My Interview with Joe Bouchard
Former BOC bassist, Joe Bouchard, is in the mix of putting out a new
album and I got the chance to chat with him about the upcoming album and
his days with BOC.
Brian: How and when did you first start playing bass?
Joe: I started playing bass guitar my junior year at Ithaca College. I was a
guitar player for years before that, and my major instrument in college was
classical piano. I had fooled around on bass here and there, but it wasn't
until '68 that I started playing bass semi-seriously.
I've been fortunate to be in several bands that had outstanding bass
players, so I've always been hesitant to tout my bass playing skills.
When brother Albert and I were in high school we had a great bass player
named Eddie Bazinet. Eddie could lay down an absolute killer feel, and he
made us amateur musicians sound like pros. Eddie could have gone pro, but I
think he never liked to travel much. I still admire his bass playing to this
The real story of my first days on bass:
One weekend when I was not playing in a band (a rarity since I had played
gigs every weekend since I was 12) I saw a band I liked called Que Pasa.
They were a latin/jazz band, and they had a great sound. I said to myself
I've got to join this band even though they looked like they had everyone
Monday morning came around and I was sitting in a music class with their
bassist. I said "Hey, I really like your band". He said "Well, I don't."
He was apparently not happy and was leaving the band.
A light bulb went on in my head and I talked to their leader, Steve Brown,
who was also my guitar teacher. I came right out and said "I'm your man on
the bass." (Even though I had hardly touched the instrument
Steve wasn't convinced I could do the job and asked another student, Larry
Hoppen, if he'd play. Larry turned Steve down. (Larry later became the
singer and guitarist in the MOR group, Orleans.) I borrowed a Hagstrom bass
and overnight became the bassist of Que Pasa.
Twenty-two months later Albert called me and asked me to join the group then
known as the Soft White Underbelly.
Brian: What musicians/songwriters have influenced your playing and songwriting
Joe: Musicians: Little Richard (who made a big impression on me at 9 years old,
going nuts, jumping up and down on the bed), Elvis, The Ventures, The Beach
Boys, The Beatles, The Stones and the usual cast of characters. I also
liked Liberace, Andres Segovia, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Feidler, Count
Basie, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Joe
Bassists: McCartney, Bill Wyman, Bill Black, James Jamerson, Joe Osborn,
Carol Kaye (who I just met this year!) Later on: Dennis Dunaway, Mike
Watt, Les Claypool, Tom Peterson, Alphonso Johnson, Louis Johnson. I also
admired guys like Michael Anthony and Tom Hamilton for their simple, but
Songwriters/Composers: Beatles (the first time I actually thought about who
actually wrote songs), Brian Wilson and his gang, Lou Reed, Jagger/Richards,
AC/DC guys. Also these composers in their respective fields can't be
touched: Debussy, Mussourgsky, Ravel, Stravinsky, Haydn, Chopin,
Beethoven (not the dog), Bach and his cronies/relatives, Charles Ives,
Willie Dixon, Neil Young, Pete Townsend, Samuel Barber.
Brian: Why did you decide to leave Blue Oyster Cult? And why did you stay
around after your brother was ousted from the group?
Joe: I stayed in the group after Albert left because it was my career at the time
and I loved performing.
I left BOC four years later, after Albert, for many reasons. It is
extremely difficult to give up the dream career of a lifetime, so I
carefully weighed the pros and cons before leaving.
The main reason was: I felt the music had gone downhill. When I joined the
group in 1970 we were a team of hot, young musician/songwriters out to change
the way music sounded. Now at heart, I'm not really very meticulous in my
art, but by 1986, I was greatly displeased with the outcome of the Club Ninja
album. We worked 12 months straight on the record and when I heard the final
result, I knew the writing was on the wall.
On the other hand, I've heard several people say recently that Club Ninja
has several great cuts, and overall they like the record. Hey, also I've
heard it said that Ringo cringes when he hears several classic Beatles cuts,
since they only evoke bitter memories of arguments and such. But the bottom
line is we did some magical bits of music in the first 15 years. There is no
magic for me in CN.
Other reasons: no money, not much family life, dissatisfaction with my bass
playing, no money, I had planned on a short career of maybe three years in
the first place, no money, a need to try a different career, no money,
exhaustion with 15 years of recording/road tours, airline disasters, poor
management, dissatisfaction with 80's musical trends, etc.
Hey, I was never in the band for the money. I just like the sound of good
music. But I also love recording and performing in a first class situation
and that takes moola. IMHO we lost that.
Brian: Your brother Al was a bit evasive when asked why he was fired as the BOC
drummer. What was the reason he was fired?
Joe: Albert was fired from BOC after a period of dissatisfaction with his
performance on stage. We were a band that made out reputation on our KILLER
LIVE SHOWS. I remember when we were riding a crest of popularity around
'75-'76-'77 we would play week after week of perfect shows. Without that
desperate attitude, we would have never made it to second base.
Individually, we're not that good. When Albert would perform badly it would
reflect on all of us.
By 1981, Albert was losing it on stage. (In 1980, during the Black and Blue
tour, we put aside our personal differences in order to show The Sabs who
really ruled on the boards. We played many, many great shows on that tour,
not because we all loved each other and loved our audience, but because we
wanted to run those limeys out of this country in shame. [laughs])
But that attitude wouldn't last forever. AB's lack of performance on stage
was brought about by a strained family situation complicated by drugs and
alcohol, ego battles with others in the band. I fought to keep him in the
band for several months before it happened. But when we got to England in
1981, he was over an hour late for two gigs in a row. (Rick Downey played
the first half of each set.) We all just snapped. Rick played the rest of
In retrospect we might possibly have gone off the road for a "cooling out"
period. But our situation was too volatile at that time, and we had to keep
Brian: Do you think BOC will ever make it into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame?
Why or why not?
Joe: No. It's way too corny an honor for that bunch of cynics.
Brian: What is you're favorite BOC song and album and why?
Joe: I like Astronomy. It is one of my tunes that reaches deep.
I always felt Reaper had the goods. Cities On Flame and the first album
are particularly good memories. I listened it on CD recently and it took me
back to Dave Lucas's little studio and the smell of the spice warehouse
downstairs. It is a miraculous LP for it's day, with just an 8 track to
record it all.
Brian: Do you think the original BOC line-up will ever re-unite? Why or why
Joe: No. We have separate lives/careers now.
Brian: What have you been up to since leaving BOC?
Joe: Take your shoes off, get a cold drink and sit back. You may not have enough
hard disk space to tell the full story.
After coming off a particularly hard tour of Europe in Jan. 1986, I took two
weeks off to think.
The decision I came up with was that I had to leave the group. I'm fiercely
loyal to my work situations, but when it came to sever ties, I do it quickly
I called Sandy Pearlman (manger) and said I was leaving and that was it. I
haven't talked to him since. (He didn't even talk to me when he sued me in
1992, but that's another story altogether.) Eric did call me up several
months later and asked me to rejoin, but I was having too good a time being
out of the group to want to turn back.
I worked for two years as a producer, recording bands in the New York area
with a spectacular lack of success. I actually stopped playing and
completely lost my calluses on my fingers.
I then became a teacher in a boarding school for dyslexic students, playing
a few keyboard gigs with 60's rock legend, Spencer Davis on
Teaching in a private school was interesting and the school let me develop
my own programs/lessons. [Rock Band 101!] I taught music with computers
and, also I taught an intense video class, which included scripting, shooting
and digital editing. That lasted 8 years.
During my years as a teacher, I worked as a conductor for a local chamber
orchestra, conducting several concerts of music by Haydn, Handel, Bach and
others. I lectured in high schools and colleges on music education,
songwriting and other subjects. I played with several groups including, the
Cult Brothers rock band, the Treetop Orchestra blues band, and the Who Who's,
an acoustic singing group from New Haven. I enrolled in graduate school at
the University of Hartford, where I had the chance to study serious
contemporary music with several composers, Robert Carl, Larry Alan Smith and
In 1995, I received my masters degree in Music Composition from the Hartt
School. At Hartt I wrote many classical style pieces including my master
thesis, which is a 25 minute dance piece for 90 piece orchestra.
From work on my masters, I learned computer music typesetting. In June of
1996 I retired from classroom teaching and found new employment working in
music book publishing. I am now an assistant editor at Workshop Arts
Publications, which recently published my first book with CD called "Rock
Guitar for Beginners" distributed by Alfred Publishing. The book is selling
well in music stores and, I hear, it is being translated into German for the
Brian: Tell us about the new Cult Brothers CD you are working on.
Joe: The CD is called "Joe Bouchard presents The X Brothers - Solid Citizens".
We changed the name from the Cult Brothers to the X Brothers because I do
not want any confusion with the name Blue Oyster Cult. Besides, I like the
sound of the name "X Brothers." The release date has been changed from Sept.
1 to Oct. 15 because of last minute changes in sequence and artwork.
It will be available Oct 97 from:
Cellsum Records product #XB10006
PO Box 1070
Fort George Station
NY, NY 10040-9998
price with shipping. $14.00 USA, foreign orders $18.00
The musicians are Andy and Billy Hilfiger, on bass and guitar respectively,
and Jim Cacala on drums. I play guitar, piano, organ, some bass, mandolin.
I sing all leads, and we all sing background harmonies.
Except for playing a CD release party in NYC on Oct. 24, 1997, we have no
plans for a tour at this time. The venue is not certain at press time.
The songs are:
2. Hot Time in Hell
3. On Fire with Love
4. Love's a Killer
6. Inner Bit
7. Wild Ones
9. The Van Song
10. Dream Machine
11. End Post
12. All Things Paramount
13. Run for the Sun
Brian: Are you planning on trying to get the CD eventually released on a major
Joe: We are testing the waters with this release. Major distribution would be
great, but I don't think it's absolutely necessary for the success of this
project. I like being able to call my own shots and I like not being in debt
Brian: Besides BOC and Cult Brothers, what artists do you enjoy listening to?
Any new artists that you really enjoy?
Joe: Beck seems to get more plays on my CD than anyone - gotta have a little
Devil's Haircut once a day. I feel more a student of sociology when I'm
listening to contemporary music than a music lover. I am amazed how much new
music is completely disposable. I get most listening pleasure out of old
classic rock from the days before computers. But I like musing on how modern
life is reflected in what we hear. (The Spice Girls. . .White Zombie. . .
Fugees etc. As Chris Rock recently said, "Here today. Gone today!")
Brian: Any last words for the Net surfers out there reading this interview?
Joe: Rock on, dude. Hang 10! or. . .Hang 10 Dudes on Rock!
Well I'd like to thank Joe for taking time from his busy schedule to do
this interview, and encourage all of you to go out and get his album
when it's released.
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