In a new interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, former KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick confirmed that he "wasn't asked to be" at the band's final show last month and "wasn't invited" to attend the event, which was held at New York City's Madison Square Garden. He said in part: "I think the tone for that, I was kind of well aware of, back when they announced the final shows. They were saying, 'The final 50 — here it is.' Doc [McGhee, longtime KISS manager] went on one of the good podcasts that I know and someone asked, 'What about Bruce Kulick?' 'Well, KISS isn't a jam band,' is kind of where he went with it. In other words, pooh-poohing me getting up there and playing with them. Well, you know, I played with them on the Kiss Kruise, okay? I played with them with Ace [Frehley, original KISS guitarist] on the Kiss Kruise. All right, granted, it was unplugged and it was a sail away show, which on the Kiss Kruise, is supposed to be unique. Then, I played electric with them too. I don't jam."
He continued: "Doc doesn't love my era or get my era, because he had nothing to do with that and that's fine. Doc's always been really cool with me and I know how important he is to the big vision of what KISS has done past my era. But I just felt like, if he's going to say that KISS doesn't jam … and to get Bruce up there, that would be jamming, it's just a nice way of saying, 'We're not putting anybody else on stage with them.' I get that, okay? I do. I wasn't looking for a magical [moment to] plug in and play with them on stage, even though the fans would lose their mind — I really believe that. But it doesn't matter. I tried to sit back and look at the last night and see what the fans were going to say. Because I already knew that I wasn't invited.
"I will admit, it was a bit awkward when some friends who I know get the opportunity to be backstage. 'Hey, Bruce, are you in New York? Am I going to see you later?' 'No, but have a great time.' You know what I mean? What am I supposed to say, other than that? I do want everyone to have a great time. It means a lot to me to see that the fans [still enjoy it]. It was ironic that right before the big event, I was flying back from a GRAND FUNK [RAILROAD] show when everybody was heading to New York. I said to [my wife] Lisa, 'Hey, that's kind of like the Kiss Kruise I didn't get invited to.' Because everyone's going somewhere. It's like, the port is now Madison Square Garden and New York City.
"For me, the final show, the fans really have spoken," Bruce added. "I really think a lot of them were disappointed leaving the show. I know that some of them knew that probably Ace, Peter [Criss, original KISS drummer] or maybe even me wouldn't be there. But they never said anyone's names. They didn't even mention all of the other important people in their career like Bill Aucoin or even Doc McGhee or other important [figures] that are part of Kisstory — the people that helped the band be so successful. I'm not going to crash the party and go when I wasn't invited. It was certainly their night. I really celebrated their last night with my post on social media, congratulating them on their final show. You know, it's their night to do what they wanted."
In 1984, Bruce joined KISS, where he remained as their lead guitarist for twelve years, accompanying the band on the "Animalize" tour and continuing with the band until the 1996 reunion tour. Bruce is heavily featured on "Kissology – Vol. 2" and "Vol. 3", the band's DVDs spanning their historic 45-year career.
In an April 2020 interview with Sleaze Roxx, Kulick said that he was "relieved" he wasn't approached to rejoin the band after Frehley left for good back in 2001.
"When I had to leave in '96 after the success of the KISS 'Unplugged' performance, people were aware of the musicianship that existed in the band between Eric Singer [drums] and I, but after 20 years of people hearing about KISS in makeup, it was kind of like 'Star Wars' when it was rebooted people went to see what it was all about," he said. "I understood that it was the original guys, they put the makeup on and people were excited to either see it again or see it for the first time. That carried on, then it carried on and it carried on. [Laughs] It then reached a point where Gene [Simmons] and Paul [Stanley] couldn't continue with Peter [Criss] so they called on Eric Singer to step into the role and the makeup.
"Eric is such a tremendous drummer," he continued. "I was genuinely happy for him. I still am. Then when Ace started dropping the ball, it was seamless for them to go with Tommy Thayer who does such a fantastic job as the 'Spaceman.'
"If I had been asked to step into the 'Spaceman' role, it would have been really awkward for me. I get asked by the fans a lot, 'Well, why aren't you there?' I think Tommy stepping into the role was a lot more natural than Bruce Kulick becoming the 'Spaceman' and shooting rockets off of my guitar. I would have had to play the songs note for note like Ace. I don't think I could do that and remain happy in the band. Tommy does that to perfection. I was never required to learn the classic stuff note for note, but if you're going to be the 'Spaceman,' it would have to stay true to the way Ace plays it. That's not to say that I don't play the classic songs with respect. I play the GRAND FUNK RAILROAD songs with respect, while injecting my own style into them, like I did in my time in KISS. I would lose my 'liberties' if I stepped into the 'Spaceman' role.
"I'm friends with Tommy, Bruce added. "We've gotten closer over the years on the 'Kiss Kruise'. We've spoken a lot on the 'Kruise'. He once said to me, 'Hey, I never got into the Floyd Rose whammy bar thing. How do you play 'Crazy Nights'?' I said, 'Don't worry about it. Play it how you play it. It's what works for you. I don't take any offense and you don't need to copy how I do it.'
"Tommy's style is so much closer to Ace's than mine. I have a unique style to my approach you can hear it on 'Tears Are Falling', 'Who Wants To Be Lonely', 'Unholy' and even the acoustic solo on 'Forever'. I am proud of my body of work for that era of KISS. I'm embracing it. The fans are embracing it. It's all good."
Kulick went on to say that he is at peace with the fact that he will never be part of the makeup era of KISS.
"I was relieved [when they didn't ask me to step in after Ace left]," he said. "I think if I had been asked and done it, I think it would hurt. I know that Tommy and Eric avoid… I'm close to both but I'm closer with Eric. They avoid reading things online. Their best medicine is to just do a great job every night and not read that stuff. I'm shocked that sometimes someone will leave a snarky comment toward me. I'm, like, 'Really?' I don't get into that stuff and I don't like anything negative on social media and I never do or post anything negative. I won't allow anything negative. There's times I read something and I choose to ignore it. Everyone has a voice these days. They have a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone.
"I was relieved, but how could I not have 'entertained' the idea if I was asked? At the time when they swooped Tommy right in, I was already in GRAND FUNK RAILROAD and I was and still am pretty happy with my role in the band. Sure, it wasn't KISS, but it's a great gig. Now think of it from this angle. Let's say they made the right proposition and I took it, then Ace wanted back into the band. Where would that have left me? No KISS gig and no gig in GRAND FUNK."