I'll be the first to admit that I've always, for better or for worse, been a fan of Los Angeles, California-based Hard Rock veterans Bulletboys. Although I'm not certain what initially piqued my interest (perhaps it was the ceaseless spinning of “Smooth Up In Ya”, “For The Love Of Money” and, to a lesser extent, “Talk To Your Daughter” by the local Midwest Communications subordinate), by the time 1993 had mercifully drawn to a close, much of the group's still-burgeoning catalog--i.e. the Ted Templeman-Produced Bulletboys (1988) and Freakshow (1991)--was etched into my caffeine and nicotine-addled psyche. Unfortunately, for reasons that remain unclear, I 'lost touch' with the group shortly thereafter. Now, twenty-two improbably long years later, I now find myself intrigued with the group's splintered lineage as well as the release of the often stellar Elefanté...
Todd: How was the latest version of the group formed? Has this line-up existed for an 'extended' length of time?
Marq: “Yes. Myself, (bassist) Chad McDonald and (rhythm guitarist) Nick Ross have been together for six years. This lineup came together by pure magic. I've known Nick now from the music scene and we got together one day and were talking about how bands are not really playing great music anymore and putting on a show, ya know? They're phoning it in. And I said, 'Listen, if you ever want to try this thing again, we should hook up together.' So I called him up one day and and he said 'Listen, I've got a couple guys. Let's go in and jam and see what happens'. He spoke with Chad and Johnny (Giosa), our drummer that passed away. We miss him very badly. We started playing, we just sounded great and we had really great chemistry. That is how it started.”
Todd: How quickly did the material on Elefanté (2015) come together? Was it a formidable gestational process?
Marq: “I would say it happened really quickly. I'm constantly writing, so even at sound checks, if Nick has a riff and I'm like 'Wow, that sounds really good!', we'll start jamming on it. ...I'm all about the new songs and about the writing. I just wrote a lot of material, man and we're very diligent about it. It took two years to put this record down and to make sure that it was right for our fans, friends and family, which are all together; I circumference them as one thing. Not to sound too syrupy, but it's always a complete labor of love for our fans.”
Todd: How did the writing process for Elefanté differ from your experiences with writing your previous efforts?
Marq: “It really didn't differ too much. I'm always writing material. I'm constantly writing. ...I'm always trying to take it to a certain level and in this day and age, if you're going to put out a record, it has to be at a certain level. That was our goal. Basically, we didn't see any bands from our genre trying to put out anything new. We we're taking a risk with this record musically because I don't want to forever only be known as the 'Smooth Up' guy even though I am very blessed to be. The Bulletboys have always had a real diverse musical taste from the beginning, so I've always tried to encompass all of that variety within my writing, which is based on R&B, Rock, Pop and some other Southern fried stuff. It was always that swirl and the feeling of the groove that created the true sounds of the Bulletboys along with my writing style and my ability to turn the song, ya know?”
Todd: At this point, how well have the group's die-hard fans received Elefanté? Has it been a positive response?
Marq: “From all of the interviews that I've done as of late, it's been very humbling and I feel really, really blessed with how people have given us a ten out of ten. They've been saying that it's rivaling our first record, and I just got to tell you man, we wanted to put out something that was of high quality. Something that when me and you grew up, we would be waiting for that Summer record to come. Which one's gonna punch through? Which one's gonna be our summer record that we're slamming? Which joint is it gonna be, you know? And hopefully, Elefanté will be that one that people will be slamming at the beach or whatever the hell they're doing like having a barbecue or whatever and having a great time. ...Hopefully they will be playing it loud and proud.”
Todd: How do you feel Elefanté compares to the group's previous efforts? Do you feel the material on Elefanté is on par with what the group released during the height of the group's period of commercial successes?
Marq: “Each volume of work is a different animal, Todd. I don't like to compare it to anything previously that we've done. It stands on its own and we've named each of our records accordingly, so I would say Elefanté stands as probably one of the highest regarded records we've ever put out. We've been getting a lot of acclaims for it, and I've gotta tell you Todd, you never know these days. We're sitting in a studio and we're listening to this stuff back and it's not like when we did the first record. It's not magical, it's not like something was gearing us ahead for all of our families and for our fans to do something really special. At the end of the day, you have to, as an artist, be happy with what you're going to be putting out and I wanted to make sure that I was happy with it. I hear a lot of records out there from our supposed genre and to be quite honest, and no disrespect to those artists at all whatsoever, but I just don't think they're really well-crafted. With this record, I'm all about that. I was signed with Motown (Records), one of the biggest labels in history and Warner Brothers. I've been blessed to have worked with some amazing musicians and Producers like Ted Templeman and the late, great Andy Johns, may God rest his soul. Gosh, the list goes on and on. ...I listened to them and became a sponge, so in the future, when I was writing, that I could take all that advice that they'd given me and try to learn from it. I think that as a song writer, you really have to try to do that. I'm all about the song, the message and what we're trying to convey in our music. I guess we were known as a Hair Metal or Hair Rock band, but I don't think we ever were. We were always just trying to write great music...but there's also some other aspects of our music that ended up on all of our records that were different. We stood apart from other bands. We weren't Poison or Warrant; we were this street band called the Bulletboys. That's what we were. We weren't about a lot of make up, hairspray or anything like that. ...We were just trying to play great Rock 'n' Roll music for the masses, man.”
Todd: I didn't realize you had such a serious dislike of the term 'Hair Metal'. Do you find it to be dissrespectful?
Marq: “Yes. I think it just really disrespects the band for their hard work from that time. It didn't matter what band it was. ...It's like 'you're going to call that a hair band?' The biggest hair band that I would think would be Guns N' Roses. I mean, that's more than enough hairspray there that if you had lit that guy's hair on fire, it would have blown up the stadium. Then they changed and everyone's like 'Let's not use that stigma. Can we just say they're great Rock 'n' Roll band?' They were a straight up Rock 'n' Roll band and I absolutely loved them. All those guys worked really hard. I was talking to (Devil City Angels/ex-L.A. Guns guitarist) Tracii (Guns) about that on the Dean Delray podcast. We were talking about it and he was saying 'I've kind of gotten used to it' and I said 'No, it has just always rubbed me the wrong way like nails on a chalkboard'. It just does, ya know?”
Todd: What ultimately separates Elefanté from 10¢ Billionaire (2009)? Speaking as a die-hard fan of the era, it was certainly exciting to hear new music from the band, I've always felt there were elements missing from it all.
Marq: “We worked harder. We worked harder, harder and harder, Todd. We worked until we couldn't work any more and I wrote until I couldn't write any more. I put the songs together, took them apart and then put them back together. My bands that I revere are bands of the now, who I love; I love a lot of the project bands, but I have to say my favorite, period, would be the Foo Fighters. ...(Vocalist/guitarist) David Grohl is like an angel of Rock, to me. The promise that this guy has and how hard he had to work, even when he was in Nirvana. ...All these years of working to be a great writer and then having to put together the right band. He had other people in the band until he found the right chemistry. ...When I was going through my low points, of feeling like the past, that music brought me up. We still should work hard, craft our songs wisely and work hard for the sake of music. I've never revered myself and I've never thought of myself as a Rock star. I've always hated that terminology and have always just wanted to be known as a great musician. ...That's really important to me as a great songwriter, a singer and as a guy who really loves people and wants to do something at really high levels.”
Todd: You don't consider the Bulletboys to be an '80's Band'? I've always considered them as such, to be honest.
Marq: “To be quite honest with you, I did most of my touring in the '90's. That's the time we came from. We came out with our first record in the late '80s. We weren't even about that, so we were just this different band. People always try to lump us into this one thing, but if you look at our videos, they're not like the videos that were being done back then. We had a great artistic idea of what we wanted to have the band be and look like and it to be this different thing. If anything, we wanted to be like the Punk Rock Van Halen, ya know? We were breaking real equipment on stage, pissing everybody off. We were creating this thing where people were going 'Wow, what is going on with these guys? We really need to be a part of this craze'. Our reputation superseded us, but we're in a different time and a different age. It's about the same type of products, but putting it out there like we did in Elefanté. We have a lot of energy and do not phone it in. We never have and I never will. I don't know how to do it any other way. We just go up there and sweat from head to toe every night and go nuts, man”
Todd: On both Elefanté and within the context of a live performance, your voice sounds as if it has aged extremely well. To what do you attribute the longevity of everything? Are there pre-show processes you utilize?
Marq: “Not drink and not use drugs. I was very fortunate back in the day to want to get sober, and to want to be able to have a voice right now. I'm so blessed by God by to still being able to sing like I sing from all of the things that I've gone through. I just try to take care of my voice. I was blessed with some powerful pipes, so it's not something I learned; it's something that's God-given. I'm just very, very fortunate that I haven't gone and abused it. There's a lot of cats that do that, man. I just don't understand. They're still drinking hard, which is like razor blades on the vocal cords. ...I'm just very fortunate that I can still sing like the first record and still have my pipes. ...When you get a little bit older, it strengthens. Most guys, if you them out for ten or twelve shows in a row, they're exhausted. With me, it's like a muscle, so it really strengthens it. By the tenth, eleventh and twelfth show, I'm like 'Let's keep on going'. People trip out on that and will say 'I don't know how you do it'. I still have some off nights. I think everybody does. But you learn how to work it all out so you don't phone it in.”
Todd: When touring in support of Elefanté, can the fans any new supersizes? Is it anything they wouldn't guess?
Marq: “There's going to be some shows where I've added some personnel to the band and a couple clips to the artillery, as they say. I have background singers now; their names are 'The Pistolettes' and we will be having them on the show. They're amazing gals with giant voices. I also have added a horn section to the band called 'The Bullhorns'. They're an amazing group of guys. We will have them with us for the shows in a bigger venue.”
Todd: What prompted the group to record a cover of the Elton John standard “The Bitch Is Back” for Elefanté?
Marq: “I love Elton John, and that's one of my favorite songs. To be honest with you, we've taken a lot of flak, but I'll tell you what: this motherfucking bitch is back. We're coming at you and we're coming at you with some new music and we're going to go do our thing. I also have been very privileged and was lucky to meet him when we dropped our first record. I was working at a club in New York City called the China Club. He came walking through and we're sitting in a booth and he asked me to come out to meet him. I went out to meet him and he congratulated me and said 'Your voice is just amazing; That's a great Rock record'. We couldn't believe it; I think I was there with the original drummer. We were just like 'Wow, that's crazy!' Me, being as nervous as I was and so young and dumb, I was like 'One of these days, I want to cut 'The Bitch Is Back' because I love that song'. He just laughed and said 'Man, that would be awesome'. ...This is what I can remember of it, right? I've always wanted to cut that song. It is great. We do it live with the gals and the horns and it's so stupid-sounding.”
Todd: Was it also your idea to record a version of “For The Love Of Money” for Bulletboys (1988)? I've always found it ironic that the label would release a cover song as a single and have it become a group's 'signature' tune.
Marq: “It was my idea because the O'Jays are one of my favorite R&B bands of all time. At the time, I thought of them because I was signed with Motown. That's my heart; I grew up with that as more of an R&B singer than a Rock And Roll singer. I had this idea of cutting “Money”, but with the guitars doing the work rather than the vocals, ya know? We saved the bass part for the hook. We changed it around and kind of flipped it. When we were doing it, we really liked it. We were going to lay it on the record and some of the guys didn't want to do it because they didn't want to put a cover. Thank God Ted (Templeman) came in like an angel and said 'These aren't the droids you're looking for' (laughs). He said 'Marq is just throwin' down his thing'. I don't think we really wanted it to be our single, but we knew that we had the tune that defined us because no one else was doing anything like. No one else had my background in the R&B field. I was signed with Motown onto a company called Pocket Rocket Productions. The Producers on that particular Production company were the great Benny Medina (J-Lo) and Kerry Ashby-Gordy. ...Kerry Ashby-Gordy is, of course, Berry Gordy Jr's son.”
Todd: As a songwriter, how difficult was it for you to chart out the horn sections for songs like “The Bitch Is Back”? As a proverbial 'Rocker', is it hard for you to re-translate the materials into a Rock 'n' Roll environment?
Marq: It's not as difficult as you think because I've been very blessed. I come from a Jazz background; my father played first trombone in Stan Kenton's orchestra. ...He's still able to chart things and help me out. I'm very, very lucky to have cats around me that know how to chart that I can go to cats and say 'Hey, man, I need a part charted out' and they'll be like "Oh, okay, we got this'. ...I can read music, but with modern technology, it helps tremendously, especially with the parts that I orchestrated like the horn section for the “The Bitch Is Back”. We came up for different parts for the horns, so they're not the actual same parts that are the original parts. There was different little stabs in here and there that I wanted to hear that were on the original, so it was just awesome that we got those down. I grew up with my father playing trombone constantly and I grew up with all that type of music. ...In fact, my dad's eighty-five years old and still has a twenty-five-piece Jazz orchestra that still plays around the L.A. area. I dedicated this record to my father. He gave up his musical prowess to raise his children. He just did his first record here with his band, so kudos to him as it sounds brilliant. My mom actually sang a couple songs and she still sounds amazing. She's seventy-nine years old and can sing like a bird”
Todd: In retrospect, how did it feel to learn alongside some of the greats of the classic Motown era? I would think it had to have been a relatively nerve-wracking experience to be working shoulder to shoulder with them...
Marq: “That was my pretty much baptism of fire, ya know? That was the first record deal that I ever had and it was probably my greatest and most fun time of learning. I was being told that I wasn't a great musician, but you're going to taught how to be a great musician. That's where I was taught. I was taught by some great people. Smokey Robinson sang on that record, The Temptations sang on that record, I sang on that record and (saxophonist) Junior Walker blew horn on that record. I was brought into a record that they'd already built on for me to just come and sing on a couple tracks. That was my big baptism of fire, of actually being signed and learning about what I needed to do, and not to be this crazy Punk Rock and Rock And Roll dude. They really taught me there how to write with class, how to carry myself, what not to do, what to say and what not to say. At the time, I was fighting it, but when I look back on it, it's just brilliant. Benny Medina is one of my mentors, and taught me so much. He's a gigantic mogul in the music business now. He manages J-Lo and everybody else and this has made them very, very successful because he is such an amazing human being. I love him so much.”
10¢ Billionaire (2009)
Behind The Orange Curtain (2007)
Acid Monkey (1995)
Za Za (1993)
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