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BOUCHARD, JOE


JOE BOUCHARD "Music Has a Hold on Me" 

By Dark Starr

It’s a safe bet that many people know Joe Bouchard as the bassist for Blue Oyster Cult. He and his brother Albert were original members of the band. Joe was in the band through their most popular period, leaving in 1986. Since then he’s worked with Albert in X Brothers and done other musical projects. He has a brand new solo album, too. I got the chance to talk with Joe about that illustrious history, his new album and a lot more. 



WORMWOOD CHRONICLES:I’m sure most of the readers know about your work with BOC. Can you catch folks up on what you’ve been up to since leaving the band?

JOE BOUCHARD: After I left the band in 1986, I worked for a year as a record producer.  None of the groups I worked with got any traction of a record deal so I didn’t last long in that business.

Since I already had a music education degree before I was a rock star, I took a job as a teacher in a private school.  It was a good job, and I did it full time for eight years.  During that time I got my Masters Degree in music from the Hartt School at the University of Hartford.  That was a lot of fun and I learned so much.

During my time teaching I got involved in classical music, and I conducted a local chamber orchestra.  In school I learned orchestra conducting and score reading, and I loved standing up in front of great musicians and directing the ensemble.

By 1997 I left teaching and took a job in book publishing. That lasted for three and a half years.  It was great fun at first, but I got tired of staring at a computer all day.  I did learn to write educational music books, like my bestselling Beginning Rock Guitar, and Rock Keyboard for Beginners.  They still sell a respectable amount every year.  After a few years of a desk job it was time to try something new.

When I heard Metallica was covering my song “Astronomy,” I quit my day job and dedicated myself to being a songwriter again.

The first guy I called when I was left the publishing company was Ian Hunter from Mott the Hoople.  I talked him into cowriting songs for BDS, a group with Neal Smith and Dennis Dunaway that I had at the time.  We wrote four songs that year and it restarted my creative juices

After BDS wound down, Dennis and I started a group with my brother Albert called “Blue Coupe.”  We did several tours and two studio albums.  That band is still going strong, but I’m also doing solo albums.  I recently put out my 4th solo album, The Power of Music, and it’s doing very well.

WC: Talking about that album, it’s truly a solo album. Other than a few backing vocals you did everything on the set. How does working solo differ from being in a band like BOC? 

JB: I get to do everything my way, and I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself.  I like layering multiple vocal parts and guitar parts.  I program the drums and play all the bass and keyboards.  While I’m doing that I often think how Blue Öyster Cult or another band might approach the song. Or I think how one of my past producers would kick my butt to do a better performance.  I’ve learned a lot about music, engineering and mixing in the last two decades, and I like doing my own productions.

WC: What do you think is similar about the two experiences?

JB: I love working with a band if everybody is on the same plane.  It’s rare when it happens, but it can make for some magical music.

WC: Who would you see as your musical influences? 

JB: My biggest influence is Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and his solo albums.  He has the magic touch that on certain songs can reach deep into the soul.  The Beatles and Stones are also a big influence.  I love a lot of different music.  I love Beethoven and Chopin.  I play both on the piano.

WC:What's ahead for you?

JB: A new Blue Coupe album and more solo albums, occasional studio sessions.  I play on songs by other writers.  I played with a guy from Scotland by sending my parts to him over the internet.   I also love to play live.  I’m opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd in July with my long time band The X Brothers.  Blue Coupe is playing in NYC later this month at the Joey Ramone Birthday Bash.  I do greatest hits shows with other artists.  In 2010 I did a tour of Iraq and Kuwait for the US Troops.  It was an amazing experience and probably was the most unique and memorable tour of my life.  I’m starting an acoustic tour this summer to promote my solo album.  It will be just two guitars and vocals, but the rehearsals have sounded great so far.  It’s all fun.

WC: I know many artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?

JB: I play classic rock and write classic hard rock.  I recently did a new age instrumental that was a lot of fun.  I do dance remixes and I’ve been exploring that world, but I’m not that great at it yet.  I’ve done an occasional country song, but most of what I do is rock.  Rap and hip hop is not my thing.

WC: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?

JB: Sure.  I’m still waiting for a call from Ringo for an All-Starr Tour.  Ian Hunter was a part of his touring group, and I know several other people that tell me it is a dream tour.  You get to be pretty close to being a Beatle every night of the tour.  Occasionally I get to jam with big stars.  I’d love to play with guys from the Who or the Stones but it’s yet to happen.  I’ve got a gig coming up with the singer from Dispatch and I hope to play his hit “The General” in the concert.  He’s got a younger following.

WC: Do you think that illegal downloading or streaming of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians? 

JB: It helps me because it gets the word out where it’s tough for me to get on the radio.  So many people can hear me streaming, or on YouTube.  I don’t have a problem with it.  If I come up with a bonafide hit, the people will have to hear it over and over and pay a penny each time.  I could make a small fortune.  You know, like Psy kind of money.

WC: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them or posting them online? 

JB: That’s fine by me.  I just hope they use some editorial judgment.  If I’m picking my nose or my guitar is way out of tune, don’t post it.  There is plenty of great performances to post.  But skip the “non-great” stuff.

WC:If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?

JB: I like everybody generally, I don’t have any nemeses.

WC:If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?

JB:That’s a tough one.  Buck is still the best natural guitar player I know, but I’ve played with John Jorgenson, Jerry Riggs and many more.  They are killers.  Bass players?   Victor Wooten if I need a cool jazz guy.  For rock I think Roger Glover of Deep Purple is under rated.   How about Nile Rodgers on rhythm?  Drummers?  I like Michael Cartellone who plays with Skynyrd, but Albert is good.  Now if I got all these guys together it probably sound like a pile of crap.  But I’d love to hear the chaos.

WC:If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?

JB:That one in California this fall is interesting, with McCartney, the Stones, the Who, Roger Waters, etc.  But every time I think I want to go to a festival I watch the Stones’ Gimme Shelter movie and I say, “I’ll just watch it on TV with a clean bathroom down the hall.”

WC:What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?

JB:I don’t have time to listen to much music, but I do listen to some new artists.  I bought a young woman composer Dobrinka Tabakova who writes for classical strings. Her pieces are beautiful.  I also like Esperanza Spalding who writes a lot of far out material.  I like Mirror Queen, a band from NYC who covered one of my songs, “Wings Wetted Down.”  They are a very young band into 70s psychedelic music.  I am crazy over a young guitar/cello duo called “Tall Heights.”  They remind me of classic Simon and Garfunkel.

WC:Have you read any good books lately?

JB: Chrissie Hynde’s book Reckless is great.  I’m reading Patti Smith M Train.  I loved her Just Kids book.  I’ve got Robert Galbraith’s Career of Evil,  but I’ve read about six chapters.  I’ll get to the rest this summer.

WC:What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?

JB: Los Lobos was awesome.  Before that I loved the Heart and Bonham show.

I like the oldies guys, idols of my youth.   Chubby Checker recently was great, as was Joey Dee and the Starlighters.   I did the twist both times!

WC: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”

JB:Karen Carpenter…..hmmm…..

WC:What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?

JB:I was onstage in Indianapolis.  It was a sold out show.  Half way through the show I had to pee so bad.  So I told my roadie to get a jar, and I’d pee behind the amps in the blackout.  I was still peeing when the lights came up!  Was I embarrassed?  Yes.

WC:If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?

JB: Elvis, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix

WC: What would be on the menu?

JB: Bacon, banana and peanut butter sandwiches

WC:Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?

JB:I’ve said too much already!