July 23, 2010
By David Huff
BulletBoys - Rock 'N America 2010
Sprang To Life After Shattered Remains
The BulletBoys sprang to life from the shattered remains of the glam metal outfit King Kobra in 1987. Formed three years earlier by legendary Vanilla Fudge stickman Carmine Appice, the group had all the trappings of success, it just couldn’t deliver the goods. Appice’s original vision was to create an arena rock band that not only looked great, but sounded the part as well. To that extent, the dark-haired drummer surrounded himself with bleach-blonde musicians on stage. Over the next few years, several band members would pass through the King Kobra ranks, tired of working with a one-man dictatorship. Mick Sweda (the only original member to persevere), Marq Torian and Lonnie Vencent were the last one’s left standing when the plug was pulled on Appice’s grand experiment.
“King Kobra was a tremendous learning experience,” commented Sweda. “First off, it showed us the mortality of a rock and roll band, no matter who is in it. Second, we came away from that ordeal knowing exactly what NOT to do as a band. By the time we left, the three of us had a clear vision of what we wanted to do as a band.”
The musicians were pretty much left penniless from their King Kobra experience. Mick Sweda financed the initial stages of the band with his credit cards. The precarious financial conditions the group operated under only served to strengthen their resolve to make something happen.
“What was funny about those times,” recalled Sweda, “was this. We all knew we were poor, and understood why. It all came down to focusing on that one vision and pursuing it at all costs, which is exactly what we did. There were a lot of times I didn’t know how I was going to get to rehearsal. I just knew if I charged one more tank of gas, they were going to take my card, because I couldn’t afford to pay the bills.”
The BulletBoys determination paid off in the rehearsal studio with their songwriting. The toughest challenge was finding the right drummer to fit into the band. After four months of searching, 19-year old Jimmy D’Anda walked through the door. That moment, says Sweda, is the day the BulletBoys officially became a band. Shortly afterwards, Warner Bros signed the group on the strength of four songs, “Smooth Up In Ya,” “Hard As A Rock,” “The Thrill That Kills” and “Crank Me Up.” KISS’ Gene Simmons was originally tapped to produce the record, but had to pass because of scheduling conflicts. Legendary producer Ted Templeman then stepped in. Comparisons to Van Halen started to circulate almost immediately.
“We knew what was being said about us,” commented Sweda, “and Van Halen. It was absolutely ridiculous. There was never any attempt on our part, or Ted’s, to capture the mood of early Van Halen with our album. We were so far removed from the L.A. club scene during that time our only thoughts revolved around forging our own identity.”
Like most of their late ’80 peers, the BulletBoys would shine brightest on their self-titled debut. Released in September, 1988 “Smooth Up In Ya” became an immediate radio staple. The cover of the O’Jays classic, “For The Love Of Money,” (an ode to Torian’s Motown roots), was also a hit. Compared to other offerings by hair-metal bands of the day, the BulletBoys music possessed a harder, grittier sound that won them legions of fans, and kudos from critics around the globe.
It would be another three years before the BulletBoys released their sophomore album. And that almost didn’t happen. Marq Torian woke up one day during the recording process to find out he couldn’t talk. Two years of heavy touring had caused severe muscle fatigue to the singer’s vocal chords. Torian was ordered to stay silent for weeks so his body could heal itself. When Warner Bros finally received the new BulletBoys offering, Freakshow, it proved to be a disappointment. The BulletBoys moment in the sun had passed them by. Their ’93 effort, Za-Za, was also met with a yawn. After the tour, Sweda and D’Anda would leave to pursue other projects, leaving Torian and Vencent to carry the BulletBoys torch over the next several years.
At the start of this year, the BulletBoys camp once again welcomed guitarist Mick Sweda and drummer Jimmy D’Andi. Lonnie Vencent is also expected to rejoin his old pals as well.
Rob Lane-bass Jimmy D'Anda-drums