Bassist recalls laying down the bottom end on "Paul Stanley," the sterling guitar work of Bob Kulick, the atmosphere at the sessions in Los Angeles and New York, and working with Jeff Glixman, and provides his opinion on how the album holds up today and details on his current status as a music instructor.
By Tim McPhate
KissFAQ: Steve, wheat do you recall about getting the offer to play on Paul Stanley's solo album?
Steve Buslowe: I was pretty excited about it. I got the introduction through Bob Kulick, with whom I had been working with. We were touring with Meat Loaf at the time. Obviously Bob and Paul go back a long way and I guess Paul started doing some demos. And I can't remember if there was another bass player involved or not but somehow Bob recommended me to come and play for the original demos that we did at Electric Lady.
Courtesy of Steve Buslowe
KF: Had you met Paul prior to the solo album, or was this your first time meeting him?
SB: First time meeting him.
KF: What were your first impressions of Paul?
SB: You know, my first impression and last impression were he was just a straight, normal kind of guy. Of course these were the days where nobody knew what they looked like because they all wore makeup all the time.
KF: Yes indeed. Was your first time hearing Paul's material actually in the studio? Do you remember your first reaction to the songs?
SB: Let me think this through for a second, when he played us the songs, as the session player as I was, I was writing out the chord charts to get a feeling for it. And I'm not really sure if I had a full impression of what the song was going to eventually be, I was just kind of learning the parts. I just know that when we all played together, it was just very natural and easy. And I know "Tonight You Belong To Me" might have been the first one we did -- and I just loved playing that. I thought that was a great song.
KF: Definitely. I believe the initial sessions took place in New York at Electric Lady in February 1978. One of the comments I've read from you is that upon entering the studio one day you heard Paul playing guitar through a Marshall amp and you described it as sounding majestic, almost like an orchestra. Do you recall this, and if so, can you re-paint the picture?
SB: I do. I'll never forget it. As I said in that book you're referring to [Ed: "Behind The Mask"], I've heard guys play guitars before, of course, because I've played with them. And obviously Kulick is fabulous. But there was something about the way Paul struck the chord and the power of that Marshall amplifier and hearing it in a closed room. I've just never heard anything like it before. I know that sounds a little silly maybe. It's just interesting to know how musicians can play the same guitars or the same amps and they can sound different. There was something about the way he struck that guitar that was so powerful to me.
KF: That's an interesting observation. Steve, the tracks recorded in New York were "Tonight You Belong To Me," "Ain't Quite Right," "Wouldn't You Like To Know Me," and "Move On." By all accounts, it seems that these sessions went fairly quickly -- I believe something like 10 days. Is that your recollection?
SB: You know, I don't think I was involved with it for 10 days. I actually thought we only got together maybe two times in the studio and maybe the rest were for overdubs.
KF: And before the actual tracking, were there any rehearsals to refine the parts?
SB: We really learned it in the studio. We didn't do like a week of rehearsing; we just kind of got together and we just played the songs and we recorded the songs. You have to remember that those initial sessions, I think, were being treated as demos. Paul was just trying to get us to play almost as if we were going to record a demo and then he would re-do it. I don't want to say we didn't put a lot of thought into it -- but it was, "Let's just do it. Let's just get it down."
KF: Paul ended up with a co-producer credit on the album. In Los Angeles Jeff Glixman came onboard and it seems that he was slated to produce the album. But I don't know he and Paul gelled. What's your recollection?
SB: Yeah, I think it's what you were saying. If I got this right, Paul was producing the demo sessions that we did at Electric Lady. And I think the intention was once we all went to L.A., that he was going to try to re-record some of those tracks. And I believe that's where I met Jeff Glixman. And yeah, you know what, I could feel that the chemistry wasn't right. I don't want to say I didn't get on with Jeff Glixman, but I didn't have a great feeling about it. It was a lot more comfortable working with Paul and the guys back in New York. And I think what happened was, we did record -- or at least I was a part of that one more song that we did in L.A. -- and I think Paul somewhere along the way just decided to use the demos and probably had Kulick come in and do some overdubs and maybe repair some vocal parts.
KF: Getting into some more of the tracks, the song "Ain't Quite Right," which is a quiet dynamic tune, contains a tricky bass slide that you've admitted was presenting an issue in terms of capturing it the way Paul wanted. Can you recount that story?
SB: You know what's funny about it is I was listening to the CD ... and it was actually very interesting to hear it again. What's interesting is that overdub I'm referring to actually happened in Los Angeles. As I thought about it, there's a possibility that I didn't play on the track on that originally. And the only reason I say it is because there was another bass guitar track on there and I don't know if that was done afterward or if they recorded the song before I got involved. But Paul had asked me to replace it; he wanted me to just re-do the bass part. It was one section, I guess it was an area where the bass seemed to play by itself. And whoever played the part originally had a bit of a certain character to the part, with the slide. I couldn't capture it exactly the way he wanted me to do it. He actually picked up my bass and he played it just to kind of show me what he wanted. And he gave the bass back to me and I played it the best I could, but I don't think I actually got exactly what he wanted. But what I commented on in the book, what impressed me was he didn't try to humiliate me. He did his best to explain it and he could have played it himself if he wanted to or hired somebody else. But as a young guy -- and I wasn't as skilled as a session player back in 1978 as I later became -- I was just pleased that he didn't humiliate me. He kind of let me get through it. I was just impressed with him for behaving that way.
KF: That story definitely stuck out to me when I first read "Behind The Mask." Perhaps because it's the type of story one wouldn't expect to read about someone of Paul's stature.
SB: You know what, that's why I wanted to bring it up. Because a lot of times, I don't have to tell you, there are a lot of big egos in the music business. And some guys can be pretty condescending and pretty rude. Again, I admitted I was young and maybe not as experienced as I would have wanted to be in that situation, but just the idea that he behaved that way, I kind of wanted people to know that about him. It stayed with me. A lot of times you hear ugly stories about people, and I've had people be condescending to me who were a lot less important than Paul Stanley. So I just wanted people to know that about him.
KF: In terms of your bass parts, you've also noted that Paul encouraged you to play more than what you would have normally played, and that he was accepting of your ideas.
SB: Yeah, you know what, with "Move On" I know I [played] this kind of moving bass line that I seem to think he liked. Sometimes I'll work with an artist or a producer that really is so protective of the song that they don't want you to overplay, which is a common problem with bass players. They tend to play more than they should. So sometimes I walk into a session I'm not really sure what I should do. But I think he encouraged everybody to have fun, just to play with it. And it might have been "Move On" where he might have encouraged me to play a little bit more. And also I was playing a lot of lyrical things in the beginning of "Tonight You Belong To Me" and he might have encouraged me to do some of that.
KF: "Move On" is one of my favorites. I love the feel and the girls from Desmond Child & Rouge add a nice element.
KF: According to my notes, sessions moved to Los Angeles in July at Village Recorder. I know KISS were filming "KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park" that spring and they also briefly toured Japan in April. What do you recall about that time lapse?
SB: I don't know what it was from Paul's end but I will tell you that Bob Kulick and I had been on tour with Meat Loaf. And in the spring we were in Europe and then we went to Australia. So Bob and I flew directly from Australia to L.A. and we started [tracking] maybe the next day in L.A. So I'm not sure if it was also that Bob and I weren't available until that time.
KF: That would seem to make sense.
SB: I think I do remember Paul being involved with that movie but for whatever reason, again Bob and I would not have been available before that, maybe Paul said, "Hey, we've got this gap. Let's see if we can do it when you guys get back from Australia."
KF: "Take Me Away (Together As One)" is really a centerpiece on this album and, to me, a true departure for Paul at the time. This track features a lot of acoustic guitar and dynamic twists and turns, topped off with some cinematic lyrics. What are your recollections of this tune?
SB: That song, to me it always had a Led Zeppelin feel to it -- something about the arpeggiated guitar part. I just remember playing with Carmine because that was kind of Carmine's powerful bit at the end. I enjoyed playing that song very much.
Courtesy of Steve Buslowe
KF: There were some tracks that you did not play on, "It's Alright," "Hold Me, Touch Me," "Love In Chains," and "Goodbye." A bassist named Eric Nelson played on these. Was there a specific reason why you didn't play on these tracks?
SB: You know, I'm trying to think exactly what happened. Obviously Paul would know better than I would. But my memory is that when Carmine came in we were successful with "Take Me Away (Together As One)," but I think we tried to recreate some of the other ones we had done in New York and we may have actually tried to record one of the ones I didn't play on. And the same magic that we had in New York wasn't happening in Los Angeles and I think what happened was they found a drummer, Craig ... (pauses)
KF: Craig Krampf.
SB: Right. And it's possible that he was working with the other bass player so there was a team, a rhythm section. I guess Paul and Jeff Glixman must have decided, "Hey, you know what, these guys work together. Why don't we just have them come in and play?" That's certainly a common thing with bass players and drummers -- it's important for them to have good rapport. It was a little disappointing for me because obviously I was hoping to do the other tracks but somebody made the decision to use these other guys.
KF: So perhaps you may have played on those tunes if Richie Fontana made it out to Los Angeles?
SB: Yeah, it's funny you said that. I don't know why that happened because obviously Richie was around in New York. I don't know if he wasn't available or maybe it was just that Paul wanted to bring Carmine in to do the album. Again, I think the intention was to actually re-record all the things that we did in New York but they decided that they sounded so good they would keep them. But I think initially Paul may have wanted to re-record everything using Carmine and I guess when we did the one song that was successful, that was OK. I guess the other ones just didn't feel right. And I just don't know what happened with Richie. I don't know why he wasn't used [in Los Angeles].
KF: Do you feel you and Richie had a good chemistry as a rhythm section?
SB: I do. We just got in there, the four of us, and obviously Paul was the boss of the whole thing. I had worked with Bob before. I had never worked with Richie before -- but we just got on as people and we were all just doing the right thing without a lot of effort.
KF: Some fans consider Bob Kulick's guitar work to be superlative throughout the album. I personally think he brought a special energy to these tracks. What are your thoughts on Bob's guitar work on the album?
SB: I'm glad you asked me that. First of all, I had met Bob when he and I worked together with a rock and roll Michael Bolton, believe it or not, a few years before. That's how I met Bob. And Bob was also the guy that got me involved with Meat Loaf when they were putting together the touring band. Bob and Bruce were the guitar players but they didn't have a bass player and I came in to audition, so I've always been appreciative of that. And I then I worked for many years with Bob in Meat Loaf. I gotta tell you, when I listened to Paul's album recently, the thing that shocked me -- OK, not shocked me -- but I guess I had forgotten how well Bob played on it. I couldn't believe how good he sounded and, what you just said to me, I really never thought about how many people complimented Bob for his playing on that record. But it struck me immediately how great his guitar work was on that record.
KF: Absolutely. I know he is very proud of his work on the album, and rightfully so. In KISS fan circles, I can tell you Paul's album is highly regarded. I think it's partly because Bob brought some great guitar work to the table.
SB: He really did. It was really emotional. Some of the stuff -- I don't want to sound surprised because I worked with Bob for so long and he was always a great player -- but I really forgot how he brought that album to another level with his playing. And Paul also played very well on that. I think he did a lot of that -- what do you call that thing?
KF: The EBow?
SB: The EBow, the EBow stuff.
KF: He had used it on a couple of tracks on KISS' 1977 "Love Gun" album. And he brought it back for his solo album and it added a nice layer of texture to some of the tracks.
SB: I agree. He played great. It's funny, in listening to the album again, obviously the solo stuff, most of it I assume is Bob. But I'm not really sure if Bob kind of re-did a lot of the rhythm tracks as well. I really don't know -- he might have doubled some of the stuff that Paul had did. That's another interesting thing because Paul, from what I remember, is a great guitar player. But he might have just thought, "Hey, you know, Bob might be a better guitar player and I have no problem having him play parts that I could play." And that's another sign of respect that I would have for Paul because a lot of times [someone's] ego would get in the way and say, "Hey, I'm going to play all this." So I really don't know who did what, but certainly Bob played most of the solos.
KF: From what I understand, Bob did play some rhythm guitar, either doubling the parts or playing some complementary parts.
SB: Right, OK.
KF: How about gear, Steve? Do you remember the bass and amplification you used on these recordings?
SB: Well, back then I was using a 1965 Precision bass. That was kind of my main bass. I'm pretty sure that's what I would have used on the sessions in New York and L.A. What's funny about bass amps, sometimes guys would record me using two tracks: like a direct sound and maybe record an amp sound. And a lot of times I found that they actually just used the direct sound with maybe a little bit of amp behind it. I don't remember what amplifier I used at either place -- it was just a house amplifier or whatever the studio provided. I think for guitar players, that's a lot more important than for bass players.
KF: Sure. I know Bob has recalled that there were lots of guitars around the studio.
SB: Yeah, I recall that too. Even at the sessions at New York, I'm pretty sure they had a lot of guitars.
KF: In terms of vibe, were these sessions pretty much all business, or do you recall having some fun?
SB: Honestly, the ones in New York were fabulous. As I said, it just couldn't be more relaxed. I just don't remember one problem with any of us. The chemistry was great. Having said that, I think in Los Angeles it was a little different from my perspective. It wasn't as comfortable, the chemistry wasn't there, whether it was a combination of Jeff or Carmine. The vibe wasn't there, which is why, frankly, I probably lost my gig for the rest of the album (laughs). It's always hard to say why it happened.
KF: It's helpful that you've listened to the album recently, Steve. If pressed to pick a favorite stand-out track, what would it be?
SB: It's got to be "Tonight You Belong To Me." There's just something that worked on that [song]. I probably liked my playing too because I got to be a little more melodic and lyrical with it. But there's just something about that song that works for me. And I actually like "Move On" very much too. It dawned on me that I went to see KISS in 1979 at Madison Square Garden and I think they played that song.
KF: You're absolutely right. That was their tour in support of "Dynasty" and each member sang one track from their respective solo album. "Move On" was the song they played from Paul's album.
SB: OK, so I remember sitting in the audience, "Well, that's kind of cool. Here's Gene Simmons playing my bass part."
KF: (laughs) Absolutely.
SB: Yeah, that was pretty cool (laughs). But something about "Tonight You Belong To Me" was really -- I don't know, it all came together for me.
KF: That's definitely an epic track. Paul played that on both of his solo tours. Steve, the KISS solo albums were heavily promoted by Casablanca Records with an unprecedented media campaign. Do you recall the heavy publicity surrounding the albums?
SB: I do. It was a big deal and I felt very fortunate to be associated with it. It was a big deal back then because no band had really done that. It was a great promotion they had.
KF: Ever take a listen to any of the other albums?
SB: Yep, I did. I remember listening to all of them. I haven't listened to [the other three] in a very, very long time. I actually have the LPs. My memories are Peter's had kind of
a more R&B vibe about it.
KF: That's right.
SB: It was OK but it was definitely a departure from the KISS thing. If I remember right, it seemed like Gene's was ... overproduced. But maybe -- God, you know what, I should probably stop right there because I really don't remember (laughs). I know that he used some heavy session players on it. And it probably didn't have as much of a rock and roll feel. But I do remember Ace's did have more of a rock feel to it.
KF: Those comments are pretty close to some fan assessments, actually. Ace's was very much straight-ahead rock. He employed the services of Eddie Kramer and tapped Anton Fig for the drums.
KF: It was very cohesive. And Gene's album was eclectic. He had a cast of special guests on his album, everyone from Joe Perry to Rick Nielsen and Cher. Allan Schwartzberg played drums ...
SB: Yeah, I think Neil Jason played bass on it.
KF: Correct. Helen Reddy, Donna Summer, Janis Ian -- he just went to town with the guest stars. There are some Beatlesque songs, songs with heavy orchestration and he also does a cover of "When You Wish Upon A Star." My personal belief is that Peter and Gene's albums confused many KISS fans at the time and Paul and Ace's were more well-received because they were more in alignment with what KISS sounded like.
SB: Yeah. You know what's funny too, in listening to Paul's [album] again, it's very cool because I can hear there are some Beatles influences there, kind of poppy sounds. And again, the Led Zeppelin stuff. There was one track that I didn't play on but it had a real Stones vibe about it and even the ballad that he did -- you know, it was great because it was rock but he seemed to say, "OK, it's not KISS. It's my thing." And he allowed himself to have more of his personal influences in the solo album than he would on a proper KISS album.
KF: That's right on target. Paul's commented that this album really allowed him to broaden his scope. And I personally feel it opened the door to some of his later KISS material.
SB: Right. And there was one track that almost sounded like Kansas or Styx. And of course, Jeff Glixman was involved with that. I realized later that it was probably a little bit of his influence that made it sound that way.
KF: Steve, if we fast-forward a bit, when was the last time you spoke with Paul?
SB: (pauses) I can't remember the last time I saw him. I think he came to see a Meat Loaf show that I was doing. It must have been about 20 years ago, we played at the Hudson Theatre in New York City -- right before the "Bat Out Of Hell II" album came out. And I was told that he was at the show. Actually it might have been Bob Kulick that told me that Paul had gone to see the show but I didn't seen him then. So I haven't seen Paul in a very, very long time. I think there have been a couple of times where we've gotten messages to each other, like, "Tell Steve I said hello," or "Tell Paul I said hello."
Steve Buslowe with Meat Loaf (and the Kulick Brothers) - Old Grey Whistle Test, 1978
KF: Of course, your career includes work with Meat Loaf, Jim Steinman, Celine Dion, Southside Johnny, and Barbra Streisand, among others. Where does Paul's solo album rank in your career?
SB: Boy, that's an interesting question. Obviously very high. It was obviously a big seller. It was a lot of fun to do, I'll tell you that. It might have been more relaxing than any of the other projects I've done (laughs), at least the New York sessions were. And, you know, I'm very proud to be part of that because it's 180 degrees away from Barbra Streisand or Celine Dion so the idea that I can play on all those kind of styles is important to me. In listening to the record recently, again I'm proud of my work and I'm proud to have been part of that project.
KF: Steve, can you update the fans on what you're up to nowadays?
SB: You know, Tim, I actually am out of the music business, as it were. My last tour was with Meat Loaf was in 1997.
KF: No kidding.
SB: Yeah, after doing all the touring, and I was considering doing some producing, I don't know, I think I had enough. So I came back to Connecticut and I've been teaching over the last 12 or 13 years. I primarily teach bass guitar but I'm a pretty good rock piano player and I give piano lessons to a lot of kids and I also give guitar lessons to people. I'm pretty good working on digital audio on computer -- I've been doing that since the '80s with sequencers and things. I actually have a few students where I teach them how to use GarageBand and Pro Tools and all that stuff. So I'm kind of giving back that way. I really enjoy teaching kids how to play music but not [forcing them] to read music. I can't tell you how many piano students I have that love what I do because I explain music from a different point of view rather than just playing classical pieces. And it's more involved with pop music -- whether it's Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber or whoever.
KF: Is there a part of you that misses live performance or the studio environment?
SB: The truth is very little. I always tell people that I think I did my first paying gig when I was like 11 years old. We all started so young. I always played in high school and college. When I was in college I was in a trio; we used to play five, six nights a week. So I just played and played and played. With all the years touring with Meat Loaf, I just kind of had enough with it. And I have played locally with some people up here in Connecticut. But it just wasn't much fun for me anymore.
KF: Well, that's certainly understandable.
SB: Yeah, I think some people think, "Why don't you want to play?" I go, "I don't know, I think I'd rather stay home and watch a Yankee game on TV rather than go out and play 'Mustang Sally' in some bar." (laughs)
KF: (laughs) Well, I think it's great that you're a teacher. I'm a big proponent of music education. A good music teacher can make so much of a difference in a young musician's life.
SB: Yeah, I can tell you so many stories. To me, it's just about helping kids' self-esteem. I always say I'm not breeding potential professional musicians -- you know, not everyone can be on the football team or in the chess club. It's just giving kids something to feel good about. I live in Newtown, Connecticut. As you know, we had a tragedy [in December 2012]. And some of my former students and current students wrote songs about how they felt. It's very moving to hear these things and know that I was part of their education. That's what it's all about.
(KissFAQ thanks Steve Buslowe for his time and contribution to Back In The Solo Album Groove, our 35th anniversary retrospective dedicated to the 1978 KISS solo albums.)
About Steve Buslowe:
After playing bass guitar in every corner of the globe and participating in enough New York and Los Angeles recording sessions to put 40 gold and platinum records on his walls, Steve Buslowe is happy to pass on his love of music to others. He recorded and toured with Meat Loaf from 1977-1997 - playing major venues in the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Africa, the Middle East, and Japan - becoming musical director in 1988. He has songwriting, production, and background vocal credits on many Meat Loaf recordings, including 1977's multi-platinum "Bat Out Of Hell." He also performed live with such artists as Bonnie Tyler, Flo & Eddie, Luciano Pavarotti, Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran, and Dolores O'Riordan from the Cranberries. As a session player, he can be heard on No. 1 hits with Meat Loaf, Celine Dion, Bonnie Tyler, and Air Supply, and recordings with Barbra Streisand, Aldo Nova, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, and Blackjack (a project featuring Michael Bolton and Bruce Kulick), among others. On 1978's "Paul Stanley," Buslowe played bass on the first five tracks. A multi-instrumentalist, the Connecticut-based Buslowe puts his years of touring and recording experience to good use today as a music instructor, working with students of all ages and abilities on bass, guitar, rock piano, improvisation, music theory, and computer-based recording and songwriting technique.