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INTERVIEW: MARQ TORIEN of BulletBoys – June 2015

Going back through the soundtrack of one’s life can be very telling.  Looking back at my late teens and the influence the hair metal genre had on me is undeniable.  To these days, I still love to throw on some of those classic discs, including BulletBoys Freakshow or their self-titled debut.  The best part of that is knowing that a lot of those bands are still out there cranking out new music to sit beside their hits and older material.  That is also true of the BulletBoys, as they have a new disc ready to drop – Elefante’.  This is full of rockers sure to please anyone that dug or digs hair metal with a modern, mature, sexy twist.  I was able to get front man Marq Torien (who happens to be a very humble dude – thanks again brother) on the phone to discuss the disc, tour, and so much more in advance of the release date and a tour that includes a local show later in July.  With no further intro, Marq Torien…

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Toddstar: Thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule, man. We know you’re busy as hell.

Marq: Oh, no worries, Todd. Any time, man. Thank you for having me. I’m just rushing around like crazy and I’m trying to call out on my phone and I’m going, what the heck’s going on? So I’m calling Sprint and they’re like, “Your phone’s shut off.” I said “I have no idea why. Turn on my phone.” (laughs) It’s like, “Oh, we’re so sorry about you’ve already made arrangements”, it’s like, oh man, God, come on, please. So I apologize for being a bit late. So how’s life treating you, Todd? How’s everything going? Good?

Toddstar: Good, good, man. We’re loving life out here in Detroit and we’re just trying to bide time until you guys release the disc and get her next month.

Marq: Ah, I love it. Hell, yeah. We’re ready. You know us. I’m chomping at the bit to get out there. Trust me. (laughs) We’re just so excited about everything that’s going down.

Toddstar: So you guys have a new disc rolling, coming out in just under a week. Elefante’ is coming out.

Marq: Six days. Yes, sir. Very excited about it.

Toddstar: What can you tell us about this disc?

Marq: All kinds of stuff. Have you heard it?

Toddstar: I’ve heard a few tracks, but not the whole disc yet.

Marq: Alrighty. Well, what would you like to know?

Toddstar: Well, I mean, how’d this thing come together? You’ve always been the back bone of the band. Is this still a Marq Torien written project or did the whole band come together for this?

Marq: The whole band is playing on this record. We’ve been together for six years, so it’s not a Marq Torien project. It is the BulletBoys and always has been. When it’s a Marq Torien project, bro, I’ll let you know and that’s going to be a solo record.

Toddstar: (laughs) You’ve been the constant in the band since the late eighties.

Marq: Absolutely. I’m the leader of this band. It’s my band, you know? I’m the leader.  So I own the band name and it is my band but it is the BulletBoys encompassed. Chad MacDonald, Nick Rozz, and I have been together for going on over six years and we’re really ecstatic about this record and the fact that we all joined forces and were able to play on this record. Of course, I did the majority of the writing, because I am the writer with some help from my guitar player Nick Rozz, and it’s just been an amazing experience. We’re very, very blessed, we worked very, very hard on this record and we’re receiving tons of accolades on this new body of work of ours, which is Elefante’, and I can’t even tell you how… It’s very humbling with all these different interviews I’ve done. I’ve done close to thirty already and have about sixty on the back burner, so we’re just plugging right along, Todd, you know. We’ve taken a lot of guff in the past and we’re going to go out there and headline our first tour, the Armed Alliance Tour, which starts July 6th. And we’ll be making the most of it and we’re just really, really excited about everything that we’re doing and about the vision that our band has and how we’re being able to sustain ourselves in this crazy rock and roll business, man.


Toddstar: Sure. You hit on it. The sustainability of the BulletBoys. I mean, you guys released your first album back in 1988 and you’re still rocking just as hard and as furious as you did back then.

Marq: Thank you, Todd.

Toddstar: To what do you attribute your staying power in this industry?

Marq: Well, I just believe that it’s something that I do that I have a lot of love for. I find it very challenging sometimes and the challenge is something that I actually look forward to. You have to have challenges in your life sometimes, Todd, so it can push you to another dimension and push you to other things. My basic thing is that I don’t think the BulletBoys have ever been… We were never really blessed enough to have the status that we should have had possibly, whatever those circumstances were, and I really attribute it to that we never actually put any type of ballads on any of our records back in the past, right? So a lot of those bands back in the day were known for their ballads and for all their big ballads. So we actually never really did that, so I think if maybe we would have put a ballad or something on our first record, maybe we would have had the popularity of a Poison or a Warrant, or, you know, we never had “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” but we have “Smooth Up (In Ya),” but we have “Hard as a Rock,” but we have “THC Groove,” but we have “Hang On St. Christopher,” “For the Love of Money,” so we did our own thing and hence we go into the future with producing Sophie and producing 10 Cent Billionaire and here we are at Elefante’. I think it’s just, sometimes you can’t teach dumb stupid? (laughs) When it comes down to it, Todd, I do love to be challenged musically, but sometimes… We do a lot of laughing and we try not to take ourselves too seriously. And when we started taking ourselves too seriously then start getting a bunch of people talking a bunch of mess and you know, so we enjoy and very ecstatic about what we created. We took a risk on this record, a big risk, and for all intents and purposes, even though I was blessed to write Smooth Up (In Ya) with Lonnie, I don’t want to be known as, or I’m trying not to be known all the time as the ‘Smooth Up’ guy. I mean, there have been so many bands in other genres that are able to grow and write other music and to have hits off of their records. But it always seems like the “hair metal bands” are not able to do that or don’t have that in their repertoire. I don’t think like that. I grew up in a family of music, a household of music and my mother and father were both amazing musicians. My father played in Stan Kenton’s orchestra, my mother was a singer, a front singer, a background singer for many of the big jazz bands back in the time. They taught me to never quit, to never have that dimension in myself to quit and I have had people around me that have been quitters and I don’t really have a lot of respect for that. I’m not a quitter. I grew up in Montebello, California and So Cal people, Montebello, in that area, we just don’t know the word quit sometimes, Todd. (laughs)

Toddstar: (laughs) I’ll be the first to say I’m glad, because I mean you mentioned a couple of albums that I love and I’ll get back to that, but I just want to hit on something. You mentioned the “Smooth Up in Ya” and ballad and how you guys never really had a ballad, but almost thirty years later, I will tell you I always thought that was a ballad, man. (laughs)

Marq: Aw, thanks, Todd. (laughs) It was a real, real sexy ballad, right? (laughs) Todd, some people thought back then when we were writing the stuff, we were pretty much the type of band having a good time, fun, trying to write stuff up of all of our experiences of what we do in our everyday lives and blah, blah, blah. It’s different times, but we were one of the bands that wrote one of the first overtly sexually titled songs. We had a devil of a time getting it on the radio. I mean, I could sit here and we could talk for hours about how Warner Brothers and Mo Ostin, Ted Templeman, Lenny Waronker. I’m sorry if I’m forgetting anybody, really took it upon themselves to get the song played, even though radio was fighting it because of the title. The title was “Smooth Up In Ya.”  So they basically had to change the title to “Smooth Up (In Ya)” because it was so overtly sexual that, back in the day, it was like, this is way too much. It’s like, wow, what do you mean way too much, you know? (laughs) It was just that. So it became really difficult for us to… It was very hard on our management too to get that track played, that single. So we were very fortunate that we were able to get that track played and MTV welcomed us with open arms and we had a number one video for, I don’t know, over a year or something. It was that. We were coming out full of piss and vinegar and there’s a lot of things I’m trying to do now that I feel that I didn’t do back then, and that’s becoming a proficient write and to be known as a musician and a writer and not a rock star. I would much rather be known for that and for my talent vocally and guitar and writing than the dude that was flying off of drum risers and (laughs) you know, breaking apart… We used to bust our equipment up every show; we’d bust amps, toss guitars around, the drums… We would just destroy things and I think we wanted to be The Who back then, Todd. (laughs) We grew up with all of these great bands and that was our thing, so now it’s a different thing. I go out there and perform at a hundred percent. I’d never leave anything off the stage. It’s all left onstage. Take it or leave it, that’s the only way I know how to do it and that’s the way I was raised. And the people that came before me and people that I revere, that’s the way they do it. So I see a lot of guys from my genre phoning it in a lot and I don’t understand that. I don’t understand that mentality. Regardless of the ticket price and regardless of the people in the audience, you need to give those people a show. And when people come and see BulletBoys, they know that they’re going to get a show, an epic show where it’s just nonstop. There’s a whole show. No matter what’s going on. And I think that’s what keeps us going, Todd, because of our live shows. It’s very minimal, we’re plug and play, we don’t have a huge light show or this or that and the other, we just come out and it’s the four of us playing solid rock and roll music, tight, tighter than hell, and with great material for the best of our ability, you know?


Toddstar: Yeah, well if the few tracks I’ve heard from Elefante’ are any indication, this album’s going to be packed full of rockers. What I dig is the fact that you get something like “Rollover.” It’s modern, it’s now, yet in my mind it’s still kind of hinges back to that “Hang Up St. Christopher” sound or something that maybe would have come from 10 Cent Billionaire even.

Marq: Thank you.

Toddstar: How have you been… Let me rephrase that. How have you perceived modern rock and its play in what you guys did thirty years ago and how you’ve been able to move forward?

Marq: I look at it like this, Todd. We have a lot of friends and I have a lot of people that have a lot of respect for me in modern rock and have loved my band and came up with my band with that music. So I’m kind of an exception to the rule. I’ve never been a type of, how would you say it… I’ve always been into eclectic music. I’ve never been into just rock music and I’ve said this many, many times in interviews from way, way back in the day. I consider myself more of an eclectic alternative type of musician than your standard just straight rock and roll musician. Other than because of the fact that my different musical influences, I grew up with jazz and R&B and punk rock music, hard rock music, rockabilly… I mean, I grew up with so many different styles of music in my household. My parents were constantly playing different styles of music. So the fact that I fell into rock and roll was kind of just, I don’t know, kismet? I don’t know how it happened actually, but I’ve always considered myself this soul singer in a rock and roll band more than a rock and roll metal screamer like the great Rob Halford or somebody like that. I’m not that type of singer. (laughs) But I love to write music, Todd, and I’m always trying to challenge myself. I’ve been through a lot of hard times in my personal life and I’ve gone through a lot of different situations where, whether it’s in the past with addictions, what have you. But when I was really down and I went through a really horrible divorce, I really didn’t want to be playing with the BulletBoys anymore and I didn’t really want to play music, so I basically had to do a lot of soul searching and I was able to hook up with a couple guys we kind of went out and just started jamming and we started traveling in a pickup truck. We would just travel around the Midwest and play a bunch of cover tunes and I was actually having a really good time. Then I just started writing. I started writing for 10 Cent Billionaire and I found that I was able to express myself through words and melodies of what I was going through in my personal life. And it really challenged me and it really opened up this other, how would you say, I want to use the right terminology here, it really opened up this other creative side to try to explore other things into rock music the way I wanted to write it. I don’t like when people try to pigeonhole you and you have to write for this or you have to write for this. I just write, so however that comes out or that’s the way I’ve always done it. So with that being said, a lot of this music for Elefante’… I call this record a spooky, sexy record. It does have some play on some things. I know there’s a song called “The Villain” on this record. It’s very reminiscent of “THC Groove” with a modern spin, very sexy, some of that stuff. This record has a lot of peaks and valleys. It’s not linear record. We have a lot of uplifting stuff in here on this record because of the fact that what I’ve been through. And even though the light at the end of the tunnel could be a pinhole, that pinhole could open up. So my thing nowadays is trying to have much more of an abundance of respect for our audience, for our fans, family and friends, which I encompass into one, and to be able to continue writing music at a high level. When I was going through those times which was about six years ago, I started picking and gravitating to the music that I really loved. One of the bands from when I was in Florida was a band called Rise Against. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them, but they really… Those guys were very sweet to me and kind to me when I lived in Florida and they would come to see us rehearse and when I was writing material. They were very positive and uplifting to the fact of me, of what I was doing. That really spurred me to do something special. I’ve got to say even though I don’t know some of the guys personally but one of my favorite bands, if not the favorite band that I listen to and revere, is the great Foo Fighters. David Grohl. David Grohl’s been waving the rock and roll flag for all of us forever and really inspires me musically to try to do something out of the box. And Josh Homme with Queens of the Stone Age and I listen to a lot of different stuff. (laughs). I mean, I listened to a lot of Fu Manchu for this record, I listened to classical, I listened Django Reinhardt. I was listening to so much stuff just to try to… But one of them was, if I could go back to the Foo Fighters, man, David Grohl’s lyrics really inspired me and his music inspired me and for how he had to start over again after Nirvana to work so diligently and so hard out of all adversity to put something together back in a band, you know? And I look at bands like that and just go like, wow, well why are they doing it? Well, they’re doing it because for music’s sake. It’s not the money, it’s not for fame. It’s for music’s sake. And that’s where I’m at right now, Todd. It’s all for music’s sake. It’s all to write great music and to put it out there and to have something fresh for our fans and new fans and maybe someone that’s never heard of my band before. So that’s why we took the time, two years, to put out something that was not just a standard but trying to take things to another level or a different level.


Toddstar: I think you did that with the tracks I’ve heard. One of my favorites is actually “Symphony.” I think it’s got that classic BulletBoys groove, that just solid rock back track with of course your vocals on top of it.

Marq: Thanks, Todd. Thank you so much.

Toddstar: Again, I can’t wait to hear the whole album and of course hear these jams live.

Marq: I can’t wait for you to listen to the whole record, Todd. I’m telling you, me and Nicky and the guys, we talk all the time every day on the phone and we’re just like, we’re so blown away by all the love that we’ve been getting because we’re this little band out of California. We don’t necessarily get a lot of love. We’re not Guns ‘N Roses or Motley [Crue] or any of those bands that were prior to us. We never sold those types of records but in a whole in the now even though, we have or whoever has done what they’ve done; we’re all kind of in the same kind of playing field. Kind of, you know? So to me it’s a lot more fun. I get to see a lot of my friends. I’m very close to a lot of guys in a lot of big bands and I have massive respect for them because touring, writing and performing. It’s not easy. Never has been but when you’re not at Jay-Z or Beyonce level, it is difficult. (laughs) But it’s like, metal is not dead, Todd.

Toddstar: Regardless of what Gene says.

Marq: Yeah, you know. Listen, I love Gene Simmons and I’ve known him since he was sixteen, I actually was gonna play in KISS. I’m in the KISS book, you know?

Toddstar: Yep, I know. I know.

Marq: They asked me to come and play in KISS. This is the problem… Rock and roll is going through a metamorphosis and the metamorphosis is that everybody needs to get off their keisters and write some good music. Like Slipknot. Like Five Finger Death Punch. Like Volbeat. Like the great Foo Fighters. We need to write great music and if you’re not gonna write great music, there’s not room for you anymore. There just isn’t. That’s the way I believe. You know, my friend Jason Hook who was in the BulletBoys, who actually we wrote a record together Sophie and played on it with Andy Johns, the great Andy Johns, God rest his soul. You see these cats and you go, like, wow, you know? Look at Nikki Sixx with Sixx AM, you know, putting out this beautiful music and trying to do something different and pushing themselves musically. I have mad respect for that. And anybody else that’s kind of sitting around, we can’t do that as musicians. We need great music from great artists. We need great American artists. Otherwise we’re gonna lose the genre. Say what you will about this band or that band, but let me tell you something, that band Black Veil Brides? Those fools throw down. They’re not playing games, you know? I love those guys. Anybody that can bring something to the rock and be doing something at a high level and trying, even their best that they can do, it should be revered and not frowned upon. I get there’s also a lot of haters these days and media outlets and social media and I try to tell people, I’d love to see more participators than haters. We have too much bullying going on with our children. We have too much antagonistic. It’s really sad sometimes, but I think as musicians we have the ability to turn that around. And people have to be open to change. We’re in 2015. We’re heading into 2016, you know? We’re not in 1988 anymore. (laughs)

Toddstar: It’s true.

Marq: You gotta be able to… And the fans they’ve been so gracious to me, our fans, always propping me up and saying thank you for not quitting on us and thank you for putting out this new record and touring and thank you for keeping this band around. Our fans are ecstatic about Elefante’. They’re shouting it from the rooftops right now. And we’re, for all intents and purposes, I’m so humbled, dude, I can’t even tell you. I wake up every day going wow. Wow, you know?


Toddstar: Yeah. I know you’re busy, so I want to give you your time, but, looking back over your career, Marq, with everything you’ve done whether going back to the first album in the late eighties all the way up to Elefante’ which, again, comes out on June 9th…

Marq: Yay! (laughs)

Toddstar: And we’ll keep plugging that damn thing.

Marq: Yeah, yeah.  Nah, thanks, brother.

Toddstar: …and up through the tours you got coming up and you got a date here in Westland, Michigan just outside Detroit at The Token Lounge on July 24th…

Marq: Oh yeah.

Toddstar: …but with all of that said, what are the one or two of the things that you want to be remembered for that you’re most proud of, Marq?

Marq: These days, Todd, with all the things I’m trying to do out of music situation with the different, how would you say it, great people that we’re working with in Rock for Autism, and Rock for MS, The DR Doghouse Foundation that is a pit bull rescue center that we work with. I’d much rather be looked at as somebody that’s stepping up and trying to help other people than to go down as being this pompous rock star person that I don’t see myself as. I’d like to do much more for people and individuals that I can help on that level and I’m at a different place in my life, Todd. I think that when you’re giving back and you’re really trying to help other people and do things like that, I’ve learned that you get blessed tenfold. So anything I can do out there… I’m not the perfect specimen, Todd. I make mistakes just like everybody else does, but as a musician, and the little chutzpah that I do have, I’d sure like to be out there helping people. Whatever I can do and my band can do to bring awareness to their causes. We’re huge supporters of our Armed Forces. We have gone to Fort Bragg. We’ve gone to different hospitals to see our fighting men and women and that to me is the most important thing besides music that is out there to get people involved in helping other people especially some of these cats that are, how would you say it, that are just huge rock and roll stars and carry a lot of weight. It would be awesome to see something like a huge concert that we could all do for one cause. I think it would be really special. That’s what I’m doing these days. I’m trying to do more of that than actually trying to… There are a lot of people still trying to re-find their fame. Todd, I’ll say this twice, I am not, I am not trying to re-find my fame. I am a musician, working class musician trying to put out great music and trying to do the little things that I can that I didn’t do in the past. So that’s what I’m trying to do now. And that’s where I’m at right now.

Toddstar: Awesome. Well again, Marq, we really appreciate your taking time out. I know you’re busy. You’re getting ready for some shows.

Marq: Hey Todd, thank goodness I’m busy though, you know?

Toddstar: (laughs)

Marq: I’m so ecstatic about it. I have all these interviews and then I’m speaking to you, Todd. Dude, I can’t even tell you. It’s so rad. I’m so blessed, dude. And people throw that word blessed around a lot and the meaning of it is that you’re just so excited and just feel this amazing feeling inside that you’re very, very lucky and fortunate. And that’s how I feel right now. And we’re just gonna bring Elefante’ to everybody, we’re coming out with the Armed Alliance Tour, which is BulletBoys, we have our special guest which is Tracii Guns, L.A. Guns with Rudy Sarzo, Keith St. John. And we also have this band, a great band from Finland by the name of Killer Bee which Paul Chapman is playing in so it’s gonna be a wonderful night of music for the Armed Alliance Tour and people just rocking their butts off. I can’t wait to get out there with Tracii and Rudy. They’re very close friends of mine and Rudy Sarzo, for all intents and purposes, was one of my mentors when I was very young and brought me into the music business when I was playing with Ozzy Osbourne. So shout out to Rudy Sarzo, his diligence and he’s just a great humanitarian and just a great person with a lot of love and is constantly always giving and giving and those are the kind of guys I want to play with.

Toddstar: Awesome.  Well, I’ll be banging my head, so to speak, July 24th when you guys are at the Token Lounge in Westland and we’ll make sure that we meet up and discuss the successes Elefante’.

Marq: No, absolutely. Please come down, let’s have some dinner together, sit and have a chat. Call me before. Let’s hook up. I’m sure Tracii and Rudy and the fellows would love to say hi to you too, man.

Toddstar: Awesome, brother. Well we will see you in a few weeks then.

Marq: Todd, thank you so much for all your great words and all your great spirit on this record. We greatly appreciate it, man. Thanks for having me. I had a great time.

Toddstar: All right, dude. We’ll talk to you soon.

Marq: Talk to you soon. Cheers, everybody. Bye bye.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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