Straight Shootin’ With Bulletboys Singer Marq Torien
"I’ve always shook my ass all the time. I grew up old-school, very flamboyant."
Marq Torien – Bulletboys frontman
STRAIGHT SHOOTIN’ WITH BULLETBOYS SINGER MARQ TORIEN
In this Metal Sludge exclusive, BulletBoys star Marq Torien talks about the good, the bad and the ugly as the band prepares for a package tour this summer with Jack Russell’s Great White, Pretty Boy Floyd, Faster Pussycat and Lillian Axe.
By Gerry Gittelson
Metal Sludge Contributor
HOLLYWOOD — For a singer who has gone through more than 30 bandmates through the years, you would think BulletBoys frontman Marq Torien might be a bit high-maintenance, but the 49-year-old is actually a really nice guy.
The BulletBoys’ self-titled debut in 1988 went gold, and Torien has been chasing his early success ever since, but if you think the front man is bitter, he’s not. In fact, Torien swears he is as passionate today as he ever was, but don’t just take my word for it: BulletBoys is headed on a national tour this summer with Jack Russell’s Great White, Pretty Boy Floyd, Faster Pussycat and Lillian Axe – I know, ha ha where is the headliner? – so folks can see for themselves that Torien and his mates still have what it takes to make “Smooth Up in Ya” a new masterpiece every night.
He’s busy finishing rehearsals for hitting the road, and in the meantime Torien found a few moments to chat with Metal Sludge. Here’s what went down.
Classic Bulletboys Pin-Up
METAL SLUDGE: Hey Marq, did you read that story a few weeks ago about Queensryche’s Geoff Tate supposedly pulling a knife? It reminded me of that time in 2003 when your bus driver stabbed your tour manager.
MARQ TORIEN: Wow, I didn’t hear anything about that.
METAL SLUDGE: Well, since we’re on the subject, let’s go back to the BulletBoys incident. I know there was a lot written about what happened, but for the record let’s hear your version.
MARQ TORIEN: OK. To make a long story short, I remember it was Halloween day. I didn’t really know the driver, as the tour was just starting with L.A. Guns, and I remember this pounding on the door at the back part of the tour bus, where I was in a dead sleep at the time. The tour manager was freaking out, yelling about how the driver had stabbed him. I was like, “What are you talking about?” Then he pulled up his shirt, and he was slashed with a knife. At first I thought it was a joke or something.
METAL SLUDGE: Why, because it was Halloween? You thought it was fake blood or something?
MARQ TORIEN: Yeah. Looking back, that just makes the thing all the more spooky. I was like, “Dude, this isn’t funny. Are you OK?” It was really scary, because the bus driver guy was threatening to shoot him, too. So I was like, this is NOT going to happen. Where is this guy? We’ve got to get the police here.
METAL SLUDGE: Your tour manager was Mark Rojas, right?
MARQ TORIEN: Yes, the poor guy. He was bleeding from the chest. It was really bloody. Not spurting out bloody, but really bloody.
METAL SLUDGE: Where was this bus driver fool? Was he like 20 feet away?
MARQ TORIEN: Yes! He was smoking a cigarette, and he looked disheveled. The cops came immediately. They walked up to the bus driver, who gave the cops some lip, and they threw him down to the ground and arrested him.
METAL SLUDGE: How weird, the whole thing. Prior to all this happening, did you have any clue, any sort of weird vibe from the bus driver?
MARQ TORIEN: You know, Gerry, I’ve been doing this for a minute, and this character actually seemed like a decent guy. But later I found out through the police that he had a long criminal record in multiple states – he had been in prison for murder or attempted murder, I can’t remember. All kinds of different shit.
METAL SLUDGE: Did he go to prison again for this? Was he sentenced?
MARQ TORIEN: I don’t know. They threw him in the cop car, and that’s the last I saw of him. I hope he has changed his way and has decided to be a better human being. It was crazy.
METAL SLUDGE: So looking back now, BulletBoys
had a gold record, some singles on the radio, some
popular MTV videos, a lot of touring. Would say
you’re satisfied with the success you had?
MARQ TORIEN: You know, Gerry, that’s really a
double-edged sword. I look at it now, and I’m not
satisfied with what we as a band might have been able
to do. We did not ride on the coat tails of some of the
other popular bands. Had we kicked more butt and
had more power and control and what have you,
had we been pushed a little bit more, maybe that
would have blown us up way over the top.
METAL SLUDGE: No ballads, though. I remember standing with you and Warrant’s Erik Turner at the Palace in Hollywood one night, and you were explaining to him why you never had any ballads.
MARQ TORIEN: We didn’t want to be known as a ballad band. We were a hard-rock band from the South Bay [30 miles south of Hollywood]. Not to put anyone down, but we were not from the Sunset Strip. We played the Troubadour but never on the Sunset Strip – everywhere but the Strip. That was our mentality. Our stuff had a hard-rock edge, a punk edge, a kaleidoscope of music. More cutting edge. I remember back then listening to stuff that wasn’t even out yet. Korn, Alice in Chains, we invited those bands to play with us – we were the first national act those bands ever played with. I saw the talent in those bands that happened to be around at the time. We weren’t from the school of Poison. They were always too weird.
Listen to a YouTube video link advertising the Bulletboys debut show at “Gazzarri’s” for a Halloween show 1987 on the Sunset Strip. Listen to the audio intro and again @ 5:56. We did some quick research and found this ad for the Halloween show in 1987 along with another ad for "Gazzarri’s" on the Strip with Bulletboys playing a Christmas show as well.
METAL SLUDGE: But you played some of your biggest shows with Poison. You played Long Beach Arena together, remember?
MARQ TORIEN: Yes I do. We had a wonderful relationship with C.C. and Bret and Rikki, all of them. They were very kind to us, and we did do some awesome shows with them. I remember we played in Pennsylvania together at a stadium show, and beforehand, we went to the Hershey’s Chocolate factory. It was pretty cool. The Long Beach Arena show, I think there were like 27,000 strong there, but this Pennsylvania show was even bigger. Bret Michaels had such a great attitude – I remember he whispered in my ear before the show: “I can’t believe we’re playing a friggin’ STADIUM tonight.”
METAL SLUDGE: Well, the Long Beach Arena show was epic. I had a BulletBoys laminate that night – a stripper had given it to me, and it worked for all access.
MARQ TORIEN: Yeah, Long Beach. We were from that area, so we had a lot of people there. C.C., I remember he commented: “You all should be closing the show!” He was funny. What incredible times.
METAL SLUDGE: In those days, most of the money you were making was going back into the band, right?
MARQ TORIEN: Yeah, but we had a livelihood. We lived well, but we were very volatile, full of piss and vinegar. Four different entities. Like a comic book. It was me, Jimmy D’anda. He was our drummer. Mick Sweda on guitar and Lonnie Vencent on bass.
METAL SLUDGE: Oh by the way, going back to the Palace. I remember one of you was smoking a joint on stage. He said, “This is grade-A thai weed.” He was smoking a joint on stage. Which guy was that again?
MARQ TORIEN: That was Lonnie. I almost asked him to pass it to me. (laughs)
METAL SLUDGE: You’ve had your ups and downs through the years, a lot of lineup changes. What’s kept you going?
MARQ TORIEN: You mean why do I keep doing music? To be honest, I think I was born to be a diligent artist. I just really believe in the arts. My family, my mom and dad, they were both school administrators, but my father was also a musician, and my mom, she sang background for Sinatra.
METAL SLUDGE: Background for Sinatra? She was have been incredibly talented?
MARQ TORIEN: Oh she was. She was amazingly talented and very beautiful. I had an older sister, too,
and she was invited to play in the metropolitan opera in New York. I came from a very educated and very musical family. Rock music is still in my heart. I’ve sold millions of records with the BulletBoys, and I still love performing, and people love to see us perform. Bruce Springsteen and Mick Jagger are my heroes. B.B. King, Jeff Beck, the Foo Fighters. I’m a huge Foo Fighters fan. Also the Germs. I grew up going to all the L.A. punk shows back in the day, and it’s still in my heart. I always write the best music I can. I am an entertainer. God blessed me with this, and this is what I do. I also really believe in what I’m doing. I still believe there are good people out there.
Musicians from our era, we have other things to say besides what we’ve said in the past. Some of us have grown in some aspect, and some haven’t. We have a great CD we put out last year, “10 Cent Billionaire,” and we still play all over the place. We’re planning two singles and two videos. It’s all about the music, and I’m still trying to write the best music I can even though there’s so much chaos in this crazy world. I’m not a preacher, I’m a musician, and I’m doing what I can.
METAL SLUDGE: “Smooth Up in Ya.” What a great song.
MARQ TORIEN: Thank you so much. I enjoy it very, very much. It’s great. Our music is a groove-a-thon. That’s our mainstay. We have that groove, that foot-tapping groove.
METAL SLUDGE: It was always such a popular song in strip clubs, a song so many strippers have danced to through the years. Have you ever enjoyed a private lap dance when your own song, “Smooth Up in Ya,” happened to be playing over the loud speakers?
MARQ TORIEN: Oh my gosh, that’s a great question. I don’t think so, no.
METAL SLUDGE: Even you like to wiggle your tush a bit when you sing that one. Do the girls seem to like that?
MARQ TORIEN: Sometimes, I guess. I don’t know. I don’t even know when I’m doing it, but I guess I’ve always shook my ass all the time. I grew up old-school, very flamboyant. I love Mick Jagger, T-Rex, David Bowie, Tina Turner, those kinds of cats. Hopefully, I’m respectfully walking in their shoes. When I perform, I really put it out there. You’ve got to shake your body. Everybody, I guess, at one time or another, they’ve got to get out there and shake their ass.
METAL SLUDGE: Tell us about your personal life. Are you married, divorced?
MARQ TORIEN: Divorced. Brokenhearted. It was a very heart-breaking divorce, something I don’t talk about much. I’m doing the best I can. I don’t have anger in my heart. I’m trying to move on and write about it. I came to my family in L.A. I think people go through bad times in their lives. It’s a crazy world, but that’s what brings you closer to god and makes you a more decent person. Everything is a learning experience. One door closes, and another door opens to a huge stadium. I’m just trying to be the best person I can be with what I have.
METAL SLUGE: Too bad you never made it super big. With millions of dollars, you would have made a great, eccentric rock star.
MARQ TORIEN: You would be at my house all the time for pool parties, fire pits, playing the acoustic guitar.
METAL SLUDGE: Actually, I figured you for more of a prima donna type, the kind of guy who would threatened not to go on stage if the wrong brand of cigarettes was provided for your dressing room or something like that.
MARQ TORIEN: Nah, that’s not me. I’m not that person. I’m not a rock star type. After my divorce, like five years ago, I started out again in a pickup truck, traveling across the Midwest. I was not sure if I was ever going to perform again when that door first closed. I needed to find myself and to find out what I really want to do in life. I went out with a cover band called Sexual Chocolate. Didn’t even tell people it was me. Just traveled around, playing little shows in bars, meeting strangers, just getting familiar with my guitar again, and it was great.
Then we made one stop, and I guess the guy running the bar found out who I was, and we rolled up, and it said BulletBoys on the marquee, and the whole place was filled up. I turned to the guys in my band and said: “Hey, do we know any BulletBoys songs?” And one of them said he thinks they might be able to play ‘Smooth Up in Ya.’ I said OK.” (laughs)
METAL SLUDGE: So what happened?
Well, I went up there and said that I was Marq Torien but this was not the BulletBoys, but thanks for coming. Then I told them if they wanted to hear some cover tunes, I can show them some love and maybe do “Smooth Up.” The crowd, they were so sweet. This was in the Midwest somewhere, I don’t remember where.
METAL SLUDGE: Your most popular songs, “Smooth Up in Ya” and “Hard as a Rock.” Very sexual connotations. Were you guys a bunch of horny guys when you wrote them?
MARQ TORIEN: Well yeah. We were real men, so yes.
METAL SLUDGE: You look back now, did you live it up to the fullest?
MARQ TORIEN: I think we did, yes. I think we quite enjoyed it. I think it was a lot of fun, tearing it up right out of the box because our first tour, we did 365 days. We played with Cheap Trick, Ozzy, Cinderella, Poison. Oh, and Bon Jovi. We did the “New Jersey” stadium tour with them.
METAL SLUDGE: When you go back further, when you look back before the success, were there some hard times? Were you always sure where your next meal was coming from?
MARQ TORIEN: Oh yeah. I would say the struggle became very difficult, especially when you’re driving around in an old Volkswagen, and you have no money for gas, trying to pass out flyers and everything else. We would go to Jack in the Box, the four of us, and get two orders of two tacos for 99 cents. We started with five bucks but would put three dollars worth of gas in the car and have two bucks left for food. We would ask for ice water to drink.
METAL SLUDGE: Were you embarrassed?
MARQ TORIEN: No, I was never embarrassed. We always had good people around us, my grandma, Lonnie’s father, they would help us but no one was giving us a free ride. My thing was, a lot of the bands we had grown up with, like Motley Crue and Ratt, by 1989 they were already big, but the BulletBoys, we did the majority of our touring in the 90s. We saw a lot of friends get really big.
METAL SLUDGE: How much money did BulletBoys make?
MARQ TORIEN: Oh, I don’t want to talk about that. Let’s just say I made enough to live comfortable for quite some time.
METAL SLUDGE: Who is in the band these days?
MARQ TORIEN: We have an unknown drummer named Stephen Mills. We had a big audition through Musicians Institute, and he got the gig. He is so excited. He has played in different cover bands and on some film soundtracks, and he has great character. I try to play with cats who have really good hearts. It’s a struggle out there so you need good people on your team. My bass player in Chad McDonald, and my guitar player is Nick Rozz. We’ve been playing together for a while. We lost our drummer, Johnny G. He died in a car accident last year.
METAL SLUDGE: Going back once more, tell me about your producer, Ted Templeman. He had produced Van Halen, of course, so the comparisons between BulletBoys and Van Halen were only natural, right?
MARQ TORIEN: I think so. There was some comparison because of Ted, who taught us so much, and because I had long blond hair and did skateboarding and surfing, and our guitar player had long curly hair. But as far as sounding like Van Halen, we were not that. We had elements of that, and we loved Eddie and Alex and Michael and of course David, and all of them were very pro-BulletBoys. Alex particularly, he really loved our band. Ted was the best producer ever, just awesome. Very magical, just very hard-nosed and loving at the same time.
METAL SLUDGE: Yeah, Ted Templeman doesn’t strike me as one of those cliché rock producers from back in day. You know the type, doing cocaine off the console at 2 a.m.
MARQ TORIEN: No, not at all. He has amazing intellect and open-door policy. We used to cruise into his office and eat sandwiches together. He was always there for us.
METAL SLUDGE: I guess we should talk about your summer tour. You’re going out with Jack Russell’s Great White, Pretty Boy Floyd, Faster Pussycat and Lillian Axe.
MARQ TORIEN: I’m very excited. I’m looking to have a really good time with some fresh faces and some old faces, just playing some great rock and roll. We’ve been rehearsing for this tour, and we’re sounding pretty darn good. I’m excited.
Gerry Gittelson can be reached at [email protected]
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