Skip to main content

Former Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick talks replacing Mark St. John, hearing Tommy Thayer play his solos

'They needed me to have one foot in the vintage world of Kiss, and to have one foot forward in what rock guitar and lead playing was becoming," he says of his time in the band

Bruce Kulick has always been a beloved figure in Kiss-world, recognized as the guitarist who helped keep the band rolling through a tough period in their history. His guitar work, which balanced highly melodic lines with a hefty dose of era-appropriate flash, hot-wired the band’s music from 1984 through 1996. The guitarist recently sat down with eon Music to talk about all things Kiss, and was asked if, during that era, he was specifically “tasked” with creating explicitly flashy solos.

“Yeah," Kulick replied. "It was very clear to me when I joined the band. First of all, my very first thing with Kiss was ghost guitar work on [1984’s] Animalize. I played on ‘Lonely is the Hunter’ and a tiny bit on another song because [then-guitarist] Mark St. John, it was either maybe he got ill, or he didn’t like what he was playing, and instead of them going to my brother [guitarist Bob Kulick] or somebody else, they asked me. Now, it was very clear; Paul said, ‘Do you have a guitar with a Floyd Rose [tremolo system]?’ So I’d just got a guitar put together with a Floyd Rose – that was early, that was in the middle of ‘84!”

He continued, “So anyway, of course, even before I was officially in the band I was aware that when they sent Mark St. John home and they invited me to be in the band, that they needed me to have one foot in the vintage world of Kiss, and to have one foot forward in what rock guitar and lead playing was becoming. So I was ready for that call, and I do feel that I was able to incorporate enough flash, that style, with still the meat and potatoes of the Jimmy Page and the Eric Clapton love of guitar that I have. I think it was a great balance for Kiss, and I think that’s why it worked so well.”

As for how he feels about seeing someone – namely, current Kiss guitarist Tommy Thayer –play his solos these days, Kulick said:

​“The funniest thing about ‘Crazy Nights’ is to see how Tommy’s going to do the solo, as I use the whammy bar and all that stuff. I’ve toured and done it without the whammy, but I can do my finger tapping. Tommy and I are friends, but we’ve got slightly different styles. He’s obviously very, very good at the vintage Kiss and Ace and doing that, and my era, he was never one of those guys [to finger tap]. I was required to be one of these whammy, wild guys. So, even in ‘Tears Are Falling’, it’s always different for him. But, I do recognize that on occasion, they will cover songs from my era, and it’s pretty cool.”