2019 marks the twentieth anniversary of the self-titled debut of arguably the last truly great “Rock’N’Roll” band, Buckcherry. 20 years ago the Sunset Strip rockers rose to fame with “Lit Up,” possibly the ‘90s most anthemic ode to blow. They were equal parts glamorous sleaze and bluesy swagger, halfway between Guns ‘N’ Roses and The Black Crowes, and nearly as good as both.
20 years on and Buckcherry are still here, in an albeit slightly different form. After two albums the original lineup dissolved in 2002, only to reform in 2005 with vocalist Josh Todd and lead guitarist Keith Nelson, accompanied by an entirely new crew. They churned out five full-lengths since then, but Nelson left the band in 2017, leaving Todd as the only original member. Earlier this year Buckcherry released Warpaint, their eighth studio album, and although Todd might be the only remaining founding member, during a recent chat he tells me that he’s quite confident that it’s some of the band’s best work.
“We just put out a really good record, Warpaint. It’s reminiscent of before we put out 15. Like, we had three years off and then we put out our strongest record ever. And at this point we’ve got the best musicians we’ve ever had.”
And while Buckcherry are still regarded as a “hard rock” band — many of whom are largely limited to music, tattoo, and craft beer summer festivals at minor league stadiums and water-front sheds these days – Josh Todd admits he is a much bigger fan of contemporary hip-hop than contemporary hard rock. “There used to be so many great frontmen, like Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell, and Jonathan Davis from KoRn, but you just don’t really have that anymore,” he tells me, before going on to cite Drake, Post Malone, Blueface, Migos, and Cardi B as artists that are currently in heavy rotation for him.
“There’s just so much honesty in hip-hop. It’s not G-rated, it’s R-rated, and that’s how I like my movies and that’s how I like my television. They’re just saying what they feel. This is what it was like when I was listening to punk back in the day. I mean, I’m intimidated by some of these hip-hop records.”
Buckcherry also has a history of noteworthy covers that avoid hard rock clichés. Nearly twenty years ago they did extra sleazy and extra loud renditions of Janet Jackson’s “Nasty” and Dramarama’s “Anything, Anything (I’ll Give You)” and in 2014 they released a surprisingly faithful take of Icona Pop’s, “I Love It,” (lovingly titled “Say Fuck It”), which is definitely in the running for top-5 covers of the 21st century. The lead single to precede the release of Warpaint was Buckcherry’s take on Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like a Hole,” which gives the Industrial classic a little more of a grunge rock vibe. I ask Todd about Buckcherry’s gutsier take on covers, he proudly tells me, “I think it’s really boring when a rock band covers a rock song. I mean, when we cover a song, we take it and make it our own.” And when I ask him what makes something qualify for a possible cover, he tells me, “It’s something I’ve gotta be passionate about lyrically and in my wheelhouse vocally. When it came to ‘Head Like a Hole,’ for every record, the label asks what we might like to cover and for this, Mike Plotnikoff, our producer, was like ‘This song’s so good and it sounds like a Buckcherry song.’”
Buckcherry are currently in the middle of their Warpaint Tour, which will take them across the globe through nearly the end of the year, including a date at Theatre of Living Arts next Saturday, July 27th. When I ask Josh Todd if there are any dates that he’s especially excited for, he admits that some of the overseas shows (which include Australia, Asia, and Europe) can be a little extra exciting.
“I’m excited to go back to Japan. It’s been a while, and we have a special relationship with Japan. They’re such nice people. I mean, they get into your whole career, not just the singles, and they bring you gifts for your kids.”
And when I ask what can be expected of the live show when Buckcherry plays the TLA next Saturday, Josh Todd assures me that we’re in for a “treat”: “This is the best Buckcherry lineup that’s ever been in the band. The musicianship is better than it’s ever been. There are some songs that will never change, like “Lit Up,” “Crazy Bitch,” and “Sorry,” but then you can expect a lot of Warpaint.”