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Joe Bouchard

Memories of hearing and chanting “BÖC, BÖC” while waiting for Blue Öyster Cult to perform one last memorable song, came rushing back when the news that founding member Joe Bouchard was releasing his sixth solo album, STRANGE LEGENDS on July 31st. This extraordinary, talented musician who along with former bandmates Eric Bloom, Buck Dharma, Allen Lanier and his brother Albert Bouchard, gave the rock and roll industry legendary classic songs like “Burnin’ for You,” “Godzilla” and “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.”

Bouchard’s outstanding, creative ability is still going strong, as apparent of his first single “Forget About Love.” Catching up with him just prior to the release of his latest LP (and second single “She’s a Legend”), he revealed some details of these new songs and the album, some amazing memories that have fed into his career and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: Tell me about the new solo album STRANGE LEGENDS. This is exciting.

Joe Bouchard: Yes, It’s very exciting. I’m excited myself. You know, I haven’t really tallied out how many recordings I’ve done, but it’s definitely, I don’t know, maybe 10,20,30.40, (he laughed).

SFL Music: You have several solos albums on top of everything else.

Bouchard: Yeah, different groups, and of course the Blue Öyster Cult catalogue is always great. Did that. Fourteen albums with Columbia for those recordings. Yeah, and this is the best one I ever put out, so it’s always good.

SFL Music: What was the inspiration for this album?

Bouchard: Well, I love making music and I love writing new songs. I wrote about four of these songs and then four written by my longtime friend John Cook who I grew up with. He was our next-door neighbor, and then two of them I wrote with a writer John Shirley who writes science fiction books. So, it’s a good mix of songs. I just felt it was time because the production came together really good. I just love the way it feels, the whole album as a whole. I just got copies of the CD yesterday, and I put it on the CD player and it was like wow! This is better than I even thought! I think I’m getting better as a producer because I do self-production on these solo albums, and I think I’m getting a little bit more precise of what I want, and hopefully everybody will feel that way too. I’ve gotten great response. Everybody whose heard it is really impressed. Did you get a chance to hear it?

SFL Music: I heard “Forget About Love.”

Bouchard: Yes. The single.

SFL Music: It’s awesome! I really like the bluesy, rock sound it has.

Bouchard: Thank you, Yeah, yeah.

SFL Music: You’re welcome. What inspired that?

Bouchard: Well, that was written by my next-door neighbor John Cook. Actually, it’s the second time I’ve put it out. I put it out six years ago in 2014, and when I did, it wasn’t a single or anything, but my friend John said, hey, you know, you should really work on that song. That is a great song. A lot of people relate to that particular theme to that song, and I think he was right because it sounds great and it’s doing great business. It’s being played all over the world. It’s being streamed world-wide. So, that’s amazing to me. It’s a song that really spoke to me. When I first did it the first time, probably back in 2013, I was going through a divorce. It was sad. It wasn’t as bad as it’s made out to be in the song, but I think that that’s sort of a theme that is universal. Everybody has a broken heart at one time or another and situations that don’t work out, and it has some funny lines in it too. I get a kick out of those, every time I sing the song. Every time I look on the song. It gives me a little chuckle. Like, oh yeah, forget about love, (he laughed)!

SFL Music: It’s good, I like it. You have a second song coming out the 17th?

Bouchard: Which is two weeks from tomorrow by the way, and it’s a song that’s called “She’s a Legend.” This is one that I co-wrote with my friend John Shirley the science fiction writer. He sent me an email maybe two years ago, and he had heard one of my other records, and he said I’m a fan, and I said, wow that’s great! Send me some lyrics. So, the next day he sends me this song “She’s a Legend” and I read it and I said, wow! This is a great song, and it’s more in the sort of dark Blue Öyster Cult style. A lot of people say, oh, you sound just like Blue Öyster Cult. Well, I should! I was there when this was invented, but I really don’t try to imitate my old band. It just comes natural to me. So, anyway, “She’s a Legend” is a great song. It’s got a great chorus and it’s all about a female serial killer, (he chuckled). A female serial killer who gets into all kinds of mayhem, and she’s got all these powers. Almost like a cult figure, and luckily the guy in the song, he falls for this woman and he knows how bad she is, but he falls for her anyway, but he gets away in the end. So, there is a happy ending to the song. I’m working on the video for that now.

SFL Music: So, the video will be coming out soon?

Bouchard: Yeah. There’ll be a lyric video and also there’ll be an official video with myself singing the song, and hopefully it will do the song justice.

SFL Music: This will be out in August?

Bouchard: The actual album comes out the 31st (of July) of this month. So, two weeks after the next single will be the actual album release, and then I’ll have more singles coming out probably in August and September. I think this album has a lot of good visuals to it and I sort of dabbled in video production. I do my own videos and it’s a lot of work. It’s more work than actually recording the songs to do video, but I love that part of the process. Making the videos to go with the song.

SFL Music: What inspires you to write your music?

Bouchard: Well, it used to be because we had a show to do. We’d be going out to a show, so we wanted something to do for the fans. Right now, where all our live shows are on hold as is most bands. It’s frustrating. I mean, it’s good because there’s sort of a reset and you actually get time to work on videos and a time to like, think of new songs and new ideas that you want to make into songs. So, I think when live concerts come back, it’s going to be great because people are going to be so ready to buy tickets to go see a show. To sit next to each other and sing at the top of your lungs. I miss that. That’s the thing I miss the most is everybody singing along with the songs. I mean, we’re looking into doing some drive-in shows. It’ll be like a little drive in movie, but it will be a rock show, and it sounds like a lot of fun. I used to go to the drive-in. I loved it, but when real shows come back, I think it’s going to be great. We will be ready. Myself, my brother, we have a band called the Bouchard Brothers where we do the hits of Blue Öyster Cult and also do some of the B track, and then we tell the stories behind those songs, and that’s a lot of fun to do so, we’re looking forward to that.

SFL Music: That’ll be really cool. I remember seeing your concerts and whenever you’d play “Godzilla” the big blow up Godzilla would come out. That was awesome, just waiting for that!

Bouchard: Oh yeah. Giant Godzilla would come down the aisle. Unbelievable!

SFL Music: Your shows were always amazing so, looking forward to some new ones. Now, you grew up on a farm and your dad worked for a T.V station or radio station?

Bouchard: Yes, both. Both a radio and T.V. station. When I was a little kid, I’d hang out at the radio station or I’d go to the T.V. station and watch the cartoon shows. We actually played on one of the cartoon shows. It’s in the cartoon. I was about eleven years old. It happened to be a rainy day, so everybody that would be out playing was watching T.V. that day, and everybody in town saw me play on The Kitties Carnival cartoon show, (he laughed).

SFL Music: That’s great!

Bouchard: Yeah, we were hooked on playing music on the farm and having our little band. We were like rock stars. We were like rock stars even before we were rock stars, (he chuckled).

SFL Music: Why did you chose to play bass or guitar? You also play piano?

Bouchard: I bill myself these days as a multi-instrumentalist because I don’t like to be pigeon holed into one thing or another. I played a lot of guitar. I was a piano major in college, was my major instrument, and then I found a band that I wanted to join and I said, boy that’s a great band. I talked to the bass player from the band, he says, I’m leaving. I said, whoa. That’s a sign. So, for two years, before Blue Öyster Cult, I played in a sort of a Latin-jazz band, and they were so much fun. Really good musicians. I mean really good. So, that was my experience with playing bass, and then two years later, my brother (Albert Bouchard) calls me up and he was in New York and he says, we need a bass player. Things are not working out with our old bass player, so we need you to come to New York right away because we’re going to go on tour with the Led Zeppelin, and I was so excited. I said, yeah, this is what I wanted to do. So, I joined the band. That was September of 1970, but no shows! I said, What? He said, no, Led Zeppelin are going to go out, but they’re not going to have any opening acts. Oh, damn. So, I said, ok, but we’re gonna play shows anyway. Whatever we have to do, and it was good because I had known the band that became Blue Öyster Cult. I had known them for two or three years before that. I had jammed with them during my college breaks, so it was an easy fit. We didn’t have to reinvent the wheel when I joined the band. I knew how my brother played the drums. So, it was easy for me to like work around you know, what he was doing and make the band even more powerful sounding. Yeah, it was a lucky break for me. End up in a band that we got a record deal within one year, we signed with Columbia. That was the start of Blue Öyster Cult’s long, long run.

SFL Music: You were professionally trained in music?

Bouchard: Yeah, I was the only one in Blue Öyster Cult that actually had a degree in music. My brother does now, but back then it was like, you know, I didn’t want to do too many things by the book. I figured; I’m gonna fit in with these guys that are sort of like street musicians and not be too academic, you know? I think it worked out. When I joined the band I said, this will be great if it lasts for three years, and now we’re talking about four or five decades, and the music just keeps going. It’s unbelievable, but we always tried to do the best work we could.

SFL Music: How did the music writing come about?

Bouchard: Well, when I was in high school, my brother and I, we wrote a couple of songs. One of songs was a song that we won the Battle of The Bands with. It’s just like School of Rock. You know the movie School of Rock?

SFL Music: Yes.

Bouchard: Well, we were the winners of the Battle of the Bands at the local theater. So, I guess we had a little bit of idea what we were going to do, and then when I joined Blue Öyster Cult or the band that became Blue Öyster Cult, it was like we had a great team of writers. The five guys in the band, our manager, his best friend Richard Meltzer. Patti Smith came in and wrote songs with us. There was other people, David Roter, and they all helped us, and we had this sort of writing team that every year, we were going to be doing a new album. So, there was always demand for more songs and it was competitive. It was very competitive like which songs were going to make the album. I was lucky that over twenty of my songs got on albums. I sang some of them. “Hot Rails to Hell” is one of my iconic songs in the catalogue and there are a few others. Just put out an acoustic version of a song I wrote called “Morning Final.” It was on our platinum album and that sounded great. I didn’t play that song for many years. I’m really sort of appreciating it more now. I’m very lucky. There was just a demand for more songs. Every year. What are we going to do next? Ah!

SFL Music: That was in Watertown?

Bouchard: Yeah, I was born in Watertown. We had a farm up on the Saint Lawrence River and seems like I’m always doing river songs, (he laughed). Songs that had a lot of water, but moving from a small town to the big city was really bizarre. I was so naive and I sort of fed on that kind of, you know, that sort of New York. What was going on in New York in the 70’s was pretty scary, so a lot of that sort of scaredness ends up in the sound of the early Blue Öyster Cult songs.

SFL Music: What was scary? I was there in the 80’s, but what was going on in the 70’s? What did I miss?

Bouchard: Oh, you know, taking the subway. Oh my God! That was scary. I’m just a little kid from a farm upstate. What am I doing here? But, you know, we got through it all. It wasn’t that bad and we made a lot of friends along the way. It was all good.

SFL Music: What would you say is the secret to your success?

Bouchard: I don’t know. Well, what kept us going is that we were just young and had so much energy and we were just excited. I was never as excited as when we did our first album. I couldn’t believe we were actually doing an album for Columbia Records, and every day I felt like this is the best day of my life.

SFL Music: What would you recommend for up and coming musicians?

Bouchard: You know, you don’t choose music. Music will choose you if you’re lucky enough. I remember when I was in high school, I knew I wanted to have a music career because the happiest people in the town where I grew up, were the people who played music. It was just something about it. The music teachers and the people that played music and dance bands, they were having the best times of their lives, and it’s amazing! I just remember that feeling, and I just knew that I was going to be doing this. Before long, I was definitely going to be doing this, and we’re still talking about it.

SFL Music: You also wrote songs books like Rock Guitar for Beginners.

Bouchard: After I left Blue Öyster Cult, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I worked in record production for a couple of years, quite unsuccessfully. Then I said, well, I’ve got this degree in music. I could teach in a school. So, I worked as a teacher in some private school up here in New England and that was a lot of fun, but after eight years of doing that I said, it’s time for a change. So, I got a job working in a publishing company and it was great because I learned all about the book business and we did educational music books. So, I wrote about seven books. One of the most popular is Rock Guitar for Beginners, but I also wrote three Piano Books I wrote a couple of bass books and I did some video teaching that was done on VHS. Remember VHS?

SFL Music: Yes.

Bouchard: My deal on VHS wasn’t very good, but then they started making CD’s and DVD’s and the deal all of the sudden got really good. So, it was a good thing, but I got tired of being in an office every day and after three years of that, I said, I’m moving on, and I got a song covered by Metallica, and that changed my life. I co-wrote a song called “Astronomy” for Blue Öyster Cult and it never was a single, but it was a very popular song with the fans. The performance we did was great, but in 1997 while I’m working at the publishing company, I find out that Metallica is going to cover my song “Astronomy.” I said, wow! So, I quite my day job, (he laughed). I always wanted to be able to say that. So, I quite my day job, and luckily, they sold a lot of CD’s of the song “Astronomy.” It was on an album called Garage Inc., but it was also sort of very encouraging that I should get back and start writing songs again, and that’s what I’ve done since 2000 pretty much, is concentrated on writing songs. I wrote some songs with Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople. He was a neighbor and very inspiring in the sort of songwriting world, and been putting out solo albums since about 2009 I believe, and it’s a lot of fun.

SFL Music: Does this new album (STRANGE LEGENDS) have a theme?

Bouchard: Well, I say it’s strange because there’s a song called “Strangely in Love” and then there’s “She’s a Legend” so there’s legend there. So, I put the two together and I got STRANGE LEGENDS, and then I’m thinking well, I’ve been around a lot. I’ve got a lot of strange legends, (he laughed). Kind of the theme of that is, how taken into account all my experiences and then throw that into an album. You never know what you’re going to find, but it’s definitely going to be fun.

SFL Music: Was there anything else you want fans to know? There are some videos coming out?

Bouchard: Yeah, we have some videos coming out. We did actually, a bunch of charity videos. When the lock down first happened, we got a lot of requests for charity videos, so there’s about a dozen different videos floating around the internet and those are a lot of fun to do. My brother was quarantined in his apartment in New York and I was quarantined in my house in Connecticut, but we still wanted to make music. So, he got the video camera out and did some videos and we shared files and got things back and forth and came out with some really nice videos. So, those are coming out. We started our own record label called RockHeart Records. My album is the first album that’s coming out on RockHeart Records and his album, he has a solo album (RE IMAGINOS) that’ll be coming out in October and that is going to be really good. I’ve heard a lot of it and it sounds fantastic. So, that will be the second album, and then we’re planning other albums that will come out in 2021. So, it was time. We signed with a manager in California. He said, you guys should have your own record label. You’re still very, very creative. You’ve got a lot of things to say. You need a platform for you to show the fans how creative you are. So, we started our own record label and I’m amazed. You know, who would’ve believed, but so far, it’s working out great. I mean, it took care of you to get me to call you.

SFL Music: That’s right and I’m grateful for that.

Bouchard: I don’t know if we ever talked before,

SFL Music: No.

Bouchard: but it’s great talking now. You’re down in Florida?

SFL Music: Yes.

Bouchard: I love that part of the world. Fantastic. We definitely will be down in Florida and we’ll definitely be in your area.

SFL Readers, keep your eyes open and in the meantime, enjoy the incredible rock music of Platinum/Gold recipient Joe Bouchard’s STRANGE LEGENDS.

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