Fans of ’80s and ’90s Kiss have enjoyed a wealth of rarities and hits from the era live thanks to former guitarist Bruce Kulick’s performances on the past couple of Kiss Kruises. He tells UCR that the Kiss Army is “hungry” to hear the songs, part of what he calls a “strong renaissance” happening with the material from his time in the band.
The Kruise performances have left those same fans hoping for a similar event on dry land. They’ll get their wish on Dec. 30, 2021 at Count’s Vamp’d in Las Vegas as Kulick’s band, which also features singer/guitarist Todd Kerns, drummer Brent Fitz and bassist/vocalist Zach Throne, will play their first concert in a traditional venue.
According to Kulick, the Vegas performance won’t go quite as deep as their previous sets, but fans can still expect some surprises.
In advance of the show, he checked in to discuss some favorite cuts selected by resident Kiss maniacs on the UCR team. Here are some excerpts from that conversation, which you can listen to in full on our YouTube channel.
“Love’s a Deadly Weapon”
From: Asylum (1985)
We were recording at Electric Lady [Studios]. Now, I’m officially the new lead guitar player in the band by that time. I would work with Gene [Simmons] and I would work with Paul [Stanley]. When you’re in the studio, you know you can make a lot of things work that you can’t do in reality — or live [in concert].
Because you play and then you can punch in, combine tracks and flip over to the other channel. They were doing that a lot. So there were times, I was like, “Alright, I don’t mind you flipping the channel there, but that’s not very realistic what you just chose.” At times, when I was listening, I mostly was okay with what the final solo was [after it had been] comped.
But when I look back now, I go, “That was crazy!” I think they were trying to make me as wild [as possible]. You know, George Lynch used to be called “Mr. Scary,” because he is a scary guitar player. He has a tremendous ability with speed, tone, action and technique. So that’s what they were doing, they were making my solos kind of off the map. And when you go from ‘86 to 2021, that’s a lot of years there! So that is always something I look back at and tell a young gun, “Better you than me!”
“King of the Mountain”
From: Asylum (1985)
There’s a video where I’m showing how I did those riffs. I remember watching it with [my wife] Lisa, not that long ago, during the pandemic. I was just like, “Oh wow, that’s cool. So that’s how I did that riff, let me try that.” I did it a few times. Now, those riffs are nothing like I’ve played with Grand Funk Railroad for the past 20 years. It’s nothing that I do with anybody, really.
So all of the sudden, I was like, “Ouch, my hand doesn’t feel that good.” It’s just muscle memory, that’s what I was doing then, so it wasn’t that hard. But then when you get away from that kind of wild finger tapping — I was interpreting Eddie Van Halen the best I could. You know, he was the king of that. But I was able to incorporate some things back then. I haven’t been using those techniques for the past years, so I was pretty impressed.
I watched a 1988 Crazy Nights guitar solo, live at Budokan, that we found on YouTube. I’m literally looking at the screen going, “Go, Bruce! Oh my God!” Lisa couldn’t believe what she was watching. I’m going, “This is great.” I love watching it and God, I don’t even know how I did it. Because there was furious playing. But you know, I’m in my prime [then]. Guitar playing is a bit athletic. I think everybody knows that. But I think I’m interpreting and hanging in there. You know, I’m still playing well. But I’d be kidding anyone to say that I can play as well I did back in the ‘80s. In the sense of speed and flash, that’s all.
“No, No, No”
From: Crazy Nights (1987)
“No, No, No” was another really fun thing. Eric [Carr] obviously loved double bass drum and Alex Van Halen. As I said earlier, I was [almost like] a student of Eddie Van Halen, trying to emulate and use techniques I learned from him to be creative. Eric and I worked on the intro and brought it to Gene. It was Gene who started with the idea of “No, no, no, no.” In many ways, it was a bit of a tip of the hat to a Van Halen thing, with Gene as the singer and lyricist. I don’t think Paul really loved it, but we used to do it a lot. You know, he’d prance around on stage playing it. It didn’t turn out to be a bad song and we used it live.
I used to do a guitar solo on and then I’d come out and start “No, No, No” and we’d go into it after Eric’s drum thing with me. It was an important song. The very, very intro, wasn’t done for the demo. I think that might have been [Ron] Nevison saying, “Why don’t you just step out there, Bruce, and play. Just go for it.” I can see myself in the studio with my yellow banana guitar. That ESP always really had a wonderful, screaming tone. I was just flashing off some riffs and then of course, Eric joins me at the very end with a little bit of drums and then we kick right into this big double bass drum song. It’s a cool song. I wouldn’t be surprised if other people cover it eventually.
From: Hot in the Shade (1989)
That song was a long journey. Eric [Carr] wrote it in a few different ways. It wasn’t called “Little Caesar” at first. It started out as a demo called “Ain’t That Peculiar.” It was actually slower. I have all of the demos. He and I would flesh out a lot of stuff, because we had that great relationship from working on his Rockheads, you know the cartoon idea. We wrote other songs [at that time as well].
To get it on the Kiss album, it took [some work]. It was like, “It’s going to have to really fit the Kiss thing.” At first, it was more slinky and too [much like] Aerosmith and a little too mid-tempo. Then, he got involved with [songwriter] Adam Mitchell and Gene. We picked up the tempo and got better lyrics, writing a song that could [be related to] a nickname for him. It was like, “Hey, Little Caesar.” I do think, considering that it didn’t have a big stamp of Gene and Paul, it really fit well with the Kiss thing. I was so happy for Eric to have his own song on a record.
From: Revenge (1992)
I was very grateful for “Tough Love.” I had this riff, the verse riff, that starts off the song. I presented that to Paul and Bob Ezrin, who I really enjoyed working with. They liked it and we started working on it. It was a lot of fun. I was always aware of the incredible songs and records that Ezrin was able to produce with Kiss. So for me to actually sit in a room and co-write a song, coming initially from a riff that I created, was quite a thrill. I was really proud of that.
But the only funny thing about the song — I think it was that one — we might have had to keep moving around the key, playing the riff in a different way. I could be confusing that with “Heart of Chrome,” but if it was “Tough Love,” obviously, Ezrin could always rely on me to transpose and figure out how to make it work. Because you know, if the vocalist can’t be comfortable with the arrangement that you make, you don’t have a song. It’s not going to be done. I do know that “Tough Love,” to me, that and “Heart of Chrome,” had a symmetry to it, so I’m just really proud of the fact [that I was involved with that]. It was the third track on the record and that always felt great too.
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