By Noe Gutierrez

PETTY CASH is an “All-Star band” covering the songs of TOM PETTY and JOHNNY CASH (Get it?), featuring members of THE OFFSPRING, FUEL and ÆGES. That is the long and short of it according to Phil Buckman, bassist for PETTY CASH. Coachella Valley Weekly spoke with Buckman by phone to discuss the Rhythm Wine and Brews Experience as well as everything else under the PETTY CASH sun. RWBE 2018 is scheduled for Saturday, March 3, 2018 and will also feature STONE TEMPLE PILOTS, THE PSYCHADELIC FURS, SHE WANTS REVENGE and THE FLUSTERS. Tickets are available at rwbexp.com.

CVW: How do you feel about the Rhythm Wine and Brews Experience? 

Buckman: “We’re excited to do it. We’re playing with some friends. I’ve toured with STONE TEMPLE PILOTS before so I know those guys. I’m looking forward to seeing them. I’ve never played with THE PSYCHADELIC FURS or SHE WANTS REVENGE so I’m looking forward to seeing them. We’ve played a lot of food, wine and beer festivals where people have no idea who we are. We’re supposed to be the background entertainment and before it’s all over we’re playing ‘Free Fallin’ as our closer and every single girl in the place is up on stage forcing us off, it happens almost every show.”

CVW: Give us the rundown on PETTY CASH. 

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Buckman: “I’m the last to join the band. The other four guys in PETTY CASH were in JULIETTE AND THE LICKS. They came up with this concept while they were on tour in Moscow. They were drunk off their ass and they would listen to Tom Petty and Johnny Cash all the time. Somebody said they should start a band called PETTY CASH. They would warm up with those songs at sound check and they never sat down with the music and learned it. They knew the songs and they would hack through them and do their own arrangements. On some songs we’ll go longer, some will go shorter, they’ll be crazy breaks in them; we’ll go veer off into different songs in the middle of something then come back to the original song. It’s pretty loose. We’re not trying to emulate them by any means; we’re just out there because we love the music. Some of the songs rock a little harder than the originals.

“I used to be in the band FILTER and now I play in FUEL. Jason Womack, our guitarist in PETTY CASH, is also in FUEL. Todd Morse, our singer, is the touring guitar player for THE OFFSPRING. Kemble Walters and Dylan Howard are in a band called ÆGES. Actually, Kemble has played with FUEL as well. He’s kind of our fill-in guy. Kemble plays bass and guitar. He actually played drums for us too. Kemble knew all the tunes and he’s a bad-ass drummer. He’s done everything in the band except sing. ÆGES are out touring with CHEVELLE all over the place. PETTY CASH is a little fun side project for us, it’s not our main gig. Todd our singer is a great front man. He really gets the crowd pumping and involved. Any festival we’ve played in the past they’ve always had us back. Every song we play is a bona fide hit.” 

CVW: You have a connection with the Haagens who own Empire Polo and produce RWBE. How long have you known them? 

Buckman: “I can only assume we got asked to do this because I was friends with the Haagens a long time ago. Out of nowhere we got the call. For RWBE, our whole band is camping and we’re bringing acoustic guitars to do a post-show jam/sing-along thing. We did it at Coachella one year behind the Date Shed. When Alex opened it he had PETTY CASH play the after-party. We had PINK come up and sing with us. She’s a good friend of the band and then afterwards we were all camping at ‘Tramp Camp’ and sat around the camp fire and played guitar and sang until 6 in the morning. It was so much fun. We played for four hours just playing covers and PINK was sitting right there with us. She was killing Janis Joplin and the Stones. She’s one of the best singers I’ve heard live.

When Adam Haagen was a teen he used to get up and play keyboards. I’ve known him since he was 8 years old. I was around when he started taking piano lessons and would bore the crap out of us playing that Seven Nation Army riff over and over again. Now he plays circles around most people I know. He’s brilliant. I kind of hate him for that. He’s a way better guitar and keyboard player than I could ever hope to be. The kid’s got some serious ability.”

CVW: PETTY CASH has had some pretty cool guest musicians like PINK. Any guest plans for RWBE?

Buckman: “For RWBE we’re gonna have our singer from FUEL, Brett Scallions join us. He and his wife are gonna do a song. Heather Lou is the singer of the band NO DUH, the NO DOUBT tribute band, she’s gonna sing a song with us too. In the past we’ve had Pete Parada, the drummer for THE OFFSPRING, fill in for us on drums. Noodles, THE OFFSPRING guitarist, has also played with us. The cool thing about PETTY CASH and being in these other bands is that we know a lot of people and we get a lot of cool guests that get on stage with us. At one time on stage we had PINK, Deryck Whibley from SUM 41 and Matt Sorum from GUNS N’ ROSES.”

CVW: How far will you continue to take PETTY CASH?

Buckley: “We used to be a lot more serious about it before we all started touring like crazy. We used to have some residencies at the Key Club in LA where we played every week. We played upstairs at The Roxy where we built a large following then things happened. Todd got THE OFFSPRING gig, I got the FILTER gig. Ed is drum tech for TAYLOR SWIFT’s drummer. We all got busy. Now if we’re all available, we’ll do it. We love the respective bands we play in and we also love playing in PETTY CASH, it’s so much fun. We’re always looking to grow PETTY CASH. It gets a little tougher around now. Our ‘bread winning’ bands are gearing up for the touring season. I know FUEL has a lot of stuff coming up. A lot of weekend warrior stuff playing out. And in July we’ll get back on the bus and do a proper tour again. I’ve heard rumors of who we’re touring with but I can’t say, but if it goes the way they’re talking, it’s gonna be a big to-do. There may or may not be a RWBE connection to it. I cannot confirm or deny.” 

CVW: The death of Tom Petty was a huge loss to the music world. How does that change the thought behind PETTY CASH?

Buckman: “This is my first full PC show since Tom Petty passed away. We did a little tribute to him at ‘Ultimate Jam Night’ in Hollywood. We got up and played a few songs. The guys did play a couple weeks ago at a charity event but I played in this all-star band on the ‘Shiprocked Cruise’. They pull people from different bands and they get them together to do covers. It’s gonna be interesting. We’re adding the song ‘Wildflowers’ to our set to dedicate to him because that’s become synonymous with Tom Petty since he passed away. It’s such a heavy song. A bunch of us were at one of the last shows he played. It will be heavy. Johnny Cash has been gone for a lot longer so it’s always been a tribute for him, now it’s going to be a tribute to Tom Petty as well. We’re such huge fans of his writing brilliance. The cool thing is, he’s never seen us play but he knew who we were and from what I understand we had his approval. We were expecting to see an uptick in bookings since he passed away. We just love playing this stuff.”

CVW: Do you have any other connections to the Coachella Valley?

Buckman: “Only Coachella-related stuff really. I don’t really know the valley all that well. FUEL played a casino there last year. Any time I’ve been out there it’s been a lot of fun. We’re looking forward to getting a little vacation. That area is where Kemble got married. He and his wife Jen like to get out there as much as possible. They love it out there. I’m bringing my wife and leaving the two-year old twins at home with grandma and grandpa.”

CVW: Do you have any musical highlights in your career thus far?

Buckman: “One of my musical highlights was four or five years ago when the Viper Room had their 21st anniversary and they were doing a week of shows that was capped off with a show called the Viper Room All-Stars. It was basically Billy Idol’s band, Steve Stevens, Billy Morrison, Erik Eldenius on drums and they asked me to play bass. We did a bunch of covers and had a bunch of guests. In that show I played a couple of GN’R songs with Sebastian Bach, Steve Vai got up and did ‘You Really Got Me’ and actually sang. I mean, those are all really cool things but the highlight was when Billy Duffy (THE CULT) got up and we did ‘Rain’. It was so fucking epic! I was like a giddy school girl when Billy Duffy’s standing on stage at sound check and during the show. I’m playing the songs I played in a cover band in college but I’m playing with THE guy.

I’m friends with current THE CULT bassist Grant Fitzpatrick and their former bassist Chris Wyse (ACE FREHLEY, OWL). So I knew Chris was leaving THE CULT and I was trying to find out how I get my name in the mix. It never happened but right after, I ran into Billy Duffy at the NAMM show and I hadn’t seen him since the Viper Room show. I had met him but I didn’t know him. I told him I was trying so hard to figure out how to get in touch with him because I wanted to come in for that gig. What he said freakin killed me. He said, ‘Your name definitely came up in the mix on the short list.’ I was like WHAT?! So I played a show with FUEL in Texas with Frankie Perez and Grant plays bass for Frankie sometimes so I got to meet Grant. I told him that story and he said he heard about it. He said it was between me, him and one other person. Grant is awesome. He’s an Australian guy and he told me he and his wife were ready to pack up and go back to Australia right before he got the gig. 

I’m friends with these guys in these bands. It’s an honor. I’m a late starter to this. I haven’t been playing at this level and on this circuit for very long, but after many years trying to break into it. I joined FILTER in 2010 so it’s really cool to be seen as a peer to these heroes of mine. David Ellefson (MEGADETH) has called me asking for advice on something. I’ll get random texts from people like Frankie Bello (ANTHRAX) asking me questions. I helped get him his strap endorsement. To me it’s hilarious. I think the beautiful thing about getting started so late is that I wasn’t able to get jaded with all the bullshit. I take it all with a grain of salt and I’m still that wide-eyed kid in a candy store when I get to do all this stuff.”

Check out PETTY CASH at RWBE 2018 and go see FUEL, THE OFFSPRING and ÆGES performing live in a town near you!