In a new interview with Artists On Record Starring ADIKA Live!, former KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick once again confirmed that he wasn’t asked to be at the band’s final show last month and “wasn’t invited” to attend the event, which was held at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.
“When the interviews started regarding the final 50 shows [of KISS‘s ‘End Of The Road’ farewell tour], [KISS‘s longtime manager Doc McGhee] was very clear when asked point blank by a podcaster, ‘What about Bruce Kulick? Do you think he could come up and play with the band on the final show?'” Kulick recalled. “And he said, ‘Well, KISS doesn’t jam. It’s not a jam band.’ And that’s outrageous because I wouldn’t jam with them. Of course I’d know the song and we’d know what we’re doing and I’ve done it on the cruise [Kiss Kruise] three times. That’s not what he means. He means they don’t want anybody else up on stage with them. I have to know that, because how could he say something that is factually incorrect? You think I wanna go up there and have a slopfest? ‘Where do I plug in? What do I do?’ You see what I’m saying? ‘Yeah, but they’re not a jam band.’
“Now I get the optics of me getting up on stage when they’re seven feet tall in their outfits, and I get that, but I wasn’t asking for that,” Bruce continued. “I wasn’t looking to play with them on the final show, but it was asked to Doc. And then he turns it into, ‘Well, KISS doesn’t jam.'”
Kulick went on to say that the way the final KISS show was presented was far different from the approach KISS leaders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons took with the band’s Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction in 2014.
“Let’s be clear that the narrative from the Hall Of Fame, right or wrong, and they did it to other bands, and of course they broke that rule with other bands too, where they allowed everybody [who was in the band to be inducted], but they clearly were not gonna do [that with KISS],” Bruce said. “They didn’t even want KISS in the Hall Of Fame. So I remember Paul being very vocal, and I actually thanked him for being that way about all the eras not being represented by the Hall Of Fame. When’ve you got [late KISS drummer] Eric Carr doing all those years and being in makeup even, and then myself, et cetera, et cetera, but at the Hall Of Fame, it was only those [original four] guys. They refused to play, which was an opportunity, of course, that people hoped for, but I knew why it couldn’t happen. And then even better, which connects to the final show, which is part of why I was a little surprised that nothing about my Kisstory was really fairly represented with a shoutout or a video montage. I was never expecting to play and be invited on stage [at the final show] — I really wasn’t. Not after what Doc said. But I was flown out by the band first class to be with their entourage to be at the Hall Of Fame as they were celebrating the band and their Kisstory. And Tom Morello gets up there [and gives the induction speech for KISS], gives a shoutout to every member. Gene mentioned my name. You see what I’m saying? So. At that event, yeah, they didn’t play and they all posed and took their picture, but there I was with [current KISS members] Tommy [Thayer] and Eric [Singer] at the table and part of that event. And it meant the world to me. And I was so grateful to the guys. And, of course, I knew I wasn’t going there to get inducted, but I was part of Kisstory that night. It felt really great. And I think Paul taught that narrative of the whole ‘missed opportunity here. They didn’t get it. This band’s much bigger than that,’ et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. ‘And they should have done more. But we all know how the Hall Of Fame is.'”
Circling back to KISS‘s final show, Kulick said: “I wasn’t invited. I wasn’t gonna crash that party. I wasn’t gonna go to the Garden. I wasn’t crushed in any way, because I knew already from what Doc said, ‘This ain’t going to happen.’ People invited me to, and they wanted to pay me to be at some events that were going on around the Garden final show. I don’t wanna be there like that. I mean, it’s nice to get paid for an autograph signing and to be part of… And then everybody was, like, ‘You’re going to the Garden?’ Well, I wasn’t invited. I’m not gonna crash a party. I wasn’t invited. Would Eric have given me tickets if I asked him? Of course. But that’s a lot different than you asking them for tickets, saying, ‘Can you get me in?’ I had personal friends who know those guys well and who were backstage asking me, ‘Hey, you’re in New York? Did you come? And I said, ‘No. Just have a great show. I’m not there.’ I didn’t gripe about it.”
Bruce added that KISS fans “expected more of Kisstory” at the final Madison Square Garden concert. “That did not happen. And sadly, I really feel that it was a missed opportunity by the band. But that was their choice. They’re this machine that was out there doing the ‘End Of The Road’ tour. The last night was a big, big setup for their future. But the missed opportunity was not honoring and respecting Kisstory. And all I would have hoped for — and I’m hearing this from fans; this isn’t, ‘Oh, Bruce was in the band for 12 years.’ This is from fans. Why they couldn’t say or show a video montage featuring all those great eras of the band. How do you do an event like that and not mention Eric Carr or represent him? How do you not mention [original KISS members] Ace [Frehley] and Peter [Criss]? That’s even bigger.
“Now we know there was all this drama, very public with Ace talking about [how he was never invited to take part in the final KISS show]… I have no facts about who of them, if [Ace and Peter] were ever contacted or they had a discussion. I have no clue. They claimed they didn’t; they did. It doesn’t matter to me. All I can tell you is I was never contacted. That’s a fact. And that is nothing to lie about. But regardless, you can’t go out there and say, ‘Well, I would do it, but I’ve gotta get a quarter of a million dollars, like Ace said. And I’m just, like, ‘That’s not good optics for anybody.’ I know what he feels like. He feels like he should be compensated because he created the Spaceman with them.
“I could never put myself totally in Peter Criss‘s and Ace Frehley‘s shoes,” Bruce added. “I could never. Because they started this incredible band. Now, of course, they couldn’t do it without the four of them. We all know that. And we all know that Paul and Gene took it over, nurtured it, took care of it. When Gene was running off doing movies and everything else, Paul was steering the ship and rightfully so, and that was the start of my era kind of, ’cause Gene got more into other things.”
Kulick concluded by saying that he looks back fondly on his time with KISS.
“I have nothing to be ashamed of in my 12 years,” he said. “I’m very proud of it.”
In 1984, Bruce joined KISS, where he remained as their lead guitarist for twelve years, accompanying the band on the “Animalize” tour and continuing with the band until the 1996 reunion tour. Bruce is heavily featured on “Kissology – Vol. 2” and “Vol. 3”, the band’s DVDs spanning their historic 45-year career.
In an April 2020 interview with Sleaze Roxx, Kulick said that he was “relieved” he wasn’t approached to rejoin the band after Frehley left for good back in 2001.
“When I had to leave in ’96 after the success of the KISS ‘Unplugged’ performance, people were aware of the musicianship that existed in the band between Eric Singer [drums] and I, but after 20 years of people hearing about KISS in makeup, it was kind of like ‘Star Wars’ when it was rebooted people went to see what it was all about,” he said. “I understood that it was the original guys, they put the makeup on and people were excited to either see it again or see it for the first time. That carried on, then it carried on and it carried on. [Laughs] It then reached a point where Gene [Simmons] and Paul [Stanley] couldn’t continue with Peter [Criss] so they called on Eric Singer to step into the role and the makeup.
“Eric is such a tremendous drummer,” he continued. “I was genuinely happy for him. I still am. Then when Ace started dropping the ball, it was seamless for them to go with Tommy Thayer who does such a fantastic job as the ‘Spaceman.’
“If I had been asked to step into the ‘Spaceman’ role, it would have been really awkward for me. I get asked by the fans a lot, ‘Well, why aren’t you there?’ I think Tommy stepping into the role was a lot more natural than Bruce Kulick becoming the ‘Spaceman’ and shooting rockets off of my guitar. I would have had to play the songs note for note like Ace. I don’t think I could do that and remain happy in the band. Tommy does that to perfection. I was never required to learn the classic stuff note for note, but if you’re going to be the ‘Spaceman,’ it would have to stay true to the way Ace plays it. That’s not to say that I don’t play the classic songs with respect. I play the GRAND FUNK RAILROAD songs with respect, while injecting my own style into them, like I did in my time in KISS. I would lose my ‘liberties’ if I stepped into the ‘Spaceman’ role.
“I’m friends with Tommy, Bruce added. “We’ve gotten closer over the years on the ‘Kiss Kruise’. We’ve spoken a lot on the ‘Kruise’. He once said to me, ‘Hey, I never got into the Floyd Rose whammy bar thing. How do you play ‘Crazy Nights’?’ I said, ‘Don’t worry about it. Play it how you play it. It’s what works for you. I don’t take any offense and you don’t need to copy how I do it.’
“Tommy‘s style is so much closer to Ace‘s than mine. I have a unique style to my approach you can hear it on ‘Tears Are Falling’, ‘Who Wants To Be Lonely’, ‘Unholy’ and even the acoustic solo on ‘Forever’. I am proud of my body of work for that era of KISS. I’m embracing it. The fans are embracing it. It’s all good.”
Kulick went on to say that he is at peace with the fact that he will never be part of the makeup era of KISS.
“I was relieved [when they didn’t ask me to step in after Ace left],” he said. “I think if I had been asked and done it, I think it would hurt. I know that Tommy and Eric avoid… I’m close to both but I’m closer with Eric. They avoid reading things online. Their best medicine is to just do a great job every night and not read that stuff. I’m shocked that sometimes someone will leave a snarky comment toward me. I’m, like, ‘Really?’ I don’t get into that stuff and I don’t like anything negative on social media and I never do or post anything negative. I won’t allow anything negative. There’s times I read something and I choose to ignore it. Everyone has a voice these days. They have a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone.
“I was relieved, but how could I not have ‘entertained’ the idea if I was asked? At the time when they swooped Tommy right in, I was already in GRAND FUNK RAILROAD and I was and still am pretty happy with my role in the band. Sure, it wasn’t KISS, but it’s a great gig. Now think of it from this angle. Let’s say they made the right proposition and I took it, then Ace wanted back into the band. Where would that have left me? No KISS gig and no gig in GRAND FUNK.”