Originally Published: August 26, 2008
Author: Jason MacNeil
Settling in nicely to his role as one of rock's elder shock rockers, Alice Cooper isn't resting on his laurels.
In fact, although this current Psycho Drama tour is well underway, Cooper is already thinking of next summer's tour behind the recently released Along Came a Spider, a concept album revolving around a serial killer named Spider.
"It was a short story I wrote a long time ago," Cooper says from a stop in Indianapolis. "I've written short stories since high school and this is one where I thought here was a character that you could write 12 songs around. When you're writing the songs all of a sudden you start finding out things about his personality that are even more interesting. You have to treat it like a Stephen King novel."
The album, Cooper's 25th studio effort and first since 2005's Dirty Diamonds, doesn't contain a warm, uplifting storyline as Spider attempts to kill eight victims and amputate a leg from each to match a spider's eight legs.
Other ingenious means of murder also include wrapping the victims in silk like a spider's web.
"He's totally obsessed with this whole spider thing and anybody that's a serial killer is insane," Cooper, 60, says. "So I mean you can't sit there, and at some points, you can't judge him because he's insane."
While Ozzy Osbourne and Slash make guests appearances, Cooper is particularly proud of two ballads: Killed By Love and Salvation.
"Salvation came as a total surprise because it's such a good song," he says. "I found a weakness in his character, one morning he wakes up and he doesn't realize if he's right. He says, 'What if I'm wrong?' It would be like Jeffrey Dahmer going, 'Hey wait a minute! What am I doing?' So then he has this moment of saying is there any chance for salvation. Considering how violent this guy is, that's a great juxtaposition for him."
Although Cooper says he won't get around to doing the Along Came A Spider tour until 2009, he already has a horde of ideas in terms of props, stage design and illusions.
But first he has to get through this current tour, one which started off on the wrong foot when Cooper broke a rib onstage on opening night.
"How about that?" Cooper says. "I've got 100 shows in front of me and it was during the very first show of the Psycho Drama tour. We have a song (Welcome To My Nightmare) where there's about six or seven zombies onstage. I just got bumped into one of the stairways and it hit me right on the corner. It healed up but the first five shows (afterwards) were just hell. Especially when they do the hanging there's a three-foot drop and there's a jolt when you actually stop. That jolt goes right to that there rib."
And while Cooper knows his stage shows and Alice Cooper persona has created a legion of fans, Cooper says there's one thing that has carried him this far.
"If you don't have the songs, you're dead," he says.
"If (David) Bowie didn't have the songs, he would be that orange-haired guy who was in space. If Elton didn't have the hits, he would be that funny little guy with the glasses.
"But when you have No More Mr. Nice Guy, School's Out, I'm Eighteen, Elected and Poison -- then you have some validity because you've got the songs to back them up.
"I kind of feel sorry for young bands because the music business right now does not really give you more than three years. If you're in a band right now and you're the hottest band in the world you've got three years. And that's too bad.
"When I signed with Warner Brothers, they came right out and said, 'We want 20 records.' If you made mistakes they worked on those mistakes and they waited for the next album. If you start a band now and you have a moderate hit or a big hit, the record company's got 25 bands waiting outside for you to make one mistake and you're done. It's not about what's good, it's about what's next -- which is tragic."