Interview: Buckcherry – Josh Todd and Keith Nelson
Never a band to chase trends or fashionshave been writing and recording music for over a decade now and facing their fair share of bumps in the road along the way they are still hear today, stronger, hungrier and better than ever after the release of ‘All Night Long’ in 2010.
‘All Night Long’- the fifth album from Buckcherry – is the vital sound of rock and roll endurance at its very best. It’s not just rock, its rock and roll. More than a decade after first establishing its good name with the popular eponymous 1999 debut effort, Buckcherry has created the band’s most eclectic and impressive effort yet. ‘All Night Long’ is a thoroughly rocking song cycle in the grand tradition of classic albums by the group’s forefathers and now friends Aerosmith, AC/DC and Kiss.
Recently on the bands short tour in the UK they stopped in Glasgow, Scotland for a performance at The Arches before heading off to this year’s Download Festival. It was when they were here I had the opportunity to sit down with both founding and original masterminds behind the famous Buckcherry soundand .
With ‘All Night Long’ now out for almost a year I didn’t want to sit and rehash the same old questions so we sat down and talked a little about the album, the history of each record that they have released, touring, boxing and of course, their brand new album which is currently being written with a realistic release date in the spring of 2012.
How are you guys doing?
Keith Nelson: We’re great man
Josh Todd: Yeah man awesome
Where was it you just came from, Sweden?
Keith Nelson: Yeah we just played the Swedish Rock Festival which was great.
That was just the start of the European tour wasn’t it? Here over the weekend in the UK and then away back into Europe again?
Josh Todd: Yes sir then we head over to Spain
You don’t really get over to Europe that often as I can’t remember there being a headline tour in a while, not one that maybe hit Glasgow.
Keith Nelson: We try to get over twice a year usually.
The last tour was the Taste Of Chaos tour at the SECC
Keith Nelson: Yeah in December. We try to get over in the winter and then again in the Spring or Summer.
How you find coming over and playing here in the UK?
Keith Nelson: You know what, the first couple of times I think we came over here it was pretty rough for a number of reasons but I think the more we come back and the more we build a fan base it gets better. It’s has been great, the past couple of tours have been awesome.
Yeah especially since you have been steadily moving up the charts over here as I think your peak position was 57th, and when you consider it, unless you have that guaranteed arena sell out audience like AC/DC, Foo Fighters and such, in the UK it can sometimes be hard to even get that high so it is a pretty respectable position. I don’t even know where or if ‘15’, your biggest album, or ‘Black Butterfly’ charted here but your self-titled peaked at 141st, that was your best before ‘All Night Long’.
Josh Todd: Wow I didn’t even realise it had done that well; that’s cool man.
Part of the tour you’re performing at the Golden Gods next week.
Keith Nelson: Yeah we’re doing three songs
Do you think that might be a different atmosphere, bit more nerve wrecking as you’re performing in..
Keith Nelson: In front of a bunch of musicians with their arms crossed? (laughs)
Josh Todd: Yeah, you know it’s an honour to play the awards but it’s a little stressful for us because you are performing in front of other musicians; it is a little different than just playing in front of regular rock fans who are all a little bit fucked up but it is only three songs so it will quick and painless.
Quick escape and hide backstage for the rest of the night
Josh Todd: (laughs) Yeah just get back in there and hang out
Keith Nelson: Yeah, I think we’re all facing the reality of what’s going on with the sales of records with all the different reasons that effects it but I think we managed to put out a record that we all really love and we all really believe in and we’ve been able to tour on it. I’m very happy with it.
Josh Todd: Yeah we’ve been touring since July last year on this record and especially over you can really, like last night we did ‘Recovery’ from ‘All Night Long’ for the first time and people were just chanting it, they knew it really well, it was just really cool for us because we had never played this song live. In the States they want to hear more songs off ‘15’ and those sorts of records.
Yeah I suppose when you tour the US a lot more than anywhere else, other countries you do want to give something a little different to so you can experiment
Josh Todd: Exactly and it’s cool
This album was of course recorded in your (Keith’s) studio so did it take a lot of the pressure off when you worked on it or at least help kill some of the cost that is usually associated to booking out a studio?
Keith Nelson: Well the thing that made it easier was that we didn’t really have to worry about time and it was just really a cool environment for all of us to be hanging out. Every other record we’ve made I’ve been very conscious of how many days we have left, how many hours are left, what work is left but with this we could just really take our time to make a record that we liked. Once the five of us liked it, that’s when we took it to our people and said “this is our record”. I think working in my studio really just afforded us the opportunity to retry things and change things as needed.
Do you think then because of that you made the best album that you could or now if you hear things back do you think “ahh I should have changed that”
Keith Nelson: No, I felt like we were very thorough. You know when Josh and I put our heads together and when the two of us are focused on something and in agreement, which is 99% of the time then nothing is stopping us.
I don’t want to rehash over the album too much as you will have by now been asked pretty much every question to do with it so let’s talk a little about the history, I suppose I will be rehashing some points, of Buckcherry over some of the albums and what has happened with the band as you have experienced a lot over the years.
Josh Todd: Shoot
Well when we look back to the early years, your self-titled album came out and that went gold. Then ‘Time Bomb’ came out and again it received a good response chart wise but it never really hit the same level as ‘Buckcherry’ did. After that member by member dropped off until you eventually split up so did you ever fear that after that taste of success so early on that you may not rekindle it?
Josh Todd: I wasn’t really afraid of that. What was really going to be disappointing for me was that we weren’t going to achieve the level of success that I knew, in my heart, that we could have achieved and that was what was really eating at me. You know we worked really hard on those albums and we were really passionate and it shouldn’t have happened the way it did. When Keith and I started rekindling our friendship first before we even started this whole thing again…you know…the reason why Buckcherry always worked was because it was what we loved, we just want to make music that we’re happy with within ourselves and then everything else will come if that’s working right. It kind of went down to the band members you know, we wanted a band that we felt like we were a gang and we were going to get along with because of the three band members that quit after ‘Time Bomb’. So when we got these three guys [Stevie, Jimmy and Xavier] who had been long term friends of ours and had been through the same hard knocks as us in the music business, it’s like we finally found the band that we had always wanted it to be and at that point in time was when we made our most successful record to date which is ‘15’. Then we went on to ‘Black Butterfly’ and now ‘All Night Long’ which are the most successful records we have done and to this day we’ve done somewhere around one thousand shows. We all hang out together, on days off we’ll just all go get dinner together which is kind of unheard of after six years.
Keith Nelson: Yeah we’ve been around each other pretty much every day for about six years now.
I’m guessing there are times it can be a bit tense in the camp, as you said it is pretty unheard of for a band to be that close, especially for six years almost side by side
Keith Nelson: Well we’re five dudes so there is always going to be minor things but we’ve really just got such a good thing going and I think everyone appreciates it so much so that we work harder to make sure that shit just doesn’t come up.
So although you had known the other guys for some time, how quick was it to get them on board and gel together as a unit
Keith Nelson: They were the first three guys that we called. When we got the notion to start up again, those were the first three guys we played with and we did a couple of songs, everyone learned a few songs and we came in and played them, we stopped and we were like “alright, see you Tuesday?” It was really instant.
During that spell off what did each of you do, I know you (Keith) produced and wrote some material?
Keith Nelson: Well what I did is I worked in a studio for a producer for three/four years and I just kept writing songs, working on my song-writing. I didn’t really have any expectation of the band getting back together for a while, it’s not like I never thought it would happen but I knew it wasn’t happening for a reason and I just had to be alright with that and let it go. I just kept doing what I loved to do and I loved making music so if I was working at Starbucks or a gas station then I would have still went home and made music every night so I just kept doing it you know. I think staying in motion and staying creative really helped when we got back together, it was very seamless.
Josh Todd: I put out an independent record, a solo record and it didn’t do anything then I went broke and went out and got a day job building airplanes for movie sets. I was always writing songs as well and staying musically fit.
There was that whole Guns N’ Roses thing
Josh Todd: Yeah the GN’R thing was way before that. It was only really a month of our lives as we jammed as a band, well we were a band actually with me, Keith, Slash, Duff [McKagan] and Matt [Sorum] but it just didn’t work out and it was then that me and Keith just went our separate ways; there was just a lot of disappointment going on.
So when you finally reunited again and it was back to being a band and you worked on ‘15’ you signed up with Eleven Seven. Was that the decision you set on to work with an independent record label for more control over your music or any other reason?
Keith Nelson: No, we definitely had our goals set keenly on a major label record deal and in their wisdom they all passed on us.
Josh Todd: (laughs)
Keith Nelson: And they actually passed on the finished record; we shot to them the finished record that you know as ‘15’. We took it to all of them and they all said no, “it sucks” (Josh continues to laugh), and then our manager said “hey, I believe in what you’re doing, let’s put this out independently” and we said okay.
Josh Todd: That label was actually started because of us.
I never knew that
Keith Nelson: Yeah if you look on the side of the record it says “00001”, that’s the item number as it was the first record Eleven Seven had put out. We sold 30,000 copies in the States in first week and that was like the highest charting independent record of the year or at number two and it just kind of took off and here we are a million and a half copies later.
The success from it was then good enough to not need the major label as you are still with them today
Keith Nelson: Yeah and we toured ridiculously in support of that record, I think we did over 300 shows and we were on the road for 26 months.
So in this day in age what do you think you would take now or say to upcoming bands to look at, major label or independent?
Keith Nelson: I think it is a different game now and I think independent is really the way to go as we, the artists, want to make records to satisfy us without having to worry about shareholders and people in suits telling us how to make records. For us it works out great, for other bands who can’t go out on tour and make money to promote themselves then a major label might be a better move but for us I think the independent label works out better.
There is always that sort of downside to the new band that labels might sign them up to a 360 deal for example so it is hard to always judge it I suppose
Keith Nelson: Yeah, there are pros and cons with every deal, like we don’t have the luxury of having a huge cooperation behind us who can fund things that we may or may not need but then we have more artistic freedom.
So moving on from ‘15’ with the success it had and then thinking about ‘Black Butterfly’, did you ever think or feel pressured into topping it, knowing that there were expectations of you?
Josh Todd: We never really thought about that, we just went in and made the best record that we could make at the time and that was ‘Black Butterfly’. We knew if we got into that headspace of “we have to outdo this” it would just be counter-productive.
Keith Nelson: It happened to us once before when we made our first record which was very successful and then we went back into the studio to make the second record and we had an A&R guy, our manager and people, you know big business, putting pressure on us to do certain things. Now we already knew what that sophomore slump felt like so it was like, we already went through this and we know that it’s pretty unrealistic, so we just had to do what we do.
One of the things I wanted to ask you was about the industry which you have touched on but of course the big part that the internet now plays and it did play a part during ‘Black Butterfly’ when ‘Too Drunk’ was released and the controversy with your manager. Did that get cleared up?
Keith Nelson: Yeah that ended up not being true. It was someone who used to work at our management, who no longer worked there at the time, that somehow had it and then it got leaked.
Just stemming off that what are you views on what everyone now calls the double-edged sword issue?
Keith Nelson: Whether you like it or not that’s the playing field so you need to embrace it and you need to have it work for you instead of against you.
Do you actively get involved with it all such as controlling your own social networks and such?
Keith Nelson: Yeah we control our Facebook and our Twitter and we’re very active on them.
Following the path we’re here now at ‘All Night Long’ again when we look at the history. This album was somewhat more grown up in a sense, well maybe not the right term but you went for a clean style of album instead of the old style so what was the decision to do, was it change in lifestyle or what?
Josh Todd: No we were kind of challenged to make a clean record you know
So you had to be given a challenge to try it? (laughs)
Josh Todd: (laughs) From a lyrical stand point I had a lot of fun with it because it made me have to go up and beyond just expressing other words than fuck and shit and stuff like that (laughs). I enjoyed it, I don’t know if it will happen again (laughs) but it was fun.
Did it feel good though to get that sort of change in pace or feeling to what is the Buckcherry sound?
Josh Todd: Yeah. On ‘All Night Long’ we just wanted to get back to our roots and make a rock and roll record and it rocks from top to bottom. It feels like a Buckcherry record. You know, I don’t think anyone has really said about it being a clean record, no-one really notices it unless you really listen to it like a hardcore fan and you notice there are no fucks. Has anyone ever talked to you about it?
Keith Nelson: No, don’t think so.
One of the questions I’ve sort of always wanted to ask you and meant to ask you before is when most people, I know especially here, not sure about in the States but if you say the name Buckcherry to anyone they instantly recognise it with ‘Crazy Bitch’. Now considering the self-titled sold incredibly well and then you had ‘Time Bomb’, hits from ‘Black Butterfly’ and now you have ‘All Night Long’, does it ever get annoying knowing that people associate you so closely with it or they tend not to recognise the other work you have done?
Keith Nelson: Well I think prior to that people thought we were the band with the cocaine song.
Josh Todd: Yeah
Keith Nelson: I think that people are…it’s insulting to music fans to think that’s all they can hear. I think most of our fans, I mean we’ve sold a lot of records so people who buy our records, the whole record, understand there are many facets to the band and if that’s all or if that’s the doorway that you enter through that’s fine but there is a lot of other things going on.
Josh Todd: I think it’s great. I mean you work your whole life to have a hit that is that big and you know, I’ve always said the Rolling Stones one is ‘Satisfaction’ but there are so many other songs so like Keith was saying, whatever gets you to the shows then that’s really what is important. But fuck I’m so proud we wrote a hit that was that big because we did it from the ground up in our rehearsing room in the middle of the fucking Valley, just dreaming, dreaming you know. To know that it has reached so many people globally is just so cool.
There is a rock club just around the corner from here called the Cathouse and you can guaranteed that every night you go, you’re certain to hear ‘Crazy Bitch’.
Josh Todd: Great!
Keith Nelson: As it should be! (laughs)
Josh Todd: I mean how can you be bummed out about that?
I wanted to ask you about this whole lawsuit thing that is appearing on the internet about TODD Entertainment that you set up with Todd Meagher. I’ve seen several mentions about the Buckcherry name and other things. What’s the current sort of status with that?
Josh Todd: Those are just all allegations
Is it still actually happening or was it ever really and as usual it sort of blew out of proportion online?
Josh Todd: It’s still pending
Getting close to wrapping up but I couldn’t let you leave without talking sport and especially in Glasgow were football, soccer to you guys, is incredibly large. I know you (Keith) are a Steelers fan and Josh you’re a big Nascar man. How was your drive around the track?
Josh Todd: I went 167.23mph, it was awesome.
Did you just do laps or did you try your hand at a race or anything?
Josh Todd: I did about 30 laps at the Fontana Race Track which is an oval track. There were other cars on the track and it was the time of my life; I had a blast. Going into the turns, the g-forces were incredible; I’d recommend it to anyone who likes speed.
What happened to the Steelers this year at the Super Bowl?
Keith Nelson: Well it’s really odd being be a Steelers fan, I grew up in Pittsburgh so I’ve been a fan since I was born, but it was odd to watch the Super Bowl and have the Steelers not win, you know it was just weird.
Yeah they have done pretty well in the past few years, now what, six overall and two in the last five years?
Keith Nelson: Yeah but you know I’m a sports fan in general so I just like to see good games and stuff; I have teams that I root for.
Are there any other sports that interest you?
Keith Nelson: I follow cycling a little bit and boxing, we’re boxing fans.
Josh Todd: Yeah
Keith Nelson: Well you have some great European boxers like Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton, he was a great boxer.
Josh Todd: Carl Froch
Keith Nelson: Yeah Carl Froch, Arthur Abraham is a European boxer isn’t he?
Josh Todd: Yep. [Mikkel] Kessler
Keith Nelson: That Super Six tournament is great.
Josh Todd: We’re looking forward to the [Floyd] Mayweather Jr and Victor Ortiz fight that just got announced for September.
There is always still that prospect of Mayweather vs [Manny] Pacquiao.
Josh Todd: I think Mayweather is going to fight Ortiz and Pacquiao is going to fight Juan Manuel Marquez and then it’s going to happen.
There was that whole drug test issue and then the claims that negotiations hadn’t took place and Mayweather in fact wasn’t prepared to book a fight so quickly.
Josh Todd: Well that was a long time ago but now I think he is going to do it, there are forty million reasons why he should probably do it.
Keith Nelson: I think Pacquiao agreed to the drug testing except for the last week as he didn’t want blood drawn in the last week. I think they wanted to do Olympic style testing, not that we know too much about this but I think Olympic testing can happen at any time up until the fight happens.
Time to wrap up with possibly the major point of this interview and end on a big note I suppose for most people will be interested to hear and that is that you have already begun to write the new album?
Keith Nelson: Yes
Josh Todd: We have
How are things coming along?
Josh Todd: Things are coming along good, we’re having fun and we’ve got around five demo’s mopped up but it’s still very early and we need to get everyone in a room and just jam.
Keith Nelson: Without saying too much, I just think the pervasive feeling of the stuff we’re coming up with, we’re just trying to come out of our comfort zone a little bit. Really trying to push the envelope without getting away from the sound that you and love of this band but I think we’re going to try to push the envelope and go for something cool and different.
Will you take a bit of time off then to relax and work on it?
Keith Nelson: (Smashes his hand together trying to kill a fly) Sorry, that fly is bugging me.
Keith Nelson: Fuck! Anyway, we’re getting a head start right now because we’ve had a couple of one and two week breaks during this tour over the Spring so we’re taking some time to get some music together so we’ll be a little ahead of the curve when we actually finish up and once we wrap up the touring on this record we’ll be at it every day, five days a week like we always have.
While you don’t have any deadlines have you got an idea of when you would hope to be releasing it?
Keith Nelson: I think it would be realistic to say next spring.
Just take it as it comes basically
Keith Nelson: Exactly man. We’re home with our families, working on new stuff and it’s good for us as we get to be home. We travel so much so we spend the holidays with our families and the studio is in my back yard so everyone knows where to go and it works out quite well.
Well I think that rounds us off perfectly, I can let you relax a little before the sound check and tonight.
Josh Todd: You coming tonight?
Oh yeah I’ll be there
Josh Todd: Awesome man, thanks for wanting to talk to us
Thanks for giving me your time
Keith Nelson: Great interview man, hope to see you near the front tonight.