interview by Michael McCarthy
I’ve heard lots of different things about BulletBoys frontman Marq Torien over the years. Whether it was people accusing him of having LSD (lead singer disease) or other things, it seemed like he had a larger than life personality. I was even a bit intimidated going into this one, afraid that I’d say something wrong and offend him and that would be the end of it. So, imagine my surprise when I discovered that he’s a nice guy. He answered all of my questions with enthusiasm and proved himself to be humble and down to earth. One of the most pleasant guys I’ve ever interviewed, actually.
BulletBoys’ new album, From out of the Skies, was recorded at Dave Grohl’s Studio 606 and features Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal on the energetic first single, “D-Evil.” It’s a collection of songs that work perfectly together, but at the same time, it’s also eclectic with a wide range of influences and styles, including funk and R&B. This may surprise some of their longtime fans who just want them to release old school heavy metal – what many call “hair metal” – but I find the mix of diverse songs to be refreshing if not exhilarating. Whether you’re a fan of “hair bands” or just a fan of modern day hard rock, I highly recommend it. Of course, any of their longtime fans can tell you that BulletBoys were always more like Guns ‘N’ Roses and Van Halen than, say, Poison and Warrant. Mind you, I love Poison and Warrant, but whereas teens today are unlikely to listen to them, I do think they could appreciate BulletBoys. So, whether you’re an old cat who has followed BulletBoys from the beginning or a newbie who’s never even heard of them, listen to some of their tunes below and see what you think.
MM: Your publicist mentioned that you were doing something to help high school kids with music today. Can you tell us about that?
MT: Sure, yes, I just got finished here in the L.A. city school district. My sister, Melisand, she’s an administrator for a great intermediate school and today was career day, so she asked me to come in to do a little playing, some guitar, and some explaining of what I do in my business to them.
MM: Very cool. Now, is the first single from the new album pronounced “D-Evil” or “Devil”?
MT: “D-Evil.” [Laughs] D slash evil, yes. [Both laugh]
MM: Jesse Hughes from Eagles of Death Metal is on that track. How did you guys first meet?
MT: Well, you know, we met through a very good friend of mine, Eric Epil, Epi, who works for the Eagles of Death Metal and has for many years and he introduced us two and basically was kind of like just amazing because I’ve always loved him and the band. I’ve been a huge fan of him. He’s an amazing cat and we just happened to hook up and he’s a big lover of the Bulletboys and I of his band, Eagles of Death Metal. Eric was able to play him [Jesse] the demo of the song and I asked Eric if he could possibly lend us his vox on the song. I would be completely flabbergasted and completely blown away. So, he came through. He was like, “When does he need me? I’m there!” So, he came in and just killed it, man. Awesome! Awesome!
MM: Nice. Do you think you’ll collaborate again in the future?
MT: We actually have. He brought me into the studio with his band and they just got finished doing the whole soundtrack for Super Troopers 2, which is being released really soon. And Jesse brought me in to do the duet with him on a song called “Blinded By the Light.” They re-did that song and had me come in and sing with him. So, it’s pretty rad. Remember that Bruce Springsteen song?
MT: Yeah, man. It sounds so rad. I can’t wait for all of you all to hear it. It sounds dope.
MM: So, did you write the entire new album alone or did you collaborate with anyone?
MT: You know, I always write on my own so I’m kind of like the premiere songwriter of the band, you know? That’s kind of a weird word to use. It sounds very un-humble. [Both laugh]
MM: That’s all right.
MT: That doesn’t sound very good. That’s probably the wrong word, but I am the guy who writes the tunes. I actually collaborated on one song with a very close friend of mine by the name of Johnny Santoro on the song “Once Upon A Time.” He’s a brilliant songwriter from Hollywood and the Los Angeles area and he had this song and I said, “Listen, I really like this song. Let’s make it into something. Let’s do something out of the box with the song.” He was like, “Are you sure? You want to finish it?” “Yeah, man.” So, we worked on it together and came up with something really, really beautiful and brilliant and I’m so proud of him for sticking with it. I told him a couple years ago, “I’m gonna put this song on the record. He was like, “OK, yeah, right. Sure, I believe you.” And finally, he was like, “You did it! My God, it sounds beautiful!” It was a big win for both of us because I just love him to death and he’s an amazing songwriter and musician and it’s nice to be able to give him some kudos on his talent.
MM: That song, I was thinking, would be perfect for a movie soundtrack or a TV show. Are you trying to get it placed?
MT: Yes. We are. We are actually looking to try to get it to the Los Angels Kings. Or The Los Angeles Lakers. It’s a very uplifting song. It’s a song that I wrote because it’s basically [about] the underdog who never gets to win. That’s the premise of the song and we would sure love to have it being played with the Los Angels Kings or Lakers or Dodgers. We have the powers that be working on that right now.
MM: Very cool.
MT: Yeah, dude, thank you for saying that. Absolutely.
MM: Are Nick, Chad and Joaquin still members of Bulletboys or did they just do the album?
MT: No, myself, Nick Rozz and Chad MacDonald have been together for eight years as a band and I love them with all my heart. We’re very, very close brothers and have worked very diligently for the past eight years to reinvent the Bulletboys and take us to where we are now. Mr. Joaquin Revuelta came in to do the record but we had to let him go – well, he actually let himself go [because of] some situations with his persona and things that he needs to do in his personal life. But we’re very, very excited. It’s not something we planned on doing, but we were in a situation where we needed someone to take us to another level, and my very good friend and brother, out of fourteen different drummers came in. Mister “Tiny” Biuso. He’s the drummer for the Bulletboys and he’s an incredible person and incredible human and we just win drum-wise because I’ve never played with anybody this talented [as a] percussionist or drummer. He’s an amazing person and I just love him with all my heart. So do Chad and Nick. He totally fits the personality of the Bulletboys. We’ve got a lot of fire. Our live shows have a lot of energy and it’s really nice to have somebody in the set who can actually do a drum solo where it sounds amazing. And we’re able to play off each other. We’re going into this whole rhythmic thing and to do something out of the box.
MM: I really like what you did with the percussion on Freakshow.
MT: Awesome. I tried to do that on this last record From Out of the Skies. We created loops with real instruments and on “Losing End” there’s glongus, globus, weedos, timbalas. There’s a rythmatical pattern that happens on “Losing End” that I created because I play percussion, too. It was nice to bring the Gonglus back into the scene. That’s a really prevalent sound of the Bulletboys. We put together a pretty risky record for the powers that be, who is Dave Grohl, who runs Studio 606. For him to let us into the studio to cut this record was an amazing blessing to us from him and the band. It was very exciting to us because there are not too many bands from our genre that have ever been let into that studio to create magic. I just give all props to David. He’s an amazing, amazing man. One of the sweetest guys I’ve ever met in the business. And for him to tell me that I belong in that studio because I’m taking risks with this record is like – it just gives you the gooseys. You’re just like, wow, man. Somebody’s finally stepped up to be a champion for the band. He stood up. The band stood up. Everybody around us.
MT (CONT’D): It’s kind of weird – I say this and I get a lot of flack for it, but it is the truth. Bulletboys have never really been accepted into our genre. Ever since the get-go, no one’s ever been able to figure us out or put this label on us. We come from a background where even back in the day when we started off with punk rock music, rock ‘n’ roll, soul, R&B and funk were basically our fulcrum for our sound. So, when I went back to that and went back to our punk roots on this record people are like “Aaaaw, shit. Are you kidding me?” I even got a shout out from Ice-T yesterday. He just said “Aaaaw shit.” There’s some funky stuff on this record and I was very blessed with these beautiful pieces we worked on for our beautiful ladies in our life. I never wanted to be this Bulletboys where [people are like] “They just write a bunch of sex joints. They’re demonstrative with their cock rock.” I don’t want my band being recognized for that for its entirety. We’ve been really working on reinvention with Elephante and the predecessor 10 Cent Billionaire. We’re finally at that point where people are like, “They have reinvented.” We have something else to say musically and spiritually and lyrically.
MM: One of your new songs is a beautiful ballad called “Switchblade Butterfly.” What was the inspiration for that one?
MT: The inspiration for that was two different things. One was the fact that my two sons have not been able to see their father in many, many years. Not to get into it, but it’s been quite a heart-shattering situation for me every single day and I wanted to write something for my sons. And I also wrote this song because we were asked to do a benefit for the children who lost their lives at Sandy Hook. So, when we were invited to that I wanted to do something really special for the families that was uplifting but yet beautiful and poignant. I never say I wrote it, it was mused to me from the power upstairs. It’s just one of those songs that people go, “This is my favorite song on the record. It’s making me cry.” It’s just such a beautiful sentiment. No one does that anymore. I said, you know what, it’s time for that. And I’m not trying to get down on anybody in the business, but a lot of these bands they just write this really hateful stuff. It’s really aggressive. Then you’ve got the bands from our genre that are just re-living the past and writing songs like they used to write. That’s not how we roll. The Bulletboys, we live in the now and for the future. There’s so many brilliant bands out there, bro, that you’ve gotta come with the best stuff that you can so you’re not just [like], “Oh, they’re a band from the eighties.” They’re like, “The Bulletboys just put together a hell of a record. Wait a minute.” So, at least we get a little nod, being this band from southern California that can stir up the nest and write a couple of good songs.
MM: I love the instrumental part that opens “What Cha Don’t.” How did that come about? Was there a certain band – or bands – that inspired that one?
MT: You know, that was inspired by a musical that I loved and still love. An old seventies musical by the name of Jesus Christ Superstar. Andrew Lloyd Weber, who is one of the writers of this incredible piece of music, still ingratiates me and teaches me a lot when I go back and listen to the writing of that soundtrack. It’s still incredible. So, the piece before “What Cha Don’t” is actually called – we didn’t put it on the record, but it’s called “Dinner with the Vultures.” That is kind of like a – it’s not a theme, but it’s like a what do they call it? It’s a pre-song before the actual song comes in.
MM: Is “PRAB” the slang word that means “annoying girl,” which I read when I looked it up online?
MT: No, no, no. “PRAB” is punk rock ass booty. That’s P-R-A-B. I wanted to do something. Some of these songs are giving homage to the time when I was signed with Motown. I wanted to give back to that amazing first label that I was signed with. Part of the Motown family. So I wanted to put something funky on this record. We also did a cover of The Temptations song “Get Ready” and that will be coming very, very soon. It’s on the Japanese release, but it’s going to be added onto our record because people have been clamoring for it and want to hear it. We’re working with our label right now to try to figure out how that song was not on our album. But that’s a whole other story. We’ll be getting it out to people real quick. But, yeah, that song is about getting your dancing shoes on and let’s boogie and let’s shake that rear end.
MM: That bass guitar part in the beginning really reminds me of “Earth, Wind & Fire.”
MT: Oh, thank you! That’s what we tried to do! Yes! There’s a lot of “Earth, Wind & Fire” on this record. Like “Hi-Fi Drive By.” That’s one of my favorite R&B bands so I told the guys we’ve gotta do something punk funk,“Earth Wind & Fire.” And, of course, Nick goes, “I’m in!” So, thank you for saying that. It means a lot to me.
This one is a classic from back in the day:
MM: You live in Los Angeles or thereabouts, right?
MT: Born and raised.
MM: I lived in Glendale for three years myself.
MT: Nice one! Yes.
MM: So, do you live in L.A. itself or one of the suburbs?
MT: I live in L.A. in the valley and, yeah, I live in L.A., straight L.A., man.
MM: What are your favorite things about L.A.?
MT: Everything. Being born and raised here, I grew up with amazing people and amazing things happening here. We’re an omega of a city. Us, New York, we are the people, the movers and the shakers. Growing up here I learned a lot. And I’ve been around the world many times and one thing I have learned is that we’re very, very blessed here in Los Angeles with the melting pot of beautiful culture, religions and faiths that we have here. And that we’re all trying to seek compassion, love, and forgiveness for everybody around us because of where we come from. And I see that in the powers that be and the people who live here. Like today, I just got finished doing career day at my sister’s intermediate school. It was really interesting to talk to the children about the situations that have been going on. The fear and the chaos and this situation where there was a walk out and kids were standing up for their rights and everything else. We were able to touch base on some of that and their fears and how I turned that into music and positivity. Just trying to know each other and be more forgiving of each other as human beings. We talked about bullying. I was bullied in school. So, it’s something that I’m well-versed in. [Laughs] I was the one who got rocks thrown at me, too, because I was different.
MM: Me, too, rocks and all.
MT: Yeah, so you know, I always tell people, people like us, we’re from the Island of Misfit Toys. I said, maybe people won’t accept you at school but maybe six or ten years down the line you might see that person and they might be able to help you or you may help them. You may have them in your life and you weren’t very close at school. It always happens like that.
MM: Yeah. I’ll just say real quick, I am always saying on Facebook that I miss karaoke. I used to do it every week in California, but my friends here in Massachusetts don’t want to do it. And this woman who actually bullied me when I was in elementary school is a friend on Facebook and she took me to karaoke. So, it’s so weird how this girl that bullied me all the time is now a friend.
MT: That’s so cool. That happens. That’s what I was trying to tell them, in life you never know. This bully could be your champion and save you one of these days. So, always keep an open mind that sometimes maybe people are doing what they’re doing because they need more friendship. It was really great to speak to these beautiful young kids. I said, “I was around when the Pterodactyl dinosaurs were roaming the earth.” I said, no, “I’m serious.” I said, “I’m older, my sister’s older, she’s teaching you, but we’re very young at heart and we have empathy for what you are going through right now.” That we didn’t have to go through that in school. “Always keep an eye out. Always keep an ear out for your friends and comrades by talking to them. You guys can bring change. The older people, not so much. But you guys can bring this change.”
MM: What are your plans to tour behind the new album?
MT: Oh, all over, bro. We just got back from the U.K. Fourteen dates out there. It was great to go and get our beaks wet again over the pond. I just love everybody unconditionally with all my heart in the UK and everybody came out. It was rad. It was just epic. We plan to go back there in the summer and plan to go back there when the weather is a little better and do some festivals and get back in the UK and on our way through Europe.
MM: Will there be any U.S. tour then?
MT: Yes, absolutely. And we are going to Australia in May for the first time. So, we’re doing some things.
MM: What about Japan? Are you guys still really popular over there?
MT: Oh, absolutely. We’ll be heading out there this year also.
MM: So, you’re basically going to tour like hell all year?
MT: Yes, and we’re gonna be pushing and letting people listen to our beautiful new record. We’re playing songs off of it. It’s really crazy because when we play live people are not wanting to hear the old songs. They want to hear the new songs so we have people screaming “Symphony” and “Kin Folk” and “Apocalypto” and “D-Evil.” The crowds are screaming. We just got finished playing HRH fest out in Wales and we opened with “From Out of the Skies” and the whole crowd went into a whole mosh pit. They were so ready for us to be up there. I sat in front of them and told them how much I love them with all my heart. They were just amazing. I said, “You guys are having a great time. I’d love to see this back in the States. So, let’s go nuts tonight.” [Both laugh] It was just great because we have a lot of energy when we perform. We’re not sitting around or standing up there – we’re movers and shakers and we’re in constant motion the whole show.
MM: Name three albums from your parents’ record collection that you actually liked.
MT: Oh, I would have to say – this is going to be strange, but I would say the first Cream record. I would say Tito Puente’s first record. Latin percussion genius. And I would say on a musical theatre level, West Side Story.
MM: What was the first album you ever bought with your own money?
MT: That was Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder.
MM: That’s so weird – the last person I interviewed said that. She’s a Bulgarian jazz-pop star and that’s the one she told me. So, that’s two in a row.
MT: It was that and the first Credence Clearwater Revival record. It might sound kind of trippy, but I’m a big, huge Motown fan and that album really, really changed my life.
MM: What’s a fake name you’ve used when checking into hotels?
MT: Snidely Whiplash.
MM: That’s a new one. Usually, everybody says Fred Flintstone.
MT: No, mine was Snidely Whiplash.
MM: What would I find on your contract rider?
MT: Our rider is pretty… We’re not big prima donnas or guys who ask for a lot. I would say the one thing on our rider that is pretty rad would be that we are not about the pizzas. We’re not down with having pizza every night. So, that’s one thing we don’t have on our rider.
MM: What are your pre and post-show rituals?
MT: Pre is completely laughing hysterically with the guys in the band and we have a sharp kind of humor. So, we make a lot of fun of ourselves. We seem to find something every day that is fascinating to us. It could be a Taco Bell sign. There’s something with us where we’ll pick something and we’ll be about that for the day. The post thing would be [that] it takes me ten to twenty minutes to come down. It’s something that I get up for. My post thing is more chilling out. Having the band sit by themselves for at least twenty minutes before anyone comes backstage and we can chat about the show. Usually, it’s fine-tuning. “Not everything went amazing today.” You know, we’re perfectionists in the band so we always try to get things to the best of our abilities. I would say definitely a good meal after. We’re all foodie guys and we like to have a proper dinner after. Some food, what have you.
Follow Marq on Twitter: @thebulletboys