Rock Impressions

by Giancarlo Bolther

Hi Al, the new album is a real killer and it reminds to me something about Cultosaurus Erectus, can you tell us about the songs from Denial of Death?
I had been writing some songs as I always do when we had a few gigs in upstate New York. On the way in the van I played my ideas for the others in the band and everybody like them but Ross said he had some riffs he'd been working on too. We made a plan to work on some songs later the following week and after the first day we had 6 songs. It went from there and by the end of the month we had 23 new songs.

What does the title mean? Do you are referring to the friends who, sadly, have begone?
We got the idea for the title from the book by Ernest Becker. It's a psychology book that spans a lot of ideas, embracing some and leaving others. He was a disciple of Freud but also was into Kirkerguard and had his own take on the meaning of life and the roots of schizophrenia. It seemed to fit the general mood of the album and seemed a little goth and heavy. It could also be about our creative friends who've passed on. It could even be a fresh take on Don't Fear the Reaper sans cowbell.

It’s obvious that Ross the Boss has given a huge impact to the new sound of the band, can you tell me more about your decision to play together?
I've wanted to play in a band with Ross since before he played on my demos for Agents of Fortune. He played some stuff on those demos that BD could never capture.

What kind of person is Ross as a man and as an artist?
Ross is a true blue sort of guy. He's very sincere but has that New York sense of humor. He's passionate about his friends, his family and his music. He is slow to criticize and quick to praise. He pretends he's anti-intellectual but is really well read. He likes to have the TV on all the time, the air conditioner up full blast and he loves hot sauce.

Can you tell me about your meeting?
In 1974 Helen Wheels was hired by BOC management to film the Dictators rehearsal. She had access to a 16mm camera from either her father or school. I don't remember which but she asked me to come along to help her work the equipment. I thought they were great but when their roadie shouted/sang a song I thought they were brilliant. Ross, in particular, seemed like a real nice guy and could really play the guitar.

New logo , new artwork, new line up... it’s a real new project?
When we made the album we made a conscious decision to go in a more heavy direction. We actually thought about changing the name but then we thought we had some name recognition and it really wouldn't be worth it to change. We just decided to all a modifier to the end to accentuate the new urban grit we've acquired from the Dictators.

In some of your lyrics you have speaked about religion, how do you live the relation with God in your own life?
I visit houses or temples of worship from time to time but I also feel a little wary about religion in general. We need to have guides for behavior, rituals to take us through life's journeys, and reasons to think about something besides ourselves. The problem is when people use religion to further their own ends or agendas that's when the trouble starts. I actually think things are getting a little better though so hopefully everyday there's less evil to fear.

BOC were supposed to be satanists (i.e. for some lyrics of Tyranny and Mutation era and the use of the cronos symbol and so on...), after so many years what would you like to say about?
For the first 3 BOC albums and for certain songs after that BOC sang from a different persona than the people in the band. You could argue that all bands do that to a degree. You might represent yourself as someone who's wilder, more bad ass and more aggressive that who you really are. Or more peaceful and gentle. Anyway we sang songs from the perspective of Nazi pilots, Hell's Angels, terrorists and perverts. We weren't advocating anything, just presenting a scenario, like a movie, El Topo for instance. It was an intellectual exercise. The logo is really pretty silly if you really look at it. As far as what we were supposed to be was really a fantasy. Any Nazis, terrorists or perverts will have to look elsewhere for role models. Sorry… ;-)

Many people say that lyrics have a great influence on the youth, do you agree?
I don't think the lyrics have as much influence as the music.

Your background is very impressive, but you have had a long underground period with the Brain Surgeons, how hard it was for you to find a good deal and an european distribution?
It's been pretty hard. We don't have anybody behind us and the business has changed. Fortunately the internet is starting to take off over here in the USA so we're finally getting some good shows. Hopefully Europe will soon follow.

How are going the responses to the new album?
The response to the new album have been great. We've really gotten very little criticism and what there is always boils down to I don't really like this kind of music. 99.9% of our long time fans love it.

In my opinion you were always afraid to have left the Blue Oyster Cult, but today, with a new great band, which is your thought about?
Everything works out for the best and all change is good for a little while. I am happy to still be creative and in charge of my own career. If I had stayed I might not be as creative or happy.

What is that you miss the most about being in BOC and how hard it was to leave them?
The one thing I missed about being with them was the creative banter we had about our new songs. It was very hard to leave especially as it was not my decision. Now I don't miss the creative banter because it is back with Ross in the band but now I miss those huge concerts. If I could have a couple of those a year I wouldn't miss a thing.

Recently you have played again with Donald Roeser, how is the relation with him in these days?
My relationship with him is pretty good. We really were great friends and there was just a few years where the tension between us got in the way. It was great to play with him again too because he is just as great a musician as he always was.

Since the eighties BOC weren’t very productive, also if they still have a lot of fans, do you know why?
Name recognition (don't leave home without it)

BOC were a great ensamble of artists, can you tell me more about your real lifestyle was like in the early seventies and why it was changed after Agent of Fortune period?
Before AoF we always had a band house. Not everybody lived there but it was a place where some did and everybody did at one time or another and where we would practice and do all the band business from. When we did AoF we were all living separately and we created our demos on personal multitracks with the writer of the song playing all the parts. After a while they all would ask me to lay down drum parts because that was what the had the hardest time with but for AoF there was no mingling of arrangers. In other words, before AoF we would record our demos at practice with every member throwing in their ideas here and there. AoF marked a clearer vision for the writers of the songs and it was an intoxicating feeling. Eventually we recognized the folly of wanting the others out but we were swayed for awhile. Also by then Don and I had been playing in bands together and living together for over 10 years. It was kind of nice to play with some other people (like Ross the Boss) by then.

There is something about your past that you would like to change if it will be possible?
Nah. Sometimes you think you wouldn't want to go through certain painful experiences (like those kidney stones) but it makes you who you are and most things work out for the best eventually.

What does it mean for you to play rock music again after so much time?
It is very precious to me. It is an honor. It is a moment that will never come again and I intend to make the most of it I possibly can.

Can you describe to us your relationship with Patty Smith?
I can't really say I'm close to Patti. She has some close friends but I'm just an associate. I hadn't seen her in 20 years and saw her last November in Seattle and it was really good to see her but we were each en route to our individual shows so we didn't have much time to talk. Hope the next time we can catch up.

You have collaborated with a lot of artists, what is that it pushes you to work with so many different musicians?
I have a restless spirit that I inherited from my dad. I love going places and meeting people but then after a while I want to move on.

Did you experienced some weird things in your carreer? Can you tell me some, please?
One time I was walking with Don Roeser in college and he predicted that we would be somewhere the following weekend. During the course of the week we heard about a concert in NYC and managed to borrow somebody's car. It broke down on the way to the city so through a series of coincidences and accidents exactly one week later we were in a town 200 miles southwest of the campus waiting to take the bus back. That was weird.
There was the time after Secret Treaties when the fan showed up after the show in full Nazi regalia. That was creepy.
Now here I am 32 years later playing in a band and kicking ass with Ross the Boss. That's wild.

Which have been the darkest moments of your career and which was the greatest satisfaction happened to you in your musical carreer?
When I had given up music and supporting myself and my family as a refrigeration mechanic. I was lying under a meat case surrounded by rotting meat trying to fix the copper pipes when Reaper came on over the supermarket sound system. I just turned off my torch and cried.

You and Deborah are partners. Which are the difficulties to be partners in your private and public life?
We have the same problems as every other family, doing chores, paying bills etc. But neither of us likes to be criticized so sometimes it will take awhile before we can agree on a new song, mostly lyrics, but it makes the songs better to go through a little fire, I believe.

You have got a family of musicians, how much important was it in your musical carreer?
Well my parents weren't professional musicians. They dabbled but not very seriously. My mother wanted to be a songwriter at one time and she wrote songs with her brother. But she was a secretary and schoolteacher and my dad was a technician at the local TV and radio station. Only Joe and I have played music full time for a career but all my siblings play instruments and every Thanksgiving we all get together and jam a bit. We also inherited a vacation cottage from our parents where we get together and jam every year.

You were used to play in front of a thousand people audiences, but now you are playing in more intimist situations, do you prefer this new situation?
Any opportunity to play is all right with me. It could be 8 people or 80,000. I'll still make a party out of it.

I’ve liked a lot Malpractice and Beach Party, do you think to do another records like them in future?
Those albums have more acoustic numbers and cover songs than the others. It's possible we do more like them but the next one will probably be heavy as well.

After all the records you have worked on, do you find it easier or more difficult to make a new album?
It's a lot easier now. Back in the BOC days we'd be lucky if we got 2 basic tracks in a day. Now if I don't 6 a day I feel like a bogart. Also I'm much more comfortable with playing to a click track, tuning my drums and playing with earphones. Finally I have much better and extensive drums than I had in the old days. I will bring 10 extra snare drums and 30 extra cymbals to a session so I can give the engineer just what they want on each track.

What can you tell me something about the musical scene of today in New York?
The New York scene has always been tough. It still is. There is a lot of competition here and just to get a couple lines in the NY Times listings is a big deal. But on the outskirts, in New Jersey and Brooklyn there is a thriving scene with lots of places to play and people to come and see you. In other words, it can work for you if you know what to do.

These seem to be very dark times. What do you believe about this period, do you are optimistic or do you fear the future?
Dark times? How about the Inquisition? The holocaust? The destruction of the temple? The Armenian genocide? The Black Plague? Those were some dark times. Things are look up my friend… now if we can just avoid destroying the planet… we'll be OK.

A final salute to your fans...
Stay strong, stay healthy, take care of yourselves and each other and I look forward to seeing you down the road.

Reviews (in italian):
Beach Party; Denial of Death

Articles: Albert Bouchard and The Brain Surgeons

Related Artists: Blue Oyster Cult, Stalk Forrest Group; Albert Bouchard

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