BUCK DHARMA Says First BLUE ÖYSTER CULT Album In Almost 20 Years Is A “Momentous Undertaking”
January 18, 2020, a month ago
In this day and age of seemingly countless pop and rock performers miming to tracks during their concerts, it’s good to hear that metal vets Blue Öyster Cult aren’t taking the easy way out. And others should take note - there is nothing like hearing a truly LIVE recording (devoid of any post-recording doctoring), as evidenced by what lurks within Hard Rock Live Cleveland 2014.
And what will prove to be quite attractive about this double CD/DVD set is its sterling tracklist, which sees the 2014 line-up - singers/guitarists Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom, plus guitarist Richie Castellano, bassist Kasim Sulton, and drummer Jules Radino - not just sticking to the obvious tunes ("Godzilla," "(Don’t Fear) The Reaper," "Burnin’ For You"), but also, dusting off lesser-known nuggets ("Then Came The Last Days Of May," "I Love The Night," "Harvester Of Eyes").
Dharma spoke to BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato about BÖC’s latest live offering, as well as breaking the news that the band is currently hard at work on an all-new studio album (which will be their first since 2001’s Curse Of The Hidden Mirror).
BraveWords: What made the band decide to release Hard Rock Live Cleveland 2014 now - five years after it was recorded?
Buck Dharma: "What happened was we inherited the rights to those video concerts - which were originally done by the cable providers. So, there was a time lag there. Also, we had gone back and edited some of them. As far as content, there is something new to enjoy about it."
BraveWords: Would you agree that the album is a faithful representation of what BÖC sounded like in 2014?
Buck Dharma: "Oh yes, definitely. It’s a good snapshot of what we were doing then."
BraveWords: Is it entirely live, or were there overdubs added after?
Buck Dharma: "No, actually - it’s exactly the way it was."
BraveWords: With BÖC’s earlier live albums - On Your Feet Or OnYour Knees, Some Enchanted Evening, and Extraterrestrial Live - do you recall if there was some overdubs?
Buck Dharma: "No. The only ‘massaging’ that was done was I think they added some extra applause sometimes - because there wasn’t a good recording of the audience. We never like, went back and completely played it again."
BraveWords: That’s good to hear, because I know that quite a few classic rock bands from the ‘70s have since admitted that they went back and re-recorded parts on their live albums.
Buck Dharma: "Sometimes if there’s a mistake or something, people would fix it. Or if you couldn’t hear what you were singing, and you sang off, and otherwise if it was good you might do that. But we never had to."
BraveWords: What was it about the ‘70s and classic live albums?
Buck Dharma: "Well, the bands were good - for one. In that album era, everybody were often better live than on the studio recordings. I think that happened with BÖC - our first gold record was a live record [On Your Feet Or On Your Knees]. And of course, Peter Frampton’s career exploded with his live record [Frampton Comes Alive]. So, I just think the bands of that era were real strong performers live, and people wanted to hear it. I’ll contrast that with some other pop artists, which when they play live, they’re basically playing to tracks that they recorded, and they’re dancing around. They’re just dancing around to their studio records."
BraveWords: What do you think of current rock acts that use backing tracks live?
Buck Dharma: "I think there’s some value in playing some of the production they use that can’t be readily duplicated live. But I prefer to play in the moment. One of the reasons why I still go out there and do shows is that it’s different every night. It’s never the same. The leads are different, the vibes of the songs change. The arrangements are basically the arrangements, but there is a lot of improvisation that goes on - that makes it interesting and rewarding to do. And continue to do."
BraveWords: I also dug the fact that earlier tracks such as "Then Came The Last Days Of May," "OD’d On Life Itself," and "Career Of Evil" were included.
Buck Dharma: "We have our core repertoire - we have to play the hits, and we have to play some of our better-known songs. But we like to rotate the deeper tracks to please ourselves - as well as the fans that follow us around, and keep seeing us in different cities. And we like to accommodate them by playing different deep cuts."
BraveWords: Future plans beyond this live release?
Buck Dharma: "Well, we’re doing a studio record. The first one in almost 20 years. So, that’s a momentous undertaking - to say the least. We’re excited about that. We tracked the basics to fourteen songs, and we’re in the overdub process now. That will be coming out in late summer."
BraveWords: How would you describe the new material? Does it sound like any specific BÖC era?
Buck Dharma: "No, I would say what it is, is BÖC in 2020. The material covers a range of styles. Eclectic. It doesn’t sound like anything previous, basically. Other than the familiar voices."
BraveWords: And who is producing?
Buck Dharma: "We’re doing it ourselves - Eric, myself, and Richie Castellano are the primary producers."