Interviews

Interview: Rock Legend JOE BOUCHARD formerly of Blue Öyster Cult

FOUNDING MEMBER OF BLUE OYSTER CULT JOE BOUCHARD RELEASES NEW SINGLE “SHE’S A LEGEND”. NEW ALBUM DROPS JULY 31ST ALONG WITH THE ROCKHEART RECORDS LIMITED COWBELL.

Joe Bouchard is best known as a founding member of Blue Öyster Cult. The original line-up sold millions of albums for Columbia Records, with such classic songs as “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and the #1 hit on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart “Burning For You”. Contributing to songwriting, and lead vocals on some of their greatest songs, such as “Hot Rails To Hell”.

Joe releases his second single “She’s a Legend”, from the forthcoming album “Strange Legends” due out on July 31st though his and his brother’s (Albert Bouchard) new imprint RockHeart Records / Deko Entertainment (ADA/Warner Music Group). Joe had this to say about the latest single and video, “She’s a Legend began when I got the lyrics from sci-fi writer John Shirley.  John has dozens of books, screenplays in his catalog and often writes lyrics for the current Blue Öyster Cult.  He has a great imagination and is not shy about using wild paranormal references in his writing. This song is about a notorious female serial killer who goes through a series of men, leaving them in the dust, so to speak.  The last man standing falls for this exotic woman.  Their love and lust is consummated but rather than ending up like so many others, she lets him go. In the end love conquers all, and the narrator lives to tell this strange tale.  A strange legendary tale!”

Deko Entertainment President states, “Joe’s latest release, “She’s a Legend”, strikes up some of the legendary BOC harmonies.  It grooves that way too, making sure those dedicated fans get a fun slice of the kind of songs that made them fans in the first place”

Also to celebrate the launch of RockHeart Records and the release of “Strange Legends”, the Bouchard brothers are offering a limited amount of the official RockHeart Records Cowbell autographed personally by both Joe and Albert.

Albert’s infamous cowbell part in “Don’t Fear the Reaper” was the basis of the classic Will Ferrell skit on SNL, which also starred Christopher Walken. With “The Reaper,” an all-time classic on YouTube and every other digital platform, with zillions of views, the Bouchard brothers are forever cemented in pop culture.


ANTIHERO: It’s a surreal time for the world at the moment. And musicians can’t go out, tour and earn a living. How has it been for you personally?

Joe Bouchard: I’m okay. I was a little worried a couple of months ago, but I’ve adjusted. In our state, in Connecticut here, I read somewhere that if you’re over the age of 60 you’re not supposed to go to the store. I said, “Wait a minute, you’re not supposed to go to the store? How are you going to eat?” “Well, you get your food delivered.” But, I got to go the store. So, that’s all right. I’m wearing a mask. I got my gloves. And I think that where I live it’s pretty safe. All the store people are wearing masks and everything’s just as good as it could possibly be. So, I’m not worried about it so much anymore. I’m feeling that things are good and things will improve.  

But I do miss playing live shows. That is a big missing thing in my personality. For many years I was like, “If I’m not packing my car up on a Friday night there’s something wrong with the world.” But I guess I have adjusted to that, too. I do a lot of video work here at home. I’m sharing a lot of videos and YouTube and Facebook. And we did a bunch of quarantine performances, sent them out to charities. That was a really good way to get the word out. And so I don’t miss that Friday-night panic if I don’t have a gig. 

I’m getting by okay. It would be harder for somebody who is just starting out in the business. This would be a really tough time, because then every thing counts, every T-shirt that you sell at a gig counts. Then I sell things online. Everything is good.

ANTIHERO: And of course, you’ve got a new album to promote.

Joe Bouchard: Yeah.

ANTIHERO: I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about Rock Hard Records, because it’s your own label, that the album is due to be released on.

Joe Bouchard: Yes. My brother and I, he was the drummer in Blue Oyster Cult, I was the bass player. We were a team for all the classic Blue Oyster Cult albums. But we haven’t been in the band in over 30 years. And we signed with a manager, and the manager, the first thing he said was, “You guys should have your own record label because you’re very creative. You’re still very active. You love playing shows. We’re going to get you a record deal. We’ll start out own label.” 

So, my record is coming out next Friday, one week from today. It it the first album on Rock Hard Records. And my brother’s solo album will be out in October. And that’ll be the second album. I’ve heard it, it sounds great. We’re happy to have this way of getting our new music out to the public and it’ll really put a focus on us as still creative, and still a vital part of making music today.

ANTIHERO: What about setting up your own label? Has it proved challenging in any way? Because you’ve gone into a whole different aspect, different area of the music industry.Compared to what you have been used to as an artist.

Joe Bouchard: So far it has been unbelievably fantastic. We have a very good publicist who probably set up this interview. I have never done as many interviews in the last four weeks as I have. I’ve done over 40 interviews. And everybody is fantastic, it may be because of the pandemic that people just want to talk. They have more time on their hands and everybody just wants to talk. 

And I’m glad to have something out that’s very upbeat. It’s probably something that people would love to listen to at this time, in this situation. And I think people are thinking about what they’re listening to more than it just being like wallpaper in your busy life. Because everyone’s had to slow down, and you start thinking about, “Well, what do I want to listen to today?” So hopefully, somebody out there will say, “Maybe Joe Bouchard.”

ANTIHERO: So are you both actively involved in the label on a day-to-day basis, or have you got somebody else to take care of business 9-5?

Joe Bouchard: Pretty much. Yeah. It’s all done online, but I get 10, 12 emails a day and I have to reply right away. It’s not the idea of the lazy rock star who just gets high all day, and hangs out with a bunch of babes at the pool. No, no, I’m working it regardless to what’s coming down. Videos have to be done. Yeah, I have to write stories about each of the songs. I did a long-form interview type thing where I interviewed myself about the different tracks on the album.  

And it’s all fun work. It’s hard to say that it’s really work, work. But it’s fun realising we have a great potential here and seeing how it all operates. It’s good, we’re in touch with the distributor all the time. We’re autographing cowbells.

ANTIHERO: I saw that. Who come up with that idea?

Joe Bouchard: Well it’s a thing here in the United States that started in the year 2000, where a comedy group on television had a thing about Blue Oyster Cult and the song, Don’t Fear the Reaper, and how they had to get the cow bell onto the song for it to become a hit. And it’s a true story. My brother played the cowbell on the recording. 

So that’s been a thing since then. It’s really big. And it opened up a whole generation that had never heard of Blue Oyster Cult, or Don’t Fear the Reaper, or any other albums. It opened up a whole generation to what we do. And then they started listening back to our old records, and they’re just doing great these days, really doing very well with the younger generation. Which I’m very happy about.

ANTIHERO: Okay. I think you are just about to release the album’s second single, She’s a Legend. Which I read, lyrically inspired by the work of John Shirley. I just wondered if that’s the only track on the album that he’s had input into. Or have you brought in other influences and other writers on the actual album itself? 

Joe Bouchard: He did also another song on the album called Bottom for the Bottomless, which is more of a prog rock kind of song. They’re both great. He sent me an email a few years ago. I guess he had heard one of my other solo albums and he said he liked what I was doing. And I said, “Well, send me some lyrics.” He’s a famous science fiction writer. He wrote that screenplay for The Crow, the famous movie, The Crow. And he writes lyrics for the current Blue Oyster Cult. 

So he’s very creative and has an imagination that won’t quit. So the next day, he sent me She’s A Legend. And I said, “I’ve got to write this song.” It was just speaking to me. And so there’s two of them on this album. I did a couple others for an album that I did called Blue Coupe that came out in November, a song called, Simple Answers Kill. Which is very contemporary, and a song called Break Through The Wall. Which is another common theme these days. And both of those are great. And I’ve got more, he sent me more lyrics than that. But probably in a future album sometime I will get those out.

ANTIHERO: What about the album itself? Who plays on it? Is it mostly yourself?

Joe Bouchard: Mostly me. The drums were played by Mickey Curry who’s a fantastic drummer. He plays with Bryan Adams up in Canada, actually all over the world, Bryan Adams is huge. But he’s also played with Alice Cooper, Cher, the Cult. He’s been on 40 gold records, it’s amazing. And he happens to be a neighbour, he’s over in the next town. And he said that he’d love to do a session, so it was really great. We worked at a studio that he had known for years. And we’re all familiar with the engineer there, and the sessions went really well. And it makes it easy when you’re self-producing an album to start with a good drum track, amazing drum tracks. So that was a lot of fun. I think people are going to hear that right away when they hear the album, that the drums are superior.  

I used to program drums using computers. And the drums are amazing, but there’s something about having a real drummer, a real flesh and blood drummer who’s really knocking it out of the park, as they say. And so, my girlfriend played guitar on one of the tracks on the album. And she sings on, I think three songs, sings some of the harmonies. 

But most of the guitars and the leads, and the keyboards, and the mandolin, and trumpet, I actually played trumpet on this album on two songs, on the single, She’s A Legend. And what was the other one I played the trumpet on? Oh, the instrumental called, Racing Through the Desert. That’s a lot of fun, too. And I really went wild with that one thing. You can do those screaming-trumpet parts. I’ve been obsessed with brass instruments in the last two years and got a good chance to play them on this recording. So, yeah, I like doing a variety of different instruments and it’s a lot of fun to do that. And this is a great album for that.

ANTIHERO: There’s a cover version on there. I just wanted to ask you a little bit about that. Why did you decide to include a cover-version song on your album?

Joe Bouchard: Yeah, a song by Ray Davies, of The Kinks, called, “All Day and All of the Night”. I’ve loved that song since I was in high school. And it’s a great song and I just felt like it was time to do this cover. It actually started out as a acoustic, Fender-style guitar at the beginning. But once I got Mickey to play the drums on it, and I started thinking, “Oh, man. This has got to really rock.” So it’s one of those things where it starts mellow, but then it really revs up. And it gives it a great dynamic. It gives it a great dynamic, and a lot of people have mentioned that song as one of their favourites.

ANTIHERO: You’ve already mentioned your former band. And I guess it’s always going to come up for you in interviews that you’re a founding member of Blue Oyster Cult. Given that you’ve left,   you said, what, 30 odd years ago? How do you feel that your former musical glories are still being discussed in modern interviews? 

Joe Bouchard: Oh, I feel great. Well, I put so much into it when I was in the band that when I got out it was a good relief. And I did a lot of different things in the last 30 years. I was a very unsuccessful record producer. That was a big wake-up call, because I’ve worked with a lot of other producers and I said, “Well, I can do what they do.” But it’s really hard and the business end of it is extremely hard. 

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So, then I did some teaching in private schools, which was a lot of fun. I actually taught video in a private school. And then I left the school business and went into a publishing company for three and half years. And I did educational books and I learned all about the book business. And then, I decided that I got tired of looking at a computer all day. So, I was pretty naïve and pretty lucky to get in a famous band when I was so young, but I had no experience in the world. 

So, I started a private teaching business where I taught on my own terms when I wanted to. And I was in five different bands at different times. And only in the last five or six years, I really decided I was going to concentrate on my solo career and do some other things that I always wanted to do. I toured in Iraq with a USO-type tour. That was really fantastic. If I was in Blue Oyster Cult that would have never happened. So I’ve been able to jump on different situations with this. And the Blue Oyster Cult stuff just doesn’t go away. It’s more popular now than it ever was. So we’re very thankful about that.

ANTIHERO: Does it annoy you at all that people always want to talk about what you’ve done in the past with Blue Oyster Cult, rather than focus on what you’re trying to do now?

Joe Bouchard: Yeah. But it’s a good balance. I’ve done a couple of interviews recently where it was all about the old stuff. But they told me ahead of time. And most people ask me ahead of time, “Well, do you want to talk about the old stuff or the new stuff?” “Well, I’ll talk about both.” Because I think since the pandemic people are just happy to talk. People have been stuck home for too long, now, and just to be able to talk and talk about different things. And I take the interviews in different ways. But I’m very proud of those records. I know some artist that’ll have a hit record and maybe they hate that hit, the one that was the big hit. And they’ll just resent it for the rest of their life that they have to go out and play that hit. 

Well, the biggest hit that Blue Oyster Cult had was Don’t Fear the Reaper. And I love that song, I just love that song. I love playing it anywhere, anytime. I love talking about it, how it was recorded. No, it doesn’t really bother me. I can see where it would bother some people. Cheap Trick hates talking about The Flame, one of their big, number one hits. But they didn’t write that song, it was forced on them. But I don’t have that feeling. I’m happy to talk about new stuff, old stuff or even the future, whatever is going to happen.

ANTIHERO: Just a couple of general ones, then. What in your professional life are you most proud of? Is there a particular highlight or maybe a personal achievement that stands out for you?

Joe Bouchard: Right now, I’m very proud of the response to this record. It’s my sixth solo album but it’s blowing away the competition. All the other records are pale compared to this one. And I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just timing, a lot of it is timing. When I first joined Blue Oyster Cult, the time was right to be in that kind of a band during the ’70s where the music business was really opening up as a business. And touring became huge. And then when the CDs came out, everything blew up again, that whole era. So I think a lot of it is timing, and this is a good time. Things are very good for me right now. 

Personal highlights, I don’t know. Just playing at Madison Square Garden with Blue Oyster Cult was great. But I’ve done things since then by playing for the Halloween parade in New York City. We played in front of a million people, a million people, biggest show I ever did. And this was long after Blue Oyster Cult. It was the Halloween parade, we were on a float in a parade and we played all the way up in New York City, all the way uptown, over a million people, easily over a million people. So, yeah, and there’s so many others. It’s all good.

ANTIHERO: You’ve been a professional musician for many, many years. Is there any key lessons that the music industry has taught you? I’m sure you’ve noticed significant, dramatic changes since you first started out.

Joe Bouchard: Well, you have to be really passionate. Because if you just get into it like, “I want to make a big pile of money,” that’s the wrong reason. You’ve got to really just love it for the music. And I am a big music fan, started out as a big music fan. Still, I am a big music fan. You’ve got to be very passionate about it. It’s not something that you choose to do, it chooses you because there is just nothing else you can imagine doing. And a lot of the biggest artists just knew from a very early age that they had to do this. And I’m one of those people, yeah.

ANTIHERO: Obviously with touring for the new album, I’m sure you’ve probably scheduled shows to promote it, once shows are back on again. All that’s in the balance, I guess?

Joe Bouchard: Yeah. Well, we played in Sweden last year, last summer. It was amazing, fantastic, the best show I ever played. There’s a highlight, right there. We played an hour-long show on a four-day festival. We were the last band on the last day. It was the Sweden Rock Festival.

ANTIHERO: I’ve heard of it, yeah.

Joe Bouchard: And it just happened to be a perfect night. The group, Behemoth, was playing on another stage, but they had to cancel. So all the Behemoth fans came over to see Blue Coupe, who I was playing with. And it was just magical, it was just a magical night. And the crowd went crazy. And from that show we got another booking on a cruise in Sweden this year. We had to cancel it, done. It just was not happening. Cruise boats are not where you want to be these days. 

So, there’s always next year, and I’m confident that we will be on the list when it comes to booking bands for next year. And as soon as they get this all cleared up, or whatever they have to do, vaccines, or everybody gets used to their masks, whatever, I’m easy with that. And when it’s safe, I’ll definitely be at the front of the line trying to get booking. And I think the crowds will be great because they’ll be so ready for a live show.

ANTIHERO: In terms of scheduling a set list, do you mix it? Do you focus primarily on your solo career? Do you include a few snippets from your Blue Oyster Cult past? Do you like to mix it up?

Joe Bouchard: Well, yeah. We always include some of the hits. It’s hard, because depending on how long we get to play, there are certain songs that we have to play. I look at it from the point of view of, if I was buying a ticket from my show, what would I want to hear? And I look at it from the point of view of the audience. And I want to give them the best show. I want to give them more than their money’s worth. 

So that means definitely the hits, some deep cuts, some variety. We mix it up quite a bit when we go out to a show. You’ve got to play to everybody, but also you got to play to the hardcore fans that, they want the deep tracks. And we practice it all and when we do shows, that’s what we do.

ANTIHERO: Do you still have hopes and dreams? Are there any goals that you have still unfulfilled?

Joe Bouchard: Yeah. Well, I hope to get another platinum album someday.

ANTIHERO: That would be nice.

Joe Bouchard: They’re hard to come by. I think Taylor Swift, maybe Adele and Taylor Swift, are the only people with platinum albums. But I’ve got a few from my days as a rock star in the ’80s, and the ’70s. So, it’s all good. Even if it just sells a few records, if people are out there saying, “Well, he’s a great guy and he can write a great song,” or arrange a great song, or just produce a nice recording that reaches them, that’s my goal.

ANTIHERO: What about a book? Has anybody approached you and indeed, your brother, maybe working together to write a book about your time in the music business?

Joe Bouchard: We had thought about that. I started going through my family archive. And I could do a picture book that would be great. So I’m thinking I will write my memoirs coming up. I’m definitely going to do that. There was a book by the Heart sisters, Ann and Nancy Wilson, they each took a chapter. And they alternated chapters in the book. That was a fun read. And also, my friend, Dennis Dunaway from Alice Cooper, who I’ve worked with for years, we’ve spent over three years promoting his biography. He did a book called, My Life in the Alice Cooper Group. And we did book stores and we did all kinds of things. 

So, I understand what the process is about. I’ve actually written educational books. I wrote a beginning guitar book. I wrote a couple of bass books. I wrote a couple of rock piano books. So I’ve had a little experience in that. But I really would like to do a book. For a long time I said, “No, I’ll never do a book.” But now I’m starting to think, “Yeah, I could do a book.” And I love reading rock bios. That’s mostly what I read is biographies.

ANTIHERO: I’m the same. I enjoy my spare time reading a lot of rock bios, myself. I must check out the Heart one that you mentioned there.

Joe Bouchard: Yeah, I forget what it’s called.

ANTIHERO: I’ll look it up.

Joe Bouchard: But it’s by Ann and Nancy Wilson. It’s very good.

ANTIHERO: Okay, that’s great. Joe, thank you very much for chatting. Good luck with your album. Hopefully you’ll get an opportunity very soon to get out and play some of those new songs live again.

Joe Bouchard: Oh, yeah, definitely. We’re definitely going to do that. It was great talking to you. Thanks for the chat, I appreciate it.

ANTIHERO: Thank you very much for talking to me. Have a good day. 

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Mark Dean

I'm a 40+ music fan. Fond mostly of rock and metal - my staple musical food delights. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am now based in the UK-Manchester. I have a hectic musical existence with regular shows and interviews. Been writing freelance for five years now with several international websites. Passionate about what I do, I have been fortunate already to interview many of my all-time musical heroes. My music passion was first created by seeing Status Quo at the tender age of 15. While I still am passionate about my rock and metal, I have found that with age my taste has diversified so that now I am actually dipping into different musical genres and styles for the first time.

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