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  • Ace Frehley

    Posted October, 2009

     

    Photo by Kevin Britton

    It’s the summer of 1974.  I was 14 years old and spending the summer in the beautiful,  rolling hills of Eastern Tennessee.  Like all teenage boys in those days, I was rocking out and playing air guitar to many of the great, straight-forward rock and roll being produced at that time.

    It was during those days that I heard a brand new band that was taking the country by a storm with their bone-jarring, thunderous music.  But what was also commanding the world’s attention was the mystique they created by only being seen in public with their uniquely applied kabuki stage make-up.  Their fan base was legion almost instantaneously and they quickly were referred to as the “KISS Army”.

    Each of the band members had their own distinct “mask” that was painted on for each performance.  Commanding the bulk of the limelight was the blood-spewing “demon” bass player, Gene Simmons.  Next in command was Paul Stanley, the “Star Child” who often shared the spotlight with Gene while playing rhythm guitar.  The foundation for that rhythm was provided by drummer, Peter Criss, whose character was the “Cat Man”.

    However, the opinion of most guitarists who know these things, the person who was providing the prolific guitar work in almost every technical sense of the word was Ace “Spaceman” Frehley.  While Gene and Paul commanded most of the visual attention, musicians and musician wannabe’s were captivated by Frehley’s blistering licks and pyrotechnics emanating from his guitar.

    Of course, we all know that KISS went on to accomplish international fame for their music and antics on, and off, the stage.  Eventually, the make-up went away but the band continues as a wildly successful musical and marketing sensation.

    Well, members of the KISS Army, you’re going to be absolutely jumping with joy to learn that Ace Frehley has come out with his first album in twenty years!  It’s titled, “Anomaly”, and it’s about this project that my interview with Ace Frehley begins.

    I started our chat by commenting that I get the impression that he was having a lot of fun while recording “Anomaly”.  Ace agrees.  “I feel the same way I felt 31 years ago when I finished my 1978 solo record. I'm very proud of both records.  From the great reviews I've read about ‘Anomaly’, I think the fans agree too!”

    When I first listened to “Anomaly”, I immediately recognized the classic tune, “Fox On The Run”, originally recorded by Sweet.  When I asked Frehley what was behind his decision to cover that song, he says, “My make-up artist for photo shoots, Pam, suggested that song.  And after discussing it with everyone in the studio, they all thought that song was suited to my voice.  It's funny but I'm reading a lot of fans saying that they thought that was me singing the original version from the 70s.”

    Hoping to get a little inside scoop from Ace, I asked if the song, “Pain In The Neck” is about anyone in particular.  Laughing, he shoots back, “What do you want to do?  Get me in trouble or something?”  Hoping for at least a little be of juicy gossip, he chooses to leave me hanging on that one.

    It’s honestly hard for me to pick a favorite cuts off of “Anomaly” but one that would have to be on my short list of top picks is “Space Bear” and the iTunes bonus track, “The Return of the Space Bear”.  I asked Ace what was the story behind those tunes.

    He enthusiastically says that, “Space Bear was originally called "Skels".  The associate producer of ‘Anomaly’, Frank Munoz, was the one who came up with the idea of leaving it as an instrumental. And then (he) came up with the concept of adding my lines from Tom Snyder's Tomorrow Show where the somewhat ‘drunk’ me tried to capture Tom's teddy bear.  We had a blast recording it.”

    Another great cut from the disc is an acoustical instrumental number entitled “Fractured Quantum”.  Ace fans will immediately notice that, as in the case of “Fractured Mirror” (from “Ace Frehley”) and “Fractured Too” (from “Frehley’s Comet”), 12-string guitars form a catalyst to the tunes.  I asked Ace about the significance of the 12-strings and what gear he used to play the tunes.  His answer was interesting.

    “If you listen to the end of ‘Quantum’, it finishes where the original (‘Fractured Mirror’) begins.  I use the same 12 string & the effects.  It’s come full circle and this song completes the series.  I'm thinking of maybe piecing them all together in a row.  Maybe I'll throw it up on iTunes or something.  Who knows?”

    Remember, Ace fans, you hear it here first!

     

  • Anomaly

    anomalycoverAnomaly
    Artist: Ace Frehley
    Label: Bronx Born Records
    Reviewed: October, 2009

    Ace Frehley’s first album (okay! “CD” for you young punks! Geez!) in twenty years is now available in stores and on iTunes. It’s called “Anomaly” and it’s anything but that. It’s great, straight forward, by-the-numbers, rock and roll that only Ace Frehley can produce.

    This disc takes me instantly back to my youth with the thunderous punch that permeates this project. There are too many songs that I could list as my favorite but, if you must know, my short list of favorites from this disc are:

    The lead in cut, “Foxy & Free” has got to be one of the best tunes for today’s teens to cruise the streets by. I can see where it can give a kid of feeling like they’re the epitomy of cool.

    That same kid better not be behind the wheel if they’re listening to another fave of mine, “Outer Space”. It literally reached out and pushes your right foot down and makes the odometer climb right past the danger zone. Not that it’s personally happened to me. I’m just sayin’ . . . Besides, I’m not a kid anymore.

    Genghis Kahn has kick-butt stomp to it that will make you want to listen to the tune over and over again. It’s got an incredible Zeppelin-esque, Kashmir-like feel to it. I think this one is at the top of my list.

    “Space Bear”, has a funny story behind it that you can catch in my interview with Ace elsewhere on this site. It’s “sister song” is “The Return of the Space Bear” and is only available on iTunes. It’s graced with Ace’s famous, infectious laugh. It’s worth the extra 99 cents just to hear it!

    “Fractured Quantum” is a great acoustic number that you definitely chill to. It makes you wish that you could pack up your 12-string, sit by a quiet stream and play that song all day long.

    If you’re a KISS fan and, more specifically, an Ace Frehley fan, then pick up “Anomaly” today. It will definitely give you many hours of listening pleasure and, if you’re an old cuss like me, it will take you back to you teens again.

    Just don’t listen to it and drive at the same time!

  • BK3

    bk3coverBK3
    Artist: Bruce Kulick
    Label:Twenty4 Records
    Reviewed: February, 2010

    BK3 marks the third solo project by legendary guitar virtuoso, Bruce Kulick. While the year is young, I will say right here, right now, that this disc will go down as one of, if not THE, best disc of its genre that was released in 2010. Remember that you read it here first, folks.

    Regardless of the device the disc is listened on, the listener is greeted with phenomenal musicianship underscored by meticulous production throughout this enjoyable listening experience offered up by Kulick.

    Right out of the chute, and taking what Bruce calls a “take no prisoners” approach, is the fast and furious tune, Fate. The song is a reflection of Kulick’s years as KISS’s replacement for Ace Frehley played at hyper-speed. While he bottom-line message of the tune is that Bruce definitely does not stand in anyone’s shadow, the hooks in this song will definitely give the listener a terminal but very pleasant earworm.

    What will surely be a much one of the two most talked about cuts of the album is Ain’t Gonna Die, sung by KISS front man and marketing genius, Gene Simmons. Again, with incredible earworm forming hooks with a mind-bending guitar solo, if this song doesn’t get widespread airplay then there just isn’t any justice in this world.

    No Friend of Mine follows. Joined by former Motely Crue and RATT guitarist, John Corabi, the song provides an audio-emotional roller coaster ride with what Kulick describes as Corabi’s “angsty vibe”. It’s very hard not to play air guitar while enjoying this cut.

    Friend is followed by what I bet will be the second most talked about song on BK3, Hand of the King. Co-written and sung by Gene Simmons’ son, and Family Jewels co-star, Nick Simmons, King is an incredible, aneurhythm-inducing song that both rocks and stomps. Again, the guitar work is phenomenal and Simmons has a voice that is beyond his years, giving the listener the impression that he’s been at this gig for more years than he’s been alive.

    I Will Survive is an autobiographical song that reflects on Bruce’s encounter with death during a 2003 shooting that left him wounded in his right leg and, miraculously, a graze on his left temple. This song of reflection, life, and resolve to keep on keeping on is one of the mellower cuts of the album and equally as entertaining as all the rest.

    Dirty Girl features the distinctive vocals of The Knack’s Doug Fieger. The title is a bit deceptive, so don’t think that you’ll satisfy your voyeuristic side with this song. However, it is a catchy anthem to the high maintenance women of the world. While Kulick fans will love the foundational guitar work, Knack fans will love hearing Fieger’s pipes once again.

    Final Mile is another mellow tune that reveals Kulick’s thoughts about hitting the road yet again. The pain of separation and the weariness of the road are felt in this song that has heavy flavors of Mott The Hoople.

    Front man for the German power metal band, Edguy, Tobias Sammet, lends his pipes to I’m The Animal. The hard driving beat provided by KISS drummer Eric Singer and, of course, Kulick’s signature guitar mastery guarantee’s that this song will definitely be a crowd pleaser when it’s performed. I can’t wait to hear it live!

    Bruce Kulick’s ode to love lost, And I Know, opens with majestic guitar work and actually has a “happy” throughout the song. Consistent with his introspective approach to the songs on this album, Kulick gives us the impression that he’s dusted himself off, reflected on the missed signs of trouble ahead, and embraced the lessons learned from the pains of a failed relationship.

    The one instrumental tune on BK3, Between The Lines, provides us an incredible, if not legendary, guitar duet with Toto’s Steve Lukather sharing licks with Bruce against a steady bass backdrop provided by Yellow Jacket bassist, Jimmy Haslip. You’ll have this song on “repeat” after you first listen to it, trust me!

    Kulick melodically takes over to a bench after the emotional roller-coaster ride he treated us to on BK3 and sums up his views on the acoustically dominated number, Life. Tipping his hat to George Harrison by rhetorically asking us, “How long does it take to see the signs that our minds keep on spinning?” If I close my eyes and let my mind wonder just a wee little bit, I could almost swear that I hear George singing and dying to segue into My Sweet Lord.

    I would be woefully remiss if I didn’t highlight the tremendous production skills of musical prodigy, Jeremy Rubilino. The fingerprints of his skilled hand, and even guitar work on No Friend of Mine, are evident all over this landmark project of Kulick’s. It’s always a stereophonic treat to see to people who excel in their craft join together and offer up the best that they can possibly craft. This is definitely the case with the double threat of Kulick and Rubilino.

    In addition to the Boomerocity interview with Bruce (here), you can watch him shed some more like on the making of BK3 by clicking here and going to the Featured Video tab.

    BK3 will be available online (pre-order/order by clicking on the BK3 image to the right) and in stores on February 2nd. You will DEFINITELY want this album in your audio library so don’t delay. It will be a classic!

  • Bruce Kulick

    Posted February, 2010

    Photo by Neil Zlowzower

    I’m not a musician.  However, if I were to ever find that proverbial genie in the bottle, one of the wishes that would be elbowing its way into the “final three” would likely be to become a proficient guitarist of all genres. 

    Well, since the only bottles I’ve come across lately have been of the two liter soft drink kind whenever I order out for pizza, I haven’t been granted my three wishes.  In fact, the sound from opening said two liters pretty much describes my guitar abilities:  Pfffttt!!!

    However, I DO play vicariously (read that as “via air guitar”) through the hands of many an outstanding virtuoso.  One of those axe handlers would be the incredible guitarist, Bruce Kulick.

    As the last of the Baby Boomers were half way through college, Kulick blasted to the forefront of the music scene when he was brought on to be Paul Stanley’s six-string sidekick in the super group, KISS.  Bruce enjoyed an incredible, legacy building twelve years with the band, scorching the band’s Asylum, Crazy Nights, Hot in the Shade, Revenge, Alive III, KISS Unplugged and Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions albums. 

    What a lot of fans don’t realize, however, is that Kulick first engraved his riffs into the minds of Meatloaf fans while supporting the “Bat Out of Hell” tour with his licks.  He currently is Grand Funk Railroad’s guitarist, having owned that role for the past nine years.  When he’s not tearing up the GFR stage, he’s supporting his impressive roster of fellow musician friends.

    Oh, and he works on his own projects, too.  His first solo album, Audio Dog, came out in 2001 with Transformer following in 2003.  On February 2nd will bring his latest project, BK3, to a store or website near you.  I almost literally wearing out the advance copy of the disc, it’s that good.  I must say right here that BK3 promises to be THE CD that fans and guitar aficionados point to as being on their short list of must-own discs.

    I had the privilege of chatting on the phone with Bruce Kulick in early December about BK3.  He had just returned from a short trip to Europe and was leaving for Australia two days after our interview.

    One of the things that struck me about BK3 is that, in addition to the phenomenal musicianship and production quality, there was a consistent, positive message.  I interpreted the lyrics as containing words of personal strength, resolve and encouragement.  I asked Kulick if I had heard the messages correctly.

    “Yeah, pretty much.  I mean, I don’t like to whine and complain about things.  I try to be a little more like the Beatles were - reflective about life but you’re not complaining about “woe is me” kind of thing.  It’s always a challenge in writing lyrics but I think that I was able to accomplish what I really wanted to on this record.  The ones, obviously, that guest people came in on; they wrote things that were appropriate for them as well.  It’s just an interesting way to work but I think it worked out in the end really well.

    Because of the incredible guest list that pitched in on his project, I jokingly asked Bruce if he had some explosive pictures on them.

    “Funny for you to put it that way.  I mean, actually, I have good relationships with all of them.  If I didn’t know them to well – like, say, Tobias (Sammet, from the German metal band, Edguy) he worked with Eric (Singer) and was a big KISS fan and he was aware of me.  So he was all excited to, in some way, to be involved with my record.  Of course, I’m going to return the favor and be involved with his next project.”

    When I commented that it was quite a testament to how they respected him by participating in BK3, he humbly replied, “It’s great for all of them to say yes.  Of course, the one that I was most nervous about was Gene (Simmons) but he really surprised me with a quick and firm “yes” and even offered up his son.  So how COULD I complain?”

    Well, who’s who in the zoo on this disc?

     “Well, obviously, it’s mostly my guitar work except for the (Toto guitarist, Steve) Lukather thing.  I even let Jeremy (Rubolino, musical prodigy and producer phenom), my producer, play the acoustic on the beginning of No Friend of Mine.  But, in general, the guitar work is mine, of course.  Jeremy and I shared the bass work except for (Yellow Jacket bass player) Jimmy Haslip that played on the instrumental with Lukather.  Obviously, the other guitar playing on that song being Lukather, of course, which was amazing getting him involved.

    “Now, when it came to the other featured guests, for example, Gene (Simmons), Jeremy and I wrote the lyrics.  We worked on the song together and tightened it up.  He (Gene) sang it all and finished the lyrics and the vocals in the same day in the studios, which a lot fun to do.  We were at a really great studio, too, that day.  We booked Henson (on North La Brea in L.A.).  Some of that’s on film on the Family Jewels program (the Memphis Blues episode) when they had a couple of minutes of that session in that thing when they were setting up something about Nicholas going to Memphis with the family.

    “Nick’s song was great.  He wrote the lyrics and they come from a very sci-fi imagery, Lord of the Rings kind of thing.  That’s what Nick is in to.  He did a terrific job with that song and we did it in a real big studio which is fun for Nick.  I think that it was his first time.”

    Continuing with his incredible “who’s who” list of musicians on the album, he names:

    “Doug Fieger (front man for The Knack).  He’s a real gentleman.  I already kinda had the lyrics (to Dirty Girl) and everything.  We asked him if he wanted to be involved (in writing the song) and he said, “No, just finish the song and I’ll sing it.”  He did a great job with that. In noting The Knack’s signature song, My Sharona, he states with a laugh, “I’m hoping they’ll be known for one other song – it’ll be Dirty Girl.  That’ll be fun.”

    Continuing to describe the All-Star roster, he comments on Tobias Sammet’s contribution to the song, I’m The Animal.

     “Tobias, he started working on lyrics when I sent him the track.  He had some idea about it being a dog almost, with a girl that had crossed him.  I switched him in the direction of, ‘Let’s say you’re an animal – I’m the animal.’”

    “So, that’s how that came about.  He was on tour with his band, Edguy, in L.A.  Next thing I know, I grabbed him while he had two days after the tour was done before going home to Frankfurt, where he lives in Germany. So, we finished the lyrics and we sang it the following day, which was great!  As you can tell, everybody like – this is over the course of a couple of years with the featured guests – they came, did their job and I was grateful to have them on my record.”

    Listening to the album, one can easily detect the incredible chemistry between the various musicians.  I asked if working with them was as easy and natural as it seems.

    “Yeah, you know, you’re not clear if they’re getting what you want. 

    “Look, Gene is very prolific and a he’s a great song writer and I was a little concerned about what direction he would want to go with the lyrics.  He was singing something about Ain’t Gonna Die but I think he had a concept that it might be something a little more deeper, reflective kind of thing.  I immediately connected when I heard him sing that line.  I thought, ‘Well, what won’t die?’  His legend will never die; his legacy of being that iconic character on stage and his personality and everything. 

    “So, once I sold him on this is where I want to go, he got it.  But, believe me, I was nervous about it because if he wanted it to be something different, it might’ve been a little stressful for me.  But in general, everybody was easy to work with.  I shouldn’t forget collaborating with John (Corabi, guitarist for Motley Crue and Ratt) - him being the easiest because I have all of that history with him with the band ‘Union’.

    “I wanted the best of John.  I wanted it to be like Union.  Blue Room, the second Union album , is very strong and focused and I wanted to even blow away anything on that record.  I really felt that we accomplished something good and he dug into his angsty vibe.  I think he did a terrific job with that song. 

    “But there wasn’t a lot of stress.  During the Lukather session, we just kind of let him jam and then Jeremy and I made it work within the song.  We didn’t really know – like, we didn’t go in with any total structure for him.  We let him play and, man, he can play, as you know!  He’s a monster on the guitar.”

    Hoping to flush out whether or not the public would get a chance to see them perform together, I said, “It would be a special treat to watch you guys jam together on stage. Is that going to happen?

    “I don’t know.  That would be interesting.  I have been doing the song with the clinics with him.  I hear him and then I answer him the way I do on the track.  Who knows?  I have jammed with him since then at the Fantasy Camp back in the spring time.  That was a lot of fun.  We were doing Push and cover songs.”

    Not wanting to focus too much on the Simmons family, I was definitely interested in hearing what Bruce had to say about working with Gene’s son, Nick.  The Family Jewels co-star was born during Kulick’s KISS years.  I asked Bruce what was going through his mind working with his former boss’s son.  Bruce was enthusiastic with his response.

    “Yeah!  When we reconnected about this song, I dug through some of my photos that I have and, sure enough, there’s this really funny one of him in a baby carriage on the patio of the guest house.  I sent it off to him and (laughing) he was freaking out over that.

    “I’m so proud of him.  I think he’s really hilarious on The Family Jewels show. Once I got to find out what he’s about, and get into like, ‘What are you into musically?’, he played me some of the things that he liked.  And Jeremy and I are like, “Okay, these are a couple of the songs that are up for grabs and we would like for you to decide which one”, and his choice was pretty cool. 

    “The song that he chose I didn’t know he would choose.  He really owned it once he jumped in with it.  He was a bit green in the studio because he doesn’t have a lot of experience like that.  I think that’s part of why his dad said, “Sure, you should record with Nick.  Let Nick do something.”  I think he knew the experience he would get from the knowledge that Jeremy and I have in the studio would be presented to him.

    Bruce shares an insightful, humorous story about what it was like breaking Nick in to the nuances of working with real pros in the studio.

    “We have a funny thing about the word ‘comp’.  You know, you always put together solos or vocals, generally, and they call that ‘comping’ in the studios.  So we said, ‘We’ll do it one more time and then we’ll comp it.’  And he just goes, ‘Comp?  What’s comp?’

    Continuing on about Nick, he adds, “So, the kid’s very bright.  He’s very aware of his dad’s fame.  I think they have a great relationship.  It was a pleasure to get to work with him and get to know him because he’s really, really a wonderful young man now.  I’ll bet he can do whatever he wants.”

    Commenting about Gene and his lovely lady’s child rearing skills, he states, “Yeah, yeah, they did a good job.  I met Sophie (Nick’s younger sister) backstage at the KISS show a couple of weeks back.  I hadn’t seen her in awhile and I got to see her.  I’ve got some photos up on my website.”

    Bringing the conversation back around to BK3, I asked Bruce if he has previewed any of the cuts from the album during his performances and what the response has been. 

    “Not everybody has heard everything from the album.  I did put out an EP because I went back to Australia back in the spring time and I wanted to finally sell something from my records. So I gave them the Corabi tune (Ain’t No Friend of Mine) and one that I sing, And I Knowand then the instrumental with Lukather knowing that I had to hold back on Gene’s track and a few other things. 

    “So, the only thing that I’ve performed so far is I jam along with the instrumental, of course, because I like to do instrumentals at the clinics.  But I have been playing in the background samples of the record and everybody’s really digging it.  But someone like yourself who gets the advance copies for press reasons really have more knowledge than the average fan. 

    “There are a couple of other snippets out on the web purposely, like the Gene song and the reaction’s been terrific so I’m actually really excited.  I think that all the energy and hard work that was put into this record the fans will notice and respond to.”

    I mused that something like, I’m The Animal would have everybody up on their chairs.

    “Some people mention that as their favorite song – some of those who have been able to hear the whole thing.  Tobias is an amazing singer.  He’s not well known in America. Edguy has toured and done a little bit but he’s much bigger in Germany and parts of South America. 

    “He has this side project called Avantasia which Eric Singer (drummer for KISS and Alice Cooper.  He also contributed to BK3) played on which I’ll be doing some guitar work for him right before Christmas, actually.  But Tobias is just really, really well respected.  It’s a pleasure to introduce him to some of the KISS crowd that probably wasn’t really aware of him and I have Eric to thank for that. 

    “Eric reminded me that Tobias contacted me YEARS ago about doing something with them but I was too busy at the time.  I didn’t know him personally but it’s a lot easier when someone you’re really close to like my relationship with Eric they’ll say, ‘You really got to check this guy out.  You’ve got to hook up with him!’  It made it more of a priority.  But I knew that he would be a really good singer to have on my record.  Jeremy, the producer, was like, ‘Who the Hell is he?’  I said, ‘I really think that he’s going to do a great job.’ Any doubts he had, as soon as Tobias opened his mouth, he had no more.  It was a really fun session with him.”

    Moving through the list of songs on the album, I asked him about Life

    “On the song, Life, it seems to be very positive and encouraging song to close the disc out.  What inspired you to write that particular song?”

    “When I first started to write that song, I only had the words, ‘Life is a crazy game sometimes you win or lose’ and then after that was a real struggle.  But I did want it to be, in a general sense, kind of like the Beatles and Harrison had written things – more of like All You Need Is Love, and I realized the phrasing of how I was hearing the vocals for the lyrics had to be short phrases. 

    “So, say a word like ‘Faith’.  Well, then, what about “faith”?  Say a word like ‘dreams’. Well, what about dreams?  Fear.’  ‘Love.’  Those are really big words.

    “I actually used a religious book that is quite popular called, A Purpose Driven Life. I don’t remember if it was Oprah who pushed the book but I realized that I was getting stuck. I wasn’t really sure how I wanted to express all of these big issues in a positive way or a reflective way.  And then, as soon as I found that book – I remember that I was travelling with the Grand Funk show and I was in one of those little book stores that they have behind the gates. 

    As soon as I bought it, it really opened up the key to me.  I mean, I liked what the book said anyway – the message of the book - but I will admit that I was using it to find those key words that would inspire me to write this song with a bit of a message.  And then the ending, being all kind of like a carnival of sounds and playing, was just trying to end it on a positive note to celebrate life.

    “It was an interesting song.  I had to struggle with it a bit but it was a lot of fun.  The violin player at the end, jamming along with me, was all very interesting elements.

    In October, 2003, after catching a Vince Neil show where his good friend and band mate from his former band, Union, was playing drums, Kulick experienced a life changing event.  While walking down the Sunset Boulevard, just in front of the Key Club, with some friends, gun fire erupted from the gun of a man who had been in an argument with some people not tied to Bruce.  Kulick was hit in the right leg and his left temple was grazed. 

    When listening to the cut, I’ll Survive, it is obvious that the song is about the shooting in both a defiant and reflective way.  I asked Bruce how the event affected his view of life and how he lives it.

    “Well, short term I realized how fortunate I was that I could be that close to dying.  When I first started to write the song the only words I really had in the beginning were ‘I will survive’.  I had the chorus and some of the chord stuff and even the breakdown riff thing.  I knew that when I started to dig in to the lyrics that I had to be kind of poetic in telling my story which was, basically, how blessed I was that day. 

    “And then, you don’t want to say, ‘that mean, bad drunk shooter’ so, suddenly he becomes the warm, smoking gun.  He’s the beast and man.  Obviously, I know that it was just the alcohol and whatever torment was going on in his mind that could have made him drunk enough to make him go back to his friends car to go get a gun and shoot it wildly on Sunset Blvd.  That’s not an everyday occurrence.  Of course, in this day and age, hearing of some massive insane shooting thing is not that unusual. 

    “I was really lucky, of course.  It was a challenge to write it but I was just trying to show that you never know what’s going to happen in life.  I tried to be poetic in the way that I presented it.”

    Segueing from the subject of the challenges presented by the nearly fatal event, I wondered if Bruce experienced any unusual challenges in creating the disc itself compared to all of the other session work and studio work that he’d done.

    “Well, you know, I always strive to be as good as I can.  So everything is a challenge to a certain degree.  And some things will come easy and some won’t.  It’s really amazing – the process.  I remember that Fate was the last song and I had some ideas of what I wanted to sing about though I didn’t have that title, Fate, yet. 

    “Jeremy was very clear that it should something saying like, ‘Here I am.  Be positive and in your face’, that kind of posture and it was kind of hard to find the words to that.  We started to hash it out and I realized that it would be fun to have some word play stuff.  He kind of suggested that if we doubled up the rhythm in the verses then it would become REALLY a lot of fun. 

    “That’s when if you look at those words really carefully, they all relate to some element of my time with KISS and growing with KISS.  But the truth is that I was trying to say that no matter what has happened in my life, I’m not in anyone’s shadow.  I’m not in the shadow of KISS.  I’m not in the shadow of Ace.  I’m not in anyone’s shadow.  I am who I am.  And I’m going to play the hand of fate – really meaning, ‘You know you don’t really know what life will bring but I’m prepared.  Bring it on.  I’m here.’ 

    “So, they’re pretty empowering words and it was fun to do it.  And I love the tongue in cheek stuff:  ‘Plug me in, turn it up!’ stuff like that.  That’s the kind of crazy stuff that we say when we’re in the studio:  ‘Alright!  Plug it in already!  Turn me up!’  I have with all of that. 

    And then there was a little bit of word play with certain KISS song titles, actually.  They weren’t done to just borrow KISS titles, they made sense.  ‘Laser beams, war machines’ - you know, lines.  I can see myself on the stage with (KISS tour) Hot in the Shadewith laser beams.  And War Machine is a song that I do with Eric Singer when we do the ESP projects.  It was fun, I have to admit.  It was a last minute song but it set the posture for the record.  We had to have a ‘take no prisoners” opener’.”

    And what an opener it is!  

    As our conversation was winding up, I wanted to know if there was anything especially mind-blowing or rewarding putting BK3 together as compared to past projects.

    ”Well, definitely, that whole collaboration with Gene and, then, the fact that Jeremy and I could work with someone like Nick.  So you’re taking a young talent – of course, Papa Gene is going to be keeping his eye on everything - and coming out with those results – that was so rewarding. 

    “The fact that I would check my ego at the door and say, ‘Okay, I’ll let Steve Lukather play on my song” even though he’s so intimidating to me, was an experience.  He’s a very humble, wonderful guy, by the way.  He IS a monster on the guitar, though!  I like that I was capable of not letting my ego get involved. 

    “I mean the whole journey, especially with Jeremy and I having that relentless pursuit of making a great record, there were times that we were ready to kill each other.  It was very stressful at times because time is money in the studio.  We always use quality studios and engineers.  There were times that we had to redo things just to get it right. 

    “You know, in the end, I saw this as a real testament of what my goals were.  I wanted my Revenge album.  I feel that I accomplished it.  It was really hard at times.  It really was.  But most things you’re really proud of don’t come that easy.  They don’t just land in your lap.  They take a lot of hard work. 

    I commented that I thought that this album was kind of like Audio Dogs and Revenge mixed together and then jacked up on steroids and that he had taken some of his best and built on it in an incredible way.

    “Thanks!  And that was the goal with Jeremy.  I mean, he knew what I did with the other records and what I was capable of and he liked a lot of the stuff there.  He felt like we could bring it up a notch.  That was our goal and that’s what we accomplished.”

    My final question to Bruce regarded any tour plans he might have to promote BK3 – especially if there were going to be any stops in the Dallas area.

    “I’ll more likely be there for sure with Grand Funk next year (2010).  They always book us in Ft. Worth or in Dallas.  But I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet.  I have to be careful with my schedule because I love playing with those guys (GFR).  But I’ll be sure to look at all options that come up.  The important thing is that the record is a testament of time and I’ve never been in a situation like KISS:  ‘We’re putting out an album and we’re going on tour!’ You know? The traditional way.  But I’m going to try to be as visible as I can.  “

    Bruce Kulick’s BK3 hits stores and websites on February 2nd.  You’ll want to purchase or download your copy right away.  You can also keep up with Bruce at www.kulick.net as well as learn what his Grand Funk Railroad tour schedule by regularly checking Pollstar.com.

  • Bruce Kulick Remembers His Dad

    Posted July, 2010

    Bruce, Mr. & Mrs. Kulick, and Bob Kulick

    Photo Courtesy of Bruce Kulick

    Parents.  When you think about it, we all have them.  Some of us are parents.  It is, without a doubt, the most challenging but potentially rewarding job on earth.  As a parent of a beautiful daughter who will soon turn 26, I can shout a loud “amen” to those observations  . . . and wouldn’t trade them (the challenges or the rewards) for all the money in the world.

    What about OUR parents?  Many of us who make up the Baby Boomer Generation have lost or are beginning to face the eventual loss of our parents. We are now realizing that our parents, nor we, are immortal and it’s very sobering to come to that realization.

    I have talked to many people who have faced or are about to face the loss of a parent.  Their perspectives are wide ranging.  After a lot of observation, one thing that I’ve come to realize is that many of those people like to talk about their parents and want others to know about their mom and/or dad.

    With that as a backdrop, I recently read where rock guitarist, Bruce Kulick, lost his father, Harry, after 91 great years of life.  One morning, while preparing for my day, a thought came to me out of the blue: Maybe Bruce would want to tell the world about his dad?  I wondered what kind of person Mr. Kulick was.  What kind of work did he do?  How did Bruce view his dad, both when he (Bruce) was a kid and in the last years of Mr. Kulick’s life?

    The thought wouldn’t go away and, ultimately, a second Boomerocity interview with Bruce was the result. During that phone conversation, I asked Bruce if he would prefer to tell his father’s story and I transcribe (the safest route) or did he want me to ask him questions (potentially risky).  I was surprised that he preferred that I ask him questions. 

    As an interviewer, I prefer to make the process a positive one for those interviewed as well as a positive “read” for you, the reader.  I don’t like to open old wounds or prolong one’s grief.  Prior to my call with Bruce, I carefully considered and prepared the type of questions I would ask in the event he preferred to go that route.  I’m glad I was prepared.

    I asked Bruce what first comes to mind when he thinks of his dad.

    “You know, it’s interesting, there was something that came up at the service where the Rabbi that was there asked my Mom, ‘Why did you fall in love with Harry?’ and her reaction was, ‘He was kind.’ I used to see my parents interact in the typical Seinfeld/Jewish kind of way, with them always fighting and arguing over stupid stuff, just like a sitcom, but they loved each other.  They were there for each other.  Sixty-two years married!

    “But he was a kind man that, when I took him to a doctor’s office or when we had an errand like that for something he needed as towards the end of his life as doctor and health trips were important, he was SO sweet to everyone he met.  At home, he was happy in the house watching TV and going to his three meals. That’s what happens when you’re in an assisted living place.  Thank God, he was mostly independent – like 85% independent – he needed very little help, which is really a miracle for how old he was and the fact that he was born with some disabilities. His left hand didn’t work right and he walked kind of funny, too.  That all happened from birth.

    “So, the fact that he could live that many years, bring up two healthy sons, work for many, many years for the government – for 35 years – all of that was a testament of his hard work ethic.

    “So, I think of that, but I also think of his ‘kind’ thing.  He was always sweet to the office lady. Yeah, he had a temper and I knew about that, too, when he was cranky and someone didn’t do something the way he wanted them to do it. But, in general, he was very jovial and almost flirtatious with the nurses and to the doctors in a very funny way.  He would brag about his sons and what he did for the government – you know - the work stuff.  I found all of that quite charming. 

    “As much as I didn’t think he had a lot on his plate, I guess he did in his own mind.  He had lots to talk about.”

    When I asked Bruce what kind of government work Mr. Kulick did, his obvious pride for his dad really showed.

    “It was interesting because he would tell people – he broke it down to the simplest thing: ‘I worked for NASA.’  Okay, he did in a way. But, what he did was he was a Quality Control Engineer.  The government hires a research and development firm to make something for either an aircraft carrier system or for something needed for NASA’s Apollo 8 spacecraft. The contracts were huge even back in those days. They could be a millions of dollars to  create something that belongs on the aircraft carrier or for NASA.  So basically, the company wouldn’t get paid unless they did the right thing.  My father was there to supervise it and sign off on it, so his office would be at one of these places that they really had to kiss his ass, shall we say.”

    Continuing his memories of his father’s work, Kulick shared a story about going to his Dad’s workplace. “It was really wonderful: this one time I got to see my dad at work and I got to see the respect that he got from the people there because it was always a little bit of a mystery what he did. I knew he did something at a plant but, again, when it was hinging upon his signature whether or not they get paid, obviously, the government trusted my Dad to do the right thing and make sure the item worked the way it was supposed to. I’m sure the place was nervous because they were going to want the money.  It meant the world to me to finally see him in his work element. As opposed to the home “man of the house” which in many Jewish homes is just kind of funny fighting with the wife!

    “And, because of that – I put it into the memorial picture when I did the poster board with my girlfriend – they gave him a piece of metal from the moon when the Apollo 8 went there.

    “It’s funny, in his little bag of stuff that he had when he would talk about what he did, he actually had one of the items from one of the – I believe that place had to make a urine bag for the space suits – he actually had a sample of one, which I thought was pretty funny. But, when you think about it, something as simple as that really has to be pretty complex, in a way, or, at least, extremely expensive.”

    The loss of a loved one often shades how we think of them.  I asked Bruce if this memory of his dad was different from the one he had before his father passed away.

    “In some ways.  We have a small family. My uncle Sy came out from New York.  There were times when things came up – just talking to the Rabbi a little bit about my Dad, I would say, ‘I didn’t know that!’, you know what I mean?

    “So, a couple of pieces of the puzzle of my dad’s life had come together a little bit; more information about my grandparents. I guess, in some ways, I feel much more complete and, to be honest, I didn’t need to make any peace with my Dad right before he died. I was very close to him the last ten years they’ve been living out here in LA, and each year was like a blessing with him.  I was just always shocked that he kept hanging in there.  He had some difficult health issues and he was able to beat it.  It was always amazing.

    Kulick continues, “I just guess that I have a little more complete picture.  And, doing that very large presentation with close to fifty items on

    Mr. & Mrs. Kulick in 1982 - Photo Courtesy of Bruce Kulick

    there, of his life – photos and things – it was really nice to see that.  Obviously, it told a story from when he was a little child to grown up and even into his senior years. It was a great idea. My girlfriend did it when her father passed away about ten years ago and she suggested it. I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah!’ I already had a lot of vintage pictures on my computer already but now it’s like, ‘Okay, let’s scan some more and let’s go find some more at my mom’s.

    “It was a nice a mission and I really appreciate my girlfriend doing it with me. That kind of really told his story and I was very glad to share it with my friends and, actually, the world by putting it up on the internet. My Dad wasn’t a public person like his son.  People didn’t really know much about him.”

    Bruce shared what it was like growing up as a kid with Harry Kulick as his Dad.

    “He worked a lot, but I bonded with him a little more than my brother did.  My brother was into sports and because my Dad had that handicap with his hand and all, he wasn’t going to be athletic. So, my Uncle did some of those kinds of things with my brother. I didn’t care for sports that much. Personally, playing it (sports) I was like, ‘I’m going to get hurt!’ you know, and I want my fingers safe!

    “I used to be much more into the electronics stuff which has helped me with the guitars and amps and pedals and that kind of thing. It’s not that I build things. Back then I was more fascinated with electronics and part of my Dad’s job was a basic understanding of radio electronics and things like that. I remember that we made walkie talkies together. I still have them.  They look, actually, really pristine. It’s crazy. 

    “Then, I remember a school project for the science fair. I had to come up with a binary computer. I remember at first that it didn’t work and I was really upset. I was probably ten or eleven. I was crying and upset. He had someone at the plant that he went to show him what might have gone wrong. The next thing you know, it worked! Dad was certainly a hero to me right then, which is really nice because it’s certainly not something my mother could help with. She was your typical housewife and cook and her part time job was bookkeeping that she did very well at but she wasn’t going to fix an electronic something that you had to solder and put resistors and light bulbs in. That was kind of fun growing up with him with that; my road race set – I really loved that.

    “And, again, Bob (Bruce’s brother who is a Grammy Award winning producer and guitarist) was really more into other kinds of stuff so I was always able to bond with him (Bruce’s father). We were lucky enough to have one of those Lionel train sets and my Dad was into setting that up and we used to play with that.  So, as much as he couldn’t play ball with me, I didn’t care about that.  I really loved all of the other stuff that he was able to do with me.

    I asked Bruce if there was anything about his father’s childhood and upbringing that affected how he raised Bruce and his brother.

    “I guess. I mean, I bet my Grandma really babied him because of the fact that he had an affliction. I mean, again, I think that he did the best that he could.  We grew up in New York City so we weren’t out in a country setting or anything like that. And, one thing that I think is part of our family is just that working hard ethic and he certainly got that from my grandparents, too. My grandfather always owned his own business – a dry cleaning business that was very successful. Later on he used to do the Yankee’s uniforms in the Bronx.” 

    All Dad’s give their kids lots of advice.  I asked Bruce what was the best advice that Mr. Kulick gave him.

    “Well, I know that he was a perfectionist and, when you think about it, if he’s being paid by the government, you don’t sign off of something unless it’s right.  I always kind of had that over my shoulder.  Sometimes, that’s a little tough because sometimes things aren’t good enough, you know what I mean? But I certainly strive for – if I put my name on something - I really strive for it to be something that I’m proud of. Excellence.  I prefer that to being lazy about it.  I guess that he might have instilled that.

    “I really do appreciate the fact that he worked so hard all those years. He’d leave early in the morning, go to work and provide for his family. That might sound like a common or very easy thing to do but you know how many really bad parents there are out there who totally don’t take care of their children and don’t look out for them? So, I’m happy that he was a good Dad.”

    When I asked Bruce how his Dad influenced his career, his reply comes back around to the inherent kindness of his Mr. Kulick’s nature.

    “I think that I take after him in some ways. I’m kind to people, in general.  I mean, I have my cranky moments, too. But, I prefer – I think honey works better than spice and I think that’s something my Dad always kind of felt. So, I don’t know if it’s something he taught me or if it’s something that just came natural to me. I will say that I was always happy to see him be jovial in the offices, even as old as he was. He’d come to a doctor’s office and he was so funny and sweet. 

    “Everybody would always say, ‘Your father is SO sweet!’ You know, that kind of thing.  Even the nurses – unless he was obviously in pain, then he would sometimes get a little cranky – they, in general, thought he was a really sweet man.”

    Bruce’s style of music isn’t exactly in the vein of Sinatra or Welk so I asked Bruce what did his Dad comment most on about his son’s work?

    “Well, it was interesting. With my last record, BK3, when my parents listened to it, it was my father who said, ‘That’s Bruce singing!’ You know, I was really impressed that he knew. My mother wasn’t sure and she had to check the credits.  She told me that, actually.

    “We didn’t really talk about the record.  It was pretty common for Bob and I to go, ‘Here’s the last CD. I hope you like it’ kind of thing. Because I know they know how to work their CD player but we didn’t know how much time they really would dig into a rock record. They would probably rather listen to Sinatra or something.

    “Most of the time they watched TV even though music was a big part of their lives, they weren’t the type to put on a favorite record or something like that. They had certain artists that they were fans of.  But, I found that (his Dad recognizing Bruce’s voice on BK3) really, really interesting and I was really glad that he was able to tell my mom, ‘That’s Bruce singing!’ That was pretty remarkable for me to hear.

    Building up to his answer to my question, Kulick continues, “I don’t want to make it sound – even though he had some musical ability and he played trumpet when he was younger – I have the trumpet here in my home – and not that I even really had the chance to hear him play more than a couple of notes years ago, because it wasn’t his career, he didn’t keep it up. But, he never was ‘instructional’ about any of my music.  He knew that I had all of the really good help that I could – at my disposal to do.  There were plenty of opportunities, between school and the lessons I took, that I was learning all the right stuff. Plus, I had a good instinct for it anyway.”

    With Harry Kulick’s career in a specialized and “brainy” area, I was pretty sure that he didn’t encourage Bruce to a career in rock and roll.  Maybe Bruce could become a doctor or something.

    “From what I understood from my uncle, originally, they weren’t keen that my brother had started playing guitar. But, I guess, by the time Bob started doing it and the world didn’t end, by the time I wanted to pick up the guitar, I didn’t hear any aggravation at all.  Now, I didn’t know that. I always thought they were kind of cool about it but they WERE concerned with Bob.  You’ve got to remember that he was the oldest son so, of course, he’s going to have some of the brunt of the harder stuff. It always happens that way.”

    For a man who was 91 years young, I was very curious what Harry Kulick’s view of the world was in the months leading up to his passing. Before I could even finish my question, Bruce started laughing.

    “Oh, I’ve got a perfect quote for you.  He used to tell my girlfriend before we’d take off – he knew that we didn’t really live that far – I live very close to them – he would go, ‘Watch out for those crazies!’  I think he knew that it could be a dangerous world and that things are kind of crazy out there and that you’ve got to watch yourself.”

    I asked Bruce what his Dad’s reaction was to all the changes in the world, especially in the areas of technology. 

    “You know, I would show him my iTouch and things like that. Although we didn’t get into a whole lot of what things are about, he got the idea of the cell phone and I remember I was in the car with him and, at first, he probably didn’t know what I was doing talking to myself when you have the Bluetooth on. It certainly wasn’t a hard thing for him (to understand).

    “In some ways, in his later years, if his fingers worked better, I could have probably showed him some things on the computer and things like that. But it was a struggle just for him to turn on the machine for his breathing treatment. That’s what happens when you get older. Just turning a light thing on – a lamp – can be hard for older people – arthritis and things like that. That’s what I’m saying: for the past two or the past five years, I’d be in wonderment as to how he gets around and to be able to do everything. It was a real testament to his real strength to wanting to live. Because, we wouldn’t think people can deal with all of those adversities in life, between using the oxygen and getting up from your chair. Fortunately, his brain didn’t go wacko.”

    I delicately asked Bruce if his dad was fully, completely and mentally “there” right up until the end.

     “Yes. I mean, there were times in the hospital with the medication where they would give him some morphine and some pain things where he would talk some wild stuff. He was in a dream state then. I was able to always have a fairly, reasonably cognizant conversation with him for which I was really glad.  I mean, there was a little bit of senior dementia. I don’t want to make you think that, at 91, he was always perfectly ‘there’. But, for the most part, he understood everything.  Sometimes, even with a hearing aid, he couldn’t understand. But he could once I was clearer with him and broke it down to something really basic.

    “Even my Mom is really ‘with it’. She’ll forget that she might have told me something already, when she tells me later. But, for 86, she’s not doing badly, either.”

    I had to ask Bruce the obvious question: What did his Dad think when he went to work for KISS?

    “You know, he knew about them because my brother worked with them years ago. He knew that they were businessmen and smart Jewish guys. He’d come see me and would be beaming from ear-to-ear. He was just thrilled.”

    With our time close to running out, I asked Kulick what attributes of his dad’s did he hope to have “when you grow up”? Bruce’s answer is introspective and full of careful thought that had already taken place before our call.

    “I think he’s already instilled in me the work ethic and the kindness and making people comfortable and making them laugh and doing the best at your job and taking things to the highest level of excellence.  I have to say he has totally instilled all of those good character traits in me. And I will continue doing them in his honor and out of respect to how he worked with me and showed me through his life.”

    With Harry Kulick’s passing still fresh in his family’s hearts, I had to ask how Mrs. Kulick was doing under the circumstances.

    “You know, she was so incredibly blessed to have him for so many years. To be honest, I think that the last couple of years were difficult because of him. He certainly had more health problems and all. But she’s okay.  She has a void in the house. She doesn’t have to worry about what’s going to happen with my dad, that kind of thing. So, she’s been really strong about it.

    I wrapped up our call by asking Bruce what do he wanted the world to know about Mr. Kulick.

    “Well, you know, it was a lesson that the Rabbi took from that discussion with my mom.  This particular Rabbi – we had two of them at the service because even the one from the first place that they moved to in California came for the service which was really sweet and he spoke about my Dad at the burial site – he made a point about that kindness.

     

    Photo Courtesy of Bruce Kulick

    “You know, some people think that, if you’re kind to other people, it’s a sign of weakness. But, it’s not. The Rabbi was making a point that kindness is really a wonderful gift that they can give to each other. When I posted that on my Facebook page, somebody wrote, ‘Kindness is not weakness. Remember that.’ People were thinking powerful things.

    “And, then, the people who you know are ‘not on the right page’, they’re either drinking or doing bad behavior, they’re problem is that they’re not kind to themselves, first. Because loving yourself gives you a tremendous capacity to love others and extend yourself. Some people, I think, because they realize that “I’m not good to myself but if I focus on helping an animal, my pet, my neighbor, my friends’ maybe it takes them away from their own pain. I think that you can be kind, with all good intentions, and there’s no ulterior motive except that you know it’s something that really helps the world.”

    I was struck by those final comments.  When it’s all said and done, “kindness” is the legacy.  Mr. Kulick’s kindness to his co-workers, his business associates, doctors, nurses and guests is certainly a great legacy.  However, in the privacy of one’s home, when the family saw each other for what they really are, to be able to STILL say that Harry Kulick embodies “kindness”? What better legacy can a man leave his family but to inspire the same kind of love and kindness?

    From where I sit, Harry Kulick sounds like he was the consummate rock star of dad’s.  I’m certain that his wife and sons think of him that way.

    Shalom, Mr. Kulick.

     

  • Bumping Into Geniuses

    bumpingintogeniusescoverBumping Into Geniuses: My Life Inside the Rock and Roll Business
    Author: Danny Goldberg
    Publisher: Gotham
    Published: July, 2009
    Reviewed: August, 2009

    Ahmet Ertegun is quoted as saying that the way to get rich is to keep walking around until you bumped into a genius and when you did, hold on and don’t let go. When one reads Danny Goldberg’s “Bumping Into Geniuses”, you quickly find that he learned that lesson long before he ever heard the quote.

    Never heard of Danny Goldberg? Seriously? Well, okay then. Let’s see if you recognize the names of some of the geniuses who he’s bumped in to and never let go (so to speak). Let’s see, there’s the lads from Led Zeppelin and KISS. There’s the enduring Stevie Nicks and Ian Hunter. Oh! And there’s Kurt Cobain and the boys of Nirvana. See what I mean? And that just names a few of the geniuses that have been, or are, in Goldberg’s orbit.

    To read Goldberg’s tome is to read fascinating stories about the artists and talent that he either worked for, managed, or otherwise crossed paths with. The stories are riveting and they show a side that we’ve never seen of the names we grew up listening to and still enjoy.

    In sharing his from his incredibly rich treasure chest of memories, Danny Goldberg treats the celebrities, as well as music industry movers and shakers, with reverence and respect without pulling any punches as to any flaws that may have been in the character or decision making.

    How did Goldberg bump into these geniuses? Well, that’s why you need to buy the book and read it but I’ll give you just a little bit of insight as to the answer to that question. His various and legendary roles included writing for publications such as Billboard, Jazz and Pop, and Rolling Stone magazines.

    His journalism gigs led him to serve in PR roles for Led Zeppelin and KISS. Ultimately, he rolled into executive management positions with record companies such as Atlantic Records, Mercury Records and Warner Brothers Records. He also was, and is, a highly respected and successful manager of talent, currently serving as the head of Gold Village Entertainment, an artist management company that serves artists such as Rickie Lee Jones, Steve Earle and Ian Hunter to Old 97’s, Street Sweeper Social Club and Care Bears on Fire, to name just a few. Check out www.goldve.com to see the impressive roster of talent GVE manages.

    Back to the book.

    With a multi-faceted career that spans four decades, the reader gets a quality education in the nuances of the rough and tumble world of the music business. For business geeks like me, I found Goldberg’s insights and explanations of royalties and other artist income streams to be spell-binding (I told you I was a geek).

    As for Mr. Goldberg’s insider stories about the artists, he is always asked about Led Zeppelin. He’s even asked by other legendary artists about Led Zeppelin. What does he have to say about the guys? Sorry. You’ve got to buy the book to find that out. But that’s not only who you’ll hear about. You’ll learn about how he helped launch the meteoric solo career of Stevie Nicks. You’ll get touching glimpses of Warren Zevon’s last days. You see another side of Kurt Cobain and some of the inner workings of Nirvana as well as a touching view of Cobain’s funeral service.

    Do you get the impression that I loved “Bumping Into Geniuses”? Well, you’re right, I do! I so enjoyed the book that I believe that everyone should buy a copy and read it from cover to cover. And, no, you can’t borrow mine. You’ll want your own copy. It’s serve as a great manual in how to bump in to your own gaggle of geniuses.

  • Derek Sherinian

    Posted September, 2011

    As a teenager growing up in Phoenix in the seventies, it seemed that music was alive everywhere and boundaries were being both explored and exploited.  Rock and roll was no longer relegated to three or four piece bands that were made up of a drummer, bass player and one or two guitar players and/or a vocalist.

    Keyboards – and by that I mean the new fangled synthesizers that were sweeping the entertainment industry – were beginning to make their presence known in the music business and on our stereos.  Keyboard-heavy bands like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes, and Deep Purple commanded our attention and filled our ears with incredible, intricate sounds that seemed to permeate every cell of our mushy brains.  The keyboard wizardry of Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, and Jon Lord, respectively, took the tickling of the ivories to a whole new, mind blowing level.

    In the new millennia, an artist who has the same kind of keyboard genius pulsing through his veins and is of the same superior level of talent and creativity is one Derek Sherinian.  Beginning his affair with the piano at the age of five and, after three semesters of attending the Berklee School of Music on a scholarship, Derek found himself playing the keys with the legendary Buddy Miles, learning the ways of the road and sharpening his performance skills.

    Sherinian then went on to work with the likes of Alice Cooper (who called him “the Caligula of the Keyboards”), KISS, Yngwie Malmsteen and Dream Theater.  He’s currently the keyboard maestro for the super group, Black Country Communion (with guitar great, Joe Bonamassa, bassist, Glenn Hughes, and Jason Bonham on drums) as well as for Billy Idol.

    When he wasn’t working with these rock power houses, he produced an incredible body of solo work over the years with albums such as his first release in 1999, Planet X, which was followed by Inertia two years later.  In 2003, he released Black Utopia and Mythology the following year.  Between then and now, he produced Blood of the Snake  and Molecular Heinosity.  These albums still stand very well on their own and are a definite must for the discriminating listener who loves exceptional music.

    On the 27th of this month, Derek releases Oceana and it is his best work yet.  Co-written with his good friend and drummer, Simon Phillips, the project also enjoys some great musical muscle from friends like Joe Bonamassa, Steve Lukather, Tony MacAlpine, Tony Franklin, Steve Stevens, Doug Aldrich and Jimmy Johnson.

    I got to chat about Oceana with Sherinian recently.  Despite the fact that he was enduring a gauntlet of interviews, Derek didn’t act at all tired from the grueling chat-fest schedule. In fact, he sounded enthusiastic to be talking about his new album.

    I started off the interview by asking Derek how he would describe Oceana to any of his fans or fans of the various bands and artists he has worked with, or are currently working with.

    “I think Oceana is the most melodic and the most grooving of my solo records – and the most focused. I’ve always been very adventurous with the genres and styles of my past records. I’d say that Oceana has the most emphasis on the strong melodies. It’s less heavy metal and less progressive than its predecessors. I really think it’s my best work to date. I know that’s a cliché that artists will say but Simon Phillips and I really but a lot of time and care into the composition, the playing, the production and the choice of players.  We’re very happy with the outcome. The record’s getting rave reviews all around the world so we’re very excited about it.”

    I asked Sherinian if he and Simon wrote all the parts for the various artists to play who appeared on Oceana or did they listen to the song and come up with their own magic, he said, “Well, all the songs that I wrote with Simon where it was just the two of us, we brought Steve Lukather in to play guitar because we always hear his guitar – it’s just always there in our minds. He always comes in and exceeds our expectations.

    “Then, the other songs where I co-wrote – I did two songs with Steve Stevens  where we came up with the stuff and then put everyone else behind what we wrote.  One song I wrote with Joe Bonamassa and the other with Doug Aldrich – it basically works out that, if I write with a guitar player, that’s who winds up playing on the record.

    In this day and age where albums are often made by way of e-mailing tracks back and forth between artists who then add their track in at a studio more convenient to them, I asked Derek if there was much in the way of face time in the studio with the other artists or were they e-mailing tracks back and forth?

    “Oh, no, there was no e-mailing.  Everyone came into Simon’s studio – all the guitar players and we tracked everyone. It was great! The cool thing about living in Los Angeles is that you have the best musicians in the world within a five mile radius from my house. They’re all here.

     “The album took four and half months from the first day of writing to the mastering. It usually takes three to six months depending on everyone’s schedule because everyone’s busy in their own band or making their own records. It’s a challenge to coordinate and schedule everyone to come in.”

    I figured the toughest part of making an album would be sweating over the finer points of engineering the album, finding a producer one could trust or work well with, or trying to nail down the precise sound one was looking for.  When I asked Sherinian what he thought the toughest part of producing an album was, his answer surprised me.

    “The toughest part is coming up with names for these instrumental songs with no lyrics and then naming the album. That really is the toughest part. That really is the hardest part and the biggest struggle.”

    Musical geniuses all derive inspiration for their music in endless ways.  Derek said that, “I get inspired by whoever I’m collaborating with. I do write some songs by myself but I get much more enjoyment by going into a room with nothing with someone else and then yanking something from nothing and watching it evolve – the feedback, the back and forth. That, to me, is exciting and I get inspired by working with people that I really respect.”

    I followed up that question by asking if he has a particular person or audience in mind as he crafts his music.

    “I don’t know. I all just comes down to just closing your mind off and letting your hands move and let your ears rule what’s going on. It all just works out how it’s supposed to.”

    I found it interesting that Sherinian co-wrote Oceana with a drummer (Simon Phillips) instead of, say, a guitar player.  I asked him why that was.

    “Well, Simon and I first started working together on my Inertia record in 2001. For one thing, Simon is my favorite drummer. I love his choice of beats and groove.  But he’s also very melodic. He’s very capable of going on a keyboard and writing and comes up with great ideas. We just have a connection when we write – a chemistry and it always flows very nicely and we always come up with great stuff together.”

    As mentioned earlier, the “Caligula of the keyboards” has worked with some great people throughout your career.  When I asked Sherinian who he hasn’t worked with but hasn’t yet, his answer appeared to be very much at the forefront of his mind.

    “I haven’t worked with Jeff Beck yet. He’s on my list and it’s going to happen at some time. I don’t know when but it’s destined to happen. That’s on my bucket list. I’d like to play on his record or, more, I’d him playing on my record with me and Simon writing and playing – or tour with him – in any capacity would be great. But I think that would be the best if he agreed to play on one of my records and have Simon co-write and produce.

    “It would also be great to get Edward Van Halen to come in play on one of my solo records. I got a chance to play with him live in 2006 at a private party. That was very cool but it would be nice to write a killer instrumental with him and have him come in and track it.”

    With someone who is as intricate in their playing guitar as he is on keyboard, I asked if creating music with a Lukather, Stevens or Bonamassa proved to be more challenging or more synergistic.

    “It doesn’t matter. I’ll go in and do something with someone like Tony MacAlpine, who has amazing chops. I just blend. I’m very chameleonic but at the same time I keep my signature sound with whoever I’m playing with. So, it doesn’t matter.”

    As for tour plans in support of Oceana, Derek shared that, “there’s talk of us doing some stuff in Europe next year. We’re trying to put that all together. Just stay tuned to my website, DerekSherinian.com for updates on that.”

    Sherinians said that, as for plans for the next year, five years, beyond, “I know that next year I’m going to do some more stuff with Black Country Communion – another record.  At the end of this month I start rehearsing with Billy Idol. We’re going to do a short run.  Beyond that, it’s just broad strokes. I just try to stay musical and creative and surround myself with the best players in the world and keep moving forward.

    “I would love to get to a place where I sell enough records that I can go tour my solo stuff around the world so that I don’t have to do anything else. That would be an awesome place to be, career-wise, and I’m not there yet.  That’s what I’m working on.”

    As our call was wrapping up, my final question to the keyboard genius was the one I often ask at the close of an interview these days: How do you want to be remembered and what would you like to have accomplished when you’ve gone to the great keyboard in the sky?

    “I want to be remembered as one of the greats and I want to be known that influenced a whole legion of young – not just keyboard players but musicians. I want to be known as someone that was the architect of metal fusion through my albums, my legacy of who I’ve played with. I just want to leave a mark.”

    No doubt, Derek Sherinian will be around for a very long time and will build just such a legacy.  You can pre-order/order Oceana or Derek’s other great solo work by clicking on the icons on the right side of this page.  Every serious rock music library should have these albums.
    Also, as he mentioned, you can keep up with his solo tour schedule as well as with Black Country Communion, Billy Idol and others buy visiting www.dereksherinian.com.

  • Grand Funk Railroad In Concert - Durant, OK - 2010

    Grand Funk Railroad In Concert
    Show Date: August 20, 2010
    Venue: Choctaw Casino
    Durant, Oklahoma

    The bedroom I had as a teenager growing up in the Phoenix area was the perfect stage for my many air guitar performances. In one corner of my room was a frameless mirror that measured about three foot wide and four foot tall. At one point or another, it was strategically hanging above my stereo.

    Within that mirror were some of the most magical and legendary venues an artist could play: Madison Square Garden. L.A. Forum. Woodstock. You name ‘em and I played ‘em.

    One of my performances for the history books was jamming to Grand Funk Railroad tunes. I was rockin’ out to We’re An American Band, Shinin’ On and Rock and Roll Soul, leaving the adoring masses screaming for more.

    Well, I left the grueling trials and tribulations of that touring life well over thirty years ago, having hung up my vast air guitar collection in order to pursue careers and married life. However, the music lived, and lives, on in me.

    Still finding myself still living in the real world, I was thrilled to recently be given tickets to see the legendary Grand Funk Railroad by their guitarist (and Boomerocity friend), Bruce Kulick (see our interviews with Bruce here and here). I was in for a real treat.

    The band opened with Bottle Rocket. Though original vocalist, Mark Farner, no longer fronts the band, former .38 Special vocalist, Max Carl, was phenomenal in delivering the GFR standards to the capacity crowd. His voice strong and his presence commanding, Carl pleased the crowd one hundred percent.

    Original band members, Don Brewer, on drums and the uber-cool, Mel Schacher on bass, gave the sense of steady familiarity to the band’s legendary song catalog that was performed for the Durant crowd. Brewer still pounds the skins like he did – scratch that – better than he did when he was in his twenties. If you don’t believe me, catch a GFR show and tell me that you don’t think so after his drum solo. Schacher complimented Brewer’s rhythm with his rock solid bass work. His lead-like style of playing bass is his signature and was shown at its best during the entire show.

    The band opened with Bottle Rock and segued right into Rock & Roll Soul. The band brought the crowd immediately to their feet and kept them there with all of the bands great hits like Footstompin’ Music, Shinin’ On, Some Kind of Wonderful, and, of course, We’re An American Band. The crowd joined the band by singing along with I’m Your Captain/Closer To Home.

    Max Carl wowed the crowd by singing one of the hits that he penned, sang and recorded for .38 Special, Second Chance. Judging by the ovation the capacity crowd gave at the end of the song, they were clearly pleased with that addition to the set list.

    Two additional standing “O’s” was given to Bruce Kulick. The first being for his rendition of Star Spangled Banner. While the tune always gets a crowd on its feet anywhere in the heartland regardless who performs it, Bruce had the crowd eating of incredibly talented hands. The second ovation was during Kulick’s awesome solo during Inside Looking Out. He performed his solo while mingling with the crowds to their utter delight.

    This was the first show that I’ve caught at any of the show venues at the Choctaw Casino in Durant. The Center Stage room, where GFR performed, was intimate but handled the band, the crowd and the sound to perfection. The Casino security and other staff were friendly and courteous while professionally carrying out their duties. I will definitely catch future shows there as it’s definitely worth the one hour drive from my home.

    Grand Funk Railroad tours year round. You can see if they’re coming to a town near you by visiting their website, www.grandfunkrailroad.com. Trust me: Their show is well worth the price of admission so, bring a friend!

Featured Photo

 

 

george lynch

Our Featured Photo by Boomerocity friend and famed rock photographer, Rob Shanahan (robshanahan.com), is of Dokken's George Lynch! Check out more of Rob's work at RobShanahan.com!

 

 

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