BK Celebrates Carnival of Souls on its 15th Anniversary

BK Celebrates Carnival of Souls on its 15th Anniversary

Bruce KulickI know you've all been very interested in and enjoyed my anniversary track by track look back at the KISS albums Revenge and Crazy Nights.

Well this year also marks the 15th anniversary of the release of the very controversial KISS album Carnival Of Souls, an album that didn't see the light of day until several years after its completion.

Here is KISS music that has fans divided, with opinions flying faster than a speeding bullet as to whether Carnival Of Souls is what KISS really is or should be, with people equally vocal about it being their favorite KISS CD or thinking it's the worst KISS album ever.

Well, making the album was an interesting ride, and I have lots to share with you all. So let's take a look behind the scenes of the making of the famous, and infamous, Carnival Of Souls: The Final Sessions.



This feature is İBruce Kulick. It may not be reproduced - in whole or in part - without express written permission.
 
Hate | Rain | Master & Slave | Childhood's End | I Will Be There | Jungle | In My Head | In Never Goes Away
Seduction of the Innocent | I Confess | In the Mirror | I Walk Alone | Outromental | BK Answers COS Questions
Producer Toby Wright on Carnival of Souls | BK's Final Thoughts on Carnival of Souls
 
HATE

Before note one of the first track you hear various cryptic and weird noises, along with a slowed down vocal of Paul Stanley saying something about introducing a young Billy Corgan, but with "Corgan" played backwards purposely. OK, buckle your seat belts because it's gonna be a bumpy ride for sure if KISS is starting things off like that, right?

The weird noises were created by plugging a guitar into a very high gain amp, and along with an overdrive distortion pedal it created some unearthly sounds (thanks to the nature of electricity and voltage) that made it seem like we were trying to reach out to some distant planet! As for Paul's introduction, well, we were being very playful.

The band was well aware of the huge influence of the Seattle grunge sound, which I will discuss more later in my COS rewind, and it was fun for Paul to just poke some fun at the Smashing Pumpkins leader. Obviously it wasn't something that caused a lasting problem in that relationship, as the Smashing Pumpkins opened for KISS years later at Dodger Stadium on Halloween in 1998.

But at this point the listener is thinking "WTF?!" then a huge D tuned metal riff starts and the song is off to the races with Gene screaming as loud as possible, "Hate is what I am!" For a band that usually sings about standing up for yourself and having a party it seemed like a left turn, right? Wrong! How about "Unholy," "God of Thunder," "War Machine," etc. KISS has done tough and dark before. And while this is considerably more personal, saying he is hate, Gene was never shy about expressing a dark point a view. After all, the idea that without the darkness there is no light is a great concept for lyrics. So Gene takes us down below, as he knows how dark mankind can be.

The music is a perfect backdrop to the madness he is revealing. Eric is bashing the drums with a staccato rhythm and the chucka chucka guitars all give a feeling of being "six feet underground." This song is one of my various co-writes on COS, but all I really contributed was the very dark, Hendrix inspired bridge of the tune. It was something I jammed live with Eric and Gene at a demo studio at least a year or two before the recording and Gene loved it. No words are needed over it, and it sets up the solo section perfectly.

Now, that solo is something I would hate to play live. A guitar pedal that was popular back then called a Whammy Pedal by Digitech was a new discovery for me, and at producer Toby Wright's suggestion and with the encouragement of the band I incorporated it as part of my arsenal in seeking to top the relentless solos on Revenge. COS was meant to be heavier, dirtier, and nastier than Revenge, and with some luck on my side I was able to make that pedal speak and do some of the octave tricks it is known for. A nice Sunburst ESP Horizon model with Floyd Rose was employed quite effectively. I had to go for it, but with the attitude Gene was expressing lyrically one foot was already in HELL. After all, the song is called "Hate!"

So it was particularly ironic that the day I did the guitar solo for this song I was wearing a white long sleeve shirt and a Santa hat! There's actually some footage of that on the bonus disc of KISSOLOGY III, footage I believe was filmed by none other than Tommy Thayer! After the vicious topsy turvy solo - sounding like an angry insect at times - it's back to the B section of the song, with my warped riffs working off of the Simmons lyrics. Finally the huge "Hate" chorus once again returns, with my ESP guitar moaning along with Gene singing, "Man... man... man."

So, the first song certainly sets the pace for the roller coaster ride to come.
 
RAIN

Eric Singer starts this track off with a swinging drum fill, then begins a chugging, thick guitar riff that would be a perfect soundtrack for Frankenstein taking his revenge out on the villagers! Paul's delivery is very sincere, almost painful, as he pleads, "Tell me what you want me to be. I can't stand myself anymore." That's certainly a left turn for Paul, but remember this was the album KISS promised would be darker and more intense than Revenge. Paul's talking about how sometimes life deals you hard blows and it seems like there's a storm coming. But at the same time, all that rain will wash things away and cleanse them, so as dark as the lyrics seem on the surface there is some light in his message.

The main riff was written by yours truly, and when I presented this detuned chunk of chords with a time signature changing between 4/4 and 7/8 time Paul dug it. I actually had a demo very close to the final in the sense of chord changes and riff patterns, though I had no melody at all in my mind. Paul and I fleshed out a good arrangement, and the rest was finished by Paul and Curt Cuomo. What I like most on this track is the contrast between the dark riff and the major uplifting feel of the bridges in the song.

Backward effects on Paul's voice continue the COS style of taking you on an unearthly trip, and Eric tripping on his toms while the moving bass supports the riffs in a sinister fashion really gives this song a true storm-filled feeling. The chorus guitar riffs have purposely slippery bends, like I am running out of space on the fingerboard, and give the feeling of falling down a big water slide.

Enter a solo of crazy chaos, feedback, melody with wah tones, and overly distorted mayhem played on my old Les Paul Custom, with me bending the guitars strings in defense of Paul's torment - he makes reference many times to the storm's thunder sounding "like a gun in my ear." Paul really nails a very difficult vocal, and his wailing on the chorus is classic Stanley, lamenting that he thinks it's gonna raaaaaaaain.

Okay, some other notes and spoilers. Yes, that is me on bass. And since I hit the goldmine while digging through my archives for this feature I have the actual production notes for guitars and basses on every song. Gene's Pedula with a dragon on it was the bass used. Now, it does sound like Gene, very much so. I feel that Gene is a great bass player. His influences are so similar to mine, and he has a unique approach.

But I can get that monster style of playing in my head and attack the bass, slipping up and down the neck like the Demon. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so there it is, me being Gene the closest I can. I am proud of it, and I don't mind saying it. Why me, not Gene? Well, Paul and I do very thorough demos and I played bass on that so it just made sense. No different than Paul McCartney taking the guitar solo for "Taxman." (Hope you knew that!)

"Rain" is definitely one of my favorites. From the angst in Paul's vocals to the screaming guitar wah tones, this track really sums up some of the strengths of what COS has to offer. Classic KISS? No. Angry, tough KISS like no one ever expected.
 
MASTER & SLAVE

Probably the most KISS-like in many ways, "Master & Slave" showcases all the strengths of the band from that era. Classic sounding in one way, but very dark and tough as well, which was always the theme behind COS. Its huge "Tell me!" in the chorus and rhythmic drum groove hypnotizes the listener.

As much as the title sounds like the lyrics could be about things people do to the extreme sexually, it's really about love. Paul refers to the power of love as the biggest drug, the master we are all slaves to. How true. In some ways it's a very straight forward rock song, especially compared to the the one-two punch of "Hate" and "Rain."

Paul wrote the relentless riff that runs throughout the song, and Gene contributed some arrangements on this track that really made it shine. I remember rehearsal for this song in the studio was very stressful as you don't like when the "parents" are being snippy with each other. But that's natural when one has a point of view that needs to be explored, and Paul did finally agree with Gene's ideas. In the end, I was thrilled when I knew we had captured some magic and really showcased the riff that Paul wrote so brilliantly.

As for my contribution... well with the relentless groove throughout the verse and chorus sections I thought, "How about a left turn?" So I came up with the odd time signature chromatic chords in the bridge and solo that really contrast from the rest of the song. It's not easy to play in 5/4, and my entrance with the clean simple guitar tone gives way to the powerful version of the same chords, while Eric's great kick drum pattern and Paul's wailing vocal performance, taken up an octave, set up my time to speak through my guitar.

It's an angry beast of a guitar solo. Using a pedal that creates insane amounts of fuzz and a hint of an octave device, the solo starts melodic but ends with a sound like I was speaking from the depths of hades! In some ways there was a theme to all of these solos, darker and more sinister than anything on Revenge, yet retaining the melodic nature I insist on for my solo work. I really hit the mark with that COS style of guitar playing on "Master And Slave."

Guitars featured on this song were my 1956 Les Paul Custom and my yellow ESP "banana" guitar from the back of Crazy Nights, which was used for the solo. Gene plays a mean bass on this track, and uses his Pedula quite effectively. Paul was using his Ibanez PS-10 and Laney amps, while I was playing through 900 series Marshall amps.

So this track, which early on was called "Paul's Riff," really was a labor of love to create. It was not finished demo wise in the typical fashion, but was reworked with us all jamming live to get it right. As much as that approach was necessary to flesh out the best of the song, it was not how we would finally record in the studio. Obviously rules don't apply when you're striving to make the best song possible, and having the four of us in one big room jamming and rehearsing to get it right paid off very well in the end. One of my favorite songs on the album, and hopefully one of yours too.
 
CHILDHOOD'S END

This melodic rocker is one of the strongest songs from Gene on the album, and certainly a fan favorite. Featuring a children's choir singing along throughout, this song is a bit of a departure in some ways from the dark concepts explored in the first three tracks. Beatles-like in many ways, with lyrics that are very retrospective, Gene seems to be telling the story of a friend who never reached his dreams. Of course that is a stark contrast to Mr Simmons, who certainly made a colossal career out of his childhood dreams.

The song had many other forms, but what I was presented back in the demo days was clear in its chorus and the main melody of the tune. At the same time, I was aware of other songs that Gene had that didn't really hit the nail on the head. Some sections would be good, with other parts not as good. My contribution was helping piece together two song ideas that made up the body of "Childhood's End," as well as contributing the bridge chord transition. I remember it being clear that something very cool was "Frankensteined" together that day, and the demo came together easily.

The sloppy, bending guitar riffs played along with the very clean strumming guitar in the verses was creating a fresh approach, which was part of the experiments of COS. I know the clean guitar was my beat up Les Paul Jr turned way down to be really clean, played through a '66 Fender Bassman head, and my 1960 Gibson ES 355 in cherry was also used according to my production notes. There are some 12 string guitar parts as well, which were played on a Rickenbacker. Gene's bass playing is classic Demon, with lots of movement and slipping and sliding around on his Custom BC Rich Sunburst Punisher model. At the time Gene was making this his Signature model with BC Rich, before moving on without them for his current Custom Shop basses.

The guitar solo, which Gene really loved, repeated his strong melody in harmony with a flashy riff ending. What I used, for the first time on record, was the prototype of my Signature model for ESP Guitars. Obviously by the time it was finally manufactured for sale in 1997 I was no longer in KISS, which is pretty ironic. The 100 or so which were made by the ESP Custom shop in Japan, both bolt-on and neck through models, are collectable now. I played it through a Marshall Combo 900 amp and used a vintage tube Maestro Echoplex. I was proud of how good my Signature model sounded, and it got some more use as well during the COS recording.

What is documented quite clearly for this song was the crazy session with the children's choir, which is included in the bonus footage for KISSOLOGY III. It was funny how Paul was having a laugh in the control room that day. Typical studio joking around. Now that would have been a great reality show with all the natural banter the band had, especially when we would pick on another band member. The kids were jokingly credited on the production notes as "Children of the Damned Choir," but they were The Crossroads Boys Choir, with Carole Keiser as the director. I wonder if she was aware of the name Gene thought of for those kids. Sadly, as you may know, credits regarding the children's choir and other things were left off the official release, so I'm glad I can share some of these unique details from the past.



Another interesting footnote to this song is the missing "Outro." Gene, Eric and I had this jam riff that we did on the demo which we recorded the same way in the studio. It was intended that the song would fade out with the kids singing the chorus, and then after the fade and a short silence the mean, nasty riff would come back in. But I remember hearing it on the advance cassette when the album was finally to be released as the very last thing you heard on COS, after "I Walk Alone." Well, as you die hards probably know you can now hear the full version on the KISS Box Set. It's titled "Outromental," and I think the version they used came from my archives, as I kept EVERYTHING.

Obviously with the KISS make up Reunion success in full swing at the time of the COS release, things like a fade out and returning riff could be overlooked by the label. But besides how hard it was for me see this CD delayed for so long, bootlegged, and nearly forgotten, the missing "Outro" was a slap in the face that seemed to say that what we had worked so hard on and my commitment to this music was not relished. At least the full version of the song finally got released on the KISS Box Set, though based on the advance cassette I think it was meant not as the tag after "Childhood's End," but at the very end after "I Walk Alone." In any event, it was originally recorded for the ending of "Childhood's End," not during IWA, so it's nice to see it included there.

Lastly, I will say that mixing this song was quite the battle. Our co-producer Toby Wright, known for his production work with some huge selling artists like Alice In Chains and Korn, had a particular point of view for how he wanted KISS to sound. It's ironic that he was an assistant engineer for KISS back on the Ron Nevison produced Crazy Nights, but now had his style of dark hard rock. He was always pushing us, and enjoyed the experimental approach Gene and Paul would dabble in. But by the time we were mixing this album the Reunion tour had been announced, and the distractions of the big tour and year to come, along with many unknowns, made concentrating on the mixes very stressful.

I clearly remember Gene pushing up the bass in the mix and Toby feeling like he was being bullied into something he didn't like. I will say I always prefer to not "take sides," but like to instinctually make decisions based strictly on what I hear without regard to whose "side" that is. It was sad, actually, to see the frustration on Toby's face regarding the mix, and it was hard for him and Gene to work together. I pick my battles, so I doubt I said anything. Things like this happen, and I just tried not to get completely bummed by it. But in all honesty, it was a case of Gene pushing someone around. Toby kind of threw his hands up in the air, and I was like "Oh no, what's gonna happen to this song?" Gene had the final say, and I do love the song and was proud to contribute to it, but at the same time I also feel the bass took over the track that day. Do you agree?
 
I WILL BE THERE

Paul's sweet song, written for his son Evan, really is a testament to the bond Paul was feeling with his first child, and seeing what an amazing young man he has become is something I know Mr Stanley is surely proud of. With low tuned, minstrel sounding acoustics sweetly picking the chord changes, the mood for this song was set with special attention to making this the most heartfelt song for COS. Tablas and other non KISS type instruments were used. Even the bass, played by me on my 1967 Gibson EB-3, was put through a stereo MXR chorus pedal to make it swim in and out of the mix. A sweet string section adds a gentle blanket of comfort to Paul's vocals letting his son know he has nothing to worry about, Paul will be there.

The solos in the entrance of the song and the middle were played on two different guitars. I enter the song playing my 1963 Gibson LG-1 with steel strings. For the middle guitar work we rented a classical, nylon string guitar from Guitar Center. A Ramirez I believe. I did not own one, and it was a bit of a challenge. But "Forever" was also a much different song, and even though I knew we would have a similar solo section the nylon string came into the equation. I feel like I got the job done quite well, even supplying harmony parts to the key melodic flurries in the second part that have a Spanish flavor of minor scales going up and down the fingerboard. I could even imagine a flamenco dancer interpreting Paul's message in my mind.


The song was mostly written by Paul, with some additions from Curt Cuomo and myself. I know I had some bridge ideas, and the demo was pretty close to the final arrangement. Eric used some Indian hand drums, and Paul played his 12 string Guild on this track. He also borrowed a 10 string ukelele from famous producer Ron Fair. My Gibson acoustic also played rhythms along with Paul's larger sounding 12 string. There's some cool footage in that bonus footage video on KISSOLOGY III of us recording some of this, including the string section.

When you think of all the emotions KISS visits on COS, if this was an old-school vinyl album this would be the fitting ending of side one, spanning the stark contrast from "Hate" to this sentimental song. And for me that is one of the beauties of KISS; people who don't really know the band's music catalog will say that KISS is "heavy metal, demonic, keep it simple stupid rock and roll music." Well, we know otherwise. Yes, KISS can rock your socks off, but then turn around and give you tracks like "Forever" and "Crazy Nights," a song so versatile it was turned into a gentle piano arrangement and used for a vodka commercial. So don't stereotype KISS!

And for those who initially looked at Carnival Of Souls with prejudice and dismissed it, perhaps you didn't give it the chance it deserves. I am hoping this "behind the scenes / making of" feature gets you to enjoy the music if you hadn't really discovered or appreciated it before, as it was written and played with passion and conviction. Enjoy the ride..there's more darkness and light ahead.
 
JUNGLE

This track is a personal favorite of mine, and I have been performing it live with Eric Singer on our "project" band ESP for years now. UNION, my band with John Corabi, also covered it and it always went over amazingly well live. But let's talk about how it was created and peek behind the scenes of this Paul Stanley voiced gem from COS.

One goal I had when preparing for the writing for COS was to set up my drum machine making patterns that sounded interesting to jam to, with the hope of being inspired. The main riff of "Jungle" came about just like that. Unusual in rhythm and not easy to play, a bass guitar using a vintage Mutron Phasor II (a popular phase shifting pedal from the 70's) sets the groove, with Eric's tribal drum groove joining in. Gene didn't need to learn this one, as I had it covered from my demo. So, yes, that's me on bass using a black ESP Jazz style bass that had a friendly neck.

Enter guitar one, speaking to the listener, letting you know something's brewing out there. That guitar was my BC Rich Koa Eagle Supreme, the one shown on the cover of COS! Paul then enters the mix with a melodic vocal starting off gently, with the song continually rising in intensity until Mr. Stanley's chorus vocals explode into the mix!

I also created an interesting revolving riff, which enters later in verse one, that was a longer version of the main riff. I can thank my love of bands like YES for that influence. It's a finger twister, but after all you're in a jungle and you better keep yourself sharp and ready for anything. All the sections really fell together great when composing this with Paul and Curt Cuomo. The B sections, with their sneaky stopping and starting, are a perfect break in the tension, not only adding to it but setting up the strong chorus.

Various colored guitar harmonics and wah weeping in and out during the verses keeps the listener on their toes, with each new part of the song continuing the climb in intensity. The bridge hits, with the slight key modulation, and the guitars are all riffing nastily, almost like a groove version of the "Outromental" from "Childhood's End." My solo, which was played on my yellow "Banana" ESP guitar with its Floyd Rose, was inspired by Cream. Hey, Clapton, Bruce and Baker were my childhood heroes, along with other British bands, so if you're gonna steal, do it from your favorites! The solo melody is kind of a cross between "Sunshine of Your Love" and "I Feel Free," similar to the sweet vocal verse melody of Paul's vocals. My lead ends in a climax, with harmony guitars played very loosely, with an effect on the whammy bar making it feel like you're falling off a cliff.

One more B section, then the huge extended chorus with a big climb on the guitars topped with my lead guitar line, then you're back to sneaking around in the danger of the jungle, where an atmosphere of tension and suspense is all around you. The first theme I employ is kind of like an American Indian guitar theme riff, as if my guitars were the jungle's natives creeping around. I worked the strings so the guitars were sounding like wild animals lurking in the darkness of this unholy jungle created by KISS. The percussion builds with more tribal sounding drums letting you know that this jungle's natives truly are restless, before finally giving way to even more wailing guitars. Not a guitar solo per se, just wildness created from multi tracks of my whammy bar insanity. An experiment again for KISS that worked perfectly, with a groove never played by the band before. Additional percussion was performed by some friends of Eric, who were listed on Gene's notes for the album.

What was accomplished on this song is something I am extremely proud of. It's one thing to be a writer on a melodic song that people want to sing to, but think of the incredible, heavy atmosphere this song creates. And, of course, the other great accomplishment was that it became the single from COS upon its release. Even with lack of a band to tour - or even speak out - in support of "Jungle," a 4:53 long radio edit was released (the full 6:49 is surely one of the longest KISS songs ever recorded!) and the song was a great success. The track even won the "Metal Edge Reader's Choice Song of the Year" award in 1997.

The irony is insane that a song from the most unlikely KISS release ever reached a position of #8 on the rock radio charts, the band's highest single on that chart since the 1970's. So, yet one more drop in the bucket of the COS controversy. The law of the jungle may be survival of the fittest, but even the huge success of the Reunion cannot overshadow the fact that the other KISS, the one with Eric Singer and yours truly, worked hard and passionately to make great music.

And I'll let the music do the talking here.

 
IN MY HEAD

Originally titled "Nest of Termites," you knew Gene had a very dark song here. I think sometimes that this track fit the working title for COS, Head, quite well.

That Head concept artwork which hung in the studio was definitely a dark vision, but it fit the experimental approach of a meaner, darker, more sinister version of music the band was experimenting with.

Starting with huge power chords and a twisted guitar line, you immediately enter the brain of one sick, obnoxious person. Gene is all attitude here, with odd vocal harmonies tripled and quadrupled by the Demon quite effectively, and that almost stormtrooper military feel of the marching bass and drums definitely makes you want to "look behind the mask." This is dark and mean Gene, and he really pushed himself on COS.

More dark themes from my guitars employing hammer-ons, and creepy voices by Gene, set up the backwards sounding solo. No typical rock playing here, it's time for a solo that's unconventional.

Each riff is followed by another twisted riff. It was a challenge, but it keeps the listener in that uncomfortable place the song creates. It really could be a perfect Halloween theme with its plodding evil attitude and termites "glowing red."

Detuned guitars and Marshall 900 series amps with almost full distortion make for a sonic assault on this track. My notes say I used my yellow ESP and BC Rich Eagle guitar, with the boost on. Not every guitar comes with a boost you know, but these gems do.

The solo was done on a white Seagull II BC Rich. That guitar is a very rare transition model from Bernie Rico, the owner of BC Rich.

There's some clever left - right panning of the guitars for those carefully listening, and Toby really did a great job getting the dark vibe for this track. Not for the innocent!

As Gene says, "I experiment with myself" and that was the theme for COS... pushing the limits.
 
IT NEVER GOES AWAY

Right from the intro the listener is drawn into a maze of confusion with guitars panning left and right, floating around like creatures swirling around you. There's a devilish riff being planted in your brain. Which way do you turn, where do you run and hide? Let's take a look at the themes and message of this dark adventure. Paul is talking about how there are plenty of problems which present themselves to us on a daily basis. Some you can avoid, but some can't be controlled or prevented. Hypocrisy is all around us, and Paul knows that even recognizing it for what it is won't always make it go away.

Another co-write between me, Paul and Curt Cuomo, I created some of the transitions in the song, with the minor modal riffs giving a mysterious vibe to the music which accompanies Paul's dark lyric themes. Using many plays on words and a creepy melodic vocal, Paul's verses have a bit of an early Black Sabbath style darkness. Flangers and phasors on the guitars, and riff that stabs like Tony Iommi, keep the tension building throughout the song. The bass was me on my Gibson EB-3 bass guitar, which is always fun to play and has a robust, punchy lead sounding tone to it. Again, it was just easier for me to play it then have Gene learn this one, but like I have told you all before I just do what I would imagine the Demon himself doing.

Now, the solo... given the buildup to it, who would expect in this song for me to play a solo on a Rickenbacker 12 string guitar, through a red Vox AC 30 amp rented from Guitar Center, that sounds like The Byrds?! Well, Gene gave me that guitar on my birthday, so I had that gorgeous, top of the line Rickenbacker in my arsenal of instruments. So there we were in the studio wondering what would be really interesting on this song. Sure, a 12 string melodic solo through a Beatles VOX amp! Now that was a wild idea!

It's not easy to solo on a 12 string guitar, but as much of a challenge as it was I enjoyed the fact we did something so different. After a creepy setup, the climbing riff underneath gives a bed for some totally unusual lead playing from me - raga sounding and kind of similar to the sound in "Eight Miles High" by The Byrds. Then Paul's back to passionately remind the listener that "it never goes away," leading to an aural climax of guitars and Paul's wailing vocal. The track ends with a phasor pedal repeating its electronic cries until fading out.

Experimental? You bet! COS broke a lot of new ground with what the band could do. And even though this wasn't the party band you also love, the shift in focus to being dark and intense showed some true creativity for a band that really has nothing to prove. Just being KISS says so much in four letters. And it said it even more with the effort of COS.

By the way, I actually recently traded that Rickenbacker in for a different 12 string Rick, the George Harrison model. (Don't gasp, it was a beast!) But a famous rocker nabbed that sunburst beast... Cheap Trick's Tom Peterson now owns it!
 
SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT

Guitar themes played in octaves backed by Eastern style Indian drumming is not your typical KISS sound. But we are discussing COS here, and the band was experimenting to the extreme. I wasn't involved with the writing of this song, nor the demo. I did, however, have fun playing slide guitar, and I loved the delay that our co-producer Toby Wright used. Some hookah lounge would be a great backdrop for this track, as it sounds like the song most likely to have people smoking hash pipes to!

So, here's a hard rock / metal band playing a song that would fit as background music for a belly dancer! But it's still KISS, with Gene leading the pack in a trippy, melodic dark excursion. With modal picking guitar parts and vocal harmonies, Gene's lyrics explore the idea that perpetrators of evil can be from your local church, and really make the listener examine his question, "Would you know the trickery that he's praying?" Gene is always questioning the hypocrisy of religion, and this was at a time when there were some very disturbing revelations coming out from the world of the clergy. In many ways this is a continuation of "Thou Shalt Not" from Revenge.

Gene used his BC Rich Sunburst Punisher Bass initially, but my notes reveal that he replaced it with his Pedula Dragon Bass. My usual BC Rich and Les Paul collection all got a good work out on this song. The Gibson ES 355 and that red VOX were also used for the picking modal parts, to very good effect. I like how the dreamy guitar sections contrast with me going for the kill with some flashy Jimmy Page style riffing, ending with the sound from my wah-wah pedal being shut off at 3:54. Sudden and unexpected, but we'd leave things like that in because, well, why not?! The solo was done on what I called my "Frankenstein" Strat, which is part ESP and part Schecter. A Digitech delay was also in the mix, as well as a phasor at times.

I'll be honest, "Seduction" is not one of my favorites, but I do love the contrasting sections and the performances we created. Again, bold and different, and the dark lyrics and all the unusual musical styles incorporated really make this track a totally unique experience to listen to.
 
I CONFESS

This strong Gene tune is the second on COS to feature strings, Paul's ballad "I Will Be There" being the other. The bowed string sections, lead by cellos, create a serious tone for yet another song that deals with the Demon's views on religious hypocrisy. He's human like you and I, so surely the priest you confess to has sins of his own, so how does he confess, and to whom, wonders Gene. Is the mirror he looks in the only place where this priest can confess? Another concept to really make you think.

The music, with its starts and stops and the creepy minor chord descending lines, is in many ways as experimental as other songs on COS. But it's also different in quite a few ways. Certainly the strings are not typical of KISS for a song, and I made sure the guitar solo was as unique as possible. Using a warble effect with a pedal that imitates a Leslie (the swirling sounds a Hammond Organ is usually played through), my BK model ESP did the main body solo. Again, this guitar was new for me, and I loved the sounds and playability. My guitar cries out like the pain our man who is "possessed" must feel.

After the last big chorus there's more chaos from my guitar, this time the 1953 Les Paul Standard that appears on all the KISS albums. (Photographed on the back cover and booklet of BK3, by the way.) Crying riffs and a complete slap across the strings, complete with an Ace style pickup switching effect - when the bass volume is off, switching quickly on the toggle between the treble pickup on full volume creates an on/off effect for the guitar, an effect which was used perfectly by The Spaceman many times while in KISS. A new, dark theme enters the tag of the song played by the string section. It's classic use of bowed instruments to give tension, accomplished in spades here, and it all represent the tragic situation the man of the cloth must feel.

Gene used his Pedula again, and other guitars of mine that appear are the Gibson LP JR, BC Rich, and a blue ESP Stratocaster. Amazingly, that clean bridge was recorded through my Rockman Rack Module, which was made by Tom Scholz from Boston. If you remember, I showed you all during my Crazy Nights feature that I had one in my guitar rack, and the clean sound from these units is quite unique.

Eric Singer really does a great job of keeping this song flowing, and if I haven't raved enough about his contribution to COS, I will right now: he grooved, he pounded, and he drove the band with power and grace. After all, he was as into this experience of stretching the boundaries of KISS as much as any one of us. And he was most shocked by the Reunion Tour, but let's save all that for later on. There's still a few more songs to explore. Keep your comments and thoughts coming, as this album is KISS music that really deserves discussion...don't you agree?
 
IN THE MIRROR

This funky, Hendrix-like uptempo tune was another collaboration between Paul, Curt Cuomo and myself. I remember having the verse groove and showing it to Paul, and we really didn't struggle much getting this one together. Lyrically, Paul is basically addressing a woman who he thinks needs a reality check; take a look in the mirror, "see the face you can't deny."

Again, a concept that KISS would not typically explore, but with Gene talking about the clergy and unscrupulous behavior, Paul asking a woman to take a good look at her lies is actually pretty mild! I love the "tic tock" Paul says during Eric's awesome drum filled breakdown before my wah wah solo. Time is ticking on this girl, and the sooner she knows the truth maybe she can redeem herself. This is definitely not a party song, not a love song, not a sex song. It's about reflection, and the lyrical themes on COS are certainly deeper and more thought provoking than your typical KISS album.

Musically, a standard ESP Stratocaster through an overdriven 1966 Bassman amp from Fender sets the tone, with the stereo sound quite extreme from left and right. A busy wah played version is on the right, with my "banana" ESP supporting the first guitar. A sweet picking B section with a nice chorus pedal sound, typical of my writing, sets up the chorus, with the chorus guitar lines taken from what I would call the "Hendrix Playbook." (Any guitarist around my age was hugely affected by this legend.)

The breakdown section sets up that terrific vintage style drumming from Mr Singer. Those fills he is doing are more Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix Experience) than John Bonham. Enter my melodic and flashy solo, with wah tones and overbends on the right. Back to the last verse, where I keep answering Paul's lines with riffs that are a real ripoff from my favorite Hendrix songs, especially those close to his last recordings. He really had a way of making the guitar speak, especially with a VOX wah wah pedal.

The lead solo was done on my Frankenstein Stratocaster, and the vintage Echoplex was in the chain along with a MXR Dist + pedal. I played the bass on this track using Gene's Pedula. Keep in mind I did the demo with Paul, and the riff does have an odd time signature. The verses are played over measures of 6, not 4/4, but the ending riff is 4/4. So, like before, on songs where I did the work on the demo and Paul liked it the KISS machine was fine with me doing the job on the final recording.

There's a chorus pedal on the bass guitar during the breakdown... see if you can hear that detail! Marshall amps, naturally, were used for the solo, and the usual chorus pedals were employed. The only newbie was the Electo-Harmonix Big Muff. It's a vintage fuzz pedal that is reissued now, and there are many clones are on the market. I really collected pedals from early on, so now I have about 6 suitcases full of pedals to "color my musical world."

So, this brings us to the final track from Carnival Of Souls, "I Walk Alone," which you all know was sung and co-written by yours truly. "I Walk Alone" was massively experimental by KISS, and I will tell you all the secrets of how this epic track was created...so stay tuned!
 
I WALK ALONE

This song, originally called "Waterfall" on my old demo tapes, is easily the most ambitious track from my tenure in KISS. It was a labor of love that was worked and reworked with many studio tricks. Some were even created on the demo, which was recorded on a four track cassette multi-track machine made by Tascam, the Portastudio, which was a popular early version of a home recording studio device. I could easily write a book on the making of this song alone, but for now let's look at the major elements surrounding how this track, which features my first and only lead vocal with KISS, was created.

"I Walk Alone" was started way before the recording for COS. The band was required to show the record label that we were getting ready to start our next album, and in order to secure the commitment from them we needed to enter a studio and cut something. Gene and I had been tooling around with this idea for a song, among others, so how lucky it was this song was the one we chose to demo in the studio! Even though the song was not completely finished, it had a decent enough arrangement to record, which we did with Eric on drums, Gene on bass, and me on guitar. This first studio version was very important in helping me create the very extreme ideas I envisioned for the final song. Our main intro riff was there with the harmonics, but sounded crude and ordinary. The verses were similar, but the B section was longer and would wind up being edited in the final version. It was good, but just didn't quite fit our vision.

The chorus chords and theme were similar, and after the usual repeat of the verse, B section, and chorus II there is a dark, moody bridge. That is the section I did major surgery on. It got turned around and edited by me on that four track player, and I do mean turned around, as I edited it in such a way that sections of it were backward. It created the Hendrix / Beatles / Queen effect I was looking for, and certainly made the music more intriguing. So all the ingredients were there, and by taking that bridge and also using the ending riff of the song and flipping the parts backward, the final IWA bridge was created. By having a good quality sounding demo with real drums, the fidelity of the revamped demo was ready for me to overdub and experiment with even more, and that was what I manipulated into a very complex arrangement.

Now, KISS had never used entire sections of music backward, but being fans of Hendrix and the Beatles it wasn't hard to convince Gene and Paul to go with my new ideas for the arrangement of this track. And at this point it was never about who would sing it, but about getting the sections together. So with clever, crude trickery of flipping cassettes, bouncing them onto a Sony Walkman Professional machine, and then putting that bounce onto my Akai 12 track recorder and doing some guitar solo and power chord overdubs I got a version I felt could be the "I Walk Alone" I envisioned. Using these updated demos, Gene and I were now ready to create the final melodies to support the unusual structure which had been created. By this point Gene's lyrics were firm, and quite fitting. The song was no longer "Waterfall" with my cascading water effects added to the end of the song. Not sure what inspired that but, hey, I was experimenting!

Because it was Gene and I who were going back and forth constantly with the ideas for this new version of the song, I kept singing on the revamped demos to show the updates and new flow of the sections. It was only because of the demo being presented to Toby Wright in that form, with my vocal, that it was even discussed for me to sing the lead. I was never expecting it, and I never asked. I know how strong Paul and Gene can sing, and I had worked with many famous singers prior to my stint in KISS, so it was not anything I thought about very seriously.

But my life was quite upside down at the time due to my separation and eventual divorce from my wife, Christina. So, a beard and new challenges were called for. I was asked, so of course I would sing the song, no matter how scared I was to do it. I am sure Gene told Toby he would love a stab at it, but with the coming change of band members on the horizon my vocals on "I Walk Alone" were certainly more appropriate as it turns out.

After that main surgery done to the demo, the final demo which I presented caught everyone's ear during the recording of COS, and I knew the technology existed to make it sound really great. Toby was able to use a digital mulit-track device that could take entire tracks from the bridge section which were recorded forward, flip them, then drop them back into the session tape we would record on. Once that was accomplished, we were in business. So, now it was time for the final recording.

Hypnotic harmonics on guitar start the song, and they are doubled by using a backward version of the same part. That interesting twist right off made sure you knew this song was going to be really different! Then my voice, double tracked, enters the mix with only Gene's rumbling bass keeping time in the background. The lyrics express Gene's point of view that you can be a loner, yet be as strong as a rock. It's a great take on someone knowing they are different, and maybe you see them another way, but they know "everything I dreamed of being is me." Powerful words, and certainly in some ways more like classic KISS than other themes discussed on COS. After the octave up singing of the second chorus, we enter the wild, backward world of this song.

Thinking and reworking music backward is quite amazing. I was alway in awe of my heroes, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, for how incredibly creative that was. To make it musical, not just a gimmicky effect, is the goal. What a roller coaster ride that section feels like! My guitar is double tracked, with some of them backward in the arpeggios that end the section. The solo is very similar to my final demo of "Waterfall," and I was quite impressed that some the work done on my home recorder wound up being completely copied, and slightly improved on, by me on the final recording.

After a short verse which ends with that drum/guitar staccato riff is an extended version of the chorus. Here the guitar solo is played entirely backward! How do you do that? Well, you have to perform your solo forward along with the section of music while it's being played backward, then the guitar performance is flipped and dropped back into the section. Lose you yet? Don't worry, even my brain is inside out trying to give you all the info, and I recorded the thing! This backward solo was so fulfilling to me. Hendrix would give me goosebumps when he did it, and the effect created by me blew my mind, as backward instruments are so beautiful to me. It's another studio trick, creating such colors in music, that's hard to explain. Just listen to the drums in that middle section... magic! The hi-hats and snare drum sound amazing the way they "breathe" when played backward.

After one more big chorus from me and then the tag ending riff, which I love, Gene and Paul enter singing in that octave I could never reach with my voice. They're singing the verse lyrics over that huge riff Gene created - the same one I turned inside out during the first backward bridge - and now you hear the main KISS voices singing together. My final solo, performed with at least three lead guitars, was also inspired by my old demos. All the time I was playing riffs with a slurring backward feel, but those solos are forward. That was the challenge of IWA; to keep the listener on their toes and take them away to a place "deep inside of me" that's "not plain to see." Exactly the mood the arrangement creates with all the mysterious twists and turns. This song really is a journey, and it was a long road creating it.

Now let's discuss some of the guitars and effects used on this epic. My Gibson LP Jr, LP Custom, and '53 LP were employed for the rhythms and picking parts. My Gibson 1983 Ivory Explorer made with Korina wood, the cherry ES 355, and my blue ESP Stratocaster appear as well. Basically, most of the guitars on hand were used, along with the ESP bass played by Gene on "Jungle." I convinced him that the jazz pickups on that model were more musical than some of the more powerful basses he owned. Bassman and Marshall amps were used, and that last solo, intentionally Hendrix-like, was done on the Frankenstein Stratocaster. Various chorus pedals were used, along with some mentioned in the production notes I don't even remember! Something called a "69" pedal is mentioned. Guess I will have to do some research on that one. Remember, this was all recorded in late 1995, early 1996. The official release wasn't until October of 1997, and it was funny that some of the bootlegs didn't even have this song on them. Maybe the bootleggers thought it was a different band when they heard me singing so they left it off!

Well, I hope you enjoyed my look back at the songs on Carnival of Souls, certainly one of the most controversial releases ever from KISS. As I keep digging through my archives I am finding more and more info on COS, so I'll have more to discuss in the coming days, including all the events that occurred after the album was in the can and, of course, how it was eventually released. So stay tuned!

And look me up on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ to let me know what other things you'd like to hear about Carnival of Souls.



 
BK ANSWERS YOUR CARNIVAL OF SOULS QUESTIONS

Why wasn't the "Head" concept artwork used?

Obviously the dark images of a head on fire (front of the album) and a zippered open head with hands crawling out (back of the album) were quite intense. It actually kind of shocked me that Gene was so drawn to that. It's one thing for Gene to like photos of himself appearing like Godzilla (Alive II), but these were almost like something out of the world of sadomasochism. The images were created by a talented artist named Amy Guip, and they even appeared on some bootlegs. So why not on the final one? I firmly believe that artwork would never have been used for the final album even if the Reunion never happened and COS was released on schedule. It would have been too difficult for the label, and in many ways it was too crazy for a KISS album in my opinion. But in any event, that artwork set a tone for KISS to think about while writing and recording.

Another wonderful bit of trivia about COS, and amazing to think actually, is that the album was given its title more by the fans than by the band. Carnival Of Souls sounds more KISS-like for a title than Head anyway, and the fans knew that as a title from a Gene demo. The fans liked it, they spoke, and so the album became Carnival Of Souls, with the added tag line "The Final Sessions"... which was quite ominous actually, huh?

Are there any songs that were demoed and not used?

One for sure is "Within," which Toby probably just didn't care for enough to encourage it being recorded. That it appeared on Psycho Circus honestly was surprising to me. I didn't think a tripped-out tune like that with my backwards guitar work from the demo (yes, that's me!) would ever be on the "Reunion album." But there it was! The demo, however, didn't have the big vocal chorus that appears on the Psycho Circus version. More info on demos and bootlegs will be coming, as I hit the mother load of tapes a few days ago. But I need to digest everything I've found before I can share, so be patient. Very patient.

Why do you think the album is not compared favorably to REVENGE even though it was a natural progression with regard to the harder sound?

Well, Revenge was focused. COS has a certain feel, but Ezrin producing Revenge was a very different animal. I also don't feel that COS ever got the proper chance it deserved with all the horrible sounding bootlegs and Reunion fever sweeping through the KISS Army. One shining light with regard to its release was "Jungle" taking off so strongly on radio, and then "Master And Slave" getting some good spins too. So not all was lost. And this question is phrased in terms of a "natural" progression, but sometimes I think there is nothing natural in the world of KISS. All bets are off on both what the band and the KISS Army does and why.

Why you think Gene and Paul go out of their way to dismiss COS given it sounds like they were very committed to the process?

Distancing themselves was smart in their minds, as it was very clear the Reunion was a huge success. They could pull off massive shows and keep Peter and Ace in the fold better than they expected, so raving about a new KISS CD that had former members on it and sounded nothing like "Shout It Out Loud" was not wise economically. I did the most promotion of anyone when COS finally hit the shelves because (1) obviously I was very proud of it, and (2) I was actually extremely relieved it was finally out there in the form it was intended given all the poor quality bootlegging that had occurred.

Even through all the smoke and fire of the successfully reunited KISS, I was still glad to toot my horn about the COS music. And my caveat was if you love the CD, thank me, but if you hate the music, don't blame me. What I contributed was exactly what Paul and Gene were looking for musically at that point in their career.

Do you think the delayed release hurt reception/sales?

Obviously it did, but the dynamics of what was happening were something very unusual for any band. About the only thing close was how the releases of The Beatles toward the end of their run got a bit out of order with Let It Be and Abbey Road, etc. It was inevitable that the big Reunion Tour had to delay - or even potentially kill - the release of COS. I believe it finally came out in the end because Mercury Records had already paid for it, which as you'd expect is a big factor in what happens. If they'd decided to can it forever they'd have been on the hook financially, and that is not a cheap proposition. So, there you go. And as much as Paul and Gene distanced themselves largely from the release, I know deep down they were proud of the music. It just wasn't wise to show any conflict publicly about where KISS was currently in their career considering a big new CD was going to be recorded by the original members (in theory), followed by more tours, etc. And as you all know, KISStory continues in make-up.

What COS songs do you think would have been great live?

Well, I have been doing "Jungle," "I Walk Alone," and even "Master And Slave" with Eric Singer in the ESP band, and there was always a great reaction to all of those tunes. I've even performed acoustic versions of "I Walk Alone" and people really respond well hearing the material performed live.

If you could pick 4 singles /vids to be released/made off COS, which would they be?

Selfishly speaking, "Hate," "Rain," "Jungle," and "I Walk Alone." But really, "Childhood's End" would be cool too. Hell, any of them! It surely wasn't a typical album filled with rock singles though, was it? But what do you all think? Which of your favorites would you have liked to see a video for, and what should the video have been like? There you go... some COS homework! Share your answers with me on on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

More soon!
 
PRODUCER TOBY WRIGHT ON CARNIVAL OF SOULS

Toby Wright, the producer of Carnival of Souls, has been kind enough to share his thoughts about making the record and how he thinks it stands the test of time. You can catch up with what Toby's up to these days by visiting his website. - BK

TW: So, Bruce has already given you the lowdown on the record song by song...

This was my second experience with KISS, my first being an Assistant Engineer under Ron Nevison for the Crazy Nights album. The Carnival of Souls record was a very unique experience for me because I was to produce a record for some of my idols.

We tried to pick the best songs that represented the new direction that KISS was wanting to go, more grungy than previously but still raw and radio friendly. I knew it would be a controversial record from the start because of the history of the band's sound and the departure that we took from that. Love Carnival of Souls or dislike it, I had a great time working with KISS and pushing them musically to mark a different place in time, mindset, and vibe!

I really enjoyed the working relationship I had with Gene, Paul, Bruce and Eric. I thought we had a good team. We pushed each other creatively, and I think in the end we had made a record that showcased a different side of the band's musicality. I got to stretch creatively with the production as well. There are a lot of backward effects and reverb / delay tricks, and then dry passages in some songs for contrast, which I think makes the songs more interesting to listen to. We tried to put a bunch of "ear candy" into the production, so when you listen in headphones you hear a lot of panning effects on some of the instruments along with some of the backwards effects.

It was a great experience overall, and I think we made a mark in the sand and am very proud to have made this record. No matter what the outcome as far as popularity is concerned, this record was an expression of creativity that all of us put our hearts into, and that can never be taken away.
 
BK'S FINAL THOUGHTS ON CARNIVAL OF SOULS

Thank you all so much for your comments and reflections on my extended look back at Carnival Of Souls: The Final Sessions. It has been an extremely revealing effort. Now that I have been digging up info on all the writing sessions, from cassettes recorded in demo studios to crude sounding copies made on a handheld recorder to capture ideas, the bigger picture with regard to this album musically has come full circle. Unfortunately there just aren't many photos from this era except for the ones from the visits by our friend Gerri Miller of Metal Edge magazine, who came by to cover news of COS's recording at Music Grinder Studios in Hollywood, CA. And of course the William Hames photo session, which was never intended for the eventual artwork of the album, ended up being a blessing, as we at least have some pro shots from that era of KISS.

Some of the more interesting finds musically... I discovered an early version of "In The Mirror" titled "Fly." I also have versions of "Childhood's End" with different sections, different early vocal parts from Gene, and even one with me singing a demo edit just to show Gene our progress. Same thing for "I Walk Alone." I discovered a recording of the very first attempts of me and Gene working on it, as well as an acoustic performance of the arrangement that was done within that first month of creation. There are also songs that were getting developed but which were not recorded for COS, some with Paul and Curt Cuomo, that sounded quite promising, but not as dark as COS. I found a riff I wrote called "Fugitive" that I jammed with Gene and Eric in a demo studio, and I really tried to make that one happen. It actually later became the song "Change Is Coming," which is on my first solo CD, Audiodog. Another song, which I worked up with Paul, is named "Liar II," which is our work based on a previous demo I had. Version II was a new take on the first demo, which was more faithful to a song named "Liar," which ended up on Audiodog as well.

At the other end of the quality spectrum, I was smart enough to ask Toby, our co-producer, to run me off tracks of certain parts that I played for "It Never Goes Away," including my EB-3 bass and phasor guitar parts and some other studio tricks. I even have a cassette with my backward guitars on "I Walk Alone" as they were originally played forward before being flipped to drop into the final multi-track! All this discovery (and there's more to dig up I am sure) really has been so much fun. Listening to it all is like a walk back in time to a very fruitful period of my writing involvement with KISS. In reading back through some interviews from that period after Revenge, Paul and Gene really made a firm mention of my contributions, how I was coming up with riffs and ideas for the next album. Of course at the time I wasn't aware that not only was I going to get 9 co-writes on COS out of the material, but that I was creating ideas for songs that would eventually end up on both my solo albums and even the albums I'd release with my band UNION with John Corabi. So, the discovery of all these recordings, plus your enthusiastic response to this feature, has inspired me. Who knows, there could even be some ideas from this era that may be resurrected for my next solo album, which I do intend to begin working on ideas for in the coming year.

I've already talked about the recording of the album, so let's wrap things up with a look at the timeline of the album's eventual release. We finished mixing in January of 1996. The reunion was explained to me and Eric Singer earlier that month, and naturally at that point the focus for Gene and Paul became the huge project ahead with the Reunion Tour. It was tough news for me to swallow, but I always knew that a reformation of the original members could be a reality. By March they were on TV with Peter and Ace in full makeup announcing the reunion on the Grammy Awards show here in LA.

The rest of that year was me realizing that soon I would no longer be in KISS. There were a lot of emotions going on during that period of my life that I won't really get into - in addition to the reunion I was also going through a divorce! - but most importantly was my hope that Paul Stanley's promise to me that "The album will come out, in time" would be true.

Unfortunately, before that happened a horrible bootleg version of the album - missing songs! - made it out to the fans by way of 4th and 5th generation cassette tapes being copied, swapped, and discussed to death. According to my producer friend Jeremy Rubolino (BK3), you could even buy a copy from an advert in the back of Hit Parader magazine! He says he just sent a check (his mother's actually, he was 15 at the time) and there came the cassette in the mail. How freakin' ridiculous was that brazen thievery by the people selling it?! I had put my heart and soul into this album, so you can imagine my horror at having the material out there in such a pathetic fashion. I was crushed.

But Paul was true to his word, and once things calmed down with the Reunion Tour it was time to release COS. Pending some internal issues that I can only presume, as I was not a "signed" member of the label at that point, the album would finally be available in stores. Paul and Gene asked me to do press, and I was like a dog getting a bone after a two year denial... sure I would discuss our work! Eric chose not to, and I respected that, but my interest in this album was deeper than Eric's. And it wasn't just about the royalties I would earn from the music I helped create, it was also about the justice of finally getting the music out in proper form from the master mixes, not inferior copies from bootlegging.

Now, some of you have asked about the "sound" of this album. It is darker, and is sometimes mixed in a strange way, from the drums being on only one side of the mix in a song to some overall mixes being a bit muddled in tone. I don't disagree about some of those criticisms. Toby had a certain point a view in his production, and to be honest the overall vibe of the process during mixing was not great as Paul and Gene had their focus elsewhere, and I didn't blame them for that. But I would definitely love a remix or remastering of this album. I have even had fans send me their remastered versions, and with artwork on the disc, naturally! But at the time, the coming tour and reunion politics were a huge gamble for KISS. They were not 100% sure it would work out; why else would Eric and I continue to be paid for a year? There were questions as to whether the former members could behave, and even if they did, what would be the amount of sustainability of their efforts?

Well, we obviously all know the answers to those questions now. Unfortunately COS got kicked around during the process of it all and suffered accordingly. The artwork was not gonna get attention, although the vibe is true to what we were doing in the studio while we recorded. Gone was Head or any other artistic concepts. The album didn't even get a proper naming process, but rather was named based on the title of a demo Gene mentioned in an interview during the recording process which never even made the album (though eventually appeared on his solo disc, Asshole), with the tag line "The Final Sessions" tacked on. Oh well.

Doing press went smoothly for me, and it was nice to see the single "Jungle" take off. It even won the "Metal Edge Reader's Choice Song of the Year" award for 1997. "Master & Slave" was released as the second single, but by that point Gene and Paul were focused on the very pivotal upcoming album from the reunited KISS... and it wasn't going to be easy. It was surprising but fun to see the song "Within" end up on Psycho Circus, as that was a demo I worked on with Gene and Eric. That reunion album also had some other help from me, but that's a discussion for another time. Still, it definitely felt good to know my contributions were still considered valuable to the KISS insiders.

So, COS went full circle. From the full-on experimental approach of making an album that was written for KISS's "dark passenger" (to borrow a line from the hit TV show Dexter, which I highly recommended), to a full-on kiss and make-up tour which put the brakes on the band ever fully exploring the new world of musical possibilities we had opened up. It really is a fascinating facet of KISStory, and it has been my pleasure giving you a glimpse into what my world was like being the lead guitarist of this great band. And these particular years represent in some ways a renaissance for me personally. From working super hard in the band to not being in the band, from being married and then not being married, all in the same timeframe, well, it turned my life upside down in a way that was the most challenging experience I've ever encountered.

But when it was all over, to quote Gene's powerful lyrics from "I Walk Alone," I could take pride in the fact I knew that "I got myself to lean on, got both my feet on the ground." Profound words that lead me to stand tall, like you all should. Always believe in yourself and be true to yourself. Know your strengths, and do your very best in everything you do. And with those final thoughts, I am honored to have your support and your passion for my era of KISS, and to hear that it has been a part of your lives, and continues to be, no matter how many years have passed.

All the best, and much more will be coming in the future about my years with KISS...

Bruce Kulick
 
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