Interview ~ Bob Kulick

Bob Kulick has had a career in the music industry spanning over fifty years and his resume is diverse as the fashions and trends that he’s seen come and go during that time. He auditioned for KISS in 1973 and almost had the role of original lead guitarist, but the very next person that came in was some guy with one orange shoe and one red shoe who made quite an impression. If you’re not a KISS fan (shame on you if you’re not), then you may not know that Bob’s brother Bruce, whom he suggested that the band hire, was in KISS from 1984 to 2996. Over the years, Bob’s played with a diverse range of artists from Meatloaf to Balance to Lou Reed to WASP and even back to KISS. His production work for Motorhead won him a Grammy Award in 2004 and he even got the chance to record a song for everyone’s favorite Bikini Bottom resident SpongeBob SquarePants.

Here we are in 2017 and after all of these years and making and producing music with all of these great artists, Bob Kulick is set to release his debut solo album. On September 15, Skeletons in the Closet will be released via Vanity Music and it includes a list of all-star guests including his brother Bruce, Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot), Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot/Whitesnake), Eric Singer (KISS), Robin McAuley (McAuley Schenker Group), Todd Kearns (Slash Feat. Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators), Vinnie Appice and many, many others. The album is comprised of four brand new tracks, an awesome cover of the James Bond “Goldfinger” theme and five older songs, or skeletons, that Bob pulled out of the closet from Skull and Murder’s Row to showcase. We recently had a chance to talk to Bob about the new album, the decision to do one now and much, much more.

I know you’re doing a bunch of these interviews, so I hope they haven’t been too painful.

Bob Kulick: No, it’s never painful; I can talk about myself. I’m not one of those people whose shy (laughs). Ok, not shy, but relatively modest.

The million dollar question has to be why a solo album now after all of these years in the industry?

I’ll tell you why; my girlfriend suggested and encouraged me to. She introduced me to Bobby Ferrari who co-produced the record and had the great Vegas View Recording where we recorded at. I had already been in the writing process with my former Balance bandmate Doug Katsaros. I had four songs demoed up that I could play for Bobby with my girlfriend Julie’s total support, backing and ass kicking to get me going. I was able to call upon many of my friends in the music community who I had worked with before (Dee Snider, Rudy Sarzo, Brent Fitz) alongside some new guys that I was introduced to (Todd Kearns, Andrew Freeman) and I was lucky enough to have Skeletons in the Closet be a showcase for not only me but these other twenty three artists that are accompanying me on the record.

Was there anyone that you were hoping to have on the record that couldn’t make it for whatever reasons?

No, not really; I wanted Dee, I wanted Robin McAuley, Todd and Andrew helped round out the four original tunes. I could be happier with the choices that I made; Bobby actually suggested Vick Wright for Goldfinger. I had met Andrew Freeman through Robin McAuley and all of those guys at the Rock Vault and we hit it off. I had never worked with him before, but he wanted to sing one so it really all worked out. There really wasn’t anybody that didn’t work out; obviously if I could have gotten Dave Groh and people like that it would have been great, but this is what I got. I’m not only happy with what I got, but I am also excited that people are finally going to be able to hear it.

That’s a really cool take on “Goldfinger.” I remember first reading about it and wondering ‘is that going to be the ‘Goldfinger’ that I think it’s going to be?’ How did that one come about?

I had some experience in the past reinventing some of these old songs like when I did the Sinatra CD (Sin-Atra) where I utilized metal arrangements on some of those classic Sinatra songs. It seemed like doing it up in a rock motif would be a really cool thing. I thought it would work for “Goldfinger” and it did.

I tend to gravitate back to “London” when I listen to the CD and it’s definitely one of my early favorites. Dee Snider’s vocals on that track are out of this world and Frankie Banali’s drumming is unreal! Those aspects combined with the dark lyrical content have combined to create something very special.

That track seems to be the one that people are gravitating toward and the performance on there by Dee Snider is absolutely one of the reasons. The song is unique in that it’s specialized tuning that I used on the song and the fact that it’s in 6/8 time, where most contemporary pop music is done in 4. This has a slightly different feel to it with the slow tune and, for me, I wanted to conjure up this image of Sweeny Todd/Jack the Ripper and vibe of that period of time. To be influenced by the Beatles and Led Zeppelin and be able to have some orchestration on there was great. To have the drum pattern that Frankie played, which is very John Bonhamesque, gave it a uniqueness yet a familiarity that I think has worked wonders for someone hearing something that is this dark and yet still gravitating to it.

You also have a very cool guitar duel with your brother Bruce on “Guitar Commandos.” Do the two of you get many opportunities to play together?

We’re actually going to be playing together on the KISS Kruise. We’re going to be doing an hour set with Todd Kearns and Brent Fitz. So people will be able to see that and who knows what will come out of that.

With today’s technology, you can record an album without any two people being in the same room together. Were you able to get most of these guys together to record or was it pieced together?

The new material was all done in Vegas in Vegas View Recording. The vast majority of people came to the studio; all of the singers came to the studio. Rudy (Sarzo) and Vinnie Appice were the only two guys who didn’t physically come into the studio, but they wound up using other facilities to record their parts. If even it was piece mailed, we were all able to hang out and get the vibe going.

You mentioned writing with Doug (Katsaros) earlier. Balance has been one of those bands that I’ve pointed out to people over the years who may not have known about you being in it.

It was pretty much a below the radar kind of band.

I still say you guys deserve more credit that you got. Did your reunion in 2014 get you and Doug back together writing or had you stayed in touch throughout the years?

We had been working together; he was always available for me to use his keyboard playing or orchestration on a lot of the stuff that I did. He did a lot of the orchestration on the Sinatra record that I did, so we had been continuing to work together in a recording capacity and then we did the reunion shows. I came up with the music for these four songs and I asked him if he wanted to give it a crack at writing something for these. We had such good luck in the past and he really came through. I think that these are really good songs and the artists on there think so as well.

 

You also have a previously unreleased track on there in “Can’t Stop the Rock.”

Originally, this was going to be an EP of new material only but then as I started talking to some of these business people I realized that having a full CD would be better. To that end, some of the artists that I had worked with in the past told me that these were some amazing songs that were never really released in a way where people had a chance to hear them. I dug out a bunch of songs from the closet and played them for Bobby Ferrari and we came up with these five that would be the back half of the record. “Can’t Stop the Rock” just happened to be one that was never released. This was the companion song done back in the day when Dave Eisley and I did the song for SpongeBob called “Sweet Victory.” This was the other song that we recorded; it was never released so here it is.

You have to be sitting on so many great stories. How many times do people ask you ‘why don’t you write a book?’

I’m actually in the process; I have 250 pages and I’ve decided to concentrate on this CD for now and try to add it into the book. It’s already in progress and it will probably be done in another fifty to seventy five pages.

I guess it’s fair to say that it’s hard to tell when we might expect that to be released?

It’s hard to say other than we’re not starting from scratch and the vast majority is done.

So much in the industry has changed over the years. Is there something that immediately pops into your head when you think of something that’s much better today as opposed to back then? Also, let’s flip the script and ask if there’s one thing better back then as opposed to today?

Certainly the recording process is better now, but back then if you didn’t have the talent you were removed from the equation. Today, there are so  many ways that people can skate by that with a minimum of talent compared  to what was necessary back in the day. There was no autotuner, no cut and paste, no computer generated wave forms to look at to move around. There was no chop up or crossfade so a punch in and punch out could be made to look seamless. In the past, you couldn’t do any of that with the old machinery. People had to play and sing the way that you heard it; now we don’t what was fixed and what was not. All you can do now is base it on your visceral response. It is totally different and in that way the bar has dropped. People used to go to their friends place, ‘let’s go over to Joey’s because he’s has that great stereo system. We’ll be able to blast it over there.’ Nobody’s doing that anymore; they’re on their iPads, iPhones, they have their buds in, they’re listening on their computer speakers and it’s not the same.

Yes and there are way too many flavors of the week. I don’t know if we’ll ever see any new bands with a career lasting thirty or forty years.

One of the things that I’ve been doing is producing some young artists with Bobby Ferrari and that’s important because if there are no artists to take their place, there will be nobody to pass the torch to.

Skeletons in the Closet drops on September 15; do you have any promotions for it that you want to mention?

Well, I’m going to be playing the KISS Kruise to start and we’re trying to see what’s possible, so don’t count me out yet.

How do you gauge how successful this album is? The days of checking chart position each week in Billboard is long gone and it’s not like it used to be.

No, it’s not like it used to be; for me the success that I was actually able to do this is gratifying in and of and by itself. I have no preconceived opinions of what it’s going to do or not do. I’m just an observer just to see if people do pick up on it. I think that ultimately a few of the songs go into movies and I think that it would be great if some live shows come out of it, so we’ll see. I’d like to do another record as well with all new tunes, but I have to be realistic and see what happens. I’m excited because I can see with these twenty three great artists on here that it’s a very unique record. It’s a Bob Kulick solo record except that I have a twenty three piece band behind me, so I don’t exactly feel naked or out there on a limb by myself. I feel that I put my best foot forward and surrounded myself with some real talent from this genre.

You hang with some pretty good company Bob.

Yeah, I’ve been lucky.

As always, it’s been a pleasure to talk with you today. Is there anything that you’d like to close with?

I’ll be on the KISS Kruise with my brother and I hope that people enjoy the new record. I will also have some songs on Gene’s boxset that will be coming out in the near future. I also produced four of the songs on new Motorhead Under Cover record that’s coming out including the Grammy Award winning “Whiplash.”

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