in New York and I saw some of my heroes play Madison Square Garden and you are at the top of the game, when Kiss played there in 1995 it was mind blowing to me. To have my friends and family come and see me play Madison Square Garden, particularly as a teenager I got to see Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, was mind blowing to have that opportunity. The other thing that blows me away currently still I was part of a band, Gene love to brag about it, that has the most gold records compared to anyone. That is pretty remarkable, I’m not on all of them like he is but I’m on a number of them.
What’s left for Bruce Kulick to achieve musically?
There’s a single coming out very soon and will be announced shortly. It features a talented singer and I want to explore more of that. I’m not going to give any more away yet but we’ll see where that goes. Any opportunity I have to play guitar and be creative and perform is totally a blessing. I have a lot of sadness in ways people share music now and this is why a lot of bands don’t go in and record a new album because the streaming revenues bands can make is so small.
That never existed ten years ago, the way people share and listen to music has made a real problem for people who want to record themselves which still costs money to do that. It is hard to make money from record sales but live performance people are still interested in. I feel frustrated in that and that’s part of the hiccup of putting out new music which costs me thousands of dollars to record. I can’t get around that! I have done some video things from my own couch, they go over really well on Facebook. I’m not monetising that, you don’t! You can’t really! It is a way to keep your fans in touch with you and I love that they really enjoy that.
I’m exploring some new things that fans will be excited about and every week you don’t know what offer will pop up to be involved with. There’s always been talk about bring me somewhere to do a Symphony gig and playing in Melbourne that way. I haven’t been able to coordinate it that way but boy wouldn’t that be something? There is always something new on the horizon.
Interview by Rob Lyon
Catch Bruce Kulick on the following Australian dates…