Albert Bouchard, formerly of Blue Öyster Cult
Interview by Andrew Daly
Skin thrasher Albert Bouchard has been in the game for a long time. In fact, Bouchard was one of the founding members of the legendary rock group Blue Öyster Cult. As BOC’s drummer, Bouchard starred on the band’s first eight records, the bulk of which are staples of American classic rock radio.
And while Bouchard’s influence is felt throughout the genres of classic rock, hard rock, and heavy metal to this day, these days, he’s working on his solo career, further adding to his stout legacy. To that end, Bouchard has yet another soon-to-be classic on his hands, which is the final installment of his few years running Imaginos series.
During a break from the action, Albert Bouchard dialed in with ClassicRockHistory.com to dig into his latest music, gear choices, and more.
What moments early on shaped you as an artist, and how do those affect you today?
The first musical memory I have is watching a parade pass by on Memorial Day in my little town of Clayton, NY. It aligns with an old family story, but that part of the experience I don’t remember so much (the naked drummer baby, but I’m not going to go into that here). What I clearly remember was the band marching and playing a rousing song, and the drummers we the most impressive part. What they were doing and the sounds that came out of their instruments seemed like magic to me. So, I guess the rhythm is the most important thing to this day.
Tell me about the recording of your new record.
When I started working on the original Imaginos record back in 1982, I thought that I would break out of the Blue Öyster Cult box and use musicians I had always admired and wanted to work with. I did that back then, but the record didn’t come out to anyone’s satisfaction. I’m not sure exactly where it went wrong, but drugs were likely involved. In spite of all of that, the record proved to be massively popular with die-hard Blue Öyster Cult fans.
There was a demand from fans for me to make the record the way that Sandy Pearlman (co-writer and co-producer) and I originally conceived it. I had started working on it in 2019, but then COVID came along, and I was not able to get together with the musicians I started it with. I finished it mostly on my own with the aid of a few people who were able to work remotely.
The first new record, ReImaginos, did very well, and the reception was overwhelmingly positive. The record company and I both made money, so to record the second part of the trilogy was a given. It was a little better for getting together, but COVID was still a big problem. I was able to add some other great musicians like Richie Castellano, Joe Ceerisano, and others, but it was still inside my little circle.
On this third and final record, I was able to recruit many more of my favorite musicians, and we recorded a third of the songs live in Carriage House studios in Stamford, CT. There are over thirty musicians who played and sang on it. With eighteen songs and seventy-six minutes of music, it has both the first and last songs I wrote with Sandy Pearlman, many hidden gems from Blue Öyster Cult’s long history, and a few brand-new songs that tie the storyline together.
What sort of gear did you have to work with in the studio? Why did you make those choices?
The Carriage House studio has all the equipment you would expect a world-class studio to have, SSL desk, Studer tape machines, ProTools 1176s, Distressors, Manley VoxBox, all the classic vintage mics, all the cool amps, drums, and processing you could want.
My home studio is much more modest. I have the latest Roland digital drum kit, and I use it with Superior Drummer. I have a UA 610 tube preamp, US Apollo twin. For vocals, I used a Warm Audio WA 8000 tube mic, a Manley Gold Reference tube mic, U87, and a SM7.
For guitars, I used: Fender Jazzmaster and Tele Acoustasonic guitars, Telecaster, Stratocaster, 1968 Gibson Goldtop LP, PRS Zack Meyers SE, Dusenberg Sessionman, Taylor 326 8-string baritone, and 414 acoustic guitars. I used plug-ins for most of the guitar sounds.
Used all the different guitars to get specific sounds, although some of the leads I swapped to other guitars in the middle of a take because I broke a string. The vocal mics were used because of the many different vocalists. I used different mics to optimize the sound for each vocalist. I used a Nord Electro 6 as my keyboard controller because I use it live, and I kind of know how it works.
Tell me about your songwriting approach.
Like most songwriters who have been doing it for a while, I use every approach, music-first, words-first, everything all at once, by myself in my studio, with others in-person or over Zoom. Many times, song ideas come in the morning or as I’m falling asleep at night. Sometimes I’ll get an idea from something I say or someone else says or a movie or just some kind of story or concept. I have a series of songs about my family, some funny, some inspiring, some tragic. I have a handful of jazz instrumentals I might like to put out someday.
What songs stick out most, and why?
For me, the most significant BOC songs are the songs about real people I have known, “Sinful Love” (Helen Robbins), “Debbie Denise” (Denise Bouchard), “Fireworks” (Monica DeMeo), and “Astronomy” (Susan Heffernon).
What moment or moments from the sessions stand out most to you?
Two of the most memorable moments came when we were in the studio. The first song was “Career of Evil,” and when it got rolling, it sounded like the devil himself was playing the instruments. The other moment in the studio was when we recorded “Mountain of Madness.” It was a challenging song, and when we nailed it, it felt really great. The final transcendental moment came when Susie Loraine recorded her vocal to “Mother and the Starfish.” It was so pretty tears came to my eyes (beyond goosebumps).
In the wake of the album’s release, what has the response been like? What experiences have you had in terms of touring and promotion?
This answer is a cautionary tale. Because of some miscommunication with the record company, the album release date was delayed a month, but because dates in the summer are usually booked months in advance, we had gigs before and immediately after the record release. There was no time to adequately promote either. We had to reschedule the gigs and do our best to promote the record as best we can.
Does making music in a low attention span world frustrate you?
No, not at all. What were you saying [laughs]?
What’s next in all lanes?
I have another Michael Moorcock with Spirits Burning record coming out sometime in 2024. The new Dictators record is coming along nicely, with six songs mixed and another five in the overdub stage. A new Blue Coupe (When Legends Collide) is done and going to be out before the end of the summer.
Albert Bouchard of Blue Öyster Cult: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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