Now touring with original vocalist Marq Torien and bassist Lonnie Vencent, BulletBoys is a band undeterred and dedicated to performing at their best. On the scene in the late ‘80s, the band met success with singles such as “Smooth Up In Ya” and a remake of The O’Jays’ “For The Love Of Money” securing them opening slots for some of hard rock’s biggest arena draws. Over the years, the band has maintained their presence by touring to support albums released throughout their 20-plus year history. In a candid talk, Torien recently told me about the band’s new perspective, missed opportunities, gratitude and the sad, avoidable passing of his friend, Warrant’s Jani Lane.
I noticed BulletBoys has had an extensive roster over the years. Is this current line-up reminiscent of the old band or is it a reinvented group?
It’s not reminiscent. It’s a new band playing new songs. Basically we’ve reinvented the band. It’s not your [parent’s] BulletBoys. It’s more of an in-the-now band playing for being who we are.
Is that a refreshing perspective at this point? Artistically, speaking.
It’s a double-edged sword because on one hand I’m coming out to play for an audience and our fans and sometimes I’ll take it in the teeth from other writers that say I’m doing this or that with the band, but I own the band; I own the name. I stay current and try to play shows and enjoy our audiences’ company and the fans that want to see us and want me up there singing, doing my thing.
What work has the band been doing since the release of your last album, 10C Billionaire?
We did 10C Billionaire about a year and a half ago and did pretty well with it as far as it charting on Internet charts. Unfortunately, I was with a record company that absolutely folded when the recession hit, but the person I was with was trying his best to do what he could when the bottom fell out of his company. Now, we are playing five or six songs from 10C Billionaire on this tour and our fans have been asking us to play the record.
We’re working on a new record also back in L.A. and we’re just here carrying on with music and art and trying to be relevant as a band that’s out here working when a lot of other bands aren’t. There’s talk about us getting together and doing some shows as the original band, but it’s all a matter of negotiations really. I’m in the process now of writing music and doing everything artistically that I possibly can do. I just feel I have a lot of things on my plate now, and I feel fortunate to have those things on my plate because of what I’ve done or what I’m still doing. As a band, we try to take any opportunity that we get to be there at our best. I want my fans to know that they’ll get a performance from me that, hopefully, they don’t get to see very often. Regardless of who is in my band, they’re upheld to certain standards as well.
The timing of this interview is interesting. I’ll be attending a Cinderella concert tomorrow night and BulletBoys was the very first band I ever saw live, when you opened for them in 1989.
Oh, cool! And I can mention something about that: We toured with Cinderella, Bon Jovi, Ozzy and Cheap Trick back in the day. What’s odd now is I find that the band is playing some amazing shows and we’re packing a lot of rooms. I’d sure like to get the opportunity to go out with some of these bands but it seems like we don’t get that opportunity. It seems like I’m always having to prove myself over and over and over again. After a while, it gets a little redundant. So I wish someone would give us an opportunity like I’ve given to so many musicians and artists to be in this band. Some artists that have played with me have gone on to other things and have been very successful, but I see myself constantly doing what I’m doing as an underground, rock ‘n’ roll, punk band. Am I happy with it? I’m blessed by it because I’m able to work and get to see our audience and fans, who are amazing, very kind people who love our music.
And we recently lost a very good friend of mine, Jani Lane, who was a great, great songwriter. Now everybody is saying “Oh, gosh…” but they weren’t there trying to get him work or didn’t want him in a club. So I find it very difficult sometimes to believe in people that supposedly say they have so much respect for our music.
I was sorry to hear about Jani’s death, too. He was such a talented songwriter and performer who, I’m sure, had more to give to his fans. As his contemporary, how have you kept from becoming discouraged over the years?
I do get discouraged. I get depressed. I see that a lot of my contemporaries and musicians that were involved in BulletBoys are all very wealthy now. When we needed help—the original guys—there wasn’t that help for us. It’s kind of—how would you say it? I don’t want to use the wrong terminology. I would say we do what we do. I feel pretty lucky that I’m still able to sing how I did on the first record, and I feel I have a lot of faith in God and the Lord and the Holy Spirit and that keeps me going.
I’ve dealt with a lot of persecution, a lot of pain in my personal life. I think there are things in my personal life that I’ve gone through and I’ve learned from my mistakes like everybody else does. Of course everybody has their demons that they try to chase away. My friend Jani—I don’t know exactly what he died of so I don’t want to speak out of turn—but there was alcohol involved there and people were trying to help him, but on the other side they were also trying to make money off of the guy. So, at what point does love come in? When does understanding come in? I think, as far as bands from our certain genre, we all tried to be bigger than life. Sometimes there’s a price you have to pay for that. In my past, I think I might have rubbed people the wrong way. I said some things that I regret, but I think all human beings make mistakes. I know I’ve put my foot in my mouth many times.
I will say this, there are a lot of people on the Internet that are bashing bands from our genre. I just feel there are a lot of people who are very jealous because they never got to experience what we did. People try to exploit the badness of bands from our genre, but I wish they’d turn things around and support us in a positive light. They don’t want to do that. All of the bands from that era went out there and gave tons of love to everybody. A lot of artists now, they don’t do that. They don’t go out and talk to their fans or go out and hug people. Listen, we’re going through some crazy, crazy times now, here and abroad. For anybody that’s out there, making a living as a musician, be happy you’re out there, that you’re making a dime, and show your fans some love. We are what our audience is.
BulletBoys will be performing on Friday, Aug. 26 at Brighton Bar. Find more information at myspace.com/officialbulletboys.