(November 13, 1989)
Originally Published: November 13, 1989
Author: H. Lee David
He's wearing skin-tight black jeans, boots, and a sleeveless red T-shirt. It's the quintessential street level rock look, the garb that literally screams licks and riffs. It's the way any rock musician with serious aspirations dresses. And it slowly dawns on you that it's also a look that this guy, Alice Cooper made an integral part of rock and roll; not to mention heavy mascara (he once had his own line of unisex make-up), shock and gore (way before slasher movies) and amazing stage productions (Phantom of who's Opera, eh?) Right now he's putting together a band for his upcoming 10-month world tour for "Trash," his first album for Epic. It's an album of songs, not just lyrics put to riffs. And, best of all for Alice and Epic, it's moving quickly to platinum, a fact which pleases the man who introduced the theater of the strange to rock and roll. HITS' Lee David rode a garbage truck to the interview.
What is it that keeps your music current?
Hard rock is the one music that won't die. I think heavy metal will die and rap will die. I think it'll always go back to hard rock. And that's what we've always been: sort of Yardbirds, sort of underground British invasion. Aerosmith and Alice Cooper were the two American standards of hard rock in the '70s ad both bands are Top 20. I'm really happy about that.
What are your fans like today?
It's amazing. We have our core audience that have been fans for 20 years. And then we have all brand new kids, 60-70% of the audience is 15, 16, 17-year old. We draw the same audience as Aerosmith or Motley Crue. It's great especially when you are doing a song that's older than they are and they know every lyric. They consider it part of their history.
You invented so much stuff, is it hard to stay ahead of yourself?
No, because I don't take it seriously. I don't sit around worrying about it. I think a lot of people wanted me to explode when everybody was taking on Alice, when all these bands started dressing like Alice and doing Alice and doing makeup and doing the whole thing. And that wasn't the purpose. The purpose was to open something up, to make rock and roll more theatrical. To this day, band are trying their hardest to sound like "Love It To Death" and "Killer." I mean, they guys in Guns N' Roses are a great '70s rock bad. They're really not a 1990s band at all. They're a great garage band. But, I say the same thing about the Stones. I think the Stones are the best garage band in the world. I love Guns N' Roses. I love Zodiac Mindwarp. There are lots of (bands) out there.
Do you always talk about Alice in the third person?
He is in the third person. He's a literary character. The thing that's made it easy for me is since I'm writing for him and I've created him, I don't every let him come offstage. That's where Alice lives. You would never do an interview with Alice. He lives on the stage, his interview is the show.
When you started, did you have trouble keeping Alice separate?
Yes. All my friends, the guys I was hanging out with and was learning from, Jim Morrison, Keith Moon, John Lennon, people I was getting drunk with every night, were living their image offstage. And I figured that's what I was supposed to do. I couldn't just say, "This character lives up on stage." I had to be him offstage also, in the bars. So, I was getting myself a reputation for being a troublemaker. This character was totally out there. He was beyond anybody who'd ever been before. This character was really a stylistic character and he really didn't belong in the real world at all.
What do you think of radio?
There are so many different categories that I get confused. When I went back to making records a few years ago, I said, "What's CHR? Isn't it AM and FM? That's what it used to be..." Now there are so many different categories, I don't know what stations I'm selling on. It's a different game of demographics that I'm just starting to understand. I always revert back to the '70s, and this is FM and that's AM and FM will play anything.
Is it getting hard for Alice to shock audiences?
It's almost at the point where I can't shock them the way we did in the '70s. In the '70s, you didn't go the the movies and see "Friday The 13th" and you didn't see Freddie Krueger, who's used every device I've ever used. Now that they've seen all that in film, it's hard to come up and do that on stage. They say, "Oh yeah, I've been shocked that way before." In the '70s, though, there was nothing like that. It was really easier to shock an audience.
What's you album "Trash" all about?
We've taken Alice through Hell, through school, through Billion Dollar Babies, and now we're taking Alice through a sexual wonderland. Every song we put Alice in has something to do with his libido. "Only My Heart Talkin'" is totally romantic, and then "This Maniac's In Love With You" is something you don't want to think about. What if Alice becomes obsessed with you and he knows where you live? So, we touched on every kind of sexual thing that could happen to Alice, and then we said, "OK, what would he do with this?"
What's the song "Trash" about?
The thing about "Trash" is it lets us all admit that when we hit the sheets with whoever we're going to be sleeping with that night, we all turn to trash. It's a common denominator and it's something that happens to everyone. I think people really don't mind sitting around and saying, "I'm trash." It's demeaning thing, but it's sort of said in a kidding way.
Do you really feel that way about love and sex?
I think the 1990s are going to be a very romantic period. People are going to get tired of fast sex and sleeping with someone different every night. People are going to get back into the nine or ten month relationships before they sleep with anybody anymore.
So, we can expect an album of Sinatra standards from you?
Not from me. But you're gonna find a crooner that's going to happen in the '90s. I think the next big, monster rock star is going to be a crooner.
Ever had a different style?
Half of our hits have been ballads. We have a ballad on the new album that I think is gonna be a monster, "Only My Heart Talkin'" with Steve Tyler. I got a feeling that's going to be the biggest thing on the album.
You began "Shock Rock." How do you feel about rock censorship?
I honestly think in some cases, people should be made aware of things. There's something really wrong with any band that's more or less preaching Satanism and drugs and suicide. You're appealing to kids who are very impressionable. In some cases, there should be some sort - I don't want to say censorship - but I don't mind a rating system. The only thing I really care about is the audience. They're paying $20 to see a show and I want them to see the best show of their lives. I want them to walk away saying, "That was the best $20 I ever spent." That's the important thing. Alice Cooper is there truly just to entertain. I hate politics.
Ever thought about doing Broadway shows?
"Welcome To My Nightmare," "Billion Dollar Babies" and "The Nightmare Returns" were as close to Broadway as you can get. They talk about rock opera or rock theater - we weren't up there with string and horns, we were real rock. We were probably the only ones who ever really did rock theater. I borrowed from Broadway and added to it. It becomes concert theater. Rather than sitting in one place and having a show every night, we're more of a circus, a travelling rock and roll theatrical experience.
Did you think you'd still be doing this at 41?
I didn't think so, I really didn't. I thought by now I'd be producing records, writing for somebody and sitting on an island somewhere. When I was drinking, I never expected to get to 30 or 35. So now that I'm 41 and a lot more stable, I'm more of a rock and roller than I was at 25. Now I actually know what I'm doing. I don't really see myself producing anything. I have too much fun onstage. I really look forward to going on stage.
Do you or Alice have any fears at this point?
I have none, absolutely not. Because I know that audience is out there and when you go out there, you want to like you. All you have to do is just go out there and perform and have a good time. And that's all I care about. If I'm having a good time, the audience is going to have a good time. And Alice, the character, feels like he's got everybody in the palm of his hand. The show always worked, even without and album. But now with an album, think about how dangerous he is.