KissFAQ: Bruce, let's start with the end of the "Asylum" tour in April 1986, your first tour supporting an album you were fully involved with. How had that tour compared with the "Animalize" outing and what kind of head space were you in as it finished?
Bruce Kulick: I very much felt by the end of the "Animalize" tour that the word was out that KISS had a new guitarist. It was very confusing period, there had been such a revolving door [of guitarists]. They got Mark St. John for the album and then of course he had his illness and the next thing you know I'm filling in and doing all the dates. There was a short period there where Mark was kind of given the shot when he got well in America, and that was pretty weird, but you know, it was probably something that KISS needed to do contractually. And then the gig was mine, but we didn't share information back in '84 the way we do now so it took a long time for people to really know what was going on. That was the great thing about moving forward from "Animalize," a very successful album and tour.
There's always been a bit of a feeling that "Asylum" has been judged unfairly due to its cover art and associated image rather than the contents of the music; which was definitely in the sort of the hard rock vane you'd expect from KISS at the time. As a band, had you discussed the album's reception on the road, considering, "Maybe this isn't the right image for us. We need to start thinking about the next change for how we approach our next album?"
I don't think we ever really just pointed a finger at the artwork, even though we were aware there might have been a little bit of a disconnect. I thought Paul was being very creative. If you think of the colors, it was in touch with what was happening then with the neon style of that era. We do know one thing, fashion changes all the time of course. It has to! I noticed lately that John Varvatos -- who are connected to KISS of course -- started offering all this Animalize-like print stuff, the leopard print and everything. Duh! I looked at that I went, "Wait a minute!" Not that it ever went completely out of fashion; but you get my point here, that there are cycles in style.
I didn't think the cover was that crazy. I thought the faces looked so large and the biggest thing that the band had stress, and we had to laugh, about was that Eric Carr got the smallest part of square footage on the cover. But I thought the record had some great tracks on it. In some ways I think it could have been mixed even a little heavier, but we didn't just point a finger at the cover or image. When the tour did start we did have some drop in sales with the attendance. When we tried some new songs from that album they didn't always go over [with the audience]. That was always a big thing with KISS: What the set should have when we're out there for a new tour, how many new songs, but sadly new songs never really survive that much unless they have teeth like "Crazy Crazy Nights" did. It was a big hit in Europe, so of course it was always going to be in the set. I still think that it was a little confusing why "Asylum" didn't do at least as well as "Animalize." I really don't know.
You know what, you guys didn't look that much different than say Mötley Crüe or W.A.S.P, or so many of the bands at the time. Even Bon Jovi...
It was the thing. I think maybe the market got saturated back then with a lot of good bands doing a lot of good stuff. I'd hate to in any way think that a KISS fan was turned off to by the record because of the cover. I'm not going there.
So the tour, the "Asylum" tour ends; what's your recollection of the band's plans at the time? Was there an initial plan just to do the usual rinse and repeat of take a little break and then be in the studio by the summer or was it always planned that there was going to be a substantial break between the end of the "Asylum tour and hitting the studio with Ron Nevison to start work on "Crazy Nights?"
You know, the details that you're asking about, I don't really remember if there was a conscious decision that, "Oh, we need a break here." But looking back, the "Asylum" tour did present some struggles for Gene and Paul. I'd be a fool to think I really knew what happened in between the two, but first off the stage had to change a lot. The initial floor, the one with our faces, was too slippery. The first three weeks of "Asylum" tour was tumultuous. The lightning bolt staircases were a hazard. Then, the attendance was not 100 percent or as big as "Animalize." All of a sudden, financially Gene and Paul looked at, "How can we make this more efficient?" That's smart. Who wants to go in a hole over an overabundance of stage components that weren't really working?
Absolutely, tours are challenging and you have to adapt to the market and work out the kinks. Did that play into a shift in thinking for the next album?
So things kept changing. I think the smartest link from "Asylum" to "Crazy Nights," was it was probably more Paul than Gene's decision to seek out someone like Ron Nevison, a proven hit rock record producer of that era. But I wouldn't be surprised if some of that direction came from the feeling that, "We're not invincible." Perhaps there was some licking the wounds from "Asylum." Even though there great songs and it's still a well received record in KISStory, things didn't go as well we hoped; they maybe went down a notch. So, maybe we have to come out of the gate with something better on the next album, which was "Crazy Nights."
Do you remember a change of direction being communicated to you that you were going to basically try and do a KISS version of "Slippery When Wet," by becoming more radio accessible material with "Crazy Nights?"
I really think the only thing discussed was that Ron Nevison, the successes that he had with Ozzy and Heart, I don't remember all of his resume, but it was decided, "Let's go in that direction." I did learn from KISS, and Gene and Paul were the people that are successful. Most of the time the reason why they're successful is because they understand how to do something well. During my years, Paul always played a larger part in many things than Gene; because he was the most uncomfortable without the makeup and got involved with the Hollywood thing -- movies and acting. Paul continued to be more the decision maker of the band, but Paul didn't have a lot of other aspirations and Gene did. Paul worked really hard.
With Gene's external activities taking up so much time, and maybe more importantly artistic energy, it's not surprising perhaps that Paul felt he had to take the load on his shoulders more?
I have a "Crazy Nights" demo cassette, pre-studio sessions with Ron Nevison, that had nine songs on it. What's ironic about it is that a lot of the songs did wind up on the record. Not all nine, but the point is, as far as Paul was concerned, he didn't care if nine of them were on the album, and then just let Gene have one. That was very clear from Paul. It was not out of disrespect to Gene, it was just that he was really dialed in. He was going to work with hit songwriters.
What sorts of songs were included at that time?
I do have a scan of that cassette cover. I can't remember exactly probably "Time Traveler" was on it and some of the other songs that you've known about, but didn't make "Crazy Nights." I don't even know if "Sword & Stone" was on there. Paul was very driven to use Ron and have Ron guide us to success and in many ways I think Ron delivered.
There's a certain impression that for the parameters that Ron was given, he certainly more than delivered in terms of the finished product, and that Paul (in particular) was not unhappy with what the resulting product was.
No and even if Gene was, it certainly fit that era. I was happy to work with a producer. I thought left to their own devices, even though it's always more Paul that decides things in the studio. He'll let Gene do what he wants to do on his songs, but in the same way, he's still going to play more of the bigger "producer" role from what I've seen with KISS. But Paul was very happy with Ron. Gene was petrified, he thought Ron was going to water it down and I think that even Nevison had said he wished there was a little more bottom end on the record.
Yes, he has.
Maybe if it was mixed a little differently. But, again, for that era it sounds fine. Look, hindsight's always 20/20 -- we know that! I thought it was appropriate and most importantly, he allowed me to be very well featured. You know, he was sometimes a little crusty in the studio. He didn't really know me that well and he was clearly working more for Paul and Gene than me. So we had some an interesting relationship and dynamics, but Ron delivered a solid record in his vision. I think it holds up very well 30 years on.
When I think about you in KISS, and reaching the high point with your guitar playing, I often think "Revenge" and the really aggressive guitars very much in forefront of the sound. Going back and listening to "Crazy Nights," there's a lot of guitar work on that album, Bruce, an amazing amount of texture and variety on there. So, as a guitarist how do you approach working with Ron and also having keyboards more present in the mix to make sure that you're still in the picture?
I was never really concerned once I heard the way Ron always featured the lead player of some of the other bands that he had success with. Keyboards were very much a part of that era. I was always a huge Van Halen fan, in some ways I was a "1984" on. "Jump" was just such a killer track to me and Eddie was playing keyboards, which was very new for them. But like Journey, there were so many other bands that used keyboards effectively that still had a stellar lead guitar player. I didn't see the keys as a threat. I knew that Ron still needed powerful solos.
And that sort of Van Halen-esque power was very much present in songs like "No, No, No." How did that one come about?
I don't really remember how and why I wound up doing a solo guitar introduction to "No, No, No," but I certainly welcomed it. Maybe it was because Van Halen was known for a solo guitar, but he posed no threat that way to me. It all seemed natural. That record is a lot of guitars and textures, but a guy like Ron Nevison is going to really work with everybody and get the best out of them. Just because you have keyboards there doesn't mean the guitars take a backseat.
I was just kind of wondering if the keyboards was something that motivating you, not really as a threat, but whether you thought that you had to work even harder in conjunction with the keyboards since they add an extra dynamic in the song's musicality?
I think really the keyboards were just another kind of pad. I laughed one time "No, No, No" was mentioned in a review in a stereo magazine. It was pretty cool that they were actually discussing a rock record, when most of the time they just get into more like classical or maybe jazz, the guy said that the "synthesizer" introduction of "No, No, No," with the hammer-on part, obviously, was very creative. I was like, "Wait a minute, that's just my guitar with a little chorus effect on it." It just showed their ignorance. I think it all worked together.
I have to tell you the story of Gene's face during mixing when we were adding a sample to the snare, whenever the snare was played of the drums. It was kind of a strange sounding drum machine sample that he just added in. It was just blended in so that it wouldn't be like, "Oh yeah, I hear it." If we had the multi-track tapes, then probably I could point it out, but I remember Gene's face. It was as if he was crying and cowering in the corner of the room. You know, "What are you doing!?" Gene's probably responsible for the big drums on "Creatures," so I get it. But it was just the texture that Ron wanted to add that was probably part of his radio rock friendly formula that put many gold and platinum records on the wall for him. What Ron was doing, I understood Gene's concern, but it wasn't so excessive. Gene's grimace was horrifying! Even Eric Carr wasn't that freaked out about it, you know. Paul was probably smiling because he's putting the "Nevison" magic on it.
Eric was probably used to that sort of studio "magic" by that point anyway, because Allan Schwartzberg had previously come in to do drum overdubs like that on both "Animalize" and "Asylum."
I don't remember about "Asylum" anything different for Eric, but definitely "The Elder." There were a lot of things going on for Eric, so who knows? Everyone should know who's a big KISS fan, Gene and Paul always looked at KISS the way the Beatles looked at the Beatles. McCartney played a lead guitar solo if needed. McCartney might have played drums on some tracks that we think are Ringo. Or even a session guy who was involved in the very beginning [Ed. Andy White] because George Martin wasn't so sure Ringo had the right swing. In other words, nothing was sacred. It was about the song and the performance. Of course, to be replaced by a drum machine later on "Hot in the Shade" on a couple songs; I thought that was not necessary. But yeah, Eric was used to a little bit of drama that way, sadly.
I do want to talk about some of the songs, and "Sword & Stone" is the first one that comes to mind. It didn't make the album, and was mentioned in Billboard in January 1987 that it'd been given to Loverboy to record. Paul Dean did later record it for his "Hardcore" solo album so I can understood why it might not have been used for "Crazy Nights" if it was promised to another mainstream band like that. What do you recall about writing that song with Desmond and Paul? Ron has said that he can understand people being disappointed with it not being on the album.
Yeah, my bank account was disappointed! I think that Ron didn't love the song that much and then it was easy to say, "Hey, I got it covered by somebody else," even though I was not there for any conversation. What I'm sure about is that I had a great idea for a song. I remember coming up with the chords in the dressing room of one of the shows. I'd usually have a guitar room for practice on tour so I could warm up, which is one of the luxuries of being a headliner on an arena tour. I just remember having those chords and I remember recording it and playing it for Paul. Paul liked it, and I remember we [Ed. Paul and Desmond Child] all jumped in on it and I was pretty happy that Paul responded to the basic chords and that I was able to have a co-write with the two of them.
Both of them were so successful in song writing, so for me it was a blessing and then we recorded a full blown demo. Back then it wasn't a big deal to do something like that at the studio. So we're at Electric Lady Studios doing a demo so I have a pretty decent cassette copy of it. I know I offered it to Tommy when he was putting the box set together. Anything I have of KISS I've shared with them just in case they didn't have a good copy of something. But it didn't wind up in the box set so it hasn't been properly released with the version that Paul sang. So, Paul Dean covered it I was very proud that it was the first song from his solo record. A German band also covered it for some soundtrack.
Yeah, Bonfire covered it for the "Shocker" soundtrack in 1989.
When I did some sort of interview regarding that horror flick, I remember it came up. So, you know, it's kind of cool that it got covered a few times. It's a good song, you've got Paul and Desmond's names attached to it, so that's an attractive thing. I really think Paul singing our version was the best. That's another one of those little gems that is unfortunately hidden from the masses, in a good way. But I just think that Nevison just didn't think he needed it for the record or didn't want to record it. I thought it was an obvious choice for "Crazy Nights," but I think I have four co-writes so I wasn't really crying. It could have been worse!
You do have four co-writes on the album; two with Gene and two with Paul. The first one of those I want to talk about is, "I'll Fight Hell To Hold You." I believe that was initially based on a Paul riff. Do you remember anything about how that song came to be?
That whole climb (sings the section) that was something I came up with and then I had some chord ideas for the verse. The rest, really Adam and Paul ran with and I was happy if that's all I sparked. Although they're important pieces it's not the entire song. I was pretty excited about that track, but man, is it a high vocal! What a crazy vocal on that! I liked Adam Mitchell a lot, we still stay in touch and I thought he worked really well with Paul as well at that time. I probably had some ideas and got together with Paul at his house when in the zone working with Adam as well. So, that's how that came about.
Back in 1987, this was one of the songs that kind of stopped me in my tracks with how high Paul was singing on this album. He really had range and power that's absolutely incredible. When you were writing for "Crazy Nights" with Paul, or coming up with your own riffs and ideas on your own, were you writing in that range in mind or was Ron and Paul trying different keys in the studio?
Most of the vocalists in bands at that time were in that range. So it was kind of where you were expected to sing; way up there in the stratosphere. It wasn't so much decided, "Let's put 'em way up there," you know. Paul was comfortable there and that era just produced a lot of that kind of stuff. I can't really remember if "Crazy Crazy Nights" was down a half step, I don't think it is, but I prefer KISS' music when we're down tuned a half step. It's closer to the Hendrix thing and it makes stuff a little heavier sounding but some of the pop stuff is 440, which is regular concert pitch. That record's probably more concert pitch than it should have been, but it doesn't matter, Paul could pull it off. It's great stuff that definitely represents 1987 for sure.
He certainly pulled it off. Someone recently posted a version of the song that was detuned half a step, which made for a really weird listening experience. All of a sudden the song becomes broader, more powerful and Paul's voice takes on a little bit more of a David Coverdale tone. What I think is interesting is, a good song is a good song is a good song. It doesn't ultimately matter where it's being sung.
There's a lot of times I have to manipulate the tuning of a track too. When I want to show guys that are going to perform with me a song that I only have a version that's in concert pitch, I can manipulate it does change the vibe a little bit, but it's still the same song and it works. I will add that with Bob Ezrin on "Revenge," there were no issues with anyone's vocal range. The point is, he did sometimes adjust keys just to make it feel more comfortable for what he felt the song needed, but it was not so much about the singer. "Domino" is in 440 and on "Alive III" we're down a half step. On that tour, Gene, and that low stuff doesn't sound as good as it does on the record. But we cut it in concert pitch cause it sounded best there. I think there are also songs on "Revenge" that are a whole step down because it felt better for the song. So experimenting with that is important, but back in the "Crazy Nights" album days with Nevison, we didn't really look at changing a key as long as the singer sounds like that era.
I'm curious, have you ever heard the Rod Gonzalez disco version of the song that came out in 1999/2000? For me it kind of proves the point about a song being a good song regardless of how it's interpreted.
I think someone did share that recently. It's very odd.
During the recording of the album, what sort of guidance were you given for the solos, if any? Were you just said, "You're Bruce, you know what to do?" Or did you ever get any, "No, no, no, that's the wrong direction?"
By then I was very comfortable in the band and I don't remember being micromanaged like I was on "Asylum." Both Gene and Paul had very specific approaches with things. With Ron producing the record, they took a bit more of a back seat. The only thing that was interesting, was what you do solo wise. Everybody that records knows that sometimes you take one, two, or three stabs at the solo, and then you can combine them. They call that comping. You do it with vocals, and you could do it with lead guitar especially. Anyway we were comping between a few solos, and I knew where I wanted him to switch -- because I'm very critical of my playing and I always want me to sound the best -- and he didn't understand where I wanted him to do the switch and it was getting him a little frustrated. So he just said, using a bad word, "You do it!" Back then it was a magnetic tape machine and you have to anticipate a little bit -- ProTools cut and paste didn't exist. So I did it, and then he looked at me and he just said, "Why didn't you tell me that?" That kind of thing was a joke. When you're talking guitar riffs and talking measures and beats, it's not like I gave him bar two on the second beat of bar two! I didn't do that, maybe I didn't explain it well enough.
Certainly, he'd be capable, but I wasn't communicating it well enough to him. So I did it and then he was a little bit of a snarky reply. But and it was kind of funny because Paul was watching this whole thing. He knew what happened. Later on, he said, "Don't take that to heart. Nevison respects you, don't worry about it." I didn't take it badly, I'm glad I stood for myself and he challenged me. If I wasn't able to show him what I wanted, then I'd look like the fool! But I wasn't trying to make him look foolish, I just wanted to show him this move to this track right at this moment would be the better switch of going from track one to track two. It was a funny stressful moment, but it turned out all good in the end. Actually, I am very positive that Nevison told Gene and Paul very good things about me and didn't have to suffer through much with me. That album and working with Nevison gave Gene and Paul even more confidence in me, and appreciate me more. And that meant a lot to me, of course.
The overall impression I get from what Ron has said about the album is that the experience working with KISS was overall a very positive experience for him. It was not a painful, even if things didn't quite live up to expectations. The process, the function, the business was all as good as you could want from a band.
The things that stand out the most about that album is the story I just told you about comping a solo and then Gene's face when Ron was adding that sample. Otherwise, it was just hard work and to do a record, I was on pins and needles when the songs were going to be chosen, because, like we just discussed "Sword and Stone" didn't make it. But I was happy with the record. You know Ron did a good job working with us and I liked when the band used an outside producer. It was less about the way Gene and Paul can get in the in the sandbox as brothers in business can do. They're like brothers, but they fight sometimes and they don't always see things eye to eye. And yet they love each other and totally respect each other. So having that other person there, ultimately in charge it, takes off some of that stress. If you look at a band like a family, I'm happier as one of the kids! It's managed in a different way, how the creative process happens.
Paul's described some of his personal challenges with Gene at this time in his autobiography. Gene has also described some negativity towards the album and the keyboards in particular. Both Philip Ashley and Gary Corbett have also described that negativity towards keyboards. How do you appraise how Gene coping with his role at the time? You co-wrote two songs with him, was he "Well, if Paul wants keyboards, then I have to do a certain thing?"
I don't think Gene was trying to compromise the record in any way or even compete differently. If it did inspire Gene to work a little harder, good, but I don't think he was trying to overcompensate. There was no, "These songs are going to have keyboards, so mine are going to be such-and-such." I don't remember that sort of attitude. With a lot of Gene's material, you couldn't imagine a keyboard anyway with his musical point of view or style. Paul wanted to be broader. I liked the way Van Halen was using keyboards and I always enjoyed bands like Journey, and I'm a big fan of Yes. There's probably ten other examples of great keyboard parts in melodic rock music so I didn't have an issue with that.
Let's talk about some of your co-writes with Gene for the album?
One was "Hell or High Water," which was an AC/DC-ish vibe meets RATT. That's the way I looked at that song; it had the big chorus and the verse was very indicative of that era. It was something I came up with in one of the rehearsal rooms.
"No, No, No" was you, Eric, and Gene.
That was really a coordinated effort with Eric Carr because he loved that double bass drum exciting thing and needed some flashy guitar. We all worked hard together on that. That's a good balance, if you think about it, to a song like "Reason To Live." If you think we're all going to be syrupy and pop, listen to "No, No, No!" I think that's Gene just being in his zone and not trying to overcompensate or anything, or do something different. Let's not forget that Paul wrote "God of Thunder." So he's certainly capable of the heavy dark song too, but it was sometimes better for Gene to deliver the message.
Without a doubt, it seemed more natural coming from Gene whereas Paul best presented the soaring anthems and power ballads. "Hell or High Water" is one of my favorite Gene vocals from the unmasked era. To my ears, he seemed really comfortable singing and the vocal seems totally natural. You mentioned in your 25th anniversary feature that Gene plays bass on the song. Did you play any bass on the album?
I do not remember any bass playing for "Crazy Nights." With "Hell or High Water," there was an interesting thing about the demo that we did which was very similar to the track we cut with Nevison. Of course, it sounds more professional and tighter with Nevison and there might have been a couple of little changes, but it was basically the same. It's funny how I always heard the title being "Come Hell or High," followed by riff, riff, riff, riff, riff, riff, right, and then "water," going over that. It was a different timing in that section and Gene actually heard it in a different spot. When we were doing the demo, I did understand where he was putting it and I didn't like it at all. I was really grateful that he didn't persistent about where he heard when we were working on the demo. Fortunately, the demo came out the way I heard it originally. Otherwise, that song was pretty straight ahead and it's a fun track to play.
It even got played a couple of times during the tour, just a couple of times, but didn't seem to last.
Like I said about "Asylum," we would try new songs and they don't go over with the audience well enough, well... That should have or could have been a great concert track, but it wasn't. There was sometimes a disconnect with our fans that I could never understand why they didn't react to the new songs from new records.
You guys never know how the audience is going to react to new songs. Songs that fell good in the rehearsals might leave blank faces in the audience regardless of the quality of the performance or energy. They just don't resonate. On the "Crazy Nights" tour, you played six songs from that album live, which was certainly impressive. One of the other songs performed during the tour was another of your cowrites, "When Your Walls Come Down." What do you remember about that song? That started with some of your ideas that were finished off by Paul and Adam. Again, the song has the big anthemic choruses expected for the era. I think you've mentioned that they kind of took your idea, ran with it and completed it. So did the song realize your initial vision?
I remember mostly contributing some verse movements in that song and I don't remember any big riff contribution. I thought the direction that Paul and Adam took it was quite exciting because it definitely seemed that this is definitely where Paul wants to be with Ron Nevison. That made me happy it got picked up. If anything, at that era of KISS, I will admit that I was very influenced by Eddie Van Halen, which was not inappropriate. I had respect for Richie Sambora, but he certainly wasn't an idol to me like Eddie was who the next guy after Clapton and Hendrix and Jimmy Page who turbo charged rock 'n roll. I've talked about this in some books that discuss that era -- Eddie was the guy. I could tell that he listened to Eric Clapton. I could tell that he loved the stuff that really inspired me to be a lead player. But he had made it his own and then it's like he became the Super Charged Camaro! He just ran with his finger tapping and whammy bar stuff that Hendrix couldn't do. There was no device like a Floyd Rose then. But I really feel like even the chordal way, the ways that Eddie played he was very knowledgeable. There was no mystery why he wound up on a million guitar magazine covers. Eddie is a real a real icon of rock 'n roll.
Bruce, with you just mentioning Eddie, where did players like Randy Rhoads fall for you? And did they have any influence in how you approached your playing?
That's come up in a lot of interviews and actually I think to be honest I kind of feel with Randy, I respected him, but I didn't have the same passion for him like I did with Eddie Van Halen. Randy's amazing technique and double and triple tracking things was based more on a classical point of view. I thought what he created for Ozzy was incredible and perfect, but Eddie's thing was based more on Eric Clapton and the British sound; there was more string bending and it was coming from a different root. That was more what I responded to. So it's not like I didn't respect Randy, I did, but I more wanted to learn how did Eddie do that!
In the mid 1980s, it's a time where you've got the George Lynches and all sorts of guitar warriors. Were there any of these like guitarists within that period that when their band came out with a new album, you'd be down to the store to get that to check out what they were doing on the guitar?
I really would hear it on the radio first usually. I always though Warren Demartini was a great guitarist. There were so many bands at the time. A lot of the bands that opened for us had really terrific players. Slaughter had a great guitar player [Ed. Tim Kelly]. When we had Winger open on the "Hot in the Shade" tour, those guys were also doing great guitar playing. I thought John Sykes was great on that Whitesnake album. Sadly you know, those guys didn't continue to work together. So a lot of those players... Every player that Ozzy had was great, from Jake E. Lee, who also worked with, with Eric Singer. You know, all those guys could play. Even when Brad Gillis, the Night Ranger guy, first filled in... Just tremendous guitar players. There was a lot of that very flashy and exciting lead guitar work going around. But then some of the bands that were the biggest, C. C. DeVille wouldn't be an influence, even though I know he was a big fan of people like me and other people. But Poison was huge because they had these great songs and with Brett Michaels being the perfect front man. Mötley Crüe always had great stuff too.
Mick Mars is vastly underrated in my book; he remains one of my favorite players from the time.
I was friends with Nikki through that year and we'd talk about Mick. All these guys back then, they wouldn't make me run out and buy something. I heard what they were doing, because for me what started it all were the players I just mentioned, Hendrix, Clapton, Page and Jeff Beck. Those original guys -- that was really it for me.
"Crazy, Crazy Nights" obviously the big anthemic chorus song, has come back into the KISS' set in recent years. What do you think about that happening? Did you ever see that song becoming a KISS classic and them playing it 30 years later?
It deserves to be a classic, but it was always bigger in Europe than it was in America, very big in the UK apparently and then throughout Europe too. So for some fans that's the big track that means the most. I'm not surprised that they've revisited it -- I think it's smart, especially with KISS, when they tour nearly every year overseas, they've got to do a song that's a big hit. So, no, I'm not surprised that it's so important. I remember Adam and Paul providing a demo of that track and I knew right away, "Wow, this has really got all the elements of a great pop tune, a great rock track." I was pretty excited about it. The only difference in the demo is it kept modulating towards the end. We didn't do that in the studio, so maybe Nevison didn't think that that was necessary. I bet you've probably read the interviews that either Adam or maybe even Paul have given where they say that they thought the demo was better than the track. I don't think it's all that radically different though to state the demo being better than what we put out. But the spark and all the excitement of the track was in the demo, for sure. There's no mystery to me why the album is named after that song and it's still valid and important for KISStory even 30 years later.
I think the impression I get from the demo is that it's just not as polished. So the chorus feels bigger and it's got that original urgency, or energy, which you often lose when you take a demo into the studio to be recorded. You can't recapture that, as you said, initial spark. I guess one of my favorite songs on this album is "Turn On The Night," which I always felt to be pure power-pop perfection. Did you guys ever rehearse that one to perform it live? I know you did mime to it for the video shoot in Worcester, MA.
The video's pretty exciting, it's cool. That was a bummer that we didn't include it, and I don't know why and I don't ever remember us getting that serious with it. Of course, I remember playing it a million times for the crowd that we had for the concert that night, but we were miming it. It was a great song. Who did he write that with again?
That one was with Diane Warren...
She proved to be a formidable pop hit writer. It's a great song that I try to include that in my sets when I do dates. The reaction's always terrific. Ironically, that one I think on the record is down a half step. Maybe because of the vocals... Who knows, you know.
It's got great tempo, and again is just a very well crafted pop song. Diane couldn't remember much about writing it, unfortunately, but Diane is DIANE in capital letters is Diane, so she's had so many hits she won't remember the misses.
I know sometimes fans get a kick out of Gene's writing, but he recycled all of "Thief In The Night" that had been recorded by Wendy O. Williams in 1984. Were you aware that he was digging into his back catalog when that song gets on the album?
I think I was and maybe Paul didn't, but it didn't matter. I know Gene always does that and there's nothing wrong with that. There are many, many bands where a terrific song on a record that just never saw the light of day was actually on another album in some different form. I didn't see any negative about that. Maybe that was one of the ones that Paul was really surprised about, but there's nothing wrong with taking a song and just digging it out from the past. Nothing wrong at all...
Another one of Gene's song is "Good Girl Gone Bad." A lot of the stuff in the mid 80s by Gene is often considered to be not quite up to standard. I think there's an improvement to his contributions on "Crazy Nights" over the previous two albums in particular. What did you think of his contributions to the album? Did you think, "Ooh, this is better than 'Asylum'," or was it more simply, "this is a good song?"
We did talk earlier about whether or not because of Nevison and the keyboards that Gene maybe changed his game. Maybe he was just working harder because Nevison was involved. I don't really know or he was tired of the kind of back seat attitude from Paul. Because he was so driven to do other things that had nothing to do with KISS product, but I can't really put my finger on why Gene might have come up with some better songs for "Crazy Nights" than he did in other years. But he certainly did and that's what's important.
"No, No, No" is a song that I did not like back in 1987. Surprisingly, it's grown on me over the years watching all the tour bootlegs and seeing how important it was to the performance and show. How fun was song that for you to perform? You look like you're having a good time, just letting fly on the guitar and doing your thing. Then there's the also the jam section you perform with Eric. Was it a fun song for you to do on the tour?
I know the essence of recording it in the first place was always Eric really liking double bass drum Van Halen kind of thing, and then Gene making one of his tongue in cheek statements throughout, and it's got those riffs that stop and start up in the verses. It's very much a perfect vehicle for Gene. And even if Paul didn't like it, now imagine that we're taking that to live shows and putting it on stage and making it a spot where I can be featured. Then I'm turning it over to Eric, which really made the song even more valuable in the KISS catalog -- it became something of a centerpiece in the live concert. So, of course I would look like I was having a good time! Here's the guitarist and the drummer, not the two original guys, having a good time with a song from a current record. It's just another valuable thing that I helped contribute that I think turned into even a better thing live.
Another thing you did onstage during the tour was play some keyboards. Were you actually playing keyboards while Gary was with you on the tour?
Gary was featured, but I actually did play and I could hear myself a bit. But it was more to show, "All right, this is where it's coming from." I took keyboard lessons when I was younger and it's kind of funny, I remember Nikki Sixx being very impressed when I sat down at his grand piano in his house and played a couple of things. I used to know the standard "Misty" on piano and I could play a little bit of a Beatles song. Stuff like that, but I only really knew how to play a few songs well. I did understand the mechanics of a keyboard, but I worked with so many amazing keyboard players that I could never represent myself as a keyboard player. It was helpful to have Gary there, especially for a song like that, but also he could let Paul perform a little more. We used to have a great sample on the keyboard that sounded very guitarlike and he knew what notes to play to make it seem as if he's also playing rhythm guitar on the keyboard.
That was the beauty of Gary's contribution offstage. There was another tour where we had a different guy, Derek Sherinian. That's the role that keyboards would play offstage for KISS. We did feature a keyboard onstage for "Reason To Live," and there I was with a guitar slung around my side and there I was playing keyboard chords. Then I would switch to the guitar. It was kind of cool, but I'm not representing to anyone that it was mostly me they were hearing. I did know how to play those chords, but I had enough pressure holding and switching to the guitar. Gary was the one with the burden of having the big keyboard pads be featured in the in the house.
It always surprised me; "Reason to Live" went Top 40 in the U.K. (#33). As an English guy it was a really cool thing to see because with Donington, the band in Kerrang, 12" singles and picture disks everywhere, it really seemed to me that KISS was everywhere during the "Crazy Nights" era! Paul's power ballads through the 1980s seemed to get stronger and stronger with each album. You got "Who Wants to be Lonely" and "Tears are Falling "on "Asylum" followed by "Reason to Live." What do you think of that song?
I think "Reason to Live" is beautiful, it's a great track. I cannot tell you what an amazing reaction I got from my wife, Lisa, and I performing it in New York. It went over incredible. We did that one in Indy also, but New York had a really huge crowd. We had a real good audience at the end of the day at the New York Expo, the one that Peter Criss was at, and the P.A. showed up a little late so things got started a little late. But "Reason to Live" was our first number and it went over great. People loved that, but, it was a challenge just playing it solo on an electric acoustic guitar with my wife. I realized it's well written and it's got a great vocal. It's just a great song.
It has certainly held up well and does not sound dated. When you were on tour were there any special effects that were part of your setup for the guitar?
I think during that era I actually might have had just to complement the Marshall head that I was using. I might have had even a Rockman set up, because I do remember something about a gig with Ted Nugent and him seeing that and us talking about it. Otherwise, I didn't do much effect wise. I might have had the opportunity to add a little chorus thing in, not on the Marshall but onto the Rockman, because that's a line in and out. So you could add an effect to it very easily from the rack. Then you can just press a button and there it is. Maybe I had a little chorus effect when I did the intro of "No, No, No." But most of the time with KISS, it was pretty straight forward where I was just loud through a Marshall. I'd have fun switching guitars. I was playing a lot of those ESPs but the gear was straight ahead. You know, I'd go, usually go center stage, go loud for the solo and then run around like a maniac. That was the era where you ran around the stage; just don't bump into Gene or Paul!
It doesn't look like you're doing a lot of guitar switching in concert videos. Did you keep it pretty simple, or were only doing a switch here and there for a song in a different key rather than any other consideration?
Now you have me wanting to go look at an entire "Crazy Nights" concert on video! I remember with Tokyo it was mostly a red Horizon and I always really liked those. I still play some. But that red one, I also had a Sunburst one I remember taking to Europe. Obviously the Floyd guitars worked the most because that was that era. Remember we were talking about Van Halen too, so I probably focused more on that. I also had my "Banana" guitar made, the yellow ESP, which made some appearances too, like at the Ritz show. I can remember the "Asylum" guitars, but I'm trying to remember with "Crazy Nights" though I'm pretty sure it was a lot of the Horizons and the "Banana" guitar, which was an M1. I'm not even sure if I had anything that was really Gibson-related on that tour or not.
I don't remember seeing anything. I do to recall a wood grain ESP...
I'm glad you mentioned that one. That one probably only had one pickup in it though.
I do remember that. That was a natural ash body that eventually did get painted and put together differently. Then it didn't sound good, and I wound up donating it for a big charity called the T.J. Martell Foundation, which was very popular back in the day. That had a gold Floyd Rose on it too, so that was like an M1 from ESP guitars.
Would you generally just play a guitar on stage until it went out of tune?
No. I thought I liked certain guitars for certain songs. I got a little worse with it later on where I switched more often, but some of it might have been comfort. That whole era I was very much into the ESPs and having a Floyd Rose, so if there was one that was sounding right I'd stick with it. Fortunately I still have that Sunburst one that I still really love. The red one I got rid of years ago, sadly, but I think I like the Sunburst one better. But it's funny, you do get attached to certain instruments and it's very hard for me to explain why. It's funny.
The some guitarists sand the back of the neck and some scallop the frets out or fiddle with the pickups. Did you do anything like that with your guitars?
No, my ESPs were all stock. I would get a little bit specific about a certain Seymour Duncan guitar pickup, but most of the time I didn't have to get too nuts with anything.
Let's jump back to the album for a minute, specifically "My Way." Even with the high vocals, I love the positive message Paul has often put into his songs. That's the one song where I really like the keyboards, the guitars, and all of the elements that represent "Crazy Nights" coming together.
"My Way" was really interesting. It's not my favorite track from "Crazy Nights," but I always thought the title was funny because I was very aware that was also the title of a Frank Sinatra song. But of course the song is rock, and it doesn't sound anything like Frank's thing.
Is there a song in this period that just makes you think that is the quintessential Paul Stanley?
To me it's "Crazy Crazy Nights." Whenever Paul's just embodying that whole rock and roll spirit that is so indicative of what KISS represents to so many fans, he's hitting a grand slam. There's no doubt that a song like "Crazy Nights," and then on the softer side something like "Reason to Live" just fits perfectly. The tongue in cheek, "Bang Bang You" and stuff like that is always fun on a KISS album. But I do think "Crazy Crazy Nights" really sums up that album the best.
I'm glad you've briefly mentioned "Bang Bang You," because I did not mention that song all throughout this interview, and I do apologize. My reaction in 1987, I'm sitting at a bus stop and that song comes on, with the "Shoot you down with my love gun" lyric. Even at 15 I just shook my head a little bit on that one...
Me too and we used to do it live. I was really kind a surprised, but look, I did whatever we did. I enjoyed playing all the KISS songs. I rarely had any kind of issue with any of them, so it was just part of the tongue in cheek KISS thing. Just remember we used to do "Fits Like a Glove," with the breakdown that Gene sang, "like a hot knife through butter!" When I watch that stuff now, I really giggle. There was a time when I was maybe a little embarrassed watching it later, but now I enjoy it. I enjoy it all. It's not a big deal.
Oh, I'd agree now. I'm not 15 anymore, so I can appreciate it a bit more for what you were trying to do. So, are you going to do anything to celebrate the 30th anniversary of "Crazy Nights?"
Ultimately I've been at work on this concept for over a year now, so on my website (www.kulick.net) and on all Social Media like Facebook, I'll be announcing two special Platinum and Gold packages. The Platinum package will be limited to twelve actual "Banana" guitars made by ESP from the Korean World LTD factory -- which makes it much more affordable. That's a replica of my "Banana" guitar known from the back cover of "Crazy Nights." It's kind of ironic, my wife and I realized that if you Google "banana guitar," my guitar shows up, which is really cool! It got that nickname over the years from it being yellow, and probably being a nonvintage Gibson instrument. It's my most important guitar and one of the best sounding Floyd Rose-style rock guitars that I have in my collection. I'm very proud to offer a limited replica of that. Every detail is as close as possible to the original. Only twelve of those will available in the limited platinum package in 2017. They'll be signed, with a COA, and there will be an 8 x 10 color photo and double-sided photo pick pack included. Also included will be a mini "Banana" guitar replica made by Axe Heaven.
That's a company that you may or may not be familiar with, but they've done a lot mini versions of iconic guitar players' instruments. It's a miniature replica of the banana guitar. The mini guitar is also the gold package. That will come with the photo pick pack as well and is limited to just a hundred worldwide, with a signed and numbered COA. So, those are the two things that are my commemorative 30th Anniversary "Crazy Nights" offerings for the fans that I've been planning that's finally going to be a reality. I don't do a lot of stuff like that. You know, I've always offered my albums, CDs and 8 x 10 photos on my website or at expos, but I've never really put together something that's specific to a particular milestone in my career. So I wanted it to be done right! Everybody that has a "Crazy Nights" album knows I'm holding my "Banana" guitar on the back cover and they can find videos of me playing that guitar. There are many photos of me the studio and it's probably one of the most identifiable with my career with KISS, even though I probably played about 50 guitars. But I really do love that, that instrument, and I'm really excited to offer these packages because of the 30th Anniversary of "Crazy Nights." Please contact bananaguitar2017 [at] gmail.com (for more information). That rear cover photo is an iconic image. You're not holding that guitar, you're embracing it!
Yes, I am!
One final question I have to ask, relates to the Gene Simmons' Vault coming out. Do you have anything of interest on there that he's come to you about?
There are cowrites with me, and of course there's some performances from me besides the songs that I may have cowritten. Gene did have me up to his house and he played me a little snippet of every song. Of course the ones we talked about the most were the ones that I was involved with, but he wanted me to hear a little bit of everything, which was some ways exhausting, but exciting. It's a fascinating offering so I'm happy but when we went over it he didn't have all the details of how he was going to sell it exactly, just that he was going to be putting it out. I wish him the best with it. It is very interesting and it's quite immense, the amount of music on there to digest. I'm obviously real excited that I'm part of it of course.
So you feel well represented on it?
Actually there are some other songs that I reminded him of, that we worked on that didn't make this box set. But I'm fine with what's on there. I think it's really cool.
What about yourself in terms of music? It's been quite a while and since you released the stunning BK3 album. I've never got to tell you in person, thank you so much for that album. What's next for you musically? Do you have any plans or intend to do another solo album?
It's a great question and I have thought about it many times. I have been so busy making music live which is the best way to make a living. And I think everyone's aware that physical sales are very bad for even the biggest bands in the world. Digital streaming doesn't pay and a lot of people listen to music that way. So that's why you see a big disconnect in many artists going into the studio and recording new product. Part of the problem is the fact that if I actually spent the amount of money I usually need to do a record up front, I very possibly would not recoup even a third of it. That is really sad. So it's not something that makes good business sense. My idea was that I could do pledge music or one of those things where you raise the funds first. But I'm the kind honest, polite person that would never want to ask anybody for money unless I had the ten songs ready. So I have songs that I like that could be used for a BK4, but I don't have ten ready. I also don't have a clear direction and haven't completely formulated what and how I would want to do it. So that's the long story. The short story is, yes I do have a desire to do that. A lot of people now just put out songs, or singles; and anyone that's followed me on social media would know that I put out a single back in April with my wife Lisa.
That was "If I Could Show You," which Lisa sings lead on. It's available on iTunes?
I put it as her name, Lisa Lane Kulick featuring Bruce Kulick, but I wrote the song and am playing all the guitars on the song and the bass. I was real excited to do it, but I don't have a physical version of it yet. I will do some more things with Lisa in the future, but it doesn't necessarily mean that that's my BK4. I want to do it all! I have this love for standards and pop music and lots of things, acoustic music and jazz music! I should go on record in saying it's the biggest year for Grand Funk -- in the sense of how many dates we're doing -- which keeps me on the road, besides the fact I went to Australia and have a trip to Finland and Norway coming up later in the year. So you see, I stay pretty busy and it's hard to be in the studio. I've done sessions for people, because that's easy -- that's just an afternoon where I'm recording. I don't want anyone to think that I'm not interested in putting out new music. It's just been hard to logistically do it and then to make the plan. The way the music business has changed has probably been another big factor in keeping it a little frustrating for me to figure it out. I will say that brother Bob just put out a solo record. It's officially come out today, so I think everybody should go check that out.
You're on that album too, aren't you? It's titled "Skeletons In The Closet" and features four new songs, a cover, and five of Bob's favorite songs from his back catalog. You play bass I think on a track or two.
Yes, I play bass and cowrote a song. It's only a minor way I'm on it. I think there's one of the other tracks I might have done some dueling guitars.
Yes, "Guitar Commandos" from Skull is one there.
It's got a great reaction in the press so I'm wishing him the best, you know. Of course we're going to be on the KISS Kruise together, and we'll be performing lots of cool songs on that.
Here's the million dollar question: Are you going to jam with Gene, Paul and Eric, for a "Revenge" era lineup reunion?
I know that's the big question that everybody asks me, so...
You're not going to answer it!
No, I can't answer it because I have no idea outside of knowing that I'm committed to be on the "KISS Konfidential World Panel" and I do a set with my brother, which I'm really gearing up for. I don't know what else could happen. I have no idea!
This is KISS. Anything could happen. Everything is possible, but nothing is promised.
Bruce, I'm going to let you go. Thank you so much for giving me so much of your time to discuss KISS "Crazy Nights" and the other tangents we've gone off on!
The KissFAQ thanks Bruce for participating in the Danger Zone, celebrating the 30th anniversary of KISS' "Crazy Nights" album. Bruce can be found at http://www.kulick.net.
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