Interview with ex-BulletBoys and current Lies, Deceit & Treachery guitarist Mick Sweda (Part 2 of 3)

Date: April 25, 2018
Interviewer: Tyson Briden


Sleaze Roxx: Is there anything you recollect from the recording of the first [BulletBoys] album that possibly people don’t know?

Mick Sweda: Well, let’s see. Probably not. Everybody else has a much better memory on those things then I do. Let me try to do that. Hmm… As I’ve said before, it was a painful process for me because I just really wanted to get in there, get this record out and make it for as little money as possible, but obviously Ted Templeman was a superstar producer. He’s able to take all the time he wants. If he doesn’t want to come in for a week at $2,000 a day, he doesn’t have to come in for a week. For us to make that record was really painful because I knew it was going to be expensive. Video expenses were crazy. Obviously nobody makes videos for that kind of money anymore. So… maybe people know this because I’ve said it before, but yeah it was kind of a struggle to make that record and come to peace with how long it was taking. How much it was costing and my participation in it, maybe for how much I contributed to that record. As much as I was there when Ted wasn’t, I felt like I should have gotten some kind of production credit, but at the same time I wanted to be part of a band. Part of a team. It didn’t necessarily work out that way. The writing and all the work that went into it, but that’s probably the only thing I can think of right now.

Sleaze Roxx: I have talked to other artists and from what I’ve been told, record labels like to keep bands in perpetual debt. Was that the same for BulletBoys?

Mick Sweda: Oh yeah. Absolutely. All the money you get is a loan. That’s what people tend to forget. It’s easy to overlook when you’re touring. You’re getting tour support. They basically gave us anything we wanted. You want another video? Have it! We didn’t really have any shackles as far as that goes, but that can be bad. We had sold over a million units on that first record and we’re not recouped. You would think that that would be a given. So, you know, it’s an old recurring story in rock n’ roll in general. There’s a process that’s been done many times over about how a label will make sure that everything that happens will work in their favor whether you lose money or not. We’re no different. When you’re in that game, you’re not in it to change it. You’re in it just to be another cog.

Sleaze Roxx: The first album was successful. Second one? Did it sell close to the first one?

Mick Sweda: Not even remotely. No. Marq had a lot of trouble with his voice. The timing of that record was delayed by almost a year. So by the time that record came out our momentum had basically dissipated.

Sleaze Roxx: Then by the third one, everything’s changed.

Mick Sweda: Yeah, by the third one, I think the band was basically in shambles. It was difficult for other reasons to get that out. There wasn’t really a cohesive approach to writing. In spite of that, the record sounds great to me. Every time I hear it, I think, “Wow, I don’t remember it being that cool!”

Sleaze Roxx: I was on your website a few years back. You had written a story about your career. I was looking for it the other day, but it is no longer there. It was a really good read.

Mick Sweda: Yeah, I may have to put it back up.

Sleaze Roxx: You did talk a lot about the third album. I believe you said “Mine” from Za Za was the song that you felt really strongly about?

Mick Sweda: Well, uh, I don’t know. It’s hard to say that. I wrote that song. I don’t know if I had somebody else in mind. I didn’t have BulletBoys in mind when I wrote it, but Marq, that is his strong suit doing kind of an R & B, you know Sam Cooke. At the time I thought, “Wow, if Marq can really deliver this song, who knows? Maybe it’ll salvage our career!” So, I presented it, the guys ended up doing it. Ted loved it and wanted to put it out. They gave us the option to release it as a single. It’s really cool. We had every opportunity to release something else, but we decided, “Okay, let’s see if we can break the mold and make something happen here.” Sure enough, that tune ended up being released as a single. It started to gain a little bit of traction. Then the band fell apart.

Sleaze Roxx: I was not aware that “Mine” was released as a single. When that album came out, there was nothing up here in Canada in terms of support.

Mick Sweda: Well, it didn’t have much time because like I said the band started falling apart. People were making certain calls to the label and basically there’s a button on somebody’s desk. If something goes wrong, the record’s gone. It’s all called off and the record’s dead. That’s kind of what happened to that.

Sleaze Roxx: How long into the release of that record until you left the band?

Mick Sweda: Uhh, I know we went out and did some dates. I supported it until it was over. So, I don’t know. Eight months maybe.

Sleaze Roxx: I remember seeing you had left the band in Metal Edge. Thinking, “No!”

Mick Sweda: What did you see in Metal Edge again?

Sleaze Roxx: When you and Jimmy both left the band. 

Mick Sweda: I remember it like it was yesterday. We were playing at the Palace in Hollywood. Torien was late to sound check. When he got there, he was in a pissey mood. He started savaging all these bands that were supposed to be our contemporaries. Talking about, “This sucked and ours was great. We’re bigger than them! What the fuck’s going on?” Meanwhile there’s a bunch of guys that want to sound check sitting in the audience. I’m like, “What the fuck man! We’re listening to this!” I’m standing there. I just went upstairs said, “Look I’m done! If you guys want to go out and support this record. I’ll do it, but I’m not making any more records with this guy!” That was just basically the end of a whole six years. However long our career was. I had done enough damage control. As I’ve said before, it was just one thing after the other on a perpetual basis. Trying to fix the shit he was fucking up everywhere. You know, you just can’t do it. You can’t plug that many holes.

Sleaze Roxx: It’s really too bad man. You guys were such a great band.

Mick Sweda: I would have to agree with you. It should have been fun. It should have been way different. I kind of knew that coming in from the very beginning. You could see [it]. It’s like going out with someone who clearly isn’t right. You see it, but sometimes you just want to ignore it. That’s what I did. As I’ve said many times before, if you’re a younger band, that’s really what you have to do. How many bands? What is it like 99% of bands just break up and never do anything because they can’t get along personally? Somebody spills something on their amp, then they’re friggin’ pissed. Well, all that shit was happening with us. We were in fact, if you heard that Decibel Geek Podcast I did a few weeks back, you would have heard the story that once our first record was ready to come out, the label didn’t want to put us out. We were supposed to sit at home for something like nine months and wait for some tour opportunity to come up. Our manager was like, “Holy fuck! No, no, no! You guys don’t understand. There won’t be a band at the end of the month if these guys are sitting around in town!” That was really the truth. We had all those problems that all other bands go through, but we just found a way to break through there. I had to put up with a lot of shit that I didn’t like, believe me!

Sleaze Roxx: When Marq was the lead singer of King Kobra, was he different or was he the same as he was in BulletBoys?

Mick Sweda: Oh dude. It happened immediately. In fact, when he joined King Kobra, one of the first things we did was fly over to Spain to do a couple of shows over there. Of course, it’s supposed to be a happy time. We’re looking forward to it. I’d never been out of the country further than Mexico. So, we’re on the plane. I see Carmine [Appice] and Marq. They’re having this heated conversation. Once Marq gets on the plane, he decides that’s the time he asks for more money. You can’t go home and you can’t  leave the plane. I’m like, “Holy fuck! Really that’s what the guys doin’ right now?” So again, you see all that stuff, but looking down the road, ultimately, you decide you’re gonna do it and you decide there’s an upside to it. You have to mitigate all that stuff. It’s not always clean and easy, but we landed, played the gigs and came home. I started looking for a way out from there.

Sleaze Roxx: Wow… That’s quite the story! I am going to jump back to those demos a bit since I’m thinking about it. When you went into the studio, it has been said that Ted changed some stuff. One that comes to mind is “Crank Me Up.” The middle section was altered slightly on the record. Did he change that?

Mick Sweda: Yeah, Ted had a lot to do with it. We were happy with our songs. We loved the way they were written. I can say if we’d put all of our songs down the way they were written before we got signed I would have been fine with that. That’s an example of that on that demo. Garth Richardson did those demos with us. You may know of him?

BulletBoys “Crank Me Up” demo song:

Bulletboys “Crank Me Up” (Columbia Records Demo)

This is the demo version of Bulletboys “Crank Me Up” recorded at Amigo Studios in 1988 in Los Angeles for Columbia Records. The song was taken from the origi…

Sleaze Roxx: Yep, of course.

Mick Sweda: So basically we got to play and try some different things. Production wise, you hear some panning stuff. I like to have fun with it. I was hoping to have a lot of that on our record. Again, to be in that situation with Ted, you sort of get a feel for it really quick. Once you learn that, it’s pretty easy to just sit back and play. Let the guy take control. What better guy to have control of a four piece band with that kind of singer. There’s really not much to question there.

Sleaze Roxx: I will say that Lonnie Vincent’s bass sound is great. I love it on the album.

Mick Sweda: Yeah it’s loud. What I’ve said before, when we first heard the mix for “For The Love Of Money”, it was booming. I guess that it’s cool.

Sleaze Roxx: You can hear his bass more than your guitar at times.

Mick Sweda: Yeah, for sure. I’ve never said that record is my favorite mix. That’s what I love about Lonnie. He’s great. He just comes in. He doesn’t fuck around with any effects. He doesn’t try to get crazy. He just plugs in, brings his bass and it always sound great.

Sleaze Roxx: What I just recently learned from listening to that Decibel Geek Podcast was that “Owed To Joe” was not totally about Joe Perry and Aerosmith. It was more of an influential thing towards the blues players from years gone by as well as Aerosmith. Going back and listening to the first verse, I realized your approach.

Mick Sweda: Maybe a lot of guys started out that way. They got their first guitar. That’s really what I was thinking of. That’s what I wanted it to represent. I ended up finishing the lyrics for that song in L.A., at the time Guns N’ Roses was huge. That’s all you heard. It just made me think about how those guys must have been influenced by Aersomith. Aerosmith was influenced by somebody else. It was just my little way of sort of paying it back.

Sleaze Roxx: Great song. It’s my favorite one on the album. Great riff.

Mick Sweda: Oh, right on. I like playing that. To be fair to Marq Torien, it was his riff he had [hums it]. That was a cool riff. I just basically finished the song around it. I’m not gonna just bag on him.

Sleaze Roxx: Before we put this subject to bed, I am just curious. Do you prefer the demos over the album? Sometimes there’s a magic to a demo.

Mick Sweda: You know what? That’s a great question. I mean, I’ve made peace with that record. I certainly enjoy it when I hear it, but I don’t listen to those demos as much. It’s a different kind of excitement. Like I said, just more representative of what I would have done production wise. Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe I get more excited about the demos. I’ve heard the record a lot.

Bulletboys “Hard As A Rock” demo song:

Bulletboys “Hard as a Rock” (Columbia Records Demo)

This is the demo version of Bulletboys “Hard As A Rock” recorded at Amigo Studios in 1988 in Los Angeles for Columbia Records. The song was taken from the or…

Sleaze Roxx: It says Columbia Records on the demos. You guys were in talks with other labels I take it?

Mick Sweda: The way those demos came about is that we did a showcase for Columbia. They didn’t like the band or didn’t want to sign us. Whatever the case may be, but they had paid for us to do those demos. So the one provision was that you can use those demos but you have to wait 30 or 60 days before anyone else hears them. Fair enough. So that’s what we did. We kind of waited it out on that contract, until Roberta Peterson, who was Ted’s sister heard them. She worked in A&R at Warner Bros. She’s the one that actually heard those demos first and contacted our management. At that point, she sent Ted down to see us perform. It was pretty wild because I always, for whatever reason, had been attracted to Warner Bros. and their roster. It was really cool for me because I always had that bias towards them.

Sleaze Roxx: They always seemed like a label that didn’t sign every artist. If you recall in the ’80s, MCA Records signed everybody. It seemed those artists would sink. You think of the amount of artists on MCA that really never did anything.

Mick Sweda: I didn’t know that much about labels at the time. I mean I didn’t really care too much about it. I knew that I liked Chrysalis also. They had a very esoteric roster. I would have gone with them too. I’ll tell the other story that you’ve probably already heard. When we first started talking with Warner Bros., they wanted us to go off on the Reprise Label, which they were trying to resurrect. I have an attachment there to because I grew up listening to Neil Young. Playing his licks and songs. So we thought long and hard about going off on that tangent. Ultimately, it felt better to just go with the Warner label.

Sleaze Roxx: Wasn’t the Wayne’s World Soundtrack on Reprise?

Mick Sweda: Let’s see, I can’t tell from my album on the wall. It’s possible.

Sleaze Roxx: BulletBoys did “Rock Candy” on that right?

Mick Sweda: Oh yeah. I guess that was during the second record’s sessions. Ted had the idea of doing that for that soundtrack. It wasn’t one of my favorite songs. I had fun playing it. I like those Montrose records. I was never a huge [Sammy] Hagar fan. I actually went out and got Ronnie Montrose’s solo record. I think it was called “Open Fire.” I always loved Ted. The problem was when his name first came up and we were talking about producers — this was, I think, before we were signed with them or even in talks with them — we had a list of guys. Ted was not on my list. I heard that Aerosmith record that he did. It’s called “Done With Mirrors.” It just felt like such a dog to me. They sounded so flat. Tired. So Ted was not on my list. For whatever reason, I had Bob Ezrin, Brendan O’Brien and guys like that. Ultimately when Ted came up, what are you gonna say? He’s not capable? I don’t think so!

Sleaze Roxx: I recently interviewed Ron Young from Little Caesar. He mentioned that Bob Rock didn’t produce the sound that the band really wanted. I also interviewed Dave Lizmi [coming soon] from The Four Horsemen. I mentioned to him that they got lucky because Rick Rubin really got great guitar sounds and had that back to basic approach. It seemed in the late ’80s/early ’90s, the producer was the key to a band’s success.

Mick Sweda: Look at all the records that have been ruined by guys.

Sleaze Roxx: The demo version of “Kissin Kitty” that is up on YouTube?

Stay tuned for Part 3 coming soon…