Bulletin

Originally Published: July 25, 2007

Fairly frightening

Shock rocker Alice Cooper descends upon the Deschutes County Fair

Author: Ben Salmon

Alice Cooper is one spooky dude. His new album, "Along Came a Spider," comes out Tuesday.

It's 6:45 a.m. on a Monday, and I am sitting glassy-eyed at my desk at The Bulletin.

I'm not a morning person. Nor am I a coffee drinker. Actually, I feel a little woozy.

At my desk at 6:45 on a Monday morning.

It's not my worst nightmare, but it's close.

I'm here because I'm waiting for a call from Alice Cooper, a founding father of shock rock and the inhabitant of quite a few nightmares himself. Famous for his live theatrics (GWAR's got nothing on this longtime fake executioner), Cooper, who'll play Thursday in Redmond (see "If you go"), practically invented shock rock in the 1970s with albums such as "Love It to Death," "Killer," and, ahem, "Welcome to My Nightmare."

And he became a huge star on the strength of well-known singles such as "I'm Eighteen," "School's Out" and "Poison," each featuring Cooper's signature mix of pop, metal and the grimy garage-rock sound of his native Detroit.

And so, I wait for the phone to ring, hopeful that the leering, eye-shadowed creep that is Cooper's on-stage persona won't further addle my already cloudy, sleep-deprived brain.

He didn't, of course. In truth, Cooper, born Vincent Furnier 60 years ago, is one of the most personable celebrities you'll find, with an easygoing amiability that has fueled a successful career beyond music as he has dabbled in film, radio, writing and the restaurant industry.

First, he tells me about where he's calling from, a "modern and great city" on the Baltic Sea called Kaliningrad, Russia. Then, he notes that I'm in Oregon and mentions his past as a distance runner.

It's a good five minutes before we get to talk about the psychopath that is the subject of Cooper's new concept album "Along Came A Spider," due out Tuesday. While many older rock acts are content to tour their greatest hits and not release new music, Cooper brims with ideas; "Spider" is his fifth album in seven years.

"I thought about if there were a serial killer and he was going to fashion himself after a predator, a spider would be a good one," Cooper said. "Then I thought, 'Well, what would he do?' He would leave his victims wrapped in silk. He'd probably want to have eight victims because he would need eight legs to build a spider.

"I was trying to make this guy as psychotic as possible."

He also thought the spider theme would make for a cool show. You can imagine the size of the spider and the webs Cooper will have on stage.

For now, though, he's in Russia for his "Psycho-Drama Tour," on which hess playing songs from his recent albums as well as all the hits. "It's just as psychotic, only in a different way," he said. "This is like the best of Alice."

It's also the same show that he'll bring to Central Oregon. So, no spiders.

But there will be gallows!

"It's a pretty spectacular hanging," Cooper said with a laugh. "That's not always my favorite part of the night."

Indeed, Cooper was injured years ago in an accident on the gallows. Still, he keeps it in the show. He has little choice, he said.

"I think there's a certain element of the circus that has to be involved (in an Alice show)," he said. "When you go to the circus and you see the guy with the lions and tigers, and he's standing there with a chair, and you're saying, 'That's a tiger!' That tiger can wipe that chair out with one pass of his paw and then he's on the guy.

"There's that element of, 'Uh oh, what if something goes wrong?' " he said. "And I think you need to bring that to the show in order to get the audience to be on the edge of their seat."

Cooper doesn't have a 40-year career solely because of theatrics, however. Musically, "Spider" is stripped down, muscular rock 'n' roll that draws heavily from the famous garage-rock scene of Cooper's hometown.

The guy has lived in Phoenix for years (a good place for one of the best celebrity golfers in the world), but as they say, you can take the man out of Detroit, but you can't take the Detroit out of the man.

"I have never grown out of that Detroit rock scene," Cooper said. "That two guitar, bass, drums and a lead singer thing. I don't think I'll ever break up that formula of being the lead singer in a garage band."