Okay, sue me…. KISS is my favorite band. If I hear that a past or current member of KISS is doing interviews I will cancel a doctor’s appointment, miss a dinner, and so on. I put the band on a level that noone could touch (even Cheap Trick!) and I grew up in the 80s so you understand my devotion to the Gene, Eric, Paul and Bruce era. I was very, very pleased to field a phone call from Bruce recently about the new Eric Carr collection and I threw as many questions at him as we had time for. We covered a lot more ground than our previous interview and he was very gracious to this particular rabid KISSfreak, read on….
LRI: We’ve talked with Eric Carr’s sister and webmaster about the new Eric Carr collection that recently came out but we were wondering how you got to be involved?
BK: Well, you know, a lot of people think I was one of the creators of this project but really I wasn’t. I was one of the people behind Eric’s last album ROCKOLOGY which was obviously a lot of the material that was left behind that he and I were working on. I did as much as I could to improve those tracks for release but I didn’t do TOO much, I didn’t add other artists or get too adventurous. I was happy with the results of ROCKOLOGY and there were a few little things left over that I chose not to use but I think Eric’s sister Loretta was always thinking “There’s more here, we should really find something else” and she contacted a lot of Eric’ friends and basically she kept digging and putting things together. She would tell me about it and I would always be like “Well, I’m really happy you’re doing it” and obviously I played guitar on some of it but I kind of felt like I didn’t have that much to do with it. Then as it started taking shape and I started hearing MP3s it started to become a lot clearer to me how she put together “Unfinished Business“ which is actually a great title. Now that it’s out I am actually really pleased with it and obviously I am always happy to be talking about Eric. It’s been twenty years since his death and it’s just unbelievable to think it’s been that long.
LRI: As an artist with tons of studio experience you have to be amazed at how these posthumous Eric projects have turned out, especially given the quality of some of the original source tapes.
BK: Yeah, absolutely and I do feel the same way about ROCKOLOGY. Things were all mastered really well and preserved in the best way possible for the final listening product. I’m also really impressed with the packaging, I think that KISS fans will really enjoy that, it’s very good.
LRI: You worked with both Eric Singer and Eric Carr. What are some of the biggest differences musically and personally between the two “Erics”?
BK: Well, certainly Eric Singer came into KISS at a real turning point for the band with getting ready to record with Bob Ezrin again for REVENGE was a really exciting, big step for the group especially considering the success that Bob has had with the band before. Ironically, Eric Singer realized that that was kind of an awkward thing. At the time Eric Carr was sadly lost and gone and that was Eric Singer’s role to take over and be the drummer in the band, that was his job and Eric Singer did his job. Playing wise they are a little different but they are both really strong rock drummers. Eric Singer has not always wanted the biggest drum kit in the world but he always still had a really big sound. Eric Carr had a much different approach and would say “the more drums the better, I don’t care if they can’t see me” (laughs). I still think there were some REALLY funny things about Eric Carr’s approach, especially his approach to stage gear, he really liked a big, big, big, BIG drumset. As far as personal differences there are many but the most important thing for me was that I really enjoyed playing with them both and I think that both of them absolutely did exactly the right thing for whatever record or tour they were asked to be a part of.
LRI: It was nice for us diehards that KISS recently dug a little bit deeper into the songbook for the set they played on the KISS KRUISE but for the most part are still not playing much of your material from the 80s or 90s. I understand that the today’s “makeup” KISS really has to focus on that original era material but one of the most awesome things about YOUR live shows are that you actually do all of that material we grew up on in the MTV era. Do you have plans to keep doing those kind of KISS focused solo shows that we’ve seen on you tube?
BK: I have to do it around the Grand Funk Railroad schedule but I’m going to Brazil in a couple weeks for some shows like you’re describing. Those gigs I really do concentrate for the most part on my era of KISS. I do “Tears are Falling”, Crazy Nights“, “God Gave Rock and Roll To You” and some stuff that I realize that occasionally the “modern” KISS will do but I also get into material that KISS has RARELY played live like “You Make Me Rock Hard” or “Turn On The Night”. These kind of shows I will of course do some stuff from my solo records but I really tend to focus on that era of KISS material I was a part of. Gene, Paul, Tommy and Eric obviously focus on that vintage era of the band which is great but yeah recently they did dip into the well for some of the less obvious songs and that is great. They should really CONTINUE to do that because KISS has such a great catalog when you think about all those great years and decades worth of music.
LRI: Obviously it’s you tube so some of your live clips have better sound or video than others but I have watched them ALL. You were the guitarist in MY era of KISS, that 80s era was the time I really came of age and grew up so it means so much to me that you are able to carry it on in some way, shape or form. Do you hear a lot of that from fans of my generation?
BK: Yeah, I do and it’s great. I have heard that from people all over the world when I travel, people will say “You were the first KISS guitarist I knew” and those type of things. Obviously, I wasn’t too aware of the impact when it was happening but as time has passed it’s dawned on me more. If you think about it I had a chance to join the band while they were on a big upswing or resurgence, “Heaven’s on Fire” was a HUGE hit and ANIMALIZE was out and selling really well. While not every record was exactly the same success they were still really solidly successful and I got to play on record and on stage for a lot of people including you and fortunately got to make an impression on fans that loved that version of KISS. We had our own sound and the fans responded to that, it was a case of us realizing of course that there was a long history of KISS but saying “hey this is us and this is how WE sound.”. I’m obviously very proud of the impact that Eric and I had and always very flattered when someone brings up something about it. It was a very special time.
LRI: Your discography didn’t start with KISS. You made a phenomenal album with Billy Squier and worked on many other projects but your first KISS album is one of my favorites no matter what the guys say. I love Asylum!! What are your memories that still stand out of that 85 era?
BK: I certainly thought TEARS ARE FALLING was one of the highlights. Since I didn’t really know how Gene and Paul operated in the studio, my job was just to make them happy. I was excited to have the gig you know? (laughs). It was a real learning record for me as far as how to how to work with those guys. Outside of the artsy-fartsy cover I thought it was a really good record.
LRI: I was gonna ask you about each of the album art pieces too since that stuff is so important to us KISS fanatics. So, that’s your official statement on the Asylum art? (Laughs)
BK: Yeah, you know though, you gotta admit that at the time (1985) that was sort of eye catching and interesting. Paul’s art now even, you have to admit, is really successful and individual and has its’ own vibe, the Asylum art was definitely right for the time. I think looking back at some of that stuff now it looks a little odd.
LRI: Crazy Nights came next and again was very successful as were the tour and videos that went along with it. The album production by Ron Nevison was a little different but again, it fit the time. What’s your official word on the creation of that album and the packaging end of it?
BK: I got to co-write like 4 of the songs on that album which I was real proud of and I really liked the way Ron Nevison handled the guitar solos on CRAZY NIGHTS. If you listen to it, when the guitar solos come in they kind of take over the role of the lead vocals for that portion of the song. Which is really what I think a guitar solo SHOULD do, I mean that’s sort of the point, it should be prominent in the mix. I think there are a lot of really, really good songs on it. The title track is of course a hit and Adam Mitchell (who co-wrote with Paul) is someone I really respect as a writer. I’m gonna work with him tomorrow actually on a project he’s doing. Ron Nevison definitely had a point of view and was of course coming off of a couple of really big hit records but I really think it’s a good record and it showcased a lot of good playing from me so I appreciate that. I definitely like the cover art, I still think that cracked mirror thing is really, really cool. I also really like the pictures on the back of it, they are really strong and I still have that yellow guitar by the way.
LRI: What did you think of the SMASHES, THRASHES, HITS album? Again, the new songs and the remake of Beth have gotten some flack but I love it and it was obviously a great business decision, it really brought the old era to the new era of fans.
BK: I thought it was an amazing idea to add a few new things to something that was a collection of some of the existing product. The new songs were pretty commercial and Paul was working with Desmond Child on the songwriting. Like I said, I’ve started playing “(You Make Me) Rock Hard” on my new tour and I’ve realized that’s a pretty cool tune. “Let’s Put the X in Sex” is one that I remember for two different reasons. Number one, the video, which was a really fun video to make with all the girls and everything but I don’t know if a lot of people realize that it was shot at Ground Zero, the World Trade Center area. I don’t recall exactly which building but it was definitely done at the complex so to see that is kind of sad. The other thing I think of with that song is the little girl who somehow did a SPOT on version of the song in front of the crowd at the KISS conventions which was caught on video tape (laughs). She was like 9 or something and it was hilarious and totally messed up at the same time. I also remember I came in to record some of the new material and I totally got bummed out because I thought my guitar broke, it was in a gig bag instead of a hard case and it fell down or something. It had the floyd rose tremolo nut and it ended up being okay but at the time I was totally bummed and thought it was ruined (laughs). The packaging was some artist they really liked, I can’t think of the name but they really liked that sea of hands reaching up. I thought it was a pretty cool cover, I like a lot of the deluxe versions of it too.
LRI: The wait between Crazy Nights and HOT IN THE SHADE literally felt like an eternity. Are you surprised at the news that was just announced that KISS was finally releasing a remastered version of HOT IN THE SHADE?
BK: Oh, wow. That was announced today? I actually didn’t know that but that’s great. I actually hope that all of those more recent KISS albums will be released here in the States in their remastered editions, ESPECIALLY the last album I was a part of CARNIVAL OF SOULS…..that album could really use it. That’s really good news to my ears, that’s great John! That whole HOT IN THE SHADE album is a bit odd to me. It started out as demos and technology was developing and you could really start using drum machines and patch things in and next thing you knew we were really overdubbing on the demo tracks and to me I really prefer to leave the demos as demos and start out fresh you know. That song “Little Caesar” definitely went through a few changes but I was really glad that Eric was able to get a song on the album. The cover was obviously tied exclusively to the Sphinx stage set we had set for the tour, “Leon”. That tour is bittersweet because it was Eric’s last but it was a great tour, the whole thing really took off with the success of “Forever” which is still one of the best moments of my career.
LRI: The next album REVENGE is easily a hallmark in the band’s catalog. You mentioned Eric Singer joining and the pressure of living up to the bands past with Bob Ezrin but you guys nailed it. It only gets better with age.
BK: Thank you, REVENGE is easily my favorite of the bunch top to bottom. I think all the songs are terrific and I think the toughness was reflected in the packaging and art also. To me, the biggest thing was just working with the producer Bob Ezrin, it was just an incredible learning experience for me to be working with such a supremely talented producer. I really, really thought it was the best of us as a band. That’s what Bob Ezrin pushes for and that’s what we got. I was happy that I got a co-write in on that one, it was a little tough getting more than that for that record because Ezrin is the kind of guy that will take an artist and bring in completely different people to work with that artist. I knew all that going in and none of that bothered me as long as I was happy with the end result which I was. I remember being at mixing and stating something to the effect that I was 99.9 percent thrilled with the end mix, which I was.
LRI: ALIVE 3 is a great album. I think it just proves the powers of that REVENGE era of the band and I like the UNPLUGGED album that followed. By this time you guys were really well oiled and those two live albums prove it.
BK: I really like them both as well. Unplugged was really a highlight all around, such an important part of the band and their history and an equally historic show. I have a lot of the DAT mixes of the three nights of the tour that ALIVE 3 was taken from, they were three Midwest gigs, Detroit, Cleveland and Indianapolis I think. I really enjoyed that whole process of listening to the DAT tapes and helping choose which ones Eddie Kramer would eventually decide on. It’s actually a pretty live album in the sense that there’s not as many repairs as the band did on Alive 2. Of course, I wasn’t there during the Alive 2 era but I would hear a lot that a lot of it wasn’t actually live. I can say that I was pretty consistent at that point and didn’t really have much to fix but I think that the band overall was just really tight at that point. I think the ALIVE 3 album is a really nice time capsule of Eric Singer and I in the band playing that music without anyone telling us “You gotta sound like the makeup KISS”. As you know John, it doesn’t matter what you tell Eric Singer because he’s a phenomenal drummer who can play anything but you know they don’t want him to do certain things. They don’t want double bass drums, they don’t want this or that because they are obviously trying to do more of that classic 70s KISS. That record ALIVE 3 is something I’m very happy with, I look at it as a supercharged KISS. I have a lot of fans that have told me that they were introduced to KISS through that record which is always a nice thing to hear. I really loved the whole package, the foldout, the cover, even though it’s almost like a little stick figure of me (laughs). I like the way we’re inside the logo lettering and the whole look of it. The colors, the fire, the explosions, it’s a really, really strong visual. Whenever I’ve seen posters or anything related to it I am impressed. It really pops very well.
LRI: The CARNIVAL OF SOULS album followed that album but not exactly with the timing or promotion that you guys would have expected probably due to the reunion happening. I love the ELDER album and people seem to draw a lot of the same conclusions about C.O.S. “The Final Sessions”, they either love it or hate it
BK: Right, I think it really depends who you ask. When people see that I have all these co-writes on it and sing a song they say things like “That’s KISS’s Bruce Kulick” album which it of course isn’t. I guess that’s fine if they really like it but if they DON”T …..well, please don’t blame me because I really had very little to do with it other than the guitar riffs. They wanted riffs and I served them up with as many as I could. They were going for this darker feel, detuned stuff and more interesting chord structures and I really came up with a lot of that guitar stuff because that’s what they were going for, an even heavier KISS than REVENGE. I was very, very focused on trying to come up with a lot of guitar work because REVENGE really gave me a good kick in the ass you know? I think the fact that it didn’t do as well as the band hoped just started to push the band toward the Reunion anyway. Having said that, I really like some of the songs on the album and I liked the fact that I got to sing a track but it’s funny even the song I sing “I Walk Alone”, people read a lot into it . The lyrics seem to be pretty prophetic and people think it was somehow prophetic of me to write it as I was on the way out of the band but those lyrics were actually written by Gene (laughs). They’re typical Gene lyrics of him marching to his own beat and doing things his own way or alone which has always been the case for him until recently of course right? Now he’s finally appreciating the aspect of marriage and family and not walking it alone which I’m very, very happy about. The cover art and packaging is of course just a photo of us and the whole thing was put together after the album had already been leaked in horrible bootleg quality. Those copies circulating on the internet were just really, really bad. To me, the album being leaked was the worst thing about the whole project. I also don’t think it was mixed as well as it could have been to begin with and like I said, that is the album I would most like to see re-released and re-mastered. Those guys were so focused on the announcements of the Reunion tour and all of that and to be honest you really can’t do it all. That final mix reflects that but still I credit them that they were dedicated to finishing the album, which they did. I will say that it was a shock to me when it finally came out, I really didn’t think it would.
LRI: You then hooked up with John Corabi to form Union along with Jamie Hunting and Brent Fitz. The first album came out in 1998. Looking back on that time, how difficult was it to transition from a band that was Gene and Paul’s baby to Union which was a whole new baby?
BK: Right. Well, there was a lot of pressure on us to help form the direction of that band. With KISS I was happy to be along for the ride and focus on guitar, when I had an opinion I could throw it out there but ultimately it wasn’t all resting on me and my career. It was Gene and Paul’s career and the band they created and that was on them and then suddenly it was my band it changed for sure. John and I managed to have really good chemistry, both musically and personally in the sense that we are both really different kinds of people but somehow we seem to compliment each other in an interesting way. We had a chance to do our thing, our way, we had a great rhythm section, a great producer in Curt Cuomo who worked with KISS on Carnival of Souls and Psycho Circus and I really, truly enjoyed making that record. It did pretty well and I was listening to it the other day and still really like those songs and that album. The cover was that quadrant symbol of the four diamond shapes intertwined, representing the name of the band which we continued to use in the packaging and cover art for the next two albums and the DVD. We liked the idea of having the band represented by a symbol, reminiscent of some of the bands we grew up on like Led Zeppelin.
LRI: I know you and John did a lot of live promotion for the album with acoustic gigs. Was that what led you to put out the “LIVE In THE GALAXY” album? It’s probably my favorite of the Union stuff. I like the way you guys interpret the KISS, Motley and Scream stuff.
BK: We really weren’t looking to do a live album it was more a case of someone saying “hey, why don’t we record this” and we thought it was a good idea. We threw a few acoustic songs that we had together onto it and there you have the genesis of that album. It sort of bridged the gap between the first album and the “BLUE ROOM” album which was our last studio record. THE BLUE ROOM didn’t do as well as the first album but I really like it a lot, I don’t have a favorite although a lot of fans mention the first album I really don’t have a favorite between the two. The second album had a much bigger sound and production, I like those songs, it felt like the next logical step.
LRI: What was it like then to move forward and forget the whole concept of a group album and actually make your first solo album AUDIODOG in 2001? You were responsible for the whole daddy there from songs, to singing to artwork.
BK: It was hard and I felt the most vulnerable doing that but at the same time it is really kind of like jumping into a pool, at first you’re cold and wet but after a while you really get comfortable and enjoy it. I didn’t really have to rely on anyone else and really just went on my own instincts. I did work with Curt Cuomo again which made me even more comfortable I think and it’s hard to believe its been ten years but I am still very proud of AUDIODOG and glad that I decided to do it. It got me started on the path of actually realizing that I could be a solo artist and do things that way. It was definitely an eye opening experience and you’re right it was from cover art to songs a big thing to undertake but I realized I truly enjoyed doing it all.
LRI: You waited a couple of years and then released your second album TRANSFORMER, what changed did you want to make and how did you approach it differently?
BK: I think I just knew right away what the next step was. If you listen to them all there’s kind of a natural progression. At that point I had a little better idea of how to get the sounds and the production that I wanted. I started writing songs and I remember it because I was going through a big relationship issue that was very intense for me and all of the “love” songs ended up being really more “upset” songs you know? There was just a lot of drama for whatever reason, I was also real busy by that point with Grand Funk Railroad and I would find myself in these little hotel rooms writing and I really got into a writing mode and was able to finish that record very quickly. It just flowed and I felt like it was another step for me, another growth. I definitely think that without those two records I would never have been able to do something like my last album BK3.
LRI: BK3 is my favorite post KISS album that you’ve done. I just think it is SUCH a strong album and I hope it continues to do well for you. IF anyone has even a passing interest in you or KISS they owe it to themselves to listen to it. It’s been out for a year now but I still seem to be finding stuff on it that I like. It does seem like a gargantuan effort to line up all the guests that you did though. I mean you have Gene and Eric, the late Doug Feiger from the Knack, Steve Lukather and ALL of these people.
BK: Thanks for that but I really have to give a lot of the credit to Jeremy Rubolino my producer, he has that BIG vision, he’s actually related to Bob Ezrin so I think maybe he has that wacky mad professor type of brain. HE was very clear with me from the beginning that “We are gonna make the best damn Bruce album ever. Period!” (laughs). I’m glad that you like it, a lot of people seem to but that one was a lot more work. It cost a LOT of money, I had to redo lots of things a LOT of times, there was just a LOT more involved in making BK3 and it took years. Some of that was due to my schedule with Grand Funk I admit but you’re right in saying that album was a pretty elaborate effort. It also kept evolving and evolving, I would say “Ok, I wanna try using this studio that Steve Lukather” has to do this song and Jeremy would be like “Oh, ask him to play on the song” and I’m like “What?” and stuff like Eric Singer saying to me “Ask Gene to be on the album, he’ll do it, trust me, he’ll do it and next thing I know Gene is on the album and Gene says to me “Well, Bruce, Nick is an amazing singer, why don’t you record Nick” and so on. It just kept evolving and I am so happy with it. The packaging and artwork is exactly what I wanted, I used the same people that work with KISS, I used Neil Zlozower and Tom Jermann who’s worked on all these recent KISS albums. So it was a lot of work but it ended up being worth it.
LRI: Thanks for taking time out of your day for us Bruce. Last question: How are things in Grand Funk Railroad and how many of your old KISS fans are getting turned onto your live shows and worldwide touring?
BK: Things are great! Grand Funk was famous in an era that was even before KISS and a lot of fans who don’t know Grand Funk or haven’t seen us are like “Oh yeah, I know all those songs” when I start rattling off all the classic GFR tunes. These are really talented guys and a catalog of music that I grew up with and it’s just an amazing gig for me, these guys are just monster musicians and total pros. We have a helluva good time and when KISS fans come out they end up having a great time also. When the KISS fans show up they see a really tight rock and roll act, no there’s no bombs and huge light show or any of those KISS elements but it’s great music played by great musicians who really ENJOY what they’re doing. It’s really infectious and people end up walking away wanting to see us again. It’s a pleasure.