Bruce Kulick Talks Solo Kiss Kruise Show: ‘Revisiting This Material Was Pretty Frightening’
For the second straight year, Bruce Kulick provided some of the biggest thrills and surprises on the Kiss Kruise, this time with a solo show that dove deeper into his often overlooked decade-plus tenure with the group than ever before.
Last year, Kulick and his brother Bob earned high praise for a joint set that equally highlighted both of their contributions to Kiss' long career. An encore performance was initially planned for this year, but contractual issues caused the elder Kulick to back out. Undaunted, Bruce adapted by stuffing his set list with deep tracks from the '80s and '90s, as well as medleys dedicated to the Crazy Nights and Carnival of Souls albums.
"Reliving those years was pretty mind-blowing for me," Kulick tells Ultimate Classic Rock. "It was exciting! I got so thrilled about some of those songs. When we were rehearsing, I was telling my wife, 'This is gonna go over so well. Even though we know sometimes people make fun of those '80s songs, they're gonna go nuts.'"
Along with the excitement came apprehension. "I know the reaction is great, and I'm totally thrilled. None of them know how tortured I was by this. It was a personal struggle for me, to relive my guitar playing from about 30 years ago. Something like a Kiss Kruise, I take quite seriously as you imagine. I had a lot to prove. I was up for the challenge, but I didn't realize how intense some of that playing was. So I went through a bit of a shock. I wasn't even sure I could do all that, physically. Because I hadn't done it in so long. It was like a runner who hadn't been running for a while, I had to work up to it."
Luckily, he had a fantastic backing band, featuring his former bandmate Brent Fitz on drums, Zach Throne on bass and Todd Kerns on guitar. "I have to really thank my band. Those three guys worked really hard, and they had a lot of great input. Of course, Brent is my beloved friend from Union. Todd is such a terrific singer and front man. Zach Throne can sing great too. In this case, we put him on bass and let him sing some of the Gene (Simmons) songs, because he's got such a powerful voice. So I've got these three guys who can do so much. They were so dedicated. I know Brent was on a mission for a long time, he knows how many people grew up with my era in Kiss."
With their help, Kulick was able to change up the style he's been playing in for nearly two decades now with Grand Funk Railroad, in order to successfully revisit his flashier past. "For the last 18 years with Grand Funk, I've been that strong classic rock guitar player, lead playing in a more straight-ahead head manner. No Floyd Rose whammy bar, no hammer-ons, no intense flurry of riffs. I was clearly ordained to do that stuff in the '80s with Kiss. Sometimes the solos were 'King of the Mountain' style, which were really intense. I'd be like, 'How am I gonna do that?' I'm a perfectionist, I'm very picky, I like things to be just right. That's a challenge that can drive you crazy. So I had to be a little more lenient, and say, 'As long as I'm doing something that's reminiscent of what I did before, it's OK.' Some of that stuff, I don't even know what I did, It was in the studio and it was 30 years ago."
Another challenge was in deciding how to represent his 12 years in Kiss in just over an hour. "The key to keeping it a healthy diet of my era for the fans was the medley. With a 75-minute set, you're lucky if you can put in 14 songs. There's no way I could represent everything I wanted to. So creating these medleys was a challenge, but now there can be 23 songs in the set. I just gave enough of these songs to feel right, to take you back to that place when you were loving Asylum or Crazy Nights or Carnival of Souls."
After all that hard work, Kulick is allowing himself a moment to smell the roses. "The real thrill of this whole thing, and my goal on this cruise, was always to present my era of Kiss to the fans. This cruise proves to me that they have a hunger for that, and it hasn't been on the menu in many years," he says proudly. "I'll be the chef, I'm happy to present it to them. We saw people crying on the boat, it was quite a loving moment."
None other than Paul Stanley was quick to congratulate his former band mate. "Another nice highlight for me on the cruise was to have Paul give a really strong shout-out to me and my band. I made a mention right there on stage, that revisiting this material was pretty frightening for me. Paul said, 'Don't I know it!'
So is there any chance people will be able to see a Kulick show on dry land sometime in the future? "Well, you know, first I'm letting everybody absorb this, of course. But I've never felt stronger about my brand, if you wanna call it that. I've always said that I wave the flag of the non-makeup era, and I know that flag was flying pretty intensely on the cruise. Obviously I'd love to see what can come of it. I have so much respect for the guys in my band. Brent and Todd are always committed to Slash, that's a great gig and Slash, I presume, is quite excited to have them as his rhythm section. They have commitments, I have Grand Funk. I'm thrilled to be the guitarist in that band. So whatever could happen, we'd all have to look at our schedules. And I'd love to use this exact band, if there are any proper opportunities. But for the first time in a long time, instead of not knowing who I would play with or how I would do it, I have a lot more of a solid footing now. If everyone's schedule permits, I know exactly how to make a real impact. I don't like to do things half-assed - why would I want to do it any less amazing than I was able to do on this cruise? So, we'll see what the future brings, but it's an exciting time in my life, to be honest with you."
Watch Bruce Kulick's 11/3 Kiss Kruise Show
Bruce Kulick 10/31/18 Kiss Kruise Set List
1. "King of the Mountain"
3. "Hell or High Water / I'll Fight Hell to Hold You / When Your Walls Come Down / No, No, No"
4. "Sword and Stone"
5. "Who Wants to Be Lonely"
6. "Thou Shalt Not"
7. "I Still Love You"
8. "Rise to It / Let's Put the X in Sex / You Make Me Rock Hard"
9. "Little Ceasar"
10. "Heart of Chrome"
12. "Uh! All Night"
13. "God Gave Rock 'n' Roll to You II"
Bruce Kulick 11/3/18 Kiss Kruise Set List
1. "King of the Mountain"
2. "Thou Shalt Not"
3. "Tears Are Falling"
4. "Hell or High Water / I'll Fight Hell to Hold You / When Your Walls Come Down / No, No, No"
5. "Sword and Stone"
6. "Rise to It / Let's Put the X in Sex / You Make Me Rock Hard"
7. "Little Ceasar"
8. "Take It Off"
10. "Hate / Master & Slave / Rain / In the Mirror"
11. "God Gave Rock 'n' Roll to You II"
12. "Uh! All Night"
13. "Turn on the Night"
Kiss Lineup Changes: A Complete Guide