By John Jeffrey
One would think a Grammy award winning songwriter/producer/guitar player who has appeared on records with legendary artists like KISS, Lou Reed, Lemmy Kilmeister & W.A.S.P and has toured with acts such as Alice Cooper and Meatloaf, that an artist with such an amazing musical resume would be a household name. However, for journeyman Bob Kulick, for whatever reasons, that certain level of mainstream success has eluded the elder brother of longtime KISS guitarist, Bruce Kulick.
Whether you know his name or not, his impact on the world of rock and roll and the entertainment industry cannot be denied. Whether you were among thousands upon thousands of WWE professional wrestling fans head-banging to longtime Heavyweight Champion Triple H’s theme song, “The Game,” or a member of the KISS Army playing air guitar to “All American Man” – thinking you were miming to one of
Ace Frehley’s greatest guitar licks – what you were enjoying, in a large part, was due to the talents of the one and only, Bob Kulick.
Ironically, although Bob Kulick has written, performed on, and produced in the upwards of 40 records throughout his 50 year long career in the music industry (Fifty years is a long time to have a career in any type of industry – as a matter of fact), the well-respected axe slinger has decided it was time to release his first actual solo album, ‘Skeletons in the Closet’ (released 9/15/17).
With the writing process having started in 2015, with songs co-written with former Balance bandmate, Doug Katsaros and his brother Bruce, Bob came to the realization of doing a solo project using some of the musicians he had worked with in the past. Once armed with 4 new original songs, Kulick’s girlfriend (photographer, Julie Bergonz) introduced him to producer Bobby Ferrari, which led to the making of this album.
A ten song affair, ‘Skeletons in the Closet’ is half brand new songs and half material from his storied past. The idea of doing these new songs combined with the retrospective songs as one CD only came to fruition after the new original songs were done. Kulick brought along several friends to join in on the fun, including Robin McAuley, Rudy Sarzo, Brent Fitz, Dee Snider and more. While it’s been said that the best things always take time, with ‘Skeletons in the Closet,’ Bob Kulick drives that expression home.
Just prior to the release, Rock Music Star had the extreme pleasure to speak with Bob Kulick regarding ‘Skeletons in the Closet’ and much, much more!
Rock Music Star: When I read the press release for ‘Skeletons in the Closet,’ I was actually surprised to read that this is your first actual “solo album.”
Bob Kulick: I had always been in bands and always been a team player and never thought it was necessary to do a solo record until now. I felt like I had done everything else. I thought to myself, “You have some great new material. You have some great old material. You have the advantage of having some really great talent to help you out,” and with my girlfriend’s encouragement – having introduced me to a great producer, Bobby Ferrari, who has a great studio – I was able to have some fun, and come up with ‘Skeletons in the Closet.’
RMS: Being that ‘Skeletons in the Closet’ is actually a compilation of older material mixed with the newer songs you recently recorded, how did you determine what older material would be complimentary to the new?
BK: Good question. At first, this was only going to be an EP of new songs. So I was originally only ever thinking about the new material. But once we finished recording the four new songs, and we added the “Goldfinger” cover, I was thinking (of it as a whole, coming out as a) EP. And after to speaking to some other people in the business, they suggested that I add some other songs that I had previously recorded. It was an opportunity to add to this pile (of songs) with some other great stuff. So I went through (older) material that I had available to me, the skeletons in the closet – so to speak – I came up with five additional songs that I thought would be a good match for the new, original songs.
RMS: Being that the recording industry is the way that it is today, and the fact that you’re not in a touring entity or selling merchandise – which is how most artists make a living from being in the music industry today – you’re obviously not making new music, with the sole intent being a financial gain. With that in mind, please explain to our readers what motivates you to be creative and want to continue releasing new music?
BK: I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’ve had 2 or 3 careers, when you look at it. When I first started out, I was primarily a live musician. I was playing with people like Meatloaf, (Tim) Curry, and various other artists like (Patti) Labelle.
After I did several tours with artists like these, I became more of a session player. I had that band Balance, I did the Lou Reed record, and Diana Ross’ ‘Why do Fools Fall in Love’ and stuff like that. The KISS records I was involved with, either writing with Gene (Simmons) or doing some solos on or doing Paul (Stanley)’s record. I became five guy studio guy.
Then I became a producer. All the while, co-writing songs in various guises, with various different people. So I kind of draw upon all of that as inspiration, for where I am now.
RMS: Your guitar playing on Paul Stanley’s 1978 KISS solo album was such a dominant force on that record that many fans still cite today, as being one of the highlights of that record. When it was announced in the early 2000’s that Paul was making a follow up solo record, preliminary reports stated that you would be involved in the record as well, but apparently, that did not pan out. How far into the recording of the album was it before things came to a point where you were no longer involved in what became “Live To Win?”
BK: When I had my studio, Bruce Bouillet was working with me at the time, and we actually recorded the demos of some of those songs. Paul would bring in some songs and it was early stages and we recorded about 3 or 4 pieces, then he made a decision to do what he did. We did work together, but the first record stands by itself for that. It was a time when we were best friends and we did his solo record and it was a great experience.
RMS: Ironically, when Paul has recently been asked about “Live To Win,” he says that he wished it had been more guitar orientated and said that if he ever does a third solo album, he’d want it to be more like his first.
RMS: Considering that ‘Skeletons in the Closet’ is a “solo album,” and with guest stars throughout the CD, there’s essentially a different lineup on every song. What ways are thinking of promoting it and is there a chance fans will be able to hear any of it in a live setting?
BK: Well, we’re doing all of the publicity and press now. And in November, I will be performing on the KISS Kruise (VII) with my brother, and Todd Kerns and Brent Fitz – all of which are on the record. We’ll probably do a couple tunes from the record and we’re looking at the possibility of doing some more shows as well.
RMS: Obviously, with today’s technology and how information is so widespread and instantaneous, it would be hard to hide a secret, unlike how it was in 1977, when you first ghosted for Ace Frehley – on most of the studio tracks on ‘KISS Alive II’ – but even back then, was there any thoughts or worries in the KISS camp that fans would be able to tell that it wasn’t Ace Frehley on those songs?
BK: How would they know?
RMS: Well even back then I’m sure there were big KISS/Ace Frehley fans that would’ve picked up on the subtle differences in tone and playing style, no?
BK: I think you’re giving the average listener too much credit. They’re not musicians. They’re not going, “Hmmm? Is that a lick Ace would play?” Nobody knew at the time what was eventually going to happen – that Ace was eventually going to get replaced – it’s just part of the thing that happens with bands.
RMS: Looking back at your KISS related work, what is your proudest moment?
BK: I think on Paul’s record, probably “Tonight You Belong to Me.” That (guitar) solo was a really ‘big deal’ solo, and the song had the fake out beginning with the acoustics, and then how the band came in (heavy), I think that one would probably be my favorite.
RMS: One of my favorite KISS songs, you co-wrote with Gene, “Naked City” from ‘Unmasked’ but you didn’t play on it.
BK: Thank you. In fact, Gene has uncovered some of the old demos of songs that we wrote back in the day. He’s going to be putting out a boxed set (‘Gene Simmons Vault’) with about 150 songs on it, out of which I have 4 co-writes with him.
RMS: Are these just co-writes or do the demos feature your guitar playing as well?
BK: Yes, I’m playing on the demos as well.
RMS: I also really respect the work you did with Blackie Lawless and W.A.S.P. Aside from you obviously writing and playing with them on record, there seems to be a discrepancy of whether or not you were ever a member of W.A.S.P.
BK: Blackie did ask me to join the band, but the circumstances were not right for me. I needed to be a full time member, in terms of merchandise and the whole thing. I didn’t want to be just a hired gun, so to speak. I loved what I did on Blackie’s records and I would have loved to have played with him, but at the time, I had he opportunity to produce a bunch of stuff, and then producing became a big part of my career, and I opted to do that.
For more info. on Bob Kulick, please visit his official facebook page, here.