ALBERT BOUCHARD: “People Have Asked If It Really Is The Last One And I Don’t Actually Know”

BOUCHARD BROTHERS (Live at Trillians, Newcastle, U.K., August 17, 2022)
Photo: Mick Burgess

First conceived way back in 1967, the often talked about triple album trilogy of Imaginos has finally been completed by former Blue Öyster Cult drummer and creative brainchild, Albert Bouchard. Mick Burgess called him up to talk about the completion of his life’s work and whether there could indeed, be more to come.

You’ve just released your third and final instalment of your Imaginos Trilogy called The Mutant Reformation. How’s the reaction been to it so far?

It’s been great. The reviews and the reaction from the fans have been fantastic.

How do you feel now that you have finally completed your long planned Imaginos Trilogy?

It’s a little weird that it’s now finished after this long. People have asked if it really is the last one and I don’t actually know. I’ve been talking with my label, Deko, about doing something completely different and putting out a box set that contains the three comic books and the three records but changing the running order slightly so moving “Career Of Evil” and “Transmaniacon” to Bombs Over Germany and putting “St. Cecilia” onto Reimaginos and “Telepaths” could go on there too. I also think that “Les Invisibles” should be on Imaginos III now. I also have 18 unpublished songs from Sandy Pearlman’s archives. There’s a legendary song called “Port Jefferson” that Donald Roeser wrote the music to. Now he has the lyrics too so maybe he could reconstruct it around the lyrics. That’d be a good one to put on there. It was meant to go along with “Astronomy”. There’s a lot of things we can do.

It first came to light to the general public back in the early 1980s when you were quoted as working on the Imaginos project but it has its roots that go way back. When did the Imaginos story first come to you?

It goes way back. Sandy told us the story back in 1967. He had a whole story with Imaginos, Desdenova and the Blue Öyster Cult but there weren’t any songs yet just the idea for the story. The first song that Sandy and I wrote was “Buddah’s Knee” which is the final song on Imaginos III. If we redo it, it will still be the last song. I actually think that Imaginos III should be a Blue Öyster Cult record. It has the heaviness but also has that quirkiness and the lightness and other stuff that made BÖC so unique.

You’ve used some of the original Imaginos songs on BÖC albums over the years. Did you ever discuss doing Imaginos as a band together?

We did discuss it and worked up many of the songs. The first song that we worked on that we knew was Imaginos was “Astronomy” as this involved Desdinova. I remember Allen Lanier asking who Desdinova was. Sandy said that it was Imaginos and Allen said “But that’s a girl’s name?”. Sandy just said “So what, that’s Imaginos”

Where did Part II end and Part III start?

At the end of the second one there’s the Third World War and at the start of Part III it’s almost like a Mad Max situation where there’s pockets of humans scattered around but morals have gone out of the window and the evil plans of the aliens have succeeded where humanity is basically destroying itself. Then you get Imaginos having second thoughts about the whole thing and coming to the conclusion that he has to get rid of the mirror by throwing it in the Mountain Of Madness. That’s how the Richard Meltzer song got in there. I told Richard that I was going to use his song as part of this thing to move the story forward but he said not to call it “The Curse Of The Hidden Mirror” but instead to call it “The Curse Of The Hidden Mirrors”. He was still bummed that BÖC had taken his title and used it for a record but didn’t put his song on there.

Again there are a number of BÖC songs that have appeared on your albums such as “Flaming Telepaths” and “ETI”. Were these always considered part of the Imaginos story or have you been able to fit the songs around the story in some way?

“ETI” was part of another song that was supposed to be in Imaginos so it was part of the original story. It was always supposed to be an Imaginos song.

“Curse of the Hidden Mirror” and “St. Cecilia” were originally Stalk Forrest Group songs weren’t they? Why didn’t BÖC use these on later albums?

I think that both of those songs were not heavy enough. That was an earlier incarnation of the band. I always liked them. I didn’t write “St. Cecilia”, that was Andy Winters and was originally called “Green”. Tina Wiesenthal wrote the lyrics. She was the sister of John Wiesenthal who was the guy that put the band together originally and he’d also taught Jackson Browne the guitar. He now lives in Rochester, New York and still teaches guitar at the University of Rochester.

Do you still see John or Andy or indeed Les Braunstein from those old Stalk Forrest/Soft White Underbelly days?

I still see Les and John Wiesenthal but I haven’t seen Andy Winters in years. I did contact Andy to tell him I was putting “St. Cecilia” on the album and he was delighted. We stay in touch by email. He lives in Costa Rica at the moment.

A couple of the old BÖC songs are still fairly true to the original versions such as “ETI” but the likes of “R.U Red D 2” and “Career Of Evil” are radically reworked. Why did you decide to present them in this alternate way?

I had this idea for “Career Of Evil” a long time ago so I wanted to do that acoustic version. As great as the song is, it’s goofy. The next thing that happened is that JK Rowling used it as the title of a book. I read the book and felt that the lyrics worked for the book and I just thought my acoustic version would be better and as we worked it we made it more evil sounding. I sang the song while I had Covid so got a real rasp on my voice.

“Aldebaran Alien Take Me Away” is a different take on “Take Me Away” from the Revolution By Night album. What is the Aledebaran Alien and how does that fit into the Imaginos story?

I had to get the approval from the writers because I didn’t write it. Eric Bloom heard it and thought it was great right away. I sent it to Aldo Nova and he said that he liked the track but said I messed up the melody as it was a half step too high. I said that it was supposed to be like that as it goes to a major key and he just said “Oh, you did that on purpose?” It’s minor melody in the verses and then goes major when it hits the chorus, a bit like “Let It Rock” by Kevin Rudolf. He’s singing about how things are messed up but if he gets taken away things will be good.

Did you write any new songs for Imaginos III or do they all originate from ideas back in the BÖC vaults?

The only one that is completely new is “Mountain of Madness”. I had written a song with Sandy with that name, at the same time as “Siege and Investiture….” and “The Girl Who Loved Me Blind”, they were originally one song but we broke it into two later. Sandy said at that time I should read a book called “Mountain of Madness” by HP Lovecraft and write a song with that name. He suggested incorporating it into Imaginos. So I read the book and wrote a song but I didn’t have any lyrics. I asked him over to my place to listen to the song and write some lyrics. He came over and when he heard it he said “No, this isn’t “Mountain Of Madness” so I wrote the song after that about how they had to travel to Antarctica and sail through the frozen sea but I didn’t like it. I did like the lyrics though so I called up Richie Castellano and said that I needed help and we finished it over Facetime over the course of two weeks. We used a lot of my original ideas and some of Sandy’s lyrics from the original “Siege and Investiture” song were used in the middle. I actually ended up getting three songs out of that one original song. Who knows, there could be more.

Do you think it was Richie who sparked Eric and Buck into writing their latest album?

I think that was totally down to Richie. He was pulling out vocals from Eric that nobody thought, including Eric, that he could sound like that again. Eric sounds great and the album is great too.

Joe, your brother appears on a couple of songs including singing lead vocals on “ETI”. Did you ask Eric and Buck to guest this time too?

Yes, Eric sang Sandy’s words on “Mountain of Madness”. Richie got him to do that. Donald was too busy this time. I gave him a choice of four songs but he wasn’t able to do it. I love him and really wanted him involved.

Do you think it would have been fitting to have all four surviving original members of one song?

It may happen, who knows. Anything is possible as we are still alive. We are getting too old to have any crap between us. I’d love to have us all playing on something together sometime.

You have used your original BÖC name, Prince Omega on these Imaginos releases. Only Buck kept his mythical name that Sandy gave you. Why didn’t you keep yours?

I liked it but it just didn’t catch on. I don’t think the other guys in the band like it, maybe it’s because I was going to be called Prince. The whole reason I’ve done this is to honour Sandy and do everything as close as possible to the way he conceived it. This is going to sound weird but I feel like he communicates with me about this. Sometimes he comes to me in a dream and the last time I went to his grave I felt like he was communicating to me and I’d get ideas from that. That’s why “Buddah’s Knee” has to come last. It gets rid of the mirror and humanity dies out leaving Imaginos but there’s still robots and monsters around so there’s still life on earth even though humans have gone and of course the aliens come back and all that’s left is the Universe of Consciousness.

It must be challenging bringing such a bold concept to an end?

It is. The ending is still going to be the ending but there could be a prequel to fill out the story with more songs.

Last year you said that you’d found a treasure trove of material in Sandy Pearlman’s house that you were going to look through when you returned home from your UK tour. What did you find in there?

There’s songs like “Parson John” and “Slow Blues” that could be part of a prequel to Imaginos. Sandy had really developed the Imaginos story much more elaborately with more songs. He also had a lot of writing about Imaginos, stories and concepts that can help inform the next two comic books. I’m just starting to work on that now.

You mentioned a deluxe version of Imaginos earlier. When will this version be out?

I think it’ll be out in about two years. We got off to a false start with the comic book as we had an artist who backed out and then we had to change part of the story and then redo a bunch of the panels. The artist also digitised Sandy’s writing and there was over 800 pages and she did most of it by hand. Hopefully the next two comic books will proceed faster.

What have you got lined up outside of the Imaginos project?

Blue Coupe has a new record out later this month. The Dictators record is basically done. All the songs are recorded but there’s but just need finishing off with some lyrics and guitar parts here and there. It’s sounding great.

Do you have any plans to come over to the UK and Europe?

We are working on that for next summer. I’m not sure who or what it will be. It may be Imaginos or The Dictators, who knows?

Imaginos III: The Mutant Reformation is out now on Deko Entertainment.

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  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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