Back in April 2003, Dominique Berard conducted an interview with the Brain Surgeon's Albert Bouchard by email for the French fanzine, Blue Pearl, prior to booking them on a French mini-tour six-months later.
He's now kindly given me permission to repost that interview here.
Q: How would you describe tBS for someone new to the band ?
AB: The style of music is similar to BOC but the format is different. We are a power trio so there's more soloing and less wall of sound. We have a female vocalist so although I sing a lot of the songs (as I did in BOC on records) there is a female voice in the mix most of the time. It is hard rock but there are also soft things and funky things and even a cappella songs.
Q: How is it to play in a trio ? Do you plan to play as a 4 piece band (Joe ? Jack Rigg ?)
AB: We have been doing the trio thing for three years now and I'm still really enjoying it. It was hardest the first few months when we played live as a trio but we're all pretty comfortable with it now. Although I must say we played with Jack Rigg at David Roter's memorial last month and it was pretty awesome. I don't think we'll do it as a regular thing but with 3 there's always room for one more.
Q: How do you compose your music ? Lyrics ?
AB: Now I need to have some kind of recording machine to compose. In the old days I could keep a song in my head for months and finally write it down or record it but now I get too many ideas to remember them all. I've always liked to write on piano but I also use the guitar. I can start with anything, a cord sequence, a melody, a rhythm, a bass line or a sample from the computer. Many times I'll be inspired for some music by poetry or a lyric to another song. Sometimes it is just an emotion and I hear a way to express it in music.Lyrics are problematical for me. I'm much better at honing someone else's lyrics to fit a song than coming up with something of my own from scratch. Once I get rolling I have all kinds of techniques for generating words. I like to free associate with words to take a song somewhere else. I don't like to rhyme too strictly. I prefer a near-rhyme.
Q: How did you record your new CD?
AB: We recorded the basic tracks in Millbrook Studios, the same studio that BOC has used for the past couple albums. They have an Otari hard disk recording system and a lot of very nice old and new equipment. After that I brought the tracks to my personal studio once they were copied to a portable firewire hard disk. We did 95% of the vocals over in my studio, added some acoustic guitars and some samples in Digital Performer 3 and then I mixed it using the UAD-1 plug-in module. Lastly it was mastered at the world class mastering facility, Masterdisk.
Q: What are your plans for the Brain Surgeons on a long term period ?
AB: What we've been implementing starting this year is that we will do a little more extensive touring every year. Ultimately we'd like to be able to play whenever and wherever we want. We'd like to do some video and that is something we've been messing around with for a couple years but we're not quite ready to do it yet. I keep thinking that I'd like to do some larger thematic pieces but we probably need to grow some more as a group to pull that off. Mostly we plan to keep on writing, recording and playing live to touch as many people as we can with our music.
Q: How is it going in the US ?
AB: For us things are going pretty well but as a liberal Democrat I really don't even want to discuss what's happening politically.
Q: Have you got side projects ? Are U full time tBS ?
AB: I have many side projects. Next week I am mixing an album for an all girl punk group called Mz Pakman. The following week I'm re-mastering David Roter's first two vinyl albums on CD. The week after that I'm doing some religious music with a local cantor, Michael Kruke. We have plans to do some more gigs with Ellen Foley in the summer but I guess that's like a tBS spinoff project.
Q: Have you seen B.O.C these days ?
AB: I haven't seen the group play live since spring 2000. I don't think they like it when I come to their shows (I'm way too critical) so I prefer to see them in private.
Q: What are your Xpectations from that 1st Euro gigs ?
AB: I'm pretty jazzed. I think it will be fairly amazing for me. I haven't been there in many years. I've always loved to play in France. I can't ever remember a bad gig there.
Q: Are you getting Brain Surgeons fans through the B.O.C fan base or are they new people who've discovered B.O.C through tBS ?
AB: Truthfully most of our fans are BOC fans who have discovered tBS. Being completely autonomous has it's drawbacks in that respect. We fly miles under the radar. That's one reason why we need to start doing more gigs because that's the only time new people can discover us.
Q: Any plans for a Bouchard Bros CD
AB: We've talked about it but if we were to do it it would have to be all 6 brothers and my sister too probably. Last summer we finally all did get onstage together at my brother, Gerry's wedding. We even had a few of our children playing with us. Indescribable fun! Maybe we could do it to raise money for my brother Pat's church.
Q: What kind of bands are you listening to these days ? Drummers ?
AB: Santana with Dennis Chambers, Metallica still, Count Basie with Joe Jones, Benny Goodman with Gene Krupa, Dave Matthews with Carter Beauford, James Brown, any guitarist with a last name of King, but the music I listen to most is Duke Ellington. I've just discovered him in the past couple years and I simply can't get enough. I find his songs fascinating. Did you mean new artists? That would be like Nora Jones, System of A Down, Creed, new Springsteen, new Neal Young.
Q: What is a Brain Surgeons gig like ?
AB: A rush of activity. We like to get to the show early so we can soak up the vibe of the club. We like to set up and then hang around for awhile. We might have a drink with a fan after the show but we never drink before and usually we don't socialize until our equipment is put away after the show. Before the show we'll discuss what we're going to do as far as a show, what kind of choreography the stage lends itself to and make sure our equipment is in good order.
Q: How is Cellsum going ?
AB: Cellsum Records is doing well. It is as much work as I can handle. There is enough cash flow to sustain the operation but if we were to sell more records I might be overwhelmed. In short it is enough for now. At some time in the future I might want to hire some people to help me out but it does what I need it to do for me now.
Q: Music business today : differences with the 70s 80s 90s ?
AB: I think it must be hard for new bands to get started because the record companies are running scarred and don't want to take a chance on anything that is the least bit different. Where are the John Hammonds of today? On the other hand there is more interest in music than ever these days, especially rock.
Q: New release on your label ?
AB: We have a couple David Roter records coming up. One is the re-release of the old stuff and the other is the new record he was working on at the time of his death. Also in the future is a Joe Bouchard solo record and maybe even a holiday compilation.
Q: New bands signed ?
AB: Most new bands don't have enough money to be on my label! ;-)
Q: Will you ever release Imaginos ?
AB: I don't have the rights to the Columbia recordings and I doubt they would ever sell them to me but if they would I might. A more likely scenario would be for the Brain Surgeons to eventually record all the songs and release a tBS version.
Q: From your B.O.C live experience, is there a difference between french fans and other fans ?
AB: French fans are more like fans in the south of USA. Vocal and wild. As I recall a lot of French bikers were into BOC.
Q: Would you be interested in a French/European distribution ?
AB: Yes. Although we have fans in France, Italy and Germany we have none in other countries like Spain. Why?
Q: A few words in French ?
AB: Cite en flamme avec Rock et Roll!