Heavy Music Artwork one-on-one with Buckcherry’s frontman!
Hailing from California, Buckcherry belong to a dying breed of rockers: those whose creative drive comes from something deep and personal. Remember the days of Jim Morrison? When rock music was a reflection of culture, a commentary on what was transpiring around us and how the artist fit into it all? Well, Josh Todd, singer and frontman of Buckcherry sure does. After speaking to him I was left with a distinct impression that I had just had a conversation with a real artist.
Buckcherry’s sixth studio album Confessions was released in February of 2013 by Century Media Records and Eleven Seven Music. The whole theme of the album is based on the seven deadly sins in a context very personal to the band and its frontman.
Andy (HMA): Thank you for taking the time to talk to Heavy Music Artwork, Josh. Let’s start off by talking about ‘Confessions’.
Josh Todd: Yes.
Andy (HMA): ‘Confessions’ is a personal take on the seven deadly sins. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the story behind undertaking that task.
Josh Todd: Well y’know, I write all the lyrics for Buckcherry so every record is personal to a certain degree but with this one…. Yeah, I kind of went back to my childhood, back to some events that took place that kind of shaped me. Y’know, kind of my foundation to do music and rock’n’roll. Keith and I have been toying around with the idea of doing a record on the Sins for a long time now. A lot of people have done it, a lot of movies, and a lot of bands…. We just wanted to do our own take on it. The challenge was trying to make the best Buckcherry songs out of each sin.
Andy (HMA): This is Buckcherry’s sixth album.
Josh Todd: Yep.
Andy (HMA): What was the recording process like? Was it a challenge tackling this topic?
Josh Todd: No. Y’know that’s why I love the Sins, I think they’re timeless and I think everyone struggles with one or all the aspects of the Sins in their lives. That’s why we wanted to do it. I think a lot of people can relate to it. It was fun, y’know? And it was challenging, and aggravating, and inspirational. Just like every Buckcherry record.
Andy (HMA): Were you worried you might alienate people if the album became way too introspective and personal?
Josh Todd: I guess, yeah, but y’know all songs have a little bit of my personal situation in them, but then I try to also not go too deep. That’s the challenge of songwriting, trying to write it in a way in which a lot of people can relate to it, not just you.
Andy (HMA): As far as I understand, the album started as a film project idea you had.
Josh Todd: Kind of. We had already started working on something and then I’d already been writing the screenplay kinda loosely based on my life, and then Stevie came in and then he’s like: ‘Hey man, why don’t you write a story to like go with the record?’ and I’m like ‘Okay’. Then I was just thinking about it and I condensed it down. That’s when songs like ‘Nothing Left But Tears’, which is about my parents and the truth, appeared.
Andy (HMA): Are you still going to do the film?
Josh Todd: We’d like to once we’ve figured it out. We have a director, we got it casted, we got the locations and then it was the money. [Laughter]. Y’know, there’s no more money in the music business so it’s very hard to get the funds to do what you want to do because you’re not getting a return on your investments and no one wants to put it up. So we’re still working on it. It’d be nice to do it at some point.
Andy (HMA): Tell me a little bit about how the concept for the album cover came into being?
Josh Todd: Well we met this hip-hop graffiti artist in New York, this guy called Ewok, and we wanted to get someone who completely had nothing to do with rock music. We wanted to give him a shot at the artwork for the record. I gave him my ideas for every scene in the movie for the Sins so if you look at the artwork on the inner part of the record he did a piece for each sin. That was really cool. I just told him that I wanted a cover that you could get tattooed on yourself and he delivered.
Andy (HMA): You describe yourself as a storyteller and as having a great respect for storytellers.
Josh Todd: Yes, totally. You know some songs are just short stories. You’re trying to capture some emotion in a certain type of song. You know I was always a big fan of Jim Morrison, of turning poetry into songs. There’s a song on the record called ‘Pride’ that got to be almost like spoken word in the verses which is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I read a lot of books so I kind of enhance my lyric writing and I’m a huge fan of novels, and how somebody can take five hundred pages and make it interesting. How someone can write something that can change you forever. That to me is crazy, y’know? Songs are much easier as they’re not that long but you try to take people on a journey.
Andy (HMA): Let’s talk about some of the tracks off the new album. ‘Gluttony’ is about struggling with excess and your nature. You refer to the lyrical protagonist as holding back a beast.
Josh Todd: Yeah as a youth it was always confusing to me: if something feels good, why not overdo it? I just didn’t understand anything but that. I work very hard on a daily basis to manage my obsessive compulsive behavior and that’s what ‘Gluttony’ is about. We have all these things that take us out of who we really are at the core, like drugs and alcohol, and sex, and sugar, and caffeine, and it changes us and sometimes it’s a lot of fun, and you just want to keep doing it. The problem is of course stopping.
Andy (HMA): ‘Sloth’ has a deceptive title; it isn’t about laziness but about dealing with a personal tragedy. You dad’s suicide.
Josh Todd: You know I’m just old enough to where I can write a song about it and it’s not so emotional for me. The most slothful act is suicide, so I just went back to that day in my head and the song is about that moment.
Andy (HMA): ‘Pride’ is lyrically fantastic. I think it is one of my favorite tracks. Tell me about coming up with the song and a little bit about its meaning to you.
Josh Todd: It’s about being found out in a way. Being exposed, being vulnerable and letting everyone know your most honest, purest thought even if it’s negative or shitty. It’s about wanting to end it all because you don’t want to live with secrets or to put up a certain appearance.
Andy (HMA): There are seven deadly sins. How do tracks like ‘Water’ and ‘Air’ tie into the theme of the album?
Josh Todd: Yeah, we were gonna do seven sins and four elements. That’s where ‘Water’ and ‘Air’ came from. ‘Water’ and ‘Air’ are about – well there’s a love interest in the film – it’s about these two opposite people and they’re struggling with the meeting of the two worlds, and how they’re going to deal with each other. That’s where those songs came from.
Andy (HMA): What are some of your favorite books and what do you think reading does for a person?
Josh Todd: I think it’s great because to me, knowledge is power. When I started going to school, I had a really hard time because they made you learn all these things you’re not interested in. I mean, there’s a lot of things they made me learn that I just didn’t give a shit about. I love to learn about stuff I’m interested in. That’s why I love reading because I can just find any kind of subject that I want and I can tap into it. I can take a journey no matter where I am. I think it’s good for your mind, I think it enhances all kinds of things creatively. It took me a long time to really comprehend what I was reading because I have a short attention span so I had to really work hard on comprehension. It happened way back when I was twenty-three, I’d gotten sober and my fucking mind was fucked up but it helped me.
Andy (HMA): What does it take to be a good lyricist?
Josh Todd: I mean it’s different for everybody. What I do is on my off-time when I’m not writing songs, I read and when I start writing lyrics I like to take it all the way, not stop until it’s finished.
Andy (HMA): Thinking about Buckcherry from the time of ‘Lit Up’ and later ‘Crazy Bitch’ to now it feels like you’ve become more introvert, more reflective than before. Would you agree with that?
Josh Todd: Well, listen, when I was growing up every rock record had all these different flavors. You had rock songs, you hard party songs, you had mid-tempo songs, you had ballads on all the records that I used to listen to, and then that’s what we’ve had on all of Buckcherry’s records. But I understand what you’re saying and you’re right, this record is kind of heavy for us. But y’know ‘Black Butterfly’ is one of my favorite records. I tend to like the alternative sounding records where we have all different flavors on it.
Andy (HMA): Over the years Buckcherry has undergone various changes. What has it all taught you and what do you look forward to in the band’s future?
Josh Todd: I love this band because it’s just everything I dreamed about. I just wanted to be in one band my whole career and make lots of records, go through the peaks and valleys. That’s what’s tough, when you’re not hitting on all cylinders, when everything isn’t working out commercially and with the live shows, you have to get through. We’ve had to battle a lot of people who’ve wanted to make this band something it isn’t, so…. [Laughter]. What was your question again?
Andy (HMA): What has it all taught you?
Josh Todd: What I’ve learned is just to stay honest to your art. This band is just vocals, two guitars, bass and drums, and that’s the way it’s always gonna be. I think people appreciate that. They like it when we stick to our guns and when we do that, we win.
Andy (HMA): Is there any piece of advice you’d like to give young artists (whether it’s musicians, writers or filmmakers)?
Josh Todd: Yeah in the arts there’s very little money. Period. You better be passionate. Be passionate, love what you do and be great at it or don’t do it at all.
Andy (HMA): Thank you very much for talking to Heavy Music Artwork, it was a real pleasure and I hope you have a great tour and a great gig tonight.
Josh Todd: Thanks, man. Nice meeting you!
Copyright 2013 © Interview by Andy Starz, Heavy Music Artwork.