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Originally Published: 1989
Author: Kerry Hughes
In 1967, while peace, love and flower-power were ruling, an American high school band called Alice Cooper made horror a fashion. The band's image was deviant, their songs anti authority and their live act bizarre. So bizarre that it once cleared an entire Hollywood nightclub! By the early seventies they had their first hit single, I'm Eighteen. Followed by another, School's Out. And many more followed before the band split up. Lead singer, Vincent Damon Furnier, then named himself Alice Cooper and toured the world with his Welcome To My Nightmare album stage show. Alice toured nonstop for over fourteen years charming, disgusting before, finally, disappearing. Now, over ten years later, Alice is back with his twentieth album, Trash.
Alice Cooper is not real, he's just a phantom and that phantom is Vincent Furnier's job. "He's really just a character," Alice laughs through the phone. "Alice is like a rock 'n' roll villain because rock 'n' roll needs a villain. There's enough heroes out there. We treat him like a Darth Vader type character. He's a bit on the darker side but just because he wears black doesn't mean he's satanic. I've never done anything satanic, only theatrical," Black really is Alice's favourite colour, too. He even knows what shade of black he likes best. Licorice!
Alice spoke to KID ZONE from his home in Arizona where he was taking a break from the Trash World Tour. He lives there with his wife Cheryl, eight-year-old daughter Calico and four-year-old son Dash. And he's about to become a dad again! "I've been married fourteen years," he boasts. "We have a unique relationship. My wife borrows my clothes and I'm always saying, 'You know your black eyeliner...'"
Alice has a lot to say about trash. "The word trash to me is a great compliment," he jokes. He recycles his trash, too. "I've actually got a garage full of aluminum cans. The kids collected them for a school charity." But, for the record, his favourite trash is the album. "It's the old Alice with new 1990s production," he says. And in true Alice form he had his own peculiar ideas on how to launch it. He drove around America in garbage trucks handing out the album to radio stations! "It was lots of fun," he laughs. "It had more meaning than doing it in a limo, anyone can drive around in a limo."
It worked well everywhere except in Houston where they refused to hire him a garbage truck because, they said, it was bad for their image!
Alice writes most of his lyrics but worked with other musicians to write and play the music on Trash. Jon Bon Jovi sings harmony vocals on Poison, the first single and Steven Tyler, the lead singer of Aerosmith, sings with Alice on the third single, Only My Heart Talkin'. Alice recorded twenty songs for the album but could only use ten. "It was like putting ten children up for adoption," he agonized. "That's how hard it was to pick those ten."
Alice's stage shows are largely responsible for his reputation for detestable deeds. They are only limited by his imagination, unlimited sense of humour and respect for the ridiculous. Always in the shows are his hired boa constrictor snakes. "The snakes are really good, they kind of let you know if they're not happy," laughs Alice. "They don't want to hurt you, they just give you a bit of a squeeze if they're hungry or going to shed."
His ideas for the shows come from people like his idol, Salvador Dali, the famous surrealist painter. "He's so off-centre," says Alice. "Like my shows, it's absurdity." Alice also loves horror movies! "All good horror films are quite humorous underneath. It's funny how much comedy is really involved in them," he explains. "But I'll tell you what's really scary though, if you really want to be scared, just watch the news!"
Alice promises the Trash World Tour show will be very theatrical. "There'll be less blood on this tour," he says. "They're probably still cleaning it up from the last one!" Alice arrives this month and he can't wait. "The last time I was in Australia it was a lot of fun," he snickers. "So lock up your parents!"
Many things make Alice unique. The name he chose because he wanted to confuse every human being on the planet, the spectacular stage shows, the demented clown eye make-up and the music are but a few. On Trash he's still Alice only less hard-edged, more a rocker than a metal man. "This Alice is more streamlined and in better shape than he was twenty years ago. It's a different look but it'll still be menacing," he threatens. Time has leant Alice a little more towards Vince but the phantom still lives. Sticks and stones will break your bones but Alice Cooper would never hurt you.
(Kindly submitted from the collection of Steve McLennan)