JOE BOUCHARD Talks New Solo Album: “It Relates To My Early Years In BLUE ÖYSTER CULT”
June 8, 2022, 3 weeks ago
Original Blue Öyster Cult bassist Joe Bouchard still looks back on his years with the band fondly. After all, he was a member for what many consider to be their classic 1973-1982 period, where the band became one of the top arena rock bands of North America, on the strength of such radio hits as “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” “Godzilla,” and “Burnin’ For You,” and the albums Agents Of Fortune, Spectres, and Fire Of Unknown Origin.
And now, he has returned with his latest solo effort, American Rocker, which as it turns out, is a concept album that touches upon certain aspects of his past. Speaking to BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato, Bouchard discussed the new album, his BÖC days, and what the future holds in store for him.
BraveWords: Let’s start by discussing your new album, American Rocker.
Joe Bouchard: “I think this is the most ‘me’ I’ve ever put into an album. It relates to my early years in Blue Öyster Cult – although I really wanted to concentrate on the fun parts of it. And for me, it was a really fun album to put together. Thinking back to all the great times we had, and that’s kind of the spirit of this album. It’s a fun album and it’s the most I’ve actually written – there’s no covers, there’s no instrumentals. It’s just all brand new stuff. I had time through the pandemic situation. I made great use of the extra time I had – practicing my trumpet and thinking about what I want to do on my next album. The last album, Strange Legends, I think leaned a little bit more on what could have been Blue Öyster Cult tracks. But this one is more ‘me,’ I think.”
BraveWords: Would you consider it a concept album?
Joe Bouchard: “Yeah. The cover is a picture of me from 1976. It’s been repainted by a really great artist, Alan Ayers – he mostly does book covers, but he did do the Rolling Stones’ Bridges to Babylon. He did a great job on this…it makes me look young!” [Laughs]
BraveWords: The first single and video is “My Way Is The Highway.”
Joe Bouchard: “It’s a lyric video and I play the guitar player in the lyric video. I’m kind of a fan of old TV show, Route 66, the two guys in a Corvette taking off across the country. It kind of relates to the shows we used to play in California when we first broke. In 1973, we did our first show at the Hollywood Palladium with Mott the Hoople, who was the headliner. We were the opening act, and the middle act was this guy I had never heard of, Joe Walsh. I remember he was so nice and so friendly. Joe Walsh and Barnstorm. The Hollywood Palladium was ‘the’ place to play in California and that was our first show. And then we did a bunch of shows after that all over and it just exploded for us.”
BraveWords: Other favorite tracks?
Joe Bouchard: “One of my favorites is ‘Off Season Hotel.’ I used to work as a band leader in a summer resort. This would be 1967/1968, and we just had the best time. We got paid lots of money was one thing that was cool, and they put us up. It was all good. But at the end of the summer, the whole place would just close down and get really spooky. And all of the staff – all of our friends we met over the summer – they’d head down to Florida, and work in the Doral Country Club, for instance. And then about 30 years later, I get an email from my brother, ‘Do you want to go to Florida and play in a hotel?’ It was a ghost hunter’s convention! We go down to Florida and we’re in this old hotel, and I’m thinking of all these ghosts that would have been in this hotel. And even the first night we were there, we’re sitting in the bar, and there’s all these TV monitors in the bar. They were having a ghost hunt up in the attic of the hotel. Then it was about midnight, and some woman comes over and says, ‘Hey, do you want to go on a ghost hunt?’ I said, ‘Sure, why not!’ So we ended up in the attic of this hotel for two hours – we had sound devices, night vision goggles and cameras. Of course, didn’t find any ghosts – but it made a great story for a song. But there are a lot of other good ones – ‘Conspiracy,’ because that is more modern day. Everybody talks about conspiracy theories in this swamp of crazy. [Laughs] The track is kind of like an old Motown track, and that one just fell together. ‘Deadly Kisses’ is a good one. That was a ballad that I wrote on piano, and kind of relates to my early girlfriends and how they affected me. That one really came off well. ‘The Hounds of Hell’ is probably the most Blue Öyster Cult-like song on the album. It all started with this guitar chord – it’s an E minor 6th. It’s got a C# in it. That’s just the spookiest chord, and I just started playing it. I grew up on a farm in Upstate New York, and it was a thing where you’d get a full moon out there and the sounds of the forest and the fields. It just all fell together. The chorus is a lot of fun, too. A lot of spooky stuff in that one.”
BraveWords: What is your favorite Blue Öyster Cult album and why?
Joe Bouchard: “The first album. Because I had the most fun. I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having. Every day I’d get up and we’d be going to the studio, and I’d be like, ‘I can’t believe we’re going to a studio to make an album…a real album, on Columbia Records!’ So, I was excited every day. And I was learning how records are made – this was at David Lucas’ jingle studio in New York. On eight tracks. That’s all you had – you had to do the whole album on eight tracks. But he would show us little magical ways of doubling things and doing live bounces. They’d be flipping the tape over backwards and he’d be making flanging using duplication of the part. So, he was all into what was happening with the Beatles and that production. And of course, Sandy Pearlman and Murray Krugman produced that record – so they kept us conceptually…instead of going way off track, they wanted to establish what was going to become Blue Öyster Cult. It had to have that vibe. When it came out, I was a little disappointed – I didn’t like the vinyl pressing. But then maybe about 15 years later, they put it out on CD, and then all of a sudden, it brought me back to the studio. It was cleaner, and it was like sitting in the control room, listening to the playback of the mixes. I think we were all tremendously excited to be working on that record. And it sounds like it. Now, of course, I really love Agents Of Fortune. Spectres is a real triumph. And sonically, Fire Of Unknown Origin was really great – we got to work with Martin Birch, who was a tremendous producer. RIP – a great guy. And not that old – he was my age. But he had done Deep Purple records. It was great. He would say, ‘Well, when I was in the studio with the Who…’ We’d all perk up, ‘Oh yes?’ ‘And this is the way Roger Daltrey sang.’ So, we learned a lot from Martin. And ‘Burnin’ For You’ still sounds fabulous on the radio. If you listen to the radio these days. Do you listen to the radio?”
BraveWords: Sometimes…but it’s funny that you mention “Burnin’ For You,” because that’s one of my favorite songs to listen to when I’m driving. Perhaps it has something to do with the storyline of the song’s video?
Joe Bouchard: “That was big on MTV. It was the first year they were in business, and they had to play us a lot because they didn’t have a lot of videos. Of course, later they got swamped with videos – million dollar productions. It changed really quick. And then the whole music style changed – because it became about the look. But we were lucky – we got in that window, playing us five or six times a day.”
BraveWords: Are you still on good terms with Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma?
Joe Bouchard: “Yeah, pretty good. I sat in with them on Halloween two years ago. I wanted to do more, but they said, ‘Well…you just do ‘Hot Rails To Hell.’ That will be good.’ And I felt good about it, because I had done it maybe three years before that at a show in New York – but I was kind of nervous. But the last time, it was great – everybody played great and I felt strong. It sounded fantastic. We’re on reasonable terms. They’re very happy with the guys that play in the band now. I think they like the consistency. Danny [Miranda] is a great player – he’s the bass player – and he worked with the Paul Rodgers version of Queen. He’s back and a fabulous player. They have a tight unit and want to keep it tight.”
BraveWords: Does Blue Öyster Cult belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Joe Bouchard: “I think yes. I think it’s going to be hard, because there are a lot of other choices, and everybody’s got their favorites. I was just talking to somebody the other day – they had some kind of list. We were sort of not at the bottom of the list but somewhere on the lower third of the list. And I said, ‘You know what they should do? One year, just take all these people at the bottom of the list and put them in and get it over with! Us, Ted Nugent…have a big party and say, ‘OK, now we'll go back to getting the people that are on the higher rungs of the ladder.’ I've played at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland probably five times. Dennis Dunaway, who is in the Hall of Fame…I think that was well deserved and that band really needed it, because they created so much – the original Alice Cooper band created so much and inspired us and of course dozens and dozens and dozens of other big artists. And they could be different. They didn't have to fit into any category – they created their own category. So anyway, I was I was very happy that Dennis got in. And he wrote a biography [2018’s Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!: My Adventures in the Alice Cooper Group] which wouldn't have happened if he hadn't have gotten that accolade. And then we did a book tour and then we would do events at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And the people who run the hall – which is different from who do the inductions – they tell us all the time, ‘You guys, you're definitely going to be in. Don't worry, you guys got it.’ But I don't I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon. But do we deserve it? Yeah, sure. And I would gladly accept. [Laughs] I'm not going to be like Todd [Rundgren] or the Sex Pistols. Or Dolly Parton – ‘No, I don't want to do it…but on the other hand I thought about it, I'll do it!’ It's a tough job, because when the first years of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame come out, everybody was like, ‘Those are the people that really invented this. They all deserve it.’ But now, every year it's a controversy.”
BraveWords: Future plans?
Joe Bouchard: “Well, my brother and I started our own record label. We got distribution – that's why we're doing so much. It's distribution through ADA and Warner Brothers music all over the world – Cargo in Europe. We're gonna go to Europe, we're going to Scotland and England and France in August. And our label is setting up events for us to do over there. Albert is working on his third double album – this is the Imaginos trifecta. The first one was good, the second one even better than the first, and then now he's working on Imaginos 3, and I'm helping him with it and I play in his Imaginos band. It's gonna be good but that won't be coming out until 2023, I believe. It's like 23 songs and new arrangements there everything, and he's got guests artists coming in. And then after that, we plan to do a Bouchard Brothers album, and certainly a few more projects after.”