Gene Simmons Rejected Big Name Joining KISS


Bruce Kulick recently had a wake up call as he took a look back on his career in music. One thing that stuck out was his first audition for Kiss, which, would end up in failure.

Bruce recalled how Gene Simmons complimented his playing even though it could hardly be heard due to wrong choice of amp head. Common knowledge has it that Bruce officially joined Kiss in 1984 by replacing Mark St. John, and would remain with the band for the rest of the “unmasked” era.

His first step into the Kiss culture took place right after Ace Frehley’s departure in 1982 after his brother Bob Kulick (who auditioned for the same role in 1973) pressed him to do so. Bruce recalled how “the timing wasn’t right” and he ended up botching the audition, partly because he had always been “intimidated” by Kiss in the past. He also noted how he was also inadequately equipped for the failed audition (transcribed by Ultimate Guitar):

Bruce stated: “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…’

Given, he didn’t seem to excited to go for the job, he would go to the audition.

He continued: “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. 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.”

This wouldn’t really make much of a difference though, as Bruce was never totally into the gig.

He closed: “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.’ 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.”