September 28, 2015 Interview – Keith Nelson of Buckcherry
Said best by Neil Young, ” Rock and roll can never die.” Ever so true, decades since Rock-n-Roll’s formation, there have been bands keeping its soul alive. One of the most prominent of those holding the torch for Rock in modern times is Buckcherry. Originally come together back in 1995 out in Southern California, Buckcherry defied major labels’ concept of what they should sound like and immediately made a statement with their straight-up, raw, Rock-n-Roll sound. Breaking onto charts with their 1999 self-titled debut, it seemed as Buckcherry was packing up after the release of Time Bomb in 2001, but thankfully recollected four years later to come back with 2005’s 15. Stronger than ever, the resurrected Buckcherry has been nothing but a well-oiled machine since, pumping out four more studio records since, including their latest in 2015, Rock ‘n’ Roll. Now independent of any major label, the band launched F-Bomb Records in 2014, continue to tour regularly, and laugh at the notion that Rock is dead. Recently we caught up with co-founding guitarist Keith Nelson for an in-depth look at the last decade of Buckcherry, their dedication to rocking, the new album, and more.
CrypticRock.com – Buckcherry has kept themselves extremely busy since the release of Confessions in 2013. You have been touring heavily, released a new EP in 2014, have your own label now, and now, a new full-length record is out. How has the band kept up with the busy schedule they have been on?
Keith Nelson – We are really motivated and we have a good stride creatively, so it is pretty effortless. Plus, we love being on the road and playing shows. We have been so fortunate to have a worldwide audience; we worked really hard to get that, and as a result, we can pretty much spend the rest of our lives on the road touring. I think, at certain times, we talked about wanting to do records more often. The older way of doing it was put out a record every two years. That really left a long time for us between records. I think we wanted to shorten that gap a little and make records more frequent. I think between Confessions, the EP, and this new record, we have shortened the time.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and like you said, Buckcherry lives on the road; the band really lives for the live show. It is, essentially, one of the boldest points of the band. Above all, you continue to draw large crowds tour after tour. As a musician, do you derive the most satisfaction from going out night after night and rocking crowds, also, how do you keep matters fresh for yourself?
Keith Nelson – Well for me, it is two different heads basically. Being in the studio is something that I love; I love to produce records and writing songs. I like having an idea in my head, and then hearing the song coming out of the speakers, it is so rewarding. On the flip side of that, I love playing the shows and making that music and watching it connect with people. Whether it be new songs or some that are twenty years old, it is still really rewarding for me.
As far as keeping it fresh, I do not really have a secret to keeping it fresh other than I am just really grateful to have the coolest fucking job on the planet. No matter what is going on in life, because life is going to have its ups and downs, I still get excited about playing every night.
CrypticRock.com – It definitely is a gift, not everyone is fortunate enough to play Rock-n-Roll for a living. That has to be amazing.
Keith Nelson – Yes, I think some famous bass players who may or may not wear paint on his face has said over and over, guys get in Rock bands to get laid, and no other reason. I have to tell you, that was never really my motivation. I wanted to always making music. I still am chasing my heroes, wanting to be in a band and wanting to play the music, that is what really drives everything. I do not give a fuck about that other stuff. I do like to get paid every once in a while, got to keep the lights on in the house, but really, it is about making the music.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, that is something you cannot fake, and Buckcherry has not faked. As mentioned, your seventh overall studio album simply entitled Rock ‘n’ Roll is out now. What was the writing and recording process like this time around?
Keith Nelson – It has not really differed over the years that much. Everybody comes up with an idea, usually a jam somewhere, but it ends up being a demo that I work off. I work on the demo, then send it over to Josh and he kind of wraps his head around the music a little bit and comes up with something. Then we end up in a room with all five of us playing, arguing, laughing, getting excited, and all the things that Rock bands do when we write songs together. That is kind of the process we had with this one. We started compiling ideas in between tours, and when we got home, we write for three or four week, and made sure we had a good pile of songs. Then we went very quickly into the studio and recorded it; tracked the band live. When we needed to overdub something we did, but really, it is essentially a live Rock-n-Roll band.
CrypticRock.com – It is good that things have worked, and the formula continues to work. Confessions was more of a concept record for Buckcherry, but with Rock ‘n’ Roll, it appears the band is going for a more straight-ahead approach. One of the boldest standouts of this record is the thick guitar tone. Did you try anything different, obtaining the tone this time around?
Keith Nelson – I keep going back to less is more all the time. It is easy to over produce, over think, and pile more shit on there. Really, the longer I do this, the more I just want to hear less and less in the way of overall tracking, and more and more substance of each thing that goes in. Instead of there being fifteen guitar parts, I want to hear two really great parts. Sometimes it is the same thing, but sometimes they work off each other. I think that is it. I just keep simplifying the process even more.
When you go into some sessions, you see guys that have three different guitar heads running with six different microphones and they cannot make a decision about the sound and how to blend it. When you are talking about guitar sounds, for me, I want it all coming back to one spot, one track, and either you have it or you do not.
CrypticRock.com – Yes exactly. It definitely shows through on the songs. If a riff is strong, it is strong. Obviously, like you said, sometimes the less is more is a good ideology to have.
Keith Nelson – Yes, some of the heavier stuff I have listen to does not have a lot of stuff piled onto it. Listen to “Whole Lotta of Love” by Led Zeppelin, that is some heavy shit. It has one or two guitar tracks.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, you are right. As mentioned, the record is very straight-forward, even in the title, Rock ‘n’ Roll. Was this sort of the band making a statement that real Rock-n-Roll is alive and well?
Keith Nelson – I think so, it certainly was not thought out. We did not come up with the title until after we were done recording. We did not really know where the record was going to go. There was no preconceived notion, like Confessions or the Fuck EP. We just wanted to do a good fucking Rock-n-Roll record. Once again, there is a lot of conversations that we have away from the stage and away from everyone on the tour bus, Josh and I talked about just calling the record Rock ‘n’ Roll. Especially now, with everybody running around saying Rock-n-Roll is dead. Fuck that, we go out every night and play to people that are convinced that Rock-n-Roll is not dead. We are a Rock-n-Roll band and we are not going anywhere. This record is further evidence of that.
CrypticRock.com – Rock-n-Roll will never die, as long as there is musicians who love the music, keep it alive, and continue to play it.
Keith Nelson – You have to remember you need fans that keep showing up and wanting to hear it. I am so grateful we have fans that appreciate what we do.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, the fan base is very strong. We have spoken in the past about that; the Confessions record was actually slated to have a film associated with it, is that still a possibility, or has that kind of been scrapped?
Keith Nelson – I would not say scrapped, but it is not something that comes up in conversation everyday. We were very ambitious with the whole idea and Josh has an amazing screenplay. It takes a lot of money to put something together like that. Ask Metallica, they made that movie and I cannot even imagine what it costs. It just takes a lot of money and it needs a lot more than just coming up with a great idea and passion for it. So, unfortunately, as of right now, that has been tabled, not scrapped.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, that is very true, filmmaking is a very expensive thing if you want to do it right, and it is okay to put things on the back burner. There have been scripts that have been put on the back burner for years and then they come together later. Buckcherry has always been a very hands on band. You produce your own records, you interact with fans on a personal level, and now you have your own record label, F-Bomb Records. What has it been like having your own label, and can fans expect F-Bomb Records to grow to enlist other bands?
Keith Nelson – The first part of your question, as to what it has been like, it has been a great learning experience, if not trial by fire. It is the maximum risk with maximum reward. We are kind of hanging our nuts out there, and there is nobody to blame but ourselves and our team, and we are very happy with the way the EP went. The EP was us getting our feet wet in that pool and seeing the result. Now we have the full-length record, things look pretty good at this point, and we are really stoked about that.
We did have complete creative freedom. If we had been with a major label, they never would have let us put out a record called Fuck. Even if we are at an Indie label, the expectation would have been low, but we just did what we wanted to do. With that said, we would like to expand the roster of the label. We have not signed a band or done anything coming close to signing an act, but it is definitely something that we talk about. We would love to find the right artist or artists to share what we are doing.
CrypticRock.com – That is something to look forward to in the future. Obviously everything is a long process, and everything builds, so hopefully that will happen in the future.
Keith Nelson – That is right. We are not really saying no to anything at this point.
CrypticRock.com – Seeing the vast experience you have attained through the years with Buckcherry, everybody knows the band went away for a little bit, you came back and are stronger than ever. You are really one of the veterans in modern Rock now. With that said, what advice would you give an aspiring young band?
Keith Nelson – The only advice I could really give is you have to really make sure you love what you are doing and love who you are doing it with. There are some really hard times out there and sometimes that is the only thing you have to put your head down onto at night is the fact that you love what you are doing. Life changes, people change, people do not get along, people rip you off, all that shit happens, no matter how meticulous and guarded you are. At the end of the day, love what you are doing and that will come through in your songs, and people will get that, because you cannot bullshit people. You might get one over on them, but you are not going to get twenty years over them.
CrypticRock.com – So stay true to yourself and love what you are doing. That is pretty simple, but very good advice.
Keith Nelson – Yes, early on, when we were signed to a major label, we had conversations where the label would tell us to sound less like this and more like that. They were playing us something that was soaring up the charts. We were never a band that sounded like that. It never occurred to us that it would be anything we would consider. We have always tried to stick to our guns.
CrypticRock.com – That has definitely worked well for the band, seeing the longevity it has attained.
Keith Nelson – The longevity speaks of that. The peaks and valleys of success, that is all part of it.
CrypticRock.com – I had one last question for you; last we spoke in 2013, you stated you were not much of a Horror film fan, but a huge fan of Stephen King. Have you seen any new Horror films you enjoyed?
Keith Nelson – The most disturbing film I have seen, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990). I did see The Human Centipede (2009). It was bizarre and whatever, but I have to say Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer literally gave me nightmares for a long time afterwards.
Oddly enough, after I saw that movie we were New York. I had gotten into an elevator, and as soon as the doors were closing, a hand came through the doors, and it was Michael Rooker who plays Henry. He seemed like a really nice guy, but I keep looking and him and seeing him in the movie, and all I could do was stand there and say, “dude I just watched Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer,” and he started laughing. I told him it was incredible and he was very gracious and kind. Yes Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, if anyone reading this has not seen that movie, get your hands on it, but it really disturbed me.