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Joe Bouchard

‘Replacement’ Bass

by Jessie Lilley

Joe Bouchard is no one’s replacement, but when he graduated from college in 1970 his brother’s band asked him to step into the original bass player’s shoes. He made the gig his own and Joe’s bass is heard on Blue Öyster Cult albums through 1986. A thinking man's (or woman's) metal band, and obvious sci fi and horror fans these lads, they certainly had me rockin' in the 70s.

I had the good fortune to meet Joe and current band mates Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith (Alice Cooper Band alumni) when they were playing this past spring (’04) on the East Coast. The new band is BDS and they do rock. Dunaway (long one of the top bass players enhancing my world) and Smith (ass-kicking drummer of the same caliber) are one of the “classic rhythm sections of rock ‘n roll” (amen) and they and my lad Bouchard are older to be sure, but no less quiet, thank God. Together first as Deadringer, they have since morphed into BDS and I am happy to report, agreed to interviews. This chat with Joe is the first installment in my personal “Get BDS To Play LA (and points East)!” campaign.

Jessie Lilley: Joe, you'd been jamming with BÖC for awhile before you joined the band in 1970. What was that the name of the band at that time?

Joe Bouchard: My brother Albert met Don Roeser (later known as Buck Dharma) at Clarkson College in 1965. After they both flunked out of their engineering studies, they started a group on Long Island called Soft White Underbelly. SWB got signed to Elektra Records and were touted to be the next Doors. They made two albums for Elektra that were never released.

JL: How did you get involved?

JB: It was an exciting time for me. I was a music student at Ithaca College and during my vacations from college I would spend a week or more jamming with SWB. They were the house band at the Steve Paul's Scene in NYC and many times rubbed shoulders with the greats. They backed up Chuck Berry, opened for all the hot psychedelic groups of the Summer of Love, and Jimi Hendrix jammed on their gear. Their album never got released and lay in the Elektra vaults until 1998 when Rhino put it out. After I graduated from Ithaca in 1970 they asked me to replace their bass player. I jumped at the chance.

JL: You left them in 1986. Why?

JB: There was a long list of reasons. Number one: I was burnt out from the grind (pretty much 16 years of non-stop touring and recording) and I felt we had peaked as an artistic entity. I figured the only way to go was down at that point. We were deeply in debt, and it took us until around 1997 before our records were back in the black so to speak. If I wanted to do anything else in my life I had better do it then. Number two: I had two young daughters who needed to see more of their dad. Number three: We just made a very bad album called Club Ninja. For me it was an embarrassment. Number four: I started hating playing the bass guitar and singing the same old songs. Sometimes I think I just lost my mind in 1986. I knew I loved performing but something went haywire. I could probably name a few more reasons but those were the top ones.

JL: You didn't stay away though...

JB: I eventually started enjoying performing again with Spencer Davis and later with my band, the Cult Brothers (a/k/a The X Brothers). Now I perform in four different groups and I have a ball each time we play.

JL: You play several instruments and now have your Masters in music. I understand that, among other things, you're teaching now. Do you give private lessons or are you instructing to a full class somewhere?

JB: For eight years I taught at The Forman School in Litchfield CT. It was an okay job but as years rolled on it became stressful, and in 1996 I was glad to move on. I stopped teaching and started work as an associate editor and music engraver with Workshop Arts Publishing, the book division of the National Guitar Workshop. I learned the ins and outs of the book business and wrote four educational books for that company. I still have a relationship with National Guitar Workshop and coming up I’ll be working on several new projects with them including "live" guitar lessons on the internet. The books continue to sell and I appreciate the royalties I get twice a year. Book royalties are much better than record royalties.

JL: You left them in 2000?

JB: I left my desk job at Workshop Arts and started teaching independently. Currently I teach 48 private students a week mostly guitar players and occasionally teach special seminars. The money is great and I really love what I do. My current situation is flexible enough to allow me time for songwriting, record production and concerts.

JL: You, Dennis and Neal have played together before. Were you a member of Deadringer, or just passing through?

JB: I was a member of Deadringer. Neal and Dennis and I have been writing songs since the late 70s. Deadringer was an outgrowth of our songwriting partnership. We had a stack of songs and were trying to find a way to get the songs out. In 1987 Grudge Records offered us a modest budget to record and we went for it. I didn't play too much on that CD, and I wish I sang more, but I did write four songs for that album that I'm very proud of.

JL: You know I've heard BDS live. You guys truly rock. How's it going?

JB: BDS is a kick ass live group. I get so hyped up knowing one of the great classic rhythm sections of rock (Neal and Dennis), is behind me. I've got huge shoes to fill. We're on hiatus at the moment because Dennis is finishing up a solo CD and I'm working on a CD of mostly acoustic music. We have several new songs written but we're hoping to get the right recording situation set up to do those new songs justice. I produced the last CD, but we're looking for a new producer for the next record to give us the depth and polish we need.

JL: Any plans for another album? I loved the new song you played Saturday night, Rattle Your Bones. I sure hope it hits wax.

JB: We played Rattle Your Bones when you last saw us. It's a great song. We've got several others waiting for the right production opportunity.

JL: When are you gonna play LA?

JB: I love LA. We had a great time playing the Whisky in 2001. As soon as we can get another booking we'll be there.

JL: When we first met, your family was preparing for the marriage of your daughter. I assume it was a hell of a party. Who played the reception?

JB: My blues band, TreeTop played the reception. Actually there were two bands at the reception. My son in law's cousin plays in a similar band called Bone Dry. Both bands ended up jamming together. The music was non-stop and the night ended up with one hell of a jam session. Even Dennis sat in. I can't remember a better wedding.

JL: I hope you're pleased with your new son-in-law!

JB: He rocks. I'm giving him banjo lessons and he's teaching me to shoot skeet. Last time I shot his shotgun I hit 11 out of 12 clay birds!

JL: Anything you'd like to add?

JB: Thanks to all the faithful fans. You can get your "More Cowbell" t-shirts at Hot Topic in the Mall!

JL: Thanks for taking the time Joe. I have my camera all primed and will be at The Whisky any night you name!

Joe’s been to this website several times and is, I’m delighted to say, most complimentary. He and I have been carrying on an e-mail correspondence on and off for a couple of months now. I have a quote after my signature and have had to add to it, courtesy of Joe Bouchard. It amuses me to share it with you here.

"Music careers go up and down, all the time, like trousers"

- Rod Stewart

“Amen, Rod the Mod!”

- Joe Bouchard

Amen indeed. Welcome back boys.