Latest release: Warpaint (Red/Sony)Website: www.buckcherry.com
Earlier this month, LA rockers Buckcherry released their eighth album Warpaint. Coming a whole four years after the previous Rock N Roll, it’s the first album not to feature original lead guitarist Keith Nelson, who departed two years ago, taking drummer Xavier Muriel with him. It was the biggest line-up change for the band since Nelson and vocalist Josh Todd reformed Buckcherry in 2003 and released the platinum selling 15 two years later. Unperturbed, Todd, guitarist Stevie D and bassist Kelly LeMieux recruited former Orson and Goldsboro guitarist Kevin Roentgen and drummer Sean Winchester and got to work on Warpaint (Winchester has also been replaced since the album was recorded), which features a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like a Hole” as one of its twelve songs. A few days after the release, we caught up with Todd to discuss the album’s long gestation and performing live no matter what.
Congratulations on the new album, Josh. First of all, does it live up to your own expectations?
Oh my gosh, tenfold yes! I think it’s the best Buckcherry record since 15. It’s not a surprise either because we worked really hard on it. We started writing this in November of 2017. We wrote 30 songs to get down to an 11 song record, so we really did a lot of hard work. It was a long process, but it almost mirrored the same situation as it was before 15 released. At the time, it was almost the same thing: we had a long hiatus, we had a line-up change and it really invigorated us and we made one of the best records of our career.
So you’d definitely put this one up with that album?
Oh yeah! We’ll wait and see what the public thinks, but for me it’s the best Buckcherry record in a long time.
You don’t want to have to do a line-up change before every record though!
Oh no. I don’t enjoy line-up changes, but it’s something that happens when you’ve been in the game twenty years now!
It really doesn’t seem like that long ago does it though? I remember the last time I saw Buckcherry in the rain on that stadium show with Aerosmith, and that was a long time ago now too.
Yeah, we were on early and they gave us a really short set. I got really sick over there and I was just trying to get well, and singing through that is always tough but I think we did really well considering what was going on with us. I remember I had to warm up inside some closet inside the venue because they didn’t give us much, it was some dressing room that was kind of connected to everything. But I remember when the show went off, we got up there and kicked ass! That was pretty much all I had left because I been really sick.
It must be really tough when you’re the singer and your voice is the instrument. The same thing happened to Taime from Faster Pussycat a couple of weeks ago and the rest of the band had to really step up. I guess that’s when you know when you’re really a band, isn’t it?
It really sucks, you know, because it’s part of the game and I have a lot of sympathy for all singers that have to deal with it. Especially when you’re at a lower level, because when you’re making millions and millions of dollars, it’s a whole different thing – you can cancel a show and you’ve got insurance to cover it and you can just leave. I don’t like to cancel shows because people appreciate it when you’re up there and you may not be firing on all cylinders but you didn’t cancel the show. A lot of people arrange their schedules and things to make your event, and it’s a real drag when you cancel, and I don’t want to cancel either. That being said, there’s been times when I’ve walked on stage and thought, Oh man, this is going to be the worst gig ever! And it’s come off amazing and something happened that I never knew was there and it was like one more thing I put in my toolbox and say, Oh I can do this when this situation occurs. There’s some magical moments that can come out of that. Not all the time, but you’ve just gotta have faith and just go for it.
And really if you haven’t been to a place for a long time or touring somewhere like Australia that you don’t get to much, a whole lot of people can get really pissed off if you have to pull a show.
Oh yeah, that’s a good point. You’re so far away… if you look at the monetary aspect alone, you can’t cancel because what are you going to do? Just sit around and be in hotel rooms and stuff, because if you have to change your plane ticket on an international flight, it’s anywhere between 500 to a thousand bucks a head for you band and crew. You’re touring at so much cost, you’re better off if you go out there and fucking let it all out.
So tell us about the creative process for the new album, because you said before you wrote 30 songs for it. That’s a lot songwriting.
Yeah, we wrote 30 songs and the usual suspects kept coming up, so we knew what the core of the record was gonna be. We got together, me and Stevie and our manager and our producer Mike Plotnikoff and we put some lists together that we thought would be great for the record, and they all pretty much matched up except for the remaining three songs. We finally whittled it down.
So were there a few songs that you thought at first were maybes, but you then discarded?
Yeah, for sure. I don’t wanna give away any song titles because we may use them on another Buckcherry record, but there’s a couple of songs that were hard to let go of, but it’s just really, if you listen to the body of work it just didn’t fit with the scope of things. It’s usually just finding balance: Okay, we got a bunch of rockers, we need some mid-tempo songs, we want a couple of slow songs, but we gotta have balance… that’s how we whittle it down.
Of course there’s always the possibility to put 20 songs on a CD or make a double album or something, but who would listen to it? 11 songs is really the perfect amount. You’ve really got to pare it back and put your best stuff out there, don’t you?
Yeah I never listen to a 15 song record – I barely sit down and listen to a 12 song record! It’s too much. It’s hard to keep somebody there for that long, even if all the songs are great. And unfortunately I think the thing of the future for a lot of bands now is just going to be releasing singles, because I think the album will start to go away. It takes so long to get the songwriting together and get it over the finish line. It takes a long time for it just to be a glitch on the screen, you know, because there’s so much information that you can’t get any sort of mileage out of your record cycle. I don’t know if bands are going to keep doing it. As far as established bands, it’s starting not to make sense. But we’ll see.
I wanted to ask you about something else, too, because you contributed to Mark Morton’s solo album recently and many are saying that track is one of the highlights.
I’ve been listening to the whole thing and everyone keeps telling me the same thing – you’ve got one of the best songs on the record. And I’m like, Great. I’m happy about that. It happened really quickly. I got this call from Brad Firman, he worked out of my old manager’s office. I had always stayed in touch with him and he manages Mark and he said he’s doing this record and he likes you and he asked if you’d like to be a part of it. So I asked him if I could hear some of the music. He sent me that track and I listened to it a little bit and tried to see where it was taking me in my head. So I went back to when I was transitioning… I was going through a lot – I was deep in my drug and alcohol addiction and I knew I had to get away from every aspect of it. The people, the actual substances – everything. That whole song describes that transition. I came back from the dead. It was like I was reborn.
Is that something that you really want to draw from?
Well when you listen to that track, the music is really aggressive, so I wanted to be aggressive with my approach. That’s what came to me, it came to me quickly, and a lot of great songs do that. I sent to back to him and he was happy, and I was happy, and that’s all that mattered.
It must be great that he thought of you too.
Absolutely! I love collaborating, I love co-writing songs with people, so it was awesome.