SpringFest Interview: Blue Öyster Cult's Eric Bloom
Portions of this interview were published in Boogie Pensacola. This extended version is available exclusively online.
BY ELAINE MATISSE
Blue Öyster Cult emerged in the early 1970's as one of the pioneers of hard rock. Their hits like "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" and "Burnin' For You" are still high-octane classics.
The band released their self-titled debut in 1972, and would go on to release over a dozen albums through 1998's Heaven Forbid, earning a loyal--cult-like?--following of fans.
The founding members--lead vocalist Eric Bloom, lead guitarist Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser, and keyboardist Allen Lanier--are the contemporary core of the band. Rounding out the group today are bassist Danny Miranda and drummer Bobby Rondinelli. In a leopard slip and no shirt, I recently sat in my sunroom and spoke with Eric Bloom.
Are you looking forward to coming to Pensacola?
Bloom: Yes, we like it down there. I know we've been there many times. I remember once playing there during a hurricane.
Yeah, right on! I don't think we'll have one in May. SpringFest has gotten really big here. About a hundred thousand people come to it. Are you going to be able to stay a couple of days?
Bloom: No, we never do. We always have someplace else to go play the next day.
How many shows do you do a year, about a hundred?
Bloom: Probably more like a hundred and twenty.
Why do you guys spend so much time on the road?
Bloom: (laughs) Because we're crazy!
In Pensacola, we've got a lot of heavy fundamentalist Christian attitudes, and I wondered if you had a message to your fans that might be alternative, or, where are you in your spiritual life?
Bloom: Spiritual life?
Do you have one?
Bloom: I have a wife and two children in college, so ... I think that's a tough question. I can't really call it spiritual, but I've always sort of believed that if you do the right thing, the right thing comes back to you.
Yeah, right on. That's kind of like karma. Maybe you're Buddhist.
Bloom: I really don't like labels. But I feel like maybe something good will come back to you, if you do the right thing. It might not be that day, it might be down the road or something.
I have some questions from the fan club here. Why is the Greek god Kronos the insignia for your band?
Bloom: It's actually probably less interesting than you think, the answer to that. Our original manager went to Stony Brook University, and he had several friends who went there as well. One of which was Richard Meltzer who wrote some of our lyrics including "Burnin' For You." And this other one who was our sound man for many years. And another guy out of there named Bill Gawlik did the artwork for the first two albums. Bill Gawlik was a very unusual original artist, and he incorporated the logo into the first artwork. The band members had never seen it before. We just liked it so much that it became our symbol. It's actually on every single album cover somewhere.
The story behind Kronos is that he was the son of Uranus, the Fates predicted that Kronos would overthrow Uranus, and Uranus did everything in his power to prevent that . . .
Bloom: See, here, already, what you're doing, is you're reading more into it than there really is.
Oh, I just wondered maybe if you guys were interested in overthrowing the establishment.
Bloom: (laughs) No. We're interested in everybody coming down and partying. I think that's a little bit more of our philosophy more than anything else.
Well, I'm the spokesperson for partying in this town. I believe in it. You must be in your late forties?
Bloom: I'm 55.
Oh, you're 55, that means you weren't twenty in 1967.
Bloom: No. I graduated from college in '67.
How are you holding up? Are you taking your vitamins?
Bloom: Excuse me?
Are you taking your vitamins?
Bloom: Every day.
Are you holding up pretty well?
Bloom: I think so.
Who are the band members playing in Pensacola? Eric Bloom, Buck Dharma, Allen Lanier, Danny Miranda, Bobby Rondinelli?
Bloom: That's the band that's been with us the last three, three and a half years.
Are you going play from the latest album, Heaven Forbid?
Bloom: I'm not sure, I would guess so. We usually do. We don't play a lot of the newer stuff. We play mostly the older stuff. But we'll play one or two songs from it.
Are you working on something new?
Bloom: Yeah, we're planning on recording in the fall.
Do you follow a line-up of music that you do for every show?
Bloom: We don't have a set list. I mean, we're obviously going to play certain songs every night. But, in a ninety minute show, we'll play fifteen, seventeen songs, so I call it as we go.
Do you make a pretty good living doing it?
Bloom: Yeah, sure do. No complaints. We're actually doing better now than we did in the seventies. A good part of our business is, you know, the catalog continues to sell. Luckily, in the Internet, and touring a lot, we've turned a lot of younger people on to our music. There are a lot of people out there today who really don't like what's currently popular. They look back and find bands like us that they weren't aware of, and the fact that we just rock our asses off, they really like.
I've got more questions from the fan club. In the 1973 song "Seven Screaming Dizbusters," what is a dizbuster?
Bloom: (laughs) Well, it has a sexual connotation.
That's OK, I'm a grownup. You can tell me.
Bloom: I think Richard Meltzer and Sandy Pearlman came up with a term, that was sort of like an inside joke to them, and used it in the lyric of that song. To them, the diz was the groove at the top of the penis.
Bloom: And that's what a diz was. So "Seven Screaming Dizbusters" are some pretty bad boys.
So they were fucking so hard, the tip of their penis fell apart.
Bloom: I can't read more into it, and you're probably reading more into it than I can. But that's really what the diz is, in our nomenclature.
Alright. Got it. 1976, Agents of Fortune, who does the voice of the newspaper seller on the subway on "Morning Final"?
Me! That's what they thought. What happened to the Bouchards, Joe and Albert? What are they doing?
Bloom: They're both schoolteachers. Joe is a music teacher in Connecticut, and Albert is a computer teacher, I think, in an elementary school.
Do you miss having them in the band?
Bloom: Not a bit.
Really? Were they a pain in the ass?
Bloom: I can't . . . you know, that's a whole other interview. I really think that the band we have now is better than the original band. Much better. Come see the band live and make up your own mind.
Do you have favorite guitars?
Bloom: I use a brand of guitars made out in California by hand, called Harper. Harper Guitars are made by a guy named John Harper. He's actually an ex-professional baseball player that got hurt, and started working in a high-tech job and got laid off, and his wife got a high tech job too, so she's the breadwinner while he's, you know, doing what he loves, which is building guitars. And now his guitar-building business has gotten so tremendous that it's all he can handle. He's built me, let me think, three or four different Harpers, and he built one for Buck, and he's building a bass for Danny. I think a lot of people are using him since they found out that that's who we use. He can be found on the Internet, if you do a search on Harper Guitars. I highly recommend it, because I play a lot, and I play hard, and my guitars never go out of tune. They're great-sounding, great-looking guitars.
I'm taking violin lessons right now. I have a seven-year-old daughter, and she wanted to learn to play the violin, and her teacher insisted that I play also, so . . .
Bloom: That's a good idea. I did the same with my son. When he was about seven or eight, I think, I said if I took violin lessons, would he take them with me. We did it as a father-son thing for a while, and then he dropped it and took up, like around fourth grade, the saxophone, which he did right through junior high. Then he dropped it, and then when he went off to college, we always had a drum kit in our house, so he was always drumming. And now he's got his own band in college and just got a record contract of his own.
Wow, that's cool.
Bloom: They play very hardcore music.
Do you like it?
Bloom: Do I like his music? I think it's got some good points to it. It's kind of different than what we do, because the lyrics are kind of indecipherable. It's got a following, and he hopes to get a record out later this year.
How many children do you have?
Bloom: I have two boys, one eighteen and one twenty-two.
Is the 22-year-old the musician?
Bloom: Yeah, he's the one that's a senior in college.
What's the eighteen year old doing?
Bloom: He's on his way to college in the fall. He's a volunteer fireman, and he's very gung-ho about it.
Are you married?
Bloom: Sure. That's where children come from.
Well, you don't have to be married to have children.
Bloom: Call me old-fashioned.
So you're married to the original woman you married?
And that's panned out pretty well?
Bloom: So far.
What's the secret to that success?
Bloom: Being on the road a lot.
What would you like to tell Pensacola?
Bloom: We're on our way. We'll be there soon.