HARD AS A ROCK
Here’s a Metal Sludge exclusive with BulletBoys singer Marq Torien
By Gerry Gittelson
Metal Sludge Editor at Large
HOLLYWOOD — He has a reputation for sometimes being a moody malcontent, but Marq Torien is all smiles these days.
The star singer for BulletBoys is pumped about a new album in the works entitled “Elephante,” and even though 99 percent of his success can be attributed to the hits on his very first record all the way back in 1988, Torien and the BulletBoys are bound and determined to make another breakthrough.
We’ve heard it a million times from a million bands that ruled the day back when MTV was king, but Torien is so optimistic and has such a positive attitude about what he’s doing now, that we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
It’s the classic Sludge conflict, with the artist wanting to talk about what’s new and us wanting to hark back to an era when the Sunset Strip was covered in band flyers every night.
Either way, Torien is always good for choice sound-byte or two, so let’s let it roll.
METAL SLUDGE: So what’s the very latest with BulletBoys?
MARQ TORIEN: We’re just basically working on our body of work right now i the studio with Ryan Greene. He’s an amazing producer. We’ve got the music finished, and we’re ready for the vocals, which I hope to finish by the end of the month.
SLUDGE: You took some time off the last year.
TORIEN: We did. To me, it makes no sense to go out and tour just to tour. We want to present something fresh and not just tour on our old laurels. It’s better for me, it’s better for the band, and it’s better for the fans. This new record we’re doing, there is no filler. It’s really well-crafted, and god willing, we’ll chart again.
SLUDGE: Yeah? What’s the title of your best new song.
TORIEN: “The Villain.”
SLUDGE: Ah, that one must be about Gene Simmons, right?
TORIEN: (laughs) No, no. When you hear it, you’ll understand.
SLUDGE: Well, this is Metal Sludge. Frankly, Marq, we’re interested in talking about the old stuff.
TORIEN: I understand. I know.
SLUDGE: Which got me thinking. Your two biggest songs by far, the only two that people really know, are “Smooth Up In Ya” and “Hard As a Rock.” If I may be so bold, they’re both about sexual intercourse, right?
TORIEN: Actually, it’s called “Smooth Up.” We wanted to call it “Smooth Up In Ya” but the record company wouldn’t let us because they didn’t think radio would play it.
SLUDGE: Which brings us to the obvious conclusion with those two songs, which came first? The chicken or the egg? It can’t be smooth up in ya without being hard as rock, but if you’re not hard as a rock, it can’t be smooth up. Do you get where I am going here?
TORIEN: They do go together. You’re absolutely right. But like I said, it’s a brand new year, 2014, and we’re looking at things differently. I’m getting older. I’ll be 51 this year — but I feel like I’m 25 or 26. I’m in great shape. I’ve seen a lot of things happen, different bands, but I don’t see any brilliant new records, so I’m working on my craft, working on my body of work. I’m trying to do something special, something long-lasting.
SLUDGE: If you say so.
TORIEN: Well, I’ve but my foot in my mouth many times. I’ve been diligent even though I’ve had a lot of career ups and downs. You know, Gerry. We’ve known each other for a really long time, right?
SLUDGE: We have. I think the first time I saw BulletBoys was that show a long time ago at the Palace. I still remember it because your bandmate was smoking Thai weed on stage.
TORIEN: Yeah, that’s when there was Thai weed. But there’s no more thai weed, am I right? I miss it, bro.
SLUDGE: Yeah. And then at Long Beach Arena with Poison. You had 20,000 people cheering for you that night, Marq. You must miss that even more.
TORIEN: You know, the past four or five years, we’ve managed to play in front of thousands a few times like at Rocklahoma. That one drew a lot of people. People still love this band, and I’m trying to give something back, something back to the community. We all come from different walks of life, and some of us are not as blessed as others. I guess I’m feeling kind of sensitive. I mean, we’re never going to be as big as Metallica, never gonna be that gigantic, and that doesn’t mean I can’t be more giving.
SLUDGE: You did a Facebook rant a little while ago, and you kind of told the whole music industry to F off. What was up with that?
TORIEN: I’ve just been in the business a long time, since I was seven years old up on stage for the first time, and after a while, you question the business. When you’re young, you have this Disneyland mentality, and now it’s just a different time. It’s not about talent, it’s about Facebook and twitter and the internet media, and at this point music isn’t something I would particularly advise kids to get into — unless they have a strong family base of support that looks after them, because the business is not what it used to be.
We were lucky and very blessed to sell a couple of million records, but all of us, all the bands like BulletBoys and L.A. Guns and Guns N’ Roses and Faster Pussycat, we all suffered because no one wanted to sign us, and it was very hard living that lifestyle where you really want to make it. You’ve really got to throw yourself into it.
We used to listen to vinyl, then pick up the needle and back it up to try to figure it all out, how did they do it? Now, it’s a completely different game, but I see some young artists who are really talented, some incredible musicians out there.
SLUDGE: You’ve got Lonnie Vencent still on bass, so that’s two original members.
TORIEN: Yeah, and we have Steven Mills on drums and Nick Rozz on guitar.
Lonnie Vencent & Marq Torien
SLUDGE: Now whatever happened to the other original guys, Mick Sweda and Jimmy D’Anda?
TORIEN: I have no idea. I’d prefer not to talk about them. I’m just moving forward. Today is today. You can’t live in the past, you can’t look back.
SLUDGE: We can at Metal Sludge. That’s what we’re all about, Marq.
TORIEN: I know, I know. But no matter what happened, we were fuckin’ blessed. We were great, but we had a lot of luck, too. They go hand in hand, so I was very blessed, and I still look at wall and the gold and platinum albums.
SLUDGE: I guess technically you were bigger than Angel. They never had a gold record.
TORIEN: It doesn’t matter. We weren’t as big as Kiss, but I don’t care. It doesn’t matter how big you were, just as long as I got a little piece of the pie and made a little bit of noise. I’m cool with that.
SLUDGE: The Eagles are playing six nights at the Forum. Now that’s big.
TORIEN: I’m cool with that.
SLUDGE: Did you see the Eagles documentary, the big two-part documentary on HBO?
TORIEN: I did.
SLUDGE: The thing that is interesting about that, I think, is that by the end, it’s hard not to walk away after seeing that and not think that Don Henley and Glenn Frey, but especially Don Henley, that they were total pricks. But look how big they are? Maybe you have to be a total prick to make it that big, Marq. Do nice guys finish last?
TORIEN: I think you’re right, but it’s a fine line. But if you go a little deeper, and you really look at Don Henley and Glenn Frye, we don’t know really made them the men they are. We don’t know the details of their private lives. A lot of people take kindness for weakness, and that’s really sad. I would rather be kind and have a smile on my face than be a hard-nosed piece of shit. But sometimes you have to be.
SLUDGE: Even John Lennon was said to be mean when he drank too many brandy Alexanders.
TORIEN: Well, let’s face it. I don’t think anyone is too nice when they drink.
SLUDGE: Looking back again, you were always compared to Van Halen in the beginning. You had the same producer, Ted Templeman, the same record company, Warners, and you had the long blond hair and liked to jump around. Was it good or bad, the comparisons?
TORIEN: Wow, what a great question. When Lonnie and I first started in his mom’s garage, we just wanted to be great musicians and to write great songs. As far as being like Van Halen, nothing was done on purpose except for the fact that Ted Templeman picked us, came down and signed us at a rehearsal in Vernon (downtown L.A.). I can’t even remember if our manager told us who he was or that just some guy was coming down. But now that I think about, who wouldn’t want to be the next Van Halen? Of all the bands to ever come from L.A., they were the greatest. I had known Eddie Van Halen since I was 17, and all the guys in the band were very nice to us.
TORIEN: Gene Simmons was actually the first one. He and Paul Stanley came to see us at the Troubadour, and Gene loved it. Gregg Giuffria from Angel, he was a catalyst, too. He was a huge mentor for me and kind of brought me into the business when I was very young. All the guys in Angel, Frank Dimino and Barry Brandt, they were all so fuckin’ cool to me. Motley Crue, Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx, we all used to party together in the Hollywood Hills.
Marq Torien doing his best David Lee Roth – Hit Parader Magazine
SLUDGE: I ask you this every time, but why did you never have a power ballad? All the bands that were bigger than you, they all had big power ballads. Looking back, do you regret that? You say you sold two million records, but with power ballads you might have sold ten million, Marq. I’m sure I’m not the first one to tell you this.
TORIEN: What can I say? We were very anti-ballad, and we were never a follow-the-leader type of band. We just did what we did.
SLUDGE: Yes, but my point is, that might not have been a good thing.
TORIEN: It’s so far in the past now. I always felt like just sticking to my laurels and being ballsy, and Ted Templeman didn’t want to do one, either. We were all in agreement. We never sold out, never sold out to do something just to make more money. We didn’t try to do what everyone else was doing. But on this new record, I can tell you, we do have a beautiful power ballad, very uplifting.
SLUDGE: Then again, nobody had better songs for strippers to strip to then you with “Smooth Up” and “Hard as a Rock.” So many strippers have stripped to those songs through the years, do you agree?
TORIEN: Yeah, every club throughout the world, and they still do.
SLUDGE: Plus, you were out there with everyone touring, with Kiss, with Bon Jovi.
TORIEN: Yeah, we played with Bon Jovi on the “New Jersey” stadium tour.
SLUDGE: He got all the money.
TORIEN: I know, but I love him. Jon is great, and he treated us well. He is an amazing entrepreneur, and he was blessed to have the right writers writing his songs. He worked extremely hard, and I saw it, first hand. I was there.
SLUDGE: You don’t have blond hair anymore. That was a big part of your image back in the day.
TORIEN: Yeah, I went natural. I just felt like I wanted people to take me for what I am, not the platinum processed MTV guy.
SLUDGE: Do people still recognize you, and if so, do you like it?
TORIEN: All the time. People tell me they really love this band, and I’m grateful for that every single day.
SLUDGE: The last time we had talked, you told me about how painful your divorce was.
TORIEN: It still affects me. My heart is like porcelain, and I have to super glue back together every day, but I don’t bitch and complain.
SLUDGE: Do you deal well with loneliness?
TORIEN: I don’t mind being alone. All of us need to be alone at some point, especially if you’re in the music business. But I do love to go out and have fun and to laugh every day even though we all get into funks.
SLUDGE: You’ve had your struggles through the years, including financially, right?
TORIEN: Oh yeah. It’s not easy but it could be a lot worse. I’m very lucky to be blessed with the talent I have, but yeah, the whole country is in bad shape.
SLUDGE: I was thinking about it, and your band was one of the first bands to combine two words in one but with a capital letter in the second word. BulletBoys, like SouthGang, like WildSide, like WIldBoyz, like FireHouse. But you were one of the first, if not the first, am i right?
TORIEN: Yeah, we wanted to be a little bit different. I designed the logo.
SLUDGE: And you have a cool logo, too, with the guy getting hit in the head with a hatchet.
TORIEN: Mick came up with that one. At first, we were going to just do a sledgehammer, but Mick said, “How about an axe or hatchet, and the hatchet is just sticking into his head?” We were like, “Fuck yeah, that’s brilliant.”
SLUDGE: Have you bumped into many girls through the years with logo or the mascot tattooed?
TORIEN: Yeah, both girls and guys, but the girls usually have it more towards their private parts, the guys usually on their arms. It makes you feel good, it really impresses me. It makes me feel like a winner.
SLUDGE: Like I said before, a lot of lurid themes in your songs. Did you have a lot of sex?
TORIEN: Oh yes, but I’m a gentleman. I don’t tell.
Gerry Gittelson can be reached at [email protected]
Sludge Up In Ya