Blue Öyster Cult's Eric Bloom on Video Games and Lady Gaga
Courtesy of Blue Öyster Cult
Creatures of habit are often seen as boring, but that isn't the case with Blue Öyster Cult. The band has made a career out of a particular routine: forging new paths and experimenting with the unknown. Since their self-titled debut album in 1972, the band has sold more than 24 million albums worldwide. Their music videos, particularly 1981's "Burnin' for You," helped develop and spur the popularity of music videos in pop culture. The lyrical content of countless songs circle around science fiction and the supernatural, and nowadays, vocalist/guitarist Eric Bloom admits to dabbling in video gaming.
And even though Blue Öyster Cult hasn't released a new album since 2001, Bloom recently replied "you can never say never" when asked if there's new music in the band's future. Plus, anything can happen. Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken gave the band's 1976 single "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" new life in the famous "More Cowbell" Saturday Night Live sketch, which remains a treasured pop culture staple. And in celebration of the band's 40th anniversary of their debut album, the band released a 17-disc boxed set in 2012 that featured the band's first 11 studio albums, remastered, along with several other audio treats.
We talked with Bloom, a music enthusiast since the late 1950s. In 2006, he partnered with artist Philippe Renaudin to create and sell six painted custom-made guitars, each one interpreting a different Blue Öyster Cult song and played in different performances. Up On The Sun talked with Bloom about the band's longevity, liking Lady GaGa, and Alice Cooper's inventions.
Up on the Sun: Name a reason why you think Blue Öyster Cult has achieved such longevity.
Eric Bloom: Well, I think it's because people want to hear those tunes. I think that's really the bottom line. And also the history of the band; we have a reputation for having a great live show.
If someone had never heard Blue Öyster Cult, what two albums would you hand over that represents the band?
Um, I would say... Secret Treaties, from 1974, and probably... well our biggest selling record was actually a live record, Some Enchanted Evening. That would have "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" on it, which a lot of people seem to love.
Any chance fans will be getting a new album from the band any time soon?
You never can say never. We don't have a record deal, but um, these days the record business is very different than it was when we were making a record every year. Um, there are no more record stores. Everything has changed. Everything is downloads, and it is a very different universe now.
Do you think that that evolution of technology is more of a blessing or a curse to the music industry then?
Well -- you sound like a young person. It's very hard to explain the way it was when we were first starting. You used to have to audition for record company people. Now it's all on YouTube. There would be no Justin Bieber ... back when we were starting. He would never be an Internet phenomenon because there was no Internet. So you know, we had to play bars and clubs and put our equipment in our band and play every place we could and get a reputation. And eventually get a buzz going just by playing live and doing demos, and then eventually a door would open and you'd get to play a show where record execs would come down and see you play. That was really the only way it was done.
The way I see it, it seems it took a lot more time, energy and hard work starting out for everyone back then, whereas today some people can become overnight sensations.
Well, you know, people like Bieber are very unusual. That's one in a million. But to be a band starting out today, um, it does have to do with the old way, too. Beating the bushes, playing parties and bars, and then hoping that a buzz happens. You can still make it the old fashioned way. But yes, a band can be noticed via the 'net with a website, but it still may not be easy. There's a lot of good musicians and singers out there, and material, that just never gets a fair shake.
That's very true. A lot of your lyrical content relates to science fiction. What is your favorite science fiction film of all time?
A lot of the classics. I would go back to the '50s and '60s sci-fi, and even back to the '40s and '30s. See, when I was growing up, there was no Internet, so you couldn't dial up any old movie and watch it. No Netflix...very different world now. And that was even before video tape. When I was growing up TV was new and there was no color TV. So the only way to see something was black-and-white eon broadcast television, or go to the movies. I got to see the first run of the Star Wars movies, which were great, the first three. Which are not numbered one, two and three now but four, five and six. Laughter. There was a [producer by the name of George Powell and he made some great sci-fi movies in the '50s. The original War of the Worlds is great.
My older brother loves Star Wars so I grew up with that; the originals are so fantastic. And the color saturation was different with that stuff; almost unreal looking. And getting away from science fiction, I like the Bogart movies like Casablanca or To Have and to Have Not.
I read somewhere that you really liked the Lord of the Rings movies?
I do, I do! Wonderful movies. Of course, I read the books many many years ago.
So are you working on any partnerships, going back to 2006 with the custom-made guitars?
Not really right now. That guitar project for a few years was fun. If someone approached me I would consider it, but not currently working on anything like that. I'm involved in... just, other things. I'm involved in... [laughter] video gaming and things like that these days.
Then I'm sure the evolution of technology appeals to you for gaming purposes then.
Yes! I'm playing Elder Scrolls online right now. That just debuted April 4.
That and World of Warcraft? I did play World of Warcraft for three years, but haven't played it in awhile.
You know, so many heavy metal, punk and rock bands have cited Blue Öyster Cult as a significant influence. How do you view your influence?
When you start you don't think you're going to appeal to anybody. You just do what you do and hope for the best. I have read that other people felt that way. Obviously Metallica has covered a few of our songs, and were probably playing our songs in bars before they got going. And Mike Watt, who has his own band and was in Minutemen, and Iggy and the Stooges, their bass players is a friend of mine. He often quotes of BOC being an influence. It's nice to hear and read about, but we were just trying to make a living. When we were starting we had no idea what our future would be. We all lived in a band house, and we didn't have any money, just a van and some instruments. After our record deal, we rented a car, a four-door Sudan and had our van. We just went all over the place. We toured as Alice Cooper's opening act in 1972, off our first album, in a van and a rent-a-car. It wasn't very glamorous.
Are there any modern acts today that you listen to?
I mostly like classic stuff. But last night I went to see the Zombies live, who are getting into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame this year. They were great. They are my age; but they are just great. As far as modern stuff goes, I like, um... I like Katy Perry and Lady GaGa. I like some of the new country stuff, like Brad Paisley and a lot of different types of music.
What is it about someone like Lady Gaga that stands out to you?
I just like the hooks in her material; the fact that she does a real good show. She reminds me of Alice Cooper a lot in a way. Back in the day, we were just a bunch of college kids that formed a band. Even though I'm older than Alice, he had hits before we were even starting. I went to see him as just, a, you know. I was buying tickets before we got the tour. And we learned a lot from him.
He's a great performer.
He's actually from Phoenix!
Yes, I've had the opportunity to talk to him a few times and he's very insightful and interesting. You know, I've asked him before if he thinks he would be as popular as he is now if the Internet wasn't around in the '60s and '70s.
Well, he invented a lot of stuff that might be taken for granted today. I'm not talking just about special effects on stage; I'm talking about theatrical lighting for a rock show. Rock bands weren't using that before he did it. He really is ... I don't want to use the term "grandfather" laughter.
The godfather maybe?
Yes the godfather! That's better phrasing. But you know; we should all do "we're not worthy" to Alice Cooper. He's an innovator.
Speaking of touring with Alice Cooper, you've seen some of the best times in music, particularly rock 'n' roll. Is there a musical decade you wish you could've been a part of?
Wow, gosh. No -- actually, where we were was just right. I don't really want to leave it that being the answer; but that is the answer. Everything I believe is meant to be, and I can't think of a better time to have done what we did. Maybe a little earlier before us, sure -- Buddy Holly and such. Great time. But a little after that was when we got started and that was a great time. Everybody is a product of their times. There would probably be no KISS if there was no Alice Cooper. There would be ... most of the British Invasion would've never happened without the Beatles. It's all evolutionary. And if you really want to go back in time; everything can be attributed to Chuck Berry and Little Richard.
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