Promo photo by Bleacher & Everard
A Million Miles Traveled And A Million Miles More To Come
Interview and photos by Patrick Brzezinski
Translation by Caroline Stephenson
About five years ago, Blue Coupe was born in Connecticut - the land that so many legendary artists covet because of its peacefulness, its beautiful landscapes and its close proximity to the forever effervescent Manhattan, the avant-garde venture of the East Coast of the America.
Following an impromptu meeting on the public transport linking both places, Dennis Dunaway (Alice Cooper Group) and Joe Bouchard (Blue Öyster Cult) revived their 40 year-old friendship and started meeting again, regularly, reliving the past with their instruments in hand. A few years later, along with Joe's brother and fellow BOC member Albert Bouchard, they decided to create Blue Coupe (not the combo of their old band names) with no other objective than to enjoy delightful moments whilst wandering the New York scene. Set lists were made from old hits from their original respective groups mixed with others from the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, MC5, the Doors, Ramones or even the Grateful Dead.
Two years later, in 2010, their creative thirst led them to write their first album Tornado On The Racks. Several compositions with cleverly mixed genres gave the group a real identity. Early fans will have recognized there colors and intonations peculiar to each of the musicians. More than just a trial, the title "You (like Vampire)" even got them a Grammy nomination.
In 2011, Dennis Dunaway was introduced to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with the rest of the Alice Cooper Group. Even if the event meant he was solicited from all sides, he found time to free himself for concert opportunities. As the dates became more and more numerous, Blue Coupe's fame started to grow involuntarily and took them to Canadian and European scenes. Their audience was showing growing interest so they decided to return the favor.
Last February, Blue Coupe ended the English tour "Hotrails To Hull" and a second album is now being produced – full of promises and surprises. It is for this occasion that I decided to interview the group and gather some exclusive information for Perfect Sound Forever.
PSF: How did BLUE COUPE begin?
Albert Bouchard: We got together originally to play for the opening of a club in the Pocono Mountains. The owner had seen us jamming at a "Save CBGBs" benefit and wanted to book just the 3 of us to play at his club.
Dennis Dunaway: The club was in such a remote mountain area that it didn't even have an address that we could look up online. But lots of people showed up and by the end of the night, the club owner offered us a big bonus to continue playing. We played 3 sets without ever having rehearsed.
PSF: What is the motivation of such a band?
AB: For myself, I feel that music is the most fun thing I can do. I don't think I could live now without doing it. Although I have fulfilled most of my dreams when I was young, I still love to perform and create music.
DD: That's exactly it. Joe and Albert love and live music as much as I do. It's in our blood. It's in our bones and it's in our pants. Just kidding.
PSF: The repertory of the Alice Cooper Group added to the classic Blue Öyster Cult songs is a strong heritage to draw upon for your shows. However, 3 years ago, you decided to compose a new album. Why do you have this want or need?
AB: It was Robby Krieger who inspired us to make our first record 3 years ago by telling me that he'd really love to record with us. Before that, we hadn't really thought about recording. At the time, we all had other groups and other recording projects we were involved in.
DD: All three of us are prolific writers so the chances of us recording together were as inevitable as the sun rising.
PSF: There's a story behind each song, could you reveal the ones behind some of the songs on Tornado On The Tracks?
AB: I only wrote lyrics for 2 songs but I can tell you that "Deep End" was about how everyone thought I was crazy to get involved with someone, but I was in love and that was all that mattered to me. "Man Up" was about having a positive attitude about my trials and tribulations of my life in general at the time.
DD: Albert is making it sound like he didn't do much on Tornado but he and his brother Joe were exceptionally involved in every detail of the album. Albert has friends that research dolphins in their natural habitat in an isolated lagoon in the Bahamas. They had beautifully filmed many hours of those dolphins activities. So they were entertaining the idea of making a pilot film for a cable show. So we recorded our version of the Byrds "Dolphin's Smile" for that. Chris Hillman said he liked our version better than his original version. Yeah, right! "Tornado Warning" was an instrumental that Albert had and we all started toying around with the lyrical concept. Briefly, it was about a hot looking babe, and then it evolved into a song about Suzi Quatro. But while we were in the recording studio, New York City had a tornado warning. The studio is next to train tracks, which you can see in our "You (Like Vampires)" video. I was looking out the window and Albert asked me how the sky looked? I said it looks like there's a tornado on the tracks. We looked at each other and smiled. We knew that was the album title and that influenced the lyrics on "Tornado Warning."
PSF: You are just back from a tour in England. How did it go?
AB: The UK tour was awesome. Every gig was different and every gig was great. That has been a repeating pattern for the band through our 5-year run.
DD: All three of us love Britain because of the Beatles and the whole British Invasion. That fantastic musical influence will always be endearing for us. The Billion Dollar Babies album had reached number one 40 years previous to this visit and lots of Coop fans showed up. It's great to see such an even amount of Blue Oyster Cult fans as well. They come to see the Bouchard brothers. Joe wrote "Astronomy" which Metallica covered. Albert wrote "Cities On Flame (With Rock and Roll)." And together, they shaped a ton of well-loved classics. And I really enjoy playing those songs with them on stage.
PSF: What can we expect to hear and see at one of your shows?
AB: First of all, they can expect some great music. We do most of the hits and even though our original bands had 5 members we are able to cover most of the parts with just 3. We also have a lot of famous and not famous musician friends, so we love to have people come up and jam with us.
DD: You can also expect a bit of the unexpected. We enjoy going out on limbs. For instance, we were walking to the stage at an outdoor festival in Peymenade, France when someone called out a request for a song we had never played together before. We discussed the song while we were walking and we played it together for the first time in front of a lot of people.
PSF: How have you been received by the audience?
AB: In the 70+ shows, we have played there was only one audience who was not super enthusiastic about us and they were just a little passive, not hostile in any way. We've been very lucky as far as our audiences.
DD: That one audience was the dumbest audience I've ever seen (laughs).
PSF: You usually play with guests onstage. Did this happen during your UK tour?
AB: Yes, in the UK we played with Giles Robson (blues harmonica player), in Jersey, Tish and Snooky (Blonide, Sick F*cks) in Hertford and Skegness, and Peter Gallus in Mickleton and Hessle.
DD: Also Chris Allen of The Troggs joined us for "Wild Thing." And we had a fan appreciation Meet & Greet – Jam Night in Clitheroe where we got musicians and fans to join us on stage. A young boy got up and sang "School's Out" and he knew all of the lyrics.
© Patrick Brzezinski
PSF: What are the highlights of the tour that you will remember for a long time?
AB: My 2 favorites were that kind of odd place in Mikleton and the Jersey Opera house but all the gigs were special in their own way.
DD: I loved the Jersey Opera House because it had theatrical lighting and my Fender Billion Dollar Bass lit up the room like King Tut's treasure chest. It doesn't matter where we play. It's really the fans that make each night happen. And we genuinely appreciate that.
PSF: Your impressions concerning England?
AB: I think people in England, and all of Europe in general, have a better appreciation for the arts than people in America. It's refreshing really.
DD: They didn't even have one dumb audience.
PSF: You show a lot of consideration for your fans, spending a lot of time with them after the shows. What are they telling you?
AB: Either 'I saw you in (fill in the blank)' or 'please come back soon.'
DD: It's heartwarming to hear people say that our music meant something in their lives. Like Tony Smith, who brought his family to the show in Bilston, his son's name is Neal because of Neal Smith of the original Alice Cooper group. Tony confided that the AC music helped him through some serious health issues. I believe all music has healing powers but Tony was able to raise that to a spiritual level. It could be any music but he chose something that I did. That's humbling.
PSF: What are the most atypical memories that you have about these exchanges?
AB: Well a fan in Skegness asked me to sign her dress and I thought she said breast so that was awkward for a moment.
DD: I distinctly heard her say dress but I signed her breast anyway.
PSF: Can you tell us about your second album?
AB: After the first one, we really wanted to up our game. Surprisingly, we were up for multiple Grammy nominations for that first one so we wanted to have a better shot at getting the final ballot for this one.
DD: We have more ideas than you can shake a stick at. We recorded enough diverse versions to make a whole album out of "Hallow's Grave" alone. It was stubborn like pulling teeth but we kept trying until we nailed it. And then, some songs just fall in your lap like a gift from that swirling creative stream up above. I gave Joe some lyrics and he knocked out "Hellfire Hurry" in a hurry. The lyrics on "Ain't Dead" crept up on Albert but then he found the right feel. I spent months urging Joe and Albert to write "More Cowbell (Gotta Fever)" because of their obvious history with that legendary comedy sketch (on Saturday Night Live about BOC). But they had reservations that persisted so I decided to write it myself and it came to me as easy as pie.
PSF: What is the meaning of the album title Million Miles More?
AB: The title signifies travel for us, more gigs, more progress, more expansion, travel from place to place, from reality to fantasy, from corporeal to spiritual.
DD: The album has a lot of songs about various kinds of travel and that's what musicians do. We travel.
PSF: How did you go about composing the songs for this album?
AB: We worked really hard on it. We wrote and demoed over 40 songs. After a couple rehearsals we decided on the songs we wanted to concentrate on. It wasn't even what were the best songs at the time, just the kind of thing that we could make happen as a group.
DD: Yes, we worked hard. Fans pledged funds to support our last album and now this one. We respect that and intend to make them feel like every penny counted. We did most of the creating via the internet. I would send an idea to Joe and Albert and get ten ideas back, and so on and so on.
PSF: What were your criteria for selecting songs for the album?
AB: Again we are selecting the songs that are the best that we can realize as a group.
DD: Our criteria come from our head, our heart and our gut. But where the songs were already chosen for Tornado on the Tracks before Tish and Snooky were asked to sing on the album, on Million Miles More, we chose songs, and even wrote songs with their vocals in mind.
PSF: Jack Douglas, who's worked for the Alice Cooper Group and Blue Öyster Cult, and most recently on the last Aerosmith album, is involved in the project. Why this choice and how did you make it happen?
AB: We ran an indiegogo campaign and raised a decent amount of money and were discussing who we would like to get to mix the album. As it happened we all thought Jack Douglas would be our first choice if we could have anyone in the world but we were afraid that he would not have the time to take on an indy project. I hit him up on Facebook and he said right away he was in. Amazing!
DD: Jack begged and pleaded with us to let him do this. He said he just couldn't seem to get his career off the ground. All he had ever done was little known albums like School's Out, Muscle of Love, On Your Feet or On Your Knees, and a few little things with some guy who claimed to be a Beatle. Oh yes, and some other obscure band called Aerosmith. We just didn't have the heart to turn him down.
PSF: Robbie Krieger from the Doors played on Tornado On The Tracks. For Million Miles More, I've heard that Alice Cooper will sing on one of your songs and there are other notable guest musicians. Could you list them and tell us how their collaboration came about?
AB: Alice sings lead on one song. We have lead guitar contributions by Buck Dharma (BOC), Deniz Tek (Radio Birdman) and Ross the Boss (Manowar, Dictators), organ by Goldy McJohn (Steppenwolf) and Giles Robson on harmonica. Tish and Snooky sing on all the background vocals but one.
DD: We also have a rowdy crowd of inebriated Canadians singing live and clanking cowbells on "More Cowbell (Gotta Fever)" at two in the morning on New Year's Eve.
PSF: Dennis, I know from the horse's mouth that a love song about your wife Cindy will be on the album. Can you tell us about it?
DD: For 40 years now, every time Cindy asks why I've never written a love song for her, I always say, what's wrong with "B.B. On Mars"? Well that joke is worn out so I wrote "I'll Forever Sick Around" and it's so beautiful, it will make your teeth hurt.
PSF: Is this album in the same vein as Tornado On the Tracks, or what would be the differences?
AB: This album may be slightly less quirky but a lot bigger sounding. The vocals will be more commanding.
DD: Million Miles More has the same diversity that Tornado on the Tracks has but there is more urgency overall. More below-the-belt hard rock.
PSF: When will Million Miles More be released?
AB: We hoped to have it done already but we keep getting little setbacks. Some of the tracks have taken longer to get the final vocals. We started with one approach and decided later that we needed to come at the song a different way and also the mixing has taken a while to do because Jack Douglas and Warren Huart have other projects (for major labels) that demand their time too.
DD: It will be in your hot little hands before the cows come home.
PSF: What are the other projects for the band in 2013?
AB: We are now working on our summer dates. We plan to venture further west into the heart of America and Canada this year. We haven't thought beyond the summer at this point.
DD: I plan to finish this interview.
PSF: And tell us about your individual projects?
AB: I have accumulated some solo material that I would like to put out sometime soon. I also have a record with a French opera singer, Aria, that I hope to finish this year. I am doing some work with the rockabilly singer, Robert Gordon that may net a record sometime this year. I have David Roter's last record Caught the Monster that I would like to finally complete and released and finally, I plan to launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund the digitizing of 8 hours of the earliest recordings of Blue Öyster Cult in early 1971, before we got our Columbia deal.
DD: I plan to watch a puddle evaporate.
© Patrick Brzezinski
To know if Blue Coupe's playing near your house : http://www.bluecoupeband.com/gig/
To buy Tornado On The Tracks CD : http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bluecoupe2
To preorder Million Miles More CD : http://www.bluecoupeband.com/store/
Special thanks also to Mike O'Keefe and Mal Blasi
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