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Interview and Photos by Mary Andrews
Alice Cooper's Christmas Pudding
An interview with Two Rock Icons
Alice Cooper and Joan Jett
December 11, 2013
The annual Alice Cooper's Christmas Pudding event actually started a day early with a private sound check and a press conference. Cooper has been promoting his charity, Solid Rock Foundation, for the last 13 years. There were eight members of the press present for this interview.
"We did this last night in Vegas. It was great. We had Kiss and Dee Snyder, Rob Zombie. We had the same band, Hairball. The great thing about it is they know everybody's music. We just rotate the lead singers in. They played it just like the original bands. Very cool. Makes it a lot easier on the audience cause there's no tear down. This is going to be a much more rock'n roll show this year," stated Cooper.
Interviewer: Do you have the same MC this year?
Alice: John O'Hurley. He's great. He calls himself the kiss of death to sitcoms. (laughing) He is really one of the great MCs of all time. Mr. Peterman.
Interviewer: I guess he bought that company.
Alice: I guess that would be the smart thing to do.
Joan walks into the interview area: Alright!
Alice: Joan Jett, the heart of rock 'n roll.
Joan: Hi, everybody!
Interviewer with Video camera: I gotta get really close to get mine, so why don't you take pictures first?
Alice: Laughs, Oh, that's an old trick. Better not get too close to me. Trust me.I always tell people I am Sioux Indian, Irish and French and 2/3 of them have a drinking problem (laughs) and I don't get along with the other part of me.
Tv crew: We're moving in guys.
Interviewer: Joan, tell me how you are involved.
Joan: Well, I've been friends with Alice for many years. I know he's had this charity. I've wanted to be involved and we were able to make it work this year. So, I am more than happy to be here and give what I can. I think an amazing cause they've brought to fruition. Its truly an awesome thing. I'm really glad to be a part of it.
Alice: She is the rocker. She is the real deal. Anymore, there is so few rock 'n roll bands. Its one of those things we were just talking about. There is just so few young bands out there that are real rock bands. It just getting a little bit thin out there. I bring all the hard rockers in.
Interviewer: So, tell me about the event and what's special about it. Its usually a variety show.
Alice: This year, it almost all rock'n roll. This year I want everybody standing. At least the second half of the show is pure rock'n roll. Every band. Its going to be hitting them over the head with it. There's nothing good about sitting down. The first part of the show is old shit. There is the dance company and all that stuff. The second half goes into fourth gear and stays there.
Interviewer: You do this every year?
Alice: First of all you have to support the charity. I get 100 kids in there every day. Kids that, well, you see a 15 year old kid on the corner selling drugs. You ask the kids, "How do you know you're not the best guitar player in Arizona?" You know,'If you've never tried it, come on in, we'll give you free lessons, you get to play your own guitar, finger a fender guitar. There's a guy to teach you. Pretty soon they are just as addicted to this as anything else There a bass guitar, there's the drums, here's this. They're in bands now. There are bands coming out of Solid Rock. These kids can play. You are giving them an alternative that they did not have before. I tell 'em a band is a gang.
Joan: Yeah, totally.
Alice: Trust me. A band is a gang and you don't go out without your band. When we were in Detroit, you did not go out alone. You went with your band. I say the only difference is, you are not going be shot or thrown in jail. Well, you might be thrown in jail. Laughing.
Joan: Yeah, you can be thrown in jail.
Alice: It's a little safer being in a band than being on the street. What do you got on the street? You're either going to be shot or thrown in jail. That's it that's your alternatives.
Joan: Let me just say from an outsider, realizing over the years, when I was in high school, I could take a course class, I could take an instrument, and they virtually have cut that out of the schools.
Alice: Its gone.
Joan: No one has a creative outlet for their energy. We all know young people, teenagers, have got that energy. We've got to channel it someplace. We've got to channel it to a place that is favorable, if not, its going to go someplace not so favorable.
Alice: Its easier to get heroin than beer on the street anymore. When I was a kid, you never heard of heroin. You got busted for beer. If you got in a fight with somebody, it was a bloody nose and a black eye and the next day you got a little respect from the boys. Now, you can see drugs by your house. . . every ante is up on these kids. Everything they are exposed to is deadly. So that makes it tougher on them. You've gotta go with music. Come on. You take a kid from the worse part of town and a kid from the best part of town, put them in a room. What are they gonna talk about? Who are you listening to? Whose your band? Music IS the common denominator. You've gotta go where they are.
Joan: Once that spark is lit, its hard to dim it, you know. If you are around like-minded people, who are looking to form these creative connections, its addictive.
Alice: Its just as addictive as drugs. If you got in a band, that was it. We couldn't wait to get in rehearsal. That was the most important thing of the day. We got a new song or we had to learn that new Stones song! Or we had to learn that new Who song. That was the most exciting thing in the world for us, was getting to rehearsal. I'm sure it was the same for Joan.
Alice: That was it. You were creating. Well, that's what these kids well. . we are giving them that opportunity. We get 100 kids a day in there. That, to me is, well you change one kid. You not only change just the kid. You change the neighborhood.
Interviewer: Well said. Thank you guys.
Next interviewer: Joan, how does Alice get in touch with you to do the show? Does he email you?
Alice: Rock 'n roll is a fraternity. Everybody knows everybody. So when you say lets get in touch with Joanie, everybody knows how to get in touch with everybody in this business.
Joan: We ran into each other this summer. We were hanging out in the same spot and we started discussing this time period and it was early enough in the year and it was easy enough for me to make it work in my schedule.
Alice: Last year she had a shoulder problem.
Joan: Yes. I still have.
Interviewer: Was it replaced?
Joan: No, no. It needs to be dealt with. I never have enough down time to deal with it so.
Interviewer: From playing?
Joan: From playing, from living, yeah.
Alice: Guitars are heavy! Laughs
Interviewer: New record is out?
Joan: The new record Unvarnished is out. That's the album title. The new single is called 'Any Weather'.
Interviewer: Is that in tandem with this show?
Joan: The album has been out since October and the single has been out since August. Its not connected beyond the fact that we will be performing the new single.
Interviewer: How long will you allow her on stage?
Alice: As long as she wants! (Laughing) She can say anything she wants.
Interviewer: Thanks, guys.
Live Wire: Yes, You've been doing this for 13 years? Is that correct? How much money have you raised?
Alice: We've raised. . well over the years when we first started we've raised money and gave it to teenage organizations. We did not have a building of our own. We've only had the building for three years now. So what we would do is raise money and we would find a teenage organization for like an eating disorder, for example, up in Prescott for girls with eating disorders. We'd give them money. Or neighborhood ministries which is all teens. We made sure they got the bulk of the money cause they were doing it on a shoestring. We saw what they were doing with kids, teenagers so it was almost directed in our board, when we first put Solid Rock together, that it 13 to 19 years. It has always been in our directive right there, teenagers at risk. Every teenager is at risk! So you put the money where the kids are. We have 30,000 more feet we want to develop for sports.
Joan: That's incredible.
Alice: Its going to be 60,000 square feet in there.
Live Wire: That was going to be my next question. What is your vision for the future?
Alice: We've already had. . Detroit has called us. Chicago has called us. San Diego. They all want a Solid Rock.
Joan: That's amazing!
Alice: Detroit needs 12 of these. (Laughing)
Joan: This could end up being a nationwide thing.
Alice: They should be. I said what you can do is come out and look at what we are doing then we can give you a blueprint of how this works. We don't have the funds to build buildings, so unless you have the funds to do it. Its hard enough to keep one building together, but we have this (the show) and the golf tournament. The show does really well for us every year. I don't know why this isn't on television. The Arizona Christmas Special every year.
Live Wire: It should be on television every year!
Alice: One year, I had Pat Boone with Ted Nugent. I had Rob Zombie with, well I tried to put people together who really did not belong together at all. It worked! It was one of those things that you put people who don't belong together. So what, it's a Christmas party.
Live Wire: Do you envision yourself to do this till the end?
Alice: Our kids are active in it now. Our son is 20, our daughter is 32 and we have another daughter who is 21. My son and his band are down there all the time. They are teaching and doing everything like that. They volunteer their time down there. When we are gone, its going to be theirs. Its going to go on.
Alice: In fact in the end, I'd like to see the kids running the place. I think, in the end, the blueprint of the place is what works. You have to find a 'like' amount of people in the next city. We have 10 guys who volunteer their time on the board. You have to find ten guys in the next city who are going to do the same thing. For 13 years we've been doing it that way.
Joan: They exist out there. It's a matter of finding them.
Alice: Oh, yes they are there. Every city has people who will do it. If they look at this one and say,'boy that works'. We're sort of the mothership here.
Live wire: That's why you have all these other cities calling on you. They want to know what works.
Alice: Yes, they want that blueprint. There's kids out there that come in and they say they feel safer here than we do at home. That's really sad. Kids are there at 3 o'clock waiting to get in because its safer there. If you start getting into every problem, it would drive you insane. So all you can do is open the door and say, 'this is your place'.
Live Wire: It sounds like this is your passion.
Alice: It is. My wife teaches dance. My wife teaches ballet, jazz and all that stuff. She's right there (he points to rear of the group). They have girls come in. All these girls can street dance, but they come in and all of a sudden they see ballet and they go, 'what's that'? They are totally fascinated by ballet. Now these girls are in there learning. . Sheryl is a master teacher of dance.
Sheryl: These kids will be performing tomorrow night!
Joan: These kids get turned on to what you don't expect them to be turned on to. They see an example.
Alice: Yes. They know hip-hop of course. But when they saw ballet. They said,'what'? Now all of a sudden, she has a room full of ballet students. It doesn't cost anything. Its just free. All you gotta do is show up.
Interviewer: How far in advance do you plan the show?
Alice: This show? Planning starts the day this is over. Every year it's a different cast. This year we have Kiss. That's great. All the guys from Kiss are coming down. They are fun on stage. They really are. Vince Neil said, 'I'll be there'. Tom Keifer from Cinderella. Kip Winger. The lead singer from Ratt.
Interviewer: Are you and Joan going to do a song together.
Alice: Turns to Joan. I didn't tell you this. Do know the opening song is House of Fire?
Alice: Joanie and Desmond wrote 'House of Fire'. We came around and played with it and we open with that song.
Joan: Oh, really? So, we'll see. We haven't discussed it.
Alice: There is a finale. We'll either do "Rock 'n Roll" all night with Kiss or we're gonna do "Run, Run Rudolph" or something like that at the end. Cause everybody gets back on stage. And it snows. It'll be snowing at the end of the show.
Interviewer: You've had years of success. Did you ever envision this organization being as successful as it has. Looking back 13 years, what do you think now?
Alice: The funny thing is, I figured when I hit 65, well, I'm gonna be calming down. I've never been so much on tour in my life. In the studio and now this thing is so growing that I don't have time off anymore. At 65, I thought I'd be done. In fact, at 35, I thought I was going to join the boys in the graveyard.
Live Wire: When you hit your 60's, I think you realize you don't have as much time left and there is so much left to do.
Alice: I look at Iggy, Stephen Tyler, Ozzy. We're all in our 60's.
Live Wire: There's Neil Young and look at Willie Nelson.
Alice: We're touring more than we ever did. Willie is 200, (laughing) he's dust and he still touring. Well maybe he's smoking dust. He cuts with one hand so he doesn't have to . . .