Latest Release: Warpaint Website: www.buckcherry.com
Buck Cherry are the meat and potatoes, rock’n’roll deal. Their skyrocket to success about twenty odd years back was on the back of a no-nonsense approach. Since then they have weathered controversies about potentially dubious lyrical content and associated activities. A clean slate and reconvening of the band has seen them tour globally including a few visits to Australian shores. On every occasion, audiences have enjoyed a solid rock show. The reputable showmen are now in the country again and hammering their way through venues. Loud Online caught up with guitarist Stevie D., who has cemented himself as one the band’s reinvigorating influences on bringing Buck Cherry back into the limelight after main guitarist Keith Nelson parted company with the band in 2017
The last time Buck Cherry was in Australia was around the time of the EP Fuck and prior to that you were on a bill with Fozzy and Steel Panther on their charmingly titled S.T.D tour.
Yeah, when we were on that bill with Steel Panther, unfortunately we didn’t get a lot of time to go out sightseeing. It was like, we were just at the venues and didn’t really see much else. Initially we did but were still adjusting to the time difference. I do remember going to that AC/DC Street.
Oh yeah, AC/DC Lane in Melbourne.
That’s it and our techs were all annihilated, all the time. But yeah, beautiful people and a welcoming, pleasant place.
This time you’re hitting us with Hardcore Superstar in tow.
Yes sir, we will be and we did a European run with them and on top of being monster musicians and songwriters, they are fantastic performers. They really are super nice people and it couldn’t have been a better bill. Musically it is a great match and I think that anybody who likes loud guitar music and rock’n’roll will enjoy it.
Indeed, it is interesting how your style of music is having a bit of a resurgence.
Everything is cyclical. Rock was at a lull for a while because of hip-hop and pop music. Look, maybe active rock and metal were up in the forefront but I think that rock’n’roll always tends to make a full circle. It takes young bands or really, let’s say, a band, to kind of peek its head over and that was us around the time of the album 15 and then the Struts kind of came back and broke it wide open and now there is Greta Van Fleet and even bands like Santa Cruz. We’ve toured with Joyous Wolf, who are young cats that are playing rock’n’roll and they are carrying the torch. I think that is good.
You were also on the Stone Festival tour in 2013 with Van Halen’s second ever tour to Australia. Did you get to meet Eddie at all?
Oh yeah, that was great. I loved that. This was when vaping was kind of new and he had quit smoking and he had this big vaping mod and he was like, ‘Hey Stevie, how are you doing?’ and I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, you know my name’ and all I could think of was asking him about his vaping mod in his hand which he asked if I wanted to try it. So, here I am looking at my childhood and adulthood guitar hero, smoking on his vape mod. It was surreal and just five minutes before that, I was hanging out Steven Tyler because they were on that bill too. It was a strange evening, to say the least. I had never opened for Van Halen before so to see them with David Lee Roth was unbelievable.
Certainly and that was the first time that they had been with David Lee Roth on vocals.
On my, that’s right. That is right. How was that for you? Did you see it?
Yeah, it was great but I thought Eddie’s sound was a bit muffled by the bass guitar, in parts.
Oh, I was sitting at the board and Eddie was loud as fuck. Maybe it was just the venue.
Yep, it was partially the mix alongside the air movements and how they set up the field. It was okay for me though since I know his solos backwards and could pick them out from the mix.
Right, right, I get that. If you know the solos and the material, you can hear it.
What are your thoughts on Steel Panther’s over the top parody antics since they’ve cleaned up financially whilst other bands who were around back in the day cop the baggings of their show?
Look, I know those guys and I knew them before they broke out. Good for them and I am happy for them but now that the whole world is in on the joke, it is probably good for them. There is room for everybody and if the world is interesting in seeing them live then, okay, cool. But yeah, it is weird because I remember Tommy Lee was kind of not too impressed by them taking the piss and I see his point of view too. Still, all in all, there is room for everybody and I am happy for them. I mean, we get to do our stuff too so it is all good.
Honestly, rock does set itself up to have the piss taken out of it, really.
Yeah, look at Spinal Tap, people loved that movie and I love that movie. Steel Panther are kind of the real life version. They are sweet human beings, they are really nice guys so I cannot be too mad at them.
Discussing the new Buck Cherry album, Warpaint, what brought about the decision to cover Nine Inch Nails?
We would always mess around with a lot of different cover songs in our band rehearsals and sound checks. Nine Inch Nails worked because, to us, Trent Reznor and Josh’s [Todd] vocal styles are very similar. That [‘Head Like a Hole’] was just one song that we grew up on and we are big fans of Trent. He is like the modern day David Bowie. Anyway, it was a song that we knew the riff to and everyone just kind of jumped in. Our producer, Mike Plotkinoff, hit record just to get tones but we liked what we were hearing so we just sort of followed through and the take came out pretty well.
Do you find that you’re co-producing these days or do you let the reins over to the producer on board for the project?
You know, it is funny because I co-produced on Josh Todd and the Conflict’s debut [Year of the Tiger] which is an album that Josh and I did just before Warpaint and I cannot help but want to assist. I want Mike Plotkinoff because he is an amazing producer and human being so I want his influence on the album. But, I also hear things a certain way so I think that the only time that I inject my opinion is when I think that it is really important to not lose certain aspects of a song to deliver whatever emotion we want to get across. I am at an age now where playing well with others is really important. Everyone wants the same thing and that is a successful band, song and album so at some point, you have to ease up and let there be other cooks in the kitchen.
That makes sense. In that light, do you look back at the first couple of album’s where you weren’t in the band and think about the production aspects?
You know, as far as rock’n’roll albums go, I think that the first album is pretty perfect. Steve Jones [Sex Pistols] played on a lot of it. The tones were perfect for what the band was and I think that they really captured what the band was then. It actually could have been a little bit better than what the band was but having said that, Time Bomb, from a production standpoint regarding some tones and the mix, yeah, I might change that but you know, it is just all a reflection of what was going on at the time. There are great songs on that album.
Given that Keith [Nelson – ex-guitarist, founder, co-producer] has left the band, how have the song writing approach and aspects changed today?
I think that it has changed only in that Keith isn’t there. Josh will still come up with melodies and I will build the song around that melody or I will write a riff and then give it to Josh. If he connects with the riff, then I will write a verse and a chorus so if he connects with at least that, then I will build up the rest of the song. That is the way that we used to do it before. We also now have two new members in the band [Kevin Roentgen on lead guitar and Francis Ruiz on drums] that are bringing it to life. What I am trying to do, is to really utilise their strengths and have them play as much as they possibly can without taking away from the song, if that makes sense. That would be the only difference and it is not better or worse, it is just the way that we are doing it now.
It must be tough when you lose a key member. How do you persevere?
Well, that was the question we asked three years ago. I didn’t even get a phone call from Keith, I just got it passed on from Josh who just told me that Keith had left and then there was radio silence. So, it was really a question of, ‘Okay, is Buck Cherry done?’, you know, because it was really Josh and Keith’s band. At that point, it was really up to Josh and whether or not he wanted to keep going. For me, I needed to work and this was my only way of making music, staying creative and of making money at that time so, when he said, ‘We’ve got to keep going’, I was all in and then, the only thing to keep doing was to keep putting one foot in front of the other. You’ve got to suit up and show up for whatever it is.
As you mentioned, you’ve got new members including a new drummer.
Well, the two newest members are Kevin Roentgen, and he has been around and has been a friend of both myself and Josh since around 1991. Francis Ruiz is on drums and he has been running in similar circles as us in Hollywood since 1991 or 1992. So, Josh and all of us, at one point in the early nineties, were all sitting around a table just drinking and partying but if you have told us then that we would end up being in a band together, we would have laughed at you. However, these guys have all been carrying a torch for rock’n’roll on their own and in other bands so it just made sense to all get together. We could have really called a lot of different people but what it all boiled down to was that it has to be a good hang, you know. There are a lot of times when bands are not on stage with each other and really, we spend more time with our bandmates than we do with our families. In order for this line up to work, it has to work offstage.
As a guitarist, what is your mindset to keep soloing interesting since in a lot of respects, it has all been done and with a ridiculous amount of virtuosity?
Yeah, I know and I mean, all of it has been done. But, it is just about finding those little changes that make it your own thing. I am still a fan of guitar and guitar players just like I was when I was fifteen years old and I still practise like I did when I was a kid. Of course, the last three years was been largely spent in the studio writing and recording but once we finally got back in the road, I could again enjoy the instrument for what it was. Now there is YouTube so I can use that to find more inspiration, sitting in the front longue of the tour bus and just work out my own versions of everything. I love it.
In some of your solos, I can hear a small bit of Steve Lukather or even Steve Vai in there.
Wow, I love them both but to be honest, I love Lukather but I cannot stand Vai but that is only because of his personality. He had some shit to say about Buck Cherry that I wasn’t jiving with but whatever, fuck him. I love Flex-able and his playing on Crossroads but then after that, he lost me. I digress, look, I love the Messiah of Guitar who is Angus Young because that is where it all started for me. I love Jimmy Page and Randy Rhoads but if you listen, there is a lot of that there on Warpaint.
Oh yeah, the curious thing being that a lot of listeners switch off about styles when it comes to guitar solos but if you’ve learnt the instrument, there’s a wealth of stuff to enjoy.
Yeah, I mean, who can you not? I’ve hung out with Zakk Wylde in Dallas after I saw him do a couple of guitar things and I was sort of like, ‘Oh, I see and I bet he got that from so-and so’ and I know that for me, I may lift part of a lick from ‘The Song Remains the Same’ and that would’ve been years ago. Yet still today, I won’t realise that until, let’s say, it is on in the front longue of the tour bus and I will think, ‘Oh yeah, I stole that from Jimmy Page and still play it today’. That probably applies to a lot of Angus Young parts and Malcolm Young riffs.