There are a few bands out there who get attacked for calling themselves rock stars, partially due to selfless exaggeration or jealousy. BUCKCHERRY are one of those artists who have been hindered in that spotlight due to their radio-ready singles and growing fan base. But as lead guitarist/founding member Keith Nelson recently informed us, the California group isn’t about gimmicks; they just play rock n’ roll.
Where are you calling from right now?
Edmonton. We’re playing here tonight and it is off the hook, as usual.
How long have you lived in the city of Los Angeles?
I’ve been there about 16 or 17 years now.
Living there that long, did you become interested in other aspects of the West Coast culture apart from the music?
Absolutely. You know, I’m fascinated by the history of Los Angeles. Because, in the scope of the world, and the great cities of the world, it really has about the shortest history of most cities. Especially in terms of the history of the United States and definitely in comparison to Europe; it’s just a little over a hundred years. It expanded rather quickly, and beyond anything the city planners at the turn of the century ever imagined.
Did you watch a lot of shows when you first got there?
When I first got there I was always going to check out bands and trying to be in bands. I was really trying to find out what the whole place was all about. I moved there in the early 90’s, so I missed the whole Sunset Strip scene, but I’ve heard many, many stories about it. I got there at kind of a weird time in the music business. It was a different sort of era. The hay day of the Strip was sort of over and grunge had come into fashion. What was really hip and popular in music was changing.
How did you end up meeting Josh Todd?
I met Josh in my early 20’s through one of our mutual friends who was a tattoo artist. Josh was a singer looking for a band and I was a guitarist looking for a band and our friend thought we should meet, so it started from there. That was back in 1996.
“When you come see us you’ll see five guys making music that they dig.. no bells and whistles. It’s just a rock n’ roll band.”
Did you hear blues and then want to become a guitarist, or did you hear it after picking up the guitar and then decide to incorporate it into your sound?
I was actually a drummer that wanted to write songs and I kind of gravitated to guitar because it was a mechanism to write the songs. Shortly thereafter, I got turned onto John Hammond Jr. and playing the blues. So I thought “what’s this all about?” and started doing some research. Seeing John Hammond Jr. on this TV show Austin City Limits really opened that door for me and I started searching for anything I could find about blues music.
I discovered my favourite artists — guys like Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf. I honed in on a few guys I still listen to everyday.
Describe the process that led to Stevie, Jimmy and Xavier joining the band when it reformed in 2005?
Basically Josh and I got together and were talking about the band and it became pretty apparent to us that, first and foremost, we needed to be in a group that, not only included good musicians, but also included good dudes; guys we wanted to hang out with. So we really looked amongst our friends — guy that we knew were easy to get along with — and we picked from that pool.
We didn’t audition people. We just looked at the guys that were around us and said, “who’s the real deal and who would be really great bandmates?”. That was really the criteria. The first guys we really talked to were Xavier, Stevie, and Jimmy. We had one rehearsal where we played about three songs and looked around the room and we all just said, “wow”.
What made you choose a Canadian tour as the base for recording your live album Live & Loud 2009?
Our Canadian audiences have always really been special. People really appreciate rock n’ roll in Canada, unlike anywhere we’ve ever been. It’s always been such a warm reception. The timing also worked out well for kind of where we were at as a band, and it fit well into the touring schedule. It was kind of a perfect storm of where we were playing, what was going on with us and the opportunity to record.
How did you decide which songs from which concerts made the cut?
We knew we were going to record and we wanted to get as many different songs recorded as we could so we switched the setlists up every night. After we got back from the tour, I had like three days off between then and the next tour. So I came home with the hard drive with all the recordings on it, listened to every date and went through and picked the best versions of every song.
Even if there were mistakes, the ones that I thought were most representative of the band’s abilities and live performance were the ones that I picked. There were no fixes; no touch-ups. A lot of the time with a live record, basically everything has been fixed after the fact, but we didn’t do that.
You’re a headliner of Canadian Music Week in Toronto this month; what have you got in store for fans at that show?
We really pride ourselves on our live show and it’s really what the records are based around — performing live. When you come see us you’ll see five guys making music that they dig. There’s no pre-recorded tracks and no bells and whistles. It’s just a rock n’ roll band.
Are you in Toronto at all in advance of your performance to check out any of the other CMW acts?
With the way the tour is scheduled I think we get one day off in Toronto so we’re going to try to make the most of it. We’ll be out and about checking out bands. First and foremost we’re fans of music. We love great bands and great artists. I love Finger Eleven. I love Papa Roach. We’re always down to listen to stuff we haven’t heard before. I’m not familiar with Big Sugar but I want to check them out.
Will you still be touring in support of All Night Long this Spring?
We’re going to be touring all the way through the summer. We’re going to be in Mexico and South America after this. Then we’re going over to Europe in June. We’re also going to Iraq to play a week’s worth of shows for the troops over there and then we’re going to be back in North America in July and August.
Who’s partied harder: Buckcherry or Charlie Sheen?
We’ve never met Charlie Sheen, so I don’t know. I’ve never partied with him but I think that us, at the top of our game, versus him at the top of his game — we’d have to give him a run for his money.
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