BUCKCHERRY - “The Last Man Standing”

July 22, 2019, 3 months ago

By Aaron Small

feature hard rock buckcherry

BUCKCHERRY - “The Last Man Standing”

In 2019, Buckcherry has not one, but two reasons to celebrate. This year marks the 20th anniversary of their self-titled debut, as well as the release of their new album, Warpaint. BraveWords scribe Aaron Small and Buckcherry vocalist Josh Todd sat down backstage at Mavericks in Barrie, Ontario to discuss the past, present and future of this ever-evolving band.  

“Yeah, 20 years in the game,” reflects Josh. Buckcherry’s self-titled debut came out in April 1999, and now here we are in July 2019. “It’s incredible. I don’t really look back that often, I’m always looking ahead, thinking about what the next thing’s going to be. After we dropped this record (Warpaint), it was brought to my attention that it was something we had to focus on. So, I did start looking back, and I’m really grateful! This is what I visualized and dreamed about when I was a kid. I wanted to be in one band and make a catalogue of music.”

Buckcherry’s self-titled debut has been certified Gold in both Canada and The United States. It was re-released in 2006 with a bonus DVD, so there’s really no need to reissue it again. Did you ever consider doing a tour playing that album in its entirety to commemorate the 20th anniversary? “Didn’t think about it,” replies Josh. “I remember we did a tour where we played the whole 15 record, on its ten-year anniversary. You would think there would be all this hoopla around it, but it’s like… we have so many songs that we haven’t been able to play live. If there was a real big demand for that, we would certainly do it. But it’s not like people are grinding on us to do that.”

What’s the one Buckcherry song you would love to play live that you haven’t yet? “Let me think… I really love this new record, Warpaint. It’s an amazing record! I’d like to do ‘No Regrets’ live. We’ve been rotating a lot of the songs, but you don’t want to play too many new songs, cause people start getting pissed off. We play all the usual suspects every night: ‘Crazy Bitch’, ‘Lit Up’, and ‘Sorry’. But it’s tough. I make the setlists. I want it to be interesting, but you don’t want to rotate so many songs… you want to get a good, familiar pace going. We rotate about four songs a night. To answer your question, ‘No Regrets’ would be the song.”

Buckcherry is touring until the end of November, will “No Regrets” make its way into the setlist at some point? “I don’t know,” answers Josh quite honestly. “Sometimes we’re asked to play longer; we busted out ‘The Hunger’ a couple nights ago, which was awesome. We don’t usually play that every night. So, we’ll get to it at some point. I don’t like to play songs unless they’re super tight, and I’m a guy who needs to rehearse a lot. Vocally, Buckcherry songs are very demanding. I’ve got to get used to the breath of a song; where to push and where not to push. I don’t want to get used to it in front of people, so that when I am in front of people, it’s effortless and fun. That being said, we only have time to rehearse at soundcheck.”

The current incarnation of the band could be referred to as Buckcherry 3.0. The first era (1995 – 2002) spawned the first two albums; then the group completely disbanded for a few years. The second era (2005 – 2017) saw five more albums released, after which guitarist Keith Nelson and drummer Xavier Muriel quit. The third era (2017 – present) marks a new beginning with vocalist Josh Todd being the only original member left. “Yes. I kind of knew from the very beginning I’d be the last man standing. I was the youngest guy when we started this. I started this band from nothing on a four-track in my bedroom in my apartment. Everybody that’s left Buckcherry, they left on their own free will; there’s nothing you can do about that. I love Buckcherry, and every time we’ve had a lineup change, it’s always got better. The Warpaint cycle is almost reminiscent of 15. We hadn’t dropped a record in three years. We had a lineup change and we made the record of our career at that time; it was amazing! Cut to the Warpaint writing cycle Stevie (D, guitarist) has been in the band since 2005, and he and I have known each other since I was 19; way before he was in Buckcherry. He never really got an opportunity – because of the politics in the band at the time – to write, to contribute. Stevie’s a really talented musician, so this was the time. We had already made the Josh Todd And The Conflict record together, so by the time we got to the Buckcherry writing cycle, that muscle was being worked. We were strong, we were in full force. We were very thorough. We wrote over 30 songs for this record. We knew we were going to have to make one of the best Buckcherry records of the catalogue, and I feel like we did; song to song it’s amazing.”

It’s remarkable that you wrote 30+ songs. “It’s very labour intensive, but if you love what you do…” Of course, fans are clamouring to hear the songs that didn’t make the Warpaint album. “No, no. Songs that don’t make a record don’t make it for a reason. I always tell people that they’re just not good enough for the public. Occasionally there are songs we might revisit that have a really good verse, or a really good chorus, but it never really came together. But usually we start from scratch on every record cycle.”

Over the last couple of years, there was a cloud of uncertainty hanging over Buckcherry. In 2015 the Rock ‘n’ Roll album was released. Then in 2016, Josh collaborated with Stevie D. on a side project called Spraygun War, which was followed in 2017 by a Josh Todd And The Conflict album, Year Of The Tiger. That marked two releases which were not under the Buckcherry banner. With Keith and Xavier leaving, was there ever a point where you thought Buckcherry was over and done with? That you would proceed forward as a solo artist? “No. I had a clothing line called Spraygun War and I always wanted to put some music to it. Stevie and I did that whole EP out on the road on laptops; it was really fun. I’m a huge fan of music! I like electronic music, I like hip hop, I like everything; I like good songs. And Stevie’s the same way. We’re not just listening to one genre of music. This was our opportunity to just have some fun. We had been on the road for a while… I remember, we were walking to Target on a day off in a parking lot, and I was like, ‘Man, I need somebody to make me some beats.’ Stevie was like, ‘I’ll make you some beats.’ And that’s when Spraygun War started.”

“We did that all grass roots; that’s what was so fun about it. I love building something from nothing. There was so much stuff going on. You could feel the demise of that lineup for three years prior to when it actually happened. It wasn’t fun being in that situation, being around those people. So, the Spraygun War EP was kind of this creative outlet for Stevie and I that we just… it really was just fun for us. A different focus. We were still doing Buckcherry shows, but it was like this whole thing that we were excited about. We knew what it was. It wasn’t going to be something that we would go out and tour on, but we wanted to see it all the way through. We did a video (for the song ‘OMG’), and it was a lot of fun. A lot of people helped us, cause we didn’t have big budgets or anything like that. Then naturally, Year Of The Tiger (by Josh Todd And The Conflict) happened because we were touring a lot with Buckcherry; we had to give it a rest. But I’m a musician. I want to continue to create songs and records. So, I made another record, did that for a year, and came back to Buckcherry; that was always the plan.” 

Delving right into the new Buckcherry album Warpaint, it was somewhat surprising to hear the inclusion of strings and orchestration on “Radio Song” and “The Hunger”. Given that it’s the first album from this new lineup, the expectation was simple and straightforward – five guys in a room playing rock ‘n’ roll. What made you decide to go that route? “You’d have to ask Stevie about some of those; he was the musical leader on that as far as little flavours here and there. He did some stuff on the demos that really worked. When we got to the table with (producer) Mike Plotnikoff, he liked some of the stuff, so he incorporated it. They’re not on all of the songs. But historically, we done that with a lot of our records. There were strings on ‘Sorry’, and the list goes on. There were horns on ‘Tight Pants’.”

Buckcherry garnered numerous headlines by covering the Nine Inch Nails song, “Head Like A Hole”, on Warpaint. However, that’s previously been done by several other bands including Carnifex, AFI, Korn, and now Miley Cyrus. What made you want to tackle a cover song that other artists had already reinterpreted? “Cause ours is the best. That’s the reason. No, I didn’t know all that, I just go with my instincts. The cover conversation literally comes up in every writing cycle. The label wants you to entertain it, your manager always asks you. So, I thought about a cover before anybody asked us about a cover. We were all set up to record, I brought it in and… I hate it when a rock band covers a rock song. I think it’s really boring. We covered ‘I Love It’ (by Icona Pop), changed it a bit and called it ‘Say Fuck It’ on the Fuck EP (released in 2014). Really great song, and it sounded like a Buckcherry song. That’s the challenge. I was always a fan of the Pretty Hate Machine record; everybody in the band loved it as well. I thought, here’s a guy - Trent Reznor - who I admire. He stuck to his guns his whole career and created his whole island. He’s an awesome, talented artist; and his voice is in my wheelhouse as well. And I like the lyrics. All that being said, I thought that we could make this a great rock song. We sped it up a couple bpms and ripped it out. We didn’t know Mike Plotnikoff was recording us at the time. He threw up a rough mix and said, ‘You guys should come in here and hear this.’ We went in there and it was blasting out of the speakers – wow! This sounds like a Buckcherry song, this is great. We played it for our manager and our label. It just kept hanging around and hanging around; everybody loved it. Finally, it made the record.”

 

The aforementioned song “No Regrets” is certainly one of the standout tracks on Warpaint. Musically, it’s a mix of punk and rockabilly, which is a little different; and it has a really fun vibe to it. But it also has super poignant lyrics. Specifically, the line, ‘Music was the only thing that helped me through the mess, prying eyes and suicide, and all the fucking stress.’ When Buckcherry released Confessions in 2013, you sung about your Dad’s suicide on the song “Sloth”. What prompted you to revisit that difficult subject? “I’ll tell you what. Like I said, Stevie’s known me since I was 19. He knows I was just this little Orange County punk rock skateboarder kid; he knows my roots. All the records I listened to: Minor Threat, Social Distortion, Seven Seconds; they were all independent punk rock records. So, we were deep in the writing cycle (for Warpaint) at this point, and Stevie calls me up and goes, ‘Hey man, before I send this music to you, it’s kind of off the beaten path. I want you to have an open mind to it, I was feeling it, and it kind of reminds me of Social Distortion.’ I’m like, ‘Send it!’ He sent me the music and it’s just the perfect change of pace for us, cause we were writing all these rock songs. It had this punk – exactly how you described it – flavour to it. Sometimes before I start writing (lyrics), I‘ll just listen to the music and think about where it takes me mentally. It took me back into that time period where there was just so much going on with me, in my childhood… all those things I talk about in the song. Music was my salvation; it was the thing that gave me comfort that always made me happy. So, that’s what I wrote about. That’s what came out, and that’s why I love that song so much.”

One thing Buckcherry has not done, which is quite surprising given their 20-year history, is a live Blu-Ray or DVD. Apart from the Crue Fest DVD, filmed in Toronto in 2008, on which Buckcherry perform three songs, there’s no other home-viewing concert footage available. “We have brought up the DVD conversation eight million times with our team. And it always somehow just fizzles out or gets shot down; the cost and return on it is not good. We’re just always talked out of it. We want to do it, and it’s something we definitely need to accomplish, but it’s just not my department to get that all together. We’ve got to get somebody in the fold that can… we’ve got a Canadian guy who’s going to get on the bus with us; he’s helped us a lot with our stuff. We’re going to try and get some footage, but I don’t know if it’s going to become a DVD.” It may just end up on YouTube. “You’ve got to be servicing video content to socials… everything’s changed.”

Most recently, Buckcherry issued a video for the song “Right Now” from the Warpaint album, which features MMA fighters. Are you a big UFC fan? “I’m big on one-on-one combat. I love sports and competition and people that prepare themselves to win. It’s really not easy to do, and I admire that. Originally, I wanted to focus on X-Games type stuff. So not only MMA, but boxing, skateboarding; just crazy stuff. We didn’t have the budget to do all that. I wanted to feature all these athletes from around the world, and not even have a band performance in it. That would have been cool for me, but we just couldn’t do it. So, we teamed up with Affliction, who are really awesome! They have this giant compound in Seal Beach, California, where they have a huge MMA gym. Next door they have a stage and a store with all their apparel. Budget-wise and everything, it really worked out. And yes, I admire MMA fighters, and boxers. I’ve done boxing training for a long time; that’s how I stay fit. We really enjoyed it; I think the video came out great.”

Given all that you’ve experienced throughout the last 20 years with Buckcherry, have you ever thought about writing an autobiography? “No. I read books, but it would be hard for me to write a book because I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. I don’t want to talk shit about people; it’s not who I am. And that’s what people want you to do in a book. They really want the dirt. I don’t know how I could do that and feel good about myself.”


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