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(April 18, 1990)
Originally Published: April 18, 1990
Author: Andrew Watt
This week the Alice Cooper show hit Melbourne for the first time in over a decade and it promises to be one of the concert highlights of the year. Cooper will be bringing with him all the staging that has been developed over many years of shock-rockin' audiences. He's also bearing the badge of confidence worn by one who came close to career extinction and recovered to be back on top.
Andrew Watt spoke to Alice Cooper on the eve of the tour.
The last time In Press was given the chance to speak with Alice Cooper his career was at Crossroads. He'd just completed an album called Trash and it was one week away from release. The feeling about the album was good and in a climate where a lot of new hard rock success stories were paying tribute to the influence of Alice, interest in the album was high.
Indeed with a few tracks co-written with hit-maker Desmond Child destined to be singles all the indications were positive, but at the same time Cooper hadn't had a hit album for some years. At the time his mood was enthusiastic but cautious.
That was then. Now with the singles Poison and Bed of Nails leading the way, Trash has become a big hit around the world and Alice is back where he belongs -- doing sell-out shows in concert stadiums around the world.
"Oh yeah, I'm just elated with it," Cooper agrees, not surprisingly. "We thought it would do well, but it's done like three million records now and it's done double platinum in Australia, which is very nice cos' it gives me the opportunity to come to Australia, which I hadn't done since 1976."
The band Cooper is bringing with him is a new band of quite young players who have been getting great reviews as a 'genuine rock n' roll band'. "They play the old songs and the new songs with the same energy, which I think is really important. We do an hour and forty-five minutes and it's twenty-three songs. It's important that you play Billion Dollar Babies with the same intensity as you play Poison. It's really exciting up there."
The end of 1989 and the beginning of 1990 has been Cooper sharing the charts with a number of young bands that look at him as somewhat of a hero and indisputably as a major influence. With Aerosmith Cooper is like the grand-daddy of the new hard rock wave but both are still more than capable of showing the young contenders how it's done. "I met a lot of these guys and it's funny because I really don't live in the past at all. A lot of people remind me of what happened in 1972 and 1973 and I'm reminded when I read a lot of articles about the influence of Alice on a lot of these groups and a lot of the times I guess I just ignore it. I'm more interested in what Alice is going to be doing tomorrow than what Alice did yesterday. It's not that I deny any of my past, I look back and I'm proud of what we accomplished but I'm not really a nostalgic person."
From that point of view the career parallel with Aerosmith is striking and it's emphasized by the appearance of Aerosmith's lead singer Steve Tyler on the Trash album.
"Yeah it's really very parallel," agrees Cooper, "it's quite strange how parallel it is. I think in the seventies the two American bands were Alice Cooper and Aerosmith. We were the real hard rock bands of the United States. A lot of the bands now say that Alice and Aerosmith were their main influences. It's one of those things that when disco came along it really knocked hard rock bands out of the box. We went underground for a while, Aerosmith kinda went underground. We both had drinking problems. We both cleaned up, I cleaned up three of four years sooner than they did. Then all of a sudden we were both on the charts again battling each other in the Top Ten. It's great, great to see old friends pull out of a nosedive like that."
Cooper believes that the music he and Aerosmith and all the other rock bands produce has always been there and always had an audience but the boom of the last few years has got a lot to do with discovery of the music by new younger audiences.
"It's the alternate to all the dance music and the techno stuff and the rap," he said. "There's a big percentage of kids out there that are just discovering the joys of hard rock and discovering the fun of it. Every day a million kids turn sixteen years old and their form of communication is rock 'n' roll. That's their music and they want to hear somebody sing it and play it and perform it with a certain amount of angst and anger and a certain amount of fun in the whole thing. I think that's one thing that dance music doesn't do. It stays in one place and I think that hard rock really expresses itself."
Cooper himself has realised that the nature of his show has had to change for the nineties. It's less of a shock, horror movie styled extravaganza now and more of a straight ahead, action packed performance based show. It still features many of the special effects and theatrics that he pioneered but it also reflects the fact that he believes audiences can't be shocked the way they used to.
"I'm supposedly kind of shock rock but I don't go out to shock the audience anymore. We go out there to play the spectrum of our music that's happened from 1970 to 1990. We treat every show as if it's opening night. They're going to get such a bolt of energy coming out of us. It want them to walk away saying 'I've never seen anything like that in my life'. Of course we use the theatrics because people want that. I probably would not have used the guillotine in the show except for the fact that in my mail all these kids were saying 'You've got to do the guillotine, we've never seen the guillotine before'. But we're adding in a lot of new things also.
"These days the audience watch so much television and movies and we're all so much more exposed to what choreographed horror is and we've realized it's not a dangerous thing and that the person doesn't really get hurt. Whereas if you watch the news you see the real horror, and that's what's really scary."
At the end of this tour Cooper will reunite with Desmond Child to begin writing the next album. He'll carry with him some memories of his triumphant return to the road.
"One night we played Pittsburgh," he begins when asked to name a highlight. "The average age was about fifteen. we went into School's Out and nobody recognised the song. They all recognised everything we did off Trash, even the songs that are not getting played on the radio. They had no idea of No More Mr Nice Guy or any of those songs. They liked them but they had never heard them before. That one left me dumbfounded. It was bizarre."