Matt Wardlaw | Ultimate Classic Rock
Thirty years ago this month, Bruce Kulick became the newest guitarist in Kiss. What would ultimately become an exciting 12-year ride with the group started off with some specific marching orders from Paul Stanley that Kulick really took to heart.
“Paul told me that he wanted me to play competitively with everybody that’s out there now,” Kulick tells Ultimate Classic Rock. “Alright, it’s 1984, well that means Van Halen has been famous for four or five years right? I don’t need to mention all the other bands that started to get out there with guitar players that are a lot more flashy than what a typical ‘70s guitar player would be. He wanted me to be able to do it all, and I know he had the right guy. I got what he meant. If the song meant do the finger tapping, do the whammy bar, go! Do it! If it meant just lay back and hold that one note, do that.
“So I really think it worked and it was a healthy 12 years for me and [there was] respect for me from those guys because I did have a lot of versatility as a player,” Kulick adds, “and I could adjust to both — respecting the past and working with the band to be wherever that next step was where they were going. Because you know every band has that evolution, and I feel like I was the right guitarist for that.”
Kulick had also taken notes on the guitarists who came before him. He factored that into his approach, as well. “I had respect for Mark St. John, even though I knew where he came from, what his musical vocabulary was and the players that he loved and listened to — and I was very shocked they chose him,” Kulick says. “Because he was into Alan Holdsworth, a brilliant guitar player. He was into John McLaughlin. He was into these more very fusion-jazz shredders, that I was like, ‘That’s not Kiss!’
“You know, just like you know that Steve Vai could certainly play anything any Kiss guitar player ever played. The guy is like an alien on the guitar. Would he work in Kiss? Of course not. It’s not needed. That kind of ability isn’t really the right match. Was he right for David Lee Roth? Yeah. He can add a twist — since who did David Lee Roth just play with not that long ago? Eddie Van Halen. So everything that a Vai can do, would it work in Kiss? No way. Gene [Simmons] likes to tell that [story] when Eddie was disgruntled with the band and he was unhappy with David and he goes, ‘I wanna be in your band!’ [Laughs.] You know what I mean? Come on. Yeah, he could kick ass on Kiss songs.
“You know, he was absolutely my hero for the flashy side of what I needed to bring to Kiss when they were looking for that, because Eddie, his vibrato and his approach to melodic guitar playing, it’s completely taken on a high-octane level from Eric Clapton,” Kulick says. “You hear it in his vibrato and his choice of notes. He forged a very unique kind of hot rod, super-charged, California, Pasadena, rock and roll style of guitar playing. But if he had never heard Eric Clapton, I don’t even know what Eddie would sound like, you know what I mean? But because in the same way that I could relate to Eddie, I could hear the Jimmy Page, I could hear that he listened to [Jimi] Hendrix, I could hear it in his choices.
“Because, you know, there’s only so many notes in a scale, and how many notes a guitar player can play,” Kulick says. “But the guitar’s a very unique instrument with so much nuance on how you bend the string, how you pull down, how you pick it. If you want to play behind the nut like Jimmy Page, if you want to whammy bar it — whatever. I knew what Ace [Frehley] was about, even though I think he was an extremely unique player — which is why I’m kind of relieved that I didn’t have to really mimic him. He had a certain kind of approach that I could kind of do my way but I didn’t have to imitate it exactly.”
Bruce Kulick ultimately played on five studio albums during his time with Kiss, but we wanted to focus in on the beginnings of his personal “Kisstory.” Here’s Part 1 of our talk …
Read More: 30 Years Later, Bruce Kulick Looks Back On Joining Kiss – Exclusive Interview | http://ultimateclassicrock.com/bruce-kulick-interview-part-one-2014/?trackback=tsmclip