A few hours before the Alice Cooper concert in Petra theatre, we went up the road to the hotel where the Prince of Darkness was staying and after we managed not to pass out the first seconds – after all you don’t get to meet Alice Cooper everyday – the interview started on time and ended…with Alice Cooper assistant’s alarm clock! When we left, none of us was quite sure if that was real or just a dream. Interview: George Anasontzis, Sakis Nikas, Christos Stamelos
As the elevator was lifting us to the top floor, our anticipation grew higher and higher. We entered the presidential suite and having Parthenon in our view, we met Alice Cooper. That moment, one of our dreams had been fulfilled. We greeted him and he welcomed us heartily. He proposes us to take a seat and, as he was wearing two big crosses on his neck, he dropped a first hint and the ice broke: “I’m not expecting a lot of vampires… somebody gave me all these crosses today”. We took a seat, and being cool, we only had the minutes to beat…
Rockpages.gr: First of all, it’s an honor for us to meet you.
Alice Cooper: Thank you, guys! It’s great here. Look at this view (pointing at his window). I got the Parthenon right in front of me. Usually, I do interviews in some dark rooms in those hotels…But now…
Rockpages.gr: You should come more often!
Alice Cooper: Yeah! (laughs) We would like to come more often and we were supposed to come 4-5 times after that first visit, but we couldn’t get our equipment trucked in. Now that those technical problems were solved, we would be here every time we do a European tour. So I hope that Greece will be my second home. With this view! (laughing and pointing at the Parthenon)
Rockpages.gr: Here in Greece, we say that the eyes are the mirror of the soul. Shall we say, then, that “eyes of Alice Cooper” is the portrait of your soul?
Alice Cooper: Yeah, definitely. But from the writer’s point of view, I have to say that my biggest inspiration are people. I was sitting at a restaurant today, lots of people were passing by and I was thinking that every single one of them has a different story. Sexual, funny, horror…whatever. Every person hides a drama in his lives, that is worth a song! So these 12 songs is a little portrait of different people. Like “What do you want from me” is a “trailer trash Romeo”. Usually, when a guy wants to impress a girl, they buy her a diamond ring. This guy on “What do you want from me” wonders what more should I do? I burnt all of my porno! (laughs) I got rid all of my girlfriends and to me this kind of attitude is a good story. “Man of the year” is another example of someone who does everything right and at the end of the song, he got his gun on his mouth! There is something missing inside of him. So, every story has a little drama going on. “The eyes of Alice Cooper” is telling you about these little stories. If I sit down with you guys and get to know you for two days, I would be able to write a different song for each one of you. I’d find some things that are unique to your character.
Rockpages.gr: Maybe, we should do it! (laughs)
Alice Cooper: Yeah! (laughs) Everybody’s worth a song. That’s what I think. Take for example “Poison”. Everybody had a girl in their lives that was Poison! They couldn’t live with or without her. She was like a poison in their blood and they didn’t mind. That’s why this song appealed to so many people.
Rockpages.gr: That leads us, actually, to our next question. The album “Trash” brought Alice Cooper to the top of the charts all over the world. Desmond Child was a big part of that album. How did you meet him?
Alice Cooper: You are right! Producers don’t get enough credit. For example, if there wasn’t Bob Ezrin we wouldn’t have done Love it to death, Billion dollar babies, Killer, School’s out and all the other albums. He also worked with Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, Kiss. He is phenomenal. For me, he was like George Martin to Beatles! He came in and organized everything. He took the best parts and made them work. Same with Desmond Child. I would write songs, bring them to Desmond, he would cut things and say what piece we need and where! He would say for example that 80% of the song is great and another 20% are needed. He had a magic ear! I would write “Poison” and he already had all these background vocals in his head. I wouldn’t have thought them at all! As a matter of fact, I would have done completely different every song on “Trash”. Little bit harder, you know…At the time there was a sound going on that was very popular: Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi…It was the Desmond sound. So, I said to him that these were my songs, take them and do whatever you wanna do with them. I trust you! And it worked. The funny thing is that if someone listens to all of our albums, “Trash” stands out a little bit, ‘cause it doesn’t have that “dirty” Alice sound. But the songs are awesome and they sounded great on the radio. It was that period of time. If that album came out 10 years later, it wouldn’t have done that well.
Rockpages.gr: After “Last Temptation” in ’94, there was a 6-year time gap where you didn’t release any studio albums. What happened between “Last Temptation” and “Brutal Planet”?
Alice Cooper: It was a matter of not having a story. Like Stephen King with every next book of his. I didn’t want to put out an album with 12 “just O.K.” songs. At that time, lots of albums came out that were just ok. I didn’t want to do the same thing. I waited and then I got this idea for “Brutal Planet” and this spawned “Dragontown”, which was actually “Brutal Planet pt II”. When I finished them, I realized that I had done 3 studio records in a row that were story records. So I said that I should do something that it is retro-Alice. I wanted to go in the studio, write 12 songs, with no production at all. I wanted to do 12 songs in 12 days! With no overdubs, the band the songs and me. I would show them the song, they would play it, I would sing it and that was it. The funny thing was when the song was finished, the band would say: That was cool, let’s go and fix it. And I’d say: No that was it. I wanted “Eyes…” to be the most “real” album we’ve ever done.
Rockpages.gr: That’s why “the song didn’t rhyme”…
Alice Cooper: Yes. (laughs) So, when you hear the c.d. and you hear us live on stage, it will be the same thing. There isn’t any play around in the studio. Like adding violins and stuff like that. It was my short of statement against technology. I am so tired of hearing those technically beautiful albums.
Rockpages.gr: Back in the 70s, Sex, Drugs and Rock n roll was a famous motto. How did you perceive this expression back then and how do you perceive it now?
Alice Cooper: Like everyone else, at that time, we bathed in sex, drugs and rock n roll. Our drug was alcohol. Any big band in the 70s was into this stuff. Jimi Hendrix, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin were leading an excessive life. Lots of these guys died because they didn’t know when to stop. I used to drink with all of these guys…Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Keith Moon. All of them were friends of mine. They tried to live their image. They got up in the morning and said: “I’m Keith Moon, I’ve got to be crazy”. I finally learned that I am Alice Cooper…tonight for 2 hours on stage! I can’t wait to be Alice, but I don’t have to be Alice right now. I can go shopping, I can go to the movies, play golf. I am the doctor and that’s Frankenstein up there on stage (laughs). Why should I be Frankenstein all the time? That would kill me. Not to mention that it would be boring. It’s better to look forward to becoming Frankenstein than being Frankenstein all the time.
Rockpages.gr: Let’s go from Frankenstein to Flash Fearless. What do you remember from those days, in 1975?
Alice Cooper: It was so obscure. Someone came to us and said that they were doing Flash Gordon. I said: Let me hear the songs and finally I sang lead on “Flash” and “Space pirates”. Keith Moon played drums.
Rockpages.gr: Is it available on c.d. format?
Alice Cooper: No, only in vinyl.
Rockpages.gr: Do you feel part of the American pop culture, like Aerosmith or Kiss, and what do you think of these bands?
Alice Cooper: They are friends. Aerosmith is closer to us than Kiss. Musically, I mean. When I see Aerosmith play “Baby, please don’t go”, I say: Hey, we used to do this song in high school. We are all Yardbirds’ fans. Aerosmith developed their style, like we developed ours. But they were our roots, whereas Kiss’ roots are… Alice Cooper (laughs). Kiss grew up with Alice Cooper, Deep Purple and Ozzy Osbourne. But they developed their own style, too. So I feel much closer with Aerosmith although they came after us and probably they listened to Alice Cooper, a lot.
Rockpages.gr: Any plans for a tour with them?
Alice Cooper: I would love that. It would be great and as a matter of fact I would tour with anybody. There is nobody out there that I would be afraid to tour with. Our show would blow anyone out of stage!
Rockpages.gr: Maybe, the other bands are afraid of you! (laughs).
Alice Cooper: Yeah. (laughs) There was a time, where lots of bands wouldn’t tour with us. They just knew that they couldn’t stand The Alice Cooper Show. But there were some bands that opened for us and then became huge stars. Like AC/DC, Guns n Roses, ZZ Top, Blondie.
Rockpages.gr: As you said, apart from your music you are famous for your extreme show. When you decide to retire from the music business, how would you like people to remember you?
Alice Cooper: There is no doubt that I am gonna go down in history as the originator of theatre/ shock rock. We did that first. We also did the make-up first as we did the stage props first. We actually did stadiums first before anybody. We originated all those things. We did the very first video at a time when nobody thought of doing videos. It was the “Welcome to my nightmare show”. We had the video and no place to play it! (laughs) The whole thing cost us 20000$, because nobody knew how much to charge! They said: now that you did that, what are you gonna do about it? And we answered: “We don’t know”! (laughs)
Rockpages.gr: How was the experience of working with Vincent Price?
Alice Cooper: He was a classic! All I said to him was that we had a song called “Black Widow” and we wanted to have him as a curator for the Black Widow. I didn’t think he would accept but he said: Oh, I can’t wait! He came down, read it and he was thrilled. I’ve been into horror for all my life. I always thought that horror, comedy and rock are in the same bed together. If you put al these three together, it is fun! I don’t think I have ever done anything horrific on stage that it didn’t have a laugh on it, some kind of humor on it. Rob Zombie is like that. If you see “House of 1000 corpses” and you don’t laugh, there is something wrong with you, because it is very funny.
Rockpages.gr: That’s why you did the muppet show?
Alice Cooper: The Muppets were perfect. I said that if Vincent Price and Peter Sellers did the Muppet Show, then Alice Cooper can do the Muppet Show.
Rockpages.gr: Is it true that you bought the letter “O” from the famous Hollywood sign back in the 70s?
Alice Cooper: Yes, it was the 75th anniversary of Hollywood and the sign was basically falling down the hill and nobody was there to fix it and I was wondering why. The answer was that the whole thing was too expensive. So, I decided to buy the letter “O” for Groucho Marx. He was one of my best friends and I paid 27000$ for the “O” and it was 6 storey high! They fixed the “O” and then Hugh Hefner bought the “H” for himself and then Steven Spielberg bought one and on and on. We cut the letter in pieces, signed it, put it in plastic and gave it to certain people. So there are parts of the original Hollywood sign somewhere out there.
Rockpages.gr: Alice, thank you for your time!
Alice Cooper: My pleasure, guys.
All photos by www.alicecooper.com