INTERVIEW WITH EX-BULLETBOYS AND CURRENT LIES, DECEIT & TREACHERY GUITARIST MICK SWEDA (Part 3 of 3)
Date: April 25, 2018
Interviewer: Tyson Briden
SO HERE IT IS, THE THIRD AND FINAL CHAPTER OF OUR STORY (AFTER PART ONE & TWO). THIS MAY BE MY FAVORITE PART OF THE INTERVIEW. THIS IS WHERE YOU GET TO UNDERSTAND A BIT MORE ABOUT MICK SWEDA… THE MUSIC FAN. THIS IS WHERE YOU THE FAN, MAY COME TO THE CONCLUSION THAT SWEDA WAS JUST LIKE ALL OF US BACK IN THE ’70S AND ’80S. A FAN FIRST WHO WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO LIVE OUT HIS DREAM OF PLAYING MUSIC FOR A LIVING.
THERE IS ONE THING THAT I ALWAYS GET FROM DOING THESE INTERVIEWS. MOST ARTISTS ARE ALWAYS EXCITED TO TALK ABOUT MUSIC ITSELF. IT’S THAT PASSION THAT HAS DRIVEN THEM TO SUCCESS. THIS IS WHY I WRITE ABOUT IT. I AM STILL THAT 13 YEAR OLD KID WHO COULD TALK ABOUT MUSIC ALL DAY LONG. MUSIC IS MY PASSION, ESPECIALLY THE BANDS I GREW UP LOVING.
I HOPE YOU ENJOY THIS SEGMENT AS MUCH AS I DID. THANK YOU VERY MUCH MICK SWEDA FOR A STELLAR INTERVIEW.
Sleaze Roxx: The demo version of “Kissin Kitty” that is up on YouTube?
Mick Sweda: From the King Kobra days? I actually don’t have copy of that. Not that I know of.
Sleaze Roxx: It’s so different. In the Decibel Geek podcast interview, you mentioned that you wanted to “sexy it up.” On the opening riff, there’s more of chug.
Mick Sweda: I don’t even remember it.
Sleaze Roxx: It’s in a different tuning. Marq’s singing on that, right?
Mick Sweda: Ahh, I think so! Yeah, he is. I remember there was this plotting ‘B’ section that ended up getting edited down. So I don’t know. I can’t really address it because I can’t remember how it goes. Hopefully it’s similar!
Sleaze Roxx: Marq’s singing higher on it.
Mick Sweda: I don’t think we tuned down in King Kobra. We stayed at pitch. With BulletBoys, we found… Here’s something that people may not know. We didn’t tune down a full half step. We tuned down to a designated thing. We had these silly chord tuners. We just found a line and I don’t even remember what it was, 435 or 436. Something like that. We landed there and that’s what we tuned to the whole time. Instead of just having the meter straight up, we found some other weird line. It was weird. It was kind of funny.
Sleaze Roxx: So if I wanted to learn it… If I put the record on, I’d be scratching my head. Genius!
Mick Sweda: In fact, there’s a video of this dumb ass who’s trying to show people how to play “Smooth Up In Ya.” He doesn’t have a freaking clue how to play it. But instead of owning it, he’s like, “Well they’re out of tune on this. I don’t know what he’s doing here. He’s doing some sloppy shit here.” He can’t play it to save his fucking life. At the same time, he’s trying to show people the song. He’s trying to diss it and backhand it. It’s like, “Why are you bothering dumb ass? Why would you bother if, (a) you can’t play it, and (b) you’re stupid!” He couldn’t play it, so instead he’s playing his own stupid licks. It’s pretty funny.
Sleaze Roxx: I am curious about the album cover of the first BulletBoys album. Did someone actually take that picture? With the technology today, everything can be super imposed, but that was 1988.
Mick Sweda: Oh yeah! In fact, it dates back to the ’30s or ’40s. God, I knew the guy’s name the other day. Harold Edgerton. He’s credited on there. Now I can’t think of it. He made a big splash way back then because he was taking all these time lapse photos. Blowing things up and that just spoke to us somehow. To be honest, for me, it was more of the background color. That beautiful blue.
Sleaze Roxx: Actually I was showing my kids that yesterday. We were driving in the car. I said “Here check this out!” The kids are looking at it. Then I start looking at it. I said, “How the hell did that apple not blow apart?” With a bullet going through it, you would think it would blow to pieces. Then you look at the shadow of the apple in the background. I’m glad you clarified it was done in the ’30s, so the shadow is actually real.
Mick Sweda: Yeah, it’s not a doctored photo by any stretch. It may have blown up. Isn’t the bullet still in the frame? It’s very possible that the apple just hasn’t gone through all that violence yet.
Sleaze Roxx: It’s a great conversation piece. I mean that’s what’s so great about vinyl. You don’t get that on iTunes.
Mick Sweda: Oh no. I’m that kid that used to sit there, look at the album over and over. If I got a record, that record got played continuously until I got the next one. I used to just study. It’s kind of what I did back then. I studied records that I liked.
Sleaze Roxx: I was the same. We used to read all the liner notes. Even inside the BulletBoys album, there’s some great pictures.
Mick Sweda: Well, hopefully it had the same effect that records did for me. That’s all I really wanted. Hey, can you just give me a sec. Tyson, I’m gonna grab something to drink. [Comes back a minute later] Are you swigging what I think are beers?
Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, sorry man.
Mick Sweda: No, I’m sorry!
Sleaze Roxx: Well, as you mention my beers, I was just thinking about that thing you’re doing about “Beers and Hockey” [laughs].
Sweda: Yeah, I have a Podcast of my own, where that was part of the triumvirate. Beer, hockey and music.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you still do that Podcast?
Mick Sweda: Yeah, they’re available somewhere. Micksweda.com and I think they’re on iTunes too. They’re called “Scratch Casts.” I haven’t done any in awhile, but they’re out there.
Sleaze Roxx: Growing up in Buffalo, were you exposed to a lot of Canadian rock?
Mick Sweda: Yeah, I did. Loved Rush. Loved Max [Webster]. In fact I have this thing towards Canadian artists. Ian Thornley [Big Wreck] is one of my favorite guys. I’m trying to think if there’s anymore. I have all the Coney Hatch records. April Wine records. So yeah. I’m almost Canadian.
Sleaze Roxx: What about Loverboy?
Mick Sweda: Not to the same degree. I ended up being in a cover band when I moved to L.A. from ’82 to ’84 maybe. That was one of the bands we did a lot of. By the time I got home, I never wanted to hear Loverboy again. Cool band. That guy’s got one of the best voices in music as far as I’m concerned.
Sleaze Roxx: They’re still around. They do the odd show up here.
Mick Sweda: So Canadian artist I’m totally down with. Just Canada in general. I always loved Canadians. In fact, you remind me a lot of Jason [Hook] from Five Finger Death Punch. You guys have a lot of similarities.
Sleaze Roxx: Hey, that’s cool. He’s a great player. The BulletBoys’ ‘Greatest Hits’ album. You played on that correct?
Mick Sweda: Yeah, I played on an album called ‘Burning Cats and Amputees’. They kind of called me out of retirement to do that. I think Torien had some time booked at the studio. The idea was to just go in and sort of punish all those old songs. That’s kind of what we did with that record. It’s not a good sounding record. The production on it was kind of weak. It was fun to just go in and hammer it all out. It was fun to play with Jimmy and Lonnie. That was really the motivation for me. A lot of times I would just sort of tune Marq out in whatever he was doing. Had fun playing with my boys. That’s what I’m doing now in Lies, Deceit and Treachery.
Sleaze Roxx: I cannot wait for that album. I guarantee there are a lot of people that feel the same. What Marq is doing isn’t really my cup of tea. What you guys are doing really gets me excited.
Mick Sweda: Well, that’s pretty obvious. My wife, I call her my media director. She kind of handles everything I do. She points it out all the time. When you guys post something. There’s just comments. Like after like. He does it and there’s like six people that say, “Yeah, that’s pretty cool!” That’s the end of it. It worries me because basically I feel like we have to rescue that brand again and bring it back. For me it’s worth it because it was my baby. I said it a million times, if I can do anything to resuscitate it, I will. Show people what it was really supposed to be like. I’m down with that.
Sleaze Roxx: I have listened to “Devil” a ton of times. Marq is out doing a sound that sounds nothing like BulletBoys at all. I think people gravitate towards what you guys are doing because, it sounds like BulletBoys.
Mick Sweda: Yeah. I don’t think there are any thumbs down on it at all. As far as I know. The last time I looked, people seemed to dig where it was going. I’m gonna keep that happening.
Lies, Deceit & Treachery‘s “Devil” song:
“Devil” is the first single from Lies, Deceit & Treachery’s upcoming record due in late-2017. Lies, Deceit and Treachery is the fusion of three former origi…
Sleaze Roxx: I’ve got a few more King Kobra questions. The song “Hunger” — I am curious about that whole thing with that song. Was that released on the Transformers’ soundtrack by Spectre General, who were actually Kick Axe before King Kobra did it?
Mick Sweda: I don’t know the first thing about that. All I know is Spencer [Proffer] had his fingers in that song somehow. That was his motivation for having us do it on that King Kobra record. I joined King Kobra late. Most of that record was written. I think what happened when I joined King Kobra was we basically went straight into pre-production and started cutting the record. Dave [Herzerling] — most of the songs are Dave’s. He had written the entire thing. As much as we like “Hunger” the song — it’s a cool song. There’s no getting over that and it’s fun to play. I think it was forced upon King Kobra basically. Like, “This will be a hit. You gotta do it!” For Dave, his songs sort of got overshadowed by that tune.
Sleaze Roxx: There was another tune written by those Kick Axe guys as well.
Mick Sweda: Did Spencer write that too? You seem to have some information on Kick Axe. He must have produced their record too, right?
Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, he did. It was under the Pasha label.
Mick Sweda: Even if he didn’t write it, he probably owned the publishing. What’s a better motivator than money right?
Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, that’s very true… The solo in “Hunger”, that’s both you and David?
Mick Sweda: Yeah. Anything that was a harmony we did together. King Kobra was fun as a first experience in rock n’ roll. I’m sure I’ve said this before, I didn’t really know that much about Carmine [Appice]. He wasn’t really where I would have gone musically or anything like that, but you know, he was a cool cat. He was always very good to me. I had a good time in that band. I felt like I did my part. I saw it through as far as I could and I’m not embarrassed by any of it.
Sleaze Roxx: I’m curious about your thoughts of the first King Kobra album to the second one?
Mick Sweda: Well, I had a much bigger role on the second album. Basically what happened is, that first record came out, got great critical reviews and sold about, ultimately 75,000 units, which is not enough to sustain a career. Especially back then when there aren’t any internet downloads. You’re selling records and I’m sure Capitol was hoping we’d go at least gold. So once we came home from whatever touring we did, we kind of realized the record was kind of dead. There was a mandate that came down from Capitol and you can’t blame them for it. They said, “Look, you guys need to have a hit. You need to have something that’s more accessible. We need to start selling some records or this is going to be the last one you’re going to do for us!” Well that sort of changes your creative attitude at that point. Next thing you know, there’s some guy on a keyboard writing Iron Eagle. Where I come into it is I’m a “Pop Cat.” I’m like a power pop guy from way back who just happened to play hard rock. So, I started bringing songs to the band that were way more melodic. Not so much heavy rock. It kind of alienated Dave because he felt like we needed to stay in the direction of his writing from the first record, but the stuff I was working with was more what they were hoping Capitol would like. It was too much change. Too little time, but there was no option. The option was just throw another hard rock record in their face and hope for the best. That would have been cool too. You never know. Oh boy, maybe we would have gone the way of Quiet Riot. That’s the last time I’ve ever say those two words in an interview by the way!
Sleaze Roxx: Oh boy?
Mick Sweda: Quiet Riot!
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] The last incarnation of King Kobra that you were part of, before Bulletboys, with Lonnie, Marq, Carmine, David and yourself — was Capitol Records out of the picture? Were you guys shopping for a new deal?
Sweda: We were free agents at that point. That’s sort of what enticed me to leave. Carmine was searching. He wanted us to be signed. He wanted to keep the money flowing. Keep it a viable institution, but the way he was doing it was he was reaching out to guys like Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley for songs. I could just see it was going in a direction where we were never going to be able to control. This is how I always look at things. Imagine what you’re doing is wildly successful. Under those circumstances, I wanted no part of being in a band that was just going to play somebody else’s songs. I let them know that I was going to split. I was gonna be done. I said to Marq and Lonnie, “I’d love to be in a band with you!” Even Dave for that matter. He was originally in the rehearsals for BulletBoys. I said, “I’m gonna take off. If you guys want to come along that would be great!” Basically we’d had a ready made band. All we needed was a drummer. “Oh no man! This is our thing. King Kobra is the first huge band we’ve ever been in man! We can do it. C’mon!” “No thanks!” So I went off and started auditioning cats. I don’t even know if it was a month later when they finally said, “Okay, we get it. Let’s do something else!”
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of the whole Gene Simmons thing. Did you ever you ever do a demo of “It’s My Life” with King Kobra?
Mick Sweda: Yes! In fact somewhere over here, I think I have the 1/2 inch tape. Or whatever it’s on. Yeah, we went to the Record Plant to do those. It was cool talking to Gene. He’s a horror fanatic, kind of like I am. So we had our little exchanges. I think we went over to his house at some point. Oh at the time, he had his label. What was it? Moneybags?
Sleaze Roxx: Simmons Records.
Mick Sweda: Simmons Records. Oh, and he had the money bag logo. I don’t think he was even going to take us on, but again if he had, it wouldn’t have been anything that would have benefited us really.
Sleaze Roxx: You guys did a demo of “Take It Off” with Mark Free? Correct?
Mick Sweda: Yeah, “Take It Off” was David’s song. I was still sort of hoping for the best at that point once you move past that song. I presented “Kissing Kitty” and nobody’s really interested in it. They don’t want to do pop. They didn’t hear the song. I just took that with me.
Sleaze Roxx: They didn’t hear it the way you heard it!
Mick Sweda: Yeah! Evidently.
Sleaze Roxx: I did want to ask you about your studio. I watched an interview you did with Shane [Tassart] from a few years back where you alluded to the fact that you were holed up in your studio for a long time.
Mick Sweda: Yeah, that’s kind of my thing. That’s what I like to do. In fact, I remember way back when, going out on the road. It’s fun and everything, but I’d sort of rather be in the studio creating. It has a negative connotation too because I can just create, go onto the next thing and nobody ever hears what I do. Part of the new me is actually putting things out, like “Devil”!
Sleaze Roxx: Have you been strictly working on your own music, or other artists as well?
Mick Sweda: I haven’t had anybody in here other than… I was working with somebody named ‘Tilly’ for a while. We did a Christmas song together. I have a couple of friends that come up and play every once and a while. As far as using my studio to do other artists, I don’t have the time to do it. I barely have the time to get my stuff where I want it.
Sleaze Roxx: “The Hot Summers” album that is alluded to on your website. Did you release that?
Mick Sweda: I hasn’t come out yet. We ran into trouble with Shane [Tassart]. Shane is a great guy and I love him, but he might have a fear of success or something. We could never get enough done. He has sort of bowed out a number of times.
Sleaze Roxx: He sings on “The Hot Summers” album, right?
Mick Sweda: Yeah! Well the album that should have been. We’ve done all that stuff. It’s ready to be mixed. Since he’s departed, to what end? So I’ve just kind of moved on to the Lies, Deceit & Treachery stuff. I expect to get that out at some point.
Sleaze Roxx: I think that’s all I have. I appreciate it so much Mick. Have a good one.
Mick Sweda: Hey man, stay in touch! Thanks Tyson.