Originally Published: September 08, 2000
With the huge boa constrictors, chopped-up baby dolls, guillotines, electric chairs and fake blood that populated his stage shows during his early '70s heyday, Alice Cooper was the first to take shock rock to theatrical extremes.
Today, controversy over issues generated by his well-orchestrated spectacle seem comparatively tame.
But when rock music was among the first things blamed when experts pondered the causes of the shootings at Columbine High School, Cooper felt like a lightning rod once again.
"My first take was, 'Geez, maybe they're right. Maybe there is something wrong. Maybe these kids were like this because they were so influenced by the media.'
"But then I started breaking it down, and it didn't make any sense. OK, they listened to Rammstein or whoever, and they played these video games and watched these movies. But 90 percent of the other kids, did, too -- why didn't they kill everybody? These two guys must have come from a really horrific home life -- and then I'm reading they came from a normal home. So then I start thinking they must be on heavy drugs -- and they didn't do any drugs.
"So now what are we left with? I'm willing to say they were insane, but I'm just as willing to say that they were basically born spiritually wicked. So was Charles Manson, so was Adolf Hitler, so was Jeffrey Dahmer. Anybody who's sociopathic and doesn't have a conscience about killing people is evil. There's a lot of sickness out there."
Cooper has just released a new album, "Brutal Planet", that's a portrait of a nightmarish future universe.
When making the CD, he says, "Columbine was always on my mind. I wrote 'Blow Me a Kiss' ('and blow me away ...') about those kids. It doesn't matter if I'm black, if I'm gay, if I'm lonely, if I'm scared -- there's no rhyme or reason for me being dead right now except I was in the way of these two guys.
"And I wrote 'Wicked Young Man' to clarify that. Look, these guys from Columbine are not just in Denver, they're everywhere. And I felt the only way to do something about them was to expose them -- not to glorify them and make them any kind of heroes, but put them under a spotlight and say, 'Who are they?'
"When I was writing lyrics like "I got a pocket full of bullets and a blueprint of the school,' I was going 'I don't want to say this.' I kept arguing with myself, and I said, 'If this is bothering me so much, I probably should say it,' only because I don't want Columbine to be (just) a memory. I'm certainly not trying to drag these families through this tragedy again, but it has to teach us something, to be aware that these guys are all over the place. If you hear about a kid who's talking about wiping out the school, don't take it so lightly."
In support of "Brutal Planet," Cooper will perform at the Ogden Theatre Saturday night.
"The show looks like Cleveland 20 years after a nuclear war. It's certainly got a comic-book look to it -- there are people melted into the toxic waste cans; everything is still smoldering. It's a bit of 'Road Warrior' and 'Blade Runner.'
"As soon as the audience decides that the Alice character has been there long enough to pay for his sins, then we do the guillotine..."