INTERVJU: Josh Todd i Buckcherry

Josh Todd har varit nykter i 27 år efter en rad händelser ledde honom till att inse att skulle han fortsätta att leva fanns det bara en utväg, att ge upp alkohol och droger. Han har dock inga problem med att umgås med folk som fortfarande nyttjar dess substanser i hans närhet:

I like to get people really fucked up and then leave.

Gene Simmons has said that rock is dead. What are your thoughts on the status of rock and roll these days?

I mean, I don´t like to subscribe to that but it hasn´t been interesting for a long time, let´s just say that.

What are your earliest memories of music when you were a kid?

Wow, my earliest memories would be that my mother once a week would clean the house and put on records and my sister and I would listen to her records. My earliest memories were Rod Stewart, Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers and those type of records, and the Eagles.

What led you to discover rock and roll?

I started becoming an adolescent and I was a very aggressive kinda angry young man, I was a very hyper active kid so I gravitated towards rock music and that was really big in southern California at the time. I surfed and skateboarded and listened to punk rock music and I would go to the record store and buy records. I was really into my music collection as well. I listened to bands like Seven Seconds, Toy Dolls, Subhumans, Minor Threat, GBH and I would get like really obscure seven inches by bands like Conflic, Pillsbury Hardcore and I was really into Crass.

You were a teenager during the whole Sunset Strip era. Did you ever go to any shows back then or were you just into punk?

Occasionally I would go up to LA, because I was in Orange County. I had an older sister and she would go up there and her boyfriend was a singer so I could get into the No Bozo Jam at the Whisky, which was all ages, so those are the first shows that I saw. All the shows I went to were all ages shows at Fender´s Ballroom in Long Beach. I saw the Ramones there and a band called SNFU.

Do you get nostalgic about those days?

Sometimes when I´m writing songs, like there´s a song on the new record, the title track, it´s about the first show I did, which was a house party in Orange County. I was too young to play clubs, so we played house parties.

That is something that sounds very California, house parties and backyard parties.

We would pool our money together and get somebody´s older brother or sister to buy a keg of beer and then we would charge three bucks at the door, set it up so everybody came through the backyard and then we would just play until the cops came.

How young were you when you really felt that music was gonna be your life?

I was 15. I had a knack for writing words prior to getting into music and I was surfing with a guy who was a drummer. There was only one band in my high school and he was the drummer. We were out in the water and he was like “Hey, we need a singer. Do you wanna come down and try out?” I was like “Yeah!”, but I didn´t sing. I don´t know why he asked me, but I think he knew that I was really into my music collection and I knew a lot about music, so that was probably why he asked me. I got my grandfather to buy me a microphone, so we bought that and I went down to this garage rehearsal and I just stuck it into a guitar amp, because we didn´t have a PA, and I just started screaming through the guitar amp. We were playing covers like “Should I stay or should I go” (The Clash) and Led Zeppelin songs, but that didn´t really interest me. We got through those songs and then I was kinda like “Let´s write an original song right now!” and they were looking at each other like “Ok.” Intuitively I said to the guitar player “Got any guitar riffs?” He played a couple and I said “That one!” Then I got down on the floor and I just wrote a song right there. It just came to me. It wasn´t a great song, but that was it. I was like “Wow, this is amazing!” It was the actual writing of the words that really attracted me to music and that was it. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. At that point in time I was really trying to come a professional surfer. I was surfing all the time and that was my passion at that point, but once I went to that rehearsal that was it and I only focused on music after that.

Who was the first major rockstar you ever met?

That´s a good question. It was probably Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. We had never been to Europe, it was our first record and we had the same manager (Doc McGhee). We got the opening slot on that tour (Psycho Circus 1998-99). We were really young and I just remember landing in Finland or something and we had never been in an arena. We had only played clubs, so we´re backstage at this arena and I´m backstage trying to find the dressing room walking down this hall and I see Gene and Paul walking towards me. Inside I was like “Oh god, I gotta get out of here!” I was so nervous and I didn´t wanna bother anybody, so I just went into my dressing room and I heard Gene say “Hey, I wanna talk to you!” and I was like “Oh god, what did I do?” They came in and they were super nice and said “We really like your record and we´re really glad you guys are out here with us.” I was at a loss for words since I was pretty nervous, but they were really nice and they made it really easy for us to have a good time out on that tour. We had a great time and the crew was really cool.

Later on, do you think you´ll ever sit down and write a book about your life? Everybody´s writing books these days.

I mean, my book is my songs. I wrote every single word that Buckcherry ever had and that´s my book right there. Whenever I sit down to make a record I always start from nothing. It documents my life where I´m at at that point, so I don´t know. I don´t know if I ever will. I don´t really enjoy music stories, because I´ve been through music stories so it doesn´t really interest me. I read a lot of books and I´m a true crime fanatic and I like books on pandemics, way before this pandemic happened. It doesn´t seem very interesting to me. The only interesting part to me about books are people´s childhoods and how they became who they are. That´s interesting for me. If I wrote a book it would probably not be a whole lot about going on stage and getting off stage and “Oh, I did drugs and now I don´t do drugs anymore.” I would make it more about how my childhood shaped me.

During the pandemic you became a certified Phlebotomist. Did you do that because you wanted to do something for the community or was it to get an additional income during the pandemic?

It was really to serve my community and to learn something new. To get my head out of all of this, because I was done with the record in October 2020. I went to Phlebotomy school before that and I was already a certified technician at that point in time. I just wanted to serve my community. When my father was really young he did something really cool, which I really dug. My mother told me this story. He was in college and Vietnam happened. He loved his country and he went to Vietnam. He didn´t have to and he wasn´t drafted and I always thought that was brave. Love or hate Vietnam or what is was about, he was passionate about serving his country, so I thought… instead of not dealing with anything and waiting for this whole thing to be over, I wanted to serve my community so I worked at a Covid clinic for four months, full time in down town LA. I took blood, I processed a lot of tests, I´ve seen Covid at its peak. At one point we were at a 60% infection rate, so it was pretty crazy.

What is the greatest lesson you learned from doing this?

That there´s a whole world out there that I didn´t know about. There are all these essential workers and they´re amazing people and the whole healthcare side of things I never was really attuned to. I have a cousin who´s a head nurse in Oklahoma, so I called him up when I was doing this and I went “Man, I´m studying for this fucking phlebotomy test and I feel like I´m fucking studying to be a nurse!” It was crazy with all these technical questions and he was like “Oh, that´s nothing compared to be a registered nurse.” He helped me a lot with all that. It was fun and challenging. I feel I got good at finding veins. If you ever need your blood taken, I´ll take your blood.

I thought it was a really cool thing you did.

Thanks. Don´t ask how I got interested in it, I just get interested in really weird things and my wife always bugs me about it. I have weird taste in what I wanna do. I get my blood taken once a year and I always go to a blood bank and it´s the best place to get blood because these people are phlebotomists and they take blood all day, so they´re really good at it. You hardly even feel any pain. I go in there and there´s this big, tall, tattooed dude comes into the room. He took my blood and I swear I didn´t even feel it. He was so good. He just popped it in and boom, did the procedure and I was like “Hey man, you were so good at this. How many of these do you do a day?” and he said “I probably do about 100 of these.” A super sweet guy so I got into this whole technique and procedure and I started getting interest a few years ago. When the pandemic happened I had all this time and I said I was gonna learn this.

Going back to the question if rock is dead. I feel the new album is proof of that rock is not dead at all. What is it that Marti Frederiksen (producer) brings to Buckcherry?

He´s a really talented guy. He can sing, play guitar and play the drums really well. He knows the songs and melodies and how it all works and what´s good about some melodies and not good about some melodies. When we get in a room with him we´re at peak level. We always learn something from him and he learns stuff from us. We have a good relationship and he´s almost like another band member when we get together. That´s why we go back to him, because it´s effortless and fun and we always get good songs out of it. On top of it he´s an amazing producer and engineer and he even mixes well. Stevie (D, guitar) and I had written 21 songs and then our label said “Why don´t we fly you to Nashville to write some songs with Marti for a week?” and we said “Let´s go!” We literally wrote around the clock for five days and wrote six songs. Five of those songs made the record.

You´ve never felt the urge to move to Nashville, since it´s become this music hub of LA musicians?

I would like to move there, but my wife… she has no friends there, so when I go on the road it wouldn´t be good.

One of my favorite tracks on the lates album “Hellbound” is “Gun”, with the harmonica playing.

Yeah, Stevie played that. Nobody really talked about it until we put it on the record and all of a sudden everybody loves the song. I´m glad to hear that. When I first sang that down for Stevie he wasn´t really feeling it. We didn´t really think much about it.

You´re 27 years sober. What would you say is the hardest thing, if there is one, about staying sober?

The staying sober part like not drinking or using drugs isn´t the hard part. The hard part is really managing your mind, because it´s the mind that´s busted. The alcoholic mind and the addict mind is the problem. The drinking and the using is just the symptom of the problem. The only solution is the spiritual one and I don´t wanna sound cooky, but that is the truth. It´s about spiritual in life and all those things and how do you do that? Well, for me, doing annual inventories where I take it out of my head and write it down and tell somebody else about what´s going on with me. I do meditation every day, I work with others, I go to meetings and stuff like that.

You´re in a business where alcohol and drugs are really common and not really frowned upon. During these 27 years, has there ever been a time where you felt “I really need a drink now!”?

Let me tell you something. Drugs and alcohol is all over the place, If you´re a rich business man there´s a lot of that. There´s drugs and alcohol everywhere, it´s not just musicians. Are you asking if there´s a problem me being around it? No, I have crew guys that smoke a lot of weed and I´d roll a joint for you. It doesn´t bother me. I don´t like to be around it for extended periods of time. I don´t wanna be around someone who is super fucked up because If I´m not fucked up, it´s no fun for me. I like to get people really fucked up and then leave (laughs) and let them be fucked up. I don´t preach about my sobriety. If getting fucked up works for you, god bless you. It didn´t work for me after a while. I got really fucked up from 13-23. You wouldn´t have recognized me. I was a horrible drug addict and alcoholic and it just didn´t work for me anymore. I did it real good.

When you stopped, was it your own decision or was it someone else getting you into rehab?

There were a few things that happened in my life all at one time that got me sober. My first daughter was born and she just turned 27. I was a broke musician at that time. I was terrified and did not know how to be a father. I didn´t have a father since I was 10 years old. I didn´t know anything about it. I was trying to achieve my dreams and it wasn´t happening and I had a massive alcohol and drug problem. I just intuitively just kinda thought to myself “Man, I´m at the crossroads and something´s gotta change. I don´t know what to do.” I just said that out loud and was thinking about it every day. I got arrested for drunk driving in Orange County and got assigned all these AA meetings for my DUI program. I started going to the meetings and at some point some guy stood up and he didn´t look like me. He was just a nine to fiver type guy, shirt and tie, and I didn´t know that people lived sober. He basically told my story. He talked about how he drank and did drugs and it was like “Oh my God, this is me!” That gave me the courage to just raise my hand and say “Newcomer.” and that´s when everything changed. I knew this was the last stop on the block. I was heading to jail, institutions, or death. I had already had alcohol poisoning at 23 and at one point my hands were paralyzed for a good hour and I didn´t know it was alcohol poisoning. I had been doing crystal meth and drinking for three days straight, got alcohol poisoning and it scared the shit out of me. I had a lot of those moments of clarity while I was drinking and using but I couldn´t stop. That´s how I got sober and I just never looked back. I knew that as long as I put sobriety on the top of my list, everything else will work out in my life and look at me, it all worked out.  

Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen