In 1998 I had the opportunity to interview Bruce Kulick for his new band ‘Union’ (which also featured John Corabi). This was a fun conversation, as I got to inquire about Bruce’s work with Billy Squier and Kiss, as well as the new album from him & Corabi in Union. A few months later Union played a club show over in Buffalo [or nearby….I can’t remember the name of it]. I went with a buddy, had a good time, got a few pics, as well I had Bruce sign my Alive 3 poster – I had had the other 3 Kiss signatures on it already, but at the Alive 3 promotional signing years before I had pulled out a Black Jack LP for Bruce to sign first and then when I pulled out the poster – security stepped in, as there was only 1 signature per guest. So, I was glad to get it signed and hang it it up. I interviewed Bruce again, some years later for his first solo album. I will follow this up with my Corabi interview I did for the release of Union’s 2nd album.
Bruce was with KISS from 1985 to ’95, making him the band’s longest serving guitar player. He is currently promoting his new project ‘UNION’, which features ex MOTLEY CRUE / SCREAM singer John Corabi, Canadian drummer Brent Fritz, and bassist Jamie Hunting. The band’s debut album on Mayhem Music is heavy, yet the songs retain a somewhat commercial edge and melody. Personally, I like it a lot more than the last KISS album! UNION is definitely a band to watch for in the near future!
Billy Squier – You played on his first album. What do you recall of that album?
I really like that album; I really enjoyed that record! He wanted to hire Brian May from QUEEN – and he knew Brian. So for him to settle on me, I was very flattered, as you can imagine. I saw him work very hard. That wasn’t the record that put him over the top, as you know, but there was good material on that album.
I thought that album was a little underrated.
Absolutely! But, you saw the talent the guy had, and the vision. It was just going to happen a year later on the next record. It was a good experience. He asked me to go on the road but I couldn’t because of my band with Michael Boltin at the time, which was called ‘BLACKJACK’. But it worked out. I might not have been available for KISS if I was on the road with Billy Squier.
You did “Rich Kid” on that album, your brother did Paul Stanley’s album and the tracks on “Killers” (KISS). that riff on “Rich Kid” is very similar to “Tonite You Belong To Me” (from Stanley’s album) and “Nowhere To Run” (from Killers).
Well, Paul’s solo record was in some ways like the style Billy Squier was doing at the time, so there was a common thread there – which is just like really cool poppy-rock ‘n’ roll. And they knew each other; they were part of that whole New York scene, New York – Boston.
Regarding KISS, what were some highs and lows of your time with the band?
There was some very exciting times! Like playing Madison Square Gardens, doing Donnington in England, Maple Leaf Gardens – that was fun too. Certain places like South America, traveling to Japan, having kids camp outside your hotel, you know! And going to Europe, Sweden with everybody screaming and stuff! A lot of that kinda stuff. And also doing some cool TV shows like Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien – all those kind of highlights! I guess the only lows I had was obviously that sometimes the relative success of the albums being up and then down. Another highlight was the MTV Unplugged thing, and that also became bitter sweet because that pushed the reunion thing that happened, so that of course being the ultimate low.
Any favorite tracks or albums?
“Unholy”, “Forever”, “Tears Are Falling”. A lot of stuff from Revenge – I really dug. There’s a couple of things on Carnival that really showcased me; so again throughout all the albums there’s some things that stand out.
Did you ever get, I wouldn’t say upset, but a little miffed by perhaps being overshadowed musically by the mystique that surrounded Kiss, a lot of the hype and that??
There’s no doubt there’s a shadow of the make-up era which has not as much to do about music as that ‘set’ element of Kiss – which is an important one, even though I still feel the band was able to hold it’s own as an exciting rock group. But it turns out that’s a part of the band you can’t shake from it. No matter how much you’re pictured without make-up and then going on out there just like any other band. I still think there was a certain attitude and style of the band without make-up that was very different; but it’s hard to compete with platform boots and rockets shooting out of your guitar, and the ‘space’ out-fits, ya know!? And I’m not saying that to take anything away from that; all that’s entertaining and exciting, but it does create a certain thing that you can’t even compare with it, because you’re not playing in the same field. Eric Carr had the ‘fox’ for a while, and even Vinnie (Vincent) became a make-up character, and I think that worked, but I never had that opportunity, and the band never put the make-up on with me, so it was a different form of the band.
Did you ever feel your own playing got over-shadowed by Gene and Paul doing all the interviews and everything?
I knew, press-wise, that the story would always be Gene and Paul’s thing, ’cause they created the band. And even with the make-up and reunion thing – they mostly do the interviews. I’m just really proud that obviously, with UNION, I have a lot to say and a lot to be proud of! You know, the press are going to choose where they feel the story is.
Do you still have contact or connections with the (KISS) guys at all?
Yes, everything’s been really cool with the guys. I just recently gave them a couple of the discs, advanced CDs, and Paul asked me to help him on some of his songwriting demos – to decide which songs he was going to present for the next album. So, that was kinda cool. He’s very comfortable with me, and I really enjoyed playing guitar with him; we know how to communicate that way. So he hired me to do that kind of work, and that’s exciting!
You’ve probably been asked this a million times, but can you clarify – regarding ‘Creatures Of The Night’ – if and what you played on that album?
Actually, I played nothing on that album. At the time Ace wasn’t in the band, so they had a lot of different players on that record; from Dick Wagner to Robin Ford! He played the solos on a couple of things like “I Still Love You”. And Steve Ferris, the guy from MR MISTER, played the solo on the song “Creatures Of The Night”. But basically what happened on that record was they didn’t know what was going on with Ace, and it was obvious, I think, he was going to leave or whatever. That was a good record that got over-looked. And then later, when I joined, I think they said “OK – let’s put a new cover on with the non make-up band. Since you do some of these songs maybe we can sell it like that!” – which was a stupid idea! But, the record companies will always look at ways to try and increase the profits and sales. But, I think it was a mistake that they did it; and there I am on the picture. I didn’t ask to do it, you know!?
Have you read any of the KISS books that have come out recently?
“Black Diamond” – I read. That was kinda cool! I have “Kiss and Sell” – but have not read it yet, next plane ride I’ll take it along. And I still haven’t read “Kisstory”, …but I was there – I know it! (ha ha).
How was the Black Diamond book?
I did find some things that weren’t actually correct, but I realize he’s relying on a lot of different things. It’s kinda weird to read about a situation you’re so close to. I did enjoy it though!
Thoughts on ‘Carnival Of Souls’??
I’m really happy that it came out, of course, because it was so heavily bootlegged, and there was songs missing on the bootleg, the sound quality was terrible. I wanted people to hear it the way we recorded it and mixed it. I spent a lot of time working on that record; we all worked very hard on it. I’m a little disappointed with the packaging, but when I weigh that against whether it’d be out or not – I’m thrilled to death! So, overall I really can’t complain about it – I’m just excited that it finally got released in it’s full sonic glory.
I love “I Walk Alone”. “Jungle” is great! “Master And Slave”. There’s some really interesting playing from me, a lot of different songs. There’s nothing I really dislike on the record. It was certainly a very heavy – dark album. And Toby, the guy who produced it with the band, and mixed it – even mixed it really dark. But I think it stands on it’s own for what it was.
What influenced some of the heavier – darker sounds on it, compared to previous albums?
“Revenge” had some darker stuff on it, maybe not quite as dark as this, but we were kinda getting more into some heavy riffs, and it wasn’t calculated. It was like – I came up with a lot of really dark riffs, which was fun to do. “Childhood’s End” and “I Walk Alone” certainly aren’t that dark sounding at all. But, it just evolved as a real guitar heavy – crunchy record. We’d fooled around with alternate tunings before, but everybody was writing some really heavy riffs in some of those tunings, so it just went a little bit on the heavy side there.
What’s the story behind you and John [Corabi] meeting? Did the high profiles play a part?
Well, on paper – of course the high profiles look like – “wow! this could be cool!”, but it wouldn’t have mattered how cool we look on paper if we didn’t get along and realize we’re into the same kinda music, you know!? And that was the beauty – as soon as I started playing a riff he responded well. We were both having a lot of personal things in our lives, we were in upheaval at the time, and both had careers in a new direction – not knowing where we were heading with. So, there was a lot to bond over. And it turned out that the music just came together very easily – very easy to create, and it was obvious that we were meant to work together.
Was it easy to find a deal?
It was a little difficult. Our first batch we didn’t really play for a lot of people, but we had a couple of acoustic songs on it, and people didn’t understand, you know – “what are they doing?”. But we had to keep writing, and by then we shopped a real cool tape – 4 songs. There was some people at real major labels that really liked it, but there was no way they were going to get it past their ‘higher ups’, because very few rock bands in the whole sense of what UNION is about have been signed of late, and I think they’re missing out. But “Mayhem” got it right away. This is what we’re into, and this is what we want to do. We didn’t try to calculate the market or create something that’s like “OK – this is what the labels are looking for!” We didn’t do a KISS or MOTLEY record because we’re not Kiss or Motley – we’re UNION!
The band’s based on you and John. How much of a part did Jamie and Brett play?
Both of them are very creative. In the sense of songwriting, they weren’t actually involved as songwriters, but certainly they were very creative on their instruments. Jamie’s a really great bass player and moves around in a really cool fashion. He’s definitely a master at his instrument. At times, because he was re-creating some of the demos, because he came in a little later, he had to take some suggestions from me, and I think he was appreciative a lot, because he knew it worked. And Brent was there a little earlier, so some of the beats that are on the record were right there from the ‘formative stages’ – so to say. We’re really proud of their contributions – John and I. It is a band; I wouldn’t want anyone to think that they’re just hired guns. We’re gonna sink or swim all together on this, and profit or not together. We’re not in a position to ‘hire anybody”, so we’re all along for the ride, bumpy or not!
How does the songwriting work with you and John?
Well, generally – he’d play me a riff, I’d play him a riff; he’d come up with something and I’d go “what’s that?”, you know. And off we’d go. Sometimes we’d have a song done in a half an hour, sometimes it would take 3 days. We really worked hard on it, and our co-producer – Kirk Cuomo, got involved in writing and helped out – did a lyric that was missing, an inception or a bridge. We all really worked hard on it.
You both play guitar and (presumably) sing!?
I’m not as strong of a singer as John, but yes.
Is there a lot of duo guitar on the record, or do you do most of the guitar work?
John is just about on every song, on a rhythm track as a scruff guitar, so he was very involved in, you know – “laying that track”. I did more work on guitars, because that’s my job. John’s a good guitarist, very valuable for the whole situation.
I’ll tell you, I’ve had the album for about a week now and I quite like it because it’s got the heaviness of the last Kiss album, and it’s got a certain ‘rawness’ – production wise. And it’s also got a lot of melody and it’s very radio accessible, I think.
Not to put down the last Kiss album, but “Union” is a lot more accessible as far as the harmonies.
I think Union overall – is a bit more melodic than Carnival… Again, it’s not intentional, it’s just what we wanted to do.
What are some of your favorite tracks?
I love ’em all – I gotta tell you! There’s certain songs that really feature me.
Anything that stands out as far as being a single?
I think “Old Man Wise” is great start to show people – “hey – we kick ass, and here we are!” It’s got some real catchy riffs and parts in there. “October Morning Wind” is a very cool acoustic song that I can hear it crossing over. “Pain Behind Your Eyes” has definitely got a very catchy hook that people seem to remember and point out to me as being real hooky. I love “Let It Flow” because of the whole ‘opus’ of it. It’s a long song, with a lot of guitars and stuff. But like I said – I dig all the songs. “Tangerine” – sometimes I can’t get that out of my head! I just dig the album, you know!?
And even the ballad type songs like “Love Don’t Need Anymore” have got quite a bit of bite to them.
Any favorite guitar solos?
The stuff on Let It Flow – I’m really quite proud of. There’s a couple of different solos in the songs and each one is a different level of intensity, shall I say!? One’s where I’m showing off a little more classic melody type of thing, and then like Jimmy Page, and then I kinda brewed some nasty unholy thing with the wah-wah. So, it was kinda nice to spread out on that and play a couple of different things. I think the solo on “Empty Soul” was cool. I’m proud of them all! There’s even a little ‘trip of the back-woods’ thing in the song “Get Off My Cloud”. So for all you classic guitarists trying to figure it out – you’re not gonna get it buddy! (ha ha).
“October Morning Wind” – was that Zeppelin influenced at all?
Actually, when I came up with the music for that I was thinking of an old Cream song that had this half-step kind of acoustic thing going on. I forget the title now. Anything from that era I’m turned on to!
Favorite guitar players?
Oh, definitely – Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen, Brian May…there’s a few there!
Anything to add?
I just want to thank all the Kiss fans who have been supportive over these years, and I hope that they give Union a shot, and they come to check us out live. Mayhem’s really behind us, so if you have any trouble finding it – they have a ‘888’ number (which is toll-free). For this kind of music we need everybody to make the effort. It’s us vs the Spice Girls, you know!? (ha ha!)