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Ahmet Ertegun flew all the way to LA to see us live and loved it: Josh Todd

With an arena tour and a couple of headlining dates now out of the way in the UK and Ireland, Buckcherry have again reminded us why they really are the real deal when it comes to stage presence, attitude and pure rock n roll swagger.

Josh Todd, singer, writer, rock star, actor, the man with more swagger than Jagger is perched on the edge of his bed at his hotel in Wembley on the eve of their show at the SSE Arena, opening the night on a bill that also comprises Steel Panther and Bowling for Soup.

MGM: It’s good to finally catch up and I finally get to see you live as well. You’ve just come back from Ireland I believe.

Josh: Yes, we just hit Dublin last night. It’s sold out Belfast before that sold out. These are our small shows but our headlining shows. It was a lot of fun.

MGM: You’ve got anniversaries. You’ve also got a reissue of the last album as well. Before we touch those, can I just rewind you all the way back to the beginning?

Josh: Sure

MGM: 1999, debut album comes out. You really hit the ground running, great reception, great record sales, awards and more. Album two, you kind of hit the skids a little bit. You go off. You have a break and obviously, then you come back and it all goes through the roof again. Was that second album phase really so tough? Was that extended break the thing that was missing as needed to get you restarted again?

Josh: It was a lot of growing pains before the time on a record because we kind of had like a showdown with our own guys before releasing the record. I think that’s a huge reason why the record commercially didn’t do well. So that was going on and then we are having issues with our band members. Three of the band members had quit at the end of that tour. It was just Keith and I sitting there holding the torch. It’s funny because Keith and I looked at each other at that time and we were like “Wow, this is like we’re right back where we started.” This is how we started. We started to like writing on a fourth track in my bedroom in my duplex apartment, figuring out just tell it like a drum machine until we figured out we had some song writing chemistry and then we got the band together. So the cool thing is we’re like really ambitious. So during that time, before Keith and I actually had our hiatus, we started writing demos for the third Buckcherry record which eventually became 15 but at that time, we had no deal.

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It just sat there for three years.

So it just goes to show you that as long as you just keep your eye on the prize and keep moving forward. You never know like what’s coming, what it’s going to be in the future. So we did that and then Keith and I took our break. It wasn’t like we had a falling out or anything. We were just kind of we couldn’t find the right…, we didn’t have any money to give to anybody and we couldn’t find the right band members because everybody thought we had money to give them, to pay them. We needed people that could play. You could get some for free that can’t play but we wanted those that could play. So it was a real tough situation we were involved in. We were just becoming really frustrated with it and we had to make some money. We had to start supplying money for our living so that’s why that happened.

MGM: If you’d ultimately joined Velvet Revolver and that had taken off, do you think you’d be sat here today with Buckcherry? Do you think you’ve had managed to be able to do the two? That would have been a tough gig to balance the two, wouldn’t it?

Josh: I have a very hard working, strong work ethic and I don’t know if that situation, maybe it would have been great because they like to take lots of time off and we could have done both things easily. We could have managed both things easily. Who knows but it didn’t happen. This is where it’s at. It is what it is.

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MGM: Well, at the end of the day, what you came back with was the album that just pushed you through the roof, wasn’t it?

Josh: Yes, yes. It was amazing. 

MGM: Did you know at the time when you were putting ‘15’ together that you’ve got something pretty special here? 

Josh: Nothing suggested that it was going to happen. All we knew was that it had to happen, that’s it because we were finished with ‘15’. No one would sign the band, no one. No one in the United States would sign the band. We had ‘15’ down. I would drop some names of big record execs that didn’t want to sign the band. Everybody said we were has-beens. No one gave a shit. We’re like fuck. So we go to Japan. We got a small deal in Japan that funded the record, that’s why we called the record ‘15’ because it took us ‘15’ days to track it, that’s all the money we had. So we tracked it and then our manager at the time said: “You know what, fuck everybody. I’ll start a label and we’ll put the record label.” Eleven Seven records were created to put ‘15’ out. It had an upstreaming clause with Atlantic, that’s how we were distributing the record. Of course, after Crazy Bitch blew up, Atlantic was like “we want you guys.” It’s pretty easy at that point.

MGM: It’s a shame they didn’t have the faith in you upfront.

Josh: No faith, no faith. They couldn’t give a shit.

Even on DreamWorks. We were on DreamWorks. We gave them their first gold record, their brand new label, gave them their first gold record which is a big deal for us at the time.

We go in there after Time Bomb was released. We go into the fucking building, it’s as if they don’t even know who we are, that feeling was like, “Okay,” that’s when you get thick skin and you start really realizing how the game is played. It is what it is but it was like a lot of growing pains like, “God, that hurts, that hurts.”

MGM: That’s when you understand it is an industry and it’s not all about the music.

Josh: Yes, like back in the day, we wouldn’t have an artist like Bruce Springsteen if people didn’t have faith because look, he had a couple of failed records before he had big commercial success.

So it’s like I couldn’t understand that. I was like, “Wow.” It just brings you back to like “okay, what are you really made of, like do you really believe in yourself, do you really believe in what you’re doing, are you doing this because you want to do it or because you got to have all these other shit to go along with it?” 

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MGM: Of course, through that time, you and Keith have been a constant and presumably, you’re almost a rock for each other in that case because there must be times when either one or the other of you have a moment of doubt and the other one is there to back you up? 

Josh: Yes, that’s the thing with Keith and I. Before we had this second run at it, before ‘15’, he had some stuff going on in his personal life and I just wanted to reach out and say: “Hey man. How are you doing?” I didn’t have Buckcherry or any agenda going into it. I just really wanted to make sure he’s doing alright in his situation and that’s what bonds us, that’s what I think is special about the relationship. Then we’re complete opposites as well so I think that when we put it all together, that’s why it works.

MGM: A lot of the bands that do make it have got that lead singer, guitarist relationship or something like that where it does work. You do gel together. 

Josh: I think so yes. It can happen all different ways but there’s definitely some kind of team songwriting going on, that’s the nucleus.

MGM: In the intervening years as you’ve managed to sort of continue this and progress, you’ve maintained. It’s not like you faded away or anything like that. It’s good. You’re playing Wembley tomorrow night. You’re doing all the arenas with Steel Panther as well, that’s where we expect to see you, isn’t it? On those platforms, those biggest stages.

Josh: Yes. We’ve been working. Even before we took our hiatus, we were working non-stop. We like to work. We enjoy what we’re doing. We like to create new songs. We’re never in that flare. We’re like we’re having writer’s block or anything like that. It’s not like that. It’s like hey, let’s go write a record. Let’s go make a record and then we’ll be like fresh off eight months out on the road or whatever. We’ll take a week off and then we’ll set a schedule, work schedule off our home and that’s what you got to do if you want to get anything done because you basically employ yourself.

MGM: You’re talking about sort of long term schedules as well. Do they still exist? Because of course, you got a wife and kids now as well. Do you try and get home more often or do you accept that you’re going to be out for eight months?

Josh: We always try to get home like our thing is like never go more than two weeks without dipping in, getting back to the house and seeing the kids. 

So always getting back home, always working on massaging that relationship. Technology has really been great for touring musicians. It’s like I can see my kids every day now. We can talk. I’m out there but at least, we get FaceTime. It’s amazing.

Then I go home and it’s like I’m not like surprised to see Mike: “Oh my God, you’ve grown so much. I’m missing out so much.” I don’t feel that way anymore.

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MGM: You’ve branched out a little bit with other ‘products’. How did the thing with Doc Johnson come around? Because it’s a natural fit in terms of the image that you have got. There is the whole the sex thing there as well and then obviously, ‘15’ in Crazy Bitch triggered that really.

Josh: Right. Well, we got some crazy fans. They like to get crazy. Crazy Bitch is such a big song for us that we decided to be a good idea to think outside the box and then create something different that people make, get in tune. It’s been working out well.

MGM: I was going to say it’s a popular product stream for you. You’ve got a decent amount of business around it.

Josh: Yes. It’s funny you go to the Doc Johnson warehouse and it’s just like, “Okay, we want a dildo.” It’s like, “Okay,” well let’s go into the dildo room and it’s like hundreds of dildos like you wouldn’t believe it. We picked the one that’s kind of the most, one of the most popular.

MGM: Yes. You don’t want to go too extreme.

Josh: [laughing] No. They’ve got some fucking, they’ve got some big old dicks in there.

MGM: Yes, I can imagine you do a double take at those things?

Josh: I’m thinking of who in the fuck is using this stuff. I don’t want to know.

You can find more about the toys here: http://crazybitchtoys.com/

MGM: Best not to ask. Now, tell me a little thing about Confessions because this was very much your idea, your story. Any elements of real life to this or did you just come up with the content?

Josh: Yes, they’re very honest. I write all the lyrics and melodies on all the records. Confessions was a very emotional roller coaster for me, took a long time to write it, very proud of the record but it was exhausting. I’m glad that the writing process for that is over but I felt like I had this obligation with the seven sins that I really had to make it the best I could be through the song because it’s been done a lot. A lot of people have done it. I love the seven sins. I love what they’re about. I love the movie Seven. I like all the, I like what a lot of bands have done with some of them. 

MGM: There’s a lot to talk around.

Josh: There’s a lot to talk about and like the issue that I have with some of the songs is I write and rewrite songs because I want to get to that place where the song’s a best it can be, that’s the most important thing. So if the chorus isn’t banging, if it’s not feeling like it’s moving me or Keith, then it’s got to go and we got to make it better. So the problem I have was like okay, usually when that happens, I’ll just like scrap a whole idea of thought and just bring a new thought to the same music or whatever, whatever that may be. This was like you’re writing gluttony. This gluttony chorus doesn’t work. Now, you got to write another gluttony. It’s like okay, I had to like wrap my head around like maybe some kind of new feeling or story that I create my head on the same subject and that’s what became like really exhausting.

MGM: Presumably, when it’s such emotionally strong content, it’s different to write a really banging upbeat sound to go with it because deep songs tend to be quite melancholic, don’t they?

Josh: Yes but I’m a huge fan of sad songs. I like sad songs so as much as it’s painful to go through it like at the end of the day, I’m always like really proud of these songs if they come together nicely.

MGM: You must have been pleased with the end results because you have to listen to it, don’t you, let it draw you in and absorb the messages?

Josh: Yes, soul pleasing, the lyrics. I’m like… this is something that if I was a kid I could relate to. This is what I always try to do when I write records because I feel like the most influential time that music has on you is when you’re 15-19 because at that point, after nineteen, you’re kind of like starting to get responsibilities and become an adult and kind of find out what you’re going to do in your life and music becomes not the story of the summer and all the stuff.. The thing that was affecting you and you were going through puberty and seeing that girl at school or getting picked on or getting fights or whatever, music was your soundtrack at that point.

So I always go, okay.. when I’m done writing a record, let me sit over there, thank you. I always think like how would my ‘15’-year-old self like this record? Would he think it was cool? If the answer is yes, then I’m ready to move on. Because I had a lot of strong opinions when I was 15. I could tell you what suck and what didn’t suck and I didn’t care what you thought.

MGM: As a mid-teen, you think you know more than everybody I supposed, don’t you? Your opinions are so strong. It takes a lot to sway you, doesn’t it?

Josh: Yes, yes. You feel like you got your hand on the pulse too because you’re hip. You’re right there with the generation that’s happening. You are the young person at the time.

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MGM: As we go on then and move to the most recent album, of course, it feels like you’ve managed to get all of that out of your system, taking a deep breath and thought let’s now just have some fun. You’ve got the EP in between. [2014’s FUCK e.p.]

Josh: That was so much fun. We could have done a whole record just so you know. Keith and I asked each other: “Should we just do a whole record?” Because it would have been easy, that’s how much fun it was.

We both thought that would be a little overkill like let’s just do this.

MGM: It’s got enough of a punch, hasn’t it, as an EP?

Josh: I feel like if you love Buckcherry, it’s like something very cool to have and a special part of like what we do and something need for our fans.

MGM: Yes but with Rock n Roll, though, it does just feel like all of the things that you need to kind of cleanse the soul with done and dusted and out of the way, having a good time.

Josh: Yes, it was just time to have fun and to not over think anything, not to have any kind of conceptual idea of anything, just go for it.

MGM: You’re re-releasing deluxe editions. You’ve got deluxe and super deluxe as well. There’re multiple variations of this going out there. How did you come about picking the bonus tracks on this? I think Mama Kin is one of them, isn’t it?

Josh: Mama Kin, yes. We did these covers, thing for pledge music because of no one, everybody’s like: “You never do covers. You never do covers. You never do covers.” I’m like, okay well, these are some covers for you. I don’t know. Have you seen that record? But we eventually put the Covers Vol 1 record out as well and it’s just looking out today but we did some cool stuff. I think it’s like from a lot of different kind of perspectives. If you like Buckcherry, I think you’d really enjoy it like, I’ve Done Everything For You, Rick Springfield, Rock and Roll Damnation, Hot Legs, Devil Inside and Mama Kin. Mama Kin came out really well that’s why we chose that for the Rock n Roll release too. I don’t know if all the other songs on there.

I pick what I think I can sing well on like really pull it off so that was one of the key things with Devil Inside.

MGM: Yes which suggests still you are listening to a multitude of different bands outside of what you’re doing day to day.

Josh: Always, always.

MGM: What about now? People like INXS for example. They’re not around anymore. Aside from going back to the older music, what are you listening to these days?

Josh: Man, I’m starting to DJ now. I like a lot of electronic music. I like pop music. I would like to say that I’m listening to new rock records but they just don’t do much for me and I’m sure there are some out there that are great but I find like in the new rock records, it’s kind of muddy. There’s not a lot of melodies. There are a lot of tracks which I don’t care for in rock music. I like a lot of space and groove. Nobody’s real, the lyrical content is kind of depressing. So I go to where I want people celebrating life. I want people talking about sex. I want. I like that type of stuff, that’s all in pop music and hip-hop. So I go there to listen to like newer music. I also listen to a lot of old school R&B. I love James Brown. I love Stevie Wonder. I listen to a lot of Prince so I’m back in all that stuff too.

MGM: Just some thoughts around other past times and you’re talking about DJ. We’ve seen you acting as well.

Josh: My first film was the Salt and Sea with Val Kilmer, that was my first act, my acting debut. Then I befriended the director, DJ and he had me back in a few films. Then I did some television. I did a show called Push Nevada, that was I did like eight episodes and then they pulled it from the networks but I did that. So I did a couple of spots on The Shield which was a big show in the States. Then it cut to, my agent just called me up and said: “Hey, I guess they had hired somebody else. It fell through some other musician. I don’t know who it was. Hey, there’s a spot on Bones. Won’t you go down and audition for the director?” So I just went down. I walked in and it’s a room filled with the director, the writer, the casting agent. I’m like, “Oh my God.” I did my audition. They hired me and I did the show.

MGM: As a musician-actor, it’s possible it was the most natural fit for a role for you? [Josh played a guest musician at Rock n Roll Fantasy Camp in an episode of Bones.]

You must have felt quite a home doing what you do as a day job normally?

Josh: You would think though but like the roles that are so obvious, I don’t get them. I’ve been out on a few auditions where you’re a tattoo artist in a scene and they don’t hire me. I’m like what, it’s a no-brainer but whatever. I really enjoy the acting part of it. I don’t enjoy auditioning because it’s like I just want to work. Like I feel like there’s all this, there’s a lot of starving actors in Los Angeles that really, they want to act, that’s their passion, that’s all they think about. It’s like it kind of feels weird for me to go into a situation where you see all these young actors that are hungry. I’m walking in because I’m Josh in Buckcherry and I can get into this audition in just kind of and I might get hired just because–

MGM: Of who you are.

Josh: Yes, yes and that’s the only thing that kind of bums me out a little bit but whatever. I enjoy the work.

MGM: What about Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp? The episode in Bones showed you as a guest musician, performing. Would you consider joining it in reality? It’s held I think now in Hollywood.

Josh: Yes, that would be fun.

MGM: You turn a group of aspiring musicians into a band and the way we did it in the UK (back in 2007), we spent a week in rehearsals studios in King’s Cross. We recorded two days in Abbey Road and then we went up to the Cavern Club in Liverpool to play live.

Josh: That’s so amazing. Yes, I would love to do that honestly, that would be fun. I’ve got some knowledge I can throw at you. Yes, that’d be cool.

MGM: You’re talking as well about the auditions for the tattoo artist. Is that something you do as well yourself? Can you tattoo? Have you ever tattooed?

Josh: No, no, I’m a horrible artist, horrible, that’s why I love tattoos. I’d really envy people who can do it well. It’s really cool.

MGM: To say you’ve got a few would be an understatement. What are your tattoos sort of really means the most to you? What’s got the most meaning behind that?

Josh: Well, my back piece, probably it’s the Suicide King of Hearts. It’s the only King of the deck with a knife through his head. I’ve had a suicide in my family. It means a lot to me personally. It’s big and bold. I really like kind of like that type of statement where you can see it from twenty to thirty yards and you can make out what it is. I like tattoos like that.

MGM: Do the shirts always come off on stage to show off the work?

Josh: Yes but my shirt always comes off but it wasn’t planned because I want everybody to see my amazing physique. I never had that in mind. I run hot. I got a lot of energy. I’m putting it out there. I go. I don’t know if you’ve seen our shows but a lot of energy. So I just get hot and I just started.  

Like lately, I’ve been wearing my shirt to like seven eight songs deep. People are like take your shirt off. I’m like okay, I’m going to but I don’t want to be doing that my whole life because eventually, I’m going to, age is going to settle in.

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MGM: Just going back, tell me about Slamhound. You were signed to Skydoor Records, an independent record company but never managed to release your debut?

Josh: Actually, the Slamhound record was titled Resentments. There is just too much bullshit to go along with it to get it out but I was really young. I was like nineteen when I started that. I really loved that band, put a lot of hard work into it. Then at one point Ahmet Ertegun [co-founder and president of Atlantic Records] came to our show. He had heard the song Dog. He heard it on somebody’s answering machine in New York. He flew all the way to LA to see us live and loved it. I remember after the show, he grabbed on to Jason Flom [Chairman and CEO of Atlantic Records at one point] and he goes this is my fucking dog. We’re like I can’t believe Ahmet Ertegun came to see us so we think we’re going to get this huge deal.

Six months later, he dies and fucking everything falls apart. We get lost in translation over there and that was pretty much the end of Slamhound because it was like there was a lot of internal stuff going and that was like that had to happen in order for everything to stay together and it just didn’t.

I was like twenty-five when that imploded and I was like I remember thinking I’m too old. I’m too old to have a career now. I remember that. If I had that thought and then maybe a month later, I was talking to my tattoo artist Kevin Queen and he was tattooing Keith and that’s when he’s like: “Why don’t you meet this guy. He works across the street. He’s looking to write songs to somebody.” I was like okay.

MGM: Yes just that moment, that’s all it needs, isn’t it just to trigger and then you go again.

Josh: Yes. One of those moments.

You have to wonder what might have been for Josh if Atlantic had signed them. Of course if Ahmet Ertegun was still around Buckcherry might never have been and Led Zeppelin may never have reformed for the show at the O2 in 2007.

Our review of the Buckcherry show can be found here:

Buckcherry and Bowling for Soup, live at the SSE Arena, Wembley, 15 October 2016

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