Joe at Madison Square Garden NYC in 1975
THE JEB WRIGHT INTERVIEW continued from page 1
JB: Well, I don't know. I'm kind of wondering what I should be doing.
Jeb: That's actually a good segue because, as we talk about your former band, Blue Öyster Cult…you were always on the cutting edge of creativity.
JB: There were a lot of smart guys in there. I just got an email from Donald Roeser [Buck Dharma] today. One of the guys that lived with us in the band house back in the day, who actually co-wrote one of our early songs, "Redeemed" [H. Farkas] wanted to get ahold of Don. I hadn't seen or heard from him in over thirty years but he's still out there and wanted to hook up with BÖC out on the road in San Diego. We still connect once in a while.
Jeb: Is it true that you were the last original member to join BÖC?
JB: Yes. In the summer of 1970, I had graduated from Ithaca College. I had an incredible summer job working in a theater on Martha's Vineyard. I didn't know what I was going to do when the job ended in September.
I got a call in the middle of the night. I was living in a rooming house and at three o’clock in the morning someone said, "You have a phone call." It was Albert. He said, "I need you to come to New York. We need you to play bass because we're going on a tour with Led Zeppelin.
I said "Hell yeah! I'm there! We can go out on the road and become rock stars.”
As things turned out, I got to the band house on Labor Day and said, "OK, I'm ready for the tour!" and they said "Ahhh the tour's not happening.
Led Zeppelin was a band that, with very few exceptions, never had an opening act.
I said, “Well, OK…let's dig in and make some music.”
Of course, that same week the band was fired by Elektra Records. We got kicked off the label and I was so mad because they never gave me a chance. But I said "Were going to keep playing and we're going to make money." As you know, it all worked out.
Jeb: Were you Soft White Underbelly then?
JB: During my college vacations I would go down to the band house and jam with Soft White Underbelly; long extended psychedelic jams. Occasionally, I would book them to play clubs up in Ithaca, so we knew each other pretty well even before I joined the band. Their bass player was Andrew Winters and it just wasn't working out with Andrew so they called me and wanted me to join the band. I had had a little bit of experience playing Latin jazz bass in college for two years.
I got a Music Education degree from Ithaca College but I didn't know what I was going to do going forward. I didn't want to teach. I put off teaching for eighteen years. It didn't seem to be the right thing at the time. I said "Rock stars just wanna rock!
It's funny because Albert and I just got a very nice honor from our old high school. They inducted us into their Performing Arts Hall of Fame. The music teachers there were all very nice and Albert and I were part of the music programs at the school which was the basis for the musical stuff we did later.
They asked us "Did you think you were going to make it as a rock star?" and we said "Of course!" That was my trajectory, even in high school. The Music Education degree was merely the fallback position in case things didn't work out I could always teach in a high school or something.
Jeb: At what point did Sandy Pearlman become involved? When did you become Blue Öyster Cult?
JB: Sandy was there way back in the early days of Soft White Underbelly. He met Don [Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser] at a party. He told Don "You're really good. I'm going to organize a band around you, get the people you want, and we'll call it Soft White Underbelly.
Sandy had some connections and probably had a part in getting the deal with Elektra. Sandy was the editor of Crawdaddy, which was a serious music magazine before Rolling Stone existed. Sandy wrote glowing reviews of The Doors which got the attention of the head of Elektra Jac Holzman. That's how they got the deal, but they were never able to make an album that Elektra was happy with and there were also some personality issues. It just wasn't happening with Elektra.
I was keeping up with what was happening with them all throughout my college days. I was expecting the album to come out any time, but it never did. When I got there and we were kicked off the label it was back to square one. We made some nice demos with David Lucas, one of our earliest producers.
We didn't like the first four-song demos so we made a second set about a month later and those started to generate a little interest in the band. Finally, we got the audition for Clive Davis in 1971 and, one year after I joined the band, we signed with Columbia Records. We started making albums and it was very exciting.
Jeb: Legend has it that it wasn't the band or Sandy that came up with the Cross of Krönos. It was actually Bill Gawlick?
JB: Yeah, Bill Gawlick was the artist who did the first two album covers, but I think it was Sandy and Bill that came up with that symbol.
Sandy had all these old books and he pulled one out and showed Bill one of the symbols of Krönos and said "We need a symbol like this for a heavy metal band." Bill took that and adapted it. It is still a very important logo for the band.
Jeb: You guys have to be up there with 'most tattooed logo'.
JB: I've seen a lot of them [laughter]! There are a lot of Alice Cooper tattoos out there…I know that for a fact. It's a commitment.
Jeb: "Before The Kiss (A Redcap)” is one of my favorite songs. I love the rhythm, it's almost a Swing. How does a song like that come together?
JB: The first year I was in the band we played this biker bar called Conry's every week. It was a raunchy hard rock kind of place where you could play anything. We would play Rolling Stones covers and our own originals.
Sandy came up with the lyric which mentioned Conry's Bar. The music came after. It had that riff (hums verse riff) that was a bit of a Jeff Beck style blooze riff. We had recorded the song, but had left the bars where that jazzy bit comes in empty. We didn't have anything for it. I went upstate for a little while I when I came back that jazzy part was added and I was like, "Wow!" Then, Donald added that heavy riff at the end. That was a fun one because it required a lot of trying different things out and it just came together in the studio.
Jeb: The radio song on that first album of course was "Cities on Flame With Rock And Roll" which is still a classic. Even as young guys, did you think "This is the one.
JB: Not really because we didn't orient ourselves toward trying to be commercial. If anything, we tended to make decisions that were anti-commercial. We were crazy!
Jeb: Calling a song "She's As Beautiful as A Foot...
JB: Yeah right. I thought "Cities On Flame" would do OK and it did great. In fact, it did better than great. It's still a classic. I remember working on that one. We were rehearsing in Johnny Winter's loft in NYC and that's where that song really came together. I remember Donald coming up with the main riff and then adding that sort of rock and roll part in the chorus.
And then you had the big stop, "...with rock and roll." It was metal and rock and roll. I knew we had something there that was going to have some value. You never know, though.
Jeb: There were so many great riffs that Don came up with, from "Transmaniacon MC" to "Stairway To The Stars" that's not even a hard song to play but it's such a cool riff.
JB: Back in the Soft White Underbelly days the riffs he had were kind of light and there was definitely a push from Sandy and our other producer Murray [Krugman] to 'heavy' things up. Shows were getting bigger and more flamboyant at the time so we needed something that would go with a big rock show.
Cities on Flame," "Stairway to the Stars" and "Before the Kiss" were great songs to play live. And then you had the mellow ballad, "Last Days of May" which was beautiful and was a break from all the real heavy metal stuff. It's kind of a bluesy story song.
Jeb: Did you have the budget to put on big shows?
JB No, we had a used truck that said "Sol's Trucking" on the side. We had one roadie and then I think we splurged and got two roadies.
Jeb: You knew you had made it.
JB: Yeah, we knew we had made it when we had TWO roadies.
We did everything on a shoestring in those days. Sandy would go up to the Columbia offices and find an empty office to make phone calls because we couldn't afford the phone bills.
It wasn't until about the third or fourth album that we went out on tour with Rod Stewart and The Faces. That was a big tour so we had to have everything together for that. Shortly after that "The Reaper" came and we spent all the money we could [laughter]!
Jeb: Who else did you open for on your early tours?
JB: The first one was the Byrds. Not the original Byrds, but the Easy Rider era Byrds with Roger McGuinn, Skip Batten, Gene Parsons and John York, no Crosby, no Hillman. The second tour, though, was the one that changed our world. That was with Alice Cooper.
They had a young audience. The Byrds' audience was an older audience. The Alice Cooper audience was really young, excited and ready for anything. That was definitely a big step up.
After that we went out with Uriah Heep, Bob Seger, Savoy Brown Blues Band, Black Sabbath…We played with all kinds of crazy people like Sly & the Family Stone and Ike & Tina Turner. We'd play with anyone we could.
We played with Big Brother and the Holding Company, post Janis of course. Kathy McDowell was their singer. She was a great singer but it was really tough for them because, who would want to go see them?
There is a great website called Hot Rails to Hull which has a giglopedia of every gig from the very beginning to the present day, 7000 plus gigs.
It was fun. It didn't seem like work because that's what we really wanted to do.
The band now is more financially stable than it's ever been, even in its heyday. I hear it's going well. There are rumors…
Jeb: On the next album [Tyranny And Mutation, 1973] you had what is probably your biggest song...
JB: "Hot Rails to Hell", now that's Richie Castellano's signature song [laughter]! I had to play that song last Sunday and I said "I really appreciate Richie singing it, but this is my song!" I was joking…I'm glad they play it. I can't believe they still play it. They didn't play it for fifteen years and Richie said "Hey, give me something to do.
That was just a stroke of luck, that song. It probably came together in about an hour, lyrics and everything. If I'd known we were going to play it so much I might have worked a little harder on it.
Jeb: Those were the days of vinyl and you could do cool stuff like the "Red" side and the "Black" side. What was the Red and the Black?
JB: It's the color scheme of the Canadian Mounties, which refers back to the song "I'm On the Lamb (But I Ain't No Sheep).” Sandy was a student of military hardware. He liked the contrast of red and black. It was something that had a sort of mystical power to it.
Jeb: You were Albert's brother but the newest member of the band. Were you ever gun shy? Did you hold back or jump in with both feet?
JB: I definitely jumped in with both feet. They said "We're not going to be doing that psychedelic hippie stuff anymore, we're going to be doing metal. I said "Yeah, sign me up!
I did a variety of things when I was in college, soul, Latin jazz and I was into the heavier side of The Beatles, like "Helter Skelter" and the first Led Zeppelin album.
The whole thing about the band was that there was a tremendous writing team behind it with Sandy, Richard Meltzer, Patti Smith, David Roter and Helen Wheels, and all the guys in the band were creative.
Alan Lanier…his songs weren't played that much in the live shows, but when we did the tribute show for Alan a couple of years ago we played a whole set of just his songs. It was fantastic, a great set. Much better than most bands that are out there now. It just shows you the depth of the creative team in Blue Öyster Cult.
It was daunting to come up with lyrics that would make it onto an album. It was daunting to say, "OK Donald, you're going to have to play this guitar part.
There was one album, I think, where Alan and I wrote most of it because the other guys were burned out and didn't have anything new. When the A-team slowed down, the B-team would go to work. Bring in the reinforcements.
Jeb: "Astronomy" is a signature tune for you and Albert.
JB: Sandy Pearlman wrote the lyrics for that. He gave those to me and "The clock strikes twelve" was the third line. I said "No, this has got to be the first line of the song". I made a few changes like that but it still came out much like the way Sandy envisioned.
We had a house on the north shore of Long Island and one day I went for a walk on the beach, maybe twenty minutes, and when I came back I had the whole melody in my head. Now Albert has said we had that song for a long time, but I don't think so. It was three or four weeks. That was another miracle.
Everybody had a great time recording it. Alan did a great job on the keyboards on that one and Eric [Bloom] sings his ass off on "Astronomy.
We actually had auditions for who was going to sing it. Sandy was the judge. Since I wrote it, I sang my audition and he said "OK." Then Albert sang it, followed by Eric's version.
Sandy came to me and said "We like Albert's vocals.” I said "What!? I thought I sang it great!" It's probably a good thing we had auditions because Eric said, "Damn it! I'm gonna sing that song!
It came down to the wire and when we were ready to record it they said Eric's going to sing it. I said "OK, that's fine." It’s funny how that panned out but, of course, he did a great job.
Jeb: I love the bassline on "Career Of Evil".
JB: Oh, thanks. That goes back to a song Albert and I wrote when we were in high school. That version was in a major key and Albert took it and reworked it in a minor key. Yeah…that's a great bassline. It has a certain chromaticism (hums the notes) to it, very slinky. I'm pretty sure that's all Albert, though and I just followed him and Donald to get that part…I added nothing extra to it. We're actually playing that now in our acoustic set.
Jeb: That must have a great vibe acoustically.
JB: Yeah, it definitely has a vibe and, of course, J.K. Rowling used it for one of her books [under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith] which is going to be a TV series. That was pretty cool. The series has aired in England but not in the US yet. I'm looking forward to seeing it. They use Blue Öyster Cult songs in it. Eric Bloom's name gets mentioned in the script somewhere.
Jeb: I got On Your Feet Or On Your Knees when I was about ten. The cover was kind of ominous and scary with the limo in front of the church and the pictures of you onstage in front of an audience of hooded people was a little scary to a ten year old. My only complaint about that album is that it sounds a bit muddy.
JB: We didn't know what we were doing. I think it's a pretty good representation of the tours we were on in those days. We were pretty low-tech as far as fidelity goes. Sound systems were always blowing up. We didn't really understand the live recording process.
We fixed that later on with the other two live albums. We would actually go in the truck and listened to how things sounded and make adjustments to get a better sound. To be honest, Jack Douglas, who recently worked with us on Blue Coupe, was fresh off working with Aerosmith; he did a tremendous job making it sound clearer than it would have if someone else had mixed it.
He brings the bass out anyway. I just love the way "Last Days of May" sounds on that. I don't remember my bass sounding that good. I really have to give props to Jack Douglas for doing a tremendous mix on that album. We definitely could have done a better job better recording it, though.
Jeb: You did choose a great place to put out a live album as it serves as a bookend to the first three albums. The difference between those albums and Agents Of Fortune is night and day. How did that happen?
JB: We had two years to write the songs for Agents of Fortune. I think that helped a lot. The earlier albums were recorded on the fly at Columbia or other lesser studios but for this one we ended up at the Record Plant which, at the time, was the best studio in New York.
It was inspiring. That's where Jimi Hendrix made Electric Ladyland. It's where John Lennon recorded…so it was good. I'm happy with the sound of that record.
Jeb: I've talked with Buck and Eric in the past and they said that one of the differences creatively was that a lot of songs weren't group efforts and that different people were writing and recording tracks independently.
JB: That's true. "Don't Fear the Reaper" was created on Don's 4-track. It's a great demo. You can hear it right there. You can add all the tinsel you want but you have to have a great core of a song.
I was convinced that it was going to be a big hit. It's another one that has gone well beyond my wildest dreams.
Jeb: That was certainly an extremely important song to Blue Öyster Cult. If that song wasn't on the album I don't know if BÖC would be as big as they are. That was the song.
JB: Oh yeah. And it still gets played two or three times more on streaming services than our next biggest song "Burnin' For You." It gets, easily, a million plays a month. And it goes up 20-30% every year. The trajectory on a song like that is just mind-boggling.
Jeb: There's everything to love about that song, but I think what puts it on another level is the instrumental section.
JB: I agree. Columbia actually wanted to take that out of the song and there is a single edit that just has the three verses and the chorus. It does not work.
They had the AM stations to worry about in 1976. There were FM stations around but they had not taken over yet. If a song is that good, they will sit there and listen to it for five and a half minutes. It's the whole package.
But yeah, we all had our own tape recorders at home. We all had extra time off and were working on things at home. We did bring stuff in that was worked on as a group but it was good because we could really focus the songs.
We had never really been serious about developing and focusing the songs toward what we wanted to do.
Jeb: The song I think is the dark horse of that album that no one ever talks about is "Sinful Love".
JB: Oh yeah. We do that one in the acoustic show. It's really fun. And Albert, since it's an acoustic show, likes to get out front and sing his songs. He was always the guy in the back of the band so it's a good thing for him because he gets to be the front man on half of the numbers.
Sinful Love", "Career Of Evil", "Revenge Of Vera Gemini"...all good stuff.
Jeb: Alan's song "Tenderloin" is great.
JB: "Tenderloin" is tremendous. "Morning Final". We're doing that one in the acoustic set. It's a good retrospective of the bulk of what we did with the band. We also throw in some of our new solo songs. "Renaissance Man," "Bad Decisions," Albert has a song called "Galileo Galilei" that's really good. It's like "Astronomy.
Jeb: We fans like to debate whether Agents of Fortune or Spectres is better because we're nerds and don't have anything better to do. As someone on the inside, do you have a favorite?
JB: I like Agents...but, if I were going to have to play one album straight through on stage I would choose Spectres. There are some real gems on there that don't get played enough. "Nosferatu," "Fireworks," they don't get played enough. As far as a listening experience, I prefer the mixing and the overall feel of Agents...
Jeb: Tell me about the opening of "The Golden Age Of Leather". Who came up with that?
JB: That was Donald. He wrote that song with a good friend of his from college (B. Abbott). I don't remember hearing a full demo of that one but, in the studio, Donald said "We're going to do an acapella beginning." Then it had a solo moving into a rave-up section. It was definitely developed over the course of several rehearsals.
Unlike "Godzilla" which was a full demo. We trimmed it up a bit, cut out some of the fat but we basically recorded it as it was on the demo. "Golden Age of Leather" required a lot of complicated rehearsals to get that one down.
Jeb: Then you had "Death Valley Nights" another R. Meltzer song. The guy's kind of nutty but he could write some lyrics.
JB: That's a great lyric. We're also doing that in the acoustic show. In fact, I was out doing acoustic shows on my own ten years ago and I had to have "Death Valley Nights" in my set.
,Jeb: In the box set albums collection they have a picture of the billboard that says "Welcome To Long Island: Home Of The Blue Öyster Cult." Do you remember the first time you saw that?
JB: Oh yeah. That was on the Long Island Expressway just as you came out of the mid-town tunnel. That was fantastic. I saw that several times. I probably drove around twice just to see that thing. They would do that sort of thing in Los Angeles, buy billboards. That was back when the record companies were happy to spend money.
Jeb: By the time of Some Enchanted Evening, one of the best live albums I've ever heard, you now had the big rock show with lasers and stun guitars. It all happened in just six years. How did it affect you as young men?
JB: It was good. We never had to have a day job. We had a lot of energy. It was fun working on that album because our equipment was better…the sound... The truck we had was big enough that we could sit with the engineer and make suggestions about tweaks to the recording for the next show. We would tweak amp and mic positions and really nail it.
Even more than that, we had the truck follow us around on tour so we didn't feel any pressure. We could get some really great performances…magical performances. "Astronomy" live, "Reaper" live, were really good. That one was just a matter of us maturing a little bit and understanding the process.
On Your Feet... was just a snapshot of our tour at the time where Some Enchanted Evening was a real project.
Jeb: Your next studio album was a bit controversial. Mirrors. Personally, I love it. "Dr. Music," "In Thee," "Mirrors" and, "I Am The Storm." Just those four, that's a hell of an album!
JB: I thought it was great when we were recording it. It's hard to say...it was a little bit undermixed. It could have had more edge and it would have been a better album.
I just opened up the box set and listened to it and the remastering on that album sounds much better. It actually changed it.
There were some personality problems on that record. We were out of our comfort zone working with another producer.
I liked working with Tom Werman. He certainly made some great Cheap Trick records. He went on to do Motley Crue and have great success.
We went to California. It wasn't very comfortable. We should have done the record in New York. That might have made a big difference. It's easy to say "What if...?" but it was pretty uncomfortable moving the whole band out to California for a whole month.
It seemed like it took three days just to set up the drum kit. I went up to the studio on day one and said "OK, I'm ready to play!" and they said "We're trying to find the best place to set up the drums. Why don't you come back tomorrow?" I went to my apartment and came back the next day and they were still moving the drum set around. "We still don't have it. Why don't you go home?
The next day I get there and they're still moving the drums around! Oh boy. I was like "Let's just get down to business. Let's stop fooling around.
They were renting drums from a company and they got the bass drum that was used by the Eagles. We don't need the Eagles bass drum…we're Blue Öyster Cult!
Once we finally started recording I thought it was good. We got some great performances. Like I said, it could have been mixed a little better. A little more old-fashioned BÖC energy wouldn't have hurt either. That said...you liked it. You can always second guess things until...you know.
Jeb: Were you in the studio when Ellen Foley recorded her background vocals?
JB: Yeah. Actually, we did that back in New York.
Jeb: She's one of my favorite singers.
JB: Yeah, Ellen and Genya Raven were both there. I think that's when Mickey Raphael came in to do the harmonica.
Here's a little tidbit. I wanted to get Magic Dick to play the harmonica. I couldn't get him but we got Mickey and he's fantastic. He's played with Willie Nelson for thirty-five years.
Jeb: Was Cultösaurus Erectus a determined push to get back to that BÖC sound after Mirrors?
JB: I think so, yeah. And also, we were excited because we had Martin Birch producing.
Martin Birch did Machine Head. He did "Highway Star" and "Smoke On The Water." He was a perfect match and he was a really nice guy. No pressure. He was kind of the opposite of Tom Werman who wanted things a certain way.
Martin just said "Do it until you get it and I'll tell you when you've got it." And that's it. Psychologically, he could get a great performance out of you. I loved working with Martin.
He was a little worn out because he had just come from making Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath and Dio. He apologized that he probably wasn't on the top of his game with Cultösaurus...but for the next one, Fire of Unknown Origin, he was well rested. He did Mob Rules after Fire of Unknown Origin. He was like "I didn't do that well on Mob Rules...[laughter].
He's totally retired now but he was a bit of a genius, especially as an engineer/producer. He seemed to be really well connected with everything that was going on. He just laid back and let you play until he said "That's it! You've got it! Let's record it!" We liked working that way.
Jeb: You can't say Fire of Unknown Origin is underrated because it's one of your biggest albums…but I think it's underrated.
JB: Exactly. It was a very good record.
Jeb: But it was the last one with Albert.
JB: Yeah. He had some personal things going on. It was tough being out on tour. You never really got any time off in a rock band, it's what you do.
Jeb: Was it odd after all those years playing with your brother to not be playing with him?
JB: It definitely changes the personality. On those early albums, all the records with Albert, the personality was definitely a combination of the five of us. If you change one aspect of it it's just not the five. It's the four plus somebody else. We made good records, I think.
The five had magic. Albert was also a very important part of the creative team. Some bands have one person, who creates, or maybe two people who collaborate, but with Blue Öyster Cult it was all five plus five or six other lyricists. Everyone was contributing and pulling us in a direction.
Without Albert there, Rick was just the drummer. Rick is a very good drummer but Donald just showed him what to play because Donald is a very good drummer too. We missed Albert's input on the arrangements. What do you do? You can't just hire an arranger to come in and tell you what you should do.
It never occurred to me at the time that maybe I should step up and become a better arranger. Donald did his demos and they were good. I don't think Alan brought anything to the table after Albert left. So there is an example of a creative team that is just not the same.
Jeb: Why didn't you play on "Shooting Shark"?
JB: I don't know. I think I played it pretty well in the studio, but Donald was very clear about wanting to write a hit song that was six or seven minutes long. He was into timing singles and he would find these singles that were really long, like Mister Mister. Their singles were very long but why did they seem so short? They seemed short because they had this percolating rhythm section. So you could have this six minute song and it feels like four.
I think I played the part pretty well but he took it to California because they were mixing the album there and he decided he really wanted to do a slap bass part. I didn't know how to play slap bass. So Randy Jackson came in and slapped the hell out of the bass. I had no idea. That was not part of my language. It was Greek to me.
Jeb: The Randy Jackson?
JB: Yes, the same guy who played with Journey and was on American Idol. He is the nicest guy in the world and a fantastic bass player. So if you see the video for "Shooting Shark" I'm in the video, and I have no idea what I'm doing [laughter].
I love the mix. It really worked great and I said to Sandy, "If ‘Shooting Shark’ is a hit, we're going to have to play it on tour. Do you think you could set me up for a lesson with Randy Jackson?
I met with Randy in the studio in San Francisco and for two hours he taught me how to play "Shooting Shark." It was incredible. It changed my life. I had the studio engineer dub me off a cassette with just the bass part and I brought that with me. He listened to it and then he said "Here's how you do it." He showed me all the tricks and taught me exercises for being able to do that stuff.
Sweet guy! Two hours he spent with me. I said "Lemme pay ya!" He said "No, it's on me." You can actually go to my Soundcloud account and listen to Randy Jackson's isolated bass part.
But yeah, that kind of stuff happens. On "Deadlines" from Cultösaurus Erectus Donald had a bass part where you had to bend a string and I just wasn't getting it. Don was showing me on the bass and Martin said "Donald, you just play it." It's a really great bass part but I just couldn't get the feel of what he wanted on it. That happens sometimes. Sometimes even Bill Wyman gets replaced so I don't feel bad about it.
Jeb: We've touched on every other I album and I like many others was not a big Club Ninja fan except for "Dancin' In the Ruins" which, oddly enough, wasn't written by anyone in the band.
JB: It was a great song. We did a video for that one. It didn't hit. Maybe if it had hit it would have changed things. I thought it was kind of cheesy actually. It pulled the whole thing from the creative team. It was good and Donald plays and sings the hell out of it.
The video I thought was clever because it had all these skateboarders which was the big thing then. We spent some heavy dollars on making that video but it was never played much on MTV. You don't know. You make those decisions at the time. I liked "Perfect Water" on that album.
Jeb: That is the other standout track. Of course the trivia question for that album would be that Howard Stern makes an appearance on the record on "When the War Comes," which is your song.
JB: I loved listening to Howard Stern in the morning. He was very entertaining. He had just been fired from NBC and I asked Sandy, "Do you think we could get him to do a voiceover?" Sandy said he'd try. Eric's wife happens to be related to Howard Stern so we gave him a call.
He had just been fired from his job so he wasn't doing anything. I was actually sick the day he came into the studio. I missed the session but he was really nice and honored to be a part of a Blue Öyster Cult record.
That was a very expensive record to make by the way. There are two completely different mixes, the European mix which doesn't have Howard and the American mix that does. I just thought it would be great if he could do what he did on the radio. He had just been fired so he might have some fire and brimstone in his voice and he did. He brought it to the table.
Jeb: In many ways this was the last original Blue Öyster Cult album. Of course Albert was gone but then we have Imaginos.
JB: A lot of people like it.
Jeb: A lot of people love it. I don't dislike it. I mean, I want to like it. It's a neat idea. But, when I go back to listen to the band I hardly ever choose that one.
JB: I don't like the mixing. It's not really my kind of mix. Sandy took over the mixing of the album and it lacks balance. It sucked all the sweetness out of the songs. That being said, there are some tremendous songs on the album.
Jeb: There are so many rumors, legends and debates about this album. Some people think it's a Sandy Pearlman album and some think it's the best thing you ever did.
JB: I don't think it was meant for mass consumption. It's an eccentric album.
Jeb: Did they really record it off and on for ten years?
JB: Something like that. Albert started working on it when he left the band in 1981 and the album didn't come out until seven years later. Then, of course they patched in Eric and Donald doing the vocals with a couple of other characters singing. It would have been a much better album if it was all done by all the original guys.
The only thing I did on it was a piano part. The album took seven years to make and I worked on it for four days. They gave me a big credit on the album because they wanted to give the impression that the band was back together.
I had nothing to do with the bass parts. I think my piano part was erased and the only thing that was left was a background vocal on one of the songs. I had very little to do with it and for all I know, everything was erased because they were mixing that album for years. It was another expensive album that didn't sell.
Jeb: You get the idea when you look at the "additional" musicians: Joe Satriani, Kenny Aaronson, Robbie Krieger...
JB: They erased Robbie Krieger. He was supposed to be on the album and he got a credit, but he's not there. I talked to the engineer who erased it. Can you imagine that? It seems like a Sandy/Albert vanity project. Columbia refused to put it out under Albert's name. They needed one more album to complete the contract so in go Donald and Eric to overdub vocals. That's what happened.
Jeb: After thirty years since that album do you ever look back and say I should have tried to be a part of it, or were you just done?
JB: I was done. It was wonderful, and I appreciate the several times I've gotten to sit in, but if I had done that then I would have missed out on a lot of things. The five solo albums, I had a lot of fun playing with The X Brothers and I still have a lot of fun playing with Blue Coupe. I've got other artistic projects...I got to go to Iraq and play for the troops. That was amazing.
If I had still been with Blue Öyster Cult none of that would have happened. You can long for the good old days but I think it’s better just to look ahead and not worry about what could have been.
Jeb: What was the best part of being a rock star and what was the worst part?
JB: The worst part was the traveling. Any musician will tell you that. In the early days it was "Oh, this is so exciting. We get to ride on a plane and get picked up by a limo!" But that gets old really quick.
The best part for me was being part of the creative team, especially when we were focused and really cooking. The other amazing thing was playing the freakin' stadiums!
I ran into Cheap Trick a little while ago and they said "When we went out with you guys we had the whole summer and every other day was a stadium! It was amazing!" I'm glad that they remembered. Robin Zander said "Ahh they were such good times!
Jeb: I don't want to get away without mentioning a famous 'sit-in' you had on Extraterrestrial Live. You got to play a Doors song with Robbie Krieger! I'm a huge Doors fan. Take me back to that moment. What was that like?
JB: Very exciting. We recorded one for the album but we played with him three times. We got to play with Ray Manzerek too! We played with him in Santa Monica. He came out and jammed with us and he was having a great time.
I had heard that he was not very friendly but I had a great conversation with him. I told him that the only job I had before becoming a musician was being a milkman. He said "Holy crap, I was a milkman too!" He was a milkman by the lake, right outside of Chicago. I was a milkman on the shore of the Saint Lawrence River. I had a summer job delivering milk. That was the only job I'd had up to that time. He was too!
Jeb: One final question: is there going to be a Bouchard Brothers live album?
JB: Hard to say. It would be easy to do. I've been making some tapes and videoing some stuff and I think the core of it is there. Of course Albert's got eighteen balls up in the air. He's doing Science Fiction records, he's doing records with his friends in New York, he just put out a Christmas album, and he’s working on his second album with Michael Moorcock. He's already got a new song from Buck Dharma that is going to appear on this Science Fiction album.
Joe at Madison Square Garden NYC in 1975