(October 24, 1987)
Originally Published: October 24, 1987
Author: Dave Dickson
ALICE COOPER leads DAVE DICKSON through the spooking glass and talks about his latest album 'Raise Your Fist And Yell', his sordid past and his gore-drenched future.
Picture this: Me, my friend Kay, Andy Layson (then marketing man at MCA), Kane Roberts (Alice Cooper guitarist) and Alice himself. We're lounging around Alice's suite at the Birmingham Holiday Inn. It's about midnight and I've just finished an interview with Kane, and a little while ago we all trooped down the corridor to join Alice in his suite, the inner sanctum. Before me sits a pot of tea and some empty cans of Diet Coke. The TV is showing 'The New Avengers' and Alice has just passed some admiring comment about Joanna Lumley (Purdey).
Earlier in the evening Alice performed the last show of his 1986 UK tour at the Odeon and is now winding down. The talk, naturally, turns to horror movies...
Besides Alice is a copy of of 'The Psychotronic Encyclopedia' - the indispensable guide to horror flicks and a whole lot more. Titan Books are anxious to republish this now out-of-print tome in the UK and I'm here pitching for Alice to write the introduction to the new edition. He agrees enthusiastically (we're still waiting, Alice!!) and scans through the pages. He stops at the 'S' section and reads out the entry for 'Shriek Of The Mutilated'.
Now THAT, we are all in agreement, would make an excellent title for the next Alice Cooper album.
So what happened, Alice?
'Shriek Of The Mutilated' sadly transmogrified into 'Raise Your Fist And Yell' - a more prosaic title, I'm sure you'll agree. But as Bill Shakesphere himself put it, "a rose by any other name...". Or, for our purposes, "a 'Shriek Of The Mutilated' by any other name is still a 'Shriek Of The Mutilated'!"
So, the world can call this album what it will - to me it will always be 'Shriek Of The Mutilated'. More importantly, this album represents a smooth shift into top gear after the jump-start to the Cooper career given by last year's 'Constrictor' LP. Which brings us bang up to date.
THE NEW album is about to hit the racks and Alice will be taking the same touring band across the concert halls of America. The UK may see the new stageshow sometime next year, depending... Meanwhile, Mr Cooper had drifted into town to headline Sunday night of the Reading Festival. And Pete 'Cat Mutilator' Cronin and I weren't about to turn down the opportunity to lap up yet more Cooper-Gore.
So enough of this, over to Alice Cooper for words of wisdom on...
The album: "I'm really happy with the album, the sound of it (it was produced my Michael Wagener) - this one has real drums where as 'Constrictor' had synthesised drums and we gave Kane a lot more room to play this time too. It's a lot heavier.
"Sound-wise, it's the logical step on from 'Constrictor'. 'Constrictor' was a good first album - and I looked on it as a first album after those three or four years off after the 'Dada' LP. 'Dada' was like the end of an era, the end of the old Alice. 'Constrictor' was the beginning of the new Alice."
The story of Gail on side two: "It's kinda autobiographical. This guy watches so many horror videos - that's all he does - to the point where he doesn't know if he's in the videos or just watching. And for some reason he keeps killing - but all his victims are called Gail, every one.
"He just keeps killing them, and he can't discern between actors in the videos and real victims! And at the end, when he's killed this girl in the song 'Gail', and he's thinking about her bones in the ground and about how the bugs are inside her ribcage, and the dog is digging up the bones - he wonders how the dog remembers Gail.
"And he sees this wedding dress and it's got blood-stains on it everywhere - but he doesn't see the blood-stains, he sees roses! This guy's a romantic y'know? He's so crazy, he looks at this blood and all he sees are roses. 'Roses On White Lace' is this whole thing about him not knowing that it's really blood. For him, he's painted these lovely roses on this white dress. So he's really a psycho."
Staging the drama: "I don't really know how we're going to do it, we're working on that now. But I can picture some great stuff with the wedding dress all splattered...and all the Gail creatures, they can come up on stage at different times - they can keep on coming up! All we have to do is train a dog..."
Alice, psychiatry and the promotion of violence: "The psychiatrist ('From The Inside') told me everything I did was an extreme thing. He said, 'No matter what you do it's going to be extreme. Part of the thing that's going to save your life is the same thing that almost killed you.
"'When you decided to become an alcoholic, you decided not just to become an alcoholic, see the problem and go get it taken care of - you took it right to the edge of the cliff and hung yourself over to look at the bottom! But you came back and saved yourself, and that's amazing.
"'With your stageshow, most people would take it to there (indicates a certain point) - but you take it here (indicated a point much further away). You take it to the point where people have GOT to talk about it, where people have GOT to notice it. That's why it's a legendary thing - because you did it first and you did it best.
"'The reason you beat the alcohol addiction is that you don't just get to here and say, well, I'll have a beer once in a while. No, now you're ULTRA straight! To the point of ridiculousness'.
"So I have to be careful with anything I get addicted to. And he said it was the same thing with the violence in the show, a lot to do with me taking things to the extreme - even though it's funny! Alice takes it to the point where it's not violence anymore, where it gets to be funny.
"It's the same thing with horror movies. When I first saw 'Friday The 13th' I went, 'Hey, this is really violent, I hope people are going to be able to take this'. But after about the fourth one I started laughing at them and going, 'This is really funny!'
"The psychiatrist asked me how my marriage was. I've been married now for 11 years and I've never once cheated on my wife. He said, 'That's because you're an extremely married person'. And if I weren't, I would be with three girls a night! Because I would be an extreme hedonist.
"So the psychiatrist told me, 'The deal with the violence has to do with you taking it past violence and into absurdity'. But I think that makes it an artistic thing. I don't ever want to know where Alice comes from - he's just an absurd phantom character."
Are you still in analysis?
"No, I'm not, I'm really not. I feel good about myself right now. I think them last tour made me feel that way because physically I was ready and every night felt like the last night, so every show was the best we could do."
Vincent Furnier becoming Alice: "I used to think I had to get drunk to become Alice. At that time (1972) I didn't know I was an alcoholic. I was at the first stages of alcoholism and I made fun of it all the time. I kind of liked the idea that I was forced into drinking - that I wouldn't drink if it weren't for Alice, that kind of thing.
"I was exploring a lot of things at the time. I didn't know if I needed the alcohol - though I realised after a while that I DID. Then, after I'd stopped drinking and went back to do the show, I realised it was nothing more than an obstacle.
Either that, or it was like a three-stage rocket and I needed the alcohol to get me past the first stage. Now the second stage has begun and we're going faster. I don't know what the third stage will be like, but the second is faster, cleaner, more together all the way; the stageshow is much better than it was, the attitude is much better, and the thoughts are much better, the whole concept is better - even the reaction from the audience is better!
"I really do look at the first 15 years of my career as that first stage. I look kinda fondly at it but it really isn't part of my life any more."
The transformation into Alice: "When I'm behind that curtain I'm shaking, I'm still me. I'm in all the make-up, my attitude is right...but I'm a total bundle of nerves. Every night it's like that, I'd feel uncomfortable if I weren't. But as soon as 'Welcome To My Nightmare' starts and the gate blows up, from the moment I step on that stage it's like YEEAAAHHH!! I get this surge of 'Alice' and suddenly it's like: I'm at home again!
"For the next 80 minutes I'm at the high point of my existance, being up there on the stage - because I really am at home. Everything I do is positive, it's sharp and it's fast. My posture changes when I become Alice, even my voice. When I go to sing in rehearsal I can only sing to a certain point, but when I get onstage my voice really opens up.
"So I guess it's like a possession - well, I wouldn't call it possession but it is like being overcome with this character. And it's immediate, it's like a shot! I think what happens is, that's my moment of truth.
"Everything else, all the talking, the rehearsing, the preparing, the worrying, it all comes down to that one second when you hit the stage and the audience is expecting one thing: a great show. You have to go out there like THIS IS IT! There's no two ways about it. Hate it or love it, this is what the shows going to be.
"And the audience love that. They love Alice like that, they don't want him to be weak up there at all, they want him to come out there and blast them! I've always said that Alice has a love affair with the audience. But where most entertainers cuddle and pet the audience - Alice rapes them! Alice goes out there and the audience is like a female entity to him. He take them, shakes them and rapes them. And they like that! They want to be taken! They want to be sexually taken by this show."
Sexual Perversion & Fantasy: "They always asked me what my favourite fantasy was and I always said, 'Tuesday Weld in a dirty slip!' There's something about her, still, and when I picture her at about 18 years old with dirty hair and a dirty slip...that's a good perversion. I still think that would be great.
"But the thing is, if Alice IS the Teenage Frankenstein he's a conglomeration of a lot of different perversions, a lot of humour and horror. He has a lot of different sides and mental levels, and perversion has a lot to do with that. There's the point where the girl appears with the whip - lots of things up there are perverted.
"But the funny thing is, the audience as voyeur loves that one-on-one kind of thing. So Alice really does come off as being a real asshole sometimes.
"The more Alice wants to be hated, the more the audience loves him. He's a real villian. That's why I used to do a lot of these straight shows (quiz shows etc.) in America, because I figured it would be so great just to go on there and have them hate me. And they would HAVE to hate me because I'd be sitting there and they'd be going, 'My kids have got all his records and just look at this disgusting guy!' But nobody got the joke!
"The kids thought I really wanted to be on these quiz shows and I was going 'No, don't you get it? I'm here representing you guys, I'm the worst person in your parents' nightmares - in order for this woman to win a car she has to ask ME a question, and she won't even let her kids go to my concerts!' I thought there was something great about that."
The morality of the Alice resurrection at the end of the show: "It's like Alice saying 'Who're you kidding: You've been trying to kill me on stage for 17 years and I'm still here'.
"Now, we cut Alice's head off - but even then when the executioner takes the head out of the bucket, and she's showing that she's won, holding it up for the audience to see and kissing it, Alice spits blood all over her! Even then the head is still alive! That's like Alice's last laugh; even in death the head is alive enough to spit in her face!
"Every time she comes backstage after that, I'm there getting ready for 'School's Out', and she's got blood all over her face - I laugh every single night, that's so funny!"
The Houdini Factor & the public demand for more: "Did you read the whole thing, how he died? He used to challenge anybody, at any time, to punch him in the stomach, which was like a rock. At one point before a show someone came and punched him and ruptured his appendix. Then he went on and tried to do his escape from the water tank but his appendix erupted while he was in it - which I guess is one of the most painful things in the world - and in those three minutes it caused a heart attack, so that's actually how he died. He would have got out if it wasn't for his internal injuries...
"The show's gotta be more outrageous, more spectacular everytime, but there's a million things we can do. For instance, in the next show we may do a version of the hanging again, only it would be a more modern version, an update, like we did with the guillotine it was nowhere near as good as the new one, it wasn't in the least bit dramatic in comparison. The new one looks REAL!
"And the hanging would be the same, where something would phsyically happen to the throat. I would imagine if I were hung it would do something pretty horrible to my throat - or maybe my head would come clean off!!
"I also heard you die with an enormous hard-on, that at the actual moment of hanging you get an erection..."
Renfiled (Alice's personal assistant): "And you also shit and piss."
"How disgusting! What an awful way to go! Shit, piss and get a hard-on!"
The sexual attraction of death: "Well, when you see someone get killed, when you drive by an airplane wreck or a car wreck say, you look at it, you can't NOT look at it! It's the natural thing. And the reason is you're so glad it's not you - there's such a relief.
"I think that's why people jump out of aeroplanes, go skydiving, what a thrill that must be! The greatest adventure! Though I would never do it, a lot of people say that it's the ultimate thrill - diving out of an areoplane. I would never trust any thing to actually open. Skydiving - who would have enough cool to do that? I never would! I'd jump out of a plane and pull that cord immediately!"
Future projects 1) Alice and the 'Prince Of Darkness' movie: "That track seemed to fit in really well as the opening cut on Side Two (of 'Raise Your Fist...'), although actually it is the title song for a new John Carpenter movie. I think it's going over the end-credits. And Kane and I ended up being in the movie, which is gonna be great.
"I don't know the whole plot, all I know is that I play a bagman - like a baglady - and I and all the other bagmen are totally possessed. And Kane is one of these bagpeople too, he just does a little walk-on - but he's so big!
"What happened was that we went down to the shoot and John Carpenter said, 'Why don't you stand in as one of those bagpeople. It'll be really funny because it'll be a really fast pan so people will go: "Was that really Alice Cooper and Kane Roberts?" ' I was totally garbaged out and Carpenter said I looked so good that he wanted to develope the character some more, to make the character a little more important.
"They had this other character, a doctor, who they needed to get rid of but they didn't have his death planned out. So now he walks out into this alley and sees all these bagpeople. He turns around, and I'm standing there with this bicycle without a front wheel and handlebars. And he bumps into me and I push this bike through him and it comes out the back. Then he rolls over and he's balancing on this frame and stuff starts coming out of his mouth - it's great!
"I think the deal with the movie is that they have the Devil trapped in this ancient jar which has a combination lock that none of the computers can crack. So they figure that the only one who can have arranged this combination was God or Jesus - the computers are totally stumped as to how to get it open. That was the first draft of the script that I read - but of course something gets it open! And then this green stuff drips out into someone's mouth and they turn into this Devil - it's great stuff!"
Future projects 2) The 'Raise Your Fist And Yell' tour: "We're putting the show together now. We're going to be incorperating more of 'Constrictor', more of the new album, and start dropping off the older stuff, weeding it out.
"We're now in the position that bands like the Rolling Stones and the Who found themselves in; that no matter how you arrange things it sounds like you're doing a 'Best Of' show. It's kind of a Catch-22, because you want to satisfy all of the people but you don't want to put on an oldies show...Well, you saw what we did; we took the old songs and revamped them so that they sounded new, like 1987 rock...
"But I still think there's too much old material in the show - there's gotta be a lot more new stuff. And if we can stage this new thing, the whole 'Gail' section, it'll be great."
Well, if The Nightmare has been and gone again, the morning after looks set to be just as gruesome. Another bedtime story next time Alice hits town, children, but in the meantime: Sweet Dreams.