Albert Bouchard By Lori Smerilson Carson December 9, 2020 Albert Bouchard Everyone should feel that they have lived their life completely with no stone left unturned. Legendary rock Drummer, Singer, Songwriter Albert Bouchard is a perfect role model in this regard and his latest solo album Re Imaginos is a testament to that. On November 6th, Bouchard through he and his brother Joe’s label RockHeart Records, released a long-awaited version of what was meant to be his first solo album Imaginos, which Blue Öyster Cult released in 1988 as their eleventh studio album. As an original founding member, Bouchard and BÖC made their permanent mark on the rock music world with hits like “Burnin’ for You” (#1 on the Billboard rock chart), “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” and “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll.” Catching up with this extraordinarily talented and extraordinarily busy musician, just as his first single “Black Telescope” was released, he revealed details of his LP Re Imaginos, how he has utilized his exceptional music abilities over the years and what fans can look forward to. SFL Music: Tell me about the new album Re Imaginos. What inspired you to do it? Albert Bouchard: The main motivation why I did it was to pay tribute to genius of Sandy Pearlman. So, it’s really a tribute to my friend and former manager and co-writer and all of that. This time around I wanted to do it in the way that could best represent what he envisioned for it. More so than the original record. So, that was my goal. SFL Music: Did you change the songs in any way? Bouchard: Some of them I did. Yes. As a matter of fact, there was maybe three or four songs that I didn’t change very much and that was the first two songs, “I Am The One You Warned Me Of” and “Del Rio Song.” Those, I was very happy with how they came out and I didn’t change them that much at all. Well, “Del Rio (Song), I just changed the key because when I tried to do it, it was like, ok my voice has gotten a little lower over the years. It’s what thirty-two years since the record came out? I’m in a different place now. I sing in a choir and all of this other stuff so, I had to change some of the songs just to make them fit my voice a little bit better, but some of the songs I changed around a lot. Especially, well, there was one song that didn’t make the original record called “Girl That Love Made Blind” and that song, what I found in the original recording, maybe this is why they didn’t put it on that record, but it kind of dragged along. It was a very slow tempo and certain parts of the song like the ending sounded amazing, but a lot of it, you know it made the song really long and it didn’t move along quite the way it should have. So, I changed that. I took out all the synthesizers and put in all acoustic instruments and I found that it sounded more romantic, which is kind of part of the goal, was to make it scary and romantic at the same time. Then the song that was going to go next to that was “Siege And Investiture (Of Baron Von Frankenstein’s Castle At Weisseria).” It was actually going to precede “Girl That Love Made Blind” and so that song I wanted to make that also sexy and romantic, but the original version was this like bombastic, heavy metal workout, and so I said, well it sounds more like a guy thing than something that would be romantic. So, I changed it to like a tango rhythm and told all the other musicians that I want it to sound like a tango. Give me a tango line on that violin. Give me a tango on that guitar. So, that the whole song has this kind of Latin feel to it which never existed before. “Black Telescope,” I wanted that to be less of a rock and roll piece and more like an Irish jig or a sea ferry chanty. You know, that kind of feel. First, I put it in ¾ time and it made it too slow. So, then I just made it like a shuffle. My sister plays cello. She plays Irish reels on the cello. Celtic reels. So, that’s what I was thinking of. Those songs that my sister likes to play, and so that’s how that one came out. Those were the two that were very different in terms of like incorporating some of my world music influences and you know, I was a music teacher for thirty years, so I would teach all kinds of music especially Spanish music because a lot of my students were of a Latin-American origin. They would always want me to play bachata and of course the one bachata song you have to play is “Nereyda” (he chuckled). So, trying to incorporate those kinds of elements in there, but also just trying to make it more like nursery rhyme, more friendly. You know, not assaulting your senses, but something that you could listen to while you’re making dinner or while you relaxing after dinner. Having a glass of wine. It’s not going to intrude too much onto your conversation, but it’s going to be there and you’re going to go, that’s nice music. That’s what I wanted. I wanted something like that or even when you’re driving really fast and there’s nobody on the road. It’s great (he laughed). Just speaking from experience. It’s great to put that on and you’re just sailing a long in your nice car and there’s no traffic. That’s when it’s good. SFL Music: I saw the video for “Black Telescope.” Is that a handmade boat in the video? Bouchard: Well, there’s three boats actually. The first one was made by my son who directed the video, Ace. Then he made a smaller one. I’m like, that doesn’t look anything like it, and he’s like well. I said, how about I help you with this. He said, ok. So, he let me make the boats. I made two boats for him. One that was about, I don’t know,16 inches long and the other that was about 4 inches long. Little tiny boat, and I tried to make them look exactly the same and actually, you kind of can almost think that they are the same. He made a couple different light houses, and he made the island, and he made the water out of cardboard. He made the fish, but I made the first fish. The big fish. There’s several of those, and he made the squid, and we did all of that. Originally, we weren’t going to try to use any green screen because that’s what Blue Öyster Cult did. He’s like, ah yeah, you know, I just want to do it like really homemade looking. Not slick at all. So, after we got it done, I said, where did you get the idea to make everything out of cardboard? He’s like, you remember that movie Be Kind Rewind (2008) with Jack Black and Mos Def? I don’t know if you remember that, but it’s a great movie. It’s one of those great forgotten Jack Black movies because it’s all about VHS and how Jack Black is a crazy guy who the power transformer blows up and magnetizes him and he walks in the store and erases all the tapes (he laughed). Then they have to recreate the things. SFL Music: Oh yeah, That’s right. Bouchard: Right, and then they get really popular. It’s a convoluted story. So, when he told me that, I had to watch it. I’m like, oh yeah. You know, I keep thinking that School of Rock is the only great Jack Black movie, but he’s had some good ones. Some really good ones. SFL Music: True. “Black Telescope” was not on the original album, correct? Bouchard: Right. SFL Music: What inspired you to write that song? Bouchard: That song was written right around the time that we were making our first record. As a matter of fact, I think that that was the last song that we recorded, and the last song that we wrote, and it just popped up all of the sudden. Sandy came up with these lyrics, and I had an idea for a guitar part. I had an idea for a hook actually, and then Donald (Roeser, “Buck Dharma”) came up with the guitar part. It ended up being all of us writing it together, but it was on the first Blue Öyster Cult record. Ok, so how it worked was, I was getting a solo record deal when I left Blue Öyster Cult. Sandy Pearlman got me a solo record deal for Imaginos and Imaginos, it was supposed to be a three-record set. So, the first one was going to be called Imaginos. The second one was going to be called Bombs Over Germany and the third one was going to be called The Mutant Reformation. Now, when we put out the first one, it didn’t do very well. It sold terribly actually. The only record that sold less than that was the very first Blue Öyster Cult record. In the beginning “Workshop of the Telescopes” was supposed to be the first song on Bombs Over Germany, but after I got most of the songs done for this record, I started working on the next one and I realized, hey this would sound better on the Imaginos than on Bombs Over Germany. You know, it’s got the sea ferrying thing and it doesn’t sound that way on the Blue Öyster Cult version because, well, it’s sort of dense and muscled and kind of weird sounding and strange and that’s cool, but you didn’t get a real feel for the lyrics or the story or even where this thing would happen. Of course, if you put it in a Celtic reel and a sea shanty or something like that, and all of the sudden it makes sense. You put a ships bell in there and also toms toms, and how I got that was Bear Grylls. I don’t know if you’ve seen Outlander series, but the music in that is great. I was kind of trying to make it sound like Outlander and really put you into a place, and I think I was successful and the video just reinforces that. SFL Music: Yeah, it’s very cool and how you interjected that with the song, I think it came out perfect. You are so creative and imaginative. What would you say inspires your writing, your music? Bouchard: Everything. Everything inspires me although, I have to say, I get a lot of my ideas when I’m exercising for some reason. You know, I like to run. I run every other day. I just did the marathon last November and (he laughed) then I didn’t run for a month because I was so sore and I lost a nail. I lost my big toe nail. It was the first marathon I had done in twenty-two years. So, I tried to prepare, but you know a long time has gone by and I can’t do what I used to do. At least not right away. I might have to build up for it. I did stop running for a while, twenty-two years ago when I was actually going to college and getting two masters at the same time. I was in City College (The City College of New York) and Fordham University. I didn’t have time to run and so I stopped running. I gained weight. I just got distracted by other stuff and I would run once in a while, but not that much, and then I injured myself in 2008 and I couldn’t run for over a year. Then I started getting back to it, and well actually, then in 2015, I got cancer and had to have an operation and chemo and hormone shots for a couple of years after that, so I really wasn’t out of the woods until 2018. Then I said, you know what? I’m going to run in the marathon next year. So, I started running a little. I tried to get into the 2018 marathon even though I wasn’t ready and you know, they have a lottery and I didn’t make it. In the old days, I used to be friends with Fred Lebow and I would just ask Fred. Hey Fred, put me in the marathon. He’d go, ok man. SFL Music: This is the New York City? Bouchard: Yes, The New York Marathon. This one that I ran last year was my twelfth New York City Marathon and my fifteenth overall. I ran one Boston in 1989, I guess. 1990 that’s what it was. That’s right. I’m picturing the medal now in my head, but I get a lot of my ideas. My first song that I ever wrote, I was riding my bike back from school when I was about twelve years old, I guess. I used to ride my bike to school. We lived about three miles outside of town, so it was nice little ride for a kid. I didn’t like the bus because the kids would always misbehave and tease me and stuff so, I would ride my bike and have my own little fantasy world (he laughed). Songs would come to me, you know? That still is pretty much how it happens. I mean, now I’m better at like, ok. We’re going to write a song. For instance, part of what inspired me to even attempt to do this three-part series of Imaginos is that I was involved with this guy from San Francisco whose name Don Falcone and he has like a collective. They call it Spirits Burning and it’s like thirty people or more that contribute to his albums that he creates, and they’re mostly instrumental. A few years ago, he contacted me and said, listen I’ve gotten to be friends with Michael Moorcock, the Sci-Fi writer and I want to have Spirits Burning put out three records that are going to be of corresponding to his (The) Dancers at the End of Time trilogy (published in 1981). That’s a trilogy of books that he wrote. The first one was An Alien Heat (originally published in 1972). The second’s The Hollow Lands (originally published in 1974) and the third one’s called The End of All Songs (originally published in 1976). So, we did the Alien Heat. I started getting some of the guys in Blue Öyster Cult involved. Got Richie Castellano and Don “Buck Dharma” to sing and play on a few songs there, and then last year before Blue Coupe, and before Re-Imaginos, I recorded songs for the second record The Hollow Lands, and one of the songs I told Richie Castellano that I wanted to write with him. So, he came over to my house and I didn’t have any inspiration at all. He didn’t really have any inspiration, but he said, well, just tell me the story. What are we supposed to be talking about in this song? So, I gave him a synopsis of the chapter. What happened there, and we just sat down and wrote it. It was like four hours of working on lyrics. Michael Moorcock had some great lyrics, but Richie wanted to have a certain rhyme scheme and the whole thing. I mean, it took a half an hour to do the demo and It came out great! It’s a terrific thing. So, I’ve gotten better at like, ok sitting down, I don’t have inspiration, but I’m just gonna do something. Have a goal in mind. You know, as long as you have a goal, you can do it anyway you want. If you can say, I’m going to write a song like this and then you do it, or I’m gonna write a song based upon this book or this movie or anything like that. I worked for years with a very close friend, his name is Mark Barkan and he was a songwriter (also Musical Director for The Banana Splits Adventure Hour T.V. show). He would write songs for Elvis (Presley). He was twelve years older than me. I say was because he died of Covid (-19) in May. SFL Music: Oh, I’m so sorry. Bouchard: Terrible, yeah. The first person I knew that actually died of Covid. The first of a few, so it’s been a bad year for that. A terrible year. Anyway, but he wrote, he didn’t write in the Brill building, it was like 2530 Broadway and all the publishing companies had offices there and they would have little rooms that you could have your writers come in and write a song. Originally, he worked there for Leiber & Stoller (Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller). Then he worked for Don Kirshner and all these other people that had publishing companies. So, he was a really, sit down, gonna write a song. That’s it, and so, really taught me a kind of discipline with writing that I think you know, it stuck with me. Even when I’m not writing with him, I can just sit down and write something. You give me an assignment; I can do it. SFL Music: Well, you’ve written for 67 albums, correct? Bouchard: Yeah. There’s a lot of them. I mean, this year is gonna be great because I’ve got Re Imaginos. Well, Eleven Even (Blue Coupe) came out last year, but we’re actually reissuing it in December. So, we have Blue Öyster Cult, Eleven Even, Re Imaginos and The Hollow Lands all coming out this year. So, four records that I’m on. I think that’s as many as I’ve had in any year, but there have been other years when I had four records. You know, I’ve been putting out records since, my first recording in ’68 with Tom Paxton, The Things I Notice Now (LP). So, that was the very first one. I’ve been doing it for a long time like you said. I could count on one hand the years that I haven’t put out a record. I’ve done a lot, I guess. You know, it’s funny. People always say, oh, Blue Öyster Cult takes twenty years to do a record (he laughed), but I don’t know. I’ve always been like that. Even when I was in Blue Öyster Cult. Everybody would come in with one or two songs for the next record and I’d come in with twenty. SFL Music: Oh Wow! Bouchard: It was like overwhelming. What I know now is that it probably would have been better if I didn’t show them all twenty songs. I mean, it might have made them feel bad or that I was trying to take over the band or whatever, but, ah, well. SFL Music: How many instruments do you play besides drums? Bouchard: Well, I would try to play any instrument really, but (he laughed) I’ve played Oboe and Bassoon, the double reeds, but I’m pretty bad at it. I can play alto saxophone and soprano saxophone, very passable. I could play a sax solo and you might not know that I was a total amateur. I didn’t really want sax on this record. That’s too jazzy. Maybe on Bombs Over Germany I’ll play some sax. SFL Music: Are there horns on “Black Telescope?” It sounds like there are. Bouchard: Yes. My brother Joe played the trumpet. He played like a lead, but he also played a horn section. Like four horns. He played a flugelhorn and a pocket trumpet and a couple other regular trumpets. Yeah, he did a really nice job on that. That was an afterthought. I wanted him to play on the song “Imaginos” because I wanted that song to have like a spaghetti western feel you know, like the Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass kind of thing. Which he did. He did exactly what I wanted him to do, but then “Black Telescope” I said, hey, would you like to do something on that? Well he was saying to me because I would play him all the demos as I was working them up. So, he said, I don’t know about “Black Telescope.” It needs something. I said well, maybe you want to put some trumpet on that too, and he goes, sure, and yeah, he knocked it out of the park. It’s a great, great part. He duplicates Donald “Buck Dharma’s” guitar solo in the middle part which is pretty amazing, and then he played this whole horn section part at the end which really makes the song. It starts out fairly humble, and then it gets bigger and bigger as it goes along. SFL Music: When I interviewed Joe, he told me you guys had a band when you were young? You played with your cousins and you cleared out the barn to have barn dances? Bouchard: Oh yeah, yeah. The barn dances! Yeah. SFL Music: He has a memory of playing on your dad’s show. Do you have any childhood memories that stand out today? Bouchard: Oh yeah, lots of them. I mean, we played all over the place. We started, he was ten and I was twelve. So, we were not even in high school yet. Our first gig was, I talked the Boy Scout, the scoutmaster into letting us play for this Boy Scout dance at the Knights of Columbus Hall and that was a success. Then we played like two more dances, like two months later we played another dance at the Knights of Columbus for the Boy Scouts, and then that spring we played another one. So, we ended up playing there three times, and then we started playing, Clayton New York is a big tourist area in upstate New York. It’s right on the Saint Lawrence River on the boarder of Canada, so every year in the summertime, the population swells to several times the size of the town. There’s only a thousand people in the town. It goes up to about fifteen thousand or so. There’s all these cottages all up and down on every boat that came into the town, and so we would go and play for the people that were staying in the cottages. We weren’t very loud. We’d just play instrumental music. People liked it. They would come up and ask us to play certain songs. So, we would do that, and that band, the very first gig. The first Boy Scout gig that we did, Joe played guitar, trumpet and organ. He played all three, you know, one at a time. We did “Wonderland by Night” which was a Bert Kaempfert song. It was a big hit at the time in 1959, and so we’d play that, and Joe would play the trumpet part. Of course, Bert Kaempfert was the guy that first recorded The Beatles. So, flash forward ten years or so. Anyway, so we did that, and then by the time we were playing for the cottages, the organ and the trumpet were gone and it was just two guitars. Well three guitars and drums, and one guy would play lead guitar. Joe would just play rhythm, but another guy would play lead guitar and bass at the same time. Yeah, he was a very good musician. Eventually became the bass player. Yeah, we had the best bass player around and he’s now retired from music. Then for a while we were doing Regal Tones. The name of the band was The Regal Tones. We’d do a Regal Tones reunion, a couple of those which were fantastic because you know, I’d gone to some high school reunions and it’s always good to see your old friends, even if you don’t recognize them because they look so old now (he chuckled). You’re probably too young to know what I’m talking about. SFL Music: I’ve been listening to you guys (Blue Öyster Cult) for a while. That’s funny. Bouchard: A lot of times I’d go to these reunions and not see the people I wanted to see because I wasn’t just friendly with the kids in my class. I was friendly with all the kids in the school, and so this was a better deal because then it was all the people that I knew. We’d all come you know, all together, so we’d get like about a thousand people there. Like two-thirds of the town would show up (he laughed). We’d be all adults and they’d have their children. It was very, very cool, but we played street fairs. We played the county fair and the block parties. All kinds of stuff. We played little clubs. We played like the local bar. We played fraternity parties in Potsdam, in Syracuse. We played all over, and before I got my license my dad had, you know I have six siblings, so there was seven of us, and so he had a Volkswagen bus to drive the family around in. We would put all our gear in the Volkswagen bus and my dad would drive us to the gigs, and every time we’d come back, we’d stop at this restaurant that was going back on the main road, going back into the town right before we get home. We’d stop at this place called The Seaway Inn and we would always get the same thing. Hot turkey sandwiches and a vanilla shake. It was like a white meal (he laughed). You’d go home and pass out. SFL Music: That’s a great memory! What advice would you give to up and coming bands about getting into the industry and having longevity? What would you recommend? Bouchard: Well I really believe that, I mean you can create a masterpiece in your bedroom. That is completely possible in this day and age with the technology that we have. It’s pretty amazing, but for every Billie Eilish, there’s tens of thousands of people that never do anything. What I do know is that if you get out there and play for people and do your thing in front of other people, you will know if it’s working or not. No matter what the reaction is. They can go crazy and you’ll still know it’s not right. Or they can not react, and you’ll know it is right. There’s just something that happens inside you when you’re presenting things to other people that you know it’s really true. It’s something that’s true in your heart, and if it’s true in your heart, it’s going to get out there and people will discover you. So, that’s what I would say. Play live, you know. You can’t do it now, but well, you could do live stream, but I don’t know if that’s the same thing. I don’t really get the same feeling from live stream. Maybe it’s just because I’m so used to playing out and playing gigs. Playing in front of people live, but there’s something about that, that makes everything better. You get a clearer understanding of what you’re doing. So, that’s my advice. SFL Music: That’s very good advice. What got you into teaching? I am sure you were an amazing teacher. Bouchard: Not at first. You know, just like anything that you try to master. There’s little tricks that you need to have up your sleeve. After thirty years, I think I knew all of them. So, it was time to move on, but I did learn a lot from the students. I got into it because I had instituted this lawsuit with Blue Öyster Cult and Columbia Records about them releasing Imaginos thing as a Blue Öyster Cult record. Even though I had agreed to it verbally, but I never agreed to it formally, and there was a caveat that I had put on it that they didn’t honor. So, I sued them, and this lawsuit went on for several years, and while I was suing them, they stopped giving me my royalties. They stopped all payments and I had spent all my money on producing the record. The original Imaginos record. I had spent all my savings on it thinking that well, this is what I have to do because I’ve got to get this out here so as I can go out and play some gigs. Then they put it out and they didn’t want me to play with them, and so I had to prove to them that they couldn’t push me around like that. Take advantage, and so I sued them and they stop paying and then I needed money. So, at first, I was a cab driver until I got robbed. Well actually, even after I got robbed, I still continued to work, but it was harder after that because I was like kind of ok, I’m not going to Brooklyn anymore (he laughed), and then you get into hassles. Kids try to flag you down and they’re trying to rip you off. It got to me after a while and not only that, but the hours were brutal. It was like twelve-hour shifts and there’s no other way to do it. You have to drive for twelve hours to make any money because the first six hours you’re paying your rent for a cab and your gas. So, I needed money, I had no money. I had to have a job, so my friend who was teaching in the school said, well you should be a teacher. It’s a lot easier. It’s only six hours a day, ha ha, he says (he laughed). Well I dropped out of college, so I couldn’t be a teacher right away. I had to finish my college degree, but in New York City they pay you to go school if you’re what they call a para professional, which is what I was. I was like a teacher’s aide. I did that for three years, but immediately from the first day, I liked the gig. I liked the job. You know, you have these kids who, they were being raised by their grandparents, their grandmother basically because a lot of them didn’t have any men in their lives. Their parents were, who knows where they were, but and they would be living in a homeless shelter or something like that and they would come in. They’d go, yo Al! What’s up? I’d be like, oh my God! This is just too much, you know, that you could have this optimism of youth in the face of just terrible circumstances. I really liked that. It was such a refreshing change from the music business where you’d come into the gig and your roadie would say, yo, this gig is fucked. You’re like, oh no. Not again! SFL Music: You did very well. You were on Fox 5 News for your music teaching and in 2016 you were honored by President Obama for Outstanding Educator? Bouchard: Yeah! That was really cool! Well, I belonged to this organization for basically high school music teachers, but it could be any kind of music teacher. Really, I did it because I was getting a lot of flak from the administration of the school like, where’s your curriculum at? Where’s this and that? You know, I’m just making it up as I go along. Maybe I should get some professional advice on how to do this. So, I joined the society and started contributing to them, and they had this thing called The One Note Foundation where they give money to a needy school. 20th Century Fox was the sponsor of this award and they wanted to have a school in Manhattan that they could go and film the presentation of the award for music, for a music teacher. So, they contacted me and I wrote back to them, and they asked me for my background and I told them who I was, and they were like, oh wow! This is perfect! This is great! You’re only 70 blocks away from the studio, so we can just send a truck up there and we’ll present you the thing and we’ll interview you and hey, is It ok if we asked about the cowbell? I said sure. I said, can my kids perform? They said, yeah. So, I had a couple of my kids. Some of the more talented guys and girls. Two guys and one girl and myself. The four of us did a thing for Fox News, it was on the local news, and the girl ended up getting a recording contract with Interscope (Records). My friend Jimmy Lovine. Without any help from me. I mean, she did get help from one of my students. Well he never graduated, but he dropped out to become a musician, and he helped her get the deal with Interscope (Records). His name is Rakim Mayers and he also goes by A$AP Rocky. I don’t know if you know A$AP Rocky. He got arrested in Sweden and Trump had to bail him out or something. Remember that? SFL Music: Yes. Bouchard: He was a little bit of a knucklehead, but he never got in any trouble in school, ever. He was very well behaved. Like I say, he didn’t graduate. Well he got a GED. General Education. You know, he took a test. He was very smart. Still is. SFL Music: Was there anything that you wanted fans to know? Any singles that will be coming out soon? Any videos? Bouchard: Yes, yes. Actually the next single is going to be called “Blue Oyster Cult” It is coming out a week from this Friday October 23rd and we were supposed to have a video, but we were supposed to have the “Black Telescope” video when the single came out, but we didn’t have it ready yet and just like Blue Öyster Cult was supposed to have, “That Was Me” video and it just wasn’t ready. I mean, editing a video can be tedious and painstaking and if you don’t have the footage, you just got to go back and keep shooting (he laughed). We’re shooting the video this weekend for that. So, that’s going to be the next one. (update – the video for “Blue Oyster Cult” came out November 6th as well as Re Imaginos). SFL Music: Was there anything else fans can look forward to? Bouchard: Yeah. They can look forward to this record. They can look forward to the next one because we’re already starting to talk about who’s going to play on it and how we’re going to do it, but first we have to get this one out. Oh, the other thing is that by the 17th of November, I’m going to try and do a live stream if I’m ready. I’ll have it on Facebook and YouTube and my website (albertbouchard.net). If it doesn’t happen then, it will happen the next month, December. The whole album (Re Imaginos) in order. We’ve actually been practicing, so hopefully we’ll be ready. SFL Music: Will Joe be playing? Who will be playing? Bouchard: It’s going to be at least myself and David Hirschberg, bass player. At least the two of us and then maybe we’ll have somebody else come in. So, SFL Music readers, enjoy Re Imaginos and keep your eyes open for what’s coming next! Share It!