Sitting in the freezing Canberra pre-dawn, I have the opportunity to be chewing the fat with the unmistakeable voice of Buckcherry, Josh Todd. I catch Josh, fresh from the release of the band’s latest album, in Pennsylvania on the East Coast of the US, on the Hellbound tour, to have a chat about the album, tours and how he kept himself busy during lockdown.

Hellbound has now been out since the end of June, how are you finding the reception to the album so far? “Oh man, it’s been overwhelming.  We’ve broken a lot of new ground, we came out number one in the UK, number six in Japan. It’s like that never happened on any of our records so that was really great, the icing on the cake as we worked really hard on this and knew we had a great record. To have it really translate to the public is such a great feeling and we’ve been at this a long time so to have what I feel is our best record at my age, I am very pleased”.

I did the review for it on Sentinel Daily and found it to be a really solid album. After twenty three years it doesn’t look like you guys are letting up at all. What do you do to keep it strong and make it so successful? “I think first and foremost it is passion. I just love music, to this day it’s always interesting to me, breaking down songs and melodies and writing, all those things that got me started in this still remain there to this day. That being said, when I sit down to start a writing cycle, it’s so exciting for me because it is the unknown and it can be whatever I make it.  So that’s always interesting for me and I’m just s blessed that I get to do it for a living.

Whatever it is, if you are doing something that you are passionate about it makes it so much easier. “It does, it becomes NOT work. You just want to do it. You can’t wait to get in there and just write and do whatever you can to make it the best song you can make. You can give people memories, songs are memories. Hit songs used to mark my summertime as a kid and whenever I hear those songs it sparks a memory of when I was a youth and what was going on. That’s so incredible, so powerful, to know that Buckcherry is that for some people is really cool”.

This is the second album you’ve made under the guidance of Marti Frederiksen. What were Marti’s strengths that made you want to work with him again? “Marti just really understands why Buckcherry is special. That’s first and foremost. Then there’s this other side of Marti where we just like him as a human being. He is so talented, so when we hit a room with him, we are super excited but also ready to bring our A game. We know we are in a room with someone who is really, really talented and he is going to bring out the best in us. It just becomes this fun experience.  We learn from it, and I think he learns from it, and we have the same mentality for what is going to be best for the song. We only wrote for five days together, and we wrote six songs in those five days. Five of them made the record, that’s how good they were”.

The fans and I love the brand of sleazy rock and roll you play.  Buckcherry have had a consistent sound throughout the life of the band.  You can instantly tell a Buckcherry song.  Other bands go and experiment, often to their own detriment. Is it a conscious choice to keep that consistent sound or is that how it just works out? “It’s really about just great songs. When we put out records, we have a lot of dynamics. We put out mid-tempo songs, ballads and hard rockers, then we have punk rock sounding songs. We put it all together and that is a Buckcherry album. We are not breaking the mould; we are a rock band. What makes us unique is that nobody sounds like me. So, when you hear a Buckcherry song, you know who it is and that is cool.  But at the end of the day, we just want to write great rock songs. That’s not easy, you have to work really hard for that. We are going to keep the same formula because we are a rock band and there’s not too many ways you can make a rock record (laughing). I always like when people ask what new sounds are we going to hear on this Buckcherry record and I’m like, well you are going to hear new songs. That’s what you are going to hear, not new sounds, new songs”.

It’s always a great thing you can tell a Buckcherry song, I think I wrote in the review that it’s like slipping into a favourite pair of jeans. “That’s great, I love that”.

Looking at the website and from our introduction where you said you are in Pennsylvania at the moment, you are basically booked out for the rest of the year.  How do you keep it fresh with the constant grind of touring? “We have so many songs to choose from, that keeps it fresh as we can always mix it up if we start getting complacent or bored. We always pay the usual suspects like Crazy Bitch, Lit Up, Sorry and stuff like that. We’ve been playing a lot of the new songs live and the set is just amazing. There’s not a fat song in the set, not like there ever was, but there’s absolutely no filler. I’m super proud of that, it’s a lot of fun”.

From what you say there, the hard work that you do, it shows. I caught you guys first time back in 2013, you were playing on the bill with Steel Panther and Fozzy. That was an insane tour, it was great fun. You were all three great bands, but you guys were brilliant and stood out. “Thank you. I mean we had a lot of fun on that tour. All three of us bands, we get along really well.  Everyone is super nice and we’re going to be back that way with Fozzy next year. I appreciate that, it makes me really happy. We always love coming there because it’s so far from our home and to see people chanting your songs. Songs that you’ve created from nothing and then you’re thousands of miles away, you know that’s what you dream about when you are a musician”.

I can’t wait that you guys to get over here.  Hopefully things will settle down again before then (Greater Sydney is currently in Lockdown with the Delta strain of COVID).  How long were you guys off the road with the pandemic?  When were you able to start touring again? “We started touring June 1, that was our first show back. But we had done a handful of shows in Jan or Feb this year and we did maybe fifteen shows in 2020.  It’s not like we haven’t done anything or everything we could do during the pandemic”.

On that, who’s been your favourite band to tour with and what made them so good? “My favourite band to tour with would have to be hands down, AC/DC. We got to do five shows with them in the States on the Timebomb record tour. That was insane, it was a rock and roll fantasy come true.  Meeting them, they were super humble and sweet to us, it was like everything to us”.

I know that ACDC has been a band that you’ve looked up to for a long time, and when you get to meet your hero’s, idols and you have that confirmed that they are beautiful people it is awesome. “Yeah, that’s the thing because it’s not always the case” (laughs).

I read that alongside writing and recording Hellbound, you had kept busy during the pandemic become a certified Phlebotomist (I stumble over the pronunciation, still not getting it right). Working in the Covid clinic..  I really could not spit that word out… (both laughing) “Phlebotomy (fle-bottom-ee) technician, yeah”.

How did that come about?  What drove you to do it? “You know I am a strange guy. I get interested in weird things and I want to learn. I hadn’t not worked like that for a while and I wanted to work, I wanted to serve my community. I was always kind of interested in phlebotomy, and it is basically drawing blood. So, I went to school, during the song writing of Hellbound I was doing phlebotomy classes. Writing songs at night, I passed the national exam, and I served my community. We had finished Hellbound and then I went and worked in downtown LA in a COVID clinic for four months full-time. I was doing phlebotomy, also working as a lab technician and I processed a lot antibody and COVID tests”.

You don’t often see many people on the frontlines and giving back. That’s awesome. “You know what, it really made me grateful to all the frontline workers. It really was eye opening how COVID has really impacted everyone. I saw a lot of infectious COVID samples in my hands, lots. I’ve seen a lot of people infected with it, it’s the real deal. It was super severe; at one point we had a sixty per cent infection rate at that COVID clinic and it was crazy”.

The frontline workers have been doing an amazing job all around the work at these times.  You see the best and the worst of humanity at times like these, thankfully more the best. “Absolutely, it’s just in my nature when something like that happens it’s just in my nature to move toward it, not away from it. I remember my mother telling me a story about my father, he was in college when Vietnam happened, and he was so passionate about his country that he dropped out of college and enlisted in the army. He didn’t even get drafted or anything, he didn’t even have to go as he was in college. He wanted to go and I always thought that was a really amazing story and I wanted to do my part when all this happened. How can I be of service? I’m here, I’m not on stage, how can I be of service? I have time”.

That’s really inspiring, I don’t know how many people would be like that and is a great trait you have there.  What artists inspired you when you were growing up and what about them made them so inspiring? “I think it was just the honesty and the art.  That’s what I loved about Prince, Minor Threat.  I got a lot of inspiration from stand-up comedy too, I really was a huge fan of George Carlin, Sam Kinison and Richard Pryor. I thought they were amazing, super talented and crafty in how they wrote their jokes and all that. I was a writer when I first started, I wasn’t a singer when I got in my first band. I had to develop my voice later but what came naturally for me was writing words and melodies. I really look up to artists that I felt were unique. Nobody could be like them; they were kind of on their own little planet. That’s what I feel like Buckcherry is, although we are a rock band, we are a really unique rock band. Nobody is ever going to sound like us. Really, we’ve been on a plane on our own as far as our career is concerned. We weren’t a part of any big movement, we came out when there was no rock and there’s still no rock and we’re still here, twenty three year later…” (laughs)

Speaking of that, you said there was no rock. Are there any bands in the current generation that you see big things ahead for. If so what tips would you be giving them from your experience in the business? “I don’t mean that there is no rock, it’s more that rock is not in the mainstream as far as…. Bands, what advice I would give, you’ve got to be relentless in your approach, especially a rock band because it’s even harder than other genres of music. You’ve got to be super passionate about what you do, cut off the life boat, don’t have any plan B or you probably won’t make it… (Laughs)  When you start making money, make sure you have a good attorney because that’s when all the vultures come”.

It’s been a real pleasure talking to you.  Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule. “Thank you.  Hopefully we’ll get to see you guys in February, we’re working on that right now”.