I had the opportunity to speak with Stevie D. from Buckcherry to discuss their forthcoming 7th album, Rock ‘n’ Roll. We talked about the writing and recording process, some of the gear used, (did someone say horns?) and when we can expect it in our hot little hands. We discussed his relationship with Keith Nelson and what that’s done for his playing. We talked guitars and his thoughts on success, why Buckcherry are still relevant and more. Plus, if given the authority, you’ll never guess the band Stevie picked to represent the genre of Rock and Roll at next year’s Superbowl 50 halftime show. Go on, just guess.
I’m going to cut right to the chase. Not too long ago, both you and Keith Nelson were posting social media updates on the recording of the next Buckcherry album. So, what can you tell me?
The next Buckcherry album is called Rock ‘n’ Roll and I wouldn’t say that it’s any kind of departure from where we’ve been. I think it’s an extension of the natural progression of where we’ve already been.
It seems like it was a fairly short time frame from writing to recording?
Yeah, I think we’re a little bit more focused now. We’ve been doing this for a while now and I think our writing process is a little more, straight to the point. We bring in a riff, Josh gets right down to business and we all know our roles really clearly.
Was it fully recorded at the Bastard Ranch and will it be produced by Keith?
Yes. The writing process, a lot of times X’s drum track would be executed right along with our scratch tracks, right after our rehearsal, right after we write.
It’s a full length album?
Full length album in all its Rock ‘n’ Roll glory. You’re going to love it. You’re going to love the way it feels, I guarantee it. The process at this point in the game is really focused. Keith as a producer, Josh and Keith as a songwriting team, they can execute a lot faster.
Is there a release date?
It’s in August. I don’t know that there’s a release date yet.
Josh Todd (who was in the room with him): 14th.
Stevie: August 14. (EDIT: Rock ‘n’ Roll now available August 21)
Are you serious?
August 14, yeah.
That’s my birthday, so that’s awesome.
Well then happy birthday! We planned it that way.
Well thank you. I appreciate that.
I really hope that this will be your favorite album ever because we certainly worked very hard on this one.
Well good. I’m excited to hear it. What about a single?
There’s a few floating around. There’s talk about one of three but we’ll see shortly. We’ve added some horns on this one, a little bit of keyboard, but it’s still a Rock ‘n Roll album, Buckcherry style.
How many different guitars did you and Keith use on this album?
I don’t know that we used a massive amount of different guitars. I found that I only used a handful of different ones. I mostly used my ’57 Les Paul and I used a ’64 SG for some parts and then there’s some peripheral bits and pieces that we do, what we call the bells and whistles or incidental texture, so I would use a Strat, a Bill Nash Strat, for stuff that isn’t necessarily the main rhythm tracks. Most of the rhythms and solos were done on just a couple, two or three guitars. A lot of Keith’s, I’m not sure. The recording process starts with Keith in the room and he is there for the whole recording. His job is to get, obviously to shape and arrange songs that are written whether it’s written by, whoever, Keith and Josh or I bring in a riff, then he also has to kind of oversee the recording process and get the best performances out of each guy. So he’s there from the beginning to the very end. When he’s there for, let’s say, Kelly’s parts, even though we write all in the same room, once we get the basic tracking ideas down the way we want it, then the majority of us will leave and he will sit with Jun Murakawa, our engineer, and whoever is laying down their tracks, whether that’s me or Kelly or Josh, individually, when Keith lays down his guitar tracks, I’m not even there, so I’m not even sure what he used on what parts. I know that was a long way to get to what guitars were on the album but I’m not even really sure what he used. I can tell you he used, at some point, a Burst, a 1959 Burst, affectionately called Louis. I know for different textures and sounds, you can’t really get, it’s just like a, I don’t know, like a camera. You can’t get all the looks from just one camera, so you can’t get all the sounds from just one guitar. You kind of mix and match. Fender amps, Marshall amps, Gibson guitars, Fender guitars, you know what I mean?
Speaking of guitars, the last couple of times I saw you guys, both you and Keith were playing guitars I hadn’t seen before. I believe the Pelham Blue for Keith and I believe you had a red ES-355.
That was an [Gibson] ES-335. It’s a ’63 reissue they did for Rich Robinson. I think they made 100 of them and I got one of them. Keith has the Pelham Blue Firebird. I believe that was a Firebird 3, but I could be mistaken. He is Firebird crazy right now. He just got a ’64, a mint condition ’64 and I believe a late ’63 or ’64 is headed his way. Don’t quote me on that, I’m not sure. But I do know this, he’s Firebird crazy. In the last 6 months, I think, he got a new black one from the Custom Shop, a Pelham Blue and a vintage ’64.
So, my question is, is your addiction to guitars as bad as his?
I think it’s somewhere in the neighborhood. He’s been doing it for a lot longer. He started working at Guitar Center and was around vintage guitars and learned a lot about the details of a lot of different makes and models. Whereas I didn’t start collecting until I got into Buckcherry. I’m meeting a lot of collectors across the country who’ve been doing it for years and years and years and years who’ve kind of set the precedence for a lot of Gibson’s. I’m a huge fan of old Gibson’s and some of the old Fender’s but I don’t have as many vintage guitars as I did. I met Angus Young a couple months ago and he really gave me, through conversation, really gave me the impression that, for him, the important part was the playing as opposed to collecting the vintage guitar. Because I asked him some questions about some key pieces that are famous for him, like the ‘64 SG, the black one, his ’68 SG and he kind of had a blank stare when I asked him about them. The ’64 was just a parts guitar. He got it all broken, had it reassembled and then painted and then the ’68, turns out it wasn’t really a ’68, it was actually a ’71, which is a really unremarkable guitar. So it was just about the playing, he made those guitars famous. But yeah, I do love it. There was one point where all I did was scour the internet for collectable guitars but I think once my son was born it kind of shifted a little bit.
You and Keith have the title Double Trouble. When it comes to playing, what is one quality you bring out in him and one he brings out in you?
I think the quality that we bring out in each other is, being in a two guitar band, you have to listen to where to play, and especially where not to play. Being focused as a team member instead of just a lead guitar player is really key. He’s also a more accomplished slide player where I don’t play any slide at all. I think because of the styles, we also use different amps, he uses a [Marshall] Plexi, I use a [Marshall] Silver Jubilee, but our playing styles, I’d say he’s very, in my opinion, Billy Gibbons-esque and I’d say that our styles compliment each other. Whereas I’ve been in a lot of two guitar bands and this one has obviously worked the best and has been the most successful for me. I think for him too. He’s played with some other guitar players but we’ve taken this one pretty far and we get along. Another thing is we get along off stage really well. Not just on stage. That’s important. We’ve done a million miles together and we’re friends. But he’s a fantastic player. I couldn’t have hoped for a better teammate. In the years I’ve been in the band and since Keith has been producing, my guitar playing has made leaps and bounds and I’ve become a more focused guitar player. He inspires me.
With the music industry getting easier for some bands and harder for others, has your definition of success changed?
Yeah. It ebbs and flows. I think, because the industry has changed so drastically, the fact that we still have jobs and are thriving, we’re successful, it’s a miracle for a rock band. Most of the bands we’ve toured with, especially when we came out in 2006-2007, a lot of those bands are gone now. Rock is not in a great state right now. Bands and music are not selling like it used to. Music acts aren’t going platinum unless you’re Taylor Swift. The fact that we can be out, and have people coming to the shows, and we get to be working musicians, is success to me.
What do you feel makes a band with longevity, like Buckcherry, still relevant?
I don’t know. I think it’s the feeling that people want to feel good. People like to have a good time no matter what age and I think when they come to see a Buckcherry show and listen to Buckcherry’s music, that’s what happens. Like in the ‘70’s when rock was dead and disco was king and Van Halen came out, people wanted to have a good time enjoying rock music, harder rock music and that’s why they did so well. I think the same is happening wherever we go. People like a good rock group, they like a show, you can definitely let go. Just like Josh says, “You can let go and be who you want to be at a Buckcherry show,” and that’s why we’re relevant.
A few years ago you picked up a camera. Are you still shooting as much as you did back then?
Unfortunately, no. I’ve been in several books, but I really wanted to concentrate, the last couple years, on taking my playing to another level. I just wanted to be a stronger player. A more focused player, not so sloppy, maybe explore a little bit more into a Blues avenue. Going out and shooting film like I do can get pretty spendy. Going out in inclement weather in the Winter or the dead of Summer I just wasn’t as motivated. It ebbs and flows. A lot of the places that we go, we’ve been to a few times and I’ve shot a few times, so the motivation to go shoot it again isn’t so appealing. I don’t as much these days. I still love it. I still look at tons of photography books online, I just don’t shoot as much.
Do you think you’ll ever release another book or possibly one just geared toward Buckcherry?
Of course. I absolutely plan on doing that. I think once there is a bigger, deeper body of work for Buckcherry, and that might be after another five, who knows, maybe ten years, where it can be a more substantial, interesting book, you can watch us get older, you can see us grow. I don’t know, who knows. Maybe I can do a smaller book or a ‘zine on one tour but, for a definitive Buckcherry it would have to be after a longer period of time, don’t you think?
Yeah, I think it would be a good look back kind of piece.
Andy Summers did a book about The Police and it documented that whole time of when they were big and it goes through a few years. I don’t know, there’s that The Stones documentary that chronicles a longer span of time, so we’ll see. I’ve definitely got enough for a few books of Buckcherry. It’s a huge undertaking. Just the one, that is kind of more ‘zine style, they wanted everything this way, it was a huge undertaking for me, on top of playing Rock and Roll. Where there’s a little bit more time and resources for editing and all that, I’ll do another one.
But you guys never have down time.
Exactly. Exactly. I got a kid now. It’s hard. Time management is a whole other game for me.
I hear ya. I have one final question. If you were in control, which currently active band would you have represent Rock and Roll during the Superbowl 50 half time show next year?
Next year? The Superbowl? Fuckin’ Buckcherry! Are you kidding me? That’s the only one. (laughs) Representing Rock and Roll, man, they haven’t gotten it right in a long time. We did a halftime show for the Ravens and it was awesome. I would love to do the Superbowl.
There’s a petition out there to get Metallica to do it. So I guess we’ll see, right?
Yeah, we’ll see. That would be fun. I don’t know. One track. Buckcherry. Everything Buckcherry. That’s my favorite band.
Buckcherry are currently on tour. Find all dates and VIP options here.