Talks BOC, His New Album And His
Albert Bouchard is the original drummer for Blue Oyster Cult. He has played on all of their iconic hits including the infamous cowbell on “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.”
After leaving Blue Oyster Cult, Albert has gone on to release solo records, form other bands including Blue Coupe, which features his brother Alan and bassist Dennis Dunaway from the Alice Cooper Band and has played with various other artists.
We had the chance to have a Zoom meeting with Albert to discuss his career and upcoming projects.
Greg Drugan: I appreciate you taking some time with me today to talk about your new album. I do appreciate that.
Albert Bouchard: Thank you.
GD: I wanted to congratulate you on the Imaginos II record coming out. Tell me a little bit about the album and how did that come about?
AB: The original idea, when I started working on the original Imaginos album back in 1983 with Sandy (Pearlman), it was going to be a three record set. Each record was going to tell a different part of the story. The first part is about this guy, and all the things that he has. He’s got this mirror that he found in the Mayan jungles. A lot of these things that he talked about seemed fanciful, but are actually based on fact. The next part of it is where the mirror comes to Europe and corrupts the people there and in some way unleashes these evil events and evil acts of people. Starting with World War One, going through World War Two, post World War Two and you can throw Vietnam in there. All the serial killer stuff. That might have been going on before the twentieth century, but it seemed like it happened a lot more. The final song of the record is “Armageddon” where the world is destroyed by nuclear weapons. Then Act Three is post-apoplectic events.
GD: So it’s a huge concept album from One to Three?
GD: I really like the version that you did of “OD’d On Life Itself.” I really like the musical change that you did compared to the one B.O.C. did. What was your thought process there?
AB: I really like that song and B.O.C.’s version. I’m not exactly sure exactly what I did but I did help Eric Bloom write it. My name is on the song. When I first started working on it, I did it just like that. But it wasn’t working for me. I couldn’t get the right feeling in my voice. The first thing I did was lower the key, maybe it was too high for me to sing. There was something about the rhythm of the thing that wasn’t working, it just doesn’t groove. It seems choppy and clunky. I had a guitar riff with a lot of open strings and a lot of space and it clicked!
GD: Do you have any plans to go out and play some live shows with this album?
AB: I have one show booked. We’re going to do the entire Re Imaginos album in its entirety and do about a half a dozen songs from the new album. Then they're gonna want to hear the songs that I normally do. We’re practicing now, we are working up the songs with the band. We’ll see how it goes, I haven’t gotten a practice routine down yet! The time between Robert Gordon and The Dictators is about two months. So, February and March. I still have the next album to go and I have some great ideas! For the first album, there were ten musicians, for the Re Imaginos album there were seventeen, and for the third one, I want at least thirty-five.
GD: Wow! Do you have a plan for when Imaginos III might come out?
AB: No, no I don’t. We are actually still working on the vinyl release (of Imaginos II).
GD: Very good. Now when you are playing out, are you playing drums and singing as well?
AB: No, I’m up front. It’s too hard to lead the band from behind the kit. Any drummer, Dave Grohl you know is a better drummer than Taylor Hawkins. I don’t know, maybe he isn’t. Taylor Hawkins is way more technical. Dave Grohl is a little limited to what he can do. But oh my god, he does it so well. Taylor Hawkins is a great singer. My drummer isn’t that good of a singer! (laughs)
GD: The Foo Fighters are getting inducted into the Hall of Fame. That’s a nice segue because the last time I saw you, you were performing at the Rock Hall with Blue Coupe and a bunch of student musicians that were playing the cowbell. What a fun show. How did that come about?
AB: Dennis (Dunaway) is in the Hall of Fame and he knows all of those people. We were trying to promote our new record, which wasn’t even out yet. We were doing a mini tour of the midwest. He just said, we want to play. They said that’ great because they had the School of Rock kids playing there. We had already played with some School of Rock show about a year and a half earlier. That was lots of fun playing with the kids. I’ve been a teacher for thirty-one years after Blue Oyster Cult. It’s something that they will remember.
GD: Looking back on your career, when did you know that you wanted to become a musician?
AB: Well, the first memory that I have of anything is that I wanted to play music. That was the main thing. I didn’t consider becoming a professional musician. Maybe when I was playing with my cousin when I was twelve. I thought that would be amazing if I could hear my song on the radio. I didn’t really think that I could be a professional musician until I was in college. I met Don Rosier and we had a band. The band was basically terrible, but we got better. We got way better! Then all of a sudden we got $100 a night for a Friday and Saturday night. That was $100 a piece! Five Hundred dollars in 1966 was a lot. That was top dollar for anyone, so we thought we can do this! We dropped out of school, we tried to find some gigs in upstate New York. We failed, and we couldn’t get any money to sustain ourselves.
We had to go back to our parents without any money. Eventually Don met Sandy Pearlman. Sandy said I’ve got connections and I can get you gigs. Don wrote to me and told me this and I was like, “Ohh, we can do this! I want to be with you.” So I moved to New York and I stayed with Don’s parents for two weeks, and I painted their house! Don didn’t want to do it and neither did his brother. So I was elected to do it and I got to stay there on the couch for two weeks. Then we got a band house and I lived there. So it wasn’t until I was in college that I thought I could do this.
GD: Who were some of your musical influences growing up?
AB: The earliest records that I listened to were my mother’s records. She graduated from college and immediately started working for the FBI. She worked for a guy named Tulson who was second to J. Edgar (Hoover). She was important to the FBI as secretary, she wasn’t married, she was a single girl. So she had disposable income because they paid very well. So she bought records, Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman. I liked Bing Crosby’s voice, sometimes I try to sound like him, but I can’t really. I can’t get that deep bass, he was a much bigger guy. I love Gene Krupa, I loved how he sounded when he played with Benny Goodman and even after that. I would say Gene Krupa was my main influence as a child. That and I took piano lessons for about four years, starting seven. I was influenced by the classical composers. Beethoven, Bach, Brahms the big ones like that.
GD: Do you remember the first artist you saw in concert and how did that impact you?
AB: It was either the Rolling Stones or the Beach Boys. I can tell you where it was, it was at the Syracuse War Memorial. I saw them both of them in my senior year in 1965.
GD: Seeing the Beach Boys with all the original guys must have been something to see live. That’s pretty weird because I’m going to see Brian Wilson and Al Jardine tonight in Akron. Fifty-five years later and they are still doing it.
AB: Yeah, the weirdest thing is I love the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones are OK. But live, the Rolling Stones blew the Beach Boys off the stage. The Rolling Stones are just as good if not better than their records whereas the Beach Boys were not as good as their records.
GD: Like you said, you were in college and you formed Blue Oyster Cult, who came up with that name?
AB: That was Sandy Pearlman. We would try to come up with names, but it was like, I don’t know.
GD: Once you had some success, what was the one extravagant purchase you made?
AB: Hmmm, yeah. I think when Reaper was starting to be a hit. The album before that went gold, but you don’t get paid until after that. I was renting an apartment in Manhattan and I did not have a car. So I ended up buying a house in Connecticut and I bought two cars. One for my wife and one for myself.
GD: Very good! BOC had a lot of success throughout the ‘70s. What was one of the reasons why you left the band in the 80s?
AB: I didn’t really see it like that. They asked me to leave. They did it in a moment where I thought I was irreplaceable. That was a lesson for me. Nobody is irreplaceable. They felt that I was too forceful. I would get my way. But I didn’t see it as I was getting my way. I saw it that I was just trying to make it the best product as possible. Whether it was a live show or record, I tried to make it as good as I thought it could be and what it needed to be. Sometimes I think I was a little too critical of those guys. They would say, you can’t take criticism. I thought I was pretty good with it and took it to heart. That’s how I thought it should go. My brother thought I was quelling his vision. He was way more into the Beach Boys than I was, he wanted everything to sound like the Beach Boys. Even today.
If I knew then what I know now. I learned a lot from being a teacher. Working with people and a better way of giving criticism, I was too blunt, I think that I would get impatient and just blurt out stuff. If you are feeling impatient, you need to wait and then let them have it! (laughs) But I became a better person because of that.
GD: Things seemed to have come full circle because you played on their latest album and they are playing on your album as well. How did that come about?
AB: Yeah! I gave Eric and Don and Richie. I think it was Richie who asked me why didn’t you ask any of us BOC guys to play on your record? So I did and I had Richie record Eric in a hotel room on a day off. Then when I asked Don, he said sure. But I don’t want to sing on any song that I sang before, but I would like to do one nobody has heard before. So he said “Three Sisters” that will be the one. He ended up replacing everything but the drums and the piano.
GD: You recorded several albums throughout your career. How did you end up hooking up with Dennis Dunaway and forming Blue Coupe? Do you have anything planned with those guys?
AB: Yes, we have a delux package that we are working on. There are some extended mixes of songs that have already been released. We have four songs that were left over from the recording sessions that we never put out on a record. We have about ten song for th CD and we have DVD that goes along with it that has six videos, three which have never been seen.
GD: Wow, you have kept yourself busy!
AB: Yes, I have.
GD: I have to ask you, what is your feeling on people saying “More Cowbell” when they see you or when you play “Don’t Fear The Reaper?”
AB: It’s funny! I’ve seen it probably a hundred times and there’s always something a little different. It’s sort of like it happened, but I was the one like, “are you sure?” (laughs) I played it. The producer, David Lucas was the producer not Bruce Dickinson. Bruce Dickinson was a product manager but somehow got his name as a producer on one the repackaged albums. Not the Bruce Dickinson, Iron Maiden’s pilot!
GD: Well, if there is an open date, hopefully you will come to Cleveland, either Blue Coupe or solo, you know we love you here in Cleveland.
AB: The feeling is mutual. We love Cleveland!
GD: Albert, it’s been a pleasure talking with you today. I wish you nothing but success with the new album that’s coming out and we will tell everyone about it.
AB: Thank you!
Make sure you check out Albert Bouchard's new album, Imaginos II Bombs Over Germany.
If you would like to watch the Zoom interview, you can do so here.