Age, The

Originally Published: May 26, 2009

At 61 Alice Cooper can still shock

Veteran shock rocker Alice Cooper's stage schtick includes getting hanged in a straightjacket and decapitated on stage, spraying blood on the head-banging crowd.

But the stage persona is worlds away from the 61-year-old clean-living Christian and barbecue restaurant owner, who boasts a near-pro golf handicap of three.

Speaking ahead of his Australian tour in August, Cooper says while it's "fun" to play the ghoulishly made-up, theatrical rock star, it's a character he leaves on stage.

"He only lives for the audience, when the curtains close he's gone" Cooper said from his home in the US.

"I wouldn't want to be Alice all the time, that would be horrible.

"You would either be in the insane asylum or in jail or dead."

That scenario could easily have eventuated during his alcohol-fuelled haze of the 1970s and 80s, when his heavy metal outfit was producing a string of hits like Welcome to My Nightmare and School's Out.

"That was one of the reasons why I really had to get hold of the alcohol problem," Cooper says of his addiction.

"I had to find a time when Alice would stay on stage and I would walk off stage, take the make-up off and be back in my normal life.

"If I didn't do that Alice was gonna drive me crazy."

Now that he's sober and clean, Cooper says he's in the best shape of his life.

"At 61, I weigh the same I did when I was 30, I don't smoke, I don't drink, I don't do drugs, so I'm in better shape at 61 than I was at 30," he said.

"I almost feel like I'm at my second wind right now," he says.

He's promising to use that energy to bring Australian fans the "highest intencity" show yet when he tours in August.

"What they're not going to see is a bunch of old guys tired up there, this is a show that's going to make them sweat.

"We don't let up for one second and ... we've put the theatrics on top of that and we exhaust the audience. It's going to just rock."

He says his Theatre Of Death tour - ironically directed by the Beauty and the Beast musical's Rob Roth - will feature Alice Cooper hits and his legendary stunts.

"The trick is to do a show that nobody's seen before ... and shake things up, do things different, make sure the audience is always kinda off-guard so they don't really know what's coming next," Cooper says.

"And sometimes, in this show, we literally set them up, they think they know what's going to happen and all of a sudden they go, 'wait a minute, that's not supposed to happen there'.

"I want the audience walking away going, I can't believe what I just saw."

Cooper, whose fans once savagely killed a live chicken during a set, now calls on live snakes, mock fights, torture scenes and the electric chair to give fans a thrill, but says it's becoming harder to shock people.

"Everything's so raw at this point, the world events have made anything that I or (fellow heavy metal acts) Marilyn Manson or Slipknot can do non-shocking," Cooper says.

"In the 70s it was pretty easy to shock an audience.

"You come out with the name Alice Cooper and ... every parent in America or Australia's going, 'Oh no, my kid's not going to see that'.

"It was scary yeah, but at the same time is was kind of like going to a really good party.

"Now that's become family entertainment."

But Cooper, who chose the stage name because "it sounds like a little old lady knitting in the corner", promises he'll do his best to push the boundaries for his Australian fans.

"This is a band and I'm a character that never gets tired," he says.

"I'm never gonna go up there and mellow out and just say 'let's take it easy tonight'.

"They're gonna walk away from that show going, 'wait a minute, what was that?'."

Alice Cooper will be touring through Wollongong, Newcastle, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth in August. For tickets and dates visit http://www.ticketek.com.au or http://www.ticketmaster.com.au or call 136 100.