June 6, 2013 Interview: Buckcherry’s Keith Nelson
Buckcherry are one of those bands which ignore the flavor of the week. Straight ahead rock n roll, it’s a simple formula, and has worked for these guys. With crowd pleasers like “Lit Up”, “Crazy Bitch”, “Next To You”, “Too Drunk”, and many more they have achieved success most bands would dream of. Looking to take the band to new heights the band released “Confessions” in 2013. A cohesive piece unlike anything the band has done before. Recently we had an intimate conversation with lead guitarist and key song writer Keith Nelson. We spoke about the reincarnation of the band, the success, the future of music and Buckcherry.
Crypticrock.com- Buckcherry achieved success with your first two albums back in 1999 and 2001, then the band took a 4 year break reforming in 2005 with only yourself and Josh returning from the band’s most recognized line-up. Tell me how the reformation of the band happened for you guys?
Keith Nelson-Well it’s pretty simple actually. At the end of the band the three other guys in the band quit, so Josh and I were the only guys left. We took a few years off and Josh and I were talking about some personal matters that really didn’t have anything to do with music. He said do you want to get in a room and make some noise? I say well sure let’s give it a shot, so we called 3 guys up that we knew on a personal level, Stevie, Xavier, and Jimmy. Everyone learned a few songs, and we had a little jam rehearsal. After about 2 songs (laughs) we stopped and said alright if you want to do this show up tomorrow with rehearsal room rent and we’ll see what’s going on. We were all working day jobs and kind of scattered, it was very humble beginnings actually.
Crypticrock.com- That is really cool how you guys got back together. I remember when it happened I was really excited myself, I thought it was great thing. Things have really taken off for you guys since. Now you and Josh have been working together for believe it or not almost 2 decades. Tell me briefly about the dynamic you two share as song writing partners?
Keith Nelson- You know I just think the longer we do this the more we understand each other. There are a lot of things that happened between the two of us that don’t really need to be said. I have a pretty good idea of what kind of music inspires Josh to write lyrics, and Josh knows that I get really hard to please with how things end up in the end. I don’t know, we just work really well together. I think one of the things we learned over the years is we used to write a song and if we didn’t like it we just left it and moved onto to the next one. Now I think we are a little more thorough with picking out pieces that we like whether it be a riff, lyrics, or a chorus and taking that and starting over again with something that we feel is strong. So I think creatively we have the familiarity that you only get from working together for so long and there is no way to produce that than to put in those years and all those songs.
Crypticrock.com- Absolutely, and it has paid off for you guys. The band seems to remain relevant in a really tough music industry. You guys always seem to be on tour and consistently release new albums every 2-3 years. What I am really interested in is where do you find the time to write new material when your are always on the road?
Keith Nelson- There isn’t a whole lot of writing that goes on while on the road but there is a lot of idea collecting. We have been pretty good about collecting ideas and then returning home and knowing we’d like to make another record, and getting those ideas out and up to speed. It really doesn’t take very long, we are pretty creative guys. I’m always writing songs and ideas. I have an iPhone full of voice memos of guitar riffs and ideas. Always collecting that stuff knowing that the day will come that I will have to sort back through it and make songs out of it.
Crypticrock.com- The best thing to do is always to record it because you may come up with something you really like and then you can come back to it later on and work with it. Being on the road so much do you ever find yourself exhausted? How do you keep yourself healthy and energetic with the constant travel? You guys look like you’re in shape so I am wondering how you keep yourself healthy?
Keith Nelson- All the travel is definitely a grind, and we have been at it for so long it’s basically a norm, but we all take pretty good care of ourselves. All the insane partying aspects of when we were in our early 20’s has been curbed to the point that we know the most important thing is staying healthy and putting on a great show. When we prioritize that it makes the rest of it pretty easy.
Crypticrock.com- It’s obvious that all the hard work you’ve put into the band has paid off. What is really interesting and impressive about Buckcherry is you one of the few bands which went away for a while and came back to achieve even more success from when you first started. Did you ever dream that would be the case?
Keith Nelson- Not at all. We have very very low expectations. I think just getting the “15” record finished and actually out and getting a shrink-wrapped copy of it (laughs) was really the goal. I don’t think any of us were delusional about what was going to happen. You have to remember that was 2005 and the music business was really starting to shift and change. We were one of the first major label bands to downsize to an indie because that was going to be the best way for us to actually do what we wanted. It all kind of worked out the way it was suppose to work out. As far as this line-up being the most successful, as you said, I think that is just a product of all 5 guys being in the same headspace and really being committed to what we are doing and really believing in it.
Crypticrock.com- Absolutely, and the “15” record was a great comeback record for the band and you guys have released some great albums since. The new album “Confessions” is slight change of direction for the band. Still having the gritty rock n roll sound yet lyrically different. What was the song writing process for the album like?
Keith Nelson- The process started over the last few years. Josh and I always toyed with the idea of doing a concept EP on the seven deadly sins. Seven songs, seven sins , really simple. That evolved once we got home and starting making demos. Josh’s lyrics really took on this cinematic quality. Stevie and I were sitting around one day throwing around song ideas and Stevie said, “you know maybe Josh should work on a screenplay, why doesn’t he write a screenplay for it and give it a story?” So we took that idea to Josh and he took it and ran with it. He’s been working on a screenplay loosely based on some of the events of his life. He kind of married the two ideas together, so you get a story based about some of the events in Josh’s life told to the seven deadly sins. It really was a process, it wasn’t like we sat one day and said we are going to do this story. We kind of started out writing songs, and one thing lead to another. We kept talking about it and writing and it evolved into this really cool story. We have a screenplay for it and will do a movie very soon. At the same time we were very conscious of the fact that the record had to stand by itself you know. If you never heard the story and didn’t know anything about that story, that if you went and bought the record that it’s still a complete work in it’s own. I think we achieved that.
Crypticrock.com- Absolutely, and it’s a excellent record. Again, Buckcherry has been a very consistent band over the years. What direction would you like to see the band take in the future?
Keith Nelson- As long as it’s real direction I really don’t have any plans for it. I just want to make sure that we are staying true to ourselves and continue to make rock n roll. Flying in the face of whatever is popular or the fads that come and go you know? There is some many different kinds of hip new music that has come and gone since we put the band together. Through all those changing tastes of what’s really the most popular thing, we just kept making rock n roll records the way we want to hear them. That’s my only preconceived notion for any of that, as long we are just doing what we feel is the right thing to do. It’s always going to be a rock n roll band, we are always going to make rock n roll records.
Crypticrock.com- That is great direction to go for the future. Like you said there are so many things that come and go over the years and so many trends as well as so many things that sound generic now a days. You guys stay true to your sound and that’s a great thing. With the large and growing catalogue of Buckcherry songs do you have a favorite track after all these years?
Keith Nelson- Man, it’s really hard. We get together and try and put the set list together, and we change the set list every night. We try and get something off each record and at this point 6 records deep into a career it becomes a little bit of a challenge. There are so many songs and we know there are a certain amount of songs people want to hear when they come to a show. There are a certain amount of songs that we want to play that maybe haven’t been the most popular or been on the radio but are still fun songs for us. It’s really hard to pick 1 or 2 , but I love playing the song “Oh My Lord” off the All Night Long record and I love playing “Dirty Mind” off our first record. There are a couple songs like that which really stick out that maybe people haven’t heard but are really fun to play live.
Crypticrock.com- Those are some awesome tracks. I imagine you are a big rock n roll fan yourself. I think we are all fans deep down. That’s why you do what you do and why I am on the media end of what I do. What I want to know is how awesome is it to share the stage with bands like Kiss, Cheap Trick and so many others that you probably seen in concert and grew up listening to. How surreal is that?
Keith Nelson- It’s totally surreal. First and foremost we’re fans of music. I started doing this because I was a huge fan. I wanted to be one of those guys that made the music come out of the speakers (laughs). Everything else that comes with it is really just secondary to making great music and making records that inspire people and that are the soundtrack to their lives. Given the opportunity to play with bands that you mentioned and actually meet them, become acquaintances with them, actually get up on stage with a few of them and just play, it’s really been almost like it’s someone else’s life. It’s pretty crazy.
Crypticrock.com- I can only imagine how that feels. I remember a few years ago you guys were direct support for Kiss and that was awesome, it was a great tour. That had to be awesome to be direct support for Kiss on that tour?
Keith Nelson- Yea, sitting back stage in the arena in the catering part where everyone is having lunch and having the guys from Kiss walk in, sit down, and say “hey man what’s going on, how’s the tour?”, and treat you like a peer it’s really unforgettable. I think it really speaks for how genuinely cool a lot of our idols have been as far as really making way for us as the next generation of bands that are doing it.
Crypticrock.com- Absolutely, and I am sure there are some bands opening up for you guys and say wow I can’t believe we are opening for Buckcherry. It just the cycle of rock n roll and it’s awesome.
Keith Nelson- Yea it’s like a family tree and we are keenly aware of that. We have a band out with us right now called Heaven’s Basement. They are a really great rock n roll band from the UK. It’s really fun to see those guys go out there and take their lumps and learn and play for our crowd. They’re doing it the right away. It’s really rewarding.
Crypticrock.com- It’s cool that you are bringing out some bands like that are staying true to rock n roll. My last question for you is regarding films. Crypticrock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of horror films, and if so, what are some of your favorite horror films?
Keith Nelson- I regret to tell you… that I am not a fan of horror films (laughs).
Crypticrock.com- (laughs) That’s alright, well there are not for everyone, but was there one film you watched as a kid? Did you watch at all?
Keith Nelson- (laughs) Well is “The Shining” a horror film?
Crypticrock.com- I’d consider that one of the greatest all-time horror films ever made actually.
Keith Nelson- Well that is one of my all-time favorites. I am a huge fan of Stephen King. I veraciously read all of his books up until a few years ago. “The Shining” movie is different than the book. “Phantasm” is a movie I saw early on. That’s old school, like 80’s horror films. I don’t know if the original “I Spit On Your Grave” is considered a horror film, but that was pretty disturbing as well.
Crypticrock.com- Absolutely, now you are mentioned all these older horror films and that is to me, actually the best horror films.
Keith Nelson- I saw the remake of “I Spit On Your Grave”. I don’t know if it was a good as the original. Something about the original that was pretty disturbing.
Crypticrock.com- When it comes to the horror films I have this thing that I like the grittiness of the old films and the soundtrack involved in them. It’s not like that anymore, it’s all lost now. In the remakes something is lost in translation. It’s not the same as what it was.
Keith Nelson- You know, I think much like making records these days when you were making movies on film you had to get all that stuff right on the way in opposed to fixing it after the fact. Fixing the color and the way things are edited. The analog approach has way more soul to it and I’m an appreciator of that for sure.
Crypticrock.com- I totally agree. Do you feel the same about the analog approach to music as well with recording?
Keith Nelson- Oh yea. I have a recording studio and we have a tape machine. We turn the computer screen off and we make records with our ears the way you are suppose to, not with your eyes.
Crypticrock.com- That is awesome and the right way music is suppose to be made. Now how do you feel about physical format music? I myself am a strong component of physical format. I personally enjoy opening the CD or the vinyl and seeing the whole presentation opposed to digital. I am not a fan of digital. What do you think?
Keith Nelson- Well you know I understand the convenience of it. I am a participator of the convenience of the digital format for sure. I have a iPhone and iPad, I download, and I back up in the studio to digital, of course I do, it’s just the world we live in. When I sit in my living room, when I enjoy music, it’s on two power amps with a vinyl record. I have all my vinyl from when I was in high school and junior high. I still have all my records and I know vinyl is coming back into vogue and is kind of hip and that great. I love that people are finding it. I didn’t invent vinyl, and I am not the first guy to listen to it. I never really stopped listening to vinyl even though some of my favorite records, Soundgarden’s “Superunknown” and a couple other records, that I just love, you can’t find them on vinyl because it was a time in the music industry that they weren’t making vinyl records… which to me is just horrifying. People are redoing it now and there are a actually a couple of vinyl houses that are doing really really great renditions of classic records. It’s been fun to seek that stuff out and vinyl is still affordable if you are willing to go hunt for it. Nothing sounds like it, it’s not portable and it’s not convenient, but it’s not really suppose to be. It’s an experience, it’s a total experience. It isn’t clicking on a song and making a playlist of your favorite songs. It’s about really buying into a artist and their body of work, and I really appreciate that.