Buckcherry (2007-03-26)

After a three year absence 2006 saw L.A sleazesters Buckcherry stage a near-miraculous comeback. From completely independent starting blocks they first hit gold with third album ‘15’, certifying 500,000 units sold, and then proceeded to hit every territory in the known world in an apparently never-ending tour. When the band rolled into London for the second time in 6 months Veglam met with guitarist Keith Nelson to discuss how they did it….
You’re playing some large venues in this UK this time, compared to the places you visited on your comeback shows here a few months back. After so long away did you have any conception of the level of support there would be here?
Keith Nelson (guitars): Not really. The last time we’d been here was I think 2000, we knew that it was going to be a slow re-building process – kind of what we experienced in the US because after taking that time off it was really up to us to re-introduce ourselves to our audience. We kind of anticipated playing smaller places and hopefully it catching on and us coming back, so it’s nice to see obviously some of these places we’ve doubled the size of the rooms and we’ve sold them out.
It does seem that there’s been a real genuine buzz around ‘15’ because with very little traditional publicity it’s had a huge impact.
Yeah the Internet has had so much to do with getting the word out people that want to find music. You’re not going to run out on the street and see billboards of our band and TV commercials you know but people that come to the shows and buy the record are talking to each other.
Having achieved this success independently would you ever go back to the kind of major label support that you had with the first two album given the choice?We definitely did do it independent. We had the record deal before where we were a big buzz band, we had a lot of money behind us. We had that experience, and then we didn’t have the luxury of that with this record. But at the same time we didn’t have anyone telling us what kind of record to make either. So you have to trade that a little bit when you get a big company behind you, you also give up a lot… you know, what your cover art is and what your songs are and what the guys in the band are wearing. There’s a lot of behind the scenes bullshit that goes on and I much prefer it this way because we’re making our music on our terms.

Did you get a lot of that when you were with DreamWorks?

Well they have a say in what’s going on and I can understand that from a business stand point but from the point of view of an artist, someone who wants to be in a rock’n’roll band, it’s not the most pleasant thing to experience.

The other major change since you last toured seems to have been in the musical climate. When you first came out you went very much against the grain of the nu-metal stuff that was big at the time, do you think the world is more ready for and receptive to Buckcherry this time?

In a way yes. I don’t feel like we’ve ever been in step with the most hip, happening thing going on. I mean we’re not Fall Out Boy, and that’s huge in the United States. We’re not Taking Back Sunday, those about the biggest bands you know, them and My Chemical Romance. So when we came out before the biggest bands in America were Korn and Limp Bizkit, and we weren’t them at the time either so I don’t think we’ve ever quite been the flavour of the month hip kinda thing, and I’m fine with that you know, we’ve managed to fight for our own little place in the marketplace and have the success that we’ve had.

Didn’t the album just pick up an award in the States?

It just went Gold. It’s sold over 600,000 copies right now. Indie bands are used to selling 20,000-30,000 records, getting in a van and doing their own thing, and then making another record. And we’re trying to be the biggest band in the world but doing it independently.

So obviously we know how long it took to record ‘15’ [the title refers to the number of days spent in the studio], what about in terms of writing – what sort of a period did it come together over? I know ‘Crazy Bitch’ is quite an old song….

Yeah Crazy Bitch was the only song that was kinda of held over from the period of time when Josh and I were writing songs at the end of the first version of the band you know. The writing period took like two and half / three months, somewhere around there, it wasn’t really a long process. We wrote maybe 30 songs, at the time to get maybe 16 songs to go in the studio with to get maybe 12 that made the record.

Having worked with other artists in between did you come to the conclusion that the working partnership you have with Josh [Todd, vocals] is something quite unique?

I think so. I mean Josh made a solo record and I worked with a number of different artists in our down time you know and when you have a rapport like Josh and I have, it’s really not that easy to find. I have never duplicated that process with anyone else so there’s a lot to be said for that.

The solo record Josh made during your break was a lot heavier than any Buckcherry have recorded – what did you make of that?

I really didn’t listen to his solo record, I heard a song, and I went to see a gig one time in L.A, and uh, you know it’s like watching your ex-girlfriend fuck her new boyfriend!! It’s not really something I was interested in… whether it was good or bad or indifferent.

Okay, we’ll get back to Buckcherry then! I think one thing this band covers very well is the tricky territory of rock ballads. There seem to be a lot of the slower tracks on ‘15’ compared to the first two records. Did anything inparticular lead you to take a more introspective tack here?

No, I think that every record has to have a balance you know, at least that’s the kind of record I want to hear. So I think that there’s always got to be room for one or two slower songs on there because we write them and part of being fulfilled as a songwriter is to write stuff like that. We could do 12 Crazy Bitches and put them on the record but I think it would be a bit boring. We’re big fans of some bands that have been able to really run the whole spectrum of music, if you look at the Rolling Stones or you look at Led Zeppelin or even Aerosmith they can do both sides and in the middle somewhere so it really is just following their influence I think.

The second single from the album, ‘Next To You’ was released in the UK yesterday, do you want to tell us a little about that, where that song came from?

Well initially that song – I don’t ever write lyrics for the band, Josh writes all the lyrics and I usually write the music – but I had this little phrase and the riff. I took it and I said ‘Josh, I got this little riff and I got this phrase’, and I said ‘I want the verses to kinda be like this and the chorus to be like this’ and he took the idea, went home, and came back with the lyrics you know. And once we got so far with that song we decided that we were gonna go talk to Marty Frederickson, just to see what was up and if he could maybe put his blessing on a song or two, and we took him ‘Sorry’ and we took him ‘Next To You’ and he said ‘well I’ll just tweak ‘em a little bit’. It’s funny because a lot of people have kinda said ‘well why do you need someone else to help you write songs?’ but it wasn’t that we needed someone else to help us, I think when you get the chance to get in a room with someone like Marty, a great songwriter, there’s something to be learned even if you don’t use the song and it was a fun experience. There’s nothing wrong with saying we’ve got really great parts of the song, but we’re kinda stuck.

So you ran a video making contest for the single ‘Everything’ in the US. The winners are here tonight, right?

We basically had a contest where fans could submit their own videos and the winner won a trip from the United States to London to come and see us. Some people put a lot of time and effort into it and to see people react to the music and actually go through the process of making a video it makes you feel so good as an artist to be touching this people so that they feel inspired to be creative. The submissions ran the gamete from very serious to the very… slutty!

All three videos from this album has started from fan’s Internet submission in one way or another and the promo campaign for it seems to be largely web based too – do we take it you’re in the camp who feel the net is the way forward for the music industry?

It’s hard to say, there’s so many options now. You can go on MySpace and click on MySpace music and you could look forever and it costs zero money to get your band it’s own webpage on MySpace. So there is a glut of music available at your fingers tips where as before you had to go the record store and you had to hunt through the independent record stores and it’s made it a lot more accessible. But I think that ultimately the one thing that regardless of downloading and computers and the Internet, the one thing that you’re never going to be able to replicate is a live band performance. Nothing will kick your ass like paying 18 dollars, going to a club, having the band blow you away and that’s really what we pride ourselves on.

You appear to spend your lives on tour, do you see yourselves as being first and foremost a live band?

I think so, I mean we went into the studio for two weeks and we’ll be on the road for two years so I think live is really where it’s at. If you notice, a band like us, there’s no tape running while we’re playing and a lot of bands they go out there and they have backing tracks and their fans don’t know it but their guitars and some of their vocals are coming through a computer that hooked up to stuff. And to me that’s just bullshit, we’re just five guys onstage and what you see is what you hear

.It seems fair to say you’ve had your share of ups and downs in the business, what one piece of advice from your experience would you pass on to those just starting out?

Just educate yourself on the business, because it is a business. It’s harder, and harder and harder for an artist to support themselves – nevermind mansions and Ferraris – just keeping your lights on at your apartment is hard! And the other thing is I don’t think you should ever, ever, ever let go of the dream of doing it the way you want to do it, you know even if you fail at first you know, you shouldn’t ever let go of that, because at the end of the day, people will know that you’re full of shit. We’re not the most moral thought provoking band on the planet but we are what we are and we’re not making any bones about it.

And finally, my trademark closing question; if you were me doing this interview what would you ask yourself, and what would your answer be?

(laughs) Well first I just wanna say thanks for not asking really annoying questions like ‘Who was Crazy Bitch about?’ ‘Where do we get our name from?’ and ‘How many tattoos do I have?’ I’ve heard those questions so many times I probably wouldn’t answer you. No one has asked me what my favourite ice cream was ever.

Well nows your chance to tell everyone – what is it?

Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup – I highly recommend it!! It’s a great post-coital snack!

Interview by Alison B.

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