Interview with Music Legend and Cowbell Pioneer Albert Bouchard (Blue Oyster Cult)
By Mick Michaels
COSMICK VIEW: Hello, Albert! Welcome to The Cosmick View. Thank you for taking some time out of your day to chat with me, it's greatly appreciated.
CV: Does having such a long and grand career presence within the music industry, and with fans, create any level of apprehensiveness when it comes to writing new songs because of possible expectations on the part of your audience?Albert Bouchard: I do consider how my audience is going to feel when I create this music but really to me everything serves the story. Even instrumental tunes should have a kind of story to them. So while I consider my audience, I also appreciate them greatly and I have no apprehension. I think of myself like Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice section of Fantasia. Sometimes you do things and exactly what you expect to happen happens and sometimes you do stuff and it seems to expand to every corner of my universe. I don’t question it.
Do you feel artists are often viewed as only being as good as their last hit
song which in turn could create doubt, burn out or even resentment both to
the process and with fans?
AB: I have known artists who think that but I find that to be an unhealthy attitude. I consider myself as a live artist primarily and I’m always thinking how is the best way that I can play this or sing this, even as I’m writing it.
Tell us a little about the new album, "Re Imaginos." What are you hoping fans come away with after
AB: I am hoping that they will like to put on the whole album and listen to it all the way through if they can. I’m hoping that fans of the original record will have a little better sense of the story, that the lyrics are clearer and the music supports those lyrics better. Finally I’m hoping that this record will whet their appetite for the other two records in the trilogy and I get a chance to record them.
CV: If you had to pick your favorite track on the record, which would it be and why? And how does that track compare to your least favorite track, without naming it, on the same album?AB: My favorite track on both the original record and this new record is Siege and Investiture of Baron Von Frankenstein’s Castle at Weisseria. On the original I feel the vocal is incredible and the track is strong and intriguing. On Re Imaginos I had to figure out how to make my vocal as intriguing as Joe Cerisano’s vocal and expand the emotional appeal of the song to include the idea that at its heart is a love song, a feeling of romance, of a love that never ends.
Not to dwell on the faults of the original recording but some of the other songs were way off emotionally to what I thought the idea of the lyrics…mostly because the tempos were too fast. There are no such problems on Re Imaginos. Consequently I do not have a least favorite track. Even if I like some songs better than others, I’m pretty happy with how I changed things…keys, tempo, melody and phrasing, to make the lyrics flow better.
How much of your soul do you leave on the table after writing a song or do you
have a way of separating your personal self from your artistic self? Is there a
balance between the two or is it a trade off to ensure you get a good song…all
AB: Artists are supposed to create art that people can get some sort of emotional release when they are exposed to it. Some artists, like Bruce Springsteen, write about specific things in their lives. I do write with some sense of experience but my subjects are not limited to the events of my life but by my wild imagination. I love to write about things that could be and things that only can exist in fantasy, hence my interest in Sci-fi and horror.
My personal life is not that interesting to me most of the time so I have an interest in separating the two sides.
Now in my vlog show, Most Cowbell, I kind of let it all hang out. I take my audience on my journeys to different places, different projects that I build and some of my hobbies. It’s another reality show as if the worlds needs that but some of my fans seem to enjoy it and once in a while I even slip some subversive thoughts in there too.
Is the song that eventually winds up on the album, the same song that you
initially heard in your head or relatively close…or is it more often something
entirely different? If so, is there a reason for that, you think?
AB: I believe an essential part of being creative is reflection. These days I record almost every musical idea I have on my phone. Usually I’m juggling a whole bunch of ideas at once and even though I usually know what specifically goes into that idea, I really don’t know how it’s all going to turn out. So more often I’m not sure how it will turn out. Once the ball starts rolling I find myself following my muse, not leading it.
Based on your experience, how would you define sustainability for an artist, at
any level, especially when it comes to more turbulent times such as in the current
musical industry climate? How does an artist stay relevant?
AB: Each life is a grand experiment of one. As my friend Melvin Van Peebles used to say, “Keep on, keeping on!” You need to be open to new ideas; you need to grow every day in some way, physically as well as mentally. You need to study things outside of your regular experience. You need friends who can make you laugh or make you think. I’m lucky to have all of this.
Did you ever consider that your decision to include a heavy cowbell accent
would not only become iconic but also a main plot point and punch line in an SNL skit, which is now part of the
fabric of our modern day pop-culture references? "Needs more cowbell"
has become iconic in and of itself?
AB: The success of that skit is exactly the improbability of that sound being in that song. The whole thing is deliciously ironic. Isn’t it? Apologies to Alanis.
CV: What's next? In addition to "Re Imaginos," what can fans expect to see coming as the New Year approaches?
AB: I would love to play some shows where we perform the whole record in order. I would love to have the opportunity to consider how to present the material in a large space as well as a very small and intimate space.
On the recording front I am currently working with NYC’s Dictators on a new recording and with Spirits Burning on the third record of Michael Moorcocks’ Dancers at the End of Time trilogy, The End Of All Songs. I’ve also started doing demos of the second Imaginos record, now called, Minus Zero and Counting.
My 5th season of Most Cowbell will start in March 2021.
Thank you Albert again for spending
some time talking and sharing with our readers. I wish you all the best and
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