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Originally Published: May 18, 2000
Author: Thomas Bond
Though he was once considered something of a dark prince himself, the Valley's rock 'n' roll legend Alice Cooper is sounding an unequivocal warning to the world about the source of its troubles on his new album, Brutal Planet.
"It's really coming from a classically place --- it's coming from Satan himself," Cooper says. "I don't mind trying that. It may sound archaic or old-fashioned, but it's something that we just overlook. As far as I'm concerned, that's one of his greatest weapons.
"In the movie 'The Usual Suspects', a character says 'The devil's best people trick is to get people not to believe in him,' and I absolutely believe in that."
Cooper, 52, does more than believe. On his new album, Cooper's 24th studio effort, he stands up to testify with the zeal of an old-fastened-preacher at a revival.
"Brutal Planet is sort of taking us to a place where you really don't want to go. It's very apocalyptic and a place where we are heading. It's a bit of a warning, this album," Cooper says. "It's sort of a Big Brother, 1984 kind of thing: This is the future beware of it."
The song Wicked Young Man was inspired by the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., last year. In it, Cooper declares the title character to be "the devil's tool."
"Here we have a character who basically lives on violence - that's his only motivation," Cooper says. "I exaggerated him a little bit, but at the same time, he's out there. I'm not condoning this guy at all, what I'm, doing is exposing him. It's not science fiction - it's social fiction. We can't ignore It. A character like Wicked Young Man is with us now. And he's going to be with us, so we better recognise him."
In the tune, Cooper rejects that what youth are exposed to colors their actions.
"The argument that what you listen to, what you see and the games you play are going to affect you doesn't really wash with me," Cooper says. "Because here's two kids in Columbine that go out and start killing people and there are 99.9 percent of the same kids that play those same games or listen to the same things don't do that. These two kids, I think, were sociopathic. I think they were going to be serial killers anyway."
Cooper says his duty as a songwriter and entertainer is to make a musical record of actual events - hold up a mirror to the world, as it were.
"I'm Hugh Downs meets Salvador Dali!" Cooper says. "I write in a rock 'n' roll form. My job is still to entertain, so I want to make appealing songs. (Columbine) happened, now let's just not forget about it."
Blow Me a Kiss also deals with the Columbine tragedy.
"That was one of those songs that was very hard to write," Cooper says. "Trying to be sensitive to the kids that died in Columbine, but at the same time sort of documenting what happened. These kids weren't killed because they were black. They weren't killed because they were gay. They weren't killed because they were scared. They were killed at random. That to me, is totally frightening; there was no rhyme or reason to it. As a writer, I think I need to document that and keep it and make it a historical fact."
Throughout Brutal Planet, Cooper plays the prophet, sounding a cautionary voice against evil.
"I'm warning about Satan in the song Gimme," Cooper-says. "He is never going to come as a scary character. He's always going to come as the most appealing guy that you've ever seen. He's going to be the greatest salesman of all time. He's going to say, 'Lemme give you everything you want - don't you deserve it all? I'm your only friend.' Then Man goes, 'Gimme this, gimme that.' (Satan) preys right on the greed and he's another character in Brutal Planet, he basically runs the place. There's definitely an underlying theology through the whole thing."
It's not the first time Cooper has given advice about the evil one.
"The funny thing is, I've always been warning people about him," Cooper says. "I've always come from that camp. I've had bands come to me and say, 'We're into this black, dark thing.' And I say. 'Be very careful about that. Be careful who you invite in, because you're stuck with him then.' "
Though he's always been a hard rocker, Cooper calls Brutal Planet "the heaviest album I've ever done." Appropriately, he's pulled out all the stops for the stage show on tour in support of the disc.
Cooper says Brutal Planet is one of his biggest productions since 1975's Welcome to My Nightmare. "It's sort of going back to the Alice roots as far as theatrics go. There will be more theatrics in this show than normal because it's a great subject.
"The stage is going to be Brutal Planet - it's going to be wreckage and post-nuclear. It's going to look like Blade Runner after a good nuclear blast and whoever's up there on the stage is going to be the survivors."
Thursday's show here in Cooper's adopted hometown will be the debut performance of the tour. Cooper and company will then head to Europe before returning to the United States later this summer.
Cooper sees this production, like many of his previous ones, as a rock 'n' roll morality play. While onstage, Alice portrays the evil characters in Cooper's songs and ultimately gets his justdesserts.
"We can't let the bad guy win," Cooper says. "In any good drama, you cannot let the bad guy win there has to be justice." So Cooper is bringing back a prop he made world famous in the 1970s.
"Alice has to get his comeuppance and I think the guillotine is the classic way of doing it" Cooper says. "It's such a good illusion, it really looks real. Alice will have to pay for what happens up there."
Interestingly, the guillotine is the same one Cooper used back then - he just had to borrow it back from its caretakers. "This is the one right out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," Cooper says. "I said, 'I need my guillotine for a while - here, you can have the gallows!'"
But just because the beheading machine is making a comeback, don't expect Cooper to use it as the show's grand finale. He's got more tricks up his sleeves.
"There are two or three surprises coming as well that I can't talk about - the guillotine actually comes about halfway through the show as opposed to the end," Cooper says. "I always like to not play my winning cards until the end."