Guitarist Reveals One Wrong Thing He Did at Kiss Audition, Recalls What Gene Simmons Told Him About Guitar Playing

Recently visiting The SDR Show, guitarist Bruce Kulick recalled his first audition with Kiss in 1982 where he ended up not taking the gig. Although the band chose Vinnie Vincent instead, Kulick eventually ended up in Kiss in 1984. Recalling the audition, Kulick said (transcript via Ultimate Guitar):

“I don’t talk about that for a very long time; that’s only one of my more recent revelations. This was the cattle call to replace Ace [Frehley]. My brother said, ‘Of course you have to audition!’ And I was kind of like [in demoralized voice], ‘Okay…’

“I brought my own Boogie amp head – which is a loud amp, but nowhere near as loud as the Marshalls that Kiss was playing through. So I was like, ‘That was wrong.’ It was so loud in the room, I only played maybe ‘Black Diamond’ and one other song.

But it wasn’t all that bad. As Kulick recalled, he got an encouraging compliment from bassist Gene Simmons. He explains:

“And I remember Gene said something really sweet. I mean, he actually said, ‘Hey, great vibrato!’ That’s a compliment, you know. Obviously, he was listening to my playing, not knowing that, within a couple of years, I’d be the new lead guitarist.”

Nonetheless, it just wasn’t enough to impress Paul Stanley and Gene. Kulick continued:

“But I could tell I did not come in there with the hunger and the desire. And so I left. Like, ‘Well, I did [the audition] because I was supposed to do that, but they’re looking for the makeup Ace Frehley guy, and maybe I’m not that.’

KISS Kruise X - Bruce Kulick joins KISS on stage Tears Are Falling & Heavens On Fire

“And then, eventually, they went with Vinnie [Vincent] – right or wrong, but Vinnie was a great songwriter with them. And that imploded, and then they went to a young hotshot guy, speedy Mark St. John, and that didn’t work out.

“I had the opportunity to prove that I’d be the right guy, especially if they’re not doing that makeup thing. And I walked in as a temporary guy, and then it turned into a 12-year career with them.”

Photos: Tilly Antoine (Gene Simmons (Kiss) au Hellfest 2019), Belliniguitar (Bruce Kulick live in São Paulo, Brazil 2016)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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