By Jeb Wright
Josh Todd of Buckcherry is one of the most engaging frontmen in rock and roll today. On stage he is a powerful entity. His skinny frame, draped with tattoos, his eyes cold as steel, yet just below the surface they show his insecurities and vulnerability. Vocally, he is a powerhouse, part Iggy Pop, part Jim Morrison and part himself.
Buckcherry is back with their sixth album titled Confessions. This is a very personal collection of songs to Todd, as it is based around The Seven Deadly Sins, something the cryptic singer knows much about from his own life experience.
When Todd was ten years of age, he came home from school to discover his father had committed suicide. He tells this horrifying tale on the new album in the song “Sloth.” Each tune on the new album is intense in its own way.
Buckcherry continue to prove they are a band from the late 1990’s who still care, and capture, the true old school spirit of hard rock.
In the interview to follow, we discuss The Seven Deadly Sins and how they have inspired not only Confessions, but also a short film the singer is writing and starring in.
Jeb: Before we talk about Confessions, I have seen you live many times, and I want to know how you can keep up, vocally and physically, with the demands of this band. You are amazing on stage.
Josh: It really takes a lot of discipline, as it is really hard to sing this shit. I have to take really good care of myself. My regiment is pretty crazy. I drink like three liters of water a day. I don’t ever drink anything that is cold. I’m in really good shape physically and I try not to talk a lot during the day. It really takes a lot of discipline.
Jeb: Confessions is a great album and you’re going to be doing some hometown gigs in LA to support it at the Viper Room.
Josh: That is where it all began for us, so we wanted to bring it back to L.A. on the Strip. We wanted to go back there and play for three nights; we have six albums now, so that is a lot of material.
We have not headlined a gig in L.A. for quite a while, so it will be a lot of fun. The shows are all sold out. I love the Viper Room because you can really hear everything great.
We got our first record deal at the Viper Room and that makes it very sentimental to us. When I first moved to L.A., I lived up the street from there. I was going to the Viper Room when it was called The Central; Johnny Depp bought it. It has a lot of history for us and we are excited to be going back.
Jeb: Confessions centers itself around The Seven Deadly Sins. How did this come to be?
Josh: Doing a record around the Sins is something Keith [Nelson] and I talked about for a couple of years. A lot of people have covered the subject in bands and in movies, but they are just so cool and they are timeless. We wanted to do our own take on it.
At first, we thought that we would just do seven songs about The Seven Sins and put out an EP. When it came time to make a record, we really needed more than an EP. I came up with the idea for seven songs for Seven Sins and four elements. That is where songs like “Air” and “Water” came from.
At the time, I was also writing a screenplay about my own life, when I was younger and some of the events that shaped me as an artist. I had a colorful upbringing. Stevie [D.] came in one day and said that we should make a short film that goes along with the record. I thought that was a great idea.
I went home and just condensed my own life and loosely based it on my life and a couple of things that happened to me. There is a love interest in the movie and that brought some new songs to the album like “Nothing Left but Tears” and “Dreamin’ of You.” It evolved over time, as we were writing.
Jeb: So the movie was based on your life?
Josh: The plot of the movie is based on a 17-year-old kid who comes home from school one day and finds his dad dead; he had committed suicide. The kid, through the grieving process, acts out through The Seven Deadly Sins.
During that time, there is a girl at school that is the polar opposite of him and he starts pursuing her. He is still kind of fucked up from all of the stuff that is going on. He is trying to get on with it and he is blocking it out by acting out in a lot of different ways.
In the movie, he befriends this Catholic Priest. He is not a normal Catholic priest; I play the Catholic priest. The priest was at his dad’s funeral and he is all tattooed and he is a reformed drug addict who found God and got to the other side.
He finds comfort with this guy and eventually he learns to forgive his father and he hooks up with the girl and they ride off into the sunset and that is when the song “Dreamin’ of You” comes in. It is really cool.
I wish it was done, but we didn’t understand how much making a movie costs when we started doing this. We are struggling with the funding right now. We are going to try to couple it with a live performance DVD, where you get a headline Buckcherry show, shot really nice. Hopefully, it will come out as a package by the end of the year.
Jeb: How much of this is factual to your life?
Josh: It is loosely based, but that actually happened to me when I was ten. I wanted to make it more when music had the most impact on me.
When you’re in high school, you are going through puberty and you’re going through that awkward stage where you’re becoming an adult, but you’re still a kid. Music has so much influence on you at that point. I wanted to make the movie about that period of time.
Jeb: You’ve had some life experience with The Seven Deadly Sins, so I would guess you drew on your past for some of the lyrical ideas on this album.
Josh: Oh, absolutely, it’s a very personal record for me. “Sloth” is about the most slothful act that anyone can do, which is to commit suicide. That song is actually about the day my dad died. It was a very hard song for me to get through. I wanted to be honest and I thought it was time for that.
I’ve really grown up since then and evolved and done a lot of work on myself. I was ready to tell the story and to tell the story in a cool way. There is a lot of uplifting stuff on the record, but that one tells the story of that day.
All of the other songs revolve around struggling with moderation in every aspect of your life. That is something that has been my struggle my entire life, as well as being a struggle for a lot of the guys in this band. I think that is why it was a fun subject to tackle. It was really very challenging as well. We really wanted to make our mark on this subject and I feel it is a very career defining moment for us that shows what we are capable of. We have gotten nothing but positive feedback from it and that is where the payoff is.
Jeb: “Gluttony” starts off the album in a huge way.
Josh: That is a good one. We wanted that to be the frontrunner on this record because of that.
Jeb: Buckcherry nods to their influences but you still are very unique. I think it is rare this day and age that you are able to have success with your own sound. Most bands today sound like other bands that are out today.
Josh: That is a testament to us sticking to our guns. I can’t tell you how many outside forces have tried to change us and make us fit some kind of radio format, or some kind of mold. It has been hard to stick to our guns and we’ve had to slay a lot of dragons in our professional life, concerning record companies and managers and all of that kind of stuff. It has been really, really, really tough to get through.
The great thing about Buckcherry is that when we’re facing adversity, that is when the band is at its best—it really is. When that happens we come together and we shine.
It happened with 15. Before we put out that record no one would sign the band. We had to do it all ass backwards. We had to release it in Japan, first, and then in the States. We just believed in ourselves and that is why that record happened. One million, five hundred thousand records sold later, when everyone told us that we couldn’t sell rock records and that we were has-beens, we proved them wrong.
We went through what we had to go through with Black Butterfly and All Night Long, where we still feel like we didn’t get the marketing that we should have had. There are great songs on those records that are undiscovered. It’s a drag. We worked very hard on those records.
We buckled down and we knew we had to do it on this record. All of this time, we stayed out on the road; we’ve been out on the road forever.
What a lot of people don’t know is that we’ve sat on Confessions for about a year—we had it done in March of 2012. We had more problems with our record label, so we had to negotiate a new deal, which took almost a year. During that time we got on the road and we’ve already put in 130 shows since we finished recording Confessions. We’ve been to Canada, the UK, and Japan and all over the States all on Confessions.
Jeb: Is that good or bad?
Josh: We’ve just got to do what we’ve got to do to survive. You can’t make any money sitting at home and doing nothing. We all have lives that we have to show up for and we have responsibilities. This band is our baby and it is what pays the bills. We have to go out there and work.
Jeb: “Nothing Left but Tears” is one of the strongest tracks on the album.
Josh: That was the last song that we wrote for Confessions. We wanted a really great song that was mid-tempo but would rip your head off when it got to the chorus.
Jeb: “Seven Ways to Die” is one of the strong tracks.
Josh: I wanted kind of a title track to bring it all together, so we came up with that song. It has a great groove to it and the way the melody goes in and out of those pockets just fucking punches you.
Jeb: “Envy” is a little bit different song for you.
Josh: That is the part in the movie where the guy is observing this girl. He really wants her, but she is messing around with another guy, which in his mind is not the right thing for her. He, in a way, stalks her—not in a crazy way. He is infatuated with her and he his stalking her and that is when envy is really taking place.
Jeb: “Lust” is a classic Buckcherry song.
Josh: Yeah, “Lust” just has that signature guitar riff.
Jeb: Does Keith come up with the music and you do the lyrics on something like that?
Josh: It happens all different ways…The majority of the time, I will come in the room and I always have a digital recorder with me. I will just start scatting over something. Usually, in the first hour, I have the most creativity. Once I get something, then I will go home and work on my melodies and my lyrics and come back the next day and we go through it again. It is like building a house; every song is like a little house. Sometimes the music will come from Keith, and sometimes from Jimmy [Ashhurst] or Stevie and whatever happens, we just start building it and making it come together.
When we start writing, we have a schedule that is five days a week. We have a schedule and instead of going to work, we come to the studio and we start writing stuff. I do a lot of writing in my off time, in between rehearsals, so when I come in I have something for the guys to listen too. It starts happening from there. We may get stuck in a midsection and when someone comes up with something then we go from there.
Jeb: How does the band react, musically, when the lyrics are so personal, as they are on Confessions? The music on this album really augments the lyrics.
Josh: The great thing about this band is that we have a lot of respect for each other. We communicate with each other. The whole time during the writing process these guys really encourage me to be the best I can be. They really challenge me. When I do good they tell me that I really killed it. When someone does something great musically then I tell them, as well.
I like guitar solos that make you play air guitar in your bedroom because that has meaning. I loved that about all of the old guitar solos back in the day—I’m a huge fan of that. When I hear a solo like the one in “The Truth” then I am moved by that and I will tell them. When Jimmy comes up with a crazy bass line like the one in “Wrath” then I tell him. We encourage each other when we see that something good is coming out of each other. It makes for a better atmosphere and for better songs.
Jeb: You often write about dark subjects.
Josh: I think it is part of who I am. It is stuff that I am interested in and it is stuff that I can access. There is also a lot of light at the end of the tunnel in my lyrics. I see that in songs like “Dreamin’ of You,” “The Truth” and “Sorry.”
There is always that on the record, but my favorite rock records have an edgy side to the record and then there is a side where you can relax a little bit. It seems that is the way all rock records used to be laid out. That is why I loved them because they were never just one speed. That has never been the case with Buckcherry records either. We will have party songs, and then have songs that are more intense and then we have songs that you can roll around with your girl with in your car.
Jeb: Buckcherry got a second chance. Things were really fucked up with the band at one point. Confessions debuted in The Top 20, which is not easy to do.
Josh: Especially a rock record. We are totally grateful and we know what it’s like not to have it. We are grateful every day, of course. We were grateful before, but we never take it for granted now. We are very passionate about what we do. That is why every time we are on stage we give 110% no matter how we are feeling, or what is going on.
Jeb: I love Confessions and I kind of feel it is very close to my favorite Buckcherry album, which is Black Butterfly. I love your version of “Highway Star” on Black Butterfly.
Josh: Black Butterfly is one of my favorites as well. It was fun to do “Highway Star.” We did that for NASCAR, which was really cool. We kind of made it our own, which is what I want to do with any songs that we redo.
Black Butterfly and Confessions, to me, are kind of related and I like that. I like more of those alternative rock records where you can have a song like “All of Me” and a song like “Imminent Bail Out” on the same record. On Confessions we have that kind of thing as well. We have “Gluttony” and then we have fucking “Dreamin’” and “Pride” all on the album. I think that is really cool.
Jeb: Is the plan just more and more touring?
Josh: We’re going to finish up with Kid Rock and then we are going to Australia and Japan. We are trying to get a big European tour for the summer. Other than that, we will be in the States and we are hoping to get to South America sometime this year. We are a worldwide outfit and that is what we do.
Jeb: I have been clean and sober for 25 years and I know you went though some shit. While I still love the song “Lit Up” I am wondering if it is uncomfortable for you to sing now that you’re sober?
Josh: I wrote that song sober. I have been sober 18 years. “Lit Up” is about the first time I did cocaine. The first time I did cocaine it was fucking magical and amazing. I always say on stage that I had this breakthrough. I am skinny by nature, so I couldn’t really hold my alcohol very well, but when I discovered cocaine it was great because I could drink. That was a big day for me.
I love to sing that song and I love to relive that time of my life. Drugs and alcohol worked for me for a lot of years. For a lot of years it was fun, exciting and it was a blast. It was the last two years of it where it was ruining me in every way, shape and form. I had to really make a decision if I wanted to live or die. I quit using right after my first daughter was born.
Jeb: Last one: I am a big fan of the television show Bones and you were on that show. I want to know what that experience was like.
Josh: It was amazing. If you notice, Michael Des Barres is in that episode, too. He and I are friends outside of all that. It was really fun to spend the day on the set with him, as he is such a funny guy. The cast is unreal and the show is so big. It was really fun for me. It was the last thing that I did in acting. I had a great time doing it. I would love to do more, but I am always doing shows, so it makes it kind of hard.