The following interview was carried out by Alex Callaghan for his Bournemouth school magazine.
How many rock musicians do you know of who would take the time and trouble to be interviewed by a school magazine? It's probably not a big list...
Nice one, Joe... and well done Alex.
Q: During your spell away from rock music I hear you taught for a while. Why did you choose to do teaching for a living?
JB: Even though most rock musicians are self taught, I had some great music teachers in high school. I learned singing in a chorus and playing in a brass band. It seemed like they had a great time teaching music. So when I decided on a music career, I went to Ithaca College to study music education.
The chances of making a living as a musician are very slim. And the pay can be very, very slim. So I thought that if I didn't make it as a pro, I could do some teaching and have a stable life.
Little did I know I'd put off serious teaching for 18 years! It was not difficult to get into that profession after 16 years on the road and studio with Blue Öyster Cult.
Q: What was the reaction of your students like once they discovered that you earned your living as a rock star?
JB: It varied. Some young students have never heard of Blue Öyster Cult, they are more into rap, hip hop and some alternative groups. But other students are mightily impressed. They're heard their parents albums from the 70s, or their older siblings records, or they just follow classic rock radio which plays Don't Fear the Reaper daily in the United States. Reaper has popped up on TV shows like Saturday Night Live and the Simpsons. And Stephen King's movie The Stand.
Q: I understand you've recently had a new music instruction book published. Could you tell us something about it?
JB: I've written four books. The latest is Bass for the Absolute Beginner. It's just coming out and I don't have a copy of it myself yet. It's an excellent beginners book for someone who is new to playing an instrument. It comes with a play-a-long CD.
The other books are Rock Guitar for Beginners, Beginning Rock Keyboards and Intermediate Rock Keyboards (co-written with Seth Zowader). They are all published by Alfred Publishing and are available at many music stores and internet sites like The National Guitar Workshop Bookstore.
Q: Do you look back on your time in BÖC with fondness, or are there certain aspects of your former life you shudder to recall?
JB: No, it was all great. I was amazed daily that we had such success. There might have been a few problems, like when my brother Albert was let go from the group. But that was minor in comparison to the great amount of success and fun we had.
Q: You've now returned to rock music with Bouchard, Dunaway and Smith. Would you care to tell us about your band, and where we could obtain your work from?
JB: I've known Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith since 1973 when BÖC toured as the opening act with the up and coming Alice Cooper. We became close friends when I found out that they both lived near me in Connecticut. We started writing songs together in the late 70s. I would come off a BÖC tour and as a lark Dennis and Neal and I would jam and write at Neal's house. We're still doing in 20 years later.
There were long stretches where we did not get together. But in 1998, when I found out Metallica was covering my song Astronomy, we got serious about the writing again. I ran into Ian Hunter at a magazine shop and talked him to coming to a few rehearsals too. Monday afternoons were our rehearsal days. We worked for two solid years developing material. Then on prodding by my brother Albert who wanted a song from the Helen Wheels Tribute CD, we cut 10 tracks the first session in the studio. Later we went back and cut 4 more tracks. Two songs were cut from the list and we ended up with 12 very hot numbers for our Bouchard, Dunaway & Smith CD.
I think it's the best collection of songs I've ever done. There is a lot of depth to the material.
The CD is only available through www.nealsmith.com at the moment. But it will soon be available on the internet and record stores.
Q: If the opportunity presented itself to you, would you consider rejoining BÖC?
JB: Probably not. I've got a good private teaching business going, write educational books, and play in four different bands. I like making my own schedule. If I was back in BÖC all of that would have to be put on hold.
The current BÖC seems very happy with their new bass and drums.
Fans seem to think that if the original lineup for the band was playing together, the band would be as popular or more popular than they were in the 70s. I doubt that can happen. Music styles have changed a lot and it's a very young business now.
But if we got paid like the Eagles did... Hmmmm.
Q: What's your opinion on BÖC's latest studio albums, "Heaven Forbid" and "Curse of the Hidden Mirror"?
JB: Heaven Forbid got off on the wrong foot with a really ugly cover. I've listened to it, but I find it a bit harsh for my tastes. I would have changed the sequence of tunes to make it more listener friendly.
Curse of the Hidden Mirror has a great cover, and I think they were much more comfortable in the studio this time. Eric's singing voice came back to life. It's a very good album.
Q: Did your time in BÖC help you in any way as a teacher?
JB: Not really. Playing in a big time band looks very glamorous, but in reality you don't learn any practical skills. When I started teaching in 1988 I had a lot of learning to do.
Q: In your opinion, which contemporary artists or bands are worth listening to? Also, do you have any feelings on the "Renaissance of Rock" under the "nu-metal" banner?
JB: I don't listen to much pop/rock music. I kinda like Everclear. That was the last rock CD I bought. I did just buy the Billy Joel classical piano CD and I like it. I listen to classical music, the radio, and lately have been listening to new age and mix of contemporary Indian music.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
JB: I plan to continue writing music. I do some commercial music for radio and TV in the U.S. BDS playing 5 shows in 2001. I hope to do more in 2002, but I'm not sure, since we're all committed to different projects and obligations.
I do a lot of music on my home computer. The power of my G4 Mac is much greater that I ever dreamed. I can do anything sonically on it.
I working on a song for bagpipes that my friend wrote for his friends in the NJ police who have a pipe band. It's a tribute to their fallen brothers from World Trade Center disaster.
Q: Currently enjoying a resurgence of popularity here are Black Sabbath. What was it like to tour with such a revered group on the "Black and Blue Tour"?
JB: Black Sabbath is a great band. Unfortunately, when we toured with them, Ronnie Dio was their singer. They were good but not the original. Ozzy, at the prodding of his wife Sharon, have built themselves a great industry with OzzFests and Black Sabbath Reunions.
The 1980 Black and Blue Tour was not that pleasant. There were riots at several shows and the rivalry between Sabbath and Cult keep us on edge all the time. It was the biggest show of the year, but I remember having more fun with many other bands like Aerosmith, Rush, The Faces, Foghat, Alice Cooper and many more.
Q: Our school has a good number of bands - what advice would you give to young people attempting to make it in the rock world?
JB: You must really love what you do, to the point of obsession. It keeps you going during the rough times. A music degree is okay, but I wish I studied writing prose and poetry more. And some good accounting courses would really help one keep the money straight.
Q: Can you describe your most "Spinal Tap" moment in your career as a rock star?
JB: My Spinal Tap moment was going to see Spinal Tap in the theatre. Dennis Dunaway talked me into going to see it. I was shocked because it was a replay of my life. It was like they took our touring stories and put them into a movie. Especially harsh was the time when Tap was in Memphis and the gig was canceled. That exact situation occurred to BÖC the year before. The only difference was we wanted to go to Graceland on the unexpected day off... but it was closed for renovations! We were bummed. We did eat some good barbecue with the Foghat folks that night. And the tour went on but sometimes you can feel things going downhill.
Q: What is your favourite BÖC album, and which songs are your favourites? Also, what is your favourite album of all time?
JB: Agents of Fortune because it brought together the concepts we'd been developing and was a smash hit. In second place for me is the first BÖC album. I just love the vibe I get off that recording.
There are many favorite albums. Okay I'll go with the crowd and say Pet Sounds. I actually went to see Brian Wilson's 2000 tour, when he played the entire album, three times. I was blown away.
Q: Who or what were your main influences, not only in music but life in general too?
JB: My teachers, my family. My dad who is 82 now, used to drive Albert and I to gigs in the early 60s in dad's VW bus. My mom has always encouraged my music. Beatles and Stones thrown in for good measure.
Q: During BÖC's early years, how did you deal with the accusation that the band (which obviously implies you) were Nazi sympathizers?
JB: We were never Nazi sympathizers. That's ridiculous. Several people in the organization were Jewish including our singer. It was Sandy Pearlman's idea to put the Messerschmitt plane on to cover of our third album. It got us into all kinds of hot water. Circus magazine's editor had a meeting with Eric Bloom and Murray Krugman to complain. And they banned us from the magazine. Sandy wrote the lyrics to our song ME262 which was a goofy song about a critical juncture of technology and a historical fact. I thought it was a great artsy song, but I guess some people didn't get it.
Q: You've been to England a few times - what was your impression of the country? Also, have you ever been to Bournemouth?
JB: I like England. In 1978 we completely sold out every seat in every venue. It was fabulous. I believe we did play Bournemouth once in the 70s, but I don't remember the specifics. Hopefully I'll be back someday. My wife is an American, who worked in London in the 60s, and she loves England. We often talk about vacationing there someday.
Good luck to the students. Thank you for the interest.