With all of the tragedies that have recently occurred, what this country needs right now is some type of diversion. And with Halloween right around the corner, Alice Cooper's timing couldn't be better.
With a healthy nudge-and-a-wink, this shock-rock innovator is once again bringing his traveling freak show back out on the road in support of his latest album "Dragontown." With all his guillotines, gore and other things that 'go bump in the night', this 53 year-old rock legend is about to prove that if he can't fully shock his, now somewhat, jaded audience on this tour, he's going to at least give them a much needed laugh. That's because Cooper's live shows are not only soaked to the floorboards with bloody theatrics but also a healthy tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. Of course, if that doesn't work there''s always his arsenal of hit-singles and rock anthems that are sure to bullseye their target like a wooden stake through the heart.
What is shocking, however, is that Alice Cooper - the man and not his merrily macabre stage persona - is a family man who not only owns two of his own sports / rock themed "Cooperstown" restaurants, but is also an avid golfer with a six handicap, has acted in movies and commercials and, most recently, just opened up a world class haunted house in his hometown of Phoenix.
ConcertLivewire's Tony Bonyata caught up with this complex man, where he happily shared his thoughts on golf, his onstage battle with bubblegum-nemesis Britney Spears, which horror movies make his hairs stand on end, his own personal nightmares and the future of his monstrous stage creation - Alice Cooper.
Livewire: How's your "Dragontown" tour going so far?
Alice: It's going great. After tonight's show we're halfway through it. We finish up on the 10th [of November] down in Florida. We're doing Halloween night in New York City. I think New York needs a good party right now. So we're going to go there and give them a good rock 'n' roll party.
Livewire: Are you incorporating any new instruments of torture into these shows?
Alice: (Laughs) Well, they're going to cut my head off again.
Livewire: With the guillotine?
Alice: Yeah, with the guillotine, which is always a crowd pleaser. They're always screaming for my head anyway. And let's just say that I'm not the only one who gets my head cut off. I'll just give you two words: poor Britney. (laughs)
Livewire: I seem to recall a little Britney bashing on your last tour as well.
Alice: Yeah, we've extended that out a little bit. You know, it's not Britney personally. It's Alice's image and Britney's image. I even relayed that message to her - that there's nothing personal. It's just your image and my image. They just collide. My audience can't stand Britney (laughs.) And I'm sure that her audience isn't real big on me.
Livewire: No, but their parents probably dig you.
Alice: Yeah, that's exactly it.
Livewire: With such elaborate stage settings and, what seems like, dangerous props, have you ever been injured onstage?
Alice: Oh, sure. In the early days, actually back when I was drinking a little bit - a little bit! - there were times when I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I put a sword right through my leg one time, and had to get some stitches. One time I fell off the stage in Vancouver, but that really didn't have anything to do with the alcohol. I tripped on a wire, there are so many things up on that stage. I fell about twelve feet into the audience and broke all my ribs. One broken rib is bad, but when it's all of them you just want to die. If you sneeze, it feels like somebody hit you in the side with an ax.
Livewire: Did you have to cancel the tour?
Alice: No, we went on and did the entire tour. I was anesthetized, let's put it that way.
Livewire: With Bud?
Alice: Yeah, but more than that. Maybe a little bit of Seagrams in there too. But you know, you get to a point where you're young and indestructible. You're onstage and you've got all of this adrenaline. I don't care how much pain you are in before, because during the show you don't feel anything. But after the show it hurts (laughs.)
Livewire: With the recent tragedies that have occurred, have you thought of possibly toning down or altering some of the more graphic elements of your show ?
Alice: No, not at all. I don't think so. First of all, Alice is total Americana. In fact, we even do "God Bless America" in the show. We've added that to "Elected." We do "Elected" and "School's Out" and "God Bless America" and "Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire," by Jimi Hendrix. We are about as all-American as you can get. I think that anytime you change anything, this guy wins. I'm not going to change anything for him, and I think that my audience would be really mad if I did change something. I hate giving in to this guy on any level, so our show is going to remain the same, but there's never really anything in the shows anyway that would bother anybody on that level. There's nothing political in our show to start with. I think that people expect to see a good Halloween show, and that's basically what we're going to give 'em. So I think that if I came in there and watered everything down, the audience would go, 'aww, that's no fun.'"
Livewire: Can you tell me a little about your newest Haunted House endeavor? Is this the first year for it?
Alice: Yeah, it is. McFarlane, who does Spawn and all that stuff, got involved and helped us with it. And the people who do our show, called Distortions, helped in it. But to be honest with you, I haven't even been there yet. I've been out on the road for the last month and a half. A lot of the money from it is being filtered into the relief fund, and then we're also doing a percentage of our merchandising towards the relief fund. But I think that any band out on the road right now is doing that. Everybody I've heard of is funneling money into New York City somehow. I just think that's the way Americans are. If there's a large amount of money coming in, somebody says, 'hey, we'll just give a cut over here.'" And that's the way you should do it.
Livewire: And your haunted house is called "Alice Cooper's Nightmare?"
Alice: Yeah, it's connected to my restaurant in Phoenix. It's really good. I think that if you're going to do a haunted house, make it scary. Don't just do a little boo-ha-ha. I think you need to give 'em a good little scare (laughs.) I've always thought that horror and comedy are very close. I've never seen a horror movie that didn't have a good laugh to it. The first time I saw "Evil Dead" I said 'this can't get any more bloody.' But the bloodier it got, the funnier it got - because you realize how over the top it was. And then you started realizing that with movies like the "Halloween" series and the Jason stuff, that you're actually cheering for Jason, because all of the teenagers that he was wiping out were all the kids you hated in high school - the cheerleaders and jocks (laughs.)
Livewire: Are there any particular horror flicks that give you the willies?
Alice: There are a couple of horror movies that I think hold up as being scary, and the reason that they are scary is that they're based on real things. I think that when you get into things like "Nightmare on Elm Street" you're talking about things that just don't happen. But when you're talking about "The Exorcist," that's based on truth. That happens a lot. Demon possession and exorcisms really do happen. That's not just me or anybody saying that, it's documented on medical record. So it's very hard to not explain that. I think that anytime you get into the occult you have a realization that this stuff does exist. Probably not as graphic as they do in the movies, but there's something creepy in the fact that it does exist. Like I said, movies like "The Evil Dead" and things like that are so funny, because of the fact that they're just so... I did one in Spain called "Monster Dog."
Livewire: I've never heard of it.
Alice: Well, good, because they promised me that they would only release it in the Philippines. It was one of those movies that had so much blood in it, that the film crew had to wear raincoats.
Livewire: Like front row at a Gallager concert.
Alice: Exactly. And it was so stupid and so funny. I did this movie right after I got out of the hospital for alcoholism and I wanted to see if I could work without alcohol. So I went all the way to Spain and spent two months working on this B-movie, to make sure that I could handle a schedule of learning lines, acting, and being on a real working schedule - like a tour - without alcohol. I wasn't going to just go out there on tour not knowing. So I did this and it worked out fine. The movie was just awful, but it's the kind of movie that I would rent.
Livewire: Sounds like one of those flicks that's so bad, it's good.
Alice: Oh, absolutely! It's the kind of movie that you'd definitely rent and go, 'Boy, was that a piece of crap! I loved it!' You see, to me, I love those kind of movies. So look for this one, it's called "Monster Dog."
Livewire: Do you have nightmares?
Alice: I have those nightmares like everybody else does, where I'm getting ready to go on stage and I don't know any of the lyrics. Or, when I lived in L.A., I used to have those big tidal wave dreams, where you'd see this tidal wave coming and you knew that there was no possibility of getting out of it's way. But honestly, I don't really have horror nightmares.
Livewire: You just give them to everyone else.
Alice: Yeah, I give 'em, I don't take 'em.
Livewire: Can you recall your favorite childhood Halloween costume?
Alice: I was always the same guy - Zorro. I always felt that I should've been some sort of swashbuckling, romantic character like that. And Alice kind of is that character. In fact, I use a sword onstage that belonged to Errol Flynn. And when I wield it on stage, you can see that I have a certain prowess with it, where I really should have been in one of those movies. I should have been the Sheriff of Nottingham. I would never have been the hero. I would've always been the villain. I think I related more with Basil Rathbone, than I did with Errol Flynn.
Livewire: You've also been known to wield a pretty mean 3 iron. Is golf still a passion of yours?
Alice: Oh yeah. That's something I do everyday. It's funny because the character of Alice that I play hates golf. I think about all the guys that play golf now. I was the first rocker that ever played golf, and now Lou Reed, Iggy, Metallica, it's like every band in the world plays golf now.
Livewire: Do you golf with any of them?
Alice: Yeah, I've played with some of them at these VH1 tournaments and things like that. You know who's pretty good, Dweezil Zappa -Frank's son. He's a pretty good player. There are some good ones out there. None of them have ever beat me, but they're getting closer.
Livewire: I saw your commercial for Calloway golf equipment, which I thought was hysterical.
Alice: I've actually done seven of them. I've been working with Calloway for about seven years now. I think the funny thing there is the juxtaposition. Here's Alice Cooper, who for a long time was the household word for villain, and now there's all these kids that can't go to the show because their parents won't let them. At least now, they can go to their fathers and say, 'oh yeah, Alice can beat you in golf!' And that hurts. When you tell your dad that Alice Cooper - the freak that they won't let you go see - can beat them in golf, that just must tear them up.
Livewire: But haven't you been accepted into the world of golf?
Alice: Oh yeah, because they see the two different characters. They see me when I get on the golf course, and then they see Alice on stage. I played with these guys this morning in Kansas City here, and, you know, I'm wearing all black, but I've got my hair back in a ponytail, and I went out and shot like 76 or whatever it was. It'll be funny tonight when they come and see me onstage, because they're going to go, 'that can't possibly be the same guy. It must be somebody else, because there's no way that's the same person.' I like that. It's great.
Livewire: Are there any artist's today that you admire?
Alice: Yeah, I like Rob Zombie a lot. I think Rob's very good. He's a good friend of mine.
Livewire: Don't you think, and I'm sure that he'd admit himself, that a lot of his theatrics are patterned after yours?
Alice: I actually think that Rob is closer to me than Marilyn Manson is. Marilyn has taken it into a whole different weird, eerie sort of tortured demon kind of character. Whereas Rob has more of a sense of humor. And my show has always had a sense of humor to it. I don't mind being the Vincent Price of rock 'n' roll. That's kind of the mantel that I inherited. In fact, I even worked with Vincent Price. I always thought that Vincent Price movies were scary, but funny. And I think that's what the Alice Cooper Show should be. I think that one of the things that separates me from the Marilyn Mansons and the Slipknots is when you come to see my show 90% of the songs are hits. These are songs that you've heard for thirty years. And that's the big advantage that I have over those other bands - they just don't have the history.
Livewire: At 53, how do you explain that you're able to still attract a young audience, as well as hang onto your older fans?
Alice: I think it's because the character Alice that I play is ageless. Alice is like The Joker or Batman. He's such an Americana character. You'd never think, 'how old are they?' They just keep living on and on and on. I look exactly the same as I did back then. I'm actually in better shape now than I was twenty years ago, but I think it's, of course, because I stopped drinking. It's actually a little frightening because I look at pictures of myself from 1970 and go, 'jeez, I look exactly the same.'
Livewire: That's funny you mentioned that, because I just watched a tape last night when you performed in Cincinnati in 1970, and you're right, you do look the same.
Alice: The Cincinnati show with Iggy?
Livewire: Yeah, the peanut butter bit and all.
Alice: Wow, where did you see that?
Livewire: I've got a video of it.
Alice: That's one of the first rock things they ever put on television.
Livewire: You're not using the white sheets from that show on this tour are you? [A rather cheesy effect where Alice covers band and audience members alike with white bedsheets.]
Alice: No (laughs.) You know why we used the sheet thing? We couldn't afford any other props. That was back in a time, honestly, before we had a hit. We were just sort of a freak band that they put on there. I think "Eighteen" might have just come out. The only thing we could afford were sheets and lights and pillowcases. But that even made it a little creepier.
Livewire: It did have a creepy edge to it.
Alice: Yeah, I think that sometimes those things make a creepier show than elaborate props.
Livewire: It kind of had a similar feel that the original version of "Carnival of Souls" left you with.
Alice: That movie scared the hell out of me! To this day I remember sitting there, I think I had the flu - I was about ten years old - and that movie came on and it was in black-and-white. And I remember when they were dancing in the ballroom. Remember, when all the guys were dead and they had the black under their eyes? Oh, man, that is too scary!
Livewire: You've got a new album out called "Dragontown". Can you tell me a little about it?
Alice: It's the second part of the Brutal Planet thing. If you've seen the Brutal Planet show it's a continuation of that. It's really exciting. It's got all the new stuff, and it's also got all of the old stuff. So everybody's satisfied in the show. People that come to hear the hits are going to hear the hits. And the people that come to hear the new material, they're going to get that too. It's all based on the theatrics....when I say "Dragontown," you're actually going to see it. You're going to be in Dragontown.
Livewire: With the success of heavy metal tours such as OzzFest, have you ever toyed with the idea of heading your own multi-band metal tour?
Alice: You know, I always thought that it would be a great idea to have Ozzy, Kiss and Alice in a baseball stadium with three different stages and just have those three bands. I think we could just do baseball stadiums all over the United States.
Livewire: Do you still plan on shocking audiences when you're 65?
Alice: (Laughs) You know, I don't know if they can be anymore. I think that television does more shocking things than...
Livewire: Well, maybe not shocking then, but rather entertaining, in your classic Alice Cooper fashion.
Alice: Oh, I think so - unless I gain a hundred pounds and lose all of my hair (laughs.)