An Interview with
Legendary Studio Guitarist of Kiss & W.A.S.P.
and formerly of Meat Loaf, Skull, Balance & many more
that took place on 16th August, 2017.
Interviewed By Glenn Milligan
Glenn: Hi Bob, it's Glenn, how are you doing?
Bob: Good. How are you doing?
Glenn: I'm good. I must ask you straight away, do you still like your music loud? (as in the song 'I Like My Music Loud!' By Skull)
Bob: (Laughs) I still like my music loud except I wear earplugs now.
Glenn: Exactly (I laugh). Thanks for giving me the time I really appreciate that.
Bob: No problem.
Bob: Whereabouts are you in England?
Glenn: I'm about 15 miles outside Sheffield.
Bob: Yes. I used to play there a lot with Meat Loaf. Northern England?
Glenn: It is yeah.
Bob: I've stayed there a few times. I know it well. I asked out of curiosity.
Glenn: No problem. I appreciate it. Your debut solo album, 'Skeletons In The Closet' is on Vanity Music. What is that about? Is it an actual label you are signed to and why did you sign to Vanity?
Bob: Vanity is a friend of mine's boutique label through his friends at Sony Red. Dave Tedder's been a friend of mine for 25 years. He's been in the business in every capacity. Him with his boutique label through Sony Red seemed like a good idea. A lot of what I have done in my career has been through Sony. Meat Loaf was through Sony. I can see how many records they can sell. Their arm of distribution and social calling is worldwide. This is a worldwide record. They are now out of that and in collaboration with Orchard, which is what it actually says on my record now.
That's really the main part of the programme. But course, the music business has changed so drastically. I think it's more about he music than it ever was before. No one ever bought a record because it was on Epic. Whoever bought a record it was because of the kick drum sound. With reality in that, I like to think that people are interested in what I do, check this out and I hope they are pleased with what they hear.
Glenn: Awesome! I've played it quite a bit and it's a great album. I like the fact that you've got the older stuff on there. I actually bought the Skull album 'No Bones About It' quite a few years ago and the Balance album, 'In For The Count' as well. Therefore, it was really cool to find you were playing some of those tracks.
Bob: Yeah and that I was able to do new songs. That's really the most important. The 'Skeletons In The Closet' are these other songs that were previously released. 'Can't Stop The Rock' was never actually released. There are actually another six songs on this CD that were never released as well. The original four were such great trinkets from the closet. Initially this was going to be an E.P. I had the original four songs that were great. I discovered this and we added 'Goldfinger' which we thought was my dabbling and reinventing material and making them new songs.
That James Bond song was immediately tempting. It was a song that always stuck in my mind. (Sings the riff). Those horn blasts at the front that I played on the guitar. I had so much fun playing those piano chords – jazz chords for those parts. It was a challenge but it turned out to be something great. I had five tunes for an E.P and I thought, 'You know what? Why don't you take these songs out of the closet now? These are really good songs' . One of the songs was titled 'Skeletons in the Closet' – so there you go!
Glenn: Perfect. I'd love to know what Shirley Bassey thinks to that version of 'Goldfinger'?
Bob: I know. Vick Wright was the vocalist on there and he used the gruffer side of his voice. I'm not sure she would appreciate it even if we did something, shall we say, make it extreme.
Glenn: Yeah. It's more like Alice Cooper singing it or Blackie Lawless than Bassey. It's great.
Bob: It's totally like Alice Cooper. You're absolutely right.
Glenn: Your Girlfriend, Julie Bergonz is involved in the record as well!
Bob: She took all the pictures on the record and was instrumental in the record getting done. I pretty much checked out after I lost my studio in L.A. because of the dangers. Her encouragement throughout this whole process, kicking me in the butt to do it and introducing me to the guy who ended up co-producing it called Bobby Ferrari. He had this awesome studio like when I was when I was in England recording with Meat Loaf at Abbey Road. A real studio! It was the whole thing. She was the conduit to which all of this happened and then took all of these great pictures of me.
Her part in this is large as is Doug's for co-writing these songs. We always had a good vibe. We could always do something and after working with him over the past few years, working with Dee Snider and the 'Sin-Atra' album that I did Devin Townsend and those people. He did the orchestration on that so we've been keeping in touch. Then I did those reunion shows in Sweden with Balance in 2014. It was natural that he would up being the co-writer on these four songs. I think he did an awesome job of marrying my music to what I told him I was looking for lyrically.
Glenn: Excellent. What was it like working alongside Bruce (Kulick) again to doing some songs as well?
Bob: Well we've been talking about doing stuff together. (With regard to) 'Not Before You' – we put that piece of music together before we gave it to Doug Katsaros. He actually rearranged the order of the pieces and turned it into what it is now. My brother and I have a few other things that we're working on that are in the pipeline, including but not limited to us playing on the Kiss Cruise in November. We are going to bring in the special guests and do a set with Todd Kerns and Brent Fitz. So actually, it's the rhythm section of the guys that are also on my record. Todd Kerns sings the opening track 'Rich Man' and Brett's on the song 'Not Before You' that Bruce wrote.
Glenn: Yeah there's quite a few people on the album that I've interviewed or met. It's funny because you've got Scot Coogan on drums on 'Goldfinger' and I actually met Scot a couple of months ago at the 'Backstage Bar and Billiards' where he was playing the Roger Capps Benefit gig. He was drumming for Chas West for a Led Zeppelin set. That's one thing just there!
Bob: Yeah he's a good guy. An old friend. He played in Dokken when I produced that Dokken record. He lives in Vegas and we run into each other. We thought, 'We should get into the studio and play' so he's on two of the tracks.
Glenn: Is that how a lot of the album came together? You ran into them like Robin McCauley who is in and out of Vegas. Was it a case of everyone came into the studio and put their parts down?
Bob: Well once it was all demo'd up with Doug it was easy to then play the songs for Frankie Banali, Rudy Sarzo and the rhythm sections and get them in and have them play. Then I would do the main body guitars on top of them. Then Robin McCauley, Andrew Freeman or Todd, Vick and Dee Snider would be scheduled and they would come in and sing. Doug would send files of keyboards and background vocals. It was done in a very organised fashion.
All the people that we wanted to be on the record are on there. Throughout my friends it was a fun experience which is what I wanted it to be. Other guys who've worked with me on other projects know that it's all about having fun. It's all about the music. This is a great experience and to actually have a studio album in my hand I'm in in shock – my solo CD with a 23 people band – 23 guests!
Glenn: It would be nice to see the entire thing tour. It would cost a fortune to put that out on the road – especially to tour Europe! What an experience that would be!
Bob: Well what I would do since I'll be playing with Todd Kerns and Brent Fitz on the Kiss Cruise who are the core band for my thing – we would see who we could have from there. Doug and possibly one of the singers. Obviously it would not have to be 23 people but four – but it's still doable and in the works.
Glenn: Cool. Can you see you guys coming to the UK at all? It's been a long while.
Bob: I would love to play the UK and I am actually talking to some agents there through the manager I am going to be working with in in Europe. I am hoping to do some dates there for sure.
Glenn: Excellent. That sounds good. What would you say are your favourite moments recording the album?
Bob: Dee Snider doing his vocal on 'London'. I think that was a very dramatic and really brought the song to life. For me, the one time that I worked out some of the solos rather than just play. I felt that for my own personal self that I didn't want to put stuff on that I thought I had used on other things. Even though I might be the only one that knows about the lick that I used on whatever song, I felt that I wanted to come up with some new stuff.
Every time I listen to the main body solos on the songs I think, 'Those were worth working out'. A lot of the people I produce, especially some of the guitar players, I like to totally work out their stuff. I always say to them, “Now we've got what you pre-conceived – just play and see what we come up with”. That's the way I feel about it. I usually would rather just play and see what pops out.
But in this case, I really wanted to pre-determine some of it because I wanted to make it different. That was one of my favourite parts, hearing that come to life. I thought, 'Wow! I really like what I played!. It's good'. Then just saying to myself, “It's the same old licks”. You know what I'm saying?
Glenn: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense.
Bob: All the sessions were very exciting if we knew somebody was in there. It was always fun because the studio is so great. Just to see them being in a real studio and having the kind of fun that we always had back in the day. It fit with the retrospective part of the record. In terms of my career, it was like going back to the day we were in Electric Lady Studio, Media and Power Station.
All those great studios that I recorded the Balance stuff in and of course the Paul Stanley stuff in. This was no less of a studio than that. I think everybody had that great vibe and other than being in somebodies closet or somebodies bathroom or in somebody's living room – this was a real studio with a real vibe and I'm really proud of that.
Glenn: Yeah. It does sound very, very real. It doesn't sound at all contrived. It's as though everyone was in the room at the same time. It really comes across like that. It's very organic, authentic and real.
Bob: Yeah it does come across like that.
Glenn: Yeah! That's the good thing about it.
Bob: Thank you for saying that. Again, nobody buys something because or not because of that, but if it feels like that to me, that's a victory.
Glenn: Yeah totally. It's like putting an old album on.
Glenn: I mean, they are releasing albums now but there's nothing like pulling out an old album that you've had 20 odd years and sticking that on as opposed to one of these new expensive ones that they are charging five or six times more for. Yours just sounds like a classic old album. It's got a great sound to it.
Bob: Yeah! I think there's something lost in the way people record now. Whether they believe in the way they fix everything and copy and paste stuff. Having the people I have though, you don't really need any tricks. Those people can play and sing. That's why I feel happy with my huge band.
Glenn: Did you find that some songs took longer to record than others and did you manage to complete them all pretty quick?
Bob: We didn't labour over them or anything. We just took our time. Bobby's very meticulous in the studio. We try out lots of sounds. We'd plan our time and say, “What are we doing today?”. “Let's do rhythm guitars in this song”, and get all the varied guitars out of the way. That's what we would do.
Then the next day we would say, “What's happening today?”, “Dee Snider's coming”, “Okay, let's just block that out”. This way we were focussed on what we were doing. It never felt rushed. As I was saying, it's not like we have got to stop because the kids are coming home. (We laugh)
Glenn: That makes a lot of sense because that's how it can be these days. That's funny. It takes it down to reality and the rock and roll out of it.
Bob: Yeah you got me! The home studio. “Don't worry, my kid won't be back until after school”. I'm done with dealing with it.
Glenn: How long did the recording process take?
Bob: It took over a year. We didn't rush through it and we'd wait around until we had studio availability or until artists were available.
Glenn: Got ya! For quite a few years you did studio work with W.A.S.P. How was that working alongside Blackie?
Bob: Actually, Blackie was very hands-on. For the lead guitar solos, especially 'The Idol', it was extremely important to him. He felt that it was 'make or break' guitar'. I actually auditioned for that. I showed him what I would play. I took that David Gilmour approach to it and he loved that. He loved that because I was playing inside that pocket. It was really great. We used Mikey Davis, engineer that had worked with me on a few projects as well. He set up the sound for us.
But then Blackie made a move using an analogue 24-track machine with the old style punch-in, punch-out. That's when this was done. This was what he had. Blackie assumed the role of engineer and punched me in and punched me out. He wasn't very good at it at first. He would always laugh and say, “Oops, I screwed you”. I'd say, “That's alright, just play it again”. (We laugh) We had a real bonding experience just working like we did on that where we'd try to connect the dots with him playing Producer, Engineer and Artist. With me being the guitar player and laughing that he'd be f*ck it all up (laughs).
Glenn: That's cool!
Bob: But what turned out was great. One of my favourites. When I hear those two solos, I remember how we did it. On face value with those solos I feel like how Jimi Hendrix would say, “When I played that, people see my soul”.
Bob: That's what that makes me feel like. “Somebody can see my soul!”
Glenn: Awesome! One of the reasons I actually brought up the W.A.S.P. times, was not just because of WASP, it's because one of my best friends is Stet Howland, the drummer, so I wondered if you got to meet Stet or anything like that?
Bob: Well he's an old friend of mine from L.A. - so yes. If I had joined the band I would have played with him but it wasn't in the cards. He's a great guy. He wasn't around for the sessions. Frankie played on the sessions in the band but he's a great drummer – no less!
Glenn: Awesome. Quite a few songs on 'Skeleton's In The Closet' stand out. I really like 'Can't Stop The Rock'. For me, it sounds very Kiss. Was that an intention because you have Bruce and Eric singer there as well.
Bob: Well that song to me sounds more like Queen. Like a left sided version of 'We Will Rock You'. Not Kiss. I can see how somebody can see and say that though – especially with Eric Singer on drums.
Glenn: There's the song that Andrew (Freeman) sing 'Player'. His voice is incredible. I've seen him with 'Last In Line' and I saw him when I went to Vegas to see the 'Raiding The Rock Vault' as well. Great Guy!
Bob: He's a great singer and he's somebody I've never worked with before. It worked out great. It was the perfect song. As soon as he did that big scream at the front I thought, 'We're there'.
Glenn: How was it when you did the Christmas album. Were you working alongside Lemmy? That song 'Run Rudolph Run' is now such a stand-out part of the album. Lemmy's vocals themselves sound great. It's such a cracking tribute to Chuck Berry as well.
Bob: The solo with Lemmy, Billy Gibbons and Dave Grohl was one one of the most favourite things I've ever done. To have the idea to get together and actually do that was very special. To see Lemmy play with Dave Grohl and coming at us in Lemmy's movie – it was a big deal.
Glenn: The fact that you've got Ronnie on it as well – it makes it very, very special.
Bob: Yeah! Especially because he's gone. I actually saw Dave Grohl at the funeral (of Lemmy's) and it was very sad. A true superstar with no pretentions. A total credible artist with integrity beyond what most people will ever have. A huge loss!
Glenn: Totally. I agree with you completely. You came from Brooklyn in New York City. Do you go there very much and what do you miss about that area because you are now living in Las Vegas?
Bob: I've moved from place to place and I've spent a long time in L.A., a long time in New York. Now I'm here in Vegas and we'll see what happens from here.
Glenn: Awesome. I've been to Vegas a couple of times. What would you say you like or dislike about Vegas and what really turns you on about Vegas?
Bob: I moved to Vegas to be with my girlfriend who was the photographer, Julie. Having met Bobby at the studio through her this has been the highlight. These are the highlights. Other than that it's another place. The casinos and all that is not our thing. We see a lot of concerts here. We went to see The Who last week.
Glenn: Awesome! How was that?
Bob: It was great. It was great to see Townshend & Daltrey up there doing it.
Glenn: Nice! I am the same regarding Vegas. I am not one bit interested in all the casino stuff at.
Bob: There's too many people. We try to stay away. We go when they ask us.
Glenn: Yeah! I just prefer to see things like 'Raiding The Rock Vault' – just see the Rock 'N' Roll side of it all .
Bob: Yeah. The Concerts there are at The Hard Rock or Caesars Palace where we saw The Who – that was amazing. We saw Steely Dan live at the Venetian. That was a great set up as well. There's some good places here.
Glenn: Awesome. I must check a few more of those places out. I am back in January. It's always cold in January as well. You go from May/June to January. It's like sub-zero in comparison and you are walking around with a coat on.
Bob: Totally! Exactly!
Glenn: It's nice though because you are not suffering from 117 degrees.
Glenn: It's much more preferable. It's just one extreme to the other. Are there plans to do a 'Skeletons In The Closet Number 2'?
Bob: We'll see what happens but yeah, I'd like to do a whole record. It's been planned for next time with a core band and maybe just a couple of guests.
Glenn: Yeah! That's cool! The album cover is great by the way. It's very arty cartoony. Where did that idea for the title initially come from as such?
Bob: The idea of 'Skeletons In The Closet'.. this is the classic when you look online at skeletons in the closet. I thought that these five songs that had been pulled out from the closet. They were in the closet and they never would have been used. It just seemed like a great title especially when it was the name of one of the songs.
Glenn: Awesome! That's great. Is there anything else you'd like to talk about that we've not covered in the interview so far?
Bob: I would like to say that I looking forward to everything that's coming up. I hope everybody likes the album that I got everyone to be a part of. I am going to be appearing with my brother on the Kiss Cruise. We are going to be doing a special show with Brent Fitz and Todd Kerns that are on my record as well. I am going to do a couple of songs from my record.
I also produced four songs on the Motorhead Record 'Under Cover' (on EMP) that's coming out in September like 'Whiplash' & 'God Save The Queen'. I am excited about that. I am on a few songs on Gene Simmons' boxed set coming up in the future. I am excited about that.
Glenn: Excellent. Are you allowed to talk about the songs you have got on the Gene Simmons box at all?
Bob: Not yet. Not until he puts the package together. I don't want to say something is on there until it is but he calls me about it and it's seriously going to happen.
Bob: Thanks Glenn. This has been a great interview.
Glenn: No problem. I have enjoyed it myself.
Bob: Thanks so much for you time today and your questions. It's been a good interview.
Glenn: Thanks Brother. I appreciate it. Take care. I look forward to seeing you over here in the UK!
Bob: Thank you Glenn. Have a good evening.
Glenn: You too. Thanks. Bye.
A big thank you to Dave Tedder of Head First Entertainment for setting up the Interview
and of course to Bob Kulick himself for a marvellous insight into his musical world!