Buckcherry returned with a new studio album, Warpaint, on Friday (March 8). It’s the first musical endeavor since longtime guitarist Keith Nelson and drummer Xavier Muriel left the band and were replaced with Keith Roentgen and Sean Winchester, and lead singer Josh Todd tells Billboard that Buckcherry — which he playfully refers to as “his baby” — is in a great place and stronger than ever.
“We’re making great music, and that’s when Buckcherry thrives,” Todd proclaims.
In addition to the new project, April 20 marks 20 years since the 1999 release of Buckcherry’s self-titled debut album. It’s been a wild ride and one that Todd refers to as “absolutely insane.”
Billboard caught up with the energetic singer to reflect on the band’s two decades in the game, reuniting with 15 producer Mike Plotnikoff — who helped shepherd hits like “Crazy Bitch” and “Sorry” — and his plans to tattoo over one of his most iconic pieces of ink.
What can fans expect from Warpaint?
We had so much fun doing it. We had a lot to overcome. There’s been a lot of change in three years since our last record, so Stevie [guitarist Stevie D.] and I really worked hard on it. We started the songwriting in November of 2017 and wrote about 30 songs for an 11-song record.
I want everybody to draw their own conclusions, but for me, it’s the best Buckcherry record since 15. I just feel like it’s so reminiscent of that time as well. Back at that time, we had gone through a lot of lineup changes. We had been out of the public eye for a while. We had a lot to prove and we really were thorough in the songwriting. The same thing has happened for Warpaint, and I’m so very proud of it. We worked really hard on it and there was a lot of passion. It’s such a great band and there’s a lot to celebrate. This is our eighth record, 20 years in the game. I’m just so happy to have a record this good after all these years.
What does that 20-year milestone mean to you?
That’s really what I visualized and dreamed about when I was a kid. I wanted to create a catalog of music and be in one band for a long time, and I’ve definitely accomplished it. I’ve worked really hard for it. It’s been really humbling at times, but such is life. I’m so passionate about what I do, and it really comes out of passion, because there’s always going to be peaks and valleys and you’ve got to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.
I don’t think about the milestone, because I’m going from one tour to coming home and writing songs and I have kids and a family. They take up my time and so I’m always cramming everything in. Time just flies. To be sitting here at the brink of this release and looking back, that’s when I sit down for a second, when I have to do press, and talk about things. I’m like, “Wow. So much work. So many records. This is crazy.” I’m really pleased.
You reunited with Mike Plotnikoff on this project, who produced your platinum-certified album 15. How did that come about?
It was long overdue! We just wanted to have a really good time making a record, and he’s just good energy and a good person to be around, really talented. And he’s made a lot of great active rock records since 15. We like what he was doing sonically and what he brought to the table. He had to be into the songs, of course, and so we sent him the demos. He really, really liked them and you could just feel that the time was right to go back and work with him.
We wanted Warpaint to be sonically more along the lines of what we have to deal with in the rock genre. That’s always been the challenge of Buckcherry. Since our first record in 1999, we were never mainstream rock, so it’s been difficult for us when we go to a radio format where everybody sounds the same. The trick is to keep your integrity and to record the songs in a way that they’re going to sonically hold up with all the stuff that you’ve got to compete with at radio. That’s not every song, but that was definitely on our minds. We’re always growing as songwriters and individuals, and so we want to grow our audience. We don’t want just the people that were in there at the beginning. We want new people and younger people always
What’s the story behind the album title?
We’re fans of one-word record titles. I think that’s really a statement. We kept coming back to “Warpaint.” There’s this trend going on in music and mostly in the rap with the hip-hop artists … everybody’s tattooing their faces and tattooing has just really gotten to a whole new level than when I was a kid. Before I got tattooed, I was really fascinated with Indians and I loved the warpaint. Indians tattooed themselves. The boys would tattoo themselves when they became men and women would tattoo themselves when they were pregnant. It was like a celebration and it was also something they would do to get ready for war. There’s much meaning behind symbolism and putting symbols on yourself, and I always loved that. We’re pretty heavily tattooed as well, so it was just fitting.
Did you do anything differently this time around with Warpaint than you have in the studio with past releases?
It’s been the same kind of process. We spend a lot of time outside of the studio, which I recommend to anybody because once you get in the studio, you’re spending money, so you better be clear on everything that you’re doing. We do all the writing and rewriting and arranging and everything before we get in there, and on our own home rigs. Then, when we get in there, we really want to capture the true essence of what’s great about Buckcherry, and that’s the live feeling of this band. We get very clear on the songs we’re going to record. The arrangements are dialed in. We rehearse them like we’re rehearsing for a live show and then we go in and rip them out and make them sound like we’re going to sound live.
Songs happen all kinds of ways with Buckcherry. Sometimes, for instance, I’ll just come up with a song a cappella with my voice. That’s what happened with “Radio Song.” I was in the shower. A lot of ideas come in the shower for me, I don’t know why. I always keep my iPhone outside on the counter. I came up with this melody and I was so fired up about it, I got out of the shower and sang it into my phone. Then, I ran downstairs and wrote all the lyrics, came in the next day and sang it to Stevie. I said, “I want this to be our ‘Purple Rain.’” Stevie and I are big Prince fans! The next day, he had it all laid out. It was amazing. And then I finished the lyrics and melodies for the bridge. That song came very quickly.
And then other songs, like “Bent,” for instance, that was kind of a sleeper. We didn’t know how good it was going to be until it was said and done and I had rewritten that chorus three times because the verse was so good, we couldn’t let go of it. But the chorus wasn’t popping until that last one came about and it was like, “This is great.”
You were talking about tattoos earlier. Do you have plans to ever slow down in that department?
I haven’t been tattooed in a long time and I’m entering this other phase of my life. I just went through a lot of change and it’s just starting to get really good inside my body, my head space, and so I’m ready for phase two. I always wanted to be body-suited. I’m pretty close to being body-suited, but I’ve got some sections to fill up. Next, I think I’m adding some filler on my stomach. It’s time to transition out of this “Chaos” on my stomach. I got it when I was very young and it meant a lot to me and I’m done with it. So I’m going to cover that up and throw some spider webs under my spider and then blend all the Japanese flow up on my chest.
What inspired the “chaos” tattoo?
Just kind of what goes on between my years. I’ve had an interesting life. When I was a kid, I always liked that word and I got it tattooed on my stomach when I was very young. It meant a lot to me for a lot of years and now it’s time to retire it.
Do you think you’ll get anything in honor of the 20th anniversary of the band?
No. When we had our first platinum record, I got “BC” with the lighting bolt tattooed on the back of my neck and it’s pretty big. It was something that is very special to me and I think that’s it for that.
What’s the secret to keeping your stage show so energetic? Does that get harder as the years go by?
I’ve studied a lot of people that have a good understanding of the mind, like Tony Robbins and Joe Dispenza. I meditate and I’ve been sober for 24 years, so there are a lot of things that I do. Being a singer, your body is your instrument, so you have to really look after it, especially when you’re on the road, and I’m on the road all the time. I exercise on a daily basis. I only drink room-temperature water. I don’t drink any carbonated drinks. I don’t drink. I don’t eat anything that gives you acid reflux.
There’s a way to get in state and I have a routine to get me in state, so no matter what I’m dealing with, if I’m only on 60 percent of a voice because I’m sick, for instance, I do this thing where I inflate my lungs so that my lungs are inflated do a quick calisthenic before I go onstage. I always do vocal scales. I have incantations that I create on my own that I’ll do in my head, and I just do a lot of things that get me in state so that even if I’m tired. I don’t need something outside of myself to get me where I got to be. It’s really been instrumental for me to be consistent and that’s what I want to be.