Q&A: Eric Bloom of Blue Oyster Cult
When classic hard rock band Blue Öyster Cult released its first, self-titled album in 1972, Richard Nixon still roamed the halls of the White House. That’s how long founding members like Buck Dharma (legal name Donald Roeser) and Eric Bloom have been doing this, generally with a grueling tour schedule. Since that first album, they’ve played thousands of dates, including more than 60 this year.
Though the band hasn’t come close to the commercial success it enjoyed some 30 years ago, it can still pack a city club or music hall with fans. That’s largely thanks to three larger-than-life hits: “Godzilla,” “Burnin’ for You” and especially “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.”
Tomorrow (Oct. 8), Blue Öyster Cult will play in Annapolis at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, and earlier this week, Eric Bloom, a founding member and the band’s lead vocalist, spoke to the Whig in the lead-up to the show. We discussed this year’s anniversary of the fame-provoking “Agents of Fortune” album, some terrible neighbors who lived below him four decades ago and his love for Clash of Clans, a popular mobile game.
The following is a transcript of that conversation, edited for clarity and space.
Cecil Whig: One of the things that might impress people about the band is the number of shows you play, even now into your late 60s, early 70s. [NOTE: Bloom will turn 72 in December.]
Eric Bloom: I think we did more this year than last. Maybe 20 more. We give our management carte blanche to book from certain periods, and whatever fits in that period goes.
CW: Any recent shows
that stick out in particular?
EB: This year we did three shows at B.B. King’s [Blues Bar & Grille] in Manhattan, one of which was a benefit for the American Lung Association. That was to remember our longtime friend and bandmate Allen Lanier. He died of C.O.P.D. [in 2013]. This is also the 40th anniversary of “Agents of Fortune,” so we did several special shows this year, including one from Los Angeles that aired on DirecTV.
CW: It seems you’re not burnt out from touring. Do you have any idea how long into the future you’re going to continue this type of schedule?
EB: There’s really no answer for that. Whenever one
of us, Buck [Dharma, cofounding original member] or myself, decides enough is enough. That’s happened to several of our contemporaries — guys in AC/ DC are retiring, a couple of guys in a variety of different bands are retiring for health reasons or psychic reasons or political reasons. To do what we do, to get up at 4:30 in the morning, is not easy. You know, we don’t have butlers carrying our bags and stuff, we’re not on the level of the Rolling Stones or whatever. We do all the stuff ourselves. We’re still on the level of rental cars and getting met with a van, maybe. Very often we’re on a schedule that’s kind of nuts. My mother always
used to say, ‘I don’t know how you do it,’ and nothing much has changed. It’s part of the deal.
CW: Has it been worth it, then?
EB: Well, it’s a different kind of lifestyle. If you want to play, you can play in a bar down the street, wake up at 4 in the afternoon and play until 2 a.m. and make a couple hundred bucks. You can do that. Or you can do what we do and make a pretty good living.
CW: Do you remember what life was like for you before the band released “Agents of Fortune” (which propelled the band to mainstream popularity in 1976)?
EB: Well, it was 1975-6 — a long time ago. [laughs]
I think I was living in an apartment in Great Neck, New York, and one of my difficulties at that time was I couldn’t make any noise. I had two people who lived underneath me who would come and knock on my door if I walked too heavily on the floor. They’d come and bang on my door if I played a record too loud, or walked too loud or something. And so it was very difficult to work on music or anything like that there. My musical output that year was not great. That was a frustrating time. But, you know, the record had “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” on it, and that was a huge breakthrough for us.
CW: Did you move out of that apartment afterwards?
EB: I [laughs]
CW: Are you still going strong with Clash of Clans? [NOTE: The writer had spoken to Bloom about this for another publication in 2015.]
EB: I am playing Clash of Clans with my son Benjamin. I don’t know how strong I’m going, but I’m still playing. CW: Anything else? EB: Yes, Transformers: Earth Wars. I’m a gamer, you know? I’m always playing something.
Blue Öyster Cult plays the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, 801 Chase St., Annapolis, at 8 p.m. on Saturday. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets cost $45 to $65.
Blue Öyster Cult poses for a publicity photograph back in 1977.