Joe Bouchard : Strange legends Interview

Joe Bouchard’s newest album is “Strange Legends”. You can check out my review elsewhere on Outsiderrock, as well as order it at Joe’s site, and check out tracks on Joe’s youtube page. Strange Legends has gotten great reviews, Joe has done tons of press for it [check out numerous interviews on youtube], and a few songs are still in the charts in Holland! Here, Joe answers my questions pertaining to his great new album, dealing with pandemic, and his former band Blue Oyster Cult’s recent releases.

First – how are you surviving the pandemic? Doing more writing or recording projects without the live shows? [Any other recordings on the go?]

I’ve been okay with the pandemic. It has it’s low days. I miss playing live shows and crowds singing along with the songs. I do like the extra time to practice my guitar and I can write music, edit videos, and think of concepts for new projects. I was pretty freaked out back in March and April. I was thinking that panic would set into the food delivery chain. I started hoarding food. Got food poisoning three times! That will make you think you got the bad virus. I was stressed and not sleeping well, so I decided to stop drinking coffee. I went cold turkey and I got sick as a dog. The caffeine withdrawal was more intense than the food poisoning! It just about killed me, but now I sleep better at night. My health is better and I’m excited about the reaction to the new solo album. Things are great now.

Most noticeable upon hearing this CD is the production and the use of a live drummer – Mickey Curry. Did having a drummer change anything about your approach and how was it working with MC? [He has a huge list of legendary credits!]

I started with some good solid songs, the demos were hot, and I had a great feeling about where the album was going. Adding live drums in a pro studio only made the songs better. It was a the right choice to bring Mickey in to replace my machine drums. He has a great feel that serves the songs. It made all the aspects of the production easier to iron out. Mixing was particularly easy for this one.

You re-worked “Forget About Love” for this album, why that particular song?

John Cook told me many times that I should push that song because it had strong appeal and good repeat views on the internet. He said the song could be a real lively crowd pleaser in a show. He was right and the new version of the song is a winner. It made it to #10 on the charts in Holland!

Including Forget About Love, there are 4 songs written by the late John Elwood Cook. How many of his songs do you still have that he passed on to you? Is there any others left after this album?

John was amazingly prolific. He wrote hundreds of songs. The best I heard live when he’d play them on his front porch over a six-pack of beer. I don’t have the whole archive, but I hope to find more hidden gems down the line.

“Strangely In Love” is such a standout; one of my favorite ballads. Can you tell me a bit about the production of this track?

John gave me Strangely in Love on a CD-R he put together for me about 6 years ago. After he passed away I stumbled on it and was immediately taken with the depth of emotion. I wanted to keep the production of the song fairly simple, mostly acoustic guitar, and brief solo and the tag out. It was easy to record and mix. I did sing the vocal several times and kept working on certain lines to get them right. Glad you like it!

I really like the more rockin energy on this CD. Was there a deliberate effort to make it a more hard rocking album?

Yes, energetic songs were high on my to-do list. It’s so easy for an album production to get bogged down with little details and side trips. I deliberately kept the songs short and snappy. I wanted to cut an album that resembled a classic album from the 70s. I think this album is a good one to lift people’s spirits even if we’re mostly stuck at home.

You have 2 more tracks with John Shirley here – who you’d co-written with on the latest Blue Coupe album. When talking about that album you’d said you’d written a number of songs with John at the time, and had submitted a few to Buck Dharma for the forthcoming BOC album. Are “She’s A Legend” and “Bottom To The Bottomless” 2 from that batch and/or the ones you sent to Buck?

Yes, I sent those two songs to Buck. They decided to pass since they wanted to incorporate more of the current band into their project. I didn’t hear much from them about the songs except Don liked the bridge to Bottom of the Bottomless. Yes, I think it’s pretty cool too. That okay by me. Their loss is my gain.
They have a new album out soon called “The Symbol Remains”. I’ve only heard a few of their new songs. They sound very good. For them to put out a new album now, after two decades of nothing new, will only help my album, and Albert’s album when it comes out in November. I think Eric’s vocal on the first single called That Was Me is a standout.

You covered The Kinks “All Day And All Of The Night” – was this something you’d wanted to do for some time? What was special about it?

I’ve always loved the Kinks. I played their songs, including “All Day…” back in my high school band. I didn’t think about it for too long. The Kinks were supposed to reunite and have a tour this summer, but it was canceled. So doing All Day and All of the Night was a last minute addition to the song list. I do like the acoustic intro which deviates from the original. All in all, it was fun to record!

Any anecdotes on a few of tracks, any you’re particularly happy with? [I really like Racing Thru The Desert, as well as Winter, She’s A Legend, Once Upon A Time At The Border]

Racin’ Thru the Desert came out very well. It was mostly a jam I was doing at home. I like having at least one instrumental track on each of my solo albums. It gives me a break from singing and it is a nod to my early days of playing Ventures songs in a rock band.
It’s also a homage to the late Dick Dale the king of the surf guitar. Dick Dale also played trumpet which I didn’t know until recently. He would play lead guitar and trumpet in his early shows. I have been obsessed with brass instruments lately. I bought a cornet, trumpet, piccolo trumpet and flugelhorn. They are fun but very demanding to play correctly. I practice more now than I ever did before.

Winter is deeply emotional and is a fitting finale for the album. It is a song with lots of space, like the winter sky in Canada! I love doing melodic guitar solos and that is a good one.

She’s a Legend has a killer chorus. I love the way the harmonies soar and lift. Good guitar solo in that one too.

Once Upon a Time at the Border was the hardest song to record. The lyric relates to my summers long ago playing in clubs on the St. Lawrence River. I had a few girlfriends in those days, and that song relates to those emotional times.

One other thing that I like more with this album is the artwork by Logan Cummings. Was this particular piece drawn specifically for this album?

Logan is a young artist I met when he was doing an art camp with my girlfriend when he was 10 years old! He had a unique talent back then. He just graduated from high school this year. I saw some of his drawings on Instagram, and said that style might be something unique for my CD cover. I met with Logan and we decided that he would not only do the cover but also thumbnails for all of the tracks on the album. I feel his art makes my album stand out very well amongst all the new releases. He’s studying art in college and I feel he is going to have a great future.

Having said that…. there is no vinyl LP option for Strange Legends. Does this mainly come down to cost and/or might there be a limited run in the future?

I’d love to do vinyl for this album. We have sold out the first pressing of the CDs and we are getting ready for a repressing. That’s a good sign so vinyl may happen. I know it will sound great on vinyl. It’s just a matter of crunching the numbers to make it happen.

There is a lot of releases from Blue Oyster Cult this year – live albums, reissues, new album… and the band’s 50th anniversary coming up. Might there be anything you’ll be involved in – either a live release or any new songs, box sets, etc… ?

It’s great that Blue Öyster Cult is releasing new material and reissues, DVDs and more. I haven’t heard of anything that involves me, but ya never know. They have my numbers and email.

You’ve mentioned Albert’s upcoming project “Re-Imaginos”. Are you involved in this at all? Any dates or details you’re able to share?

Albert’s Re-Imaginos is fantastic. All the songs sound great. It will give the Blue Öyster Cult fans something deep to listen to. I play trumpet solos on two of the songs. One is the first single called Black Telescope that will be released in October. It was fun recording the trumpet parts. Albert said he wanted something like Love’s Forever Changes album, and I was glad to make it work.

KJJ, 09/20

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