With the band about to release of a ‘Best Of…’ compilation, followed by a return to these shores on a co-headlining jaunt with Hardcore Superstar, PlanetMosh caught up with guitarist Keith Nelson (pictured right) in Massachusetts, on the last night of the band’s most recent US tour.
What happened next proved to be, shall we say, difficult: Nelson clearly was not in a talkative mood, especially when it came to the recent departure of bassist Jimmy Ashhurst and the subject of how a band actually decides what is their best material for a compilation album. Indeed, he took such offence at being probed by the thought processes behind such an enterprise that not only did he become confrontational but he even went down the Axl Rose route and offered to “have it out” with your interviewer when the aforementioned UK tour rolls into Belfast.
After a cheerful attempt at exchanging pleasantries produces only what can be described as disinterested monosyllabic grunts, the obvious starting point for the ‘conversation’ proper is the long-rumoured parting of the ways with Ashhurst – confirmed publicly by both parties last week. With Buckcherry’s statement on the issue referring to the fact that they don’t want to air dirty linen in public, it nevertheless referred to a situation which obviously had been simmering for quite some time, and so PM wonders why now was the time when it came to the boil and the rest of the group decided to make the decision to get rid of their bandmate…
After a long pause, Nelson states: “We have a lot of respect for Jimmy as a musician, but it was time for us to move on. We issued a statement that addressed all of that, and I don’t want to say any more…”
I point out that Ashhurst has been quite critical of the approach to the ‘split’ and particularly the timing of the official announcement (which was made after the band had already set out on the road again, with his replacement, Kelly LeMieux, already in place)…
“Jimmy is entitled to his opinion and that’s how that is… you’ve got four guys going in one direction and he absolutely decided…” Nelson stops mid-sentence before adding: “You know, I’m not going to say anything else about it. Let’s move on to the next question. In fact, let’s get this wrapped up buddy…”
Coupled with the long, sighing pauses between his sentences, this latter comment is the first clear indication that the guitarist is going to be a difficult interviewee. But, respecting his right to reticence, we move swiftly on to ask how the band came to hook up with the former Fear/Paul Gilbert/MD45 bassist LeMieux…
“Kelly had been friends with Stevie [D – rhythm guitarist] for a lot of years: he’s a known bass player within the Los Angeles music community, and he was available so it just seemed to make sense to have him come out and finish the tour…”
Obviously, with only a few dates under the ‘new line-up’s collective belts, it’s too early to tell whether this will be a longer term arrangement than past the end of the forthcoming European tour.
So far, Nelson has proven laconic and withdrawn in his responses. But, when the discussion moves on to the subject of the new ‘Best Of…’ album and the tour, he turns decidedly nasty…
With the band’s most recent album, ‘Confessions’, having been released less than eight months ago, and still selling well, it may seem somewhat strange to some to release such a package while they’re still touting their current release on stages around the globe. So, the natural question seems to be why choose now to do this?
So, with – by the guitarist’s admission – the decision have been made by the corporate bigwigs, one naturally wonders if the band had any say in the project or if they just went with ‘the flow’, so to speak…
“We definitely had a say on what was included. Thankfully, we were permitted to pick the artwork, and we asked Eddie [Trunk – co-host of ‘That Metal Show’] to write the liner notes for us, and we had a hand in the track selection as well…”
As argued in PM’s review (http://planetmosh.com/album/buckcherry-best-of/), compilation albums can be multi-headed beasts, especially for fans: one person’s idea of a band’s best collection of work will be different from that of the guy beside him. So, we posit: is it the same for the artists involved, and were there any disagreements between the four guys (assuming Ashhurst was out of the equation at this stage) as to what songs – sPreview Changesome of them maybe personal favourites – should be included? The response is not quite what PM expected…
“We argued violently about it, because we can never agree on anything… I’m surprised we’re still together…”
As said above, compilation albums are the subject of much discussion among fans (especially in the wee small hours of a Saturday morning over several glasses of rather fine limited edition bourbon): “why did they not include this one?” “why is that one on it and not…?”. But, when asked if they had received any feedback from their fans, the shit really starts to fly in PM’s direction…
“No, just a lot of stupid questions about how we picked the tracks and whether we agreed on it or not…”
Here, we would like to interject with an editorial comment – or, actually, ask you, our readers (and Buckcherry’s fans): is it not fair, when a band have admitted that they have been faced with a fait accompli in terms of a project such as this, to ask them whether or not they had the balls to stand up and be counted and be involved in same? Is it not fair to try and ascertain whether or not they stand over the credibility of the final product – for which their fans are to transfer money from their pocket to those of the people whose photograph is on the front cover? We’ll let you make up your own minds… especially when Nelson is obviously keen not share his own thoughts on the matter!
So, moving swiftly on: one of the other reasons for attempting to engage Nelson in conversation is to talk about the forthcoming co-headline tour: PM wonders if bands have any personal input into who are their touring partners on treks such as this, or again, do they merely abide by the corporate decision making process… Nelson starts to turn nasty:
“Do we have any say? I can’t believe you’re asking me these kind of questions… What are you trying to do? Are you trying to dig up some form of controversy?”
As Nelson again pauses, so shall we, to ask our readers another question: should bands not have some say in their own destinies, or should they be little nodding lapdogs who merely do what they’re told and be grateful for the few scraps the corporate master deigns to throw their way? Has rock ‘n’ roll truly descended to the level of the X Factor? Again, make up your own minds.
Nelson then throws a complete curveball: “I tell you what, make sure you come to the gig and come and say hello… we can have it out then…”
Now, linguistics is a complex subject, and I’m certainly not an expert in its subtler nuances, and I’m sure Nelson isn’t either: but, whether he not he realizes it, in Northern Ireland, inviting someone to “have it out” is an invitation to a fight!
Passing over that, Nelson eventually decides to actually answer the original question…
“Playing with Hardcore Superstar was something that was presented to us by our manager, and we were really into the idea and we thought it would be great co-headline tour…”
PM certainly agrees with his latter point: it promises to be a great tour. And it leads us to manage to get Nelson to answer one more question: in these financially straitened times, with fans having less disposable income, should co-headline tours – and especially those where the bands involved appeal to roughly the same fanbase and demographic, and enjoy moderately comparable levels of success – be more the norm than the exception, allowing said fans to catch full shows by two or more acts rather than possibly having to decide between one or the other?
“Historically, if you look at the way this band has operated, we have always tried to keep our tickets prices really low, because we understand that the majority of our fans aren’t the sort of wealthy person who has a lot of money to go out all the time. So, we keep our ticket prices low, our T short prices low, because we really want to provide as much as we can for the money that people are spending. So, co-headlining tours such as this, and packaging bands together like this, is something we are definitely well aware of as being beneficial to fans of rock ‘n’roll – and, so, we’re really happy to do it…”
‘Confessions’ is out now and ‘best Of Buckcherry’ is released tomorrow (Monday October 28th). To visit Amazon’s Buckcherry store, click on the banner at the top of the page.
Buckcherry play the following co-headline dates with Hardcore Superstar across the UK and Ireland:
Saturday November 23rd – Kasbah, Coventry
Monday November 25th – The Ritz, Manchester
Tuesday November 26th – O2 ABC, Glasgow
Wednesday November 27th – Limelight 2, Belfast
Friday November 29th – The Academy, Dublin
SaturdayNovember 30th – Rock City, Nottingham
Monday December 2nd – Academy, Bristol
Tuesday December 3rd – Solus, Cardiff
Wednesday December 4th – Lemon Grove, Exeter
Support on all dates comes from Venrez, and tickets are available from all usual outlets.