Originally Published: August 1999
Author: Martien Koolen
On February 4th, 1948, Vincent Furnier is born. Now, 51 years later, there's a magnificent overview of 25 Alice Cooper albums. His first "real" Cooper album is "Love It To Death" from 1971, according to many still one of his best albums. His latest album "A Fistful Of Alice" dates back from 1997,but a new one is coming. At the "rock hotel" of the Netherlands (the Amstel hotel) Alice appears to be very talkative, although his "bodyguards" clearly point out that I may only ask questions about "The Life And Crimes Of Alice Cooper" (this is the box) and that I only get thirty minutes to do so. Yeah, right! Why has the box been delayed so many times? Plans were already there in 1992, right?
"That's right, it started in 1992. We should've called the box "Ben Hur", because it took longer to compose this box than it took to make that legendary movie. Of course, it had a lot to do with pig-headed record companies. Furthermore, Warner Brothers thought making this boxset was a little behind its time. In sixteen years' time, they've only released one boxset. Looking back, I'm kind of glad it took so long, because expectations about the box remained high and it gave me the chance to involve Rhino in it. Rhino Records is really good, very professional. Rhino said: "We want a minimum of four CD's to give every single one of your 25 albums a chance to provide at least one song". The company also wanted to include an info book of sixty to seventy pages. When I first met with Rhino, I asked whether it was possible to have the box scream at you when you opened it, and then have a moth flying out of it. Rhino took this really serious and wanted to try this, but I was just kidding!! Rhino knows how to sell Alice Cooper and does it with the humour needed to do so. Which is perfect!"
After recording "Trash", you said that forty songs had been written, but that you only had place for ten. Why is there so little of this to be found on the set?
"Good question. Those songs are still there. That was a productive time, with Desmond Child. We just had lots of inspiration, but only ten to eleven songs would fit on the album, so they had to be the best. Lots of songs, about twenty-five, didn't make it to "Trash". We did rehearse them, however. In those days, we were very democratic about what songs would end up on the album. The other material is still there, but I don't know where. I'd like to hear those songs again, maybe they'd even be used someday. In the seventies, you and the band made two albums a year, with each sixteen songs, whereof twelve really did end up on the album. Brian Nelson has a lot of that leftover material. The box, for example, has "Call It Evil". Well, nor Neal, nor Dennis, nor I remember this song. "Slick Black Limousine" doesn't ring a bell either. Lots of unknown songs we lost, Brian found them and put them on this box."
Lots of fans, like yours truly, miss "Halo Of Flies" on the box.
"I had expected this, haha. I believe I'll have to release "The Life And Crimes part II" soon, with "Halo Of Flies" on it, of course. We did play it live this last tour, it still is a great song. I had Brian Nelson pick out the songs, because he selected them from the point of view of the fans. I would have picked the songs that I like personally. The box would've been something different then, a lot more obscure, hahaha. I did say to Brian that I wanted to choose ten of my own that had to be included. Songs that deserve a second chance, like "Former Lee Warmer", "Serious", "Tag, You're It" or "Man With The Golden Gun". Songs that were never really played, but songs I like. Brian sorted out the rest, of course in consultation with me. I still miss a lot of songs, but we could only pick out eighty, so part II is coming, haha!"
What songs would you have excluded?
"Very difficult question, but there's one song that will never ever make it to a box, and that's "No More Love At Your Convenience". I hate that song!!! It was a song meant to break down the disco-music from those days, but in certain countries, it was a hit. But I didn't want to be associated with that song, it was a persiflage. I have always hated that song, it's not an Alice song."
Is it true that Rhino Records is going to release remastered versions of "Billion Dollar Babies" and "Greatest Hits"?
"Yes, those albums will probably be re-released. Rhino wants to start with "Billion Dollar Babies". They've just made the DVD version of "Welcome To My Nightmare". On all albums, there'll be extra tracks for the fans, of course!"
How was it to perform with Michael Bruce and Neal Smith again when opening your restaurant Cooper'stown?
"Fantastic. It's strange that a lot of people, especially journalists, still have the wrong ideas about the end of the band back then. We never split up with a fight, the band didn't want the theatricals anymore. They wanted to make more music and less show. But to me, music was still the most important, and the show was a nice addition for the audience. I couldn't convince the boys and that's why we broke up. The whole break-up was actually based on the fact that Michael, Neal and the others wanted to make albums, while I wanted to continue with shows, like "Welcome To My Nightmare". When the band broke up, everyone was asking me why I fired the band. I didn't do that, how could I have done that? I was only one fifth of the entire band! I wasn't their leader or anything, I was just the singer. It really wasn't my idea!!"
Is there a new Alice Cooper album coming, entitled "Alice 2000"?
"Yes, we're working on it right now. When I'm back in the USA, I'll team up with Bob Ezrin. Ryan Roxie, Paul Taylor and Pete Freezin' are there again too, and they've all contributed songs. I'm doing the lyrics and production. I want this to be a band-album, a real rock and roll millenium album!! I'm also working on this other project. I'm working on a theatre production, together with Alan Menken (famous from Disney-productions-MK). It's already been written, but it'll be two years before the audience can hear and see it. We (Alan and me) still don't know what it's going to be. A cartoon, a musical, a play... Just wait and see. Bob Ezrin is going to do the production, by the way."
Who made who big? Did Alice Cooper make Bob Ezrin big, or is it the other way around?
"Alice Cooper was already there before Bob Ezrin came into the picture. But Bob made a real Alice Cooper out of Alice Cooper. His point of view was that if you hear a Doors-song, you know it's The Doors after ten seconds, thanks to their typical sound. We didn't have that yet, and Bob took care of it. Alice Cooper got a recognizable sound thanks to him. He got me that typical Alice Cooper voice and everything about the character!! So, the real first Alice Cooper album was "Love It To Death" and the rest is history, haha."
I'd like a quick reaction on these names of your colleagues:
Lemmy: "The best roadrat ever. A rock and roller all the way with a great sense of humour on top of it. He lives in hollywood now, and isn't really an Englishman anymore."
Dave Mustaine: "Dave lives in Arizona too. I've known him for a long time now, and I used to hate him. You know, in those days he still did drugs, when he had serious problems. Now he's one of my best friends, he really changed. Most people get nicer when they get older."
Slash: "Another true rock and roll guy, a super-guitarist. There are two guitarists I kick on: Joe Perry (Aerosmith, MK) and Slash. They're real guitarists that make their guitars rock without too much frills. When you see a third guitarist on-stage during our next tour, that'll be Slash, he knows all the songs!"
Brian Johnson: "AC/DC is fantastic band, their energy is overwhelming. How Brian can cope singing like that for two hours, is still a riddle to me. I think he loses his voice often. I can't even imitate him, it hurts my vocal chords."
David Cassidy: "He was once the biggest popstar of all time, but couldn't escape the problems of stardom. In that way, he's no much different to me, he also had a rollercoaster-life, lots of ups and downs. But he's also a survivor, he didn't get enough appreciation, however. He still is a good friend. Journalists compare David and me like heaven and hell. I, of course, was hell, but in fact, David was much worse, really!!"
And now, a cliche: how long do you think you'll be able to perform?
"I'll stop when fans stop coming or when people don't yell for more at the end of the show. Or when I weigh 300 pounds or when I'm bald, haha. No, really, when I stop looking like Alice and when I can't sing anymore like Alice should sing, then it's time to quit."
So that'll be around 2015! My thanks to super Alice Cooper fan Jan Fleuren.