Ask prolific guitar player Bruce Kulick why being a judge for the School of Rock "Battle of the Bands" June 29 and 30 at Summerfest is important to him and the former member of KISS says that "seeing them be creative or just cover a classic rock tune is truly a joy to me."
It’s that love of music that has fueled a career that has continued to climb since 1975. Kulick debuted as a touring member of Meat Loaf’s band playing dual guitars with his brother Bob. From there, Kulick rocked in Blackjack with Michael Bolton, opened for Ozzy Osborne with the band The Good Rats, played on Billy Squier’s "Tale of the Tape" and perhaps most famously, held down lead guitar for 12 years for the "hottest band in the world," KISS.
Kulick is kind, warm and well spoken. A workaholic and animal lover, Kulick is refreshingly down to earth, but still possesses little eccentricities that communicate he is a highly creative individual. Dressed sharply in designer denim, a tailored jacket, fabulous shoes and tasteful "rocker" jewelry, he exudes a confidence and mastery for his craft that only comes with the experience he has garnered working with some of the music business’ biggest and "baddest."
Could there be anyone left for Kulick to shred for? He says, "I always wanted to jam with Paul McCartney! I love that he still rocks and he is in his 70s. A real inspiration for all."
With a resume that reads like a who’s who of rock n’ roll, Kulick offers some great advice for the up-and-coming artists he will be judging this weekend on the Summerfest stages:
"Be patient, and follow your instincts. Being a clone of another band is never a great idea. Be influenced by the bands that you love, but don't copy them exactly. Put yourself into your own idea of what a band or artist should be."
School of Rock is a national, franchised music education program that utilizes the expertise of stars like Kulick for mentorship and instruction. The Summerfest "Battle of the Bands" will showcase over 200 students in 30 bands on several stages over the two-day contest where Kulick will be joined by fellow celebrity judges Slim Jim Phantom (The Stray Cats), Earl Slick (David Bowie), Jim Peterik (Survivor, Ides of March), Metal Mike (Rob Halford), Eric Bloom (Blue Oyster Cult), Nathan Willett and Matt Maust (Cold War Kids).
The battle’s finale will be staged at the BMO Harris Pavilion on Sunday, June 30. For detailed show times and stages click here.
This will be Kulick’s first Summerfest outing and he is thrilled that it will give the School of Rock hopefuls the chance to "get to feel like a pro." Part of that experience is the fans. The School of Rockers will be joined by over 300 supporters and will be garnering new cronies with every note they play.
KISS fans are known in the music world as some of the most dedicated devotees. Kulick makes several appearances at KISS Expos around the world and describes KISS fans as "amazing, loyal, and opinionated."
He is moved by how his part in rock history continues to inspire. "I am blessed with my 12 years playing guitar for (KISS), as I was able to get a body of work that won't be forgotten. What's amazing me lately is meeting young fans of mine that are crying and shaking saying 'hello' to me. Guess what? I have been out of the band longer than their age! So, I am quite moved by that."
Kulick currently plays lead guitar and tours with Grand Funk Railroad. He also keeps busy with his two side projects, Union (with John Corabi) and ESP (the Eric Singer Project.) He is involved with session work, producing new artists, instructional DVDs, music compositions and Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp.
Kulick has also released three solo albums, most recently BK3 (available on iTunes and from Kulick.net) that includes the vocal debut of Nick Simmons, son of KISS bassist Gene Simmons on the song, "Hand of the King."
Was working with Nick anything like being in a band with his notorious father, "The Demon?"
"Anytime I worked with Gene it was 'Gene Simmons of KISS!' You know, he (Gene) has lots of experience. Nick is fearless, but he didn't have that experience yet," said Kulick. "My producer and I watched him grow in his confidence and ability and his performance was 'stella.'"
Perhaps the most exciting impending development for Kulick will be more personal than professional. He is engaged to be married in early 2014. The challenges and triumphs of relationships for road-traveling musicians have been documented sonically since needle scratched vinyl, so will tying the knot affect Kulick’s career or perhaps inspire his own ode to love on the road?
"Marriage will give me an even firmer foundation than what I already have. Lisa, my fianceé, obviously has been a huge part of my life and having her become Mrs. Kulick, will be a strong statement of what she means to me. If it helps a song, great, but honestly sometimes it's heartache and trouble that inspires musicians. But, I am not opposed to a love song here and there, so who knows!"
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