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Back In The Solo Album Groove With Bob Kulick

Longtime member of the KISS family fondly remembers great music and great vibes during the "Paul Stanley" album sessions, the positive musical chemistry between himself and Stanley, and offers insight on his guitar tracks and his opinion on the album 35 years later.

Interview by Tim McPhate

KissFAQ: Bob, when the calendar turned to 1978, in terms of your work with KISS, you had come off playing some guitar tracks on the studio recordings on "Alive II." When did you first learn about the KISS solo album project?
Bob Kulick: Well actually, I got a call from Paul and I got a call from Gene as well. Both asked me to play guitar on their solo albums. Paul was trying to do a more organic band-like approach, whereas Gene was trying to get a whole bunch of guests and piece it all together. You know, I would have liked to have played on both records. But the reality was if I played on Gene's record, as Gene pointed out to me, then there's two records with the same lead player on it, which I could understand his point. And also the fact that Paul was like, "Well, wait a minute. I'm using him so you can't use him." So I basically just said, "No problem. I totally understand." But [Paul's album] was a different project than the KISS "Alive II" thing in that Paul certainly gave me more latitude and longitude in terms of what I was able to play by virtue of me not trying to have to be somebody else.

KF: Right. And I know that Gene was interested in you playing on his album but ultimately it didn't come to be since you were on Paul's album. Was this initially decided from the get-go then?
BK: No, I wouldn't say it was from the get-go because we started Paul's record and then Gene went to England. And then it still went on from there. Gene actually sent me a letter, "I'm really sorry that it didn't work out. I feel bad." It was like, "No worries." I ended up writing a couple of things with Gene that saw the light of day. So you know, it kind of turned into like, "I write with Gene but I play with Paul." Although that changed when I got up and played with Gene at that beer fest they had here in downtown L.A. during Octoberfest [last year].

KF: I saw some clips. That looked like a great time.
BK: Yeah. It was very cool because Gene whispered in my ear, "You know with your brother and you up here with me, who could do any better?" And I was like, "Well, he didn't have to say that."

KF: Yes, that's a nice compliment indeed. Bob, when you first got together with Paul regarding his solo album, did he play you some of the music he was working on? I'm curious what your first reaction was to hearing the material.
BK: Well, by the time we got ready to do this, we basically went into the recording studio. And he would show us the song. "Here's what I wrote. Here's 'Move On.' "Okay." "Here's how it goes." And we'd play along, learn the song and come up with a vibe for the songs. The New York portion of the program was recorded at Electric Lady Studios, I believe with Dave Wittman as engineer. Paul conducted the sessions. You know, we really didn't have a producer. He asked me to suggest a bass player, which I did. Steve Buslowe, who was also the guy I suggested for the Meat Loaf gig. He is an amazingly creative bass player!!! And Paul wanted to use Richie Fontana, who I knew from Billy Squier's thing, Piper.

KF: Yep.
BK: The Aucoin connection! This was kind of a different band but the band had a vibe. Paul played and I played guitar -- we played as a band until we got a good take, which didn't take very long to be honest. You know, they were simple, straight-ahead songs. His vocals and the lead guitar stuff -- that's what really made them into what they were. It was my kind of opportunity to play with somebody who not only did I like on a musical level and who shared my taste in music -- Zeppelin and that stuff -- but was also somebody that I knew sounded good with. I sounded good with his vibe -- it worked really good [sic].

"Tonight You Belong To Me" and "Wouldn't You Like To Know Me?" -- Those songs were easy, because he was a fan of my playing and I played what was appropriate. You know, I was really into Dick Wagner at the time, who Paul was a big fan of as well. Dick Wagner, Steve Hunter -- the guitar players that played on "Lou Reed Live" and the guitar players that played with Alice Cooper. I played with Dick Wagner when I did a tour with Alice Cooper in '77, filling in, in Australia and New Zealand, when Steve Hunter played with Peter Gabriel. So, here I am, "I'm playing with fucking Alice Cooper!"

KF: (Laughs)
BK: For Paul that was a big deal. And he was a big Balance fan, the band I had with Peppy [Castro]. The first time I met Doug [Katsaros] was [at] the "Paul Stanley" sessions in Los Angeles. Peppy and Doug were the other members in Balance. Half of Paul's record was done in New York and the other half was in sunny California where the car wrecks happened, where everybody was renting from Hertz. And the tour manager Chris Lendt was out here at the hotel, "What's going on?" Gene's crashing his car. Paul had the gate fall on his car. I wrapped my car around a pole. [And] Ace wrecked his car (laughs). We got very little done. It took forever to get anything done. And I guess Jeff Glixman was around at the time -- not that any of that was his fault...

KF: I was going to ask about Jeff Glixman. He ended up co-producing four tracks in L.A. but from what I have read it seems he and Paul didn't jell together. Do you remember what the issue was?
BK: It was Paul's insecurity, "You know, maybe I need help?" And I said, "Help? What kind of help? It's just music. We know when it's right." So [Jeff Glixman] really had no effect on us whatsoever. I'm not saying anything bad about the guy. He was fine and he wasn't condescending in any way shape or form to me. He knew Paul loved my playing. To this day, "Larger Than Life," it stands on its own. "All-American Man" stands on its own. They might not do them [live] but that doesn't mean they don't exist and they're not great and people don't ask about them. But this was the opportunity to be me. So all that stuff -- "Goodbye" and all those songs on Paul's record -- I had a great time playing. And the added attraction was that I had become accustomed to: "Well, that's the last time you'll ever play on that. That's it. I played on the record and there ain't going to be no live band. You ain't gonna be touring." But in Paul's case, [nearly 10 years later], it was Paul asking, "What would you think about doing some shows?" "Excuse me?" "You know, like me and you and a few guys will go out and play." "Huh? You're kidding right?" "No, no, we'll play. We'll do a tour." Then it was like, "Wait a minute. Paul's serious!!!!!"

With Paul's record, I really got to play a lot of stuff that was me. "Tonight You Belong To Me," "Goodbye" and "Move On" -- I was like, "Wow, this is really exciting." The [sings riff to "Tonight You Belong To Me"] -- you know that riff. It's like a ball player; do they remember those games that were great games? You bet they do. You want to remember that. It's a good memory; those are good memories. Like yesterday I see the set-up. Paul had all those Gibson TV models, Les Pauls and a Flying V and all that. I was like, "Let me try that one." We just had a good time with it. And it sounded like it. And he sang his ass off. And that's what the Paul Stanley KISS would have sounded like, at least with me on lead guitar. Sort of like what KISS "Alive II" side four sounds like and "Nowhere To Run," because people ask me about that song too.

KF: Getting deeper into some of the album's tracks, the solo in "Tonight You Belong To Me" is one of my favorites. It's very melodic, while maintaining an edge, and your fantastic vibrato really shines through.
BK: I thought, "What should that be like? Maybe end on some high notes, start off with a definitive melody." Your mind and hand-eye coordination [take over] and you don't think about it and the idea just pops out and there it is. It just happens. I didn't work out any of those solos really; I just did them on the spot. Eventually we found what we were looking for. I say we, because Paul had to be happy and so did I.

KF: Your leads do sound very spontaneous.
BK: That's the way to make something special. It happened because the moment [was] right to have the kind of fun that one wants to have under those circumstances, which is [like] the batter batting in the bottom of the ninth with the winning run on base. A hit wins the game. You live for that. So this was one of those moments. I remember I had my old Les Paul, "Okay, here we go... 'Tonight You Belong To Me.'" And that's what came out, pretty much. I think I fixed a couple of notes maybe. That was it. It was like, "Fuck, that's great!" We tried a few other solos but they weren't as good.

KF: So you tried a few takes and went with the one that felt the best?
Yeah. I recently heard a whole reel of outtakes (laughs) from "All-American Man" and "Larger Than Life." It was hilarious. BK: I was just like, "Oh my God, there's part of it there." This must have been one of the attempts and then we used the good part in the comp. You comp together the best stuff.

KF: Paul has described "Move On" as having a Bad Company-type feel. I think the girls from Desmond Child & Rouge really add a nice ingredient to this song.
BK: Yes, that is correct. I don't think I was there for that. I don't recall that I was there, Paul just did that. He was good friends [with], and we were big fans of, Desmond Child & Rouge. That's how Paul became friendly with Desmond, that's how they ultimately wrote together, and that led Desmond to Jon Bon Jovi and on to fame and glory.

KF: "Ain't Quite Right" is a moody song, a real departure for Paul at the time. To my ears, your solo is a clinic in dynamics. Your lines really fit perfectly with the music: they starts quietly and build momentum only to gently cascade into those final singable licks. What do you remember about this particular solo?
BK: Well again, I hate to keep using the baseball analogy but baseball is my sport of choice. I play softball and hand-eye coordination -- they are kind of linked together. The song and where it was -- as you say, the vibe of the song -- was in my wheelhouse. That's the pitch that I could hit out of the park. That groove, that feel, those licks ... they just [came] to me. You're able to just really play to this vibe. For me, it's an easy vibe to play with. That was the good thing about [the album] -- the style of Paul's writing really fit the style of my playing. And it really easily married together, like, "Oh, that's seamless." "Yeah, exactly. It's the right vibe for what it is." It wasn't work, it was, "Let's just have some fun," which makes it 100 times better. We had fun doing it. And that's the thing; this was not a stressful situation. This was a really relaxed ... let's have some fun situation. We did.

KF: "Take Me Away (Together As One)" is another departure. There is a lot of acoustic guitar and some dynamic swings. I don't know that I've heard a song from Paul like it before or after. Bob, did you play any acoustic on this track?
BK: Yeah, some of the acoustics, I must have done. Some. But mainly the electrics and the solo. That was one of the L.A. songs. And that was when Carmine Appice came down to play.

KF: One of the things I love about "Take Me Away" is your memorable fills in between Paul's vocal parts. I take it these were overdubbed after Paul sang his lead vocal?
BK: Yes, that was a "wait until the vocal was on there and see if it needs anything else. You know what, let's see about putting some licks in here." See with guys that can really play -- and I'm not saying that in an egotistical way -- and that can fill a hole with something meaningful, then you try to [let them] find it. "Here's where the vocal ends. Stick something in there that will work with the vocal in the track that will help it." You know, [in the] second verse, something slightly different happens. Like "Goodbye," where we did the same thing -- [we] stuck some stuff inside there, not just [the same thing], but also licks that definitely helped move the song along and answered Paul's vocals correctly. And it was definitely one of the things that Jimmy Page used to do. Paul's a huge Led Zeppelin fan, so he allowed me, "Yeah, yeah. Throw some shit in there. Go for it." If he didn't like it, he'd make that face, "Nah." "Can I try again?" "Sure." Eventually I'd find something and he'd say, "I like that!" "I like it too." Again, we were friends, we hung out together, we went to the same concerts together, we went out to eat together, we listened to music together -- so was it so unusual that the guitar vibe was so really together on this [album]? No, it was the fact that we were in sync at that moment in our lives. We were very in sync. We were like best friends and I really cherish that time we spent together.

KF: "It's Alright" is another straight-ahead rocker. It's interesting to note that Paul used a Gallien-Kreuger amp on this tune. Of course, that company is fairly known for its bass amps. Do you recall the Gallien-Kreuger being used?
BK: I guess it's possible, I mean everything was in there but the kitchen sink (laughs). If you ever saw the picture of all the guitars, between his and mine, that were over at the Record Plant. There were like 20 guitars sitting there. It was pretty cool, including his flying V, and some acoustics and a Les Paul. Maybe that TV model I used, just a bunch of guitars.

KF: Did you play any guitars on the ballad, "Hold Me, Touch Me"?
BK: Paul just kind of tackled that himself. I was like, "That's good."

KF: I know Paul is particularly fond of his solo in that song and I think he did a very nice job. "Love In Chains" features Steve Lacey on guitar.
BK: Yeah, he played on some of it and I played on some of it.

KF: Who was Steve Lacey?
BK: He was somebody from L.A. that Paul was introduced to. It was just one of those, "Sure, he'll play. That's fine." And then ultimately it was like, "[You] play too." It was fun. "Hold Me, Touch Me" was [Paul's] thing so I thought it was appropriate, just like when he did "A World Without Heroes." I remember he played it for me and I said, "You know what, that's a pretty good solo Paul. You did that right?" He's like, "Yep." I said, "It's really good. It's very melodic." And I thought to myself, "It sounds like he's trying to play like me." And he said, "I was trying to play like you." I was like, "Wow, what a compliment. Thank you so much."

KF: That's one of my favorite KISS guitar solos. Bob, your sound seems fairly straightforward on Paul's album. Aside from guitars, did you use any pedals or effects?
BK: Mainly I just plugged directly into the Marshall. And they ran the effects through the board so if I had more delay -- you know "[make it] a little bit wetter" -- whatever it was, it went through the board. I may have used the wah-wah pedal on something. It's possible I just kind of set it in a setting -- sometimes rather than "wah-wah-wah" you just set it somewhere and it kind of speaks in a cool way to what you're playing. But really, no, it was pretty much pure.

KF: And Bob, how many guitar tracks would you guys have recorded on these songs? For instance, did you double some parts?
BK: Easily, [there was] Paul's double, my double, my leads, auxiliary stuff [like] EBows -- yeah, there was just tons of stuff.

KF: I know Paul was quite fond of using the EBow around this period and that he used it on a few tracks. Did you use one as well?
BK: No, he was the EBow king. He liked to play with the EBow. No, one did not infringe upon Paul's EBowing (laughs).

KF: (Laughs) Bob, putting your studio hat on, what's your take on how Paul's album holds up, from a production standpoint?
BK: Well, it's a great record. How could anybody fault it? It sounds like the people who were doing it were having a good time. And all the songs seem sincere. As a producer, that's all you could really ask for. Paul sang his ass off as he always does. Even live, he always gave 100 percent even if he didn't have it. He always went for it. [He never] chickened out. The record pretty much has that spontaneous vibe, especially the New York tracks. But all of it to me was special in that I enjoyed playing with him.

KF: And sonically speaking?
BK: I think it holds up. I do. Because the most important things are the songs and the performances. That's still the single most important thing. Paul's voice sounds great and the guitars sound great. Those guitars are miked up really well in a recording studio. All of the sounds are organic. I like that. Everything fits.

KF: Paul's album still resonates with fans to this day. If I had to ballpark it, I think either his album or Ace's album rank as the favorite among a majority of fans. Bob, did you ever give a listen to Ace's solo album?
BK: "New York Groove" and all that stuff on his record? I thought it was great stuff. Very underrated, I mean "New York Groove" was the hit of all four of the records.

KF: That's right.
BK: He didn't write it, but so what? He was smart enough to whip it out and put his personality on it to make it work for him. And you can never say the guy didn't have his own personality because he did. And you know I wanted him to be on the Christmas record that I produced a few years ago with the late Ronnie Dio, may he rest in peace, and Lemmy, Billy Gibbons, Dave Grohl, Tony Iommi, and Geoff Tate and all the great artists who came in to work on it. But what can you say?

KF: While working on Paul's album, you mentioned that was the first time you met Doug Katsaros. Was that also the first time you met Peppy Castro?
BK: No, I knew Peppy from before. I knew Peppy back when he was in the Blues Magoos.

KF: Which leads into my Balance question ... I love good melodic AOR rock and those first two Balance albums really fit the bill. The material is really in line with some of the great AOR of the period: Toto, Journey and Foreigner. If you could have one mulligan with Balance, what would it be?
BK: I guess all I can say, and be politically correct, is the idea that we not tour until "something happened." Because the band did very few dates and that was Steve Leber's approach: "These songs are great. Let them just explode on radio. They'll be a hit, [and] the people that hear them will then want to see the band." If I could do it over again, David Krebs would have handled it and he would have sent us out on the road.

KF: How many tour dates did Balance end up doing?
BK: Not many. I mean we played a few. We did some shows in Japan, and that was it.

KF: Bob, I know you've been working on a Michael Jackson tribute album. How is that coming along?
BK: Yeah, the metal Michael Jackson tribute album is done and will be released on October 22 [Ed. 2013] through Cleopatra Records. You know I've played it for a few people -- they've heard the songs and they were shitting their pants. The material is so great whether he wrote the songs or not. Like "Thriller," it's not [Michael Jackson's] composition. He's singing the song but it's not his composition. We have a great version with [Testament's] Chuck Billy singing. How different can you get from that?

KF: No kidding.
BK: He did great. And some of the songs, "Man In The Mirror" and stuff like that, they're very emotional songs. I can't wait for people to hear them. They have some really great performances -- Doug Aldrich, Bumblefoot, my brother, Billy Sheehan, Rudy Sarzo, Phil Campbell. Some of the playing on there is seriously really great. As far as the lead singers, they don't get better than these guys.

KF: Speaking of your brother, have you guys kicked around the idea of doing an album together?
BK: Yeah, we've been talking about it. We're talking about doing some shows, you know Europe, South America -- wherever people are excited about seeing us play -- and at least trying to do an EP so we have something out there. That is what we are discussing now, actually. I think it's going to happen; it will just take some time. But I assume it will be well worth it.

(KissFAQ thanks Bob Kulick for his time and contribution to Back In The Solo Album Groove, our 35th anniversary retrospective dedicated to the 1978 KISS solo albums.)



About Bob Kulick:
Brooklyn-born Bob Kulick is a longtime member of the "KISS family," dating back to his 1973 audition with the band. He subsequently landed live gigs in Meat Loaf's touring band and with Alice Cooper. Kulick was brought back into the KISS fold to play "ghost" guitar on tracks on side four of 1977's "Alive II," including "All-American Man" and "Larger Than Life." A year later, he was recruited by Paul Stanley to play guitar on his 1978 solo album. Kulick's guitar work on "Paul Stanley" proved an integral ingredient to the platinum-certified album. In 1980 Kulick earned a co-writing credit on "Naked City," a song featured on "Unmasked." Kulick joined forces with Peppy Castro and Doug Katsaros to form the AOR band Balance. The group issued two albums, 1981's "Balance" and 1982's "In For The Count." (Balance convened for a reunion album in 2009 with "Equilibrium.") Kulick later played on select cuts on KISS' 1982 compilation "Killers," including the solos for "Partners In Crime" and "Nowhere To Run." He later joined Stanley for his first ever solo tour in 1989, playing cuts from Stanley's 1978 album along with hits from the KISS catalog.

Kulick's studio credits include playing guitar on albums for artists such as Lou Reed, Diana Ross, Meat Loaf, Michael Bolton, W.A.S.P. and Doro. More recently, Kulick has produced several tribute albums featuring all-star casts of hard rock and metal musicians, including "Spin The Bottle: An All-Star Tribute To KISS" (2004), "Butchering The Beatles: A Headbashing Tribute" (2006), "We Wish You A Metal X-Mas And A Headbanging New Year" (2008), and "SIN-atra: An All-Star Metal Tribute To Frank Sinatra" (2011). In 2004 Kulick won a Grammy for Best Metal Performance as the producer for Motörhead's cover of Metallica's "Whiplash." Kulick's latest tribute project, "Thriller: A Metal Tribute To Michael Jackson," is set for release Oct. 22 via Cleopatra Records. The album features performances by his brother Bruce Kulick, Chuck Billy (Testament), Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, The Winery Dogs), Lajon Witherspoon (Sevendust), Chris Jericho (Fozzy), Elias Soriano (Nonpoint), and Doug Pinnick (King's X), among others. Today, Kulick works out of his Los Angeles-based studio, Office Studios, with his business partner Brett Chasen. Follow Office Studios on Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/OfficeStudios] and Twitter [https://twitter.com/OfficeStudios].