Buckcherry - Autumn 2019
Buckcherry formed in Anaheim, California in 1995 and released their self-titled album in 1999. Their subsequent journey has been an enthralling one for fans to passenger along with. Tours with KISS, AC/DC and Lenny Kravitz, as well as playing to 400,000 fans at Woodstock ‘99 gave the band the early exposure most bands can only dream of. Over the following 20 years, Buckcherry would continue to go from strength to strength releasing 8 albums to date, their latest being the outstanding Warpaint. There have been line up changes along the way but lead singer and visionary Josh Todd has been a constant guiding light throughout. As the band conclude their North American tour, we catch up with Todd in Lafayette. He is enjoying a day off before the next show in Rochester and the subsequent full-on tour of Canada, and it’s a hot day. Very hot! In Todd’s case, a day off really does mean a day off so he is able to enjoy gorgeous weather. With Warpaint’s tracks Bent and Radio Song making huge waves on YouTube and across social media more generally, we make ourselves comfortable to talk about how the album came together, about the fans’ reaction to the new music and what an impending second trip to the UK means to the band…
The first thing I would like to talk about is your new album Warpaint which was released on the 8th of March this year. You have created a truly exceptional record here and I’d like to take a moment just to talk about some of the specific tracks starting with the title track. Warpaint appears to be all about the how music and live shows are essential parts of life, both for the band in terms of pledging an allegiance to the music and the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, but also for the fans who receive the power of music, the energy, the sense of release and positive mental health. To what extent would you agree that this is a fair statement to make?
I think that’s great! We went through a lot personally and professionally in the last 3 years before we dropped this record. There was line up changes and there was a lot going on between Stevie (Steve D – Guitar) and my personal lives and it just made for really great songwriting. It was very reminiscent of the time period before we dropped the 15 record, you know? We felt like we’d made the record of our career and our backs were kind of against the wall and it had been a long time since our last record so it was like the same thing. Stevie and I were just very thorough in the songwriting process. We wrote over 30 songs for an 11 song record so that’s why the record’s so good, you know? We only took the cream of the crop and Warpaint was one of the songs which was a real anthem-type rock song. I remember before I got the music to that, I called Stevie and I said "Hey man, you’ve got to send me…" – I gave him ideas to spark some creative thing and I just said "Give me some Highway To Hell music!" And he said "Okay!". So he was off to the races and he wrote this great composition which is the Warpaint music, sent it to me and I was just totally inspired. Music has been my saving grace really, as a child and even to this day. It’s that one thing that constantly makes me happy and that’s really huge for me. That’s the spirit behind the song Warpaint. I wanna kiss the night away, I wanna sleep all through the day, forget all my problems, life is a hard one, tattooed on my face is my Warpaint. It’s like when I go out there on a stage, that’s when everything goes by the wayside and I’m free! I’m just truly free, you know what I mean?
You’ve also chosen to cover Nine Inch Nails’ Head Like A Hole and you even open the shows with this song. What does this song mean to you and why did you decide to cover this particular song?
You know the cover conversation comes up on every record cycle. The label always want you to entertain the idea and think about it and it’s kind of aggravating in a way sometimes but instead of getting aggravated this time I just wanted to get ahead of it. Finding a cover is really challenging because I think it’s super boring when a rock band covers a rock song. It doesn’t interest me, and it’s been within our theme over the years – we did it with Say Fuck It and some other songs – and so personally I’ve got to have a song that I believe in lyrically that I believe I could own and that maybe I wrote it myself, and the vocal has got to be in my wheelhouse where I feel I can do it justice. Head Like A Hole is one of those songs and I was always a fan of the Pretty Hate Machine record. I felt that Trent Reznor really kind of started something very original and stuck to it and made his mark and never conformed to any formula. That’s what’s really cool about him, and as a kid all my foundation records were punk rock independent records so I really loved the honesty in those records. That being said, we came in and we were all set up to start recording Warpaint and Mike Plotnikoff our producer was in the control room and I just said to the band "Hey guys, I’ve got this idea, let’s jam out this song and see if we can make it sound cool and sound like Buckcherry", you know. So we bumped it up like 2 BPMs, make it a little bit faster so it was a little more reckless and then we just jammed it out. We didn’t know that Mike was recording us at the time and he said "Hey Guys, why don’t you come in here, I want you to hear something" and he drew up a rough mix of the song and just blasted it out of the speakers, and it was like ‘Wow! This sounds like a Buckcherry song!’. So we played it for our manager and our label and they really, really loved it, and it was one of these songs that kept coming up and coming up, and finally it made the cut.
You’ve mentioned yourself that it sounds like a Buckcherry song and I think it’s important to mention that what you have done here is create something that isn’t a straight copy of the original. It’s a track that carries the Buckcherry DNA.
I remember when The Black Crowes came out with their first record (Shake Your Money Maker – Ed) and they had Hard To Handle on there and I didn’t know it was a covers song for the longest time. I was like ‘This is an amazing song!’, you know? Then I heard the original and I thought wow, they really made this cool and made it their own, and I never forgot that.
Buckcherry are coming back to the UK in November for a run of 8 dates, for what will be the second time this year. Earlier this year you played 10 dates including a show at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, and it was during this time in London that you recorded the video to the track Bent. This is an absolutely wonderful track and the video is absolutely fantastic! It really reinforces what it means to be at a Buckcherry show and also what an incredible time the band had on that tour. What are your memories of the UK tour from earlier this year?
Just like you said, it was really fun for all of us because the unique thing about this line is we replaced a guitar player and a drummer and all of us knew each other way back in the day when we were banging it out in LA in Hollywood. We were all in separate bands at the time but we all knew each other and so for us to all be together at this point in time… you know we are having such a great time together and that’s what needs to happen for Buckcherry to thrive. And it’s the best musicians we’ve ever had in the band so that being said, to go out of the United States for the first time with this line up was just a lot of fun for all of us and I think you can feel that when you see the video. I agree – Bent is one of my favourite songs on the record.
Since the album launch you’ve been touring extensively and you’re now concluding a US tour. (before moving on to Cananda, Australia, Japan and then back to the UK). You’ve obviously been playing some of the new material on tour – quite a lot of it actually – with Head Like a Hole, Bent, Right Now, The Alarm and Radio Song all featuring in the set. What have the audiences’ reactions been to the new material so far?
That’s the funnest part, seeing how people react to the new songs because it’s hard to get people to just go out and buy music. You can tell the people who’ve heard it and the people that haven’t heard it. It’s great because this weird thing is happening now with the Buckcherry audience. We’ve got all of our old fans from the first record but we have all these new young people and it’s the younger generation that’s been streaming the new record and they know more of the new songs. It’s pretty cool! We rotate all the old songs as well but we are playing a lot of the new record because it’s just so good! I want to play the whole record but we can’t do that. We have to tend to some of the other usual suspects. It’s been really great. That’s the icing on the cake for us because everything else is in this business is pretty challenging. When you write a record it takes a lot to get it over the finish line. It’s very labour intensive and I think that’s what people don’t understand. By the time you get to the stage you’ve already heard these songs over a hundred times and you’re so close to it you don’t even know if it’s good anymore so when you see the average concert goer reacting to it in a positive way and you can see it’s making their night, that’s the icing on the cake. That’s what you live for when you do this for a living.
I would like to take a moment to look in the year view mirror because this is a special year for Buckcherry. 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of your debut self-titled album. It’s incredible to think that it’s been 20 years! What are your memories of creating that first record and the whirlwind of success that followed?
Oh wow, I have so many memories! Everything was new at that time and it would be a long conversation but some of the highlights would be Woodstock ‘99 of course, the first time we toured Europe was with KISS. That was incredible! We’d never been on an arena stage or been to Europe so that was all insane. When we got back to the States Lit Up was taking off on radio and we felt the power of radio and what it was doing for our fan base. We would play places we’d never been and it would be sold out because of a hit song and all those things. It was incredible! It was like ‘Wow, this is amazing!’. We’ve had so many peaks and valleys in the Buckcherry story and the funny part is that Buckcherry has never been a mainstream rock band from the beginning. Never been mainstream. We’ve survived all these years without like the ‘big machine’ behind us really. We had a lot of radio presence on our first record and our third record and that’s it! Not a lot of radio since then and we have 8 records now and we have really great songs. And it’s a really hard pill to swallow sometimes but the great thing is that we based our reputation on our live shows so we have this amazing fan base that keeps coming to our shows and a lot of people have been to 20 or 30 shows so that makes me feel really great. I’m always drawing my focus on what’s next so I haven’t really looked back for so long because it’s marked 20 years. It’s really been interesting and I’m really filled with a lot of gratitude I have to say, and I’m very, very grateful that I’ve been able to do this for a living all these years and I don’t know where I’d be without it. I don’t have to think about that because it’s here and I’ve worked really hard for it every step of the way and I’m so proud of it.
As a young band from Anaheim how did it feel to be working with people like Terry Date who produced bands like Soundgarden, Mother Love Bone, Pantera, and also to work with Steve Jones, the guitarist from the sex pistols, to create the album?
Well, you know that was the second run. Dave Bianco was the first producer and we were in there recording the record and our A&R guy fired him and pulled the plug on the whole thing. Then we got Terry Date and Steve Jones and it was amazing! I sang all those vocals standing right next to Terry Date because it’s what Chris Cornell did on the Bad Motorfinger record and I asked him about that. "What did Chris do?" and he said "Oh he sang on an SM58 right in the control room" and I go "Oh, okay. That’s what I want to do!" and he goes "Okay". So we did it just like that and Steve Jones is lying on a coach behind me and Terry Date was sitting right next to me and I recorded all those vocals to that record like that. It was pretty interesting! It’s hard for me to listen to that record honestly because I was very under-developed vocally but I understand why people like it. There’s a lot of charm to the record and it’s raw and real and it’s got that reckless abandon and I like that side of it but it was only after that when I started getting vocal lessons and help because I had really self taught myself up to that point.
What are your plans to celebrate the 20th anniversary of your debut album?
We’re celebrating it now with this great new record Warpaint. We’ve been out there promoting it on stage and everyone knows about it but we didn’t specifically have a direct plan except when we announced the tour and it’s been on all the socials.
You mentioned earlier Woodstock 99 and just thinking of anniversaries there have been plans for a Woodstock 50 event and lots of things reported in the press that I don’t need to go into, but one of the wonderful things was the Woodstock 30th anniversary in 1999 which nearly 400,000 people attended. How did you feel when you got the news that you would be playing this highly prestigious event?
We were blown away and what an event that was! I got to take a picture of James Brown that day! I got to meet James Brown and I was like ‘Wow, I can die now, this is amazing’! Me and James Brown was like the highlight for me and of course being on stage in front of that many people and being a part of the event. It was incredible. It’s what I dreamed about and we were so happy to be in the mix.
Buckcherry do of course have your long-standing fans but what’s evident is that you also have a growing younger audience. I think that’s something quite interesting and exciting.
I think that’s because we continue to put records out. I’m 48 and I’m always writing songs. Always writing songs! We’re putting out records all the time and it’s like I’m always working that songwriting muscle and trying to learn more about songwriting and always looking for that song that’s going to change my life again. I think people appreciate that and kids are smart – they go on these streaming things and if your song’s on one of the streaming lists and they like it they get fired up. They start getting into your whole catalogue and then they come to the shows. It’s pretty cool that way. It’s just changed a lot because I think the next thing to go is the record. It’s already happening. iTunes is getting out of the game, they’re going in to streaming. I remember somebody telling me about 5 years ago ‘Oh, music is going to be free at some point. You’ll see! It’s going to be streaming like water and that’s it. People won’t be buying it any more. There won’t be any more albums’. And I was like ‘What?! What are you talking about! That would suck!’. But sure enough it’s happening.
Getting my back to Warpaint and the tour, what can fans in the UK expect from your live shows in November?
We are going to have a lot of shows under our belt at that point in time and so I’m going to go in and kind of revisit all the sets when we were there and try to add different songs and compile a different set list so that the people that have come again will see something different. And we’re going to just do what we always do - we’re gonna give people their money’s worth. That’s what we like to call it.
As our conversation draws to a close, we reflect on what a fantastic record Warpaint actually is. With a second UK tour happening in the Autumn, fans are going to experience great music and powerful performances delivered with absolute passion. We would even go as far to say that it will be one of the hottest tickets of the year.
Find out more at www.buckcherry.com and in the meantime, check out the video to their latest track Radio Song below.