Blue Coupe's Joe Bouchard
People are probably getting tired of me going on about them but Blue Coupe is perhaps the most under-rated hard rock band going right now. They released their sophomore record Million Miles More earlier this year and what a fantastic piece of work it is. Hard rock record of the year, if you ask me. I spoke to bassist Dennis Dunaway a few months back and now it's time to check in with guitarist Joe Bouchard.
antiMusic: Tornado on the Tracks…. it held so much promise and it sounds stupid to say, considering the three of you that were on there but I don't think I could have expected Million Miles More. It's a Million Miles More than what I expected. I think it's just fantastic so congratulations on that.
Joe: Oh, thank you.
antiMusic: Before we talk about the new record, tell us about your impressions on the reception given to Tornado on the Tracks and at what point in this process did Blue Coupe start to feel like a real band as opposed to a jukebox which is sort of what you started off as.
Joe: It probably started when we said, "Hey maybe we'd better rehearse." (laughs) May be to rehearse wouldn't hurt this album. Generally, when the first record was coming together, the only rehearsal we had was the first day we were in the studio, our engineer had to miss the session because of a personal problem at home. So we actually had one whole day to rehearse the songs for Tornado on the Tracks.
Now for Million Miles More, we decided to really up the excitement on this one and really get all the parts right. So we rehearsed for about a week and then we did a session in the studio, I think it was in February and then we decided we had to do another one in March. So basically we had more rehearsal. We had more recording time in the studio. And we went back in fixed up a couple of things that weren't quite right with the first session. So were a bit more prepared this time coming into it.
Dennis sent me some really great lyrics, "Train of Thought", "Hellfire Hurry" was another. So I really got to work with Dennis on those songs. It was a very good collaboration this time. Moreso than just picking the best songs out of everybody's solo bag and putting it together that way.
antiMusic: For the first record, you guys all brought in your separate songs but for this record it was more of a collaborative process. Was it a conscious decision to work on stuff together this time or did it just happen more organically?
Joe: Yeah, it was more of a decision. The other thing was that we did a campaign on line through Indiegogo. And we raised a good amount of money and I said to my brother, "Well, what are we going to do with this money" and he said "I think we should get somebody in to mix the record". And I said, "Well, you know, I like my mixes."
Basically another engineer and I laid down the tracks. But I said, "Well, it would only make sense if we could get one of the best in the business and that would be Jack Douglas. Jack did Aerosmith and actually did On Your Feet or On Your Knees which was a really great album for Blue Oyster Cult. And then with Dennis, he also did Muscle of Love.
So we had a history with Jack Douglas. He did John Lennon's albums and we've just known him for many years and never did we think we'd be able to afford him. Then we told him about our Indiegogo funds and he said, "No, I can make it happen." So that just pushed everything up a notch, knowing that we were going to have to play this stuff for Jack Douglas, a guy who has had such incredible success over his career. And he's still a great guy. We met with him and went for dinner and told him what we were doing. He had just finished the latest Aerosmith album which really sounds good. So that really pushed us to make a lot better record than if we had just stayed independent.
So, a lot of really interesting things came out of this. We're going to make another record after this and hopefully, it's going to get even better.
antiMusic: Obviously you weren't short on material as you stuck on 13 tracks onto the record. Did the success of the first record kind of open up the flood gates to new songs or all of you just naturally prolific?
Joe: That's a good question. I think we're generally naturally prolific. I know I had just put out my last solo record and to come up with some new songs for this album was pretty easy. I haven't had problems coming up with new ideas. But there were a lot of re-writes, I'll admit that. When we were doing Million Miles More, there were a lot of rewrites. We definitely re-wrote a lot of lyrics. "Everybody Goes Insane" had a couple of different sets of lyrics. "Prophets, Dukes & Nomads". "Hallows Grave" probably went through 15 different versions.
"Used Car" was completely different. We were going to England and I said, "One more chance for this one," because we were going to take that off the album. So I said, "Let me give it one more shot" and I thought let's change the key. We changed it to the key of D and then we added this harmonica player that we met in England, Giles Robson. He's well known in England, not too well known here. He's got a great blues band and we played a concert and he was the special guest.
And he played really great in rehearsal so I took him into the dressing room and nothing fancy about this recording….he just played his harmonica right into Dennis' laptop. He did two or three takes…the first take was the best and that's the one that ended up on the album. He's just an amazing harmonica player. That really jumped up a leap forward for that song.
"Devils Highway" had several different arrangements. And then once we had Jack Douglas, then Buck Dharma decided he should play something on this at the BOC reunion. So he decided to play a guitar part for us and then after that other people like Ross the Boss from the Dictators, great guitar player…he added a part. We had our friends Tish and Snooky sing harmonies throughout the record.
And then the last part was we had Alice Cooper singing on "Hallows Grave". Nothing happened for almost a year but finally he said, "I'm going to sing that song." So he went into a studio in Phoenix and he worked on it for two or three days and then he sent us the track and we were just like "Wow!" How lucky is that you get Alice Cooper to sing on your album? I thought he was just going to do a cameo and then we'd fill in the rest. No, he wanted to sing the whole thing. And it's great Halloween type song. Perfect for Alice. I've been singing it live so yeah, it's a fun song to sing and it always goes over great.
antiMusic: You went with Kickstarter or one of those campaigns to help fund the record. Did this method meet your expectations and would you go this route again in the future?
Joe: Yes…originally I had reservations about getting the public involved in the process. But it REALLY made a big difference in this project and I've gone on and helped other people who have asked me for support for their independent projects. It really makes a big difference. The old major label system has broken down. They only sign young people who have a chance of coming up with a pop hit.
Where there's a lot of really good music that needs to be promoted and one way is to go directly to the fans and offering them a chance to get in on the actual ground floor of a new project. I would do it again. I would probably be a little more organized next time because this is technically the wave of the future. You're getting your fans to buy it in advance essentially. This way everybody is happy. You get the financial help to get your project done and the fans are happy because they're directly involved.
antiMusic: You got famed producer Jack Douglas in as the executive producer. What sort of effect did he have on the project and what sort of input of his really impacted things in your opinion?
Joe: It was more of a matter of him making us rise to a good level of professionalism in the mix. No parts were going to go slipping under the table, so to speak. Everything had to be first class. And then he brought in his partner Warren Huart, who is the actual mixer of the album and has a great studio in Los Angeles. We assembled all the songs and shipped them off to LA. And every time they would send something back, it was like "Wow!" And then a couple of things we say, "Well maybe we should change this or that." And they made some alterations to the mixes but overall it's unbelievable. The sound is really popping and I've never heard my vocals sound so sharp. So it was all so really good how all the pieces of the puzzle came together.
antiMusic: I'm amazed at how varied the material is on this record, much like it was on your debut but perhaps slightly moreso, and yet it all sounds like Blue Coupe. Do you have any parameters to what you want to portray the band as or is it a matter of a good song no matter what it is, will win every time?
Joe: I'm trying to think of the ones that we dropped. You never know until you get through the process. Because we wanted to be really flexible. But we could have gone in a couple different directions. But everything fits really well and it really has a consistent mix. That all kind of pulls it all together. I don't think we have a pre-conceived idea about anything. We're just always looking for the best song. But I think we just try to keep an open mind and try a lot of different things before we settle for the final version.
antiMusic: There are so many songs on Million Miles More that I love, perhaps none more than "Train of Thought". I absolutely love the guitar on this one and how the song comes to a complete halt and your solo just continues on. Tell us about this one
Joe: That was Dennis' lyric and it went through some pretty intense changes. Dennis sent me the lyrics and right away I said, "Ah, this is great." I had this sort of Doors kind of vibe for it. I had my keyboard and I started playing a Doors kind of thing but then it changed to more of a piano than an organ. I changed the vocal quite a bit. I didn't really play on the riff but Dennis decided we really needed to sing more in the riff of the song. So it went through quite a few changes. He came over here and he sang his version. I actually had to sing the way he sang it, you know, but with my own style. And then the guitars really whipped on that one.
But I loved it. Just picture three guys just standing on a train station, at the train station, just swaying back and forth as this music is going on and the train comes in, one of those old steam trains, you know? But that's where I got from it. But then Dennis made some alterations in the lyrics and like I said, the phrasing of the vocal changed quite a bit. And I'm really glad you like that song. It's actually one of my favorites too. I've never written a song quite like that. I really enjoyed the process of coming up with the track for that.
antiMusic: Yeah. And the background vocals really added to that,
Joe: The background vocals are really very spooky you know. I want to make a video of that some time. (Laughs)
antiMusic: Yeah. (laughs) That would be awesome.
Joe: Yeah for sure.
antiMusic: "Everybody Goes Insane" is just another standout for me. What a massively arresting chorus. Tell us about how this song came about.
Joe: Well this song. A fan sent me an email. This guy, David Scott, from Scotland. A lot of times when I get suggestions for songs from fans and I say, "Ah, no this is too obvious. This is not going to work." But he was very smart, a very smart lyricist so I sent him back an encouraging email, "You should find a band to do your song." And actually right now he's doing his own solo album in Scotland. It has kind of songs like maybe Genesis or something like that. I can't really say what the style is like but it sounds very interesting.
So he sent me like probably lyrics for five songs and I was working on a different song, like a folk song. And I said, you know I should really use that vibe of that folk song, and then grab another lyric and I just happened to have "Everybody Goes Insane", the chorus. So I wrote a version of his lyric and then Dennis said, "No I can do a better verse than that." So Dennis wrote the verse, David Scott of Scotland did the chorus and it's basically all my music and it's kind of a nice minor to major feel about it. And then the chorus is a great strong chorus. That's a really good collaboration with the three of us; the guy from Scotland, Dennis and myself.
antiMusic: You mentioned "Hallows Grave" previously. I love the vocals/key riff there that anchors the song. Was that something that came out when the song was first written or was it added on later?
Joe: No, that went through a lot of different changes. Basically, it was a story that Dennis had about the graveyard in Washington Square, in New York City. There's this park, it's a beautiful park right down in the village. But years ago it was a grave yard, so of course there's all this haunted stuff about it. You know, each year the ghosts come out of the grave and so we had the sort of story but it didn't have a melodic drive for it. So Albert started working on it and he came up the "ohhh ohh" part. Then Dennis added a few other things and I added the stop break. I stopped it after "the piercing eyes" --- at first it was "glaring eyes" but it was changed to "leering eyes". As I was writing this I was thinking, wow, that would be great for Alice Cooper to sing. "I stopped dead in my tracks" and I'm thinking, never in a million years would Alice Cooper sing this. And then he ends up singing it! How cool is that?
antiMusic: Yeah no kidding.
Joe: So yeah. I'm very happy with that and you sort of dream, what would Alice Cooper do at this spot in the song, to sort of bring up the spookiness level of the song, you know. Yeah I like that one a lot.
antiMusic: "Prophets, Dukes and Nomads" is an amazing track and perfect way to kick off the record. It sounds like nothing else on there and as if you're starting a big adventure. Tell us about this one and how it came together.
Joe: Well, it actually, the title came from bands from the sixties. Ronnie Dio and The Prophets, one of Ronnie Dio's early bands. Ed Wool and the Nomads from Watertown, NY, they were like the big Watertown NY band, Wilmer Alexander and the Dukes were a big band from the sixties. If you've seen Animal House, the band --- Otis Day and the Knights were patterned after Wilmer and the Dukes.
So I was up there in the Thousand Islands, I was thinking you know a great title for a song would be "Prophets, Dukes and Nomads." And it would be all about these old bands. So I wrote a lyric, it was about old bands and the chorus was good but the lyric wasn't happening. So Dennis came up with this fantastic sort of like a Dungeons and Dragons lyric. And then, as I'm starting to put it together I said, "Nah, this'll never work." Then as I get going putting it together, I'm saying, it really does work in a sort of abstract way, telling the story of all these great characters. Some made it famous and some didn't. That's the hidden story in "Prophets, Dukes and Nomads". It's a story from ages ago but it's also a story from decades ago.
antiMusic: Oh, that's so cool.
Joe: Yeah. Yeah. I've got to say that Warren's mix on that is fantastic. I was just messing around with the orchestration, doing the orchestra on that. But also it has a lot of piano, and we/he brought that out in the mix, and of course the bass is over the top. Dennis did a bass part on that, it was one of the best bass parts he's ever done. That was a lucky coincidence that everything fell together on that one. We thought we had to put that at the beginning of the album. I'm very happy with that.
antiMusic: Your buddy John Elwood Cook contributes two songs and just when you think you have someone pigeonholed….I'm absolutely amazed by "Modern Love". Not what I would have expected. What did you think when you first heard it and what was it that resonated with you that you thought would be a good fit for the band?
Joe: I was just up at John Cook's house about three weeks ago and he played me the original "Modern Love" and it's kind of like a folk song you know. It's just kind of a slow folk song. And I said, wow. Albert never played me the original version, and it was basically something where Albert had this rock and roll lick and he put it to John's lyrics about the insane asylum and you know the guy's putting in time in jail because he was a stalker. So yeah, it's pretty far out. (laughs) We do an incredible version of that live where we just go in complete freak out mode. That's one of the highlights of the new live show is "Modern Love". I don't think that many people know the song but when they see us play it live they don't forget it. It's definitely cool.
antiMusic: "Used Car" is simply amazing and definitely has that 1000 Islands feel, moody, slightly creepy and like "Angel's Well" has possibly your best vocal on the record. Like we talked about, the harmonica by Giles Robson really adds tons to the atmosphere.
Joe: Well, I always loved the song but it was in the wrong key. It didn't have a strong riff and then when I finally figured out that the riff…I don't want to get too technical here, but it's a drop D riff on the guitar. Easy to drop your E string down to a D, and then come up with this sort of thing. And then I added a harpsichord. It's actually a harpsichord and a grand piano that are doubling the riff too and that makes it even more spooky. And the idea of driving a used car, which we've all driven a used car at one time or another…(laughs)...it's sort of a metaphor for life and, you know, driving a used car so, that's how that name to be I guess.
antiMusic: The record closes with "More Cowbell" and I think it's funny that it's a song about cowbells but it was written by Dennis. What did you and Albert think when you heard it?
Joe: Well Dennis just put it together on that song. We played it in France, in Corsica…we just got an offer to play in Spain. I'm sure that it's going to go over well. Wherever we play that "More Cowbell" song, it connects with the audience immediately, even if they've never heard it. So what can I say? Dennis wrote the song and I'm glad we have it in our catalogue. And yeah, Dennis really nailed it. And we learned it in about ten minutes. It's got a great…it's a funny song; it's got kind of a Zeppelin vibe about it which I really like. I just love doing what Zeppelin would call the stomp moves. And it really works for me.
antiMusic: I guess just the last question, Joe, you sort of hinted at it, but with over 30 songs written for this record, can we look forward to more product sooner than later?
Joe: Oh, yeah, well you know we had a pretty good tour this summer, we're taking it into this fall. We just got an offer to go to Spain next year so we'll definitely be taking this out and working on more songs. Albert's already started working on new material and I'm sure Dennis has got a lot of material. I'm a little bit behind because I put out so much stuff, but you know, we're always working on new songs.
Morley and antiMusic thanks Joe for taking the time to speak with us.
Preview and purchase the album here.
Visit the official Facebook page to learn more about the group here.