When Buckcherry’s self-titled debut album was released in 1999, it was a breath of fresh yet beautifully smoky air. Rock & roll hadn’t died in the ’90s but, for better or worse, the party-heavy, Sunset Strip–centered, ’80s version was gasping for air.
The story has been told time and time again. Grunge killed good-time rock. People wanted something real rather than larger-than-life, superficial cock rock. However you look at it, things had changed. Buckcherry, on the surface, had missed the sleaze-rock bus by at least a decade. And yet, when that debut came out, they sold records.
The likes of Pretty Boy Floyd, Faster Pussycat and Vain were still touring but were not selling records. Yet Buckcherry, with a sound consistent with big ’80s rock but perhaps a slightly punk-rock image, were able to shift units. Not only that but they’ve been able to survive and, on occasion, even thrive since then.
It’s now been 23 years since Buckcherry formed, and 19 years since the debut album dropped. The lineup has changed almost beyond recognition since then, but frontman Josh Todd has kept the band’s heart beating, and there’s a new album on the way.
“We’ve matured so much in the songwriting aspect, we’ve matured as performers and as men,” Todd says. “All that is reflected in this new record. I’m so excited for the public to hear it. We’ve got Mike Plotnikoff and Paul DeCarli back in the fold — those are the guys that produced 15 [the third album], so we’re really excited to do a record with them again. It’s been a long time. The songs are there and it’s gonna be fun. We’ve got a great live show and world-class players. It’s the band I always wanted it to be.”
That last sentence sounds like a little dig at some of Todd’s past colleagues. Only last year, guitarist Keith Nelson left the fold — until then the only other original member alongside Todd. Drummer Xavier Muriel also left, opening a door for new members Kevin Roentgen (guitar) and Sean Winchester (drums).
“It’s been amazing,” Todd says. “As far as musicianship, it’s the best Buckcherry’s ever been. We get along really well and it’s been a lot of fun. They’ve been in the band now for over a year. We did two records with the first lineup, and then we had the second lineup for a long, long time. We just keep on moving on and that’s it. If you don’t want to work, we’ve got to find people who want to work.”
Guitarist Stevie D. has been in the ranks since 2005, and he’s become Todd’s main creative partner. The two also have worked together on the electro-rock project Spraygun War and the punk solo band Josh Todd & the Conflict.
“Stevie D. and I have known each other since I first moved to L.A. at 19,” Todd says. “I got my first job at Aardvark’s Odd Ark in Venice Beach, and Stevie was working there. We became roommates and friends, but we were never in a band together until Buckcherry. But it’s been a total labor of love. We started with the electronic project [Spraygun War], because we were out on the road and wanted to create new music. That’s how we got our chemistry. He didn’t get a lot of opportunities to write in Buckcherry until that point. We did the Conflict records, which is one of the best records I’ve ever done. We had a lot of fun doing that. So by the time we got to BC songwriting, we had a really fine-tuned songwriting machine between us.”
While the three bands — Buckcherry, Spraygun War and Josh Todd & the Conflict — are all essentially coming from a rock & roll place (and all involve Todd and Stevie D.), the frontman insists that there are enough differences to justify the different names.
“The Conflict are a lot more aggressive,” he says. “The tunings were different. It’s more along my roots. Stevie knows where I came from. I grew up in Orange County. All my foundations were independent punk-rock records. I didn’t really listen to major-label rock records until I was like 17. I’d always been in four-piece bands, and I just went back to my roots. We had a lot of fun doing it, and it was a lot more aggressive. Right in my wheelhouse. The whole point of The Conflict was to have two bands that were completely separate and give the one a break while we did the other one. That’s what we did.”
As Todd prepares to enter the studio later this year to record Buckcherry’s eighth studio album, he knows that this is a very different era for rock & roll than the one he entered in the ’90s. The whole music industry has radically shifted, leading the singer to look outside of his own world for inspiration.
“It’s hard for me to comment on new rock,” he says. “I really want to be into it. I listen to rock radio, and sometimes to me it sounds like 45 minutes of the same song. It’s really hard for me to tell who’s who. That isn’t interesting to me. So I gravitate as a singer and songwriter toward pop music and rap. I think hip-hop is the best it’s been in a long time. It’s just amazing, what they’re doing with the hooks and how they’re creating songs. Also, it’s where all the outlaws are. There used to be a lot of outlaws in rock & roll, but it’s so safe now. It sounds to me lyrically like people bitching about their inner child. I don’t know what’s going on there. I want to party and have fun. That’s why I love Buckcherry. I always say you get to be who you want to be at the Buckcherry show.”
On Thursday, Buckcherry play a hometown gig at the Whisky, a club that Todd is more than comfortable in. It might not be the hippest room in town anymore, but it still has a formidable sense of history.
“It was my home club when I moved to L.A. from Orange County,” Todd says. “I had an apartment right up on Clark Street, and I used to walk down and go to the Whisky. The Monday nights were called No Bozo Jam. It was free to get in. The Strip was literally packed with rock bands. It was right at the end of the madness that it used to be in the ’80s. The top unsigned bands on the Strip would play back to back at No Bozo Jam. As a kid, the first bands I saw there were Love/Hate and L.S.D. (Life Sex & Death). I used to drop acid and sit up on top of the Whisky. I would climb up on the roof, trip out and look over L.A. Just visualize taking over that city. That was my goal.”
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As for this set, Todd promises some tunes from the forthcoming album.
“We’re rehearsing here pretty soon, and we’re gonna construct a set that will be a lot of fun, for the Gen X Summer Tour that’s coming up as well,” he says. “That’s with POD, Lit and Alien Ant Farm. It’s gonna be a great tour. We’ve got so many great songs — it’s about putting them together, vamping out some of them, and making the set really fun and interesting. That’s what it’s all about. Playing all the hits as well.”
“Fun and interesting” is what Buckcherry’s always been about.
Buckcherry play with The Hard Way, Motorbone and The Bad Applez at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 31, at the Whisky A Go-Go.