Alan Bouchard's Brain Surgeons will operate at Youngstown's Nyabinghi Thursday.
By JOHN BENSON
Rock music isn't brain surgery. Just ask ex-Blue Oyster Cult drummer Albert Bouchard, who started the hard rock act the Brain Surgeons over a decade ago.
"For me, it's a bit of a challenge, certainly physically," said 57-year-old Bouchard, calling from a tour stop in Nashville. "It's not like playing 'Tea for Two' in Las Vegas. It's physically demanding. A lot of the stuff is up-tempo and fun. I'm very much into staying fit [now]. I think that's probably the biggest difference. In the old days, I wouldn't hesitate to have a drink or something else before I played. And now, I don't do that. I'm pretty much straight-edged, at least as far as how I approach my mental state."
Currently weighing heavy on that mental state is the band's new disc "Denial of Death," which is fully written but without a label home. After years of releasing Brain Surgeons' albums on his own label, Cellsum Records, Bouchard is looking for something bigger.
Classic rock inspired with a contemporary metal influence (System of a Down and P.O.D.), "Denial of Death" could be one of Bouchard's last chances at achieving a fraction of the mainstream attention Blue Oyster Cult garnered in the '70s and '80s.
That was a good time for the drummer, who is part of one the greatest rock tracks of all time, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper."
"It's funny because everybody knows about the cowbell skit on 'Saturday Night Live,'" Bouchard said. "And I have to say, when we recorded it, I didn't understand why the producer wanted me to play the cowbell. And maybe I still don't understand what he saw in that thing, that he thought there should be a cowbell there. But now when I hear it, I hear the cowbell sounding like the ticking of a clock. It's like time, mortality. It kind of has a deeper meaning to me now, more than just a sonic thing."
Ironically, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" isn't in the Brain Surgeons' set because it's not heavy enough. However, Blue Oyster Cult fans will hear plenty of familiar, rocking songs when Bouchard and his band mates come through Youngstown Aug. 18 with a show at Nyabinghi.
As far as "Denial of Death," which will get some stage time at the band's upcoming gig, Bouchard said the theme behind the album is very similar in mindset to "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" in the sense that death is inevitable and the more you dwell on it, the less of a contribution you make to humanity. This tick-tock of life applies in spades to Bouchard, who is hoping for the best. In a perfect world scenario, the Brain Surgeons' tour this summer would catch the ear of a strong indie rock label and have "Death of Denial" in stores by the end of the year. While the drummer is quickly approaching Golden Buckeye Card status, Bouchard discounts the notion that age affects your ability to rock the house. "If you have it in your heart," Bouchard said, "You're never too old to go out and kick out the jams."