After constant lineup changes, hiatuses and hurdle after hurdle, you’d think a band like Buckcherry would call it a day, but with a motivated frontman like Josh Todd, it’s hard to call something a day when you see so much life left in it.
We grabbed the man and legend to chat about the band’s new album Warpaint, keeping the wheels turning with new members and challenges and his favourite tracks from throughout the years…
Hey Josh, welcome to Wall Of Sound. How are you doing?
What’s up Andrew, I’m good man, just getting ready for the launch of this great record Warpaint.
That’s great because it is what we are here to chat about!! Warpaint is the eighth studio album from the band and also the band’s twentieth anniversary. Congratulations on both!!
Thank you Andrew, we are super proud of what we have achieved and super excited to have everyone hear the record.
On first listen, I must admit that I found Warpaint to be really quite different as it is a very eclectic collection of songs. Where was the band’s headspace during the writing and recording of this album?
Firstly there was a lot of change in the band and it was all really great change. The change kind of resurrected Buckcherry and brought us back to life. Stevie and I wrote this record together and we had so much fun making it. It was a real labor of love, we worked really hard on it and we did our due diligence on it. We knew it had to be really special because we had to overcome a lot of stuff. That being said I think we have made the best record since 15.
It’s funny that you mention 15 in the same sentence resurrection as 15 was exactly that for the band. It was a huge return to the spotlight after a three year hiatus. You and the band obviously have this unique ability to rebuild and resurrect Buckcherry as a band.
It’s not like this has been the first time we have been through the rebuilding process. It is almost reminiscent of the songwriting process that happened before 15. At that time it had been three years since the last record, we had a lineup change and knew our backs were up against the wall, so we had to make something that was really special. Not that we don’t do that every time out, it was just a different time, we were really united and it was our biggest record commercial yet.
Same thing, cut to the Warpaint record writing process where Stevie and I started writing for this record in November 2017. We wrote thirty songs for a twelve song record; actually it is an eleven song record and a cover. We were very thorough because we wanted the record to be great from beginning to end. That was the goal.
From the time that Keith Neilsen and Xavier Muriel left the band putting Buckcherry on a sort of hiatus again, yourself and Stevie kept yourselves extremely busy with the recording and release of the Spraygun War and Josh Todd and the Conflict records. Were any of those songs originally intended to be songs for Buckcherry?
No; not at all. Before the Conflict record we had really over toured with Buckcherry, it was time to give Buckcherry a rest. I want to stay busy, I really enjoy being a musician and I want to keep myself busy, so it was time to go back to my roots of heavier music, which is where my foundations are. Stevie knew that and saw it as a really great opportunity where we didn’t have a lot of pressure on us to have fun making a record, go out there and make something really special. The Conflict record, I am so pleased with as a whole and I think it is one of my best records, I love it.
We had a lot of fun making it and it gave us a lot of practice, because Stevie didn’t get a lot of opportunities in the past to write on the Buckcherry records because of the politics and other things that were going on within the band. Stevie has been in the band since 2005 and it really was his time to shine. So we had a lot of practice with writing the Conflict album when writing for Buckcherry.
I have to admit I really enjoyed both the Spraygun War and The Conflict records purely based on the diversity of each project.
Why thank you man, that means so much.
In having said that I have been a fan since the beginning and have followed all of the side projects and it even lead me to buy the DJ Muggs record that you made a guest appearance on.
Oh man, I appreciate that, that’s awesome.
That’s the thing and that is what I love about Stevie is that he is like me, I like to write, I like to do everything and I like all different genres of music. I am a student of the game and I love songs, Stevie does too. We don’t want to have any rules and I don’t want to point fingers, but it felt like prior to that we were always in some kind of box, doing the same stuff. There was never really any experimentation, which for me has to be there, it keeps you sharp and enhances all different sides to your song writing. I feel like getting to the Buckcherry record after doing that little electronic EP (Spraygun War) and The Conflict record was amazing for the songwriting process of Buckcherry.
It’s funny that you mention that up until Warpaint you felt trapped in a box with Buckcherry. This record sees you break out of that box and explore so many new things while still being Buckcherry at the core. For example, the title track ‘Warpaint’ starts off with a really strong AC/DC influenced riff and sound, your vocals are raw and in your face, almost channelling AC/DC for it.
The story of how that riff and song came to be was that while we were writing for the record I asked Stevie to give me ‘Highway to Hell’, give me ‘Highway to Hell’ music. The next thing I know he sends me the opening riff and that is how ‘Warpaint’ started out.
I have to admit that even looking through the titles on Warpaint, one song became blatantly obvious that it was going to be a ballad and that was ‘Radio Song’, which is a great commercial tune that I am sure will blow up on mainstream radio once it gets picked up. Was that an intentional move to write a “Radio Hit”?
Laughs ….. Yeah you know that song happened really quickly. I was in the shower, I get a lot of ideas in the shower, it’s really weird and I hear that a lot of people do, especially songwriters. I always have my phone close by, outside on the counter for that reason and I came up with this melody in the shower and it was so good. I was obsessed at that point so I got out of the shower, recorded it really quickly, ran down the stairs and just ripped it out and wrote it. I came into Stevie the next day with the song, but I hadn’t found a tempo for it yet. So we find the tempo via a click track and I just sang it down, but we didn’t have a bridge for it at the time. I said to Stevie “I want this to be our Purple Rain” and Stevie knew exactly what I wanted as we are both big Prince fans. I want this to be Buckcherry’s “Purple Rain” that’s how good it has to be. So I left it with him and Stevie is just so good at taking direction, when I came back to him all the music was done, he had added a bridge which allowed me to finish the lyrics and melodies. Boom it was done and happened so quickly.
The idea for it actually came to me while I was driving. You know man, when I think back to when music influenced me the most and it was always when you were a kid going through adolescence and everything was changing, music was always something that marked your summers. You remember what you did on certain summers because of what were the hits songs on the radio at the time. Radio has always played such an important part in people’s lives. I had been going through a lot in the last three years personally and spiritually, you know when you are down in the dumps and you are driving around thinking that life is just such a fucking beating and then a certain song comes on the radio that lifts your spirits, changes your whole outlook and is so powerful; That feeling is what I wanted to capture in a song and that is how it came about.
You mentioned earlier that both Stevie and you are Prince fans. On The Conflict record, you covered ‘Erotic City’ by Prince. Tell me what lead to that coming about?
Yes we did !! That was a lot of fun. I came up with the idea, and to be honest I am not sure if Stevie was feeling at the time, but he was like, let’s see it through. By the time we had finished it he was like this is awesome. It really enjoyed doing it and it came out great.
On the subject of cover songs, Warpaint features a cover of the Nine Inch Nails classic ‘Head Like a Hole’. What was the thought process behind tackling a song like this?
Whenever you make a record the cover song conversation always comes up, it is kind of standard when it comes to planning an album. I have always loved Pretty Hate Machine by NIN because it just felt like a real, honest record. Just like all of the independent band records I had as a kid. I always loved it. Trent Reznor’s vocal range is right in my wheelhouse, that is important as well, but the main thing is I have to connect with it lyrically. I have always loved the lyrics to ‘Head Like a Hole’. The challenge was to take a song that is not necessarily a rock song and make it our own. It happened really organically too, we were set up to start tracking the record. At the time we had no idea our producer was recording us at the time. I brought in the idea of Head Like a Hole and we just started jamming it not knowing how it would turn out and to see how it sounds, We ripped through it a couple of times and Mike started recording without us knowing it, put together a real quick rough mix. Mike then called us into the control room saying you guys need to come hear this. So he puts it on playback via the speakers in the control room and the song just jumped out at us, I was like wow, this sounds like a Buckcherry song. From that moment on everyone just knew it had to be on the record.
As a band, you guys have never been afraid to tackle covers and put your own stamp on them. ‘Highway Star’ is one of my favourites and then there was the Covers EP done via pledge music, which had some amazing song choices on it and then the amazing version of ‘I Love it’ from the Fuck EP which you made entirely yours. Is there a song that you wish you had written, one throughout the history of music?
Thank you man, as I said before, the criteria for us doing a cover song is that it has to become a Buckcherry song, I appreciate those kind words.
As far as songs I wish I had written, man there are just so many and that would be a long conversation (laughs). God let me think about it. There are so many artists and genres I like; most people think that I just listen to rock records and that is not the case. Sure I was heavily influenced by rock music in the beginning, but then I started getting into Stevie Wonder, Prince and James Brown. I really like the song ‘Paisley Park’ by Prince I think it’s really great and would have been awesome to have written; or Prince’s ‘The Beautiful Ones’, either of those two would have been amazing to have written as they really do resonate with me.
Warpaint sees a new line up for the band and another chapter in the band’s history, with you being the only original member. Stevie D. has been in the band since 2005 on guitar and Kelly LeMieux has been handling Bass guitar duties since 2014. The addition of new guitarist Kevin Roentgen and drummer Francis Ruiz rounds out the current lineup. Please tell me a bit about these guys, how they came to join and what they bring to the band. Let’s start with Francis; he has quite the resume of artists he has worked for as a drum tech. How did you guys cross paths?
Yes Francis does have quite the resume. He has been in a bunch of bands and has most notably worked for a bunch of bands. He came highly recommended to us and although I had never really heard of him Stevie was talking him up. So I said to Stevie have him video himself playing ‘Gluttony’ from the Confessions album and I want to see it. Francis learnt Gluttony and sent it over to me. When I watched it I was like damn!!! He had really good pocket and was just a monster. The most important thing for us was that we had to find someone that was from our generation, because I am finding out, and I do know that everybody is not like this, but some of these millennial’s or younger generation just don’t have the same kind of work ethic or mentality that we the older generation do. There is nothing wrong with it, but I wanted someone closer to our age that was very passionate about what they were doing. Someone we didn’t have to babysit. That being said Francis just fit the mould, he could play really well and is just a really nice human being.
New guitarist Kevin Roentgen, what is his back story and what does he bring to the band?
Kevin we have known for a long time. Stevie and I have known him since we were both struggling musicians banging it out in L.A. Kevin was in a band called Soul. He is a really good singer as well, so when it came time for him to be in this (Buckcherry) and wanted to do it, we were blown away. It was a no brainer having Kevin join the band, he is super talented all round. He has enhanced all of our games by being in the band and has taken Buckcherry to a whole new level.
On the other side of things, Kelly has been in remission for Leukaemia for a while now. How is he doing health wise?
Kelly is doing so great!! He handled that situation pretty quickly for someone who was diagnosed with Leukaemia. He was basically only missed about four months of work with the band. Once he was diagnosed, he went straight into chemotherapy, got through that and then came back out on the road. He just keeps going back and getting checked up and he is doing really well. I am only speaking on his behalf as he has discussed this stuff publicly already, I don’t want to say anything about his personal life that he wouldn’t want to be talked about. He has been very vocal about his journey with Leukaemia.
He got a great oncologist in Portland and his Doctor told him that with his DNA and blood count he has a really good chance of being in remission for a very long time. Knock on wood, it has been about two years since his remission was first announced and he hasn’t looked back.
The first original track to come from the album as a single is ‘Bent’. Whose decision was it to go with that song as a leading single?
We gave the finished record to our label and our team as i didn’t want to get involved in the single picking decision or process anymore. The radio game is hard for me to understand and I don’t want to have influence over that so we gave the record them and had them make a choice. They played it for a lot of people and there were a lot of meetings on it and ‘Bent’ was the song that just kept coming up in discussion for the lead single. It is a onetime listen kind of song, it has something very instant about it. I am very pleased with the choice; it is building at radio at the moment and doing really well.
It’s great to hear that radio in America still plays a part in spreading the word of new rock music out there. The band just wrapped up a UK/European tour and are about to start a run through North America and Canada. Will we see Buckcherry back in Australia soon?
Yeah we are just about to shove off to start our North America/Canadian leg of the tour. We just finished the European tour late last month and that tour was amazing, we had such a great time. But as far as getting back to Australia, there is talk of us heading down there in the US Fall/End of the year.
We can’t wait to lock that in and get back down to Australia. I love touring Australia.
We can’t wait to have you guys back here!! I have been fortunate to catch you guys multiple times going as far back as the debut album. My son who is fourteen is also a huge fan and can’t wait to see you guys live.
Oh wow, that is awesome to hear, thanks for the support and for passing us on to your son. I love knowing that we strike a chord with the younger generation. What is his favourite song?
‘Dead’ is his go-to Buckcherry song!
Oh cool, that is an interesting pick.
Speaking of favourite tracks, what is your favourite Buckcherry song Josh?
Of all time? You probably aren’t going to like it, but it would have to be ‘Somebody Fucked with Me’ from the Fuck EP. I really like that song. It is easily one of my favourites.
Just before we wrap it all up Josh, I just wanted to ask you about the three bonus tracks (‘Jungle Love’, ‘Burn Rate’, ‘Kamikaze’) that are on the Japanese version of the album. Can you tell me the origin of these?
The Japanese always want bonus track and these songs were three that didn’t make the album, but we still really like and felt comfortable releasing. They are rough and raw demo mixes that I think are always really cool to have and are great for the fans who can get past the singles and record songs. It’s something for the real fans.
Josh, thank you for taking the time to chat with me, I have just realized we have gone over time and could chat all day with you. I wish you all the success with Warpaint and look forward to catching up when the Warpaint Tour hits Australia later this year.
Thanks man, great interview, and really good questions too, I appreciate it so much man. See you all soon!!
Interview by Andrew Slaidins
Buckcherry – Warpaint tracklisting:
2. Right Now
3. Head Like A Hole
4. Radio Song
5. The Vacuum
7. Back Down
8. The Alarm
9. No Regrets
10. The Hunger
12. The Devil’s In The Details