BUCKCHERRY – guitarist Keith Nelson

November 22nd, 2010
by Marko Syrjala
Buckcherry

BUCKCHERRY

INTERVIEW AND LIVE PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJALA

ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS BY VILLE RUSO

The Los Angeles based hard rock band Buckcherry was originally formed in 1995 by vocalist Joshua Todd and guitarist Keith Nelson. The original line up also included bassist Jonathan Brightman, drummer Devon Glenn and second guitarist Yogi who joined bands ranks a few years later. In 1999 band signed a record deal with DreamWorks Records and their self titled debut album was then released later on the same year. The hit singles; “Lit Up” and For the Movies” helped band to reach great success. Their sophomore album TIMEBOMB was released in 2001 but although the band then got a great gig as a support act for AC/DC – they surprisingly went into hiatus, just one year later, when Josh decided to leave group and start his solo career.  It wasn’t until 2005 when Josh and Keith decided reform Buckcherry, now with all renewed lineup. Drummer Xavier Muriel, bassist Jimmy Ashhurst and guitarist Stevie D. were the new members and together this lineup soon released Buckcherry’s most successful album to date called 15. The album went to platinum in States with the help of mega successful singles “Crazy Bitch” and “Sorry”.  BLACK BUTTERFLY was released in 2008 and on following year band released its first ever live release called LIVE & LOUD. Buckcherry’s fifth studio album ALL NIGHT LONG came out just a couple of months ago and it finally did bring band back to Europe. A package tour called TASTE OF CHAOS arrived in Helsinki on mid November and then we had a chance to sit down with Keith Nelson and talk about the bands current activities, the past, and some future plans as well. Read on!

BACK IN THE EUROPE GROOVE

You’re now returning in Europe and Finland with this current TASTE OF CHAOS tour. How do you like to be a part of this kind of package tour when you only have like 35 minute set on each evening? 

I’m not excited about 35 minutes but I’m excited that we have an opportunity to play in a bigger place than we could have if we were to come over here by ourselves.  We would be back playing in clubs here and that’s the reality of it you know.  So I’m really grateful that we’re going to go out and play a month’s worth of arena shows with some really cool bands.  Papa Roach, old friends of ours, we’ve played with them for; we’ve been touring with them off and on for five years you know.  The Disturbed guys, I haven’t met them yet but I’m excited about it.  So for us, where we’re at with our European audience, I think it’s perfect for us.  We can come over here, we can reach a lot of people you know and just got to keep coming back you know.  Since we’ve been on the independent label we’ve been pretty good about getting over here and getting our records out over here and doing as many interviews as we possibly can.  And you know if we were in the States right now at 20 after 6 we wouldn’t be doing an interview, but it’s so important for us to reach the European fans.  I want to make sure that we’re making time to talk to the journalists that want to talk to us.  And I think this tour is really, really good for us.

In a way this is a kind of new and fresh start for you here in Europe. How many songs are you able to play in this amount of time?

We’re going to jam eight songs in the 35 minutes. We’re shortening the songs that we kind of jam on and play longer like “Dead” and “Crazy Bitch” we like to jam in, we’re chopping that out so we can play more songs.  No ballads, fucking rocking it.  So we’re going to have a good time.

It’s actually been 11 years since you last played in Finland in the same venue and then you were supporting for KISS and…

Yes and you know what?  That was the first time we were ever in Europe was that show. It was before the first album actually came out. It was a long time ago. I remember we got here and the snow was up over the cars, it was crazy.  So you guys usually get that much snow here?

No but last year we had something like 60 cm of snow here in Helsinki.

Wow! I also remember that Josh got really sick and we ended up canceling those German dates since I was so sick I couldn’t get out of bed with like the flu and stuff, so I just kind of tried to eat a little bit better and get a little more exercise and get more rest, you know all the shit I don’t want to do.  I want hookers, cocaine, more hookers.  No, I guess the doctor says. Well besides getting sick, that first European tour, is that what you mean? I remember we came to Europe, nobody knew who we were, and we were opening for KISS, which is a very hard thing to do because you know people come to see KISS. They want to see KISS; they don’t give a fuck who’s in front of them.  They’re dire KISS fans, so we had a lot of—I remember we had a short set and we just kept rocking the whole way through, we tried not to stop between songs, we just kept going because people were booing and flipping the bird.  But you know we needed to do it, it was good for us.  And the really great thing about which is years later when we came back to Europe people that actually became fans of us on that four, we ended up meeting them and you know we made them into fans. What’s also fun is that I don’t think at that point I’d ever seen KISS before so that was my first KISS show. I hadn’t seen KISS with their makeup; I saw them when they took the makeup off, not their best time.

I actually personally prefer 80s KISS more than 70s KISS. When did you see KISS play live for the first time?

I don’t think I saw them until “Animalize”, when I saw them, which would have been 86, 87?

In 1984.

Was it 84?

“Animalize”, yeah.

That’s the first time I saw them.

Okay, like I mentioned already, on the tour you didn’t have any release out but you still reached a lot of new fans on that tour. I also remember I was thinking like: “what that was all about. They’re singing about cocaine and they just did spit over audience all the time and completely crazy band”…“laughs”

That’s great, that’s awesome.

THE FIRST ALBUM

What kind of memories do you have about making your first album in 1999?

Making that record I just remember you know we were just so young.  It’s hard for me to listen to that record.  I know a lot of people dig it and it’s a moment in time, but it’s really hard for me to hear that record because I think about how young we were and I just think we really didn’t know what the fuck was going on.  We were just signed to a major label, we were a bunch of broke guys from Hollywood, never made money, and got this major label record deal.  So it all happened really fast and I just think that Josh is a better singer, I’m a better guitar player, we’re a better band and we’re better song writers.  So when I listen to that record now I hear, I can appreciate it because you know for what it’s worth but I just think we’re such a better band and I don’t want to say different band, but we are a different band now.  We’ve grown you know, and I think different in the best possible way.  We’re still a rock and roll band, it’s really obvious, but I think we’ve just evolved a little bit.  I think we’re just better at what we do.  We’ve played a couple thousand shows since then as well, so that doesn’t hurt.

How about the song “Lit Up”? That was your first big hit single but as a huge KISS fan, I got to say that it does remind a lot of KISS’s song “Shock Me”, right?

Oh about “Lit Up”?  You know I always thought that song more of a nod to hot legs actually, you know.  I love you honey, you know I’m a really big Rolling Stones fan obviously a bit Ron Wood fan, I love all great rock and roll.  I can see how you would say that about the KISS song but it wasn’t like I never had written a song and said I want to rip that off, it just kind of was out there and kind of came up.

Tell about working with Steve Jones. He was one of the producers of the first album, right?

Steve Jones was around, we tried to make that record the first time with a different producer and we loved the sound of our records but Terry Dave just kind of when we decided we wanted to use Terry Dave, right, because we had started with a different producer and it didn’t work out and we stopped making the record.  And we went in with Terry Dave.  Terry because of the sound of our records, I just love those records that he made with those guys.  Terry didn’t really know the names of the songs that much but he was great because he really helped us as a band play together better with the songs, you know the song writing, great for helping me with stuff on the guitar and pointing me in the right direction and making me listen to music, making me listen to Mick Ralphs a lot because of the way Mick played his solos and just all around great funny guy to have in the studio.  He’s a riot; did you ever hear his radio show?

Yeah.

He’s hilarious.  Plus he was in the fucking Sex Pistols you know he’s the godfather of punk, he really is you know. There are many, many great stories, none of which you’ll get out of me because—but yeah many stories.  I haven’t seen him in a long time, hope he’s doing well.

He actually played a show with Sex Pistols in here a few years ago.

Oh really?

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Keith and Josh: Live at Helsinki 2010

TIMEBOMB

Let’s go move on a little bit. Your second album, TIMEBOMB, was a really strong album with many great tracks there but somehow it didn’t succeed like its predecessor? In your opinion, what went wrong there?

No it didn’t succeed, and it was very disappointing, you know.  At that time we were having a lot of issues with some of the people at our record label at the time, issues with our manager that we ended up firing as were making that record, which was really difficult for us.  The band was not getting along as well, the band really started to fall apart on that record as far as the relationships between all the guys.  So I think there were a lot of things going on there.  One of the most important was that the relationship with a few people at the record label was really deteriorating and you think that well the relationship’s going south but we still made a great record and we believe in it.  We’re going to go tour on it.  Well we did, but when your label doesn’t promote you really don’t stand a chance to get promoted and have a chance.  That’s why we haven’t been back to Europe; they wouldn’t send us over to Europe.  And we were a new band, we needed them to support us to come over there and it never happened because of that.  And we’re still paying the price for that today.  Now it’s taken us a lot of extra work and you know it’s expensive for a band from the States to come over here and tour.  And when your gigs don’t pay that much money, you’ve got to figure out where you’re going to get the money from just to break even you know.  So we’re still feeling the effects of the demise of all of that during the TIMEBOMB record.

It’s still a great record though.

Thanks.  It has some moments I’m really, really proud of.  It was really heartbreaking a year and a half after we made the record I remember specifically having conversations with Josh about how hard we worked on that record, how we really poured our hearts and souls into it and the label just fucked it off and didn’t really care about it.  It was really a bummer.  You know to them, to people at the record label, it’s just another record, but to us it was our lives you know.  It was everything that we had worked so many years to get to, and they just were like no.  It was really heartbreaking.  You know, a lot of those feelings of heartbreak really went into why we took the break after that record you know.  What a lot of people don’t know is that the other three guys in the band had actually quit the band at that point when we got off that record.  So we really kind of felt abandoned by everybody, I did you know, I felt like everyone jumped off the fucking ship just because we had a hit record and then we had a record that didn’t do so well.  I didn’t really get into this to make fucking hit records, I got into this to make records over a career and sometimes you’re going to have hits, sometimes you’re not.  It doesn’t mean you fucking stop. So, I mean there are songs on that record I absolutely love and there’s a few moments I don’t really dig that much, but that’s you know it is what it is you know.  But I think it’s a great record, it’s not even in print in the United States anymore but…

Like said before, there are some really great songs on that album like “Slammin” which is one of the best songs you’ve ever done.

Oh thanks man! Thank you, that was one of those songs, I definitely remember Josh, we were getting to the end of making the demos for that record and Josh said we need another rock song and I put it off, put it off, put it off and we had like rehearsal at 2 o’clock, and at 1 o’clock I went into the rehearsal room and I was like okay, what have I got.  I was just thinking I started the drum machine; I was used to writing on the drum machine to get good ideas.  I put that beat down and I just came up with that little guitar riff and I played it for him, he loved it and wrote the lyrics on the spot and that was it.  Like quick, quick, fast, didn’t think about it.

Another gem on that album is “Riding”. Do you want to tell some more about that song?

“Riding” was written in the same week that “For the Movies” was written so we made the first record and then went back in the rehearsals and wrote and just kept writing.  And the record was finished, it was going to come out, it was mixed, it was done, and then we wrote “For the Movies” and “Riding” at the same time.  And we were so jazzed about “For the Movies” that we went behind out label’s back and recorded it with a guy that we made our demos with.  And then we just said oh yeah we have another song but you know, and then the label freaked out over it and wanted to put it on the record.  But we wrote “Riding” then too so we had “Riding” for like two years until we made the next record and it was good to know that we had a great song to start off the record with.

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Buchcherry promoshot from year 2001

THE LOST YEARS

The band did breakup in 2002 when Josh decided to start his solo career. What did you actually do back then?

I did a lot of yoga “laughs” No, not really.  You know, I was out of money, I needed to find a job and I wasn’t really excited about being in a band at that point.  I was really bummed out about the whole thing, like I told you I was really heartbroken over and over and over again on so many occasions, I was just like fuck you know.  I got to do something, so I actually started working for a record producer helping him with the artists he was working with–with their guitars, with the actual equipment, fixing their guitars, tuning them.  That evolved into renting and bringing my gear in to make the records and helping them figure out parts and helping the bands in rehearsal and just kind of generally being around for making the records.  And I did that for three years until we got back together.  So it was a really great opportunity for me to work in the recording studio and learn everything, because they were very cool about letting me ask questions.  The more I saw I’d go down and the more I worked on the records the more I was convinced that I could make records and I could produce records.  I just needed to have a chance.  So when I was working there, we got out of the sessions at like 10, 11 o’clock at night, I would go to my shitty little room I rented with my little pro tools rig, became a pro tools rig, and just started to record my own stuff and write songs.  I didn’t know what I was writing them for, but I just started, I had to keep making music you know.  And so I just tried to learn more and more about recording.  So that’s what I did during then when Josh was working on a solo record.

Around that time you and Josh also worked briefly with Slash and co?

Well that was at the end of the band you know.  Before there was a Velvet Revolver Josh and I were involved with those guys for about a month or so and rehearsing as a band, recording, the rehearsals every day, working together.

You also did some writing with them?

Yes.

Tell about that song “Crazy Bitch”. Was that something that was written during those sessions?

We had that song; we had made a demo of it.  It’s basically the demo that you hear.  The song you hear on “15” is the demo that we had long before we met those guys.  And then we had the song and we took it in there and played it with those guys in rehearsals but it was our song before we met those guys.

You are credited for writing Velvet Revolver’s “Dirty Little Thing” Was that song written on that time?

That was from actually being in the room with those guys writing “laughs”

THE REUNION

The Buckcherry reunion thing, you and Josh decided to put the band back together in 2005.  What made you decide to reform band at that point?

Well we hadn’t really spoken that much during the interim you know when he was doing a solo band and I think he felt like that was coming to a close.  I had some stuff go down in my personal life you know and some tragedies going on and he called me up when he found out you know.  He was really sweet and he comforted me as only a guy that I’ve known for how many years could do.  And we started talking about everything other than music when we started talking.  It was about our families and what was going on with me and what was going on with him and at some point in the conversation it just kind of seemed natural hey do you want to try and make some music.  And I don’t know who brought it up, whether it was he or I, but it just kind of seemed like we were both on the same page of like you know it didn’t need to end that way and it really never ended you know, I think in our heads.  But there was no official statement that the band was over. There was no official break up.  So I just had some basic ground rules that I wanted to lay down before we started.  I said it’s got to be fun and we have to make the music that we want to make.  We can’t let—because we had a lot of pressure from our record label on the first go around… to be a certain way.  We fought it all the way, we never gave into it.  They wanted us to be more like what was really popular at the time you know.

You mean grunge or that type of things here?

Yeah, they wanted us to be more like that.  And we just, we just are what we are.  I wasn’t really willing to kind of give in on that, and neither was Josh, so that’s a lot of head butting going on there and that has a lot to do with the demise of the relationship there.  So when he and I got together and we decided we were going to take another run at this, it was really about hey man let’s just make our own music the way we want to make it and not let anybody fucking tell us how to do it.  I don’t care what the fuck is on the radio and I don’t care what our label thinks is the best way for us to go.  Let’s make our music.  We dictate the music.  Their job isn’t to dictate the music.

Then you announced the band is coming back, how did the record labels react when they first heard about it?

Nobody cared.  Nobody cared at all.  So to back up a little bit, we needed a band and my thinking was because those other three guys had left the band on their own, they weren’t kicked out, they left, that they didn’t want to be a part of it.  So why would they want to be a part of-… Don’t know?

When you decided to regroup did you also ask other former members to come back in the band?

No. We decided to get guys in the band… which were actually our friends.  So these three guys are actually friends of ours and they happen to be phenomenal musicians, it worked out really well.  So we knew that the camaraderie was going to be there and we had one rehearsal and it was awesome, and it was like fuck this is great.  So we wrote the songs for the first record, for “15” and shopped the demos around and no labels wanted anything to do with us.  The only label that wanted anything to do with us was Universal Records in Japan.  So they gave us an advance for the record based on the demos and we used that advance money to actually make the record.  Very cheap.  And then finished the record and shopped it again and still everybody passed.  So we went with an independent label.

It wasn’t long after when you got smash singles with “Crazy Bitch” and “Sorry”. So it was you who got the last laugh there…“laughs”

Yes, yeah.  Way better than—they did us a big favor and we did flirt with the major label there for awhile because after we sold so many copies and they wanted involved and we did, we worked the BLACK BUTTERFLY record with them and it was, it just only reaffirmed our disappointment in major labels and really we were like yeah that was kind of a mistake to go back to a major because I mean it cost us more money and didn’t really give us any more results.  Why bother doing it, you know the game has changed.  I think they’re a little bit behind.   Their influence, Atlantic Records is all about hip hop artists and urban music and that’s great but we’re not a hip hop band.  So I don’t think they really knew what to do with a rock band.  So we went back to our independent label and I couldn’t be happier.

We actually just talked with Jerry from Papa Roach and he told us the same kind of stories about the big labels and how great is their state in Seven Eleven now, Eleven Seven, yeah.  Okay, how did “Crazy Bitch” became so “big” song?

I think it started on the internet. We put that song on our MySpace page, people started to very organically just trade the song and listen to it and then radio stations in the United States went to our MySpace page and downloaded it off their, however they did it, you couldn’t download the song but they streamed it somehow, recorded it and they started playing it.  Because we didn’t even have a clean version, you have to play a clean version on the radio, and we didn’t even have a clean version because we didn’t think anybody was going to play the song.  And I think we were getting ready to go with something else as the first single and then it fucking started gaining momentum and we were like good, let’s do a video, and things kind of—you know we just threw it together, we went on the road.  I had to go back on the weekend and give them a mix without the word fuck in it you know.  I didn’t know what I was doing, I just, who would have thought.  And so we scrambled together a video and we got some panties and we print screened “Crazy Bitch” on the panties and went out and sold out all the panties and the song started selling and the ringtones and it happened.  It took awhile for it to happen, it wasn’t like an overnight success, but once it started to go it was very exciting, you could really feel like there was something going on with that song, with that record, just the vitality of what was going on with the band.  It was pretty awesome.

The actual album “15” was released in Japan before the rest of the world?

It did come out in Japan first.

I remember I ordered a copy right away, maybe a couple of months before it came out in Europe.

It came out in Japan and the United States at the same time, and then we had a big problem with the European release you know on both that and BLACK BUTTERFLY.  It was a real bummer for us, it was really a drag

Yeah, the BLACK BUTTERFLY I don’t know what to say but to be honest I think if I had to put your albums in order it’s number five on the list.

So you loved it “laughs”  You know what, it’s all right, everybody—I think that we make the best possible record that we can at a given time and I think that we could have come off the success of “15” and said let’s make that again.  But we didn’t. I mean those are the songs that we did wrote, that’s what we were feeling and that’s the record that we made.

Do you see that it a kind of a mistake afterwards to release “Too Drunk to Fuck” as a first single from that album?

I don’t think that was our smartest move ever.  It’s not my favorite song.  But you know we were with a major label and they really wanted that song on the record. So they kind of were thinking that it was going to be “Crazy Bitch” part two kind of….?  Probably in their mind you know.  Everyone that bought “Crazy Bitch” will buy this song.  And look how many we sold.  I don’t, you know, when they’re holding the money that they owe you and they’re telling you they want a song and you’ve been working your whole life for this and it’s not even, it’s money that you’ve already earned, you’re inclined to go oh okay put that fucking song on the record.  It’s our song; it isn’t like it’s somebody else’s.  We did it.

After BLACK BUTTERFLY was out you also did your second tour with KISS. How it was different this time compared to the first time?

Well they paid us “laughs”.  It was great you know.  We started a relationship with Paul and those guys back then in 1999 and it was great to reconnect with them.  You know we had a body of work behind us that we could go out there at night and play five, six songs that had been on the radio, seven songs had been on the radio.  So it wasn’t like when we were the new guys you know.  We go out there and hold our own and do our thing.  So it was really good tour for us.

 Buckcherry2005.jpg

The new Buckcherry in 2005

ALL NIGHT LONG

Okay, we have like four minutes left. Let’s now talk a bit about your latest album ALL NIGHT LONG…

Let me ask you a question.

Of course!

If BLACK BUTTERFLY is the number five in your Buckcherry album list, where is ALL NIGHT LONG then?

Uh, it’s maybe number three.  I would say “15” is my favorite and then comes BUCKCHERRY or TIME BOMB, I can’t decide what’s better… it always depends on the day.  But ALL NIGHT LONG, for me its number three I would say because it sounds a lot like a mix of the “15” and the first album for me.

ALL NIGHT LONG reminds me that it has, makes me feel like it has songs on it that could have been on our first record.  Like the song “All Night Long” could have been on our very first record.

I do agree with that. Which one’s your personal Buckcherry favorite album?

Well you know ALL NIGHT LONG is my favorite, I’ve got to say you know.  The longer we do it; you know I’m very emotionally invested in these records.  I spent a lot of time as the producer you know.  I spent a lot of time toiling over each and every subtle nuance that’s going on with them.  Even if it’s a live take, you know.  ALL NIGHT LONG is the one I think sounds the best sonically, that was such an important—I hate the way, I don’t want to say hate, I wasn’t that pleased with the way BLACK BUTTERFLY sonically sounded when we were done with it you know.  It’s not a very digital I mean and I wasn’t happy about that, so when we made ALL NIGHT LONG one of my big things was I wanted the sound analog, I wanted it to sound warm and we weren’t making it through a tape machine because I don’t have a tape machine but I had all this vintage outboard gear and vintage guitars.

Am I right, you didn’t had to double too many tracks for that one?

No, I mean really it was about getting one great guitar sound in one speaker. So there was a very conscious effort to leave space, I want to hear the guitar and I want to hear the sound around it.  I want to hear the bass, I want to hear that big note, and I want to hear that voice just right there.  I don’t want to hear a lot of grease on it, I don’t want you to tune in with a computer, I want to hear Josh singing right there in the face you know.  And that’s why I’m really proud of it because it takes balls to make a fucking record like that.  Bands don’t make records like that anymore.  They fix everything you know.  And it was about playing it right, singing it right, being in a band, having a band playing it together, not fucking fixing it and trying to make something perfect.  I’m just not down with that shit.

Yeah. Our time seems to be used by now.  Thank you and see you on the show soon!

Thank you.

FOR MORE INFO GO TO:

WWW.BUCKCHERRY.COM

LIVE PICTURES FROM BUCKCHERRY’S HELSINKI SHOW !

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