BK Remembers Revenge on its 20th Anniversary

BK Remembers Revenge on its 20th Anniversary

Bruce KulickRevenge marked the return of KISS in what I considered to be top form. Not that previous albums I was involved in didn't have highlights and memorable songs and performances, but Revenge was truly meant to be just that... a way to say to all who thought that KISS may have lost its way that we got the goods and we take no prisoners.

It started with bringing back Bob Ezrin. Naturally he had some great success with KISS on Destroyer, but some say The Elder was not a good step for the band. No matter, here was a producer/songwriter who I felt had the ability, respect and a proven track record to make this new album a classic. That meant no compromise. The songs were carefully picked over. The performances had to be perfect. The lyrics had be pure KISS. Ezrin's vision with Gene and Paul was that this new album would be a shining star in the band's career.

I was intimidated at first with Bob. His work with Pink Floyd and Alice Cooper made me well aware he knew great guitar players. Would he accept me? Could I show him my musicianship? He challenged me all the time, such as changing keys of songs and knowing I could adapt quickly. He was, along with Gene and Paul's direction, convinced that every solo from me had to be played from "the balls"! Meaning that the solos would rip your head off and spit in your face with passion. Naturally I did my best to rise to the occasion.

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of Revenge's release, so let's look back at the album track by track and I will give you the behind scenes report on the best KISS album from my 12 years with the group.

This feature is İBruce Kulick. It may not be reproduced - in whole or in part - without express written permission.
Unholy | Take It Off | Tough Love | Spit | God Gave Rock 'n' Roll To You II | Domino | Heart of Chrome | Thou Shalt Not
Every Time I Look At You | Paralyzed | I Just Wanna | Carr Jam 1981 | Do You Wanna Touch Me Now (unreleased)

Album Art, Wardrobe, and Video Shoots

Gear and Recording

Revenge Era Photo Album


Bruce KulickThis song that Gene worked on with Vinnie Vincent was the opener of the album. I love the catchy chorus, and knew there was a dark undertow in the lyrics that made our posture for the album right away make you say "WTF?!" The solo section was actually originally recorded shorter. Bob realized that, so we used some fancy digital machines (which was pre PRO TOOLS, yes!) and we extended the solo so that the composition of that guitar could build and climax. Steve Vai once complemented me for that crying note towards the end of the song, which I thought was quite an honor coming from a guitarist I consider an alien!

I remember helping Gene arrange the verse chordal structure, not as a writer, just making them feel natural. And one thing this album has is many twists and turns. Rarely does a verse completely repeat itself the same way twice. The scratching guitar opener I did not do. Gene told me he did that. But all the other guitars, along with some rhythms from Paul, were mine so don't let any rumor from Vinnie Vincent fool you. He did a fine job co-writing that song, but trust me... unless he's scratching on that intro he is nowhere near these tracks on the actual recording.

The middle section prior to the solo I always called the Frankenstein walk. And for the musicians out there, that was not in 4/4 time. Always a challenge to duplicate, but we did it proudly for the Revenge tour and it appears on ALIVE III of course. Unholy was a great way to set the tone we needed right from the start, and naturally when the video was created you knew KISS was mean and determined to be at the top of its game.

Take It Off

Well a cool stripper song certainly would be fun for the band to cut, right? Featuring a catchy riff and some crunchy guitar parts and solos by yours truly, I will say it's a cool rave-up of a tune. In some ways this song is the most straight ahead of the album.

But, alas, the breakdown after the middle solo had some very tasty vocals that didn't make the final version. The samples I have of them are huge (Bob Ezrin trusted me with having the backups of the samples for safe keeping). I mean way HUGE. And sung like a bunch of hungry wolves ready for their stripper dinner! Classic Paul Stanley vocals in fine form. And, of course, performing this one always goes over great live.

My solos on Take It Off were not as worked out as others on Revenge, but that is what a great album will give you... lots of variety, and none of it filler.

Tough Love

Bruce KulickThis song was my co-write on Revenge. I had the verse riff and Ezrin and Paul liked it enough to work on it with me. Collaborating for songs within KISS is an interesting story on its own, but honestly knowing how tough everyone was on the song choices I was excited this one appeared as the third track on the album.

Problem was the key. In order for Paul to have those strong chorus vocals the key changed from our first demo, but when Bob gave me the drum track to take home to experiment with the parts on my simple home studio (an AKAI 12 track) it came together quickly. The song ended up in A.

I remember my solo was worked out a bit at home. I had the intro theme to it, and then in the studio we worked it up. Love the nasty tone and dive bomb aggression in the riffs. Also, for the record, I did play bass on that track. Loved the vibe of doing my best "Gene meets Jack Bruce."


Here's a song that I remember was a work in progress for Gene's lyrics. I have a version where he wasn't singing needing "a whole lotta woman" like what appears on the album. His chorus was not quite there yet, but we went ahead and did all the guitars, drums and bass. Finally, I remember Paul contributing what became the catchy chorus you know from this tune. It had a Led Zeppelin vibe that certainly gave melody to that section.

That was the magic of Revenge... all of us working together to make the best KISS music possible.

The guitar harmony riffs were funky, and the groove is really unique for us. I did a little "Star Spangled Banner" in the solo as well, along with plenty of flashy riffs and a nice cocked back wah tone. I love all the off-the-cuff vocal ad libs by Gene. Add in the back and forth vocals between Gene and Paul and my guitar poking in and out towards the end and it all made the song really shine.

God Gave Rock 'N' Roll to You II

Bruce KulickThis song was first cut for the Bill And Ted movie, which was originally called "Go To Hell" but that changed to "Bogus Journey." Whatever the title, the big ending scene was where our version of this Argent classic would play. I don't remember who suggested KISS do this cover version, but once Ezrin, Paul and Gene got ahold of it they realized some lyrics would need to be better. KISS ain't gonna sing about stepping on snails. (Seriously, it's in the Argent version.) But the music and melody of this was clearly a great opportunity for KISS to have another rock anthem in its catalog.

I was scared that the flamenco guitar in the original, which is not my style, would make me look amateurish in Ezrin's eyes so I just presented that section the way I felt it and much to my relief he didn't want any flamenco guitar in that section anyway. The intro chords are not easy to play - great inversions on the guitar - and it's like a Queen song in its grandiose manner. We all rose to the occasion and delivered a powerful version that got the band a lot of attention on the radio.

This was Eric Singer's first track with us as a band and I love all the parts he performed. My solo naturally had harmonies, and all I could think of was Brian May... not a bad hero to emulate. Again a song where Paul and Gene trade off vocals, then the whole band comes together with that terrific chorus. Paul's rapping at the end is so classic, and you can't deny the power of rock 'n' roll when you hear this song.

One important note is that you can clearly hear Eric Carr singing background in the quiet vocal harmony section. His vocal contribution was like an angel singing. I get chills every time I hear it.


Bruce KulickI remember first time I heard Domino was from a very catchy demo that Gene prepared. The intro guitar had a great rhythm to it and I had hoped I could not only capture the feeling but beat it. We spent lots of time finding the right guitar for it. I remember it was a reissue Gibson Explorer in Korina that won the spot with a very clean tone. The other guitars were crunchy, some even very nasty like the one used for the solos in the song. That was one of my ESP's with a Floyd Rose on it.

Paul and I did the rhythms, and I do remember using my vintage cherry Gibson ES 355 for my rhythm parts. Funny thing was Ezrin and I worked out a solo, doubled it, and then after all that work Bob decided we needed something different. I hated that and loved that about him. But remember we are doing the NO compromise KISS album, so everything had to pass a very high level of excellence. I was glad we ultimately switched to a whammy bar, wah wah, nasty tone version of the solo for me. The original one was too worked out and just didn't have enough snot in it.

Eric provided some great fills on this track, and it's obviously classic Gene in attitude. One interesting thing was that we recorded it in A440 concert pitch, but then for ALIVE III we were down a half step which made the verses kind of low for Gene on the live version. But that's what you do; in the studio whatever is best for the song wins and you deal with it later.

There's an early rough from the studio I have where Gene doesn't quite have the lyrics worked out yet. The sentiment of the final lyrics though is pure Simmons, and how sweet was him saying those things about a sexy woman and calling me out before the solo! Classic KISS for sure.

Heart of Chrome

Bruce KulickOne of my favorites of the album is Paul's groovin' and riffin' monster of a mid-tempo song Heart of Chrome. It was clear to me this tune would need a really memorable solo, and I had taken home a rough mix to work on the parts at my home studio. The entire solo section was a new part of the song, so the challenge was on. It has a tricky riff to begin the section, which we doubled, and then it was also done in harmony so the parts kept building tension and finally the big nasty theme kicks in.

I was thrilled what I worked out at home was the perfect starting point in Ezrin's opinion. So, one part nasty guitar, one part crazy distortion pedal, add some snot and there you have one of my favorite solos on Revenge. The solo sections were always treated as a big feature of each song, and were constructed that way, which is a big reason why I was able to shine on Revenge. The lead guitar had to add something unique for each song.

Paul's vocals are extremely impressive on this track. The back and forth near Broadway style call and response of the gang vocals with him leading the pack is truly powerful. The breakdown section is classic Bob, with those sinister chords and all the big voices joining in. I have a rough where Gene jokes around with a "La La La La La" at the end of that section like a crazy Spaniard! All in all not an easy song to perform, but so perfect for Revenge.
Thou Shalt Not

Bruce KulickHere's a great title taken from the Bible that Gene made his own. (Hmmmm... I think there could be a Simmons Bible in the works when you think of how hard that man works!) A crunchy catchy riff is the basis of the song, with classic big KISS power chords. My chorus drone guitar part is simple, yet gives some icing on the cake.

Ironically the solo idea I had starts on the flat 5 (b5) note, which all you fancy musicians know is the devil's interval from the root of the song. How fitting! Gene's writing about his take on a biblical theme and I start with that choice! I also call out some other recognizable themes in that solo, something from Disney's Fantasia and at the end a bit of a Hendrix riff from a song called "Them Changes."

Gene loves certain themes to write about, and he really nailed it on this track.
Every Time I Look at You

Bruce KulickThis romantic ballad, with a wonderful string section, shows how powerful a sweet song can be. Paul did some fine vocal work with this track, and I have to say the song flows perfectly. The only thing I discovered going through all my roughs was how in the first recording the drums didn't come in at the same place as how the final track was produced. In the first version Eric's drums entered in the bridge. But, alas, the song needed that extra push in emotion so the drums were softly added in verse two. Hearing that earlier version made it very clear to me, "What happened to the drums?"

I know Bob Ezrin added some beautiful piano, and I have a rough where it is really loud. Paul and Bob wanted me to play bass, as they felt Gene might be too heavy handed for this track. I always love playing bass guitar, and doing it on a sweet song like this was fun. You have to be careful to move the bass riffs a bit, but never get in the way of the vocals. Having Paul McCartney as one of my bass heroes always gives me a good reference point. We added a sweet chorus sound on the bass that makes it really float into the song. I think it was one of Gene's custom finish Pedulla's that appeared in my hand.

Paul plays a 12 string Guild, and I probably played a regular 6 string acoustic. I can't remember too much about the acoustics. What's interesting here is that another hero of mine got to PLAY the lead guitar on this track. I actually did not play the guitar solo on this song, Dick Wagner from Alice Cooper did! I was out of town over a holiday weekend and Gene and Paul, along with Bob, were in a rush to get a great close to finished version to play for the label. Some politics were going down. Well, Dick was recording music just down the hall at Track Records so they called in the ringer!

I came back and when they told me, honestly, I was crushed. But I heard what Dick did and, as much as I didn't want to admit it to them, it was brilliant. What Dick played was perfect, and was definitely in my vocabulary of guitar playing. And I defy you to hear any difference when I do that solo for Unplugged! Funny thing... he played it on one of my guitars! I think it was my Gibson Explorer, the off white/yellow colored Korina wood custom shop one. So history, or Kisstory, was made in that I had a "ringer" play for me. That was the only time it ever happened, but no less the song didn't suffer with that solo.

An amazing ballad for KISS from an amazing album, and I hope you enjoyed the honesty of my story.


Bruce KulickThis tune has an unusual groove for KISS, but that is what makes it unique. Gene came up this one, and I remember thinking how different it was. Eric really shines on the song, keeping it feeling rock but with a swing. Gene sings "Look out!" right away, so you know something's gonna happen! My earlier studio recording rough mixes from this track have Gene singing different lyrics that weren't up to par yet. He was talking about some girl's underwear! Love going back to those roughs! I like the guitar parts. Some nasty wah tones, and I answer Gene in parts in a cool way.

If you notice, Gene loves to double track his voice which is a technique John Lennon made important in his recordings. It fattens the voice and gives it a great attitude. I have vocal samples where Bob put the background chorus vocals in an octave device and it sounds like girls singing. That is actually blended into the overall chorus. Studio trick number 1000 from a man of many tricks. The breakdown section still gives me chills the way Eric's beat is compressed and tons of swing to it, with Gene mumbling weird things in the background.

Then my solo starts with an octave pedal, doubled naturally. All typical "call and answer" soloing where you start with a question then answer it with another riff. I also reintroduce the octave pedal on the ending guitar "answers." But not all of them, and that's the beauty of this album... everything gels and the surprises keep coming at you.

I Just Wanna

Bruce KulickThis song, with its clever title and chorus making you think it's gonna sing something really dirty, is a fun rave-up of a tune. I really feel like it's a tip of the hat to a heavy style of melodic KISS that has its legs in a few different eras of the band. The gang pre-chorus vocals that set you up for the chorus lyric gimmick works like a charm. My early roughs show a guide vocal from Paul, but the lyrics were the same.

The solo starts with a very slippery slide guitar from me. I am not the best with slide, but I did a fine job on this intro and some of the riffs were played the same way. And of course it was doubled, if not tripled. The breakdown was classic Bob Ezrin. Seemed very Alice Cooper like, and the final production showcased many more of his tricks. Great huge vocals from the guys in that section, and I added some Ebow device for some interesting string-like sustain from the guitar, which was mixed in the background.

Paul's final vocals are doubled and they sound great. I really love the harmony riff added in the last verse on guitar, and it's little things like that which really move a song along. The slide continues through the ending chorus tag. It's a strong Paul track that just screams REVENGE!

Carr Jam 1981

Bruce KulickThis song was obviously never planned for Revenge until Eric Carr's sad death from a cancer tumor that formed on his heart which was impossible for him to beat. That loss in the KISS family was very painful and disturbing to me. How could such a young man be taken away from his family, band, and fans? Since Revenge was a year long work in progress, many times his struggle factored into my daily life. Here was a song KISS could use that featured a huge, powerful drum solo "in the can" from many years ago to which we would add my guitar along with Eric's drumming.

It was the FIRST thing we did after the sad and mournful funeral, and what better way for me to get over my sadness than to play my heart out for Eric? I had little knowledge of the track prior to our session. It was before my tenure in the band, and I believe it was actually something even Ace played on though I never heard anything except the riff and drum solo.

Bob was clear he wanted me to come up with some riffs that would set the tone for Eric's solo, and playing some flashy riffs on my old 1953 conversion Gibson Les Paul Standard through a classic Marshall sounding 900 head were my tools of choice. My best guitar, with no real gimmicks. It was certainly straight ahead playing with some scrapes and pings on the Les Paul.

For the final song on Revenge it was fitting, and a great tribute to have Eric included on the album more than just his beautiful background vocals on "God Gave Rock 'N' Roll to You II." It was KISS's "Moby Dick," and I was very pleased that we used it on the album. I, of course, had many emotions that day recording it, and naturally thought it was ironic as a player that I had work to be done the very first day back from the grieving. But in the end that was the best therapy possible: working hard and putting my emotions to use in our tribute to an amazing man, Eric Carr.

Look for my Revenge wrap-up at the beginning of next week, which will include details about the unreleased song "Do You Wanna Touch Me Now," my thoughts about how we did the album overall, what guitars and pedals were mostly used, and other remembrances from this shining jewel, REVENGE!

Hope you are all enjoying this!

Do You Wanna Touch Me Now (unreleased)

Bruce KulickHere is the only song recorded but not released by KISS from the Revenge sessions. Written by Snake Sabo from Skid Row, Paul, and Bob Ezrin it's a classic rave-up in the style of Revenge. It was painful to imagine this song being left off the album, but there seemed to be some conflict about what to do with the chorus. On the demo the vocals follow the ascending riff with the words "Do You Wanna Touch Me Now." It's a very KISS delivery lyrically. The question was is that good enough, and no one could come up with an alternate idea that seemed like a better way to take the song to its completion.

In my mind, to quote an Eric Singer phrase, "It is what it is." I didn't have any issue with the melody following the riff, but I was not in charge. And we certainly already had an amazing mix of songs to fill this album. To be clear, this track had full drums, all rhythm guitars and bass, and is a killer song. In typical Revenge fashion this song had very clever parts, great riffs, and an amazing breakdown section in a "Cream" fashion. I never played any leads on it, though I wanted to badly. And even without a reference vocal you can tell this song was not a throwaway.

I did make sure KISS had this version available to consider for the Box Set, but ultimately it was not included... for now. What more can I say, other than "Do You Wanna Touch Me Now" is an amazing track that's in the can. Let's hope someday you get to hear it, or even better, how cool would it be to see it finished!
Album art, Wardrobe, and Video Shoots

Bruce KulickThe album art came easily. It would look like a battle ship combined with an Anvil style road case, would look distressed as if it had taken some hits, and have REVENGE written across it in red. You knew the band was making a statement of strength. The photo shoot was clearly an effort to be mean and tough... no green, pink neon, etc! I remember shopping on Melrose in LA with a clothing designer friend to see what I could get. We didn't do a "band" shopping trip. I found that killer leather jacket with all the studs on it, black leather pants, some creative looking silver jewelry, and some cool leather gloves. I had a good concept of what I wanted to look like for the shoot. When we all got together it was amazing how all the band members had black leather clothes in their suitcases of possibilities. Paul's stormtrooper leather coat was killer, and Gene was back in form with his goatee and menacing vibe. Complete things with our new, blonde, member Eric Singer also in leather and it was clear this look was the perfect fit for the images of this photo shoot.

Videos were next. "Unholy" was chosen first because of the importance of coming out heavy on rock radio. The video was shot in downtown LA and it was a very long day. I know I felt the vibe was gonna be very dark and aggressive, and that fit our attire for the album cover and the posture of what Revenge was to represent musically. I wasn't really clear at the time about how the kids and the pentagram were going to fit into the final concept, but after all the lyrics were dark and demonic.

The video for "Domino" was odd for me. Yes, Gene looked cool driving that vintage car around, but we weren't sure who should be playing what in that video instrument wise. You see Paul starts out playing guitar and later switches to Gene's bass! I played a blue bolt on ESP initially, then suddenly I'm using a red Horizon model! Well, the song rules anyway so who cares what we are playing! I believe the set for the music part looks like a rehearsal studio in Burbank. And I must say, I know Gene isn't a good driver so for him to sing and look so cool with that vintage car was quite the task!

"I Just Wanna" was shot against a white background which really made the band pop in a big way. I love the quick cuts and how good we all look. I used my white ESP Explorer and my slide was blue... I don't even remember owning that! Anyway, a great song and certainly the video spelled Revenge to me. Great tune, great look, and all KISS.

Bruce Kulick "Every Time I Look At You" was interesting in many ways. I played the grand piano, a 1965 Cherry SG Standard, and my Gibson ES 355. Busy man, wasn't I? I don't remember the string players being there during the shooting of the band's performance, but the background setting was super cool looking. Paul looked great with a 5 o'clock shadow beard, and Eric seemed very confident on the drums. Another great song, and the band looked super cool.

"God Gave Rock N Roll To You II" was a very odd video to me. First off, it was really pre Revenge. Gene has no goatee, and obviously Eric Carr gave an incredible performance for someone fighting cancer. His shirt with the cross was pretty intense, and I can tell you he gave his all that day. He even drove me to the shoot and had more energy than me!

One thing odd about the video was the fact that we used this HUGE hanger and Eric and I seemed like we were about a football field away from Paul and Gene. And being that the song was heavily edited as a "single" it barely had any of the juicy guitar leads that appear on Revenge. Paul starting the video like a mad conductor kicking all the water around looked amazing.

The thing about using all the make up era footage, and even a shot with Vinnie Vincent, seemed like the video was screaming to remind everyone KISS wore make up and to look at all the bombs, blood and fire we serve up for you. All in the name of rock 'n' roll, naturally! So screen time for me was negligible. But using "God Gave Rock N Roll To You II" to springboard off that movie soundtrack and remind everyone what KISS was and is about made good business sense for the band. Just not the video I had hoped for this song. But seeing Eric playing his heart out obviously still makes me remember what a fighter he was, and that is the best thing about this video in my opinion.

Gear and Recording

Bruce Kulick So what was the mystery with the gear for Revenge? Why did it sound so huge? What effects were used? What secrets can I share with you all? Well, and it was hard to remember from 20 years ago, but I hope even a slight peak behind the scenes will whet your appetites! Here goes...

The engineer we used, Niko Bola, was a favorite of Bob's. I think we used a studio in Sherman Oaks in the valley of Los Angeles. The drums were recorded to a 16 track analog tape machine as they would sound bigger that way. Sixteen tracks across two inches, more tape per track. We later then dumped all those powerful drum performances over to a digital SONY machine. Somewhat unique in those days, but a step away from the all analog Studer machines. This was not Pro Tools, naturally, and Bob knew many tricks to make things fat and heavy sounding.

I saw him take compressors and push them to the limit. He would also sometimes purposely distort the double track of my guitar part, something that played solo would not sound good but mixed in the track, oh so perfect. I got my hands on a vintage Roland Space Echo with Chorus Rack Mount unit that Bob loved, and we sometimes boosted the guitars by plugging into that before the Marshall amp. Marshall, I was quite happy, was just ready to release the 900 series and I got one of the first ones. I was very pleased with those heads. They got used quite a bit.

I pulled out many pedals so that my "playing from the balls" could be accomplished more easily. Some great vintage Vox Wah Wah pedals made many appearances, and some old MXR Distortion + pedals were a good choice. I had no problem getting some great tones. I remember a famous studio in Hollywood called Amigo closed and Bob, Paul, and I went when they were selling off some gear. I found a nice Shure SM 57, but the real score was a vintage Maestro Echoplex tube model that is wonderful. So that might have made an appearance as well on the album.

My ESPs were in full force on Revenge. The yellow Crazy Nights one, a white one, and a blue one, all with Floyd Rose bridges and a Duncan pickup or two. And naturally my 1953 Gibson Les Paul conversion guitar, which has MOJO deluxe. Interesting note, that Les Paul was actually on Paul Stanley's Solo album in 1978 cause my brother owned it back then. My Cherry 1960 ES 355, my old '56 LP Jr, and a Gibson Custom shop Explorer reissue were also used. As were a yellow Fender Strat and an ESP Burgandy Mist Tele. There were probably others, but right now I'm having a hard time remembering more.

I also sorta confuse the session we did for "God Gave Rock 'n' Roll To You II" with the rest of Revenge. As you know, "God Gave Rock 'n' Roll To You II" was not done for Revenge, but was recorded a year earlier when we were asked to appear on the Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey soundtrack. "God Gave Rock 'n' Roll To You II" was a test to see how Bob would work with the band after all those years, and naturally it sealed the deal for the formula of bringing Ezrin back with KISS, much to my satisfaction.

The sessions for Revenge were very drawn out. We would do a few months and finish a batch of songs, take off and get more songs written, then go back and record again. So I think it took close to year to get that album done. And I have to say we did have a few false starts. Things like you start tracking bass and guitar then realize the key was wrong or the tuning just not up to snuff. So it'd be back to the beginning again. Quite a few different studios were used, but most of it was done at Record One in Sherman Oaks. The mixing sessions were not very drawn out. Mick Guzauski mixed the album for us, and when it was done I was 99.9% happy. I am a perfectionist, all my friends know that, so I had to leave that 0.1% off my total satisfaction!

But I knew when it was all done and in the can that we had something VERY special. And we accomplished what we set out to do... have our "Revenge" by kicking some serious ass with powerful KISS music.

Revenge Era Photo Album

I've collected here a bunch of Revenge era photos. Many of them you'll probably have seen before in CD booklets, tour programs, or in magazines. Others, however, are outtakes from professional photo shoots - variations on shots you many have seen - as well as some from my personal collection. I'll be adding more in the coming days, but hope you enjoy what's here to get you going!

Special thanks to Jack Sawyers for the photos of me taken during the "God Gave Rock 'n' Roll To You II" video shoot, Nicola Ciccarone for the live shots, and Marty Temme for the photo of me with the cherry Gibson ES 355/red background.

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