Latest album: Hellbound (Earache)Website: www.buckcherry.com
Clearing the cobwebs with some straight ahead hard rock is a recommended means to get the blood pumping. Californian rock band, Buckcherry’s ninth album, titled Hellbound, does just that, and more. Recorded in Nashville at the renovated Quad Studios, which was re-christened as Sienna Recordings, the band has expanded their sound. Hellbound sees Buckcherry adding in elements of funk, blues, and a dash of country, but without losing any of that good time, rock and roll brilliance they are known for worldwide. The band has toured Australia numerous times and delivered on every occasion – the new album captures that characteristic spirit.
On their latest release, Buckcherry reunited with producer Marti Frederiksen, with the end result being a fantastic, polished salvo of hard rock, chock full of guitar hooks, singalong melodies and no-nonsense swagger. Their energy in the live arena is top notch and if the stars align on halting the pandemic, a tour with the equally explosive Fozzy, tentatively scheduled for early 2022, is set to blow the roof off venues across Australia. Whenever the tour happens, it’ll be a certified ripper but in the interim, we got the illustrated Stevie D. [Dacanay] on the phone to talk all things rock and roll. When he answers the phone, he starts with an enthusiastic, ‘Hello, what’s shakin’?’
You’ve got a new album and by the looks of it, Hellbound is pretty good.
Yes, sir. You like it?
Yep, there’s plenty of variety. Do you think that the band has kind of matured?
Oh, I think that it is definitely the natural progression for guys that have been playing music for most of their life. But, it is still rock and roll music that is kind of with our brand, you know what I mean? But yeah, I think that for sure, we have absolutely matured and in a tasteful way.
As an example of variety, in the second half of the album there is a ballad that initially kicks off with piano and vocals only. It works well too. Did the production team push for that kind of arrangement?
Ah, no, that song is called The Way and at that point I had just lost my father and was kind of in a sombre state, messing around in my studio here at home. I came up with the riff on piano and I just did a verse through to a chorus. I am a huge Beatles fan and I just kind of modelled in that, in what my mood was and with that kind of vibe. Josh came in and just laid the vocal on it, here in the studio. That song, I think, is top to bottom, pretty much the same state as it was, at least for parts and riffs, as the demo. It is just that some of the instrumentation got a little bit different once it got to Marty [Frederiksen].
There is a nice bit of harmony guitar in there which I suppose is slightly different.
Yeah, I mean, it was style staying in the tradition of the George Harrison kind of thing. Billy [Rowe] is our new guitar player, and we seem to get on really well and play well together. So, that song is pretty well up the list.
The song before that, Wasting No More Time, sounds like it has some Hammond organ in there.
Yeah, that was Marty Frederiksen’s son, Evan, who is a super talented kid. He’s a music historian beyond his years and he is a multi-instrumentalist. So, he plays on this album. He does some acoustic guitar, adds some other guitar [styles] and so on. He doesn’t add drums but he is a drummer and also a keyboard player. There is a B3 there at the studio so he just knocked that one out of the park.
You mentioned the instrumentation; it is evident throughout with acoustic guitars, percussion and so on. It that the sort of thing that comes about by virtue of recording in Nashville?
I think that maybe it is but with Marty Frederiksen at the wheel, we came to him with twenty songs. His job as a producer was to kind of show growth and to help us realise these songs. Adding different elements that still kept it a Buckcherry song is what he did. He added strings here and there, and there might be some percussion, background vocals and even harmonica, which appears on a song called Gun. So, yeah, it has all grown from where we started.
Not meaning to go through the album backwards but the track No More Lies has a figure in it that is very reminiscent of Led Zeppelin. That bright guitar hidden in amongst it is very D’yer Mak’er.
Yeah, I am a huge Jimmy Page fan and I grew up being a fan, he was one of my big three, you know, growing up. Originally that song was demoed and it sounded more like it had a Montrose, Bad Motor Scooter riff. We liked what Josh did with his vocals but in the eleventh hour, we were at Marty’s house listening down to all of the songs, and I said, ‘You know what, wipe the drums, wipe the guitars, in fact, wipe all of the music and just leave all of the vocals and a click,’ and then that is the riff that I came up with. We played it that way and I played the riff, laid it down and we kind of reverse engineered it and then put in drums, then a bass; we did it all right there at Marty’s house in Nashville.
Hellbound, is very much in the style of AC/DC. I am not suggesting Buckcherry doesn’t have their own sound but the influence in the title track is clear.
Yes, oh dude, you know, it is no secret that we love those guys, and it is not a secret that we have, by design, where it comes out in our music, as to how much we hail those guys. Ah, Hellbound is a prime example of that. Usually we have more of song written first for an album that is in that vein but at that time, that was one of the last songs that we recorded. I was in a hotel room and Josh called and said, ‘We still need that signature Buckcherry riff,’ with that kind of AC/DC riff, from Highway to Hell and the Back in Black era and that is what I came up with. He came in and sang it the next day and knocked it out of the park. I love that chorus.
How are the solos done on this album?
I did them, and that’s even with Kevin [LeMieux – bass] and Billy, for the most part, due to the song writing stuff, I just grabbed all of the leads. That was just out of convenience and speed in finishing the demos and that is how it carried over into the record making process. But they are both fantastic guitar players.
The solos on So Hott and Hellbound have a raw, overdriven guitar tone. You can hear the vibrato on the fret ware. It is pretty full-on in the attack and attitude.
Yeah, it is and the only way to do it is from digging in, you know what I mean? I had decided to go along with more of a Gretsch type of guitar sound and vintage ones tend to have a little bit more clarity and a little more bite. That is what you are hearing. I used Gibsons, Fenders, Gretschs and maybe a few outside guitars. But, it wasn’t so much about quantity for this one, it was just about finding one great Les Paul. Actually, I used a Les Paul, a [Gibson] ES- 335, one Gotoh [fitted] Telecaster, a Gretsch G6120, so, that is mostly what you are hearing. The bulk of everything, believe it or not, I would say, is a Telecaster. Marty has a Tele that I went to a lot. Even uses a Strat on this one.
The rhythm guitar figures for two guitars have that push and pull method happening. One guitar might hit the chord whilst the other will do a bend. Subtle things like that. Were those aspects put together from jamming or during recording, trying different things?
I think that it all starts with, ‘What kind of vibe do you want for this song?’ and I will hear a song that has something like a ‘call and answer’, which is what a lot of people like to call it, and, it just kind of gets demoed first, that way. Most of the songs, with the exception of So Hott, were demoed first, just by me and Josh and that later they were put together with the band in the studio. So Hott was something that I wrote at a sound check and myself, Francis [Ruiz – drums] and Kelly worked it out and then I brought it into Marty.
That track certainly has a nice groove and bounce to it.
Yeah, I mean, like I said, I am a huge Jimmy Page fan and that came out in my playing on that song, for sure. Having said that, I am also a Lenny Kravitz fan too, you know, and in my brain, it had that kind of feel to it.
The song Junk, is great, with a bit of a Guns N’ Roses vibe.
I am a huge fan of them too. I think on the whole, as far as the songs go, we wrote over twenty five and for the ones that we picked, we really let Marty kind of pick the ten that we were going to go after in the studio. They are all rock and roll songs and we all have, in our hearts, we all have similar influences and Guns N’ Roses is one of them, you know. I am a huge fan of that first albumwith Izzy [Stradlin] and Slash having that great guitar combination, also with Steven Adler [drums]. I love that album. So, for you to compare it to Gunners is a huge compliment.
You do get to the chorus pretty quickly in a lot of songs. Is that an intentional thing or just down to the way you write songs?
Yeah, you know, there is that saying, ‘Don’t bore us, get to the chorus.’ So, I think that it is an intentional thing but it is unintentional at the same time because that is just how we write. You know, there is an introduction chorus or maybe a pre-chorus and then the chorus comes around so, yeah, I think we all like to get to that part of the song where everyone is singing along. I think that for a lot of the songs that we like, it also happens that way.
I gather that you’re now more comfortable in the song writing department nowadays given Keith Nelson left the band a while ago now?
Yeah, I am just doing or participating and helping where I am asked. Where I was uncomfortable was with the production side of things because I did not do a lot of Pro-Tools before this but then a few years ago, Josh wanted to put music to his skate company or website so we laid down some beats and ended up with a couple of electronic tracks and hip-hop tracks. That is where it all started but the years before that, back then, it was difficult because I didn’t know what I was doing as far as getting around a computer or in the studio was concerned. Song writing, you know, writing on the guitar and hearing a melody, that is a much easier task for me.
Nine albums under the band’s collective belt is a pretty substantial body of work. Are you starting to feel like one of the stalwarts of the industry like say L.A. Guns?
I kind of just put one foot in front of the other and show up. I suit up and show up because this is all I know. It is hard for me to compare our career to anyone else because it has been different. You know, Buckcherry and L.A. Guns are entirely different bands. I know Tracii [Guns] and I know that my experience in the music industry has been a lot different than his and I am super grateful that we are still here, still playing, still packing houses and still making new music. We are lucky to be still talking to people in Australia, promoting a new album.
It is an awesome new album. Is there any track on it that you’re most happy with at this point?
Well, today, and this could change later today, but right now I’ll say The Way. How it came out is great and that song is really close to me. I wrote that piano riff just after my father passed away last July  so it has just got the feeling, maybe not lyrically, but musically, that I had back then. I hope my Dad is enjoying it.
Going back to the initial question about maturity, the lyrical depth in the song writing has increased hugely since tracks such as Lit Up.
Thanks, there has been a lot of life experience that has happened since back when the band came out. They were in their twenties and a lot of life has happened. So, experiences change in building different songs.
You’ve visited Australia several times. What would be your favourite tour memory of Australia?
I would have to say when we did a tour with Steel Panther, that was epic. It was really great playing those bigger venues. In 2019, we played there with Hardcore Superstar and the crowd reaction was, believe it or not, more intense for us. So, they are lovers of rock and roll and the way that we do it, so, we are truly grateful for Australia.
Hardcore Superstar are a pretty good live band too.
Oh hey, healthy competition is great. I mean, we have played with everybody so, for me, I enjoy anybody who rocks and plays on the same bill as us. I don’t ever think about [upstaging] because we are different enough where we can both go up there and do our own thing and have a great night.
Speaking of different, what led to covering Icona Pop’s I Love It with the track Say Fuck It?
Oh, I think back when that song was out, Josh’s kids were in the car, just listening to that song over and over. Someone came to us and asked us to do a cover and instead of doing an obvious cover of a classic rock and roll band, Josh suggested that we do that song. We whipped that up and it has, strangely enough, been a crowd favourite ever since. Go figure, ha-ha.
Can you elaborate on the line-up of the band now?
Josh and I, along with Kelly on bass, and he has done a lot of miles with Goldfinger in a previous life. On drums we have Francis and we stole him off the road but he was on the road with Slayer when I called him but he has played with Motörhead and he was a tech for a long time with Scorpions. Then there is Billy Rowe; Billy motherfucking Rowe from Jetboy, who you might know from back in the 80’s. So, he brings up the rear and is the newest member. We love him and we love all the guys and it is a solid, talented dependable unit.
The album artwork is impressive and quite distinctive.
That was done buy a good friend of ours named Mark John Lettig and he was the bass played for Josh’s solo band, the Josh Todd Band, back in 2004. He is a tattoo artist now and we were thinking about the title. There was another title that we were kicking around but Hellbound came up as a title. We asked him what kind of artwork he had to represent that as an image and that is what he sent us. We just did a few tweaks and that was basically the same image that we got when we asked him, so, you know, we are really happy with it. The photo on the back is done by a good friend of ours named Mick McMillan.
It’s something to buy on vinyl and really appreciate.
Yes, sir. We are really happy with it. Thank you so much, I look forward to the article.