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metal talk

ian sutherland
Words: Ian Sutherland
14th November 2017

bob kulick

So how do you celebrate fifty-one years in the music industry? If you are legendary guitarist, award winning producer and the music industry's go-to-guy Bob Kulick, you make your first ever solo album...

In his five decades long career he's toured with Meat Loaf, won a Grammy for producing Motörhead and had a hit with a song written for Spongebob Squarepants. It might be easier to name the people he hasn't worked with in some capacity; Lou Reed, Diana Ross, Metallica, his long running connection with Kiss, the list goes on and on.

He has taken those connections and worked them into his first ever solo album, 'Skeletons In The Closet', which features Dee Snider, Robin McAuley and Rudy Sarzo amongst a star studded cast. The songs are made up of old tunes written through his career and new ones written especially for the album, and a Metalised cover version of Bond theme tune 'Goldfinger' for good measure.

MetalTalk caught up with him to find out all about it.

To my ears there are little parts in 'Skeletons In The Closet' which remind me of Kiss and W.A.S.P and Alice Cooper but in many cases you were the guy behind their albums, so is this them sounding like you or you sounding like them?

"Certainly Kiss, W.A.S.P, Alice Cooper, Metallica, all the stuff that I've been associated with, Motörhead, all of that stuff, there is obviously the influence on all of that in my writing, in my playing, in my approach.

"What I really tried to do with this record though was not to make something that people would just think of as guitar-centric. I wanted them to think of this as songs. If it was Robin McAuley's song or Dee Snider's song, they were songs that they could acknowledge, that this wasn't just a jam record or me trying to be like Jeff Beck or something that I'm not.

"I'm the guitar player but according to the entities that are the songs, I'm just the embellishment. As one of the writers on all the songs, as one of the producers I feel that I was able to guide this to be familiar. In the ballpark of the bands that you referenced but unique in that it's a record by a solo artist, from someone who never did one with twenty-three guest artists."

It sounds like you approached it like you did when you worked on other people's albums.

"Yes, because in that case the most important thing was also the songs. There were records that I did where the guitar playing was more important, like the Michael Schenker record. He's a legendary guitar player so the songs were chosen not because they were the greatest songs in the world but because these are great vehicles for him to play on.

"So there were instances when we did things to showcase people, but in this case showcasing me. One of the things I'm proudest of is that having written the Spongebob Squarepants song 'Sweet Victory' with David Eisley which was a huge hit and other tunes I've been able to put the hand of Bob on so to speak. Things like the theme song for Triple H which wouldn't have been the same without my contribution.

"This record was a labour of love to try to see if I could do something that I never did before. To put my picture on a record, be the artist."

Have you been a Shirley Bassey fan for a long time?

"[Laughs] Yes, talk about a woman who could belt it out! I was lucky enough to work with Patti LaBelle and Diana Ross but I think they'd both agree that Shirley Bassey is a whole other entity when it comes to dishing it out.

"I have an infatuation with taking songs that were not Metal songs and reinventing them. Taking a song like 'Goldfinger' and giving it some teeth was a fun exercise and everyone seems to like it. It's a great song and that beginning is classic, the way the melody weaves through it too. We tried to be faithful to the original while totally being different."

bob kulick

You are a Grammy winning producer in your own right so what made you choose Bobby Ferrari to co-produce your solo album with you?

"My girlfriend Julie introduced me to Bobby and his studio is a phenomenal studio. We hung out a few times and the studio was my dream studio. There are all these studios from my past, Electric Ladyland, Power Station, Abbey Road, all the studios that I was lucky enough to be able to record at.

"They were these cathedral studios, this studio was one like that. When I played Bobby the material, the demos that Doug, the keyboard player from Balance, and I wrote, the four new songs on the record, Bobby freaked out and he wanted to be involved. So we worked something out and I was able to have his help as co-producer and the studio which made the whole project come to life.

"When Dee Snider, Frankie Banali, Robin McAuley, when everybody showed up to sing they were singing at this awesome studio.

"Having somebody there who could be a little bit more objective than you... he's extremely musical, he played bass on a couple of tracks. The guy has got incredible ears, sonics, arrangements, he's another me! Plus he's an engineer as well so having him in my corner gave me confidence beyond my own confidence."

You've worked with just about anyone who is anyone in music, Meat Loaf, Lou Reed, you name it. How did you decide who to ask to join you on this album?

"Frankie Banali has played drums on tons of stuff that I've done. You go back to the people who you like, where the vibe is there, who understand what you're doing and in this case everyone loved the material that they were sent.

"The musicians were easy, Vinnie Appice, Rudy Sarzo, all these guys were easy to schedule. The singers, it was more difficult trying to decide who should sing what but as the songs were being recorded it became obvious that 'London' would be a tour-de-force for Dee Snider and that 'Not Before You' is something that we thought Robin McAuley would be really great at.

"We picked the right people, casting is part of what I'm good at, and Bobby too. The singers helped me too. Fortunately everybody that we wanted appeared and I couldn't be happier with how it turned out."

bob kulick

I know that you were friends with Lemmy and that you spoke very eloquently at his funeral service. I take it you would have had him on your album if he was still around?

"That's true, if he was still around there might have been an instance when he'd have come and done something for me. He always did that for me, every project that I did where I needed his help, every single one, he always came.

"He'd have a suggestion or an idea. And nine times out of ten it was awesome. Like for the Metal Xmas record, he called Dave Grohl, I called Billy Gibbons so we got that together and were able to cut that song 'Run Rudolph Run' with those guys.

"I was working with Wendy Dio at the time and she was able to go the label and get the money because Lemmy was singing on it and those guys were playing on it. He was always there to get stuff started for us. He was one of my favourite ever people, a true rock star and if he were here it would have been an honour to have him on my record."

I know you've stated publicly that you played on several Kiss albums but that you didn't play on 'Creatures Of The Night'. However the guy who produced that record, Michael James Jackson, says that he worked on one of your solos on it. Were they possibly using old leftover stuff from the 'Killer' sessions?

"I'm going to see Michael on the Kiss Kruise in a few days so I will ask him to refresh my memory! We were recording stuff for 'Creatures...' and for the interim record, 'Killers', which had 'Partner In Crime' and 'Nowhere To Run' on it which I did play on.

"There was a lot of confusion over who played what, I did play solos on some of the stuff for 'Creatures...' but to my knowledge none of them were used. We'll figure it out on the cruise."

The other big Kiss news at the moment is the release by Gene Simmons of 'The Vault', his massive box set. Do you know if you are on any of the recordings in that at all?

"Yes, Gene contacted me a few months ago and talked to me about putting four of the songs that we recorded back in the day in 'The Vault' so there are four songs which I co-wrote and that I play on. I'm glad that they're going to see the light of day. I also have four songs which I produced on the new Motörhead covers album, 'Under Cover'.

Do you have any plans for live shows to support 'Skeletons In The Closet'?

"Yes, we're discussing that right now but the first thing I have to do is get through this Kiss Kruise. I'm going to be playing with my brother and other guys who are on my solo record. We're talking about it and we're going to see if we can do some European shows... we are talking about it."

Check out more of Ian Sutherland right here.


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