Article By: Rob Keller
Foreword By: Chris Callen
Originally Published In The June 2013 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
In the pursuit of all things motorcycle, we cross paths with people from all walks of life, but the cool thing is that we always have one thing in common: the motorcycle. Such is the case with the people we meet from the music industry, and we’ve met quite a few big names, but never because they were rock stars; they had to be motorcycle guys that we were just hangin’ around with. This was the case the first time we met Keith Nelson from the already super popular band Buckcherry. Keith had been performing at the Buffalo Chip and came over to Bobby Seeger’s “Grease Monkey Lot” to hang with his motorcycle buddies after the show. Not only had we already been fans of the music and this band, but we knew a bunch of the cats that ran around with Keith so we heard a lot about him as well. As it turns out, he and the other guys he travels the world with playing their brand of rock music are very good people, and a great crew to bust balls with. When it came time for their new album to come out, we wanted to bring it to our readers, not just because it kicks ass and you need to have it on your i-Pod, but because we believe in these guys and would like nothing better than to see them for their next ten album release parties, so buy the damn thing! Oh yeah, there’s a story too.
Buckcherry has been crushing the rock party scene with an explosive attitude and intense energy that has us all singing along with their in-yourface lyrics. You have to love this band that puts it all on the line every time they take the stage. These guys leave their fans begging for more, and that is exactly what they are about to get again with the release of their sixth album titled Confessions. This is the fourth album that they have released since lead vocalist, Josh Todd, and lead/rhythm guitarist/ backing vocalist, Keith Nelson, reformed the band back in 2005. The new lineup includes Stevie D on rhythm/lead guitars/backing vocals, Jimmy” Two Fingers” Ashhurst on bass guitar/backing vocals, and Xavier Muriel on drums. This current lineup has been touring and recording together close to a decade now and it is obvious by their latest recordings that they are putting their heart and soul into every track. They know what you want and they will give you what you need. When I heard Confessions for the first time, Chris and I were in the office and we didn’t just listen to the music, we had to go to the lyrics’ sheet and see for ourselves what was going on here. We were feeling the same thing; this album had a theme behind it. Not just rock ‘n’ roll, but songs with a message–one after another. After several plays of each individual track, we got it. Josh Todd was singing about the seven deadly sins. The song “Sloth” will give you chills! This really got our attention and we became huge fans of this music as a whole complete composition. There are also several dual guitar parts that just sound so good together. We are really excited that we had the chance to interview guitarist and writer, Keith Nelson, as he was packing for a tour of Australia, to find out more about this piece of music.
CS: Tell us a little bit about the band’s personality as a group coming into the release of Confessions.
KN: The band is really hitting on all cylinders these days. We had played close to 1,000 shows together by the time we released this record. Every record is a challenge for us fueled by a desire to always reach a little further and not simply repeat ourselves or subscribe to a “formula.” That would be lazy and ultimately not gratifying.
CS: What dose this album stand for as far as a body of work in the timeline of Buckcherry?
KN: I think Confessions is our most ambitious record so far. Josh was really digging deep to tell part of his real story, and the entire band was going beyond creativity to do something different, yet still be true to who we are.
CS: What would the message or messages be that you would want to pass on through your music to the listener?
KN: There’s never really been a “message” per se, other than be yourself, have a good time … I mean, it’s only rock ‘n’ roll. This album goes a little deeper so I hope that people can connect with some of the feelings and relate. After some of the heavy subject matter on this record, we thought it was a good idea to end the record with a song that resolves the thought on a positive note. “Dreamin’ of You” was the perfect song for that.
CS: Compared to some of your older music, like “Crazy Bitch” and “Riding,” the new album might be perceived as a different direction for the band. Do you feel that is the case or do you feel that other songs you’ve previously released had similar messages, but didn’t get the attention they deserved?
KN: I think we’ve always had more introspective songs on every record. It’s part of the conversations we have about making what we feel is a “complete” record. I want a record to have peaks and valleys and take you on a journey. The only difference is maybe this record doesn’t have an obvious party anthem, but we’ve tackled a story, a theme, and there really wasn’t a place for that in this body of work. Don’t worry, there’s plenty more of those to come!
CS: Do you have a song with a message that has influenced your life or has given you inspiration, and if so, could you please tell us about it?
KN: So many! I get our songs stuck in my head all the time. I love it when Josh writes a lyric that really connects with me as a fan of music, outside of the fact that we wrote the song together and the band is playing it. I always try to keep the outside listener perspective because ultimately, I’m a fan of music. That’s why I started doing this in the first place, so trying to maintain that perspective has been important to me. I want to make records that I would want to buy as a fan.
CS: While you were working on the material for this new record, did you play any of it live to get a feel for the fans’ response?
KN: We didn’t really road test any of it, but we played all the songs live together, made CDs, got in the car and drove around listening to them. Nowadays, I put it on the i-Pod in a playlist with other stuff–old and new- -and see how it feels. I really believe that if the five of us are getting off on it, then that’s all that matters at that point. If we agree, it will translate to our audience.
CS: There are several unique instruments in this arrangement that there was no credit for like the tambourine and the cello. They really added to the music. Who played those?
KN: Most of the strings, piano and keyboards were performed by a very talented guy in Nashville: Jamie McNichol. I had some stuff mapped out and I just played or sang him ideas. Other spots I just said, ‘This is what the song’s about,’ or referenced something that already existed and just let him do his thing. Why tie someone’s hands when they are that talented? Part of a producer’s job is to get out of the way and then know when to stop. For instance, he did one pass on “Sloth” and it didn’t have a vocal on it yet. After the first take I said, ‘This song is about the singer’s father committing suicide when he was a kid,’ and what you hear is basically his next performance after that: very raw and in the moment. He nailed it. It was the same thing with “Water.” I said, ‘Think “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2,’ and he delivered. It is so great when someone that talented from outside your band connects with what you’re doing.
CS: How long have you been working on the music for Confessions, and how does a band that is on the road rehearse new music?
KN: We wrote for a few months after we were home. We get together everyday around noon and all start playing together. Usually, the beginnings of songs are started with simple drum machine demos–simple music–I send it over to Josh and he beats it around. When he has what he likes, we all get together, learn the skeleton of the song and start playing. I record everything so we can go back and listen. The songs then evolve into demos that I try to do as good as possible. Sometimes the demos are hard to beat. Sometimes the tracks from the demos make the final record like most of “Pride” did.
CS: The song “Dreamin’ of You” seems like a really different kind of music for the band, even apart from the other songs on Confessions. How did that song come to life?
KN: Josh had wanted to do an acoustic song like a certain Fleetwood Mac song. Lindsey Buckingham is a great, unique guitarist and I could never compare, so I just tried to capture some of the emotion of what Josh was referring to. I came up with that little piece of music; he heard it and wrote the lyrics and melody–five minutes–done!
CS: This may be too personal, but could you tell us whose suicide influenced the passionate song “Sloth?”
KN: Josh’s father. The whole album lyrically revolves around that event and his experience with it as it relates to the seven deadly sins. To say more than that is really a story for Josh to tell.
CS: The twin guitar solo from songs like “Sloth” and “Truth” are incredible. Are those parts something that you and Stevie play live together or was it created in the studio?
KN: That solo in particular was done simultaneously with me and Stevie. We mapped it out, mic’ed up 2 amps, and went for it.
CS: Do you play live tracks in the studio or do you record one track at a time?
KN: Everything is tracked live and then we replace and overdub as needed.
CS: Do you write the music and arrangements as a band or is it more of an individual influence?
KN: Most of the songs start out with one or two guys having an idea, but ultimately it’s not a song to us until everybody is doing their own things on it.
CS: How do you guys stay in shape while out on the road?
KN: We all do different stuff. Josh is a big boxing fan and he relies mostly on a boxing style workout. I like to run and bicycle, and Stevie is always hitting the gym.
CS: How do you pass the time between shows?
KN: Man, that’s the hardest part of the job! I like to say we play the music for free, and we get paid for the other 23 hours of the day. We all have our “stuff.” I personally have a few “road hobbies” that you’d be surprised to find out about. It’s far more mundane than you’d think.
CS: Tell us a little bit about you, your drummer Xavier and your love for motorcycles. What is the connection?
KN: It goes way back for both of us. I met Xavier long before the band ever formed. Motorcycles were one of the main things we had in common. I’m in awe of his vast knowledge of them. If this rock ‘n’ roll thing doesn’t work out for him, he should be building bikes! Anyway, when we have down time you can usually find us in my garage breaking or fixing something. We make a good team. I try my hand at the fabrication, and he’s pretty keen with telling me what I did wrong and getting them to run right! We’ve been lucky enough to make some friends in the bike building world and they have all been very encouraging and helpful with all the projects we’ve done. I think they understand that we are hobbyists who love motorcycles, not a couple of musicians who think they are bike builders. It’s great to have something to get away from the music for a moment, but it’s still creative and fun.