Originally Published: 1991
Alice Cooper's live shows don't stop at the light and sound production of the average rock concert; they are the enactment of a modern morality play, in which Alice's evil alter ego is allowed to run riot all over the stage. But after the murderous doppelganger has his fun, he's made to pay for it - and it's various ingenious methods by which he receives his comeupance that keep the fans flocking to Cooper's shows on each successive tour. When he played his recent UK shows, Alice revealed some of his stage secrets to Hot Metal.
Alice Cooper started work on his new live show as soon as the Hey Stoopid album was finished last spring, holding a series of meetings to thrash out ideas and practicalities with a team of specialists, which include set designer Jeremy Railton, who has worked with Alice since 1986.
"I'm very happy with his work," commented Cooper. "He always comes up with something that's not just creative but viable, something that we can put together and travel with. And that's the hardest part, getting things that are going to work every night. It's not like a movie set, where you can keep shooting it over and over until it's right; you have to get it right the first time."
After the set design, based on the Hey Stoopid album sleeve, had been devised, props and production ideas were added as the set list for the tour was chosen.
Illusion also plays an important part in Alice's live show. He draws on both optical tricks employed in traditional theatre and on the knowledge of modernday Hollywood movie technicians. Effects such as the operating table transformation during Feed My Frankenstein were created by the same people who worked on special effects for Terminator 2 and Alien.
Every detail in the show is mericulously planned and rehearsed; during dress rehearsals. Alice even has a crew member perform his moves while he watches from the stalls, so that he can see the show from the audience's point of view. But, nonetheless, accidents will happen...
"If you have a breakdown, the audience probably doesn't know, because they're not expecting it anyways, so if something totally falls apart, unless it's really major, you can usually work around it," said Alice. "One time we had this huge cannon that was going to shot me - well, a dummy, but you would never know it wasn't me - right across the stage into a net. We rehearsed it, rehearsed it, rehearsed it, and when we got this cannon on stage, in front of a lot of people, everybody looked at it, like 'wow!' The guy lights the end of it, I get inside, switch with the dummy and get back, and this thing goes, 'BOOM!' It explodes, and flames and smoke come out of it - and the dummy goes flop! It travels about four feet and just hangs there, obviously a dummy! There was nothing to except play it for comedy; I had to come out whistling and kick it aside. The audience knew we blew it, but they still lapped it up, and thought it was funny. We ended up selling the cannon to the Rolling Stones; I think Jagger saw it as a phallic symbol!"
But at times, such as when Alice was executed by the gallows or the guillotine, a misjudgement could be not hilarious, but fatal.
"I think few people realised how dangerous the guillotine is," Alice said seriously. "That was a real forty pound guillotine blade and it only missed me by three ot four inches every night, so my timing had to exactly right or I wouldn't have been doing that many shows! But I think when you see the guy on the high wire at the circus and there is no net under him, you realise that something could happen and you appreciate it more. And that's the kind of thing we try to bring to rock and roll - some of this could happen."
Despite the constant challange of introducing new, spine-chilling stunts into the show, Alice has found that there is always one favourite that the audience love to see and that's his snake! And amazingly enough, for a man usually pictured with a python draped around his neck, he admits that he used to be terrified of them!
"But all of a sudden, I realised that if I could get past that paranoia, then I could really scare an audience with it. And if I was afraid of a snake three feet long, then what about a snake thirteen or fourteen feet long? That would really do the trick! But it's nothing now and it doesn't bother me to pick up snakes at all!"
Amongst the guest artists playing on the new Alice Cooper track Hey Stoopid is one Zachary Nevel. Zachary who? Well, it seems that Alice offered listeners to L.A.'s KNAC-FM the opportunity to join the ranks of Slash, Joe Satriani and Ozzy Osbourne at the radio station's annual rock and roll auction to raise funds for the 'Children Of The Night' charity, which help's L.A.'s homeless children. Long-time Cooper fan Nevel made the winnign bid of $2,600, which enabled him to meet Alice and sing backing vocals on Hey Stoopid. The Alice fans in the office agree he got a bargain...
Alice Cooper has a cameo appearance in the fifth Nightmare On Elm Street movie, entitled Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, due out in the States in September. Alice plays Freddy's abusive father in a flashback sequence...
Also on the publicity trail is Alice Cooper, who capped his Nightmare On Your Street promotional tour (plugging his role in the film Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare) with an impromptu 25 minute midday performance in New York's seedy Times Square. Your faithful corresponent was there, and it was a real spectacle to see hundreds of fans, passersby, and businessmen on their lunch hour crowding the streets and blocking traffic to cheer Alice on. It was a change of pace for Alice, who says, "Normally our audience is 15-25 years old, but I know that there are older fans out there... It was great to look out there and see the guys in the white shirts and ties, going, 'I'm 18'!... Alice was recently honoured with his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley proclaimed August 27, 1991 to be Alice Cooper Night. Alice joins Aerosmith and Eddie Van Halen on the famed sidewalk...
Fictional male/female persona assumed in 1967 by then Earwigs vocalist Vincent Furnier.