Interview by Adrian Hextall (Writer \ Contributor \ Photographer MyGlobalMind Webzine)
Buckcherry return this month with their 7th studio album Rock ‘ n’ Roll. To find out what’s going on with the band that only 12 months ago released an EP called ‘Fuck‘ and are also the biggest producer of adult toys in the US, Adrian Hextall spoke to lead guitarist and founding member Keith Nelson.
MGM: Thanks for taking some time out to speak to me this evening.
KN: Of course, of course.
MGM: You guys have got a new album coming out. Always nice to see in this day and age when, you know a lot of bands seem to be, not resisting, but really considering the need for a new album? Given that I would imagine you guys are the same most revenue comes from touring these days.
KN: Yeah but you know I mean I think an album makes a statement and an album gives people something to get excited about than traditionally that’s how recording artists would express themselves (laugh’s).
MGM: That’s very true.
KN: It’s still exciting for us you know the process, the writing, the recording then taking the music to the people that wanna hear it. It’s still very exciting. I know that the modern trend is away from records and all that but we just say no, fuck all that and do what we want.
MGM: That’s nice to hear. How are you delivering it? How is the album coming out? Is it still label driven? Are you doing anything through crowd funding campaigns, anything like that?
KN: Well, a couple of years ago we decided to start our own record label and we’ve been very fortunate enough in the United States we have partnered up with a distribution through Caroline Records. But they only do distribution and we basically have our own record label so it’s a little more in-house and it’s definitely not the overblown budget money blowing fiasco that, you know records used to cost, until a few years ago, so that said you know we basically just try to keep the general operating costs of making a record low without sacrificing the quality of the way it’s recorded and of course it’s not just available digitally everywhere. We still have some very strong relationships with physical retailers in the United States and a lot of our fans still like to go get the CD but we are also servicing the Spotify’s, and the Pandora’s and all the other ways to release it digitally so a little bit of a hybrid I would say. We are certainly embracing the new way and when you’ve been a part of this business since you know 1998, we’ve seen all the changes and we are rolling with it. I embrace digital and I think it’s the future but I don’t think it’s the only way to get your music.
MGM: Absolutely, I mean I’m still a massive fan of vinyl myself and if bands like yourself are prepared to get it out to me on vinyl it’s still the version I go for I mean it might be an age thing, but I still like to hold a physical product in my hand and I think that when there is good artwork involved as well then there is nothing better than to have this you know 12” square cardboard case with the disc inside.
KN: Yeah, I don’t think you have to be exclusive and say we are not putting out physical products because you know my favourite, I still have all my vinyl from when I was a kid like pre-teens and I know vinyl’s really hip right now but you know it’s just when we make the records and as a tradition, I want to make sure that it sounds good on vinyl. I don’t want some digitally compressed shit and I try to sell it to people as you know a viable piece of sonic excellence (laughs).
MGM: Totally agree with you there. Most definitely I mean you’ve obviously experienced all of this from both ends of the spectrum because when you guys first started you immediately hit the big time big album big singles as well. Presumably there was a decent budget behind the record at that time as well and obviously as you say you’ve had to adapt quite considerably over the years.
KN: Yeah, well I wouldn’t say it’s not like we put the record out and it was an over representation you know we had a lot of years your know touring around in our own vehicles and touring around in a van you know and all the steps that a band should take. It wasn’t like sign a record deal, get in a giant tour bus with a record deal and headline arenas you know there’s a lot years of flogging ourselves and you know 5 guys and a van but you know the process all the way through hasn’t really changed all that much you know it’s still about coming down to music. It still comes down to the live band it still comes down to that experience first. I didn’t even fucking answer your question. I’m just rambling on all that.
MGM: It was more about the way I would imagine how you approach the whole sort of recording and the writing process now because those early albums must have had a bigger budget behind them than I guess you even have to think about now because with your own record label you manage a lot more yourself I guess.
KN: Yeah I mean look I mean everything from the budget to the videos to the way the whole thing has come out you know and those first records we made videos that cost you know a quarter of a million fucking dollars and we were young and naïve and somebody was spending their money and we didn’t pay attention to that shit and if you look at some videos, it was like 2 days on a Hollywood set and they were filming shit and blowing shit up and there were crews and there was a wardrobe, two wardrobe people with four assistants and catering and you know we shot the ‘Bring it On Back’ video for the new record for about 5 thousand fucking dollars hanging out the back of a pick-up truck. So times have definitely changed and when it comes to making the record you know there’s just not that big well to go to um at least not for rock bands. There might be for pop bands, pop artists but for us we’ve got to keep it lean and mean so you know we own our own studio and I produce the records and we just try to keep it lean and mean.
MGM: And does that element make it more fun for you these days? Having a greater level of control?. You are not reliant on somebody else bringing a Producer in. That’s got to be more enjoyable hasn’t it?
KN: You know it’s a double edged sword it’s more enjoyable, you get more creative control you really depend on each other financially, creatively about the decision making that’s all got to be done in house you know there’s no, really not a mediator to handle creative, a creative crossroads if you will so it forces a lot of things. It forces the band to get along with each other and not just, you know fuck off and let someone else deal with it because there’s no one else to deal with it.
MGM: That’s a good place to be I’m sure, I’m sure.
KN: You know, it has its advantages not like, for instance we would never have been able to make a record called ‘Fuck’ if we would have had you know if it was 1998 and we were signed to that big record contract at Dreamworks. They wouldn’t have let us make a record like that. But we got to make it because we wanted to make it and we thought it was important for our catalogue and was it the be all and end all of our records? Not but it’s important to have something like that you know in our catalogue as part of our history.
MGM: And that actually, perfect timing on your part as well because it was going to be my next question I mean it was kind of a statement EP when you brought that our last year I mean in all of the titles, the tracks on it have got ‘Fuck’ in it. It’s a very impactful release to put out. How do you trigger such an impact with the press and the fans with the new album having only put that out 12 months ago?
KN: Well, I think that the attention span of the consumer attention span is much shorter; I know mine is and everyone around me is so it’s been our goal to put out a product a little bit more frequently you know. We grew up in an industry where you made a record and then you worked it for two fucking years and spent a lot of money and you really tried to position yourself correctly in the marketplace and a lot of ideas that we’ve adopted have been about just being more consistent with giving a product out a little bit more frequently which is good for us because we are always writing songs so it kind of like the process never stops. As soon as we’ve finished the rock and roll record we are already talking about what we are going to do next you know and so for us you probably will see a record with an EP in between each one or something similar to that just to kind of keep our fans engaged and keep us creatively flowing.
MGM: Ah that’s nice and I’ve seen a lot of bands doing that of late. As you say there’s the major release and just to keep them hooked there’s an either you know a few bonus tracks that didn’t necessarily make it onto the album that become an EP 12 months later and as you say you’ve got the album which has still got a two year gap but you are still releasing product to keep the fans hooked into what you are doing and staying interested.
KN: Yeah I think it’s fun for us, I know it’s fun for us and I think that there is a majority of our people that are into what we do that enjoy that as well. And we are having fun with it and it just keeps everything, it keeps the creativity flowing.
MGM: And on that point as far as the creativity side of things is concerned tell me a little bit about rock and roll then if you would. We’ve got 10 tracks coming out on the new album very shortly. What can we expect from it?
KN: You know we had just come off tour and made the ‘Confessions’ record  which was based on a story that Josh wrote. A fantastic story and then so we had a pre-conceived thing you know going into that making music that would carry the weight and stand shoulder to shoulder with the lyric content at which Josh was talking about and then obviously we had the Fuck EP which was obviously pre-determined by the idea of having fuck in every song and after two records that you know we were trying to make it work around a theme it was nice to just go write songs. We wrote probably in the neighbourhood of like 25 songs and just pick the best one that kind of you know the 10 or 11 or 12 songs that stuck together and felt like a record but a complete piece of work so it was nice to not have anything pre-conceived to just get together like a rock and roll band and write songs and play and change things and you know scrap songs and you know, it was very loose.
MGM: And what of the 13 to 15 tracks that you’ve got left over. Is that what we can expect on next year’s EP song somewhere maybe?
KN: We are not really big recyclers. The reason for a song being left behind is because for whatever reason we couldn’t get a majority of guys to agree on them and quite frankly they probably weren’t up to scratch with the rest of them so you may find that pieces and parts of the songs were merging, but I wouldn’t say that there’s another record sitting there waiting to be released you know I think we’d have to roll up our sleeves and really get in some rehearsals and see what we got left.
MGM: And as far as the writing process is concerned I mean every good, classic rock band that have sort of gone the distance always seems to have the classic partnership of the lead singer and the lead guitarist I mean you’ve only got to look at Aerosmith, the Stones you know these guys it’s all the two main guys that are there and it’s seems very much like you and Josh and you have that relationship. Is it really the two of you that’s driving it and working it together?
KN: I mean I would say so but I don’t want to under-play or understate the importance of being in a band and having everybody get together you know. Josh and I started this in 1996 and that’s making us pretty old at this point but you know we met in 1996. We’ve always had this vision and we talk about a lot in very general ways about what we wanna achieve and where we wanna be and I think it’s kind of when he and I can agree on something which happens more often than not then we can get the other guys excited about it and when you get five guys pointing in the same direction it’s a pretty powerful thing you know!
MGM: I mean obviously the two of you have been there since day one with the band so you’ve got that history between you I mean it’s still very brotherly I’m sure.
KN: It really is you know and you hear stories about some of the other guys that you mentioned and the fighting and the miscommunication and thankfully we are not victims of that at this point. You know we’ve definitely had our rough times but since we got back together in 2005 it’s been pretty good. I think we went through a very humbling thing. We were apart for a few years. I think we realised how special what it is. The partnership between he and I is and having the band doing what we do that just doesn’t come around every day. It doesn’t fall, it doesn’t grow on trees so we took care of that and I think that’s why we’ve been able to, one of the main reasons why we’ve been able to stick around.
MGM: I was going to say, that break that you had it did seem to allow you to sort of clear the air and let the dust settle because since you’ve come back the releases have been strong, they’ve been consistent you know you guys are touring and it does all seem to be working well.
KN: Yeah I mean that’s not by accident you know it’s definitely it’s like any other relationship you’ve got to work at it you’ve have to cultivate it and you have to maintain it. There are uncomfortable conversations and there are disagreements but we all want the same thing and we never lose sight of that.
MGM: In terms of the new material that is coming out you’ve got a short US tour coming up relatively soon. Is that first time a lot of the material is going to be aired live to the fans?
KN: Yes, I mean we were out of fuel like two months ago and we were playing ‘Bring it on Back’ on stage but when we head out next week and we’ll be out till the end of the year then we will pull in multiple songs off the record mixed in with the main set so we are always playing something different. So we are one of those bands that have to go on the stage live so we don’t have to worry about having our pro-tools, tracks behind us programmed to a certain thing and with our light show we just go out and play imagine that?
MGM: It’s fantastic it’s what you wanna hear from people.
KN: So you can hear anything off that record cos we, you know it’s a rock and roll band.
MGM: That’s really encouraging to hear you know. There are so many times when you can almost look online these days and guarantee 99% of the set lists before you’ve even played the first note. To know that you guys will mix it up and, I can see you one night and see something completely different the next night. It’s worth repeat visits to the shows as well isn’t it? You don’t just pick your local town one any more you can go and follow you around a little bit and see multiple versions.
KN: Yeah you know it’s fun having moments in the set where anything could happen like the shit could fall apart at any moment and that is thrilling as a musician to be standing there, you know, in front of the audience and not knowing where it’s gonna go, how we’re gonna end this you know. It’s a lot of fun man.
MGM: Absolutely, I can imagine. Tell me a little bit about some of the oddities as well that you guys have managed to do over the years I mean one of the TV series that we get in the UK is ‘Bones’ and it was quite a shock for me when we saw Josh turn up on that as one of the celebrity rock stars they were investigating a case. I mean how on earth did that come about?
KN: You know Josh has had an interest in acting ever since I’ve known him. His father was an actor and we live in Hollywood so it’s only natural you know, and he is actually a really good actor which surprised me. Not that I didn’t’ think he had it but you know. You know an actor for a number of years and seeing him acting like that is really fucking good. So yeah I think that none of us are one trick ponies and we all have other interests. It just so happens that our common interest is the band so to me it’s no surprise.
MGM: And whose idea was the additional product lines that you guys have got as well? I didn’t know about this before but adult toys and tattoo kits as I understand it.
KN: Yeah I mean look we’re always looking to expand what we do you know and we just thought it would be fun when we got approached about doing it. There are a couple of other things that I can’t really speak of at this time. There are things in the works at this time and yeah we are just trying to have some fun with it and see what’s going on out there in the retail world in different areas.
MGM: Yeah I mean the tattoo kit I can understand. You’ve clearly done the rounds at the tattoo parlours over the last however many years and it’s quite a collection you’ve built up so naturally your fans will have followed there as well in some cases but how did the original conversation go for the adult toy side of things? Where on earth did that come from?
KN: It was part of a bigger conversation you know. When we, in 2005 when we put out the ‘15’ record we did our own merchandise and at one point I had the idea of making girls’ underwear. Cos women really love the song ‘Crazy Bitch’ you know and normal merchandise didn’t really embrace the song so I had the idea of putting that on, you know a pair of women’s underwear and I ordered a couple of hundred pairs and within a couple of shows they were sold out so we decided to expand the Crazy Bitch brand and you know we were sitting around talking about stuff and talking about ways to maximise our impact and we just had a creative mind mouth about what else could we put that song title on that would engage fans and give them something that was off the beaten path? So everything has come up and that’s kind of where the sex toy thing came from Doc Johnson so we partnered up and it’s the biggest manufacturer of adult novelties in the United States, maybe in the world and so that’s how it began, pretty innocent.
KN: Kind of like the Fuck record. What if we put Crazy Bitch on a rubber dick? What if we did a record called Fuck and did every record called Fuck. Nobody would do that nobody has the balls to do that. Let’s do it.
MGM: And as you say one of the great advantages of having your own label and your own rules is, you can do it.
MGM: Just the last question or so. When might we expect you guys? Because all I’m seeing is maybe a dozen dates in the US are we expecting you guys to follow up with a really decent tour coming up next year?
KN: Yeah we are spending the remainder of this year touring in the US and all over North America, Canada, and then we are looking at the Spring of next year into the early Summer of being over in the UK. Hopefully getting some of the festivals and some of our own shows and things like that.
MGM: I shall look forward to that. That’s great to know thank you very much.
KN: Thank you so much man. Have a good one.
Crazy Bitch Toys – 18 years and over
The review for the new album can be found here:
Buckcherry Rock ‘n’ Roll Review