||BUCKCHERRY'S KEITH NELSON ON CURRENCIES, CANCER AND CRAZY BITCHES
In all my years stalking rock stars for a living I've never had the pleasure of interviewing Buckcherry's guitarist Keith Nelson before – but what a bloody nice bloke he is.
As we sit in the Hilton hotel, Wembley, a day ahead of their arena tour with Bowling For Soup and Steel Panther, it's twenty minutes before we even begin the interview as we both chat about our shared passion for the Gibson guitar. Nelson is proud to be a member of the Gibson Goldtop 59 club whose membership is limited to very few guitar greats.
So how did this tour, which sees Buckcherry open up for Texan heavyweights Bowling For Soup and rock tigers Steel Panther, come about? Keith explains that they are longtime friends with Lexi and Mike from the Panther, having met on the Los Angeles scene. They toured with them in Australia and they got on great and it just made sense to bring this synergy to the UK this year.
2016 is a very poignant year for the Buckcherry dudes as not only is it the anniversary of the '15' album but what's also fallen under the radar is that Keith met Josh in 1996 so it's also the 20th anniversary of them forming the band and their hugely successful song-writing partnership.
Back to '15' and the anthems that album spawned. And as a rock chick, for me it's all about 'Crazy Bitch', which is guaranteed to be the one song that will get me and the girls up on the dancefloor after a few lady petrols. Keith laughs at this and says recently he was interviewed by a London based male journo who wouldn't let it go that he thought the song was misogynistic with our lyrics. I think that's so far from the reality as we are husbands, we are sons of mothers who we love, we have daughters. Our music is just about having a good time, encouraging people to let go, have fun and love life.
"I want to be entertained. My favourite bands growing up made me want to dance, chat up girls, fall in love, party and it wasn't anti-anything but just having a good time and we are just trying to get that across and I think that's what we do well at. So it's really refreshing to hear female journos like you say it's your anthem and that you get it and understand it and is great. We celebrate all people from all walks of life."
'15' may have only taken fifteen days to record but the journey to release it was wasn't easy, as Keith reveals: "We were truly a band that was left for dead and if you look at the history of bands it's pretty common for you to have some buzz, release a record that does well, you follow that up and then that's not as successful and then the band disintegrates. And then the music business people keep their jobs and they forget about you. That happened to us.
"And when we came back with this record. When we finished it, we shopped it to all the major record labels and they all passed. So it was really up to us and sheer fucking will to make it happen and we just persevered so it is a thank you and a fuck you at the same time."
We chat about how transient it can be in the music industry these days and Keith sites that being the underdog is really what has kept them motivated. "We are really grateful to have a second bite of the apple and that's what turns being in a band into a career. Social media really was the catalyst for so much of this. When we geared up to put the record out, 'Next To You' was going to be our first single but we had filmed a short promo for 'Crazy Bitch' which we put out on MySpace [we laugh about Myspace being old hat now] and it got a million hits in no time and we were like 'whoah something is really going on here' and we do feel like this was one of the first rock tracks that did go viral.
"YouTube got on board – they were in their early stages. And then radio stations ripped off the MP3 of it so they weren't even playing the clean recording of it. We didn't think anyone would play it so this track's success was really driven by the fans. We couldn't have scripted it any better."
Moving on to the band's latest release and this month sees the re-issue of 'Rock N Roll' but this time it's Deluxe. I ask Keith what makes it so Deluxe and he explains: "We are going to feature unreleased tracks and put out online special acoustic versions to go with the album that have never been aired before especially for the fans."
And being one of these eager fans, I ask what's on the setlist for Wembley? "Obviously our set is cut down, which is understood, so we are doing the greatest hits, get in and get out, and leave everyone wanting more."
And they sure did this as the arena crowd was out of their seats, lapping it up and rocking and singing along as soon as they came on stage. You can see what happened right here.
So what's next for Buckcherry I ask? "We are going to wrap this tour up and then we're going back to North America for a little tour and then a larger stretch across Canada that will take us all the way to the end of November and then I think we are going to spend the rest of the year and the start of the new year making a new record. We've already started writing some stuff, there's always ideas flowing and we like to keep the ball rolling, not make the same record twice and enjoy ourselves in the process."
Sadly missing from this tour is bassist Kelly LeMieux, who has been battling with acute myeloid leukemia. Keith elaborates: "It was pretty dire when he was diagnosed. It was really sad, he went back home to Portland, hooked up with some amazing doctors and we're thrilled to report that he is doing really well.
"He's in remission and we are planning his triumphant return at the end of November. We're in touch all the time. He's ready to get back on stage. The fan outpouring has been amazing and humbling. We have some t-shirts for sale on our Pledge Music site and all the money goes direct to paying Kelly's medical bills." So come on Brits, let's cough up as fighting cancer in the USA is not cheap.
I finish up asking Keith if it's still great being in Buckcherry. Keith laughs and says it doesn't suck: "It has its ups and downs for sure. A career in the music business has been amazing, inspiring, heart-breaking and demoralising. You really run the whole gamut of emotions making music you think is your most brilliant work and it's not received commercially the way you hope it would be - but then in the same token you exceed any goals you had back in the day.
"If you had told me back in 1995 when we were putting that first record together that I'd be here 2016 doing this interview with you and about to play Wembley Arena I wouldn't have believed it. So what an incredible journey is has been."
The pleasure of this Crazy Bitch meeting this humble, thoughtful and honest dude was like having my cake and eating it (with the Buck-cherry on top).