Looking to stay busy and have another creative outlet for his musical ambitions, Buckcherry co-founder, vocalist and songwriter Josh Todd, with the able assistance of bandmate Stevie D, has started a raucous new band, Josh Todd and The Conflict.
The band’s debut album, Year of the Tiger, will be coming out worldwide on Century Media Records on Sept. 15, and the title track has already been released as a video. Simply put, Todd wanted to work year round and you really can’t do that when have only one band (or brand to use a marketing term) without saturating the market and watering down its value. Thus, The Conflict was born.
“We have already played a few shows and I am just loving it. It’s an amazing record – probably one of the best records I have made, so I am really excited for everyone to get it and hear it. I am a pretty impatient guy and it’s been a long wait to get this to the public, but I think everybody’s going to be pleased. We’ve been playing pretty much the whole record live and it translates great on stage. I am just biting at the bit to go out and do a lot of shows. I want to get these songs in front of some people because I want to keep the momentum going. Again, I am impatient; I know we’re going to be doing a full schedule after the record drops in the fall,” Todd said, from his home in California, where he said the impatience to put out new music, and the seeming delays in doing some new stuff for Buckcherry prompted him to start writing for this new project.
“I have always wanted to start another band. I wanted to have two things going. We came up to a situation with Buckcherry where we were over-touring and it became this thing where it just wasn’t good – the over-touring had devalued the brand and I didn’t like that. I have a lot in me and I really like to work, so I wanted to create something different to give Buckcherry a rest and to fulfill my creative needs. I had always been in four-piece bands before I got into Buckcherry [in 1995] and I wanted a four piece band.
“This literally started with Stevie and I writing songs out on the road, just doing kind of electronic stuff because we didn’t have a band. And we found out that we had a really good songwriting chemistry and we decided to do a heavy rock record. I didn’t know what was going on with Buckcherry at the time because certain individuals weren’t being really upfront with me. I wanted to make new music and I wanted to put out a record because it was coming up to two years [since the last album Rock and Roll] came out. So Stevie and I started writing in November and we were working our asses off and we got this body of work together and it’s really good.”
The album was produced by Stevie D and Eric Kretz (Stone Temple Pilots) with the engineering being done by Ryan Williams (Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, Stone Temple Pilots, Slayer, Velvet Revolver), with the roster of musicians rounded off by the addition of drummer Sean Winchester (Everclear) and bassist Gregg Cash (L.A.-based band Dorothy).
“Sean Winchester has been in a lot of bands, including a lot of punk bands. He’s just a well-rounded drummer, a great musician and a cool guy. We were scrambling when we were about to go in the studio and make the record. We had a drummer set to do it and he bailed out at the last minute. We called Sean and he learned the songs in, like, five days and came down and recorded really great tracks. It was such a good fit that we said, let’s do this, let’s have him in the band. I am a very rhythmic singer, drums mean a lot to me and he is kind of the drummer I have been looking for for a while. And Greg is so solid and another great guy. The show is awesome and the album is awesome and I can’t wait for everybody to come out and see us and hear the new songs,” Todd said.
With Todd’s incredible and unmistakably unique voice there is no doubt that Josh Todd and The Conflict is going to sound somewhat like Buckcherry, but Todd said the approach to the songs was different, and almost a throwback for he and Stevie D.
“Everybody is kind of judging it based on Year of the Tiger, but every song isn’t really like that. There’s a lot of melody and a lot of dynamics on the record. I think it’s more reckless, it’s more kind of back to my roots and who I am. I grew up in Southern California; all my first records were independent punk records. There was a lot of honesty in those records and I feel that’s what’s lacking in rock music,” he said.
“When I listen to it on the radio, it seems very formatted, very watered down. It sounds like a bunch of bands writing songs to please their record companies in order to get on the radio. And that’s not the school I come from. The school I come from is the one that says I am damaged and I want to express myself and this is the only thing I got – this is my only outlet, and it’s my salvation. And when I go in to make a record, it’s really important to me.
“Because I was the kid who went to the record store and got an independent record and these were the bands that were writing very raw and real songs. The major labels tried to tame you, tried to enforce conformity. But these guys and girls were just saying what was in their hearts and souls. I would listen to those records from top to bottom and just read the lyrics and I was really into that and if a song touched me, I became a super fan. So when I go in to make a record, I always ask myself, once I am getting nearer the end of the songwriting process, is this a record that would have satisfied by 15-year-old self? Would I have been happy with this if I was 15 and brought this record home? If the answer was yes, then I feel like I am ready to move forward, record it and put it out to the public.”
Todd has an interesting writing style, with his focus primarily on words and melody. In the old days he would have used real paper and pen, but today he uses the ‘notes’ app on his iPhone.
“I am constantly reading – I read a lot of books. To me, songwriting is storytelling in a short form, so I love stories, I love storytelling, I love writers. I write all the lyrics and all the melodies for all the songs that I have ever been a part of, so I am constantly developing that. I have this list of titles on my phone. If I am reading a book and some kind of phrase or series of words hits me, I will just jot it down. Sometimes when I am working on music I will be like, ‘man, I love this song, what is this song going to spark lyric wise?’ I will listen to the music and then go into my notes file on my phone and see if there’s a title that fits,” he explained.
“That’s exactly how the song Year of the Tiger started. I wrote Year of the Tiger down, although I don’t remember what I was reading at the time, or where exactly I got the title, but it really fit the music I had in front of me. I am a big fan also of the Hannibal TV series, and Narcos and I wanted to create this situation and story, because the music kind of called for it, where it’s this guy on the run and all this stuff that he’s been doing has been f***ing him up and there’s these despicable people after him.
“And there’s this character in the Hannibal series where he had all these pigs and he would feed people he didn’t like to the pigs. I like to watch all that wildlife stuff on TV too because I like to know how it all works. And I thought, ‘well, what would be the worst way for my character to go? Mauled by a bear, attacked by a tiger or eaten by pigs while still alive? So that’s how I kind of came up with that concept. I know it’s dark – there’s a lot of darkness that I can access, and that’s just what the music called for in that particular song.”
Getting back to the concept of having two bands, Todd said he was kind of inspired by people like Corey Taylor, who has his main band Slipknot, but also has the successful Stone Sour project.
“I decided I wanted to do that, once I saw it was possible. I want to have two different brands that I can work so I can work year round. I was always having my managers telling me I had to stop touring for a while in order to build the value back up. And I was like, ‘how do I feed my family and stop touring?’ The music business now is the only place where you work your ass off develop your craft, which is songwriting, and develop it in a way where you make songs that are good enough that an audience wants to go out and purchase. Now, that’s not an easy thing to do. I have written hundreds and hundreds of songs that were turds to get to the point where it kind of figured it out,” he said.
“It’s a creative product, but these days, because of the state of the business, it’s the only place where you create a product and you get no return for your product. The only return you get is from the live show and merchandise, that’s it. People want to see rock and they want to see live shows but the problem it creates is that it makes it very hard to just come home for a few months and put a record together, when records aren’t bringing in that much of an income any more.
“Unless you have pop artist money, like Bruno Mars, it becomes very difficult. It’s just changed a lot so you have to be flexible and diversified. But that’s not the only reason I want two bands. I just love it because I like building something from the ground up. It’s very exciting for me. And I have to tell you about Buckcherry because it’s thriving. This is the best musical lineup that we’ve ever had and the shows are great. We’ve had a blast doing the shows so far this summer and I am so happy with the situation as well. I go to bed each night feeling so grateful that I’ve got these two amazing bands, and everybody’s really cool and it’s one of the best times in my career right now.”
And those comments seem to go against the prevailing notion that there is some sort of existential crisis in the Buckcherry camp. A few months back, it was announced that band co-founder Keith Nelson, and drummer Xavier Muriel, who had been in the band for 12 years, had departed. Their spots were taken for summer touring purposes by Kevin Roentgen (guitar) and drummer Winchester, who is doing double duty with The Conflict as well.
“We have been really clear that it’s a change and not the end of the band. We have done many shows now with the new lineup, yet everybody thinks Buckcherry is over, but here we are thriving. We’re just doing fly-in dates right now because we toured a lot last year when the last record came out and changes with Keith and Xavier happened in January,” Todd said.
“And I knew nothing about this. I was blindsided about it. But, really, there was a demise going on with the synergy of Buckcherry for the last three years, so this really needed to happen. But as to why Keith left when he did and all his reasons why, that’s not for me to talk about because you’re only going to get my perspective and talking to him will only give you his perspective. I have a lot to say about this thing, but I don’t want to speak about it in public because that’s not what I do.
“The bottom line is, he chose to leave and he is happier for it, and we are happier in our situation as a band. Now Buckcherry can go out and thrive and make music and it’s so great. And the history of Buckcherry has shown that through every new lineup change we have only become better and more successful. So I am going to continue that trend. I got locked into this situation with The Conflict where I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this. I am very passionate about it. I started working on it in November and then the Buckcherry stuff unfolded and that’s fine, I am going to finish working through the summer with the Buckcherry dates and have fun. I will then attend to The Conflict and build it up and then I plan to go back to Buckcherry.”
In the fall, Todd said he would like to have as many shows as possible for Josh Todd and The Conflict, and is currently working to get some possible package tours aligned with other noteworthy bands.
“We want to get on a great package tour whether it’s Europe, America, Canada – whatever makes sense for how we can build the band and make it a really cool event for the audience,” he said, adding that the plan is to release some more videos and then a big single to radio over the remainder of the summer.
“We already dropped a performance video for Year of the Tiger and we have another video for the song F***ed Up coming out July 11. And then we’re going with our main single to radio which is the song Rain and that will be coming around the end of August, leading to the album release on Sept. 15. You can already pre-order it on Amazon, iTunes and other digital platforms.”
For more information, visit http://joshtodd.com.
For more information on Buckcherry, visit http://buckcherry.com.
- Jim Barber is a veteran award-winning journalist and author based in Napanee, ON, who has been writing about music and musicians for a quarter of a century. Besides his journalistic endeavours, he now works as a communications and marketing specialist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.