An Interview with Mick Sweda of BulletBoys

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After four decades in the Rock game, Mick Sweda isn’t quite done just yet. So, if you’re into howling guitars and good old-fashioned Rock, this one is for you.

Many of you will know Mick through his days with King Kobra and BulletBoys during the 1980s and early 90s Hair Metal and Glam Rock heyday, but since then, Mick has done on to have a wonderful solo career. Present-day, he’s back manning his post with BulletBoys and ready to hit the road once things open up again. Also, Mick has started another band called The Hot Summers, which you can learn more about here.

So, today I’ve got Mick Sweda here with us for a chat. We talk about what led him to pick up the guitar, his early days in cover bands, joining King Kobra, finally breaking out with BulletBoys, coming full circle, and a whole lot more. Check it out.

Andrew:
Mick, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. It’s been a weird year. How are you holding up given the tumultuous events of the past year or so?

Mick:
It’s been a weird year for anyone who hasn’t been through the numerous pandemics the world has experienced over the millennia, yes. As bad as this has been for too many people, I can’t help but think of those in the past who have endured cataclysmic plagues with no real understanding of what is happening to them and no way to combat it and feel fortunate to live in an age that has “progressed” this far. And that isn’t to say that things can’t get worse in the future. For myself and my family, we’ve been careful and have been very fortunate to remain healthy and safe.

Andrew:
Tell us about the backstory. How did you get into music? What was the gateway, so to speak?

Mick:
I met a new kid in high school who played guitar, and I immediately enlisted my buddies to pick up instruments so we could start a band. Up to that point, I was a fan of music and never dreamed I could one day play it myself. From that moment on, I was smitten, and the journey has been ongoing. The gateway for me was identifying an inherent need to express myself in musical terms. While there are numerous other reasons to start playing music, mine was always because I had to.

Andrew:
As an artist and guitarist, who were some of your earliest and more important influences?

Mick:
It started with a deep attraction to Pop music, even “bubblegum,” as it was called back then. I was mesmerized by fluid melodies, and when one resonated with me, it made a profound and lasting impression. Those first melodies haunt me to this day. So, it really wasn’t guitarists who guided me as much as it was the songs themselves. As I grew, the music I loved became harder, edgier, and more bombastic. It would go something like The Partridge Family, The Monkees, Tommy James on to Iron Butterfly, The Beach Boys to Led Zeppelin, ELP, and on to anything that challenged my senses. Ted Nugent, Kim Mitchell, Billy Gibbons, Alvin Lee, Rick Derringer, etc.

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

Andrew:
Let’s dive in and talk about King Kobra. How did you get the gig? Tell us about the early days of the band, working with Carmine, and your thoughts on the two records [Ready to Strike and Thrill of a Lifetime] you were a part of.

Mick:
I had just quit my gig in a really fun and talented cover band, thinking’s that if I didn’t make time for original songs, I was wasting my life in LA. I then found myself in 3 or 4 bands that weren’t playing out, weren’t recording, and seemed like dead ends. I had received an offer to move to the east coast and join another band and was making plans to do that when Carmine’s manager came to Tower Records, where I was working in cassettes. He asked if I was a bass player, I said no, and that was that. A week later, Carmine came in, and we had a chat because he needed a guitar player. I went to the audition, and a month later, I was getting ready to record my first major-label album. I loved working with those guys because they were very professional, driven, and fun-loving all at once. It was a good fit for me at the time, and I learned a lot that would help me later on. Carmine was always very kind and welcoming and obviously a super talent. Together I thought, we were a good outfit and deserved a better fate. I didn’t care much for the outside influences, and the directions we were were guided into, but I will always fondly remember the band in the first two years.

Andrew:
You recorded two albums with King Kobra, Ready to Strike and Thrill of a Lifetime, and you guys toured with Maiden, KISS, and Ted Nugent. Still, you ended up deciding to leave to form BulletBoys. What led to that decision? It seems like King Kobra was flying high.

Mick:
It really wasn’t a difficult decision at that point as the direction was floundering, and there was a cloud of desperation looming over the band. I felt confident in my abilities to put together a band that was more in line with my approach and style. I wanted to get leaner, punchier, and nastier.

Andrew:
Ironically, it seems like you leaving King Kobra was the right move, as Carmine Appice broke the band up after their third record to join Blue Murder. Did you have a sense that things may go down that way? Were you surprised at that decision?

Mick:
It was very apparent to me that the end was near with regard to any artistic integrity or value, as far as I was concerned. I applauded Carmine’s choice, and I still love those records. I always asked Carmine to get Blue Murder back together even after it was an impossibility.

Bulletboys | We Heart It | bulletboys, marq torien, and jimmy d'anda |  80s hair bands, Hair band, T shirts for women

Andrew:
Let’s talk about BulletBoys now. Your debut was a big hit, and it seems the band broke onto the scene just at Glam, and Hair Metal was coming to a head. Looking back, what do you remember about the debut?

Mick:
In retrospect, it all seemed to happen very quickly, although it wasn’t moving nearly fast enough at the time. We all put in a great amount of work and effort, so it felt terrific to be rewarded for it. Of course, getting signed and making a record is just the start of the journey, and there are no guarantees. We made the best of it and did everything we could to entertain folks and keep the train on the tracks.

Andrew:
After the BulletBoys debut, you recorded two more great albums with the band but then ended up leaving. Did the waning scene have anything to do with your choice to leave? Tell us more about that time period and what the dynamics within the band were like at that time.

Mick:
We were a bit of a frazzled lot at the time, and it was easy to see the shift in the landscape. We tried to buck that trend with our second record and forge a path of our own, in spite of the changing times. I think the whirlwind we’d been through, so much in so short a time, had drained some of the energy we thrived on, and it was time for me to go in a new direction.

Andrew:
You ended up rejoining King Kobra in 2010 but
left again in 2016. What happened there? I know you’re back with BulletBoys again, but is there any chance we see you with King Kobra again as well? Or is that door closed for good?

Mick:
The recordings I’ve done with KK in the intervening years have been more like guest appearances, as there hasn’t been a true reunion. As much as I enjoy working with the guys, for me, that jet has taken off.

Mick Sweda former Guitarist of Bulletboys Interview
Image Credit: Mayhem Music Magazine

Andrew:
Speaking of being back with BulletBoys, you rejoined the band in 2019. Tell us how that went down. COVID aside, what’s it been like being back in the band? I know the band put out a new album in 2018, but with you back in the fold, are you chomping at the bit to hit the studio?

Mick:
It took many conversations and a willingness to move ahead with the idea that we would rehabilitate the band, as it has been through many incarnations over the years. We were off to a very good start when the pandemic decided our fate for the year 2020. However, we are very much looking forward to making up the dates we had scheduled and adding many more!

Andrew:
As far as BulletBoys are concerned, what’s changed this time around that will make things stick?

Mick:
I don’t think the attitude and fire that drove the band in the first place has diminished at all, and we are still having great fun playing together. We’ll see this year how it transpires, and hopefully, you’ll see for yourself as well.

Andrew:
Are you guys itching to get back on the road? It looks like some of the restrictions are just starting to lift. What do you miss most about touring?

Mick:
Yes, we are ready to get back to doing our thing. I miss seeing folks and drinking in the enthusiasm that makes it all worthwhile.

Andrew:
Be it BulletBoys, King Kobra, or your solo work, looking back, what are some of your proudest moments as a musician? Ones that truly stand out.

Mick:
After moving on with writing and producing my own music, not listening in some cases for years to our records, it’s nice to hear them and appreciate them for what they are. Taking the struggles and strife out of the equation and just listening has brought me some very proud moments. And every time someone writes to me and relates a story of how we influenced them or picked them up in a dark moment, I could not be more proud.

Andrew:
Aside from music, what else are you most passionate about and why? How do your other passions inform and inspire your music?

Mick:
I am a passionate reader of historical memoirs and scholarly works, and they invariably find their way into my thoughts and, thus, my music. It’s sometimes glaring and obvious and other times nuanced and veiled but always in my arsenal. Other than that, I love playing hockey which takes me away completely and clears my slate for a fresh start.

Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Tapes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? Where do you like to shop for music? What are a few albums that mean the most to you and why?

Mick:
I don’t play my vinyl much but look forward to releasing music with my band The Hot Summers, on a platter, with a gatefold and all. By the way, please check out The Hot Summers on YouTube, IG, and Facebook! I have saved virtually all my tapes; to what end, I’m not sure. I nearly always buy my music on CD and archive it, with very few exceptions. The first Cheap Trick record, the first record by 20/20, the first David Werner album, and the debut by Off-Broadway would keep me alive on any deserted isle.

Andrew:
Last question. You’ve had a long, successful, and multi-layered career. With that being said, as a veteran of “the scene,” what advice would you have for young artists looking to take the plunge?

Mick:
While it’s necessary to listen to and even approximate the playing of others to grasp and understand what it is you want to accomplish, I would suggest taking what you learn and effectively make it your own. It isn’t easy to cultivate a unique style in a world where seemingly everyone can play, but I believe it essential to any success, personally or critically.

Interested in learning more about the work of BulletBoys? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. After losing his life-long vinyl collection in 2014, Andrew began his vinyl collection from scratch again when he met his future wife Angela in 2015. Andrew’s love of music only further blossomed as his collection spanned all genres possible. After amassing 5,000 albums, Andrew knew it was time to finally follow his dream, and thus, Vinyl Writer Music was born. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict, for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island with his wife Angela and their four cats, Oliver, Patrick, Charlie, and Kevin. Andrew works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night. Andrew is also the admin of several Facebook groups dedicated to music.

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