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|Even if you don’t know them by name, Buckcherry is a band you’ve most likely caught yourself tapping a foot to – the rockers from L.A. have spent close to an entire decade on the charts with singles like, “Lit Up” and “Check Your Head”, and served as a refreshing, Les Paul-driven kick in the gut after emerging from the ashes of the late-‘90s pop music scene.
When their third album, 15, dropped in April 2006, the hardest working band around earned comparisons to some of hard rock’s legends (read: AC/DC). The album’s first single, “Crazy Bitch,” was nominated for a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance, and that just hints at the raw, to-the-roots style of rock that Buckcherry cultivates on a daily basis. We caught up with guitarists Keith Nelson and Stevie D in the middle of their tour to talk about their unique sound and the gear that makes it happen.
Your debut album came out in 1999. What was the musical environment like when you got the band together?
Keith: We really came up in the middle of rap rock and Lillith Fair. Swing music was also kind of happening at the time. Guys that slung Les Pauls low, and actually played them – that wasn’t really happening.
Was that discouraging at all for you guys?
Keith: When [lead singer] Josh and I got together, we talked about making just a straight-up rock band. I don’t think it was discouraging, but almost inspiring that we weren’t going to sound like everyone else.
In your reviews, it seems that an AC/DC reference is always dropped. How do you feel about that? Is that a big shadow to work under?
Stevie: For me, it’s a huge compliment. I’m a huge fan of the Young brothers and the blues that they touch on with their records, so anytime there’s a reference drawn like that, I’m really happy.
Keith: I always enjoy a comparison to a band that doesn’t suck. There’s a lot of nuance to that AC/DC reference that I don’t think a lot of people like. I’m a huge fan, and I have been since I was old enough to hoist a vinyl record on the turntable. They’re one of the few bands that can make the same record over and over and totally get away with it.
So were they one of the first bands that got you on your way to rock stardom?
Keith: Absolutely. I can remember one of my earliest experiences as a kid that loved music, and always being into music, as listening to Back in Black out of an old wooden stereo in my parent’s living room. I remember thinking to myself, “that just sounds evil and dark.” And they didn’t need “666” all over the record cover – the sound of Back in Black is just heavy, without being tuned down to C. It was life changing, for sure.
I just listened to your latest album, 15, for the second time and I’m hearing all kinds of influences, from rock to blues to country. Where do you guys pull those sounds from?
Stevie: Well, we’re all big blues fans – Jimmy [Ashhurst, bass] is well-versed in country and he’s our onboard rock n’ roll historian. I’ve learned a lot from each guy in this band, as far as the history of rock. For me, guys like Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters are tucked away in there. Keith has a lot of the chicken pickin’ and slide thing going on in his background. We try to cover a lot of that music, we’re trying to keep that going, and hopefully that’s what sets us apart from the other bands out there. Keith: I think we have so many things flying around the room, in terms of influences, in terms of country to funk and punk. If you listened to our iPods on the bus, you’ll hear all kinds of stuff. We’re really just fans of great music – for me, sounding bluesy isn’t a problem, the challenge is making it sound like it belongs in today’s music.
Stevie, you came on board a bit later in the band’s history. Do you have a role when you sit down to create songs?
Stevie: For me, it’s about creating space. It’s about not stepping on each other’s toes, and I think Keith feels the same way. Somebody will come into the room with a musical idea, and what we do is kind of let it play out. It’s like putting a skeleton in the room, and the job for the rest of us is to give that skeleton shape. A personality.