Alice Cooper: I'm woven into Americana
Alice Cooper has been the reigning king of the shock-rock genre now for nearly 50 years. He essentially defined the genre and a generation of heavy-rock fans that delightfully thrive on the grotesque and extreme theatrical splendor that is the typical Alice Cooper performance. Notorious for throwing live chickens into the crowd, spurting blood in all directions, and nightly decapitations, his concerts are as much a visual thrill as an auditory workout.
Equally colorful is Cooper's life story. Becoming a full-blown rock star at an early age in the late '60s, Alice Cooper dove head-first into the full-throttle lifestyle of excess, but eventually found sobriety in the early '80s. Famously recovering from alcoholism he became born again and continued in the music world, separating his onstage persona from his own personal life.
Gimme Noise had the opportunity to talk to Cooper before his Raise the Dead Tour made its two stops in the Twin Cities this Sunday and Monday night. Never at a loss for words, he talked about his music, the tour, and the ups and downs of his past.
Gimme Noise: Hey Alice, I've been listening to you all afternoon. Just wrapped up with Special Forces.
Alice Cooper: Oh wow. That's a hard one to find.
I found it a few years ago and didn't know about it and was sort of surprised by it. It's really different for you.
It was one of my blackout albums. There were three albums I don't remember writing, recording, or touring with and that was one of them. It ends up being for the real Alice Cooper fans, that's one of their three favorite albums. Just because it's so weird. That one, Zipper Catches Skin, and Dada are the three albums that are just bizarre.
Yeah, Dada is really not a typical Alice Cooper album, that's for sure.
No, but that was a Bob Ezrin-produced record. Which is unusual. I mean, Billion Dollar Babies, School's Out, and Welcome to My Nightmare, Bob did all the gigantic albums for us. And this was sort of at the end of my drinking career, so it's just so bizarre. Some of the songs, like "Former Lee Warmer," that's a song I don't even listen to in the dark by myself.
Is it hard to revisit those records?
No, I even had the thought of going back to those records. I kind of look at the time around 1981 when I quit drinking and went to the hospital and did the whole thing. So it's been 32 years now without a drink. I go back and find that era pretty interesting because I listen to some of the songs and think, this is really good. I wish I would have spent more time to record this better. Some of those songs I have this idea of going in and picking out four songs from each album that were really worth going in and recording again with Bob Ezrin and the musicians I have now.
I think listening to them now they sound really dated. There's a lot of synthesizers on there. I'm guessing at the time you were going for the New Wave sound that was big?
Well, it really just depended on who the producer you had. If you had a producer from that era. I think I was just writing songs and going in the studio and not really... ya know when you work with a Bob Ezrin or a David Foster or producers like that you don't get away with doing whatever you want. This was a period when I was getting away with anything I wanted to do. In some ways I enjoyed that. I mean I don't think there was bad songwriting. I just think I didn't have any concept on the production.
Were you a bit of a loose cannon at that time?
Oh way loose. Yeah. Big time.
I suppose they had to work with what they had.
I mean I listen to the vocals and think I'm hitting the notes and think the lyrics were good. I just think it wasn't in the hands of anyone that could make it come alive and know what to do with it to make it into a Welcome to My Nightmare or a School's Out.
So when you tour now, you've got to play it a bit safe and play all the hits that people are expecting to hear. Are there certain songs that you'd love to play but just don't think would go over live too much?
We still do that. Even though it's a set show. We write the show from beginning to end as a concept. Like the one we're doing now is in three parts. The beginning is all glitz and glam, pure Alice. Big show, all the hits up front. Then it goes into the Alice nightmare section and that takes on a whole different thing; "Welcome to My Nightmare," "Go to Hell," "Devil's Food," "Feed My Frankenstein." The real theatrical thing happens there. Then the third part of the show, which is "All My Dead Drunk Friends." Which is sort of raising the dead. We take four friends of ours who we used to drink with, John Lennon, Keith Moon, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison and go into the graveyard and we do a song from each of those guys. Usually a big band like Alice Cooper doesn't do four covers like that in a row. But it's conceptual. It's the idea that Alice just got his head cut off and rolls into the graveyard on a gurney and wakes up and all the gravestones are there and he does their songs. The audience loves it!
That sounds like a great tribute to those guys and all the music everybody loves.
Yeah. Generally you don't see an Ozzy or Aerosmith or whomever do a full section of songs like that that that represents their dead drunk friends. I can call them that because I used to drink with those guys!