MetalTalk's Nik Underwood sat down for a chinwag with Buckcherry singer Josh Todd at London's Koko venue on the first night of their UK and Ireland tour. Here to promote 2013 album 'Confessions' and a Greatest Hits package, Josh talks about 15 years of Buckcherry, complicated childhoods, Prince, and never giving up...
MetalTalk - Hi Josh, welcome to the UK! So this is the first night of the UK/Ireland tour, how are you withe the cold? A little different from California!
Josh Todd - Thanks, good to be here! We started in Germany, Zurich, Italy, so we've had time to acclimatise to the weather!
MT - So we're here to talk about Confessions, album number 6 that came out earlier in the year. How's the reaction been to that?
JT - It's been amazing. You know it's outside of our box as far as when we went in to do the songwriting for it on the foundations of the Seven Sins, so it was a lot of fun for us to take a different direction.
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MT - Was it conceived thematically before the writing and recording or did it naturally evolve?
JT - Keith and I had thrown around the idea of an EP based on the Seven Sins for a long time and it was just time to do something with it. There's been other bands that have done it and movies and everything but the sins are timeless and so cool as a concept so it was a lot of fun, especially as a lyric writer. I did a lot of research, a lot of writing and rewriting. I worked really hard on the record.
MT - In terms of the lyrics they can seem very dark. I personally think there is more melody than usual but in terms of the subject matter perhaps your most personal to date?
JT - I agree with you. It's definitely lyrically darker record for us and I'm not a real dark individual but it's very easy for me to access that when I write though because I've experienced a lot of things in my lifetime. That's the beauty of creating a catalogue of music that it gives you the freedom to go outside the box and create something different when you've already covered certain areas in your "rock history".
MT - Was it a cathartic experience for you do the more personal stuff?
JT - It was heavy, you know? Songs like Pride, I'm so happy I have that because I really love the lyrics on that and songs like Sloth are very hard to get through but I'm also glad it's there. I'm at a place in my life where I can finally talk about that kind of stuff that happened in my life and it's just all about being honest. That's what I feel is the beauty of Buckcherry, we always do what feels right to us. Sometimes it serves us and sometimes it doesn't but I think that's what people appreciate about us, that we take risks.
MT - Do you feel a more honest a writer now than say on your first album?
JT - Not at all. I mean it's just that as far as that particular subject of Sloth which deals with my father's suicide, I didn't really want to talk about how that made me feel when I was in my twenties, now I've learned a lot more about myself as a man and matured over my lifetime and just to touch on that subject that if somebody else has been through something similar maybe they can get some inspiration out of it and that's all you can really hope for, if it just hits one person, you know?
MT - Do you feel now more comfortable now putting that out there?
JT - I just feel like it was a turning point in my life that I didn't know about until I did a lot of work on myself as a man and after having children I just felt that it was time to tell the story.
MT - Is there a fear that it might be too much of a departure from the perceived notion of Buckcherry?
JT - I don't care. We have 70 other songs that they can sift through if that one doesn't make them happy. I think it's a beautiful song and I think it's a song just for anyone that's lost somebody. It doesn't have to be suicide, it could be anything.
MT - You mention the big back catalogue, 1999 was the release of the debut, do you feel that this is a different chapter for Buckcherry? Are you drawing a line?
JT - I think it was time for us to do something different, we did it. A lot people love it and a lot of the critics loved it. The critics usually bash on us because we're a rock band so I don't know! I'm glad we did it. Am I gonna make another "theme" record after this? Fuck no! Not right now!
MT - Well, I'm glad you said "theme" as opposed to "concept" as that seems to be a dirty word for an album...
JT - Right, right. I mean it's got a theme of the Seven Sins, that's the foundation but also we just wanted to make a great Buckcherry rock record that you could just put on and leave on and it's still Buckcherry and that's what I feel we did.
MT - There was also a proposed movie tie-in, what's happening with that?
JT - There was a short film but it got stopped when funding fell through. We're still working on it, still in talks about it, seeing who can come to the table but there's no more money in the music business so you really have to find creative ways to do things that are outside of the box.
MT - In today's industry in terms of the financial climate, label support for artists - or lack of it, and changing sales models what do you have to do to survive?
JT - Well thank God we based our reputation on our live show. Nowadays you've got to be touring constantly to make a living at this. Now bands are starting to release singles, not albums. I think the album is going away and as shitty as that is you can see it happening but we'll see.
MT - It is a bit sad especially as you've made this record which is thematically a complete work but in this day and age people can just cherry-pick songs from here or there...
JT - Yeah, that's all they do now and you can see that trickling down through every part of the business, everybody buying singles so there's not a lot of money and record companies don't want to give you a lot of money to make a record, they're not seeing the return.
MT - So now bands HAVE to get out there and tour to stay alive.
JT - Yeah, you used to be able to sit at home and collect some cheques but not any more!
MT - And you guys are on tour now?
JT - We've been on tour since April last year, since we finished recording Confessions. This is show number 240. We're on tour constantly!
MT - And does it still feel fresh?
JT - Well you know the stage is really the frosting on the cake, it makes up for all the travel, the hard work in the studio and all the behind the scenes stuff.
MT - When Charlie Watts was celebrating 40 years of the Stones his great quote was along the lines of "5 years playing, 35 years hanging around!"
JT - Yeah, yeah, that's the truth!
MT - So on this tour you playing Belfast and Dublin. Have you been to Ireland before?
JT - Yeah, I can't tell you when because it's all a blur at this point but we've done it before. We're actually going to be spending Thanksgiving there on our day off so that should be interesting!
MT - Hectic! 2013 is winding up and as you said you've been on the road since last April, what are your plans for Christmas and the New Year? Take some time off?
JT - Yeah, we're going to go home, break for Christmas and the Holidays. We've been working on an EP for the new year or the first quarter and it's a really cool EP and if you're into Buckcherry you're going to want this, it's really special. I grew up with EPs, I had a lot of them as a kid and I always wanted to do one so we're going to get that in the can in January then at the end of January we start touring Canada and the States.
MT - So not that much of a break then!
JT - No! We can't!
MT - What have been the highlights or standout moments of 2013 for you?
JT - Well we really worked hard on our international reputation and our fanbase outside of the United States. We got to go back to South America and Australia on this run. We got to come here and do a proper tour where it was our own shows and not just festivals which was something we really wanted to do and that's been great. A lot of sold out shows, sold out tonight. Then We're going to Australia for a week after this which is cool. And it's really that, you know? Being able get outside of the States and going thousands and thousands of miles and having great turnout. It's very special for us.
MT - 2014 will be 15 years since the release of your debut album and although there was a brief hiatus ( 2002-2006) does it feel like it for you?
JT - It doesn't feel like it until somebody brings it up and I'm like "all this fucking time's gone by!" but no, I'm just very proud of the work, and we work very hard in this band and it makes me happy. And I think I'm the most comfortable as a performer, as a songwriter now so it's really a lot of fun.
MT - With the band being so busy right now and you not having much time off do you have a chance to do much outside of music? I know you've done a spot of acting in the past, if the Confessions movie does get the green light will you be acting in it?
JT - There is a role for me in it, I play a priest which is cool! The last thing I did was (TV show) Bones and that was a lot of fun so hopefully when I get some time off here I can jump into something.
MT - Is acting something you actively seek out or more a case of opportunity?
JT - Opportunity and time and the right situation, it's got to all come together and it has so we'll see. Music is always the top priority.
MT - I do remember you popping up in The Shield and the movie the Salton Sea with Val Kilmer and Vincent D'Onofrio.
JT - That movie was my first acting gig and I learned a lot on that. Vincent is a fucking amazing actor. There's actually a scene that got cut out of that where he and I are listening to Bon Scott era AC/DC - I forget what song - but we're doing lines of meth and cleaning our guns, it was a really good scene but it got cut. It was cool though.
MT - Back to the music, and what can the fans expect from tonights show?
JT - I always like to say "Their money's worth" you know? This question is so hard to answer but hopefully I think they can expect to be inspired. If we can inspire one person to leave the club tonight and go "Fuck man, I wanna go home and just be creative or do whatever, you know, paint or play my instrument or write my book" I think that is the coolest form of flattery for us.
MT - Any chance of a Buckcherry book on the horizon?
JT - You know I've been thinking about it but I really can not stand musicians stories, I can't stand reading them because they just seem to be so boring, it's always the same fucking story and the only way I'd want to write a book is for it to be like a book, and it reads like a book and it's very interesting, not just a music story it's a story of - you know I want to know what created the monster, I want to know about the childhood because psychologically that's the foundation, where all the shit comes from and as artists we're very insecure and that's why we do this for a living because it's a crazy life! It goes down the line for actors, musicians, painters - we're all just insecure wrecks and it all came from somewhere so I'd like to do it at some point. I've recently been re-visiting George Carlin and all his HBO specials and he's done 9 of them, and I've read his book and he's really inspiring to me because he was such a brilliant fucking mind and he wrote over an hour's worth of material and it was different every show, memorised it all and delivered such incredible performances. His book was so interesting so maybe I'll start dabbling in that.
MT - So, like you say, outside the box. Not your typical Rockstar story! I went here, I went there, I did this, I did that...
JT - Yeah! I got famous, I got a drug habit, lost it all, whatever you know... I don't want that.
MT - You say you find these stories boring but are creative people like actors, musicians, painters etc not essentially the same person with the same story?
JT - No not at all, that would be silly! The end may be the same but I've met a lot of these characters over the years and the most extraordinary part of their stories are their childhoods. That to me is the interesting part. I read a lot of true crime because it's interesting to me, you know, guys like Richard Ramirez, Jeffery Dhamer, it's interesting to know the backstory. Like, how did they become these fucking people?
MT - They are not born that way, nature vs nurture.
JT - No, they're not born that way but they have these elements of their childhood that kind of shape them in the direction they were going. It's interesting and I'd just like to maybe dive more into the psychological aspect of it. But you also want to give the people what they want, they want to know about this life and what it's like to live it. I understand that.
MT - Well THAT book may be a bit dark for people to read!
JT - (laughs) Yeah! I would just want to write a story that takes you on a journey and is a lot of fun to read.
MT - Well I think you have been on a journey and people who like Buckcherry and this kind of music would want to read that and are looking perhaps for a bit of escapism. You could definitely be the guy to provide that.
JT - Yeah mostly people just want to know "So, who did you fuck? How many chicks? How fucked up did you get?"
MT - "What's your latest tattoo?"
JT - Right! and that just gets fucking boring to me.
MT - But you definitely have something to say just not perhaps in the expected way?
JT - We'll see. I've still got a lot of life to live yet!
MT -Can we talk a little about the Greatest Hits album that has just come out? How involved were you and the band in selecting the tracks?
JT - The Best Of? Yeah, well like I said we have 68 or 70 songs out there and it could only be a 12 song record so...
MT - ...and of course there are songs that HAVE to go on there...
JT - Right so we just decided to pick the singles over the years, make it real easy and cut out all the fucking arguments we would have over who thinks what song should be where off what record! So that's what we did, just compiled the singles off all 6 records.
MT - I guess much like compiling your setlist you try to strike a balance...
JT - Well, you've got to have the usual suspects in there. You know people want to hear Lit Up, they want to hear Crazy Bitch, Everything...
MT - KISS aren't going to go out and not play Love Gun...
JT - Right!
MT - Is it ever a burden to play Lit Up after all these years?
JT - No no no! I just go back there in my head. That's why I think every singer should right their own lyrics because you've got to sing these songs thousands of times, you might want to put yourself in them a certain way so you can get excited about it.
MT - A bit like Method acting and it's Sense Memory technique?
JT - There you go. Yes sir. That's what I always really appreciated about Axl, I know he didn't write all of his lyrics but I felt like when he went to sing a song he fucking believed it, you could see it in his passion live. Every time he'd do a song he would go there in his mind, no matter if he was tired or whatever was going on in his life he would deliver it and you would believe it. That was what was so cool about him you know?
MT - If he was tired he would take a nap and turn up when he was good and ready!
JT - Ha! That's right!
MT - In terms of this retrospective Best Of, I just want to put it out there that to me your Timebomb album is perhaps my favourite and I feel is often overlooked as an album...
JT - Cool! That's cool. Yeah, it's the long lost record.
MT - At the time (2002) people said it was a very "downer" record and that it seemed as though you guys were already jaded by your second album...
JT - I love all of our records, we worked hard on all of them. We didn't rush through any of them and Timebomb is what it is. We just tried to capture where we were at that time and that's what came out. It's too bad that it didn't get the attention that it deserved. Our A&R guy quit on us at the beginning of that record cycle so no one at the label knew what was going on with us so after the first single Ridin' it just got completely shelved and it didn't get any love. So it's unfortunate but at least if you're into this band you can go discover it which is cool.
MT - Is it due a re-appraisal?
JT - I'm a huge Prince fan and I think Around The World In A Day was recorded after Purple Rain and no one cared about it. I go back and listen to that record I think I like it more than Purple Rain. I love it so if people feel that way about Timebomb that's great!
MT - The difficult second album?
JT - Every band has to battle the "Sophomore Slump". When you come out and you're unknown it's fresh and then all of a sudden you're not fresh anymore and you have to overcome this thing and sometimes it's tough, no matter what kind of record you make it's always going to be overlooked.
MT - Was the great reaction to the first record a rod for your own backs? If it wasn't "Part 2" it wouldn't be received as well?
JT - Yeah, but whatever. At the end of the day you've just got to move forward and that's what we did. It's peaks and valleys, like any business sometimes your products are selling and sometimes you're in a slump but what are you gonna do give up?
MT - Well, you came back with 15 which was a definite peak for you. that must have felt good? Did it feel like a vindication?
JT - Yeah ii was our biggest record. It felt more than fucking great because do you know what? No one cared about us, no one wanted to sign us. We had that whole record recorded and no one would sign it. We couldn't get a deal in the States. We got a small label in Japan, recorded it in 15 days - that's why we called it 15 - and it's just an amazing story. On top of it all we were a Rock'n'Roll band that wasn't supposed to sell records because Rock'n'Roll is dead. We just believed in ourselves and said "Who cares? We're making Rock'nRoll" and it all worked out.
All the haters, all the people that wanted us to fail....it felt so good.
MT - Well, you guys seem to have weathered the fads and phases in music pretty well. When you first came on the scene you were marketed alongside Nu-Metal because it was popular at the time, where do you see yourselves on the landscape?
JT - It's so silly because all it is is two guitars, drums a bass and a vocal, that's it. No samples, no bullshit. We've just been on our own planet over the years and played with so many different types of band because we had to go through all these waves of Rock, but we just stick to our guns and do what's right and we have a career. We keep focused on the beacon and keep showing up for our worldwide fanbase and that's all that matters. All you gotta do is not give up. Keep knocking on that door of opportunity and it opens at some point. But that's just Buckcherry, we're like Chinese fucking water torture!
And as if on cue Josh excuses himself to use the bathroom and we are done.