Cincinnati Enquirer

Originally Published: August 22, 2008

Alice Cooper: Still scary

Author: Gil Kaufman

It's pretty hard to scare Alice Cooper. The grease-painted hard rocker, who almost single-handedly invented the concept of theatrical rock extravaganzas has been kissing snakes, singing hymns to darkness and dropping the blade on his onstage guillotine for more than 30 years.

On his 25th studio album, the recently released "Along Came A Spider," the 60-year-old rocker, born Vincent Furnier, cooks up another of his signature concept albums, this one told from the chilling perspective of an "arachnophobic psychopath" serial killer named "Spider," who stalks, traps and dismembers his victims with cruel efficiency. That is, until he meets, and falls in love with what might be his final victim, who he cannot see fit to murder. Then again, in classic Cooper style, maybe the whole horrifying thing is just a figment of the incarcerated Spider's twisted imagination … or is it?

From the signature hit "I'm Eighteen" to the summertime classic "School's Out," Cooper is responsible for some of the most indelible hard rock songs of the 1970s, but his influence as an inveterate showman and creative live performer might be even more long-lasting than his musical impact. Cooper says his theatricality is the result of a childhood spent watching every cheap horror movie he could get his hands on and the early realization that a bit of fright mixed with a good laugh is guaranteed to keep people in their seats.

This album is a bit of a homecoming for you, isn’t it, considering your high school band was named the Spiders?

It's a total coincidence. It didn't occur to me when we were putting it together, but that was part of us even back in those days. We came out as the Spiders and we had this day-glo web behind us that we thought was so cool and which was theatrical for those days. There was never a time when our show wasn't theatrical. At that time there were bands who really put on a show like the Who and the Rolling Stones... but after that there were no bands that did anything. I looked around and said, 'we have a world of Peter Pans and no Captain Hooks!' I said I'd gladly be Captain Hook.

Were you a theater geek in high school?

I was the Ferris Bueller of my high school... I ran that school. I grew up with television and movies. Every Saturday, we'd get dropped off and watch three or four really stupid movies in a row. Our babysitters were television and the movies, so once I became the lead vocalist of a band I drew on that and I wanted to create a character that when he walked in the room everyone was a bit stunned.

Over the years, were there any ideas for bloody stage bits that you deemed to be too over the top?

My rule was if it was going to be horror, it had to have a punchline. My show is not just all blood and guts. It's always leading up to some punch line to relieve you with. Alice might slit a throat, but then he'll slip on a banana peel. It you don’t have that Vaudevillian attitude … if everything is scary, nothing is scary.

So, will we see waterboarding in this show?

This guy Spider has got class. He's sort of like a Hannibal Lecter... well, let me qualify this. For some reason, the American public can get behind our fictitious serial killers... we love Hannibal, the Joker, Darth Vader, Dracula, but it's impossible to get behind a real serial killer. Nobody sits around and says,'I'm a Jeffrey Dahmer man.' But when it comes to fictitious serial killers, we love them, so if you're going to create that guy, create someone who is really colorful. This guy doesn't just pretend to be a spider, he leaves his victims wrapped in silk, which is a nice touch, and he takes a leg.

Do you ever creep yourself out?

Yeah, you do get to point. I've written things and got the end and said, 'you know, that's going past rock and roll into something that should be a movie, so maybe '’ll write that later on. That's weirder than weird.'

You've mock executed Britney Spears on stage before, any plans to take her to the table again?

Those divas set themselves up. If they're not ripe for satire, who is? Since it's an election year and we couldn't we leave Hillary out of it, we also couldn't leave Obama and McCain out, and even Bush makes an appearance [in the show] during "Elected." It's almost like the Three Stooges, but I don't get political. I'm the anti-political, you go to my show so you don't have to think about politics. Everyone gets made fun of equally.