In an extensive new interview with music writer Joel Gausten, former KISS and current GRAND FUNK RAILROAD guitarist Bruce Kulick discusses various topics, including the recent release of the "Got To Get Back" EP with his very first band KKB, the new vinyl version of his 2010 solo album "BK3" and the 30th anniversary of KISS's "Asylum" album.
Of course, Kulick wasn't a complete stranger to the KISS camp before becoming a member in 1984. His brother, Bob — a renowned session player whose credits include everyone from Lou Reed to W.A.S.P. — had a long history with the band dating back to 1973, when he first auditioned for the spot taken by original KISS guitarist Ace Frehley. Later, he played on Paul Stanley's 1978 solo album, co-wrote the song "Naked City" for KISS's 1980 "Unmasked" album and contributed guitar session work to the KISS releases "Alive II" (1977) and "Killers" (1982). Despite this longstanding family connection, Kulick didn't gain true insight into the inner workings of KISS until he landed the job and started working alongside Stanley and Gene Simmons, who both co-produced "Asylum".
"It was kind of funny; I didn't really know how they worked together as a band," he recalls. "I had a little bit of a taste of working with Paul in the studio, because I did some of the ghost guitar work on [1984's] 'Animalize'. I never actually worked in the studio with Gene [before 'Asylum']. I saw them one time [in the studio] when they were doing 'Creatures Of The Night', because my brother and I visited. My job as the lead guitarist was, look, I knew they were the principal creators of KISS. Not to take anything away from Ace and [original drummer] Peter [Criss], but you know that Gene and Paul were always really the driving forces in the band. They really had a vision for a rock band that could be huge, and they succeeded. I was just going to, basically, do my job... I was just that guy who could interpret what they wanted and then be able to create and lay it down there. I didn't go in, really, with any expectation except for doing the best job I could."
As Kulick soon learned, doing the job well meant balancing the creative directions and demands of two different personalities.
"Gene would work any day — no matter [if it was] a holiday or weekend — and Paul would want the weekend off," he says. "I remember one time, I think I worked 22, 25 days in a row in the studio, being passed back and forth between the two of them! It truly was exciting for me.
"Paul was a little more methodical about how he wanted to work," he continues. "Like [on] 'Tears Are Falling', I love the solo that I came up with [for] it. Some of it was definitely [from] some ideas from my music vocabulary, but some of it was very clearly his melodic approach to what a lead guitar could do"
"Asylum"'s arrival on record store shelves coincided with the height of glam-metal mania in the United States. Although KISS's fashion sense circa 1985 was indicative of the era, the band's gradual transition from Clown White makeup to Aqua Net Pink hairspray was still a shock to many of the band's original fans. The band's willingness to embrace then-current trends was reflected by the record's cover — a hyper-glam design created by longtime KISS art director Dennis Woloch that is said to have been inspired by the imagery used for THE MOTELS' "Shock" album.
"I was concerned about the cover, even though I didn't have a problem with it," Kulick admits. "That era had a lot of neon colors in it, but for a KISS album, it was a little odd. At least this time, everybody knew who was playing on a KISS album, whereas I toured with them [for 'Animalize'] and nobody was sure who they were seeing. At least I got my foot in the door of, 'Now the real lead guitar player in the band is Bruce Kulick.'"
The complete interview is available at www.joelgausten.com.