Metal Edge

Metal Edge - June 2001

Metal Edge
(June 2001)

Originally Published: June 2001

Welcome To The Nightmare

Edsel Dope interviews Alice Cooper

Author: Edsel Dope

The fact that Dope were able to tour with Alice Cooper for a short time was unbelievable for me. But even more unbelievable was having the opportunity to roll into my band's hometown of New York City and share the stage with Alice on the first Halloween of the new millennium. This somehow led to me being given the opportunity to sit down with Alice and not only shoot the shit on a personal level, but to interview him for metal Edge. That's fucked up! I really didn't know what to say. I've never interviewed anyone before - Having been on tour for the better part of the last two years I've answered my share of questions, but now the shoe is on the other foot, and my subject is a madman. I don't think there are many people that have had a more powerful impact on heavy metal than Alice Cooper. Even if you've been living under a rock and have never been directly kicked in the head by an Alice Cooper experience, chances are, many of the bands you hold close to you wouldn't be doing what they are today had Alice not decided to bring us his horror show many years ago. And a lot of us, myself included, are very glad he did.

What would you ask Alice Cooper if you were given the opportunity? Well, I'm horrible at this stuff, so I asked my good friend and bandmate Acey Slade to help me put together some questions for our little chat. And in the short time I spent on tour with Alice, and the hour or so I spent on the phone doing this interview, I learned one very important thing; No matter who you are - Alice Cooper, Edsel Dope or Joe Blow from Nebraska - at the end of the day, we're all just people. And Alice Cooper is an exceptional one.

Your father is a minister. What part did that play in the creation of your Alice Cooper character?

Well, it wasn't a rebellion thing. I think I just naturally loved rock 'n' roll. I wasn't rebelling against my parents at all, I was rebelling against. You know, it even got to the point where the Beatles got so safe, we rebelled against them and went for deeper bands like the Yardbirds and The Pretty Things. As soon as anybody really got on to what the big thing was, we moved on from that and went a little deeper. From the Yardbirds we went to The Mothers of Invention then Pink Floyd. We tried to find all the underground bands and see what they were doing. That's what kind of influenced us, and then later on we said, "Well, in order to be one of those bands, we have to get into those things that aren't necessarily rock 'n' roll. "So with that background, with that Yardbirds button, we were always hard rock, we were never going to be anything but hard rock. We were even an early version of the metal side of things. Then, when you add on things like West Side Story and scenes from I Spy and The Man From Uncle and the James Bond themes in that, all of the sudden you get that cinematic musical feel. Then, with Bob Ezrin coming with a theatrical background and a classical background, when he would inject his strings, his ideas, and his way to arrange it, it really turned into a new kind of music for us. We were theatrical anyway, so the music had to go in that direction.

You've obviously influenced a buzillion bands. What did you draw from inspiration wise? There really weren't bands doing what you were doing. Is that where the movies come in?

Yeah, we were very cinematic, we were very theatrically-based. We watched a lot of TV. We were one of the first generations that was brought up on TV - Our baby sitter was the television - so our background was the TV themes. We would find ourselves in the middle of a song, then all of a sudden we're going into the Patty Duke theme. "Where'd that come from? Patty Duke? Oh well, it works." Or Twilight Zone or Outer Limits. That's our influence, that's who we are, and we've just got to stay with who we are. Now, I don't know where these bands [today] get their influence from, I mean, their idea of an old show is like Miami Vice or something that I would consider relatively new. I think there's a lot of emphasis right now on a high-tech sound, rather than musical background.

It seems like a lot more about production today.

Yeah, and I think a lot of these bands let the producer play with the tapes, and it's a lot of the producer and a lot less of the band. I mean, you get in there and the producer has got an electric background and he throws in all this stuff. In the end, even the band is surprised with what is coming out of this [laughing].

Especially in such a disposable society like ours, where everybody is looking for the hit single.

And you know, I'll tell you what, our kind of music right now, you and me, we don't belong in the charts. We don't belong in the charts with Mariah Carey. It used to be - In the early '70s/late '60s, when there was a Top 40 - when we put a record out like No More Mr. Nice Guy, it was up against The Supremes, Simon and Garfunkel, Dean Martin, anybody that had a Top 40 single out. Your record had to compete with that, so a lot of our singles were pretty light. That's what we did, because it was really hard to compete with that market. Now, I don't think you can be heavy enough, it's almost to the point where you have to be a blare of noise, and then your considered.

Legit.

Yeah. I mean, we've got stations out here in Phoenix who are some of the hardest rock stations in the country, and they're saying, "Well, Alice isn't really our kind of band." And I'm going, "What are you talking about? You play AC/DC and Marilyn Manson, what do I have to do, more than Brutal Planet, to be your kind of band? I've been your kind of band for 25 years!" They just don't get it.

Where do you draw the morality of Brutal Planet from?

Well, I just think it's the logical thing, and I think we are based on it. We all have a moral core in our body. We all know right from wrong, and I think if you look at the classic state of events in our life, we always know bad is bad, good is good, and you're going to get punished for the bad, and you're going to get rewarded for the good. On Brutal Planet, I'm saying that this is an end statement for our planet, this is what we are left with if we totally disregard God. What we create is this incredible hell on earth, and it's because we decide to become Gods, and we make lousy Gods. We make horrible gods, you know? I'm glad I'm not God, I would make the worst God in the world. So I looked at it purely as a theoretical statement saying, "What would happen if there was no God? If we were left to our own devices?" That's where we are with Brutal Planet. Some people might say, "Cool", and other people might say, "I don't want to go there." Basically, it's a warning, it's a warning album. I still want people to hear it and go, "Wow, that's a great song," or , "Man, this whole album just rips my head off." That's my first thing to do - Music and energy wise, it just kills you. Secondarily, if you really start getting into the lyrics, then you really start picking up what the story line is.

So what you're saying is, "This is basically what we're doing, man."

It is. Everybody preaches, it's just that everybody preaches a different thing.

You ran for governor once, right?

Well, they ran me for governor, because it was so absurd in Phoenix. In Arizona, we couldn't keep a governor because every governor got impeached. It was amazing, we had a string of about six in a row that got impeached! I actually went on TV and made a statement saying, "I can not run for governor. I am not crooked enough to be the governor."

Any thought of legitimately running for office?

I would hate it. I hate politics. I absolutely hate politics. I mean, the most interesting thing that has happened in politics has been this last election.

My favorite part of that whole thing was that it came down to West Palm Beach, Florida, which is where I went to high school.

Did you really.

Yeah, so that's where I spent all the years becoming who I am. It was very interesting to know that I knew these people that were deciding the country's fate.

I think you have to look at it that when you play the game, any game, it has a set of rules. You have a time limit, you have a ballot, you have one chance to hit that ballot. I mean, if people are too dumb to read the ballot, they should be punished. How stupid can you be?

Do we count the dimpled chad? Do you think the dimpled chad should count, Mr. Alice Cooper?

No, I believe if you can't punch a ballot, then you don't deserve to vote [laughing]. I think there should be an intelligence test before you're allowed to vote.

I think so, too. I think also before you're allowed to have children.

You know what, I think that's a very good idea!

I think there are way too many people, having way too many kids.

But I do enjoy trailer trash..

Yeah, it's entertaining on The Picky Lake Show, I just hate paying for it, that's my problem with it. Who are some of your favorite younger bands out there?

You guys are great, you guys killed us on the road. I listened to you guys ever night - I'd be in the dressing room and I'd always listen to how solid the band is. I listen to how solid the bass drum and the guitar figures are, I'm kind of trained to listen to that, and you guys are really solid. So it was really cool working with you guys.I like the Offspring, because they are very influenced by the Vandals. If you listen to any of the Vandals albums, the Vandals were unbelievably prolific at writing that kind of song. In fact, I think they were the best at it. If you ever get the chance, listen to the first couple Vandals albums, they are absolutely hysterical, but they were a really good, solid rock'n'roll band. I love Rob Zombie, I think that he's taken industrial music and given it more than just an anger.

Yeah, he's got a sense of humor.

He's got a sense of humor, and there's a lot of thought behind what he's doing. You can tell he's having fun playing around with the tapes. I mean, yeah, he'll scare you to death, and at the same time you hear the Munsters theme going on in the background. That's great to have that touch in there, otherwise, what you're getting is just one solid line of anger. If I need a burst of anger, I'll put on a Rage Against The Machine album or a Pantera album, but that lasts for a few minutes and I want to move on to something a little more clever. Or depression. Every once in a while you don't mind hearing a depressing song, but I don't want to stay there. I wish that a lot of these albums would have more texture to them, they seem very emotionless.

I agree. I think that's the disposability of the society that we live in. With the internet, everyone's attention span is so short.

See, I think it should be that way with everybody. I think that Ricky Martin should do a depressing song and a really angry song, and I think that Britney Spears should do an [Alanis] Morissette song, that kind of feel. So that it's not that you put that album on, and you know what it's going to be. I mean, some of these records are good at what they are - I mean, listen to Oops, I Did It Again, it's a great record.

It's incredible. The production is massive, and the hooks are good.

That is a record full of hooks. And the same thing with Ricky Martin - That's Desmond Child, he [wrote] Bon Jovi, and Aerosmith stuff.

I can't believe I'm talking to Alice Cooper about how we both think those two albums slam. The world would hang us by a rope if they knew that we admitted this!

But you know what? We are allowed to think anything we want.

That's right, damn it!

I always said, "You go ahead and hang me, but go ahead and look through the metal guy's records, and somewhere they are going to find a Carpenters record in there."

You've seen what we do, and we are not really taking a similar approach to what is really making the biggest bands successful today, but looking at the big bands that are out there, what do you think is really missing from rock 'n' roll in the year 200?

I tell you what, I think that the audience is used to not getting the production, and I think they are settling. And I think the audience will settle. Here is the perfect example: I'm in an airport somewhere, and this guys getting my autograph and he like, "Oh man, I just saw the best show I ever saw in my life." And I said, "Who?" And he goes, "Fish." And I said, "Really? What did they do?" And he was like a dear caught in headlights. He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Well, what did they do, you said it was the best show you ever saw." He said, "Well, they played their songs." I said, "Yeah, well, what did they do? You said, it was the best show, you ever saw." And the guy had no idea what I was taking about. A show is from A-Z, you give the audience a beginning, a middle, and an end, and you take them somewhere. It's like a movie - You can't just have one scene in a movie, you have to give them a story. Not even a story, just give them something to watch for an hour-and-a-half. I think that there are a lot of bands that are going out and doing that. Of course KISS does that, of course Alice does that, I don't know if Slipknot does it, I've never seen their show. Work the show so it has a beginning, here is where it goes, and this is how it ends. So the audience walks away going, "That was an entirely out process." And yeah, you give them the greatest rock 'n' roll you've got, you hit them with everything to make them smile, everything that's going to make them cheer, everything that's going to make them scare, everything that's going to make them puke. You give them everything, but you don't just settle for, "Well, we are just going to do our songs, and we'll be really cool and we'll be really loud. But that's it." I mean that. The bands have got to really invest time and energy into what they are doing on stage. The one thing the '80s bands had - you know, the hair bands - was production. You could take Cinderella, or Whitesnake, or Motley Crue, or Bon Jovi, and it was a production. They went to the show with rehearsal time, where they actually said, "Okay, what do we do after this? What would be good here?" I don't think a lot of bands do that now. I think a lot of bands go, "Well, buy some laser beams, and we'll have five or six explosions and we'll throw some lights on, and we'll have two or three things that will be our show."

And it's supposed to be real raw.

The Stooges were theatrical just because they were the Stooges. I mean, Iggy [Pop] was the whole show. In fact, if they had any light, it would have killed their act. It was so raw that Iggy did the whole thing and the band just stood there like zombies, and it really worked for them.

Yeah, but there's no Iggy now.

Exactly, you don't see anybody out there being Iggy. You know, he was a little show unto himself, the only act that made me say, "I would never want to go on after that act/" I would have gone on after KISS, or the [Rolling] Stones, or anybody, but I really don't want to go on after Iggy. He would absolutely exhaust the audience. He was so good at what he did, you really had to get the audience's energy up all over again. You know? I think that the audience is settling now. I just think the audience is saying, "Okay, that's good enough." And I think it's like that with everything - if the audience doesn't demand more, then the bands aren't going to give them anymore.

What's the best tour you've ever been a part of?

You know, I've got to say, for fun. I wish I could remember more of the Nightmare tour. I would say that the Nightmare tour was the hardest I've ever worked in my life, because it went on for two years. It never ended, and it was the biggest production. I wish is was doing the Nightmare tour now that I'm sober and physically in great shape, it would be really fun to do. I was is a state of just getting through that show every night, and on stage I felt great, but before and after that show I was always a wreck. Actually, the show that we are doing now is the most fun that I ever had on stage. It's as much theatrics as we want to do, and the music is heavier than it's ever been, and that's fun. I would say that the last show was as good as anything we've ever done.

On that note, looking back, what was the worst idea you ever had?

Oh, that's easy. There are a couple of them that backfired! I always tried to put Alice where he didn't belong, especially when my impact on society was the same as Marilyn Manson's and I was the one that just didn't belong. So, of course, I wanted to go on Hollywood Squares, because I didn't belong on Hollywood Squares sitting next to Paul Lynde. So I put myself there, and to me that was a great slap in the face to society, but the audience perceived it as something I really wanted to do, and that was something that I couldn't wait to do, then I got this image that I sold out to Hollywood. Yeah, that was a funny idea of mine that backfired, and to this day people go, "Well, Alice did Hollywood Squares." Well, so what? I did it for all the right reasons. Onstage, the worst idea we ever had was probably the canon. We had a canon that was supposed to shot me across the stage. It just never worked, I mean, the dummy that was inside would come out about halfway out, then flop down on the stage. And every night we had to play it for comedy.

Like Spinal Tap.

In fact, for this show, when I first saw all the toys for this show, at the first rehearsal, I said, "This has got a lot of Spinal Tap potential in it. I know I'm going to get locked in that ReCooperator at least once."

Didn't you have to build the set twice?

They built it too big, everything was too big! We were playing places where that show could never fit. In fact, a lot of the things that we built never got in the show. The crusher, the thing weighed 45 tons, I said, "Well, where are we going to put this?" We are going to use it in our next show.

People always talk about the visual impact that you've had, but do you ever feel like your music doesn't get as much credit as it deserves?

Well, there was always that battle because people were so taken by the band visually that they kept on forgetting to write about the music. We really had to have a string of really good records and hits before people would really take us seriously. When we had our first No.1 album - I think School's Out was No.2, and Billion Dollar Babies was No.1 - when those records actually hit the charts, that gets everybody's attention. When Dope gets their first big hit, you are going to realize that all of a sudden the business guys, the suits, you'll get a whole lot of respect from those guys. They don't even know what the music sounds like.

They don't even care.

They just know your music is on the charts and your record is making money. That's what speaks to those guys. I found that when I had records on the charts, when I had a record on MTV, I got respect from people that I would have never have gotten respect from. When money starts talking, people start listening. Your audience is going to dig you even if you don't have the hits, if they are your fans. But you are going to pick up this whole other 80 percent that go to the record stores. I was in a record store once, and this guy comes in and he tells the guy, "I want to buy a record." And the guy says, "Which one?" And the guy goes, "What's No.1?" He has no idea what record, he just wants to buy the No. 1 record. Or people go to the movies and go up to the box office and the lady says, "What would you like to see?" They say, "What's good?" They have no minds of their own, they just want to make sure they follow the pack. And when you do get those records and get on the radio, people will say, "Oh, that Dope record, that's the one I want." You suddenly pick up another million sales right there.

I call that the monkey factor.

Yeah, well, the sheep factor. The ones that just follow the leader.

What's your favorite horror movie of all time?

That's a good question. For pure horror comedy, I think Evil Dead. For real terror I would say Suspiria. Suspiria is a Dario Argento movie - If you get the chance, watch it, it's really good.

Acey's a very big Dracula fan. He wants to know what your favorite version of Dracula is.

Wow, that's another good question. I haven't seen the new one yet, Dracula 2000, but I heard there are a lot of special effects. That's why I go to the movies, for those kinds of movies. It's hard to beat the original, but I tell you what, the one with Gary Oldman is pretty good.

Yeah, Bram Stoker's.

Yeah, that was awfully good.

It was like a love story.

Yeah, it had a lot of texture to it, it went in a lot of really creepy places. I would say that might be the best.

That was definitely for me, because the originals were so before my time.

I basically don't relate to the '30s version either, because that was old before I was a kid. So even though it had a different tone to it, it was very scary for the time it was out.

What was the best Alice Cooper cover you've ever heard?

Well, I heard "No More Mr. Nice Guy" on the tribute album they did, it was [Who frontman] Roger Daultry singing it, and the perfect thing about that was, when we wrote "No More Mr. Nice Guy", we wrote it as a tribute to "Substitute" by The Who. It was the same kind of open type chords in the beginning. So it was a tribute to The Who, and it was full circle when he sang it, because when I wrote it, I was thinking, "How would Daultry sing it?" So it was perfect. When he sang it, I would have never done it any different than him.

Looking at the KISS farewell tour.

Which one?

[Laughing] Do you see yourself doing any kind of farewell tour?

I look at the farewell tour, and I just can't put myself into that finality thing yet, because I thought maybe 10 years ago that I might have had to stop this, and I didn't know that I might have been in better shape now. But I really don't think I'm going to be 62 doing "No More Mr. Nice Guy."

Why not?

I don't know. I'm at a point now where I don't know. I think that we are one of the last of the dinosaur bands. I don't think there are that many bands that are going to be around 15 years from now. I just don't think that's the nature of the beast anymore. It was in the '60s and '70s, when you were a band or an act, you stayed in that act. You were that act forever, and I think the thing that still keeps us vibrant right now is that our music still stands up. I mean, the music I'm doing from the '70s, songs like "18" or "Under My Wheels," still fit in with Brutal Planet. People always ask me, "What has changed in music?" I don't think it's changed that much, and I don't think basic hard rock has changed very much at all. I think if we take what Nirvana did and you take Guns N' Roses, that's basic hard rock. It's got a different attitude to it, it's got a different selling point to it, but if you break it down to what it is - the guitars and the bass and the drums and the vocals - it's basic hard rock. So if anything has kept us in the game, it's been our string of hits from the '70s, '80s, and '90s, but it's also been that fact that I don't think we ever had a bad show. In 30 years, I can't remember ever doing a bad show, what the audience would consider a bad show. And to me, that strength will be unbroken. I think that there's a security in that, that people come to see a show and that it's going to be fun. No matter what it is, it's going to be fun.

Where you ever is a position, where you had to compromise what you wanted to do on stage because you didn't have space or were the opener?

Oh sure. When we started we opened for The Mothers, we opened for the Doors, we opened for everybody. So we certainly couldn't do our entire show. The props that we did use were the props that we could bring on and off really quickly. And that worked. Again, that was something nobody had ever done. So it left an indentation in people's heads. They would see the Doors, and they would go, "Remember that guy that came out with the door, and he was singing, "Nobody Likes Me' to the door, and then he had that lighting swinging around?" I mean, you always gave them something that was totally indelible in their brain, they could not get it out of their head. Also, I just think it's attitude. When you walk out on stage, you've got to walk out on stage like, "This is my hour-and-a-half, I'm here. I own the stage. You are at my mercy." And the audience likes that S&M attitude, they like you to be the monster, and for them to be the ones that are being lead. If you go up there and say, [in sheepish voice] "Yeah, I hope you like this, it's really great being here, I think, and here's a song I wrote in 1973. If I did that they'd kill me. I take a song, I open their mouth, I jam it down their throat, and I say swallow! If you don't like it, throw it up, but I guarantee you'll like it.

And if you throw it up, it'll make the show look even cooler.

We'll put a strobe light on you, it will look cool! It's all in the attitude, and I think you guys know that. When you go on stage, you know how to look. You could not go out there and look soft. If you did, it would look phony. I mean, you come out there with that look, and you've got to back that up.