Los Angeles-based hard rockers Buckcherry shine the spotlight on pure, guttural rock ’n’ roll. Head to a show, and you’ll be met with a concert experience that plays like the soundtrack to a never-ending party: snarling guitars, swinging rhythms and real instruments. No backing tracks here!

Buckcherry recently wrapped up some shows with Guns N’ Roses, and up next, they’ll lay down tracks for their new album – a release guitarist Keith Nelson says is going to “consciously push the boundaries of what we’ve done.” Nelson spoke with Gibson.com about what to expect from the new tracks, his go-to Gibson guitars and why Axl Rose is such a “sweet and nice” guy.

Buckcherry opened for Guns N’ Roses for select dates on their fall tour. How did that match-up come about?

I’m not really sure! We got offered the shows, and of course we jumped at the opportunity, and it was a phenomenal experience for us. It was a good time. I think a Guns N’ Roses, Buckcherry tour was a long time in the works. So, I’m really grateful for the opportunity to do the shows.  

What was your best memory from the trek?

I’ve got to tell you, there were a lot of good memories, but Axl Rose – before they went on stage and after we were done – got us all together and gave us really nice gifts for being a part of the tour and was really gracious. He was really sweet and nice. So, actually, meeting him and his generosity was probably the most memorable thing of that tour.

Why do you think the pairing of Guns N’ Roses and Buckcherry drew such buzz and anticipation?

I think it’s probably because we’re one of the few rock bands left – true rock ’n’ roll bands, as opposed to what seems to be the current the flavor. It’s obvious Guns N’ Roses was an influence on us. So, I think that has something to do with it. There were a lot of Les Pauls on stage. [Laughs]

Buckcherry are known as a solid live band. How have you honed that performance craft over the years?

I think there are a couple of reasons. School of hard knocks is the first one: Going out there and having to win crowds over. If you go out there and aren’t 100 percent confident about what you’re doing, you’re not going to win any crowds over. I think that’s part of it. And, I think one of the things that really guides us is that we’re fans of music, and we know what it’s like to anticipate your favorite band coming to town and all the build up to it, so that’s something that’s never lost on us. We always keep in mind what it’s like to be in the audience and go to a show. When you look at it from that perspective, and it makes you really want to deliver every night.

You’re not just a guitarist but also a songwriter for Buckcherry, as well as other projects. What led you down the path to songwriting?

The whole reason I picked up the guitar in the first place was because I wanted to write songs. I was a drummer until I was 17 years old, and I was influenced by so many great American and British songwriters, so I just really wanted to write songs. Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp – all those artists who were around in the late ’80s, when I was making the switch. I just wanted to write songs. That drives it all. Guitar playing is something that happened as result of having a guitar in my hands, but writing songs is really my main focus.

When is Buckcherry shooting to release a new album?

Well, we have a couple more weeks of dates to do, and we’ve already been working on writing in rehearsals, so hopefully we’ll have the record wrapped by first of year and available for people to hear in the spring. We’re working out some stuff and really taking the idea of making a recording and encompassing a lot of different things. It’s an ambitious effort on our part, but we’re shooting for the stars on this with everything around the record, from the concept to the packaging. We’re really just trying to take it to the next level.

Musically, do you see you guys going in a different direction on this set?

I think we’re going to consciously push the boundaries of what we’ve done. We’re not going to make an experimental jazz record, but I don’t think it’s going to be anything like the last five records we’ve made. We want to push it. We want to make something different.

What Gibson guitars do you currently have in your touring rig?

In my touring rig, I have a ’59 reissue Dark Sunburst Les Paul. Its name is Duane, because it looks like Duane Allman’s famous dark Sunburst guitar. Duane is one of my main go-tos, and I have a really awesome ’57 Les Paul Goldtop reissue that I go to all the time.

What Gibson guitars do you gravitate towards in the studio?

I have an original Sunburst 1959 Les Paul, and I got that before we made the All Night Long record, and it’s all over that record and it will be all over this next record. That’s my main go-to instrument in the studio. I also have a couple of Les Paul Jr. guitars that get a lot of action.

What do you think makes Gibson special over other guitar manufactures?

There are so many reasons. The construction of the guitars, for one. It’s amazing to me that the designs have held for so many years. They were designed in the ’50s, like the Les Paul and the Explorer and the Flying V. Those designs haven’t been topped, in my opinion. They really got it right the first time. So, they’re pretty special guitars.

What’s your gear-that-got-away story?

Prior to obtaining my original Sunburst Les Paul, there were plenty of those, but that really cured all of my gear-that-got-away stories, because owning a real Burst is not something that a lot of people get to do!

Do you have any playing tips for our readers?

Playing for the song is always really the guiding force. Everything has to serve the song. That’s probably the biggest tip that I have. And just know your gear. Know what it does and know what it doesn’t do so that you can make good decisions about your tone.

Photo credit: PR Brown