Every fan of Rock and Roll has heard the music of the band Blue Oyster Cult. Songs such as "(Don't Fear) the Reaper" and "Burning for You" are staples in the rotation of most classic rock stations. What you might not know is that Eric Bloom, the lead singer for Blue Oyster Cult, is also an avid gamer who currently plays World of Warcraft. We were able to catch up with Eric and get him to talk about his game play and his music.
Allakhazam: I know from mentioning this interview in our Allakhazam IRC channel that many of our younger readers are very familiar with your music, but not as familiar with you or your band. Why don’t we start out with you giving us some background on yourself and on Blue Oyster Cult. How did you get started and how do you describe your music?
Eric Bloom: I joined the band in 1969 as the frontman, lead vocalist and our first album came out in 1972. We were voted “Best New Band” by the Creem Magazine reader's poll. BOC has been considered the first American “Metal” band by the rock press, but I always thought of us as more of a ‘hard rock’ band and less easy to pigeon hole into a category. While songs like “Godzilla” qualify as metal, “Don’t Fear the Reaper” certainly doesn’t. We’ve released over 17 albums and sold more than 14 Million records, many certified RIAA Gold and Platinum.
Allakhazam: I was in high school when Blue Oyster Cult was at its peak. I find it amazing that you are still going strong. What is the secret to your longevity?
Eric Bloom: Simply, Buck and I still enjoy playing, same as the old days. We’re actually doing better business now than in the 70’s.
Allakhazam: When I mentioned your most famous song “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” the very first reaction I got was “Oh the Cow Bell Song.” What do you think of the Saturday Night Live skit parodying the taping of The Reaper?
Eric Bloom: We loved it! I actually saw it live sitting at home as I’m an old fan of SNL. I thought they were going to ‘tear us a new a-hole’, but it was respectful and very funny. It was recently voted the #5 best skit in SNL history on VH1.
Allakhazam: You have stated in multiple interviews that you are an avid gamer. What got you started playing video games? I always say my love of gaming goes back to the atari version of pong that I got as a kid, but you go back even further than I do. How did your game play develop over time? Give us some of your favorites from over the years.
Eric Bloom: I had Pong as well, but I grew up in Queens, NY and used to go (late 1950’s) to Coney Island (an amusement park in Brooklyn) and played ‘penny-arcades’, early pinball and arcade games, electric but certainly not ‘electronic’. I became a fan of current-day games while in Japan observing the “Space Invaders” craze before it got to the USA in the late ‘70s. I have great fondness for “Intellivision” and I still have a working console. I played Commodore’s C64 (my first internet device) games, Genesis (I liked the Phantasy Star games), PS1, PS2, Xbox and eventually got turned on to MUD’s on my first PC, a Gateway 486 66 mhz machine in 1994. AOL offered a new game, a scrolling text game called Gemstone III. I was hooked. I played Gemstone III and IV for over 7 years, went to many of their conventions, fan gatherings and still have many friends from those days. I recently interviewed the Creator of GS, David Whately for Massive Online Gamer Magazine. Through my buddy Richie Castellano, I discovered SWG and that moved me back to graphic games. I played SWG for quite awhile ‘til it got nerfed and I tried EQ2 on the first day. I played EQ2 for over a year, tried WoW one day and never looked back. I gave away all my gold and items in EQ2, closed my account and WoW has been my main gaming experience for the last 2 years. I was certainly the oldest nerd in line at midnight when the Burning Crusade expansion came out. I played the LotR beta, Tabula Rasa beta and several demos like Crysis and Hellfire: London in the last year.
Allakhazam: Have you ever played Guitar Hero? Don’t Fear the Reaper is actually one of the featured songs on that game. I’m curious what a true rock star thinks of the popular pretend rock star game.
Eric Bloom: My son (29) has Guitar Hero on PS2. He loves it. I tried it, but not Reaper. While it’s not really guitar playing, I think it’s a fun game and might promote folks to try a real instrument someday.
Eric Bloom: I started playing on the Scarlet Crusade server Horde. I ran a hunter up to 60 last year, had a few alts but most of my friends moved to the Twisting Nether server Alliance. I really took to the Alliance as many of the quests were different, the cities different, so I became reborn. All my friends quit because of ganking since it’s a RPPVP server. I stuck it out, met some new folks and today have 10 characters. My main is a mage currently raiding Kara. While in the old world I did all the main raids (Ony, MC) with my old guild and had most of the Arcanist set. There’s really not enough room to talk details about the WoW experience but I still play almost daily, and I try to meet players in RL here and there in my travels on tour.
Allakhazam: What about your characters in EQ2 and SWG? Tell us what you played in those games and how far you got before you quit.
Eric Bloom: Sheesh, I hardly remember. I played a pally in EQ2 and while there I enjoyed the game, but a lot of my friends quit and I felt abandoned. In SWG I played a 2-handed swordsman, Empire. Again, a lot of people I played with moved on and the game changed so I tried WoW and found a home.
Allakhazam: Are you in a guild? Are there people you normally group with when you play, or do you do a lot of pick up groups? Do your guild members know what you do in real life?
Eric Bloom: I am in a guild, but I’m a lone wolf most of the time. I don’t play my 70 much except to raid Kara. I’m currently bringing a shammie to 70 (now 67) and I like the character so much, I’m thinking about making it my main eventually. I am working on making this character my most rounded, going back and working on all the side professions like fishing, cooking and maxed out in first aid. My active characters are a gnome mage 70, draenei shaman 67, human rogue 62, night elf hunter 65. I also have a priest and warlock in their 50’s, and the rest are bank alts. Some guild members know who I am and I’ve met a few in RL in my travels. I belong to a raiding group for the mage and the rest of the time I’m soloing or a pug to quest.
Allakhazam: What type of player do you consider yourself? Heavy Raider? Soloer? Casual? Hardcore? Do you play PvP? What aspects of game play attract you the most? How often and long do you usually play? Basically tell us all about Eric Bloom the gamer, as opposed to the musician.
Eric Bloom: I like popping in and out of games at my convenience, so I solo a lot. I like questing and raising my abilities in a variety of professions. I also like to switch around on my characters to amuse myself. I raid, but only on a raiding schedule of once or twice a week and sometimes not at all depending on the battle leader’s availability. If I’m home, I’ll play a bit in the afternoon and late evening with Kung Fu HD on tv. Raids are usually at 9 Eastern. I’m not the greatest at PvP but I’ll jump in if I have to. I try to play in ‘an honorable fashion’ -- that is I won’t gank anyone that won’t give me honor. I do get pissed on occasion if I actually help a hordie kill his Pve opponent , then he turns around and ganks me. I’ll get my mage out and look for some revenge.
Allakhazam: You have said that you have been mostly playing World of Warcraft for a while now. What is it about WoW in particular that you think keeps you coming back and playing over and over? What aspects of WoW are your favorites? Are there parts of the game you don’t play?
Eric Bloom: I’ve tried a few other games recently but I keep coming back to WoW. Most folks I know are looking for ‘the next WoW’ but nothing out there is generating any word-of-mouth excitement that I know of. I’m an old RP’r and like the open aspect of exploring. For that same reason I liked “Fable” and “Oblivion”. I’ve tried to turn some of my friends on to WoW but they thought it was too ‘cartoony’..one of the things I like most. I love the artwork and production design. Lately I’m in Nagrand and love the veldt and waterfalls and general look of the area. I've done arenas in the past, but not since I've moved to BC...too busy leveling all my guys. I like finding different things to do or see; for that reason, I went back to Scarlet Crusade last Spring and made a Blood-Elf just to see what the new character was like. I ran him to 21 'til I was out of the new area and haven't been back.
Allakhazam: Before WoW, you played Everquest 2 and Star Wars Galaxies. Can you give us a comparison of the three games?
Eric Bloom: I think each game has positive aspects. Some folks love sci-fi vs. a fantasy environment or vice-versa, so there’s a place for you. I’ve read that what makes WoW so popular is ‘easy to play, hard to master’ and I think that’s true. I’ve played all the Blizzard games (Diablo, Starcraft, all the previous Warcrafts) and their team knows what makes a good gaming experience. SONY's games just seems to be missing a certain je ne sais pas.
Allakhazam: Are there any games coming out over the next year or two that have you excited for the opportunity to play?
Eric Bloom: I am curious about Conan, Warhammer and especially the Star Trek MMO.
Allakhazam: I can’t help asking this one. While playing WoW, did you ever stumble across the Needs More Cowbell quest in Netherstorm? What was your reaction when you did?
Eric Bloom: Certainly J I tried to contact the Blizzard folks and give them a kudos, but reaching those folks is tough. Working with Massive Online Gamer Magazine is giving me a chance to reach a bit deeper into the gaming community.
Allakhazam: Are there any accomplishments in game that you are particularly proud of? Boss mobs killed or items won?
Eric Bloom: Being in a raid group and beating a boss is always rewarding, ‘tho maybe the drops get frustrating when you lose a roll on something you really need. My guild recently started a DKP system that I hope works out. I remember being particularly stoked at the sheer luck of finding a purple epic world drop while in my 30’s (Ardent Custodian).
Allakhazam: Blue Oyster Cult still tours pretty heavily. How are you able to keep up with a busy touring schedule and still find time to play WoW so much? Have you ever found yourself running late for a concert so that you can get through a dungeon or something like that?
Eric Bloom: A normal BOC tour day will have us leaving early from NY, flying to somewhere USA, getting to the hotel and I set up my laptop. Most hotels these days have hi-speed internet although sometimes it’s $10/day. The nicer the hotel, the more they charge for internet. Holiday Inns have internet free in every hotel. Many times the connection is crap no matter what hotel brand so sometimes I just can’t play. I recently got a new Toshiba laptop that rocks so lag is never a hardware problem.
Allakhazam: Rock Star and Online Gamer are not usually considered mutually inclusive. Both come with distinct stereotypes that are very different from each other. How do people react when they learn about your hobby? How hard is it to explain to others?
Eric Bloom: Some folks think I’m nutz…I don’t care. It certainly beats being a druggie or a drunk. If asked, I’ll explain a bit about the game and the business of gaming with ‘9 million people are playing and paying $14/mo…how’s that for a business model”? That usually quiets them down.
Allakhazam: Have any of your songs incorporated video games into them?
Eric Bloom: Never wrote a song about gaming, but Reaper has been in a couple like “Ripper” and “Rock Band”, Godzilla is in “Guitar Hero I” and Cities on Flame is in “Guitar Hero III”.
Allakhazam: Have you ever worked on any projects that combine your love of music and gaming? Is there anything in the works right now?
Eric Bloom: I’d love to write some music for gaming. Hey out there! Get in touch.
Allakhazam: I understand that you are an avid reader of science fiction. What are you reading now? Give us some of your favorites.
Eric Bloom: I’m old, so I’ve read a lot in the genre going back to all the classics like the Dune books by Frank Herbert, the sequels by his son, Robert Heinlein, Greg Bear, Roger Zelazny, Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion Series (Michael and I have written some songs together). Tons more. I’m currently reading “Fallen Dragon” by Peter Hamilton. I think he’s a great writer with great hooks.
Allakhazam: You and Blue Oyster Cult both have websites you maintain. Can you tell us where to find them and what we will see on there?
Eric Bloom: http://www.blueoystercult.com/ has all BOC information including old and new tour dates, bios, etc. http://www.ericbloom.net/ is my site with photos of some of my memorabilia but the bb is only available to subscribers. I have a myspace page: www.myspace.com/ericbloomblueoystercult . I also have a collectible guitar site, http://www.ericbloomguitars.com/ .
Allakhazam: Thanks for taking the time to talk video games with us. Is there anything else you wish to add to this? Promotions of upcoming tours or other projects? A shout out to someone? Just giving you a last chance to add something.
Eric Bloom: As far as gaming goes, I know I’m not the best player out there, but I enjoy playing, being sociable to my online friends and meeting them in RL from time to time. BOC will be on tour in 2008 so look for us coming to your town soon. Special shout out to my buddies on Twisting Nether, Moonjade, Angeni, Trygel, Cambro and especially Vincant/Naraal for being extraordinarily patient with all my questions. I think that’s one of the best things about WoW…no matter how long you’re playing, there’s something new to learn.