June 18, 2008

Guitarist Bruce Kulick was recently interviewed live onstage at the 22nd annual NY/NJ Kiss Expo by the mysterious Maul Stanley (a parody hybrid of "Star Wars" character Darth Maul and KISS guitarist/vocalist Paul Stanley; see below). Part serious interview and part comedy roast, the exchange has been transcribed and is now available online. In the first half of this two-part feature, Bruce discusses his dismissal from KISS, his work on the "Carnival of Souls" album and his memories of late KISS guitarist Mark St. John. A few excerpts from the interview follow:

Maul Stanley: Even though you officially joined KISS during the "Animalize" tour, you did in fact play some guitar on the album itself. Were you brought in before or after Mark St. John and at the time did you know you were being considered for the band?

Bruce Kulick: No, Mark had already been announced as the guitar player for "Animalize" when I was brought in. I know that he was having some health problems, plus I think Paul didn't like some of the stuff he was playing on one song, maybe a song and a half. That's when they asked me to come in and help out. As everyone knows, Mark then became ill so they asked me to fill in for him on tour. Along the way, they started to think that maybe I was the right man for the job and that's how my time in KISS got its start!

Maul Stanley: Was it weird being on tour with KISS, knowing that the man you replaced was hanging around backstage?

Bruce Kulick: Well, I tried to handle it in a very positive way. Mark was always cool with me and I was always cool with him. I didn't want to make it a competition and I didn't want it to seem like I was his adversary. We actually used to jam backstage. After touring Europe for six weeks in the fall, KISS had returned to tour the U.S. We started in Pennsylvania and I think Mark was on the road with us for about three weeks. He learned the show by watching it every night. When they finally tested him out onstage a couple of times, that's when they realized that it probably wasn't going to work out with him. In the end, I simply had the home court advantage because I'd already been out touring with the band. So at the end of 1984, Gene and Paul asked me to officially join KISS.

Maul Stanley: When was the last time you saw Mark St. John before his untimely demise last year?

Bruce Kulick: It was probably when we did a KISS expo together a few years back. We had a good time hanging out but he seemed a little unsure of himself that day. Somebody would ask him a question and he wouldn't know the answer, so I'd have to answer it for him. It was truly sad to lose him last year and even though Mark wasn't destined to remain in KISS, he left his mark on the band by playing on a great record.

Maul Stanley: What is the status of your long-delayed autobiography "Honorary Discharge"? You've been promising that for about 10 years now. Is it really not finished yet or are you just waiting for Axl Rose to release "Chinese Democracy"?

Bruce Kulick: That would make sense! When Axl finally puts out that record, I'll have no choice but to finish my book! In truth, the book already has about 24 chapters written. However, it's been at least six years since I actually worked on it, mostly because the music itself always takes priority for me. Even though I think I have a fabulous story to tell, somewhere along the way I seemed to lose my passion for writing it all down. Having said that, I know that at some point the time will be right to at last finish it up.

As for the other stuff I have going on, I'm still performing in GRAND FUNK RAILROAD, who will be playing in Atlantic City at The Hilton this summer. I'm also producing some exciting new artists, all of whom can be found on my MySpace page. And of course, I'm also still working on my newest solo album "BK3". In general, I'm still doing everything I love to do, playing guitar and creating music.

Maul Stanley: Will Eraldo Carugati be painting the cover of your new solo album?

Bruce Kulick: I don't think so! Actually, I don't know what I want to do with that yet. Even though a few friends and fans have shown me some designs, I probably won't know what I want until I get closer to releasing the album.

Maul Stanley: Gene Simmons has always maintained that he has never once been drunk or high. If that is true, how did he ever agree to let you sing a lead vocal on "Carnival of Souls"?

Bruce Kulick: Well, I didn't really drug him... although it did take a fair amount of prodding! I think by then, Gene and Paul already knew that the reunion would be happening so they just kind of threw me a bone!

For whatever reason, I just never wanted to let go of that song, "I Walk Alone". First I sang on the demo, so we'd have a point of reference. We tried the song a couple of different ways and even worked on a version with Bob Ezrin. It was nuts! Our producer on "Carnival of Souls" was Toby Wright, who had previously worked with KORN and ALICE IN CHAINS. He was actually the one who thought it would be cool if I sang the song. Even though it might not sound like a typical KISS track, he liked it when everyone in KISS would sing a song on the records. So Toby was the one who really pushed for me to record the vocals. And believe me, I was petrified! Obviously, I've learned to sing a lot better since then but thankfully my voice seemed to work for the track.

I do love that song, by the way. The lyrics are actually very appropriate. Since the reunion happened shortly thereafter, I truly did walk alone! So I suppose it all made sense in the grand scheme of things.

Maul Stanley: Since it was Eric Singer who suggested in 1995 that Peter Criss sit in and jam with the band during the official Kiss Konvention tour, it safe to assume that you blame Eric for getting you both fired from KISS?

Bruce Kulick: Well, I know that Eric's suggestion was innocent enough. If it hadn't been him, it would have been somebody else. In fact, it was MTV who really pushed for the reunion to happen. At the time, they were still on top of the world and exposure on the network still meant a lot.

The official Kiss Konventions were a very unique thing. Imagine going to a KISS expo and having the real KISS there, answering questions and playing live and the whole 9 yards. I don't know if you saw the one at Roseland in New York City, but it was absolutely incredible. It didn't even matter that tickets were $100 each, which at the time seemed exorbitant! The Kiss Konventions were something special and Gene and Paul really wanted MTV to cover them. We had been getting such a great response to performing acoustically that they wanted to do an episode of "Unplugged". MTV liked the idea, but they also wanted to do it as a reunion. So even though you could say it was Eric's fault that things happened the way they did, it was really more of a business decision on the part of the band.

Maul Stanley: How long after the taping of "Kiss: Unplugged" before you realized you should start looking for a job?

Bruce Kulick: Well, at the time we were still moving forward with "Carnival of Souls", so technically that version of the band was still in existence. It wasn't until Eric and I had our meeting with Gene and Paul months later that we were made aware of their reunion plans. They paid us for a year so there really wasn't as much pressure as you'd think. Honestly, I never thought I'd be in KISS for 12 months, let alone 12 years. I knew it wouldn't last forever and I'd always kind of assumed they'd put the makeup back on at some point. In the end, they still took care of Eric and me, so for that I feel very fortunate and grateful. Personally, I was very proud of "Kiss: Unplugged" so at least I went out on a high note!

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