INTERVIEW: Josh Todd of BUCKCHERRY

More than two decades after announcing its arrival with the instantly iconic single “Lit Up,” Buckcherry refuses to slow down. Its ninth album, “Hellbound” (June 25, 2021, Round Hill Records; read Live Metal’s review), is one of its best, and the band has a packed touring schedule through the end of the 2021. Live Metal’s Greg Maki recently caught up with frontman Josh Todd to discuss the new record, live shows, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and more.

LIVE METAL: How ya doing?

JOSH TODD: Good. I’m out here on the “Hellbound” tour, it’s going really great, we’ve got a great new record that just dropped, and the shows have been amazing.

Yeah, you’ve been out since the beginning of June. It just makes me indescribably happy that bands can go out and tour again. What have the shows been like? Has there been any noticeable difference between the shows now and pre-pandemic?

Yeah, we did a few shows in the pandemic, and it’s much different now. It’s pretty much back to normal—in the States. We haven’t been outside of the United States. Occasionally, you’ll see a few people wearing masks here and there. But it’s pretty much business as usual, which is really great.

It must be tough for you guys to put the set list together now—nine albums, and I’m sure you want to play the new stuff, and then people want to hear all the hits. So how does it work for you putting the set list together?

Yeah, it’s challenging. We always play the usual suspects, like “Crazy Bitch,” “Sorry” and “Lit Up” and those songs. But the new record’s so good, we’ve been playing a lot of the record. We’ve been playing, like, four songs a night, which is a lot when you have nine records. So yeah, we’re just super pumped because we’ve been sitting on this record since October of 2020. To have it out is really great. It’s gotta be one of our best, so we’re very pleased.

There was obviously a lot going on in this country last year—the pandemic, the political situation, racial strife. Did that all influence the writing?

Very challenging year. I just think that the record gave us a vehicle to channel our energy and to not be all caught up in all that negative stuff. Because it was a lot of negative energy, and that’s not what we’re about, that’s not what Buckcherry’s about. We like to celebrate, and we like to host the party. We’re a good-time rock ‘n’ roll band. We just got down to business. Our tour went away, month after month, and we were kind of seeing it all the way through, like when the dust settles, what’s gonna be going on. We’re going to be, like, two years from our last record, so we gotta make a record. We had a lot of time, so we made sure it was undeniable.

It’s nothing unusual, but there’s been lineup changes over the years for Buckcherry. But Stevie D. has been with you since you put the band back together in 2005. What has made your working relationship and friendship with him last as long as it has?

Yeah, I knew Stevie way before he was in Buckcherry. We were really good friends. I met him when I was 19. We worked together, we were both starving musicians in L.A., and we became roommates. The history with him goes way back, and to be able to finally really write records with him—this is the third record that we’ve really done together, because he didn’t get an opportunity to do a lot of writing in the past. He’s a super talented guy, and it’s really showing. We’re having a lot of fun, and it’s been a labor of love.

(Bassist) Kelly (LeMieux) has been in the band over seven years, as well, and (drummer) Francis (Ruiz) has been here going on four years. (Guitarist) Billy (Rowe) is really the only new guy, and that’s only because Kevin (Roentgen), after COVID, he wanted to be with his family, and nothing you can do about that.

I feel like this album has some of the best riffs we’ve heard in Buckcherry songs. Songs like “So Hott,” “Gun” and “Junk” really pop out to me with those funky grooves that they have. Was that something that you wanted and were pushing for, or did Stevie come up with those?

I mean, we all like funk, and we all like groove. We’ve written some funky songs in the past—like on the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” record, we had “Tight Pants.” I feel like what’s missing in rock music is that those old rock records, you could dance to and you could party to. They were hard rocking enough to rock to, and then you could also dance to them. That’s what AC/DC kind of built their whole career on. That’s why I always loved AC/DC. You could dance and rock. That was an amazing combination, and it had a lot of soul. So that’s what we want to do. We want to have a lot of soul.

At that point, I just wanted an up-tempo, really groovy, out-of-the-box rocker. Stevie came in with that riff, and I just went back to the hotel room and wrote “So Hott.” It was very quickly. That was towards the end of the songwriting. We wrote 28 songs for a 10-song record, so we had written a lot of songs. That songwriting muscle was really fit at that time, and just ripped that song out real quick, and it’s a fun song.

I hear that a lot where a band’s lead single or even title track often ends up being one of the last songs written. Is it because you get to the point where you’ve written so much and then you just kind of let go and see what happens, or is it something else?

I think practice. When you start a writing cycle, you start writing songs and you’re like, “Oh, that’s a good song.” And then you keep going and you’re like, “Oh, we’re blowing away all those songs we thought were good at the beginning.” We have a gauge and you just kind of know when you’ve exhausted the creative process. It was so funny because we had written, like, 22 songs—me and Stevie. We had demoed them all up, and then we were going back and forth with Marti, our producer—Marti Frederiksen, who we’ve co-written songs with in the past. And then our label, Round Hill, said, “Hey, we want to fly you guys to Nashville, and why don’t you guys write with Marti for a week?” And we were like, “Yeah, let’s do it.”

So we did this guerilla songwriting session—five days, and we wrote six songs, and five of those songs made the record. That’s where “Hellbound” came from, “So Hott,” “No More Lies,” “Wasting No More Time.” They all came out of that session. We couldn’t write a bad song together. When we know we’re going in the room with Marti—Marti, all he does is write songs year round. He’s a super talented guy, and we really respect him, and he respects us, and we have a really good time together. He becomes, like, a band member when we’re in a room together. So it’s fun, and we all have the same mindset to do what’s best for the song, make the best song we can make.

I like to really work with no breaks. (laughs) I wear people out. Let me just tell you, this songwriting session it was like I would come in in the morning, and about 11:30 a.m., I would record vocals for two hours on the song that I worked on the night before. Then Stevie and Marti would get together, and they would write a whole new musical composition for like two or three hours, and then they would send it to me, and I’d be in my hotel room waiting. I would write from about five o’clock til the song was done. And then I’d go to sleep, I’d get up and record vocals for two hours in the morning, and then the same thing. I told Marti after we were done, I go, “Marti, I wanna write an entire record in two weeks next time, with no breaks.” And he’s like, “I don’t think we’re gonna do that.” That’s what I wanna do. It’s probably not gonna happen. Everything was so efficient. We were just cranking it out. We could only eat and have some coffee and then work. I like that.

Not that you haven’t had it in the past, but there’s a lot of really strong emotion on this album, in songs like “No More Lies,” “Wasting No More Time,” “The Way.” Was that a result of things you were going through and things in the world around you?

Yeah, a lot of emotions. Being home when you’ve spent your life on the road—we’ve been doing this 22 years, and really, the longest break I’ve had at home was maybe two months in 22 years. So there was a lot to address in my personal life. There’s a lot to overcome with COVID and our kids being home. For over a year, we had our kids at home. That was challenging, as well. So there was a lot of stuff, and then Stevie was going through a lot of stuff. He lost his father last year, and so there was a lot to talk about. That’s when you write the best songs, when you’re going through a lot of adversity, and that’s when this band really makes the best records.

How did you decide on “Hellbound” as the album title?

It’s just a great title. I always like those one-word titles. We combined it as one word and thought we could make really great artwork behind it, which we did. We came up with that bird that Mark Lettig, this great tattoo artist that I know, came up with. It’s just iconic when you look at it. The song “Hellbound” is about where everything changed for me, where I knew that music was gonna be it for me, that it was gonna be my mission. That happened when I was 15 years old at a house party in Orange County, California. That’s what the song is about, and it’s a lot of fun. That song is probably my all-time favorite rocker Buckcherry song.

As you said, you’ve been doing this 22 years. You’ve had a lot of ups, a few downs here and there. Does anything in this business surprise you anymore?

No, nothing really surprises me at this point in my career. I remember somebody telling me, like, over five years ago, like, “Oh yeah, music is gonna be, at some point, just streamed like water. It’s gonna be kind of like free.” And I was like, “What? Are you kidding me? That would be terrible.” But (laughing) it’s actually pretty close to being that. It’s just different, and we’ve had to really adjust. And we’ve adjusted now. The way we’re marketing this record is so much different than what we’ve done in the past, and it’s really working, and we can really feel it this time around. So I’m happy with that. We’ve really embraced streaming, and it’s going well.

Do you have any big goals left, things you want to accomplish that you haven’t yet?

Oh wow. I mean, I’m now a multi-platinum artist. We got to a point where we were in arenas, which was a goal of mine. I played with all of my heroes. Done a lot. I think at this point it would be to be able to headline a big arena. That would be pretty amazing. I don’t know if we’ll ever get there because of the landscape of music and where rock’s at and all that. But if we could become a headlining arena rock band, that would be amazing.

I really enjoyed the Josh Todd & the Conflict album you put out a few years ago.

Amazing record.

Yeah. Do you have plans to do more with the Conflict in the future?

I can’t even think about that. “Hellbound” just dropped on June 25, and it’s an amazing record, and we have a lot of shows to show up for. I’m 50, so a lot of things have changed for me. Things are shifting, and I can’t go like I used to go. So I have to pace myself and really be smart about every decision I make.

Is there anything else you’d like to say right now?

I just encourage everybody who doesn’t have “Hellbound” to go out and get it. It’s out now. Go on Spotify and streaming services, add the songs. They’re so great. And come out to the rock show. We’re hitting on all cylinders at this point, so it’s a lot of fun.

LINKS:
Buy “Hellbound”
www.buckcherry.com
www.facebook.com/buckcherry
www.twitter.com/buckcherry
www.instagram.com/buckcherry
www.youtube.com/buckcherry

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