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Bruce Kulick - guitarist, KISS / Blue Room
1999 - On the phone with David Lee Wilson

Bruce Kulick and John Corabi along with Jamie Hunting and Brent Fitz, collectively Union, have already surpassed expectations both in terms of quality output and longevity. What some saw as a one off collaboration has turned into an incredible link between two generations of hard rockers with the groups sights set solidly on influencing a third. Yes Mr. President, the state of the Union is indeed stronger than ever before. Knowing that disaster is always looming around each new corner the members of Union have proceeded cautiously. The group's third release, "The Blue Room" is being issued by their third record company and in as many years. The only constant in this bands life seems to be their ability to hold on to members and to produce uncompromised rock and roll and as one listen to this new disc will convince, that is all that is necessary. "The Blue Room" is a timeless slab of rock and roll that is as much for the head as for the gut, or groin for that matter. If you were given the task of selecting a single word to sum up the disc it would be, "Big." Gigantic waves of sound and presence that sink the floor, that is why you should look for the Union label here. Having Drilled deep their souls, exposing material that is so personal it is a wonder the group could manage the words to relate the feelings let alone set them to music, Union has managed to avoid others definition by defining themselves. Though the individual member's pedigree would be enough to glide Union through the retro circuit indefinitely, Kulick and Corabi are strident in their belief that it is O.K. to check the rear view mirror just as long as you don't take the car into a ditch. Braking long enough to let me in for a chat, Kulick laid out a bit of the Union plan, which is to say, what plan there is to keep the Union rock and roll engine revving on the red line.

DAVID LEE: Third record, three years and it seems like you are just starting.
BRUCE KULICK: Yeah, I guess it has been three years.

K2K: The last record was actually a live record, did that give you a little bit more time to write for "The Blue Room?"
BK: Absolutely. We didn't know what was happening yet, in the future of Union. We knew that our former label, Mayhem, was falling apart and did fall apart so we didn't know where we would land so when we had the opportunity to do the live record we at least knew that was a step forward. While we were getting all of that together things started to shape up to where we knew that we were going to have a new home on Spitfire and we spent the early part of last year preparing for this studio album and recorded it this past summer. We finished it off in the fall, handed it in and here we go.

K2K: We spoke last before the first album came out and it seemed at that time that the relationship with Mayhem was a bit tenuous at best and in the end things didn't happen as grand or as big as they should have for what was, is, an incredible album. Do you feel that the time spent with Mayhem was wasted time?
BK: Not really. I do feel that, let's not forget that Mayhem was an independent label and a few of them really act like a major and know their limitations and accomplish what they need to accomplish and really make a difference out there. For us, we were a band that was just learning how to walk in a sense. I am extremely proud of the first album and I will always say that it was a great debut record for a brand new band that really hadn't known each other very long at all. It is kind of funny because now we are in an even better situation with a better label, though Spitfire is still independent they are much more experienced and much better funded. I also know that we gave them a much more mature Union record, I don't mean mature as in "Yawn," I mean that the band has really grown and we are moving fast as opposed to just learning how to walk. The band is in its third year of functioning and it has been very exciting for us to not be a project, as some people have perceived us as. We are not just resting on the KISS / Motley thing. I will always answer questions about KISS because I am proud of all that but in the beginning it was like the big thing, to just talk about me and John and our old bands but now there is a bigger story.

K2K: Have you noticed over time that people have stopped referring to you and John as "ex-members of KISS and Motley Crue?"
BK: Yeah, I see it a little less but if a guy who is booking a show for us feels that is going to buy even fifteen more tickets, he will put it in. You can't really control that but the label can control that and I think that Spitfire realizes that "if they don't know already, it doesn't really matter because this record is great." There are certain people in the business who are just always going to want to tag it that way because they feel that they will make more money that way.

K2K: One of the things that I really liked about the first record was that it had a really warm, fat, fuzzy sound to it and with this one, it is a lot more layered and textured, was it your intention to alter the sound or did it just kind of come out that way?
BK: Sonically it is bigger. There were more de-tuned songs on the first album which is where that fuzzy sound comes from, also it was all just analog and in fact a few of the songs (on this album), because we didn't know what was going to happen for Union, we started on a smaller studio and then transferred up to the big studio which, if you think about it, The Beatles did all of their amazing records on 4-tracks, it is not necessarily a bad thing. They also were not doing heavily de-tuned guitars either so for me I have no problem with the sonics on the first album but it is interesting that I was recently hanging out with both records and, not to A and B them or that I just needed to hear more Union(laughs) I want to hear more Union!(laughs) I was just listening to "The Blue Room" and then I listened to the debut record and, just like you are saying, it sounds a little darker and a little fuzzier n a sense and that was kind of what we were doing then but with this album, I think, that we were able to layer a lot more. We did use analog to start with and then went over to a digital system. You can layer on analog it is just that there are a few things that a more flexible and helpful about digital. Bob Marlette, the guy who produced it with us, he really enjoyed all of the guitar stuff that we got into. I had a lot of different guitars and I got to use a lot of 'em so that was a thrill. Overall, from the reverbs to the drum sounds and from John's voice to the lead attacks, "The Blue Room" is just a bigger album. It is more like "Revenge" where our first album was more like "Carnival Of Souls."

K2K: When you sat down to write this record did you feel that Union had established enough of an identity that you should be mindful of it or were you completely open to anything?
BK: We didn't make up rules, we just did want to be honest to us and not jump on any bandwagons or anything.

K2K: No rap numbers?
BK: (Laughing) Right, right, exactly. There was even one point when on the song "Do You Know My Name" actually uses seven string guitar that Shekter Guitars gave to John to check out, John is a great riff guy, and all of a sudden he is playing this riff and that riff and going "Check out this riff!" And I was like, "O.K. cool." But the last thing that I wanted to see happen to that song was that all of a sudden we were trying to be something that we were not like KoRn or Limp Bizkit. I think that what always happens, no matter what influence we may add in or use, we seem to always interpret it our way. When I say our way I mean that we like melodic rock, from the best of The Beatles to Led Zeppelin to Aerosmith to Soundgarden and that kind of stuff. Soundgarden is not a classic band, yet, but the blend that made them popular, Black Sabbath and The Beatles, they had a unique blend of things that were just great music.

K2K: You are obviously very dedicated to this band but could you ever see a time when you realized that this isn't going to be enough to take care of the bills so it is time to do something else?
BK: Well, a lot of people prejudged the first record right away and they thought that if John and I were going to get together we were going to do a record that should sound exactly like KISS and Motley Crue, if we were smart. That way we would have got a bigger advance and everybody would want to license it and so and so forth. Yeah, I want to eat but I have to have some integrity here and to just say "Yeah, that is a cool Gene Simmons riff, let's go with that." I wouldn't like that and ultimately those things will be more like a short-term fix. I will be the first one to say that money isn't a bad thing but to totally be creative within these limitations of "Well, I was in KISS so I have to copy them and John was in Motley so. . ." It would be silly. People are not that stupid and as much as some people might want to hear it they really want to hear KISS from KISS, I don't think that they want to hear it from Union. When we have done some cover songs from those bands I am doing the covers of things that they will never do so that is why we did "I Walk Alone" on the live record. That is why we did "Jungle" because they won't perform those songs. If we are in the right situation, like when we went to Argentina, the KISS fans there are crazy and we had some guys jam with us on some classic KISS songs for fun and it was great but not until after we did an hour and a half of our music. I don't want to ride on any of that or try to rip off someone else's thing just because there is a market for it. The money is there when you do good stuff. You don't have to sell yourself out.

K2K: Its hard walking that line too because if you do too much of it you become a nostalgia act.
BK: Right. I would hat to do that and I will mention this again, that I will do a solo record in the future though I have no idea when it will be. I have recorded a few things that could certainly be on it but I would know, and this isn't selling out, but I would want half of the record to something where a KISS fan who loves "Revenge" would go "Yeah, this is awesome!" And the other half would be something that I would want to indulge in and let them come along for the ride down some streets that have nothing to do with "Revenge." That I have a lot of control over obviously because it is solo record as opposed to a band that is a collaborative thing. Union, especially on this record, is more cohesive as a band from track to track.

K2K: Being that you and John are the main songwriters how are Brent and Jamie contributing to the whole of the record?
BK: Jamie is actually listed as a writer and Brent kind of like just said, "I know I was here but I didn't really write the songs" so even though I know his vibe was very important, you will see on every song that Marlette, our producer, Jamie and John are the writers but we all really kind of slaved it out together as a band. I was very proud of us working together. It is hard, you know, creating things and people have their own opinions and people get bent out of shape easily but, you know, I was just really happy that it all went well.

K2K: Was there ever a point where you just threw down the guitar, well maybe not throw down the guitar because I know you have some expensive guitars there, but just threw up your hands and said, "That's it for today boys!"
BK: The only thing that bothered me once, and it is better to be honest and say what you have got to say, but I really felt like we were working on something that I wasn't so sure was the right thing to work on and, I guess, that by opening my mouth I kind of put the brakes into it but, you know what, we ended up doing it anyway later down the road. We did get to it.

K2K: And by that point it did have the Union vibe?
BK: Yeah but at the time I was just a little bit more concerned about some of the other tracks that we had talked about. I try to never let myself get too worked up about anything. We all let go of a lot of preconceived notions and ego attachments about doing the record and I think that really helped make for a better record.

K2K: How has the reaction to the band evolved over time outside of the States?
BK: You know, Mayhem didn't really exist in any cohesive way over there. They did license it to a few people who do rock music like Union's but depending on territory to territory it was like some were healthy and some never got a chance to even hear it. "I couldn't find it." I have heard that from German fans and that is a shame. Fortunately, Spitfire is owned by a real European company called Eagle so I think that we are going to have a better shot to get out over there but there are definitely fans there that love what we did on the first record. We went to Sweden and that was great and we did interviews in Norway and they were all like "Oh this is the other record, we love it and we want you to come back and do these festivals." I always tell them that we want to come but it is very difficult touring in Europe, especially as a new band. It is not so difficult for KISS but for a new band it is.

K2K: Is Spitfire going to re-release the first record?
BK: Yeah. Foreign wise, they actually have all three records but here in America the first one will be available and as the stores stock "The Blue Room" they will have the opportunity to stock the first which is slightly repackaged. We added a song onto it, "Oh Darling" by The Beatles, which was something that we cut when we were cutting the first album. Just so we let everyone know that it is something a little different and that if you couldn't find it the first time you will have something a little more.

K2K: Any chances of either the live record or the new one being done in vinyl like the first one was?
BK: The vinyl is pretty rare, they only printed a thousand of those. I would love to do a vinyl of "The Blue Room," do just like a blue vinyl, that would be really heavy but that is a conversation for soon. "You don't want to do it? O.K. How much does it cost? I'll do it!"(laughs) I know that there is a market there for it.

K2K: As far as being able to get out there on the road, are you going to be getting some support from the label that you didn't from Mayhem?
BK: Sure. First off, we have already planned to do some events on the East cost in February, CBGB's and a couple of radio stations. The whole band will do press and we will play and on the way back to California we are going to stop in Indianapolis and do an event there, otherwise, we do have plans to start a tour in March. I can't say where we will start but that is the plan.

K2K: Will it be a package deal or just you headlining with local support?
BK: All of that stuff we are kind of looking into this month and by the end of February we will decide.

K2K: Last summer was a big summer for nostalgia tours and I know you did some dates with Cinderella, is that something that you would do again this year?
BK: To be honest, we fall somewhere in between the cracks because some people perceive us as being from the eighties and we are not. It is true that I played with a band then and John actually joined Motley Crue in the nineties but look, I know that when we did dates with Cinderella it went over very well, that crowd is not a bad crowd for us. I don't know if we fit into a "nostalgia" package because most of the bands are like the "Where are they now" bands. Some of them are still very valid and very talented and some are just together because they can make some money. I don't know if it is appropriate or not, that is something for the agents to figure out.

K2K: You wrote a song on this album that expresses your feelings over the loss of your friend and former band mate, in fact, you have been involved with a good deal of Eric Carr related activities?
BK: If you are on the Internet you should definitely go check out the KISS asylum site and you can click on Eric Carr and see everything that is going on but, I put together a record called "Rockology" which was anything left over that I recorded with Eric or that we worked on and I did the best that I could with all of the equipment available nowadays and it is kind of like the solo record he left behind. It is really cool, some of the tracks sound amazing. Some of the tracks are quite strong and could have been, maybe should have been on "Hot In The Shade." The other project is the video. There is certainly a story to be told and the family was very excited when some people approached them about doing a documentary on Eric's life, "Tale Of The Fox" is the title. I was interviewed for it and I contributed some personal footage that I had that was very funny of Eric backstage and Eric at my wedding. It was certainly a year with a lot of Eric product. I am very pleased and very proud of the way it came out.

K2K: Were there other songs that were as emotionally pulling for you as the song to Eric?
BK: "Dear Friend" was certainly the most that I had to do with the lyrics. Generally, on the other songs I would hang with John and Bob and see what they are doing and make a suggestion or two but they are more personal for John so that would be a better question for him.

K2K: Last KISS related question, Union is now on the same label as Alice Cooper and last year you and KISS were involved with a bit of legal dealings with his people, is that all over and done with now?
BK: Yeah, and it had nothing to do with Alice Cooper proper, it had to do with the people who owned his publishing and they felt like they had a claim against a song that Paul Stanley and I wrote and it all got straightened out, not in the courts but through arbitration. Alice was embarrassed by the whole thing and I even ran into him so I know that. Everything is cool with all of that. It is easy to squeeze something sensational out of it, "Alice Cooper Sues KISS" and it wasn't that at all. It makes a good headline though.

K2K: It was too bad too because the record was so good but the biggest piece of press around it was over that aspect of it.
BK: Yeah, it was kind of silly and I still haven't even gotten my money from being a writer on it because of all of the legal entanglements although it is all done now.

K2K: So, you will be off of those cheap burritos by next week then?(laughs)
BK: Yeah, exactly.(laughs)

K2K: Now that you have hindsight as a benefit has Union grown as you expected?
BK: I am not surprised with the record, I am very pleased with it. I am very happy that we all get along better as a band because we know each other because in the beginning it was like being thrown in a very cold pool of water, you are not used to it, and now we know how to make this thing function and it all flows a lot better now, it shows in our music and in our live shows, we have grown together and that is a good feeling.

Written by David Lee Wilson

Philip Anderson is a musician, in addition to being a writer/photographer. He has performed as a guitarist/vocalist, as well as songwriter, in several bands over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several magazines and in several books, and had his works appear on television.

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