Buckcherry’s new album Warpaint is a real statement of intent from frontman Josh Todd.
Since 2015’s Rock’n’Roll album, guitarist and co-founder Keith Nelson and long-time drummer Xavier Muriel have quit the band, leaving Todd as the sole original member.
But with Stevie D, guitarist since 2005, stepping up as co-writer, and new blood joining the Californian hard-rockers, Todd is convinced this album is among their best.
‘We went through a lot in the last three years before we drew up this record, a lot personally and professionally with all of us, and it always makes for good songwriting,’ says Todd from his home in Los Angeles.
‘And that's really when Buckcherry shines – when we’ve got to hunker down and make the record of our career, again.’
He compares it to 15, the make-or-break album they released after the band split in 2002, only to reform in 2006. It became a critical hit and is their best-selling album to date.
‘It's what happened before we dropped the 15 record. And it’s happening again. I feel like Warpaint’s one of our best records as well. I'm very proud of it.’
It also marks the first time the band have worked with producer Mike Plotnikoff since he helmed 15.
‘It was really important for us to have a good time in the studio again.
‘There was a lot of politics in the band after we recorded with Mike and we didn’t go back there again for whatever reason.
‘So it was nice to be reunited with him, we picked up right where we left off. He's just a lovely guy and we had a lot of fun making the record.’
After the last Buckcherry album Todd formed a harder-edged punk act, The Conflict, along with Stevie. It proved to be a key stepping stone towards Warpaint.
‘We had done a lot of Buckcherry touring and we needed a rest and then we had the line-up changes, I just needed to get away from that whole thing for a little bit an, and and we needed to give it a rest on the touring side of things.
‘That being said, I always wanted to create another brand so that I could work work both things and not over-tour on one of the sides of the fence.
‘I come from a way more aggressive background than Buckcherry and my core is punk rock, and that's when I met Stevie. I met Stevie when I was 19. So I said to him that I want to put out a really aggressive record, go back to my roots. He was really into it and he started sending me musical compositions, and that was The Conflict.
‘Stevie's super-talented and he didn't get an opportunity to write a lot in Buckcherry before because of the politics that were in the band.
‘So when we wrote The Conflict record, we really kind of broke all this new ground together and we got to really learn each other's songwriting language, which was really great.
‘And that was really the kind of set-up we had embarking on the Warpaint writing cycle, so it just all worked out, it all happened for a reason.’
Although the band have been through their fair share of members in the course of their 20-year history, Josh reckons this line-up is a keeper, with everyone in this for the long-haul, ‘a lifer’, like him.
‘I'm a really hard-working guy and, and I'm very loyal as well but, you know, we wear people out, and if you look at our history, we've only fired two people. Everybody else just quit.
‘I wish it wasn’t like that, I wish we all stayed together and had weathered the storm all together, but I can't help it if people don't want to tour and work anymore.
‘I've known all of these guys in the band now since I was 19 when I first moved to LA, but we were all in different bands at the time.
‘Kelly (LeMieux, bassist) was in another band called The Electric Love Hogs and then Goldfinger, Kevin (Roentgen, guitars) was in SOUL, and Francis Ruiz (drums) was kicking around in all kinds of local bands around town and then eventually played with Motorhead, so we've all been around.
‘To all be in a band together after all this time is great, we're having such a good time.
‘I don't want to be in a band any more without guys who aren’t lifers – this is what they do, and they're going to do it until the day they die.’
Perhaps one of the more surprising songs on Warpaint is a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ industrial-rock classic Head Like A Hole.
‘The cover conversation always comes up when you're making a record and I wanted to get ahead of that and find a song that connects with me lyrically and something that's in my vocal wheelhouse.
‘And I also think it’s just boring when a rock band does a rock song, so I wanted to take something out of our genre. I always liked the (Nine Inch Nails debut) Pretty Hate Machine record and I felt like Head Like A Hole could be like a really great rock song.
‘So we went in there with that mentality. We sped it up just a couple of BPM and we jammed it out to see if it would work with his band.
‘We didn't know Mike was recording us at the time because we were all set up to record Warpaint tracks.
‘When we were done he said: “Come here and listen to this”. He set up a rough mix and blasted it through the speakers. And we were like: “Wow, that sounds great!” It sounded like a Buckcherry song, we just thought it totally works.’
And they liked it so much, the band has been using it for the opener in their live shows.
Given that the band plays 100-plus shows a year, every year, they live for being on stage.
And here in the UK, they’ve always been welcomed when they tour.
‘It’s amazing for us,’ says Josh of playing on this side of the pond. ‘It’s just a different feeling than in the United States because it's not so radio driven. So when you play songs that aren't singles, you still get this crazy reaction, which is awesome for us.
‘Whenever you're a band and you fly so far away from home, and you really get a warm welcome, that's like a dream come true for every band.’
Engine Rooms, Southampton
Saturday, November 2