Bulletboys guitarist Mick Sweda shoots on the MTV era, King Kobra and much more

Bulletboys guitarist Mick Sweda shoots on the MTV era, King Kobra and much more
July 5, 2011 | By More

Mick Sweda’s career has sort of come full circle.  He started his playing and recording in the biz with Carmine Appice’s King Kobra and played on those first two albums beginning with “Ready to Strike”.  Later his guitar wizardry reached an even greater audience with the Bulletboys.  He experienced bigtime MTV success, bigtime touring with bands like Cinderella and Cheap Trick and ultimately experienced the bigtime bullshit that sometimes comes with all that.  Now, Mick is promoting his work on the NEW King Kobra, working on stuff in his recording studio and most of all busy with a new baby and life on diaper duty.

Q:   Mick….What have you been up to recently? Catch us up…


A:  I’ve been working   on a new record and staying busy in my studio, continuously experimenting with new and interesting directions that are definitely fascinating for me and, hopefully, for everyone else. I’m also playing a bit of hockey but mostly being a Dad. Oh yeah, and trying to catch up on some reading in between it all!




Q:  I haven’t seen you around these parts since Bulletboys played Rockford, Illinois on the Freakshow tour which I suppose was a lifetime ago for you…I seem to remember the gig at the Coronado Theatre kicking unreal ass and the Cheap Trick guys getting involved…Do you have any memories of Rockford or the Tricksters?


A:  I remember playing “Hello there” in their honor, thinking I would surely make a connection with the band that I idolized as a teenager. When Rick came  backstage and we all gathered `round to hear his take he said “I always   thought that song sucked and you guys proved it!”.   I’ve never been so impressed and devastated at the same time   since.


Q:   It’s cool that you have resurrected the King Kobra project for many reasons one being the fact that it gets all you guys in the spotlight again…not ashamed to say I bought “ZaZa” and I have been waiting to hear you play again…How did you decide to do this and how have you resisted all of the reunion crap at all costs with Marq? I know he has quite the reputation and has sort of whored the Bulletboys concept to death, mostly without the other three of you.



A:  It was easy to do what I did with King Kobra because I never had to leave my studio and the guys are all total pros.   I can’t say the same for the other band so it’s been pretty easy to “resist” any reunion ideas.  I HAVE played a bit with Jimmy (D’Anda, BB drummer) and Lonnie (Vincent, bassist) since then and that’s always nice.


Q:  Do you think there was a breaking point with Bulletboys where it just stopped being fun and when was it?   In some respects you do understand that you are one of the select bands of that era  that did have some positive reviews and credibility in the industry regardless of revisionist history labeling you as a dumb hair band.

A:  Well, first question first.  Oh, there was a  breaking point.   It was the day I quit!   It had stopped being “fun” quite a long time before that but I’m a professional and can get through pretty much anything except for the lack of reason. Once I’m confronted with that, I’m a goner.   And I do understand that we held a certain place in that era that is   often misunderstood and treated unfairly. I’m proud of most of the work we did but I’ll always have better things to do than to convince Ozzy fans of it’s worth.


Q:   I  would imagine there are a fair share of fans that caught on to you in the”Smooth Up” era that weren’t even aware that most of you guys came from KING KOBRA….”Kissin Kitty” is actually on the KING KOBRA rarities album AND the first BB album. What do you recall about that era of King Kobra??


A:  I had no idea that my song was used on a King Kobra record, but thanks for sharing that.  I recall bringing that song to KK and quitting shortly thereafter. What I don’t recall is Carmine being responsible for any portion of the first BulletBoys record, as he seems to be fond of saying.   The truth is….. that my songs didn’t fit into what Dave had in mind (Dave is responsible for the signature King Kobra sound, my contributions sort of turned it on it’s ear) so I moved on.   It seemed to be a clean split at the time  but I don’t think KK had much success after that so maybe that’s why there’s a tendency toward revisionism.

Q:   You went to college on a drama scholorship and recorded a kids album for my three little ones to listen to….you   also run your own studio….you are a LEARNED man of many varied skills.  Do you still battle misconceptions of people assuming you must smash beer cans over your forehead and have brain damage from years of drug abuse and hair   product? Is it possible to be an “intelligent” rocker?


A:  That’s a fair question John…..but I think I’ve comported myself in such a manner that any  intelligence I possess comes across  (ed. note, wow, did he just say “comported”?).   In fact, my wife often thinks I’m verbose and esoteric so I try to keep it in line. That said, I’ve surprised some people who’ve met me for the first time but that has more to do with “misconceptions”, as you so aptly put it and less to do with how I carry myself.   Trust me, I’ve acted like an idiot more times than I care to mention but that isn’t unique to hard rock lifestyles by any stretch.


Q:  Over the years have you had time to reflect on how much fun it was recording that first KING KOBRA album for Pasha and touring it?   You were very young with the exception of Carmine, and got a pretty nice deal out the gate touring with Maiden…Johnny Rod said he remembered being awestruck by the Maiden and Accept guys when we asked him about the Alpine Valley show.

A:  The truth is,  it was fun at times but more often stressful because I was new to the business and trying to absorb as much as possible.   My philosophy has always been to talk less and learn more so I just watched, listened and did my best.   As I’ve said, I was surrounded by a great bunch of professional guys so that made it a lot easier.


Q:   I remember when our little town got cable for the first time and one of the first videos we saw via our amazing new converter was the “Hunger” video….I remember lots of vocal harmonies and even more blond hair. You went on to film  videos galore with Bulletboys.   What do you recall about that original videomaking era?


A:  I always hated doing them.   There are a lot of long, tedious hours of not playing so it goes against the very nature of my being.   If videos were shot live with fresh takes of the song,  I’d be much more enthusiastic about doing them. However, it’s far more convenient and inexpensive to lip sync and I think it blows.   I think the advancement of technology has allowed these “concepts” to be turned into reality in a much more efficient and cost effective way without losing anything in the process.  I often regret succumbing to the huge budgets that could have fed a small country rather than produce a hackneyed and forgettable video. Give me a handheld, grainy analog camera that imparts reality much more effectively anyday.


Q:  I  hope you guys tour this new album because it is the best KING KOBRA album period.  Paul must sing “Shadow Rider” because that song beats up monkeys but Johnny seemed to have a sincere twinge of pain in his voice when I asked if “Iron Eagle” was gonna  make the setlist.  Have you guys rehearsed a trial run of tunes or given any thought at all as to what you might play?

A:  No, but I’ll make sure I insist on playing Iron Eagle now that I know it causes Johnny pain.


Q:  I cannot   believe that Paul wasn’t lining his walls with Platinum based on his performances with Rough Cutt alone. To me he has always been one of the strongest voices in music burying lots of other singers that somehow made out like bandits   (cough…Vince…cough..cough Marq). Was it Carmine’s decision to pursue Paul or were you guys always fans of his?


A:  Personally, I hadn’t availed myself of Paul’s earlier work but, in the brief moments I’d heard it,  I recognized a warmth and honesty in his voice that was refreshing.

Q:   You got to do quite a bit of wailing with BB but with KK things are totally geared toward that tradeoff between you and David. From a songwriting standpoint is it night and day as far as what kind of guitar concepts you can work up? It sounds like layers of guitar on this album, even more than the old KK and definitely more so than BulletBoys.


A:  Dave is responsible for organizing most of the guitar work and all of the tracks on this record  (as far as I know) so I’ll leave that first part to him.  I played my parts and sent them to him.  As for BB,  I was not a fan of the stripped down approach to the first record, though in retrospect….. it works quite well.   My productions are much more layered, thick and creamy for optimum effect!


Q:  Okay, you’re off the hook.  Anything you  wanna say to the loyal, sick in the head folks who have been waiting in the woodwork  for Michael “Mick” Sweda to resurface and kick their ass?   Any last plugs to hammer home?

A:  I just want to thank ALL the incredibly kind folks who have made it known over the years that I’ve had an effect on them in one way or another and also to say that it never gets old hearing it!

I’ll be around and easy to find with some new music coming as soon as I put this diaper down!  www.mickswedamusic.com

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Category: Interviews

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