Originally Published: 1987
Author: Marc Shapiro
Veteran splatter rock pioneer Alice Cooper welcomes us back to his nightmare.
Alice Cooper would probably marry Friday the 13th's Jason if there wasn't a law in his home state against interfaith marriages. But seriously, folks...
"I love the children of Jason," enthuses Cooper. "In a way, the character of Alice Cooper and the character of Jason came from the same sort of weird place."
Alice Cooper makes this case on the Southern California set of the video to his song "He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask)," one of three Cooper contributions to the soundtrack of Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives. Cooper, lounging in a closed-off rest area, is in full Alice makeup for the first time in two years. It's stilla scary sight, as witnessed by the screaming fit Cooper's infant son lapsed into a bit earlier when his daddy, fresh from the makeup room, woke the kid out of a sound sleep. Cooper hasn't lost his touch.
"I fell all over myself saying yes when the people at Paramount asked me to help score the film," Cooper explains. "Jason is a real heavy metal kind of character, and Alice is more than a bit influenced by horror. Doing the video and the music for Part VI is like a dream come true for me."
On this day, that dream seems a bit haphazard as those involved attempt to rush-release the video to coincide with the film's opening. On the set, prop men add the final touches to an elevated graveyard stage that is surrounded by stone animals, distorting foliage and slime. A fog machine stands at the ready. In another dressing room, a stuntman, hired for the day to portray Jason, sits adjusting the strap on his hockey mask.
The arrival of what is referred to as the "snake wrangler" calls a temporary halt to the conversation as Cooper begins the process of making friends with a boa constrictor. The reptile will, shortly, play an intergal part in the video and, later, on Cooper's tour. For the snake, cozying up to his new boss is some experience. For Cooper, it is old news.
As anybody over the ago of consent can attest, Alice Cooper (Vincent Furnier to his mom and dad) has been applying equal coats of rock and shock to audience's heads since the 1960s. The rock was high decibel stuff, heavy on the guitar and perverse lyrics. The shock? Snakes, guillotines and the most horrifying spectacle of all: the mugging of Santa Claus.
Cooper has taken a couple of years off from the rock wars but, after playing footsie with the snake, says that his Friday the 13th, Part VI work signals a return to the airwaves with his latest album, Constrictor, and more of his trademark mayhem.
"It's definately a return to the old Alice," explains the invigorated Cooper. "It is everything up to and including the Billion Dollar Babies period of my career, but with one important difference: These songs are much less 'show business' and much more scary."
"Scary" appears to be the operative word with Alice Cooper these days. A confirmed horror film addict who cites everything frm the classic Frankenstein and Dracula films to the current wave of slasher flicks as influences, Cooper claims he will be going for an over-the-top splatter theme on his upcoming tour. Time-honored Cooper tools like the boa and guillotine will be present, but he warns that he is making a strong bid to stretch the bounds of indecency, a stretch that began in 1985 when Cooper offered his acting talents to the video of Twisted Sister's song "Be Chrool To Your Scuel." Also on hand was splatter FX master Tom Savini.
"Tom and I had a lot of time to talk during the Twisted Sister video," recalls Cooper, "and we began tossing around ideas, like working on an on-stage gore FX that would be a first for a concert.
"The problem with dong really good splatter is that on film, you have the advantage of being right in the audience's face. But I'm dealing with a concert situation, and the fact that some of the audience will be sitting 10,000 rows away from the stage. A throat being slit won't play for the guy in the cheap seats. Tom and I talked about putting something together that would work for everybody in a big arena."
However, Cooper is not about to spill the beans.
"If I tell you, I can guarantee that some band out there would pick up FANGORIA, read this article and steal the idea. And those bands know who they are; they're the one's who have taken old Alice COoper schtick and turned it into a brand new career," he laughs.
Cooper's career could easily qualify as a horror story all its own. Despite having monster success with songs such as "I'm Eighteen" and "School's Out," and touring highpoints like the "Killer" and "Billion Dollar Babies" tours, Cooper seemed constantly at odds with a fickle record company (who nearly sued Cooper in 1975 when he attempted to do a solo record under the Alice Cooper monicker), a bad case of Hollywood (he actually appeared on Hollywood Squares) and fans who jumped down his throat when he accidentally had some adult-sounding hit singles in the late '70s.
A troubled Cooper ultimately developed a serious drinking problem and this, coupled with his label's disinterest in promoting his last four LPs in the early '80s, pulled the plug on his wacko career in 1983.
"I was burned out," he recalls. "I was frustrated. I was drinking two bottles of whiskey a day and basically taking a one-way ride to an obit on page 19. So, I said bye-bye."
During this drying-out period, Cooper indulged in what all but FANGORIA readers would consider a very strange pasttime. "I was renting about three splatter movies a night," he reveals. "I saw just about every bloody movie ever made and finally decided that being in one was what I wanted to do."
Cooper got his wish in 1984, when he was contacted by some people with a script called Pierce My Heart, later retitled Monster Dog.
"It didn't have much of a plot," laughs Cooper about the Spain-lensed film now available from Trans World Video. "It was basically just an excuse to see how many people we could kill. There was so much blood flying around that cameramen ended up having to wear raincoats. I end up having my shoulder ripped off by this monster mechanical dog. It was a real gas to do."
Bitten with the acting bug, Cooper was subsequently offered other scripts with horror content, some of which he is still considering. "There were some really bizarre things," says Cooper of the scripts he has received. "There was even a rumor going around that I was being considered for a part in Friday the 13th, Part VI. I wouldn't have done it. The Friday films are Jason's vehicle. He's the dominant force in those movies and should remain that way. But I've got to admit that Jason going up against Alice would be a real strange flick."
Regardless, Cooper put any thought of a film career, horror or otherwise, on the backburner in 1986 when MCA Records told him, "We don't care what you do, as long as you have fun." The rocker knew he was home. While doing what Alice Cooper does best is usually something guaranteed to drive anyone over ago 18 to distraction, Cooper, as the conversation continues, unexpectedly reveals a conservative side.
"I have never made fun of religion," he volunteers. "Religion is something I don't even want to mess with, because I am really afraid of the clouds opening up and my being struck by lightning. Satanism is something else I don't mess with. I think that the heavy metal bands that do are playing with fire. I have never influenced people in a negative way, and I'm not about to start now.
"I don't think my shows should scare people any more than a good horror movie should. I'm using rock 'n' roll to open up a window to a little psychodrama. Alice Cooper, the character, is totally psychotic, which, in a show business sense, is what makes him so dangerous and interesting. Alice could come and pat you on the back - and suddenly reach around and slit your throat."
Cooper is called back to the set. A pair of actors, dressed as standard-issue horror teens, go to their marks. Cooper puts the snake on his shoulders, gets comfortable with it and takes his place in the midst of this nightmare video.
The director calls for action. "He's Back" booms out over a loudspeaker as the two teenagers scamper up the stone stairs and into the nightmare world of Jason and Cooper.
A demented Cooper rises up in front of them, raises the snake over his head and gives the pair one of his patented "You're dead!" glares. One crew member bites her finger, another visible shudders; the earlier confrontation with Cooper's kid was apparantly no fluke.
Alice Cooper is really scary.