An Interview with
(Photo by Rick Gould)
Guitarist of Grand Funk Railroad and formerly of Kiss
that took place on December 1st, 2015.
Interviewed by Glenn Milligan.
Glenn: Hi Bruce!
Bruce: Hey Glenn!
Glenn: How did you get involved with Rock And Roll Fantasy Camp?
Bruce: I seem to be the longest 10 year counsellor that’s been very consistent. I think it was 2005. I know that Jack Blades from Night Ranger was doing it. He recommended me because we crossed paths through gigs with Grand Funk (Railroad) and Night Ranger and of course I knew him even from my Kiss days. He recommended me to David Fishof. We had a good chat. I know my first camp, it was pretty overwhelming but I was very, very impressed with the concept and what happens at the camps, which is really people coming together with different abilities on instruments.
You don’t have to play something but it really helps if you are ‘Weekend Warrior’ or you jam with friends. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Doctor or any kind of professional or not or retired or whatever. The people that end up signing up are so varied – it’s really quite remarkable. But the key of the whole thing is that music and creating music and learning how to be in a band and then getting an opportunity to actually perform and being led by the counsellors who all have tremendous knowledge and experience and help it move it all along.
Some are more pro-active than others. I get completely crazy. I act like we are the next Beatles and be as good as we can be and I am really kind of tough on my campers. They know it pretty quickly and they were probably warned by David as well. He doesn’t mind that I’m really rough on them. It’s tough love though. It’s not a situation that I want to be abusive. I am trying to push them.
Occasionally I get guys who have some ability but they don’t take it very seriously – they just think it’s a lot of fun and they just want to have a beer and a laugh. I get really upset with that because I am not saying there isn’t time for a laugh and to have a drink but if you going to play music, you have to respect the music, respect the band, respect the song, respect me, respect everything – the crowd. Do you get what I mean?
Bruce: That are gonna come and see you and support you. I’m shocked that it isn’t huger than it is. I still meet people that I say, "Yeah, I’m a Counsellor with Rock And Roll Fantasy Camp, I love it”, and they go, “What’s that?”. It gets a lot of press and it’s out there. I just think it’s a tremendous opportunity and the people that don’t get a chance to do it or don’t investigate it are missing out on something.
Glenn: Yeah. I noticed you get people coming from all over the world. I was looking at an article she had put up from a drummer from the Ukraine and it’s like ‘Wow!’
Bruce: Yeah that guy actually a contest from Ginger Baker and one of my campers actually shared the video of that Ukranian guy who dressed odd and acted very uniquely at the camp but he was actually talented. I could see why Ginger’s camp picked him and said, “Yeah, yeah – that’s the guy!”. Even when I met him I couldn’t tell what he was or why he was there. But there’s people from all over - obviously from all over the world.
There’s a guy from Switzerland that had done the camp before and had come by just for a visit because he knows David (Fishof). He heard about Judas Priest being at a camp and that’s one of his favourite bands. I met him from my relations with Kiss. He just couldn’t believe that he could actually play with some of the guys from Judas Priest. That’s what happened. It was a dream come true for him. So he really loves the camp and that’s what it does.
People get hooked. There’s more repeat people than new people and I know the camp would love to see more new people. I think that’s a test to how amazing it is – the fact that there are people that repeatedly come and you know it’s not that cheap anyway and it’s remarkable to think that they would do it multiple times.
Obviously, you can’t take all your money with you when you die (We laugh). You’ve got to enjoy yourself. It’s repeated bucket-lists because each time it’s the same but way different depending on the guest, depending on all the talent that’s there. Each one’s gonna feel different but in the same way that it’s the same in the empowerment and the excitement and the thrill of doing it.
Glenn: Were there many Kiss songs played?
Bruce: Well not so much at this recent camp. Obviously there’s been camps that had Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley as special guests. I was involved in a few of those. I think they have done them actually more than once, both of them. That was when it was obvious if I was the Counsellor – we were gonna do some kick-ass versions of some Kiss songs and I had a good time.
But, in this case, since the last csmp was Ginger Baker and David Crosby, two really big icons of their bands and era of music. It doesn’t mean that you have to only know Crosby, Stills and Nash songs or Cream Songs or Blind Faith. You can play whatever you want but obviously, the day that they come you want to have a song that they’re related to in comparison and that makes for a good feeling.
Glenn: What are those guys like to play with?
Bruce: Well it’s funny because everybody knows Ginger from that movie as having a couple of sides to him and one of them could be kind of crusty. He has very mixed feelings to everything to do with Cream – he said it in the movie. Obviously a lot of fans wanted to play ‘White Room’ with him or ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ and those are two songs he had a tremendous part in but he’s not a writer. So I know he expressed a little bit of distress in the green room before he did any work. He actually didn’t want to be specific and play any Cream songs. He just wanted to jam with the campers which turned out to be pretty interesting.
Him in his 70’s and loving the drums still, he sat there and played drums – my band already knew that and I prepped them with a little blues progression. So we got up and jammed with him. I thought it was unique but very much on the fly. I know he loves Jazz and he loves horn stuff. When he did Ginger Baker’s Airforce, which he did mention reviving and getting back out on the road – it’s probably going to be very creative and not like a Cream concert. That was quite exciting. He has such a heavy accent that the Q & A wasn’t real long but he’s such an icon and everyone was thrilled to meet him and have a chance to play.
David (Crosby) acted like an American Idol Judge from Woodstock and very patiently watched everybody perform a song from his catalogue. I apologised. My band did a great version of ‘Almost Cut My Hair’. I knew nailed it in the right vibe. I was doing a lot of the Neil Young guitar parts but I can’t help it, I sound like a guy who might have played with Kiss. (We laugh). So I apologised about that. “Sorry about the Kiss style Neil Young Riffs”.
He actually came up on stage and told everybody, “I really enjoyed that – you guys were one of the best bands I saw”. Now again, it’s not about who’s better or not. This is not really a competition. What it is about really is… there are other years where we did it like a ‘Battle Of The Bands’ but it got a little stupid. Everyone’s a winner – they get up there on a professional stage and to be able to perform in front of an icon.
I remember once playing a Beach Boys song in front of Brian Wilson. I was freaking out. I know the guy is a genius and my band was just a motley crew of guys from all different careers and we’re playing a Beach Boys song. He was very supportive.
It wasn’t ‘til later though ironically regarding David.. you know, last year Kiss got inducted into the Hall Of Fame. It was just the original guys, even though I was involved and there was a lot of press about it – good and bad and ugly as you know… but I only wanted to focus on the good because I did see it as a vindication of the 40 years even though the Hall chose to make it specific to the original guys in the early years. But everybody knows about Kiss and it was great for me to be there celebrating with the guys.
But apparently, Crosby said something about them being in the Hall Of Fame. So when I posted the photo which I was thrilled, to sign my ‘Déjà Vu’ – Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young album which really meant a lot to me because it was my original copy from 1970 and I got a good photo with him, I didn’t realise until I posted it on Facebook that some of my Kiss die-hards were like, “Oh you know…”, they were saying nasty things about him because of a comment he made about Kiss.
Technically that comment had nothing to do with my era. He made some comments about them like “Why would anyone take them seriously? Basically they dress up in costumes”. I don’t remember the quote and I don’t even have to repeat it if I did )We laugh). It wasn’t me personally. But irregardless of that, it was still really wonderful to meet him and get to perform one of those songs.
They were a terrific band – Crosby, Stills And Nash and Young as well. His Q & A was really great. I even got to ask him a question. I thought about, what would I want to know from him and no-one covered it so I popped the question about, “Where do you see the industry going and what do you think about the way that people don’t buy as much music and it seems they are listening online and streaming music?”. He is very opinionated about that so I gave him a good platform to express how he felt about that.
Those kinds of things are very valuable for the campers too. Even though not everyone there is a serious musician that comes. Even if they have a day job, they play with a local band and gig. I know quite a few of the campers that are like that. They are good enough. They are not amazing but they are good enough to perform and I know what that part of their life means to them – what they look forward to no matter how successful they are with their personal career. They can’t wait to play at that local pub or bar they’re known for. They love it.
Glenn: What’s your view of the industry and the way it’s going now you’ve asked David Crosby?
Bruce: Well he crystalised it pretty well. He summed it up with, “As soon as the technology of digital came along and computers and the fact that people listen on a CD and that can be burned to a computer. Back when it was only vinyl and cassette, each generation that you tried to copy, by the 10th copy you didn’t have a good sound thing left.” He was very specific about it. “Here your 10th copy, 100th copy or 100,000 copy of that digital album is as good as the first – big problem”.
He said, “The record companies didn’t see that and they committed suicide”, is the way he put it. With regard to streaming, “We can’t seem to get the people who own those companies to really up the share”. Apparently they are making a lot of money. I think they are making some deals with labels but labels are not paying the artist the way they should so the artist is being screwed.
Basically the creators are definitely getting the short end of the stick here. Now live music’s very valuable to everybody. That’s why you see bands like The Rolling Stones loving and playing – and playing great. The Who going out there even if Roger has a problem with his voice – they’ll mend those dates and get back out there. We all know what it means to go to a concert. David was like ‘I don’t like that!’.
You can tell he doesn’t want to get on the road and tour around the world. I know Eric Clapton complains about touring too – at some point he’ll stop. But live music is so organic. That’s the one thing that you can’t really replicate – the people that are like, “Everyone’s gonna sign on and watch that big concert” – Nah – not really. Being there! There’s nothing like being there although its kind of funny that everybody films it while they’re there on their phones.
Glenn: Yeah it’s weird isn’t it? It’s like, how can they be watching it properly? – I don’t get that!
Bruce: Yeah exactly. I don’t really know. I was watching facebook this morning and somebody posted a friend of mine, Dave Grohl – an interview where he talks about it. He doesn’t know where the industry is going but he does know that if you have an amazing band and you have great songs and you’re playing, people will follow you, people will find out about you, they will come and see you again. They may or may not buy your record or they’ll listen to it online but they are going to support you one way or another. He’s right. He’s absolutely right. I mean, The Beatles – not everybody believed in them. They struggled to get the record deal and then they changed the world. But the more you watch their early stuff, it was undeniable that there was something there. Just something that made people respond. I look at any of the groups that I work with from Kiss to Meat Loaf to Billy Squier to Michael Bolton. There was always something there that I knew people went ‘Wow!’ They take notice and then they’re drawn to it.
That’s what I look for when someone says, “Hey, check out my thing” and if I like something I say, “Hey yeah!”. Now I get it if you’re a fourty/fifty year old buch of guys in a band that kicks ass. Are you gonna be the next big band? Probably not! But I bet you are going to stay popular where you like to perform where you are in the world in the country that you live in because people do appreciate good music and they do love saying. This is why Grand Funk (Railroad)... yeah, we had the name so obviously we can get booked for the name and that’s the name. But you’ve got five guys that have been together now fifteen years performing this really solid music from the 70’s. There’s a couple of new things in the set too – they’re not that new anymore – we came up with them when we first put this version of the band together. But you get what I’m saying?
Bruce: It’s not the original band material but we got over and always get asked back to many of these places. We had lots of gigs this year and things are looking great for the next year. I even thought about what Dave Grohl was saying now. No we’re not new trying to prove something. The reason why we consistently can work is not only on a name. It’s the fact that every time we perform somewhere, people connect to us because we love to share our talent and have a good time with the songs and we really give it up. We give ‘em a great show. It’s not a show like Kiss who are of course capable and known for tremendous pyrotechnic, lasers and lights and the spider stage. Even my era was pretty outrageous considering it was then. But my point being – good music people will support.
(Photo by Nancy Dalager)
Glenn: How would you say the difference is working alongside members of Grand Funk as opposed to working alongside Gene and Paul as such?
Bruce: Well every artist that you work with, they have their own personality and everything. I learnt so much from Gene and Paul even though I didn’t agree with everything as in how they did everything. I learned a lot and it’s interesting that some of that really applies well to Mel and Don from Grand Funk and some of it doesn’t at all. One of my strengths I always feel is how I’m able to adapt to who I’m working with. That being said, would I be comfortable if I was the guitar player in Motorhead? Probably not okay, even though that’s some kick-ass music.
But at the same time, I knew I could fit in Kiss and also do Grand Funk and they have a completely different approach to the hype and the bombasticness or the bigness of what they’re trying to do. For me, I like to keep it simple and I love to be fortunate and playing my guitar and working and performing. It doesn’t matter if there’s lights, lasers and bobs going off or if I’m just in a nice casino with Grand Funk. I’m still giving 100% and more. But they are different and I find I know how to work with people pretty well. Meat Loaf was a challenge. He was out of control. Thank god his records still mean something. There’s a couple of live tracks on the CD that you’d buy or what people listen to so that’s always nice. My brother and I enjoy that.
Glenn: You’ve recently done some stuff at Lucky Strike. I go to Hollywood twice a year and I was down there with a couple of buddies. What a great night that is on the jam night!
Bruce: Exactly. I’m very proud of those guys that have been putting it together – Chuck Wright and Matt Starr. I’ve been there now three times to jam. Twice I did some Kiss stuff but the last time was a Hendrix night. I don’t want to wear out my welcome there. There are guys that may do it very often but I don’t want to do it too often. It’s a great venue in fact the camp recently used it as the Saturday night jam night and everybody was blown away. Everybody really enjoyed it there. I’m thrilled and I don’t want to get too excited about it because everytime you’re excited about a venue it goes away. Let’s hope it stays.
Glenn: Yeah. I’m looking forward to getting there again. It’s such great sound in there.
Bruce: I’ve always told Chuck, “Whatever you are doing keep doing it!”. I just think it’s brilliant how this is all taken care of. I had a blast when I was there doing the Hendrix thing.
Glenn: Yeah! I can remember having a blast in 1992 in Sheffield – around May time and it was the Revenge Tour at the Arena. What a cracking gig that was!
Bruce: Cool. I’m sad that by then the music was changing as much as ‘Revenge’ was a killer record. I’m not saying we struggled – we still were doing well but we weren’t doing as well as what I think the music and what we should have got. But, you know? That’s what happens.
Glenn: I agree.
Bruce: It keeps evolving.
Glenn: I mean there’s bits of that show on youtube but I managed to get the full video of that back in the day and the sound’s good on it. It’s very dynamic and the band is so together and happening…
Glenn: …And it’s like there was so much more that that unit could have done with that line-up and they just.. you know… the rest is history so to speak because the history you know…
Bruce: Yeah. Well the time.. the opportunity and the Unplugged was really the catalyst by having Ace and Peter who were very ambitious about trying to do a reunion because they were just doing some clubs and stuff like that in Kiss with Eric Carr or Eric Singer and I. We were always putting out gold and platinum records, touring and playing festivals. So yeah, it was a little complicated, the fact that a great band kind of switched gears. I kind of make a parallel to Star Wars – well it was time for that to come back again. (I laugh). The make-up Kiss had to come back. They weren’t wrong and pop culture confirmed that with the popularity of it.
Glenn: If you would have been in Kiss and they were still doing the make-up, what character would you have wanted to be and why?
Bruce: I never really saw myself in make-up but I always laugh because my first solo record was called ‘Audiodog’. I always thought, ‘Well there was a cat in the band so I could be a dog’. I don’t know what kind of dog it would look like.
Glenn: What songs from that era altogether do you still like playing because there must be some songs that you’ve play that you think, ‘Oh God, the fans love this song but I’m dead sick of playing it!’
Bruce: Yep. I know what you’re saying. There’s a lot of old songs they did that I do get tired of from 'Rock & Roll All Nite’ to 'Love Gun’ even though I don’t mind playing them because I definitely know that they mean something to people. Then there’s some stuff again that has nothing to do with my era that we used to perform like ‘Parasite’ – I always loved that song. It has such a great riff. ‘Watchin’ You’ is really cool – that’s on 'Alive III' but again, it’s an older song. There’s lots of stuff from my era that I do enjoy.
I remember when I saw Frank Zappa when I was young and I was in college. Frank was creating all the time and I knew certain album of his and I doin’t think he played one song. I was on one hand very excited to see him – it was incredible but on the other hand I was very disappointed that I didn’t hear anything I knew. So I know what it means to the fans for them to hear it so I don’t say, “I’m not going to do ‘Love Gun’ even though I’ve played it a million times. All the classics have grown to enjoy. Sometimes sticking in something unusual is even more of a challenge for me – ‘Who Wants To Be Lonely?’ that I don’t play very often and still it’s a great song. I don’t make a big stink about that. I really don’t.
Glenn: Do you find that when you are playing a song and/or somebody shouts a song, do you find that certain memories come back to you recording that song or in concert – or certain concerts where something happened?
Bruce: Not so much concerts. Sometimes I think about the recording when I’m trying to figure out the solo and I think about, ‘Wow, yeah woah! – we must have copped this together’ or ‘Wow – this is a challenge!’ I think about that because some of the solos, especially in my earliest records they were speedy and flashy etc etc. Not that I don’t have my speed - I still fortunately do but I get a little frustrated. Like, ‘Damn – that’s fast – I gotta learn that!’. So you always have that in your mind. (We laugh). But I don’t really remember specific gigs. In fact, when fans send me youtubes of concerts and they are ones I haven’t seen and I’m looking… It’s really interesting watching and I can watch as a player, as a fan but I look at me and I don’t see me. I see like, ‘Oh okay’. I’m trying to figure out… ‘What was I doing there?’ You know? (Laughs)
Bruce: That’s always a little odd.
Glenn: Yeah. You must watch it as like a third person. Things you don’t remember. It must be so surreal at times to look back at it and think, ‘Wow!’
Bruce: Exactly. When I do see it, I dig it. I do like some movies and I read articles on some of the movie stars that I admire and how some of them do not want to watch their movies and won’t go and see them and I get it! Movies are really intense – there’s lines, there’s emotion. Here it’s just a guitar player on stage and I am playing music but I can definitely understand why an actor doesn’t want to watch themselves. They can be completely opposite of what they’re playing. They could be the same too but lots of times these actors know how to become something else.
Glenn: I suppose when Gene watches any of his, he’s thinking, ‘What was I doing?’ (We both laugh).
Bruce: Maybe? Maybe not? I’m not sure.
Glenn: One I’ll have to ask Gene of I get the chance.
Glenn: Anyway, you started writing a book a few years ago, ‘Honoury Discharge’ – what happened with that? Do you plan to bring out your own autobiography like some of the other members of Kiss have done?
Bruce: Eventually. What’s interesting is that I did enjoy everything I was prepping with that book and I still have all the chapters and I still, shall I say have some really cool things to talk about. Basically, I’ve put a lot of content on my website about each tour and record. Not everyone of them. I want to save a few. But when we have certain ‘Rewinds’ to certain things ‘Hot In The Shade’& ‘Crazy Nights’ and stuff like that. I am actually thinking, when I’m ready to do it, that I want to include all that as much as certain stories about my entire career and not just my Kiss years.
So in a way, even though I stopped talking about doing a book, I did make progress by my ‘Rewinds’ that I really got a fresh look to each of these albums – some of the tours, some of the videos and share that and compile photos of them. So in a way I’ve done progress on it without actually saying I’m working on my book. It’s something to look forward to. I’m not ruling it out at all. It’s just not a real focus.
I really want to put out some new music in 2016 and I’m starting to look at putting out some songs and figuring out what to do. I want to have a point of view and I haven’t completely nailed it down but I have some idea. It’s what approach it should be. Besides the gigging with Grand Funk we have a cruise coming up in January. It’s a big cruise with a lot of big bands like Peter Frampton, Greg Allman, Foghat and actually even Ace Frehley’s on that one too which is unusual.
Bruce: It’s called ‘The Legends Cruise’. It sold out many months ago. That’ll be real interesting. But more to the same with gigs of Grand Funk and hopefully making some progress with some new music. I think that’s really an important goal for 2016.
Glenn: Awesome! What would you say your most nerve-wracking moments have been over the years?
Bruce: Well, getting shot about 12 years ago.
Glenn: Holy Sh*t!
Bruce: Yeah that was up on my Facebook recently. That was some guy shooting down the block but it was on Sunset. It was here in LA, it was very random and I was lucky I was not crippled or killed. That was pretty scary! Otherwise there’s been the occasional ‘Oops, it’s a good thing I didn’t turn right’, I was thinking of turning right on stage and there was a big pyro firebomb that comes up. So someone, I think, watches over me and that’s a nice sentiment that I feel – thankfully.
Glenn: What sorts of things do you like to do when you’ve not got a guitar in your hands or you’re not concentrating on music at all?
Bruce: Or I love hanging out with my Wife. We enjoy some TV shows or going to a movie, a nice restaurant. We love going to antique stores even though we’re not collecting a lot of things but we like looking at stuff like that. I mean, I do have some close friends that are obviously into music and guitars and guitars are a big part of my hobby and passion too. Fortunately my wife enjoys that too and when I buy instruments she doesn’t go, (mimics his wife), “What do you need that for?” I certainly love that fact that she appreciates that. But she’s a very talented singer. She doesn’t play an instrument but she can sing really well.
We did put that song up on I-Tunes that we danced to. We recorded it but we danced to it at our wedding back in 2014. I have no, “Oh God, I’m bored – what am I gonna do today?” That stuff never happens to me. I’ve got a million things to take care of with my career – my business and then including my fun time. I know what I enjoy to do and what I like to do. I’m fascinated in politics and by in this year in America – Oh My God!
Glenn: Oh it’s the same here!
Bruce: It’s so much fun – it’s like a giant soap opera. Then of course, the news in the World is always getting a little extreme and crazy but you do what you’ve got to do.
Glenn: Well we’ve covered some goods stuff and I really appreciate your time and having a good chat with you.
Bruce: Okay and you take care. By the way I love England and I proposed to Lisa there.
Glenn: Bring yourself over. Bring either Grand Funk or reform Union or whatever you want to do.
Bruce: I know, I know I’d love to come back. I do love England and everything. I am staring at my British flag pillow in my living room. Alright Dude, you take care of yourself.
Glenn: Thanks Brother. Take care Bruce and have a good Christmas!
Bruce: Oh cheers. You too. Happy Holidays!
A big thankyou to Bruce Kulick for a great Interview and special thanks go to Valerie Ince for setting it up initially.
All photos have supplied by Bruce Kulick and used with his full permission.