The Pop Culture Addict recently conducted an interview with former KISS and current GRAND FUNK RAILROAD guitarist Bruce Kulick. A few excerpts from the chat follow:
The Pop Culture Addict: You were saying that you're not in KISS anymore but anytime you can get involved that you still do. Now with Gene [Simmons] and Paul [Stanley] and the rest of the guys in the band, do you consider yourselves to be friends or just band mates? Is it a more professional relationship or is it something different?
Bruce: Well, it's more of a professional relationship. I mean, Gene's not the kind of guy that has friends in the way that you may have friends. Gene is all business. C'mon. He's a cool guy and he's funny and I have a lot of fond memories of having fun with him. Especially during the days that I was in the band but, y'know, when I say part of the family, to them that means everybody that they feel comfortable working with or everybody that they respect and that's great. I mean, how many people can say that they can call up Gene Simmons and get a real response. Paul, of course, is a little easier to get closer to in some ways. I've been doing these fantasy camp things as well, these Rock and Roll Fantasy Camps and Paul is scheduled to be a guest in February and as soon as I finished the August one, which was a lot of fun, I actually called Paul up just to make sure he knew that. [I said,] "Look, this is going to be a lot of fun," and I'm not sure what he knew or didn't know, [but I said,] "they'll make it as fun for you as possible too, because I'm involved." Those things I really do enjoy. They're hard work but they're very rewarding.
The Pop Culture Addict: Now correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like up until "Carnival of Souls", you really didn't get to sing and write a lot of KISS stuff. Is that true?
Bruce: Well, right. Well writing, I tried to do the most I could but each album was always a competitive thing between Gene and Paul. Sometimes Gene would be very open to writing with me. Sometime Paul would be. Sometimes they wouldn't be. Y'know, it was always a struggle that way. Like I got four co-writes on "Crazy Nights". It always depended on what was going on. Singing I never really asked about. The only reason I ended up singing "I Walk Alone" which I co-wrote was because, first of all, I had a great point of view about that song and at times it was doomed and we could never figure out what to do with certain sections to make it cohesive and I just never let go of it and I would present it to Gene and show him and go, "no, no, no, look, here's a new demo of it. What do you think?" And for reference I would sing it, and so the co-producer, Toby Wright, actually heard that and said, "y'know, Bruce should sing this," and I think Gene already knew that this might be my last hurrah in the band so... "I Walk Alone". So there you go.
The Pop Culture Addict: Do you ever feel that being in KISS at the time never let you grow or write as a singer?
Bruce: Oh no. I knew my role. It's like George Harrison understood. He was a brilliant song writer. He wrote "Something" and some other amazing songs but when you're in a band called THE BEATLES with McCartney and Lennon there may not be a lot of room for you. I'm not trying to compare KISS exactly with THE BEATLES but it's a loose analogy to give you an idea. I know I'm very creative and I can write songs and that why I've been so thorough with my solo albums. Look, I always wrote songs when I was in bands with Michael Bolton, BLACKJACK, and, in fact, one of their songs just got covered by Kanye West, the rap star. So I know what it's like to write songs, but my role in KISS was to be the lead guitarist and if I can contribute a few riffs and present a song, great, but if it doesn't fly and they're going to do it themselves I can't be kicking and screaming. I don't own the band. It wasn't my creation. Obviously, UNION, everything in UNION was almost all co-written by me with John [Corabi] and all the producers, and my solo records I'm writing all the material. So it's just the nature of that situation. That's all.
The Pop Culture Addict: Now in the case of Ace's [Frehley] makeup, did KISS ever ask you to put it on before Tommy Thayer?
Bruce: No. Y'know, it's a good question. Of course, fans always want to know if Eric Singer is in Peter's makeup then how come I'm not in Ace's makeup. Y'know, you got to remember the dynamics of how things were running with the band. You got Ace Frehley, who was so important to the history of the band, back in the band and back to being Ace. I mean he's going to have some problems. He's going to be maybe a little unreliable. One time Tommy had to suit up and be ready because Tommy was being the tour manager and helping out and working for the band. Tommy Thayer is a good guitarist. He taught Ace to help him get back in shape before the tour. He was in a tribute band. I mean, of course he had BLACK N' BLUE and it was a fine tribute band for that kind of style of music that was popular then, but he used to be in a tribute band called COLD GIN which I saw once and Jamie St. James, who was the singer in WARRANT, he played Peter Criss. And BLACK N' BLUE were a really terrific KISS tribute band and they actually went to Japan and toured a little bit. I had a friend who booked them in some places. So Tommy knew exactly what it was to be Ace Frehley. He did. And then one time, I know for sure, they made him get in the outfit because Ace missed his flight and it looked like he was going to miss the gig and they were not going to not play that gig. The manager made an announcement that Ace wasn't there and that Tommy was playing guitar.
The Pop Culture Addict: They did that with Peter.
Bruce: Yeah. They did that once and replace him with the roadie. Exactly. In the end, what I'm saying, is that Ace was stringing along with things and they think they have their guitarist and then they don't and it's like, y'know, it was easy for Tommy just to walk right into that situation. I mean, I had a great gig with GRAND FUNK. I mean if they approached me and I turned my back on my twelve years of being Bruce to suddenly be Ace Frehley it doesn't feel that great to me. On top of it is just as soon as Ace wants the gig back he just walks right into the gig and I'm losing all my GRAND FUNK gigs. So I'm kind of glad I wasn't asked. It would have been awkward. I would need some real security for the gig and I don't think that would be something they'd be ready to do — and Tommy, if he didn't end up being on stage with them he'd still be working for them.
Read the entire interview at www.popcultureaddict.com.