Interview by Aniruddh 'Andrew' Bansal
Andrew: Bruce how's it going?
Bruce: Great! Everything is good. I'm a busy boy.
Andrew: Your new album BK3 is ready. Tell us a little bit about the recording process.
Bruce: Well to be honest, it took a long time. Some of that was just my schedule you know. I play with Grand Funk Road. We do about 30, 40, sometimes even close to 50 gigs a year and what happens is, in between all that and some of the other work I do, its hard to sometimes be in the studio, finish the song and get the recording going. So its always been a bit of a challenge to schedule everything. But, you know, I didn't care. On this record for me the important thing was always going to be that I get a great record out of it, and I feel like I've accomplished that. I started quite a while ago. I started writing in 2002 into 2003-04, didn't start recording until 2006 and took a total of two years to record and schedule everything. But it was worthwhile and I feel I've accomplished everything that I wanted to with this record.
Andrew: Was your schedule the only reason for the long gap since your last release seven years back?
Bruce: Schedule is one thing, but the other part that was really important to me was that I was going to make a record with really no compromise. That means sometimes doing things more than once, looking things over, retrying and sometimes throwing it out and start all over again. That's what this was all about. I definitely wanted to make a record. My producer really pushed me and the idea was always to have an album that was going to be totally no compromise when it came to quality and the intention of us making a record that's strong. My favorite KISS album is Revenge and that's what I wanted to do, make a record as strong as that, the best I could. Jeremy and I really feel like we've accomplished that. It was hard work to do it.
Andrew: There is an instrumental track on BK3 featuring Steve Lukather. How did that come about and how long did it take to lay down that track?
Bruce: The formula for the record was constantly evolving and Jeremy and I realized kind of almost in the final stretch of finishing the record that we didn't have an instrumental! I really thought that it was important to have one and we probably discussed that on a Thursday and by the weekend I wrote something that I was really excited about, and then he came over and we adjusted a few things like the melody of the chorus, but the verses were like we didn't know what we would do there yet. It was just going to be a strong tune and we'd come up with stuff and figure it out. Lukather got involved in a very unusual way. The recording studio I wanted to use, he was attached to it. I think he might have been an investor one time at a place called Steak House. I don't think he has anything to do with it anymore, but I couldn't get in touch with the studio manager and somehow I reached out to Lukather in an email and said, 'Hey what's going on with the Steak House? I want to book it.' And then we got together for lunch. He helped me out obviously as I booked a session to do the rhythm section with Kenny and Jimmy who are killer bass player and drummer, and the next thing I know was Jeremy telling me, 'You know you're gonna ask Lukather to play on that right?' and I was like 'Why would you ask me to do that?' So it was one of those. Jeremy said it would be great, and it was a track the two of you could shine on. It would be really cool for those fans that are into that. I was like, you are right. It was always intimidating to me, as Lukather is such a monster on the guitar, but I asked him. He said yes, he knew the guys that I played with. I got him the track and what happened was, we just let him come in and let him jam on the sections that I didn't commit to. And then what we did was, it is always kind of hard to tell. I am always playing chorus in solos. It's a little hard to tell even in some of the verses I'm answering him, sometimes I'm not. Sometimes I take over. There were no road maps for this, let me explain that. But it was amazing. I managed to get some of that on video. I got some of Steve in the studio with me and he's just a tremendous guy and amazing musician. So I think there's a lot of magic in that track, even though it wasn't done like two guys sitting in the studio in the same time jamming. It originally had that feel to it, but I'm just being honest with you as to the process of how the song got going.
Andrew: You guys are doing a mini-tour of Australia pretty soon. How's the preparation going for that?
Bruce: That was another thing where I knew December would be a great time to go. Its been too long as solo. So I booked this a while back and I was able to squeeze in the one week in Europe of course, with it. So I have guys down there I like to play with, because I don't really have a band here in the US. I'm busy touring with Grand Funk and its not like I have a band that I really play with that much here. So I'm looking forward to it. I'm leaving on Sunday. Obviously, we'll play one, may be two songs from the new record. The new record's not quite ready there until January or February. But I think the vibe will be very strong, because a lot of people are aware of what's coming. The climate now is very fertile between Sonic Boom and Ace's Anomaly and now my record coming out next year. So I'm looking forward to it. The fans there are wonderful and I always feel that its another place where they see me as a guitar legend and its very flattering.
Andrew: You already hinted about the set list. So its going to be mostly the KISS stuff and your solo stuff?
Bruce: Right. I like to concentrate a lot on some of the stuff from Crazy Nights, Asylum, Revenge and all of that KISS doesn't touch any more. There was one year I put together some medleys. We might do that as we have three of four days to rehearse. So we could probably take a little bit of liberty on that but its going to be a good set list and different stuff. I'm excited to hook up with the guys and look at everything, and see how we can do it.
Andrew: Who are your touring members for this Australia tour, and will there be any appearances from any of the musicians who performed on BK3?
Bruce: Its too soon to say. I know that Tobias and I are going to keep in touch. When Tobias does his Avantasia thing somewhere hopefully I'll be able to help him and hopefully he'll be able to come out and do something for me as well. I would love to do some things with Nick specially. Gene is pretty busy with a band called KISS and John is going to have his solo record out next year and may be I could do stuff with John. I'm keeping the door open as to where I'll do that way. The guys in Australia though, the bass player Matt I've worked with him before and the other guitar player Paul Drenin is a very dear friend of mine for years now. There is a new drummer who I haven't worked with but I've heard that his work is terrific. I don't remember his name right now but the singer is the most important. I had lunch with him in LA a few months ago. This guy Nick Mader is a really talented guy. We had a great meeting when he happened to be in LA and I'm looking forward to working with him because ironically, the artwork for his solo album was done by the same guy who did BK3. So we know a lot of similar people. So its all good players down there but really the main thing will be to showcase me and to celebrate my relationship with KISS and the fans. So its going to be good.
Andrew: Is there a US tour in the pipeline next year or something like that?
Bruce: I can't really make plans yet. I know I'll do some promotional things regarding the record coming out, but I don't know yet. I always have to look at the Grand Funk schedule. I can't even go to NAMM this year because Grand Funk have got a weekend at a really big casino up in Michigan. I can't say no to Grand Funk, I love those guys and I love playing music with them. And the NAMM show that I'll miss, all my manufacturers are over supportive of me, regardless that I'm there or not. So its hard to know really what is going to happen touring wise. I'm hoping to get out there, but the most important thing is that people are aware the record is going to be out soon and people can buy it at Best Buy.
Andrew: Do KISS's set lists matter to you at all in what they pick and whether they pick songs from your era?
Bruce: They generally don't. I think it would be fun for them to choose more of those but they don't. I think they are doing what they feel is the right thing. So all I can say is that in some ways, in make up in everything it probably makes more sense that they are staying with the vintage stuff. It kind of makes my era of KISS more unique too, you know. I know they are good enough to play it, I mean Tommy is a great guitarist and Eric can play anything. But I'm really surprised that they are not doing 'God Gave Rock N Roll'. I actually close my clinic parties with that song, just by myself. I do the intro and all the chords and saying hey this is part Paul played, this is what I played, everybody would sing along. To me its like the anthem of my era of KISS.
Andrew: Other than Revenge, which you already mentioned, what else are you particularly proud of from your time in KISS?
Bruce: There are highlights throughout all the albums. 'Tears Are Falling' to 'Forever' and there's stuff on Crazy Nights that I think is really strong and just about anything off of Revenge. I think MTV showcases the non-make up band in a great way. So there are plenty of highlights for me in KISS and I'm very proud of all the work that I did with the band and I think the fans are supportive of it. If they were never into the non-make up band then I'm not on their radar. But the fans who got turned on to the non-make up KISS, or I was the first KISS guitarist they saw, they have always been very appreciative of me and what I'm doing. That's a great feeling even after all these years of not being in the band.
Andrew: What else have you been doing this year other than Grand Funk and the album recording?
Bruce: The fantasy camp is a lot of fun. I also get a chance to meet some of my heroes like the singer from Yes. Ace was actually at the last one. Meat Loaf was there who I jammed with. I did the one in London where I got to record Abbey Road and I actually jammed with Jack Bruce which was one of the highlights of my career. I actually played two Cream songs with him and Simon Kirke the drummer from Bad Company, what a thrill that was. But the camps are a lot of fun. There are a lot of lawyers, doctors and successful business people and it is almost like a sports camp except that it's a guitar. I'm a good counselor and I love working with everybody. I love the networking and meeting the different people. Its makes me feel pretty accomplished and it keeps me busy. I did a blog for it and you can read it on my website or on rockcamp.com which is the fantasy camp website. There have been great guest. Paul Stanley did it and it was fun to jam with him. The original guitarist of Grand Funk, Mark Farner was there too. We got along great. The idea is there to have everybody celebrating music and what they are known for. The one in April with Steven Tyler was a thrill. The camps were great and this year we ended the last night at the Whisky with Robbie Krieger, the Doors guitar player. I played bass on the 'Soul Kitchen' tune. I love the way that people who have kinda boring jobs, when they get their 20 minutes or so of fame on stage, its pretty interesting to see how their life changes. I really enjoy the process that happens in the days during the camps from start to the end. It keeps me busy, I'm doing other things like sessions and sometimes KISS expos and things like that but I can't complain.
Andrew: Do you think you'll keep doing guitar clinics even after you stop recording, few years down the road?
Bruce: It is certainly a simple way to get out there and still perform. There is nothing wrong with playing a venue and rocking out with a band. That's of course what I really enjoy doing, but sometimes its hard to do that and even if I'm just at a music shop which has a 100-150 people in it with some sort of a hall, I can do a performance that way and talk to the crowd, explain some things, then do an autograph signing. Its actually a really fun event for people to come. There aren't pyro and laser beams, no light show but you certainly get to hang with me for a good two hours so that's kind of a lot of fun. At some of the expos I rock out with a band, like at the LA KISS expo in October, I invited School of Rock and played a small set with them and it was a thrill for them to jam with me. They were in KISS make-up and it was fun!
Andrew: Who was your major inspiration when you started out?
Bruce: Well certainly the Beatles were first and then the whole British invasion with Cream, The Who and Led Zeppelin. I was really excited about Jimi Hendrix and he was my hero as a guitarist. But between Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck and in later years Eddie Van Halen, it was mainly that British invasion that made me grow up and play music, and I seemed to have a talent for it so I absorbed everything from those people.
Andrew: Are there any younger guitarists out there that you are particularly a fan of?
Bruce: I don't know how young he is, but Joe Bonnamasso is really talented. A lot of the newer bands, its not so much about the guitar playing, its more about how the guitar fits in with the song. Like, Wolfmother is a great band but I'm not going to talk about the guitarist as if he is Eric Clapton. I think everything has been said on the guitar in a way, but there are bands like The Killers who have a great sound. But I'm not going to brag about the guitarist who does the right thing for the song. But I think its hard for people to come up with a new guitar hero, I don't know why, but it is. But I do think bands like Coldplay, Muse and Radiohead are amazing. With Radiohead its about this thing they create with the band, and its not like 'look at me' which is some of those earlier guitar players were able to do. The important thing is that people love music and I love that every generation seems to want to know about the classic rock period. That stuff will always be with us.
Andrew: Thanks a ton for your time, Bruce! Have a great time and we hope to see you back in LA soon!
Bruce: Sure thing man, appreciated. Keep an eye on the website and the facebook stuff.