Josh Todd rose to prominence as the vocalist of hard rock act Buckcherry beginning in 1999, when the band’s first single, “Lit Up,” started lighting up airwaves. He’s been a workhorse ever since, releasing seven albums and an EP with Buckcherry, and a solo album (“You Made Me”) in 2003, all accompanied by heavy touring schedules. Now, with his Buckcherry bandmate Stevie D. on board, he’s launching a new act, Josh Todd & the Conflict, that takes a more aggressive—and sometimes more eclectic—approach to music. With the new band’s debut album, “Year of the Tiger,” set for a Sept. 15 release via Century Media Records, Josh recently gave all the details to Live Metal’s Greg Maki.
LIVE METAL: We’ve known you for a lot of years as the singer of Buckcherry, and now you’re starting this new band, Josh Todd & the Conflict. How did it all come together?
JOSH TODD: Well, it kind of started last year with Stevie and I. Stevie is my guitar player and songwriting partner. We were out on the road with Buckcherry, and I said, “Hey, man, I need to find somebody who can make me some beats.” He said, “I can make beats,” and I go, “OK, make me some beats.” So we started this project called SprayGun War. We put out an EP, and it was all electronic. We had a lot of fun doing it, but on my mind was always to make something more aggressive, a more aggressive rock band. So when we got home in November, I was like, “Let’s make a rock record.” So we started writing really hard for the Conflict record in November. Stevie and I wrote all the songs, and we just started beating it into shape. Then we recorded it in March of this year.
After doing Buckcherry for so long—and you’re still doing that—why was this the time for you to do something different?
It was the time because I’ve always wanted to have another band. I’ve always wanted to have two situations going so that I could give Buckcherry a rest and continue working, because I like to work, I love being creative, I like writing new music. That’s why it was so important for me to get a record out this year, because it’ll be two years this year that BC hasn’t had a record out. So that was my whole motivation behind it. Plus, I come from a more aggressive school than what I was doing in Buckcherry, and I wanted to make a record that kind of reflects more of my roots.
Your voice is very distinctive, but you do some different things with it (on this album). Aside from just doing more aggressive or a different kind music, were you looking for a chance to do some different things and stretch yourself vocally?
Exactly what I want to do. I meditate every day, and I always say in my meditations that I want to remain teachable. And that’s it. There’s always something more to learn with my voice, and my range is getting bigger, and I’m being able to do a lot more things. I’m also a student of the game. I listen to a lot, a lot, a lot of songs, and I’ve written a lot of songs. I just want to grow as a songwriter and a singer. I write all the lyrics and melodies of everything that I’ve ever done, so it’s important for me to be good at my craft. When I had this opportunity, Stevie really set me up to win. He would send me softballs, is what I like to call them—just really good compositions, musical compositions, that were really easy for me to come up with melodies for, because I was so inspired by it.
When you hear the first two singles you’ve released, it’s like, “Alright, I think I know what this is gonna be.” Then you hear the whole the album, and there’s a wide range of sounds and emotions. Did you feel like you couldn’t open it up this much in Buckcherry?
Yes. Listen, it’s just a different thing, Buckcherry, and it became something different because of the two different schools merging together. (Guitarist) Keith (Nelson) had more of a classic rock, more came from the rock school; I grew up in Southern California, and I listened to all independent records and punk rock records, and that was my whole background. When we merged the two schools, we wrote some really cool songs, and it started to become this sound that is known as Buckcherry—because we have seven records and one EP—and that was all great. But I like more of the alternative-type music of heavier stuff. I like to be able to go crazy with the tunings and do all the stuff that we got to do on the Conflict record. So it’s definitely a labor of love. I love it, and the whole quest for me is to make a lot of Conflict records and do it in such a way to where I’ll go tour on the Conflict for a year and promote this record and do it worldwide, and then come back, go make another Buckcherry record, go do that for a while, give the Conflict a rest, and so on and so forth. That’s what I want to do.
Lyrically, it sounds like you went to some very personal and sometimes very dark places on this album. What was the inspiration for that, and what was that experience like, sort of exploring different parts of yourself?
Well, Stevie really knows me well. I’ve known him since I was 19. So accessing the dark catalogue, is what I like to call it, in my mind really comes naturally for me. It’s kind of the other stuff that I really have to work a little harder for. Deep down inside, I’m broken, I’m angry, I have a lot of stuff. There’s a lot of dysfunction there from my childhood. The good thing is that I can kind of take all that and make it something really cool that I think a lot of people can relate to. That’s the beauty of it. I also read a lot of books, so I want to tell stories. Sometimes I just want to write in a different perspective, like a third person or somebody that’s not me, but I’ll put myself in that psyche and write from that standpoint, kind of like what I did with “Year of the Tiger.”
Yeah, can you talk about that a little bit? What is the story behind that?
I’m a big fan of the Hannibal (Lecter) series, and in one of the movies, there was this despicable character—I forget his name—but he had a bunch of pigs, and he would feed bodies to his pigs. I thought, man, that’s so fuckin’ twisted. It’s crazy. When I heard the music to “Tiger”—I accumulate titles, right? That’s what I do as a songwriter. I read a lot, and if some phrase or a group of words strikes me, I always jot it down. I’ve got a little file in my notepads in my iPhone, and I just accumulate all these titles. So I’m listening to the song, and I’m looking at my titles, and “Year of the Tiger” was there, and I just thought if I can make “Year of the Tiger” a great song, it’s such a great title. Then my mind starts racing, and I started thinking of a person that had really been on the run, had wrecked his life with everything—getting involved in organized crime, getting a big drug habit on top of it. And I’m a huge fan of animals. I love the animal kingdom, and I study it, and I’m fascinated with Africa. So if I was this character, what would be the worst way to fuckin’ die? I thought getting mauled by a tiger would be just brutal, just getting ripped apart. And then I just started writing, and it just came out very quickly.
You just released a video for “Fucked Up.” You sound like you’re losing your mind on that song.
I was losing my mind, because in my life, everything was in disarray. I felt very betrayed and disrespected by some people that I had spent a lot, a lot of time with. I was mad. I was very angry. When I got that track, I’m like this is it. I’m gonna just rip this fucker apart. That’s a thing which I like—whenever I’m kind of searching for something, I always turn to songwriting. It’s always my outlet that gives me so much relief, and I love it. I love to be able to get it all out and to go relive those emotions live in front of an audience, and I’m really invested at that point, and I think it’s really important. I always stress that with singers: Hey, try to work on your craft. Write your lyrics and melodies, because if you do that, you’re gonna be a lot more passionate live. It’s gonna really translate to an audience.
What was it like working with Stevie and (Stone Temple Pilots drummer) Eric Kretz as the producers on this album?
It was great. It was fun making a record again, I’ve gotta tell you. I was actually in the studio a lot. Very nice people. We had a great product, and let me tell you, it went fast. We got really prepared outside of the studio, and that’s what you gotta do now. You can’t be sitting in a studio for days and days and days trying to figure out stuff. You gotta have it all figured out and go in there and really capture the live feel. Those are the best records, in my opinion. If you want to know, I did all vocals—everything—six days, for all vocals. That was like two and a half hours a day for six days. We were just really prepared and focused before going in there. Stevie and I recorded and re-recorded demos way before going in there, and by the time we got in there, we were so ready. And Sean Winchester on the drums, who’s amazing, and Gregg Cash on the bass—we have a fucking great band. We’re all unified, and we have a great product. This record’s really great. So now the fun part comes: playing live.
Yeah, what are the plans for that? You said you want to take it all over the world.
Yeah, for sure. Right now, we’re looking for a great package tour for the fall, because that’s when the record’s released, Sept. 15. We’re doing shows here and there right now. We’ve got a show with Bush coming up, we’ve got a show with Franky Perez in Vegas coming up. We just did a show with Mickey Avalon. We really want to team up with cool acts, something that’s gonna be neat for the concert-goer. It’s not gonna just be a bunch of bands that are all the same. I just think that the Conflict can play with so many different situations. So we’re looking right now.
When your name is front and center like it is in this, Josh Todd & the Conflict, and in the past when you did a solo album, do you feel like there’s more pressure on you, or is that just the name and it’s like being in any other band?
No, it really bothers me, actually. I don’t really like it. It took me a while to kind of wrap my head around it. Back then, the band was called Shots Fired; it wasn’t Josh Todd. It gets closer to the time to get out there, and people start talking from a marketing standpoint it’s gonna be easier on you. I definitely want things to be as easy as they can possibly be to get to an audience that’s going to be great. That’s why we went with Josh Todd & the Conflict. Like I said, it’s a band, and it’s something that’s gonna grow, and we’re gonna make lots of records. Making a record takes lot of time, so just the fact that we’re putting out a record means we’re all really passionate about it. It’s not easy to do.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about the Conflict, Buckcherry, anything else?
Go out there and pre-order the Josh Todd & the Conflict record right now, “Year of the Tiger,” and you’ll get ‘Year of the Tiger” and “Fucked Up” right away. Look forward to tour dates. We’ll be posting those as soon as they come in. The release date is Sept. 15. We’ve got another performance video, “Erotic City,” coming out in the near future, and the big song that’s going to radio will be a song called “Rain.” All I can say is it’s great concept video, and people are really gonna love it.