Bob Kulick has always believed in the importance of serendipity. Over his breathtakingly diverse, well-respected, and Grammy-winning career in the music business, one that has stretched nearly 50 years, he has never allowed what others may have seen as disappointments get in the way of his happiness and creative fulfillment, believing firmly in the edict espoused by the great philosopher Doris Day – Que Sera Sera, whatever will be, will be.
When opportunities came, he made the most of them, carving out a reputation as a bit of a musical mercenary as a songwriter, guitar player and producer, working with a veritable who’s who of the music industry, particularly (but definitely not exclusively) within the rock and hard rock realms. With credits that include acts such as Kiss, Wasp (he played on their seminal 1992 album The Crimson Idol), Diana Ross, Meat Loaf, Lou Reed, Michael Bolton, Motorhead and actor Tim Curry, Kulick has lived his dream and derived great fulfillment from the exciting diversity of his career and the opportunities it has afforded him to collaborate with great artists.
But for all his industry accolades and an incredibly diverse and prolific discography, Kulick has never released an album – or even a single – under his own name.
On Sept. 15, the very first Bob Kulick solo album, Skeletons in the Closet, will be released worldwide on Vanity Music via various online music outlets. The album features 10 songs: four brand new originals, a rocked-up version of the James Bond theme Goldfinger, originally performed by Shirley Bassey, and five previously-unreleased songs from two of his previous bands, Skull and Murderer’s Row.
On the new tracks, Kulick, as he has done with many of his other projects, enlisted a cadre of talented musical friends to play on the album, which he jokingly called his “23-piece band.” These include the likes of Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy Osbourne, Quiet Riot, Whitesnake), Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio), Robin McAuley (McAuley-Schenker Group), Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot). Andrew Freeman (Last in Line), Vick Wright (Johnny Crash, Tokyo Blade) and two Canadian rockers – bassist/vocalist Todd Kerns and drummer Brent Fitz.
Kulick said it was a beneficial series of circumstances that finally compelled him to release an album of original material under his own banner.
“I have always been more of a team player. I believe that together, everybody achieves more on any sort of project. When I wanted to try something creative, I would put myself into a band like Murderer’s Row or Skull or some of the other things that I tried. The way this thing was different was that my girlfriend [professional photographer Julie Bergonz], introduced me to Bobby Ferrari who had Vegas View Recordings studio, which is a great studio here in Las Vegas. It’s like a throwback to my own past of working in places like Electric Lady Studios, the Power Station and Record Plant, places with huge console boards and old school soundproof rooms – the read deal. Not like where we record today which is often in someone’s basement or living room,” Kulick said.
“Once meeting him, I was already in the fortunate position of having four songs that I had co-written with my old Balance bandmate Doug Katsaros. So having songs that were my songs, co-written with Doug, and having Bobby offering his studio and offering to co-produce and loving the new material, and with Julie taking the album photos and more importantly keeping me inspired, and having so many guys I have worked with in the past wanting to participate, is really what brought it all together for me. So it’s a solo record with my 23-piece band. I co-wrote every song on the record, and I feel personally attached to the material.”
The initial plan was to do a five-song EP with the four originals and then the re-vamped version of Goldfinger, but Kulick said that when folks within the industry got wind of the project and when he eventually signed with Dave Tedder’s Vanity Music Group, he said he was interested in the older, unreleased songs as well.
“One of the songs was Skeletons in the Closet and we thought it was a great title for the album since we dragged some of those skeletons out and propped them up. Bobby listened to them objectively to see if they would fit the other five songs and they did. So we picked these five and I believe they have really glued this whole thing together,” he said.
“The fact they whey were recorded analog back in the day kind of makes them sound more similar to what we did for the new songs, so it worked out great. This whole album is a real good helping of Bob Kulick. I really think, after we remastered the old songs the fit together with the new one so well; the performances stand up from the old stuff to the new stuff.”
The ‘new stuff’ is straight-ahead pounding rock and roll, with great melodies and musicianship, highlighted by Kulick’s deft guitar player. With a network of musical pals stretching back to the late 1960s, it wasn’t hard to find players and singers wanting to be a part of the Skeletons in the Closet project.
“Similar to the circumstances that led me to do the album in the first place, the same thing happened with the musicians. I would run into Rudy Sarzo at an event in town and say, ‘Rudy I am thinking of doing some songs for a solo thing, would you be interested?’ And he said ‘Bob, of course, any time brother.’ And this was happening with everybody, from Robin McAuley, Frankie Banali, Vinny Appice, Dee Snider – everybody. And then there were new people like Andrew Freeman and Todd Kerns. Everybody just showed up and did an amazing job. And they all commented to me about how much fun they had,” Kulick said.
Kulick, a native New Yorker who lived in the Los Angeles area for many years, moved to Las Vegas nearly three years ago, and struck up friendships with many of the musicians residing there. He was introduced to Kerns through mutual friends, and also met Fitz around the same time. Both Canadian musicians now live in Sin City and both are part of Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. Kerns, of course, is the co-founder and frontman for recently reunited Canadian alt-rock sensations Age of Electric, while Fitz has worked with Alice Cooper, Econoline Crush, Vince Neil and Theory of a Deadman, among other notable acts.
“The truth is, Todd is a tremendous talent, and so is Brent, so much so that Todd and Brent will be accompanying me and my brother Bruce on the Kiss Kruise in November for our show. That is going to be the band that my brother and I are going to play with for the special concert on that cruise. I have also been rehearsing with them all with the possibility of doing more shows. We’re going to be doing songs from the album and other stuff. Todd is going to be the singer and play bass, my brother and I will be on guitar and Brent will be the drummer. It’s going to be awesome,” Kulick said of his new Canadian pals.
A significant aspect of Kulick’s career has been his affiliation with Kiss. It is a well-known story that in the early 1970s Kulick auditioned to be the lead guitarist in the band. He had the musical chops, but it is felt that Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were looking for a little more flash, and someone who could create a ‘character’ on stage, and eventually chose Ace Frehley, who auditioned immediately after Kulick.
But the band would remain in touch with him, and would collaborate often throughout the 1970s and beyond. In the mid-1980s, when the band was looking for a replacement for ailing guitarist Mark St. John, Bob Kulick recommended his brother Bruce. It was both a brilliant and incredibly selfless gesture, as Kulick would go on to be with the band for a decade.
And while it may be fun for fans to think about how the course of Kiss’ history may have been different with Kulick in the band, or indeed how it would have changed Kulick’s career, certainly making him incredibly more visible and well known, he himself is completely happy with how things turned out for all concerned.
“Here are two simple truths about it. One, when I was invited into the studio by Gene and Paul to play lead guitar on three of the new studio tracks on Kiss Alive II, forget about the reason because it’s irrelevant, I was able to show them what they would have sounded like with me. So what those songs and the Kiss Killers songs that I played on, the Paul Stanley solo songs that I played on – that’s what Kiss would have sounded like with me. So the point was proved, I didn’t have to go any further than that. My brother’s fate was to be in that band, not mine. And I assisted in that, once I saw it for what it was. ‘This is your fate, Bruce, not mine.’ I am just the conduit through which it came. And I had my moments with them, many moments. I was the fifth member of Kiss – I was. I wrote songs, I played guitar, I was their confidante, I was their friend. I love those guys, they are still my close friends. Here I am going out on the Kiss Kruise with them,” he said.
“They got me gigs back in the day. The Diana Ross gig was got for me by Gene Simmons who knew I could play guitar for her. He could have called anybody, but he called me. I know I didn’t get the Kiss gig, but look what came out of it. I wouldn’t trade my life for anything. Yes, it would have been great to be in the band and I have said in interviews maybe I should have tried harder, or maybe I should have sucked up to them more at the audition. But really, honestly, it had nothing to do with that. It was that Ace did fit in better for what they were looking for. I only beat him as a player.
“But having said that, he was a phenomenal player for them. They never would have made it in the first place without the cohesiveness and the commitment that everybody in that band, Peter and Ace included, had. They never would have got from point A to point B. For me, it was an honour and a privilege to be asked to play on the studio songs for Kiss Alive II and I have the double platinum record on my wall.”
As for his longevity in the business it is amazing that he has managed to carve out a remarkable and fulfilling career over such a long period of time without falling prey to some of the darker aspects of the business. Indeed, it is a testament to his attitude of gratitude, and his appreciation for everything that he has been able to do as a musician, songwriter and producer.
“I could simply say that I have been able to separate the ‘show’ from the ‘business,’ which is a big part of it. It was developing the ability to understand that the music was the fun part, and once you got the rest of that B.S. over and done with, you can go have some fun. Ultimately, it’s about being in a studio and being up on stage and playing in front of people who appreciate you – there is no better feeling than that, so standing in the studio and creating something like my good friend [vocalist] David Glen Eisley and I did, the Spongebob Squarepants song Sweet Victory that wound up in Band Geeks and was a hit song with more than 300,000 downloads. Or there’s standing in the studio and playing guitar and producing a project that ends up being a song for wrestler Triple H and then two weeks later seeing him as the heavyweight champion walk out to his new entrance theme, the amazing song we were able to do with Motorhead,” he said.
“I have had some really amazing experiences that kept me going, kept the fire stoked, that kept the inspiration going. But beyond that, I am a person who accepts his state, that all of this was laid out, somehow, in a synchronistic way, just like how the record all came together. All I can say to other artists is have integrity for its own sake, as a musician. Fight for what you believe in, be true to yourself and then the music gods, or fate or synchronicity, will carry you once you have shown your commitment to what you are trying to do and have the ability to go and get the gig when it’s offered. That’s the biggest part about it.”
Another interesting note to Kulick’s career is that other than a few times crafting songs for other projects, and a few times playing on the same record, there has never been a Kulick Brothers project in and of itself. It’s a tantalizing thought for fans of both musicians to see what they could come up as full-on collaborators. Besides his work in Kiss, Bruce Kulick continued his own stellar career, working with Michael Bolton, Billy Squier, Kiss drummer Eric Singer and has been a member of Grand Funk Railroad since 2001.
Bob Kulick said that this forthcoming Kiss Kruise event may be another one of those synchronicity moments that could push such a project into the fore.
“I think we would want to make a full record out of it. I think this cruise is going to tell a story about how the audience feels about seeing us together. That’s what this idea may need; it may need the audience telling my brother and myself in person, ‘you know, you guys gotta do something together.’ We have done things in dribs and drabs before. We worked together in Meat Loaf, but as far as doing a collaborative Kulick Brothers thing, it’s been all talk and no action. Let’s see what happens after the Kulick Brothers play the boat. Once we have actually done a show, alongside Todd and Brent, let’s see what people say then,” he said, again giving kudos to Kerns and Fitz for their new-found friendship and spirit of collaboration.
“I wouldn’t be in the position I am in right now, because those two have been the most supportive of me. They both live in Vegas and we get together and play, we get together and just hang. We went to see Steely Dan together and we are friends and we talk a lot and the vibe is very good. They both worked with Bruce before and they were happy that I put them on this record of mine. They see how I feel about them and I see how they feel about me and it’s a really good situation.”
Besides Skeleton’s in the Closet, some of Kulick’s other past work will be coming back out into the public domain. A new Motorhead album, Under Cover, featuring a collection of cover versions the band recorded over its 40-year career will be released at the end of September. One of the songs, the Metallica tune Whiplash, earned Motorhead a Grammy a decade ago, and Kulick was its producer so he got one too. He also has four songs that he co-wrote or played on being released as part of a 150-song box set from Gene Simmons of unreleased solo material, planned for release sometime in the near future.
For more information on Skeletons in the Closet or other Bob Kulick work, including forthcoming tour dates, visit his Twitter page: https://twitter.com/bobkulickmusic. Also, check him out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BobKulickMusic/.
- Jim Barber is a veteran award-winning journalist and author based in Napanee, ON, who has been writing about music and musicians for a quarter of a century. Besides his journalistic endeavours, he now works as a communications and marketing specialist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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