Guitarist Bob Kulick needs no introduction. He has written, produced, and played with some of the all-time rock and roll greats, too many to list here. And 51 years after making his recording debut, the man has seen fit to grace us with his first ever solo album Skeletons In the Closet (out now, Vanity Music). It’s an excellent record, one I reviewed personally earlier this month. So when the opportunity to speak with Bob came up I naturally jumped at the chance. I found a very laid-back, unassuming guy who loves what he does and the people he gets to do it with. So check it:
Amps: I finally got a chance to sit down with this record Skeletons In the Closet just this morning.
Bob: I hope it went good with breakfast.
Amps: (Laughs) it’s a really cool, fun, rock and roll album. I’m 44, so I’m from that era when people actually sang and played in tune. This record took me back to a much better time with “Guitar Commandos” and “Eyes of a Stranger,” among others.
Bob: That’s great to hear, thank you so much.
Amps: What went into making this and why now to do a solo record?
Bob: Well, it was a synchronistic moment in that fate and everything lined up at the same time. My girlfriend (photographer Julie Bergonz) was encouraging me to do a solo record that I’d never done before and My ex-BALANCE bandmate Doug Katsaros, who co-wrote and played keyboards on the four new songs that start off the record, and my girlfriend introducing me to Bobby Ferrari who was the co-producer and had the studio, Vegas View Recording, that we recorded at. Everything just sort of lined up. A lot of the musicians who played on it live here in Las Vegas, so that made it a lot easier, and the other people were based in L.A. so they either came here or I sent files out. So it worked out that by virtue of having four brand new songs the idea of doing an EP came to mind. Then we added the cover of “Goldfinger” which we had some fun with. So then there were five songs. But then it just seemed like, “You know what? We should have a full CD.” And everyone kept saying, “You have some great songs in the closet that you haven’t used.” So reaching into the closet, so to speak, I pulled out a few of these skeletons and there’s “Eyes of a Stranger”, “Guitar Commandos”, and the title track and others. So we have half new songs and half retrospective songs.
Amps: When were “Guitar Commandos” and “Eyes of a Stranger” originally released? I can’t believe they got past me.
Bob: They were originally released in ’91 through a European and Japanese label only. That was the SKULL project, so those were two songs from back then. It was fun to take some of these songs that were never heard properly and tack them onto the second half of the record with the talent that’s on there.
Amps: You’ve had a long career. Are any of the tracks on this disc more special to you than others for any reason?
Bob: Well, of the new songs everyone seems to be gravitating towards “London” which to me is the most different. I think we have a situation where it’s hard for me to be objective. “London” and “Rich Man” are two of my favorites, along with “Not Before You”, with those last two being love songs that speak to my relationship with Julie. It’s something really special. But yeah, “London” really stands out, being in 6/8 and Dee Snider singing on it, something dark and conjuring up that Jack the Ripper vibe. It was a lot of fun to do.
Amps: The pacing of the record is very well-done. Did you labor and/or agonize over the track sequence?
Bob: We did some switching around on the running order a few times, so yeah we kind of futzed around with it to see what would make the best elixir, so to speak.
Amps: I couldn’t believe you had a hand in the “Sweet Victory” song from Spongebob. We STILL watch that show in my house all the time, my wife and I. Our son, he can’t be bothered anymore now that he’s 15!
Bob: (Laughs) thank you very much. That was something Dave Eisley and I did, and the song lives on. “Can’t Stop the Rock” from Skeletons was done in that same recording session.
Amps: Are there any of the younger generation guitarists out there who are moving you or blowing you away?
Bob: Actually, it’s interesting that you should mention that because my partner Bobby Ferrari and I have been producing some young talent that’s been brought to us from Robert Knight, the famous photographer who has a Brotherhood of the Guitar organization, trying to find young kids who play guitar so there will be someone to pass the torch to. Two of these kids, Jacob Reese Thornton, and Kory Gibbs, ages 14 and 17 respectively, that’s who we’ve been recording songs with, original material. They’re both excellent players. Jacob is more of a singer/songwriter/guitar player, and Kory’s more of a lead guitar player a la SLASH. Both of these guys have us excited to work with young, new artists.
That to me is very, very important. So, to answer your question, sure I can go online and see some 14-year old girl playing “Eruption” note-for-note, and that’s great to see, but to be able to take somebody in the studio and do NEW, original material that showcases their talents and their guitar playing, that to me is more important.
Amps: When you’re not working, what are you listening to?
Bob: it really depends. I have varied tastes. Sometimes in the car I will go with Oldies stuff, some Frank Sinatra or something. It really depends. I’ll put on a STEELY DAN CD, something I can sing along to. I try not to play heavy music in the car, it’ll distract me driving (laughs).
Amps: How often do write now? Whenever the mood hits you, or are you always humming melodies into your phone?
Bob: Well, I’ll sit down and play guitar, get my phone out, and just record little pieces of original ideas. Then I’ll go back, listen and sift through, see if I can expand upon that. So it’s a constant process.
Amps: What are some of the things you’ve done that might stand out over everything else to you?
Bob: As far as gigs go, playing Castle Donnington with MEAT LOAF in between ZZ TOP and WHITESNAKE with DIO and TWISTED SISTER on the bill, all the people I wound up becoming friends with and worked with many of them as well, that was an important gig. Playing Giants Stadium in NY with Diana Ross and being on TV with her back in the day was exciting. Producing the theme for Triple H with MOTÖRHEAD and playing guitar on that, being able to go out and play that live with them at a couple of Wrestlemanias, that was a real highlight, and a lot of fun. The Spongebob song, too. It’s something people wouldn’t expect from me, and that’s also fun. I can rattle off several more, all great memories.
Amps: When the record comes out what would you like John Q. Listener to take from it?
Bob: I would like for them to appreciate the fact that with 24 people on this record that it is still a cohesive album with material that all fits together, whether it’s the retrospective stuff or the new stuff. And how great it is to have this group of very talented players on it. It may be a solo record, but there are 23 terrific people behind it as well.
Amps: Speaking of which, you have quite a who’s who of talent here. Other than the usual suspects, I loved Andrew Freeman’s vocals on “Player.” Do you just flip open the Rolodex, make the calls and people come a-runnin’?
Bob: The five that were already done, obviously I didn’t have to do much, but the new songs, once I hooked up with Bobby Ferrari and we started to make a plan to record, it all came together very quickly. And we both were in agreement on which song Vinny Appice, Frankie Banali, or Brent Fitz would play drums, Rudy Sarzo (bass), and which songs each person would sing or play on. And with very little change we waited for people’s schedules to allow them to come down. We had a fun time doing it because everybody loved being at that studio. It’s a throwback to the old days, an amazing studio.
Everybody loved the material and was happy to be involved, which was very important. The vast majority of these people are my friends and acquaintances, so we’ve worked together in various guises and projects, making it a very comfortable situation. The few people I hadn’t worked with like Andrew Freeman, I met through Robin McAuley, who sings on this record. We just hit it off immediately. It was a very fun project.
Amps: Andrew’s one of my favorite singers in the game right now.
Bob: Yeah, he’s great. I feel like the real strength of the record is not my guitar playing. The real strength of the record is the songs, which I think are all well-put together and have meaning, and the performance of the vocalists delivering them. The singer and the song is the most important thing, and I think that’s what people will hear. Of course there is PLENTY of guitar, obviously, but these songs are what I am really proud of.
Amps: What do you like to do away from music?
Bob: I’m a big baseball fan. I like to watch the games. I used to play softball religiously, but not for awhile now. I like movies and to noodle around with my guitar at home. My girlfriend is a photographer and with us both being artists we tend to gravitate towards artistic things. We love to go to the beach and stuff like that. I like to get away from the music when I’m not doing it. My few hobbies are all I really need. Julie did the photos for the album. She’s an amazing photographer and an amazing person. She was able to support me emotionally and encourage me the way she did to do this. Everybody should really thank her because I had already checked out on doing something like this. I felt that the business had changed so drastically that it wouldn’t happen. But she encouraged me, and introduced me to my partner Bobby, who I didn’t know had this great studio, and she took some great photos along the way. She made me believe in myself again, which is very, very important. Without Julie, Doug, and Bobby we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. And I’m very thankful. You add the 23 people who are on the record and it’s a miracle.
Amps: Who’s your baseball team?
Bob: I’m from New York so I’m a NY Yankees fan. Always have been. When I lived in L.A. I also rooted for the Dodgers; you can have more than one team.
Amps: I’m a long-suffering Mets fan myself. Do you think the Dodgers are the favorites to win the World Series? Yes or no?
Bob: Judging by their record, yes. But anything can happen in baseball, you know that. It comes down to who gets hot at the end of the season. And the Mets are a great team, they just got destroyed by injuries this year.
Amps: Is Cody Bellinger your Rookie of the year?
Bob: Well, I want to see if Aaron Judge can pull it together in the second half.
Amps: What would you like to say to all your fans out there in the world?
Bob: I just want to say that it’s been an honor and a privilege to get out and play in front of enthusiastic audiences who dig this kind of music. And I hope with the cast of characters I have on this record and the material on it that everybody will like it. Hopefully I’ll be able to do some shows and everyone can come see me in person.
I really hope that last line comes true. I know that if Bob Kulick puts a tour together I will be front and center if it hits my neck of the woods. I had such a great time chatting with Mr. Kulick, and I hope you maniacs enjoyed our conversation, too. Go pick up Skeletons In the Closet today and go rock your faces off. Everyone involved did an amazing job, and you NEED this one in your collection. GO! NOW!!
PROMOTIONAL PHOTOS: JULIE BERGONZ PHOTOGRAPHY