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Originally Published: August 1996
Author: Gerri Miller
Late on a Friday night in April, Alice Cooper called after returning from a charity event also attended by his favorite basketball team and good buddies, the Phoenix Suns. "Charles Barkley is the closest thing to a rock star," he said, noting that he goes to all the Suns' games. In the shape he's in, Alice just may be the closest thing to a jock.
"I run about four miles a night," he announced. "I had my blood pressure checked today. You know what normal is? 139. I'm 117. I have the blood pressure of a 12 year-old. I've been doing so much running, your heart rate goes down. The more you run the better shape you get into. I want to be as skinny as Mick Jagger, him and Iggy [Pop]." Alice's workout regime is geared toward the co-headlining tour he's doing this summer with the Scorpions, which kicks off June 5 in El Paso, TX and will be preceded by a special event show that will be taped for audiovisual use.
"It's gonna be fun, we're doing 48 shows. Mostly outdoors, sheds," said Alice, who last toured the U.S four years ago, though he did a festival tour of South America with Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeth, and Faith No More last summer.
"South America was a whole 'nother world. It was actually very good, the audiences were huge. The stage was massive," he said, though to him, "It doesn't matter how many people are out there, 100 or 50,000, you do the same show. You never change the show, it's the same intensity." Alice found a percentage of the 23 million people in Sao Paulo outside his hotel, and noted that while the air pollution there is so bad "you can cut the air with scissors, they've never heard of unleaded gas there," it didn't affect his singing. "I think my body is probably still so toxic from the '70s that it doesn't really matter," he laughed. "I lived in L.A. long enough that nothing can bother me anymore, it's like armor! But it was really fun, all the bands were really good."
Alice's road mates fro this summer's tour, the Scorpions, are old friends. "I've known them forever. I told them I'd do the tour as long as they didn't do the song with the whistling in it ['Winds of Change']. Every time I hear that song I want to go and build the Berlin wall back again," he cracked. The two bands are set to alternate which closes the show, but to Alice, "It doesn't really matter. We're going to do our show and it doesn't mater if we go on second or first. 'You want to close, it's fine with us.' If you go on early you get to go to bed earlier. You can catch Letterman. I like to actually get the audience when they're fresh anyway."
Since Alice is not touring behind a studio record, this will be a greatest hits set, with a few surprises. "When you look at all the albums you realize what they really want to hear but you know you want to throw something in there that's a bit of an oddity, or maybe something that you've never done on stage. Maybe 'Caught In A Dream' or something." Of course "Eighteen" and "Poison" will be included, "those are standards. But at the same time, to keep it interesting, you say 'Let's do "Clones" this time.' Something you've never done on stage. Or something you did but forgot about doing."
The staging will be basic, with a few theatrics, "but we are going to pay tribute to the upcoming elections. The end of the show will be 'Elected.' We may end up having Clinton and Dole fistfighting up there. That will be the audience participation part. It will be timely."
Alice's band will be a combination of player that have toured with him before - drummer Jimmy DeGrasso, bassist Greg Smith, and keyboardist Paul Taylor - and new guitarists Reb Beach and Ryan Roxie (replacing Stef Burns, now on a touring gig in Italy, and Pete Freezin', who joined the Almighty). "I put together all the best gunslingers I could find. You have a list of people you'd like to work with and you go through and say, 'Is this guy available?' All the guys are top-quality guys. I always go for great guitar players. Ryan is a driving rhythm player and he can also play lead," Alice noted of the six-stringer who's been in Electric Angels, Gilby Clarke's band, and now fronts the temporarily on hold DPM. "Reb's in the same class as Stef Burns and those guys, he's a triple-A player. Anytime you can get a guy like that you jump on it. On top of it, they're all great singers. Greg can really sing so I have three great singers in the band."
Ironic though it is that he has two former members of Winger in the band now [and that Kip Winger had also toured with Alice], it's purely coincidental, Alice underlined. He planned to get the band "really tight" for the tour while preparing to tape in a location unset at press time [possibly Mexico] a TV special, video, and a live album that will come out to time with the tour, his first release under his new deal with Hollywood Records. The second will be a studio album, on which he's already started work. "I've actually written two full albums lyrically, I just haven't put the music to them yet," said Alice, who planned to approach different songwriters, "give them the same lyrics, and see what music works best." These will probably include past collaborators Chris Cornell and Rob Zombie; Rob and Alice can be heard on "Hand of Death (Burn Baby Burn)" on Songs in the Key of X.
"He brought the lyrics in and I made a few changes. We did it in a couple of hours," said Alice, who flew to Florida to join Rob in the studio. "We recorded it in the first half of the Superbowl started at 6:00 and half time's at 7:30. By half time I was back watching the Superbowl. It was really easy to do." He hoped Rob could participate in the taped special. "I think we should do something people would never expect like 'You and Me' or 'I Never Cry'"
Though their musical styles are very different, the two have a lot in common. "We both have an appreciation for the absurd. We both like horror movies but only the bad ones, the really stupid ones. We don't like the good ones. There's a certain common chord to what we do, we both see the comedy in horror and realize that it's a carnival ride and shouldn't be taken more seriously than that, a good comedy. When we work together it's very easy, there's a common respect. He does something totally different musically than I do, he creates a wall of sound and writes lyrics on top of that. I try to write more of a conventional song and my twists and turns come in the storyline, whereas his come in what's going on in the sound," Alice differentiated. "Rob's whole thing is built on what the groove of the song it. I like Rob because he's in on his own joke. That's something a log of people are afraid of. He knows that you have a certain length of time. He always makes fun of himself, his band, what he writes, he has the healthiest attitude in the world, he love what he's doing. When you talk to him he's so self-effacing. I like that."
Alice recently collaborated with another friend, his former guitarist Kane Roberts, on a CD-ROM game project called The Lords of Tantrazz. "If Kane Roberts was writing a phone book I'd do it immediately, he's one of my favorite people in the world," enthused Alice, who'd have loved to have Kane play guitar with him but "He's more interested in playing games. He wants to write a game totally around Alice Cooper and I said 'great, go ahead.'" That's despite the fact that he's not very clued in about computers and had to ask Kane what a CD-ROM was. "I'm one of those guys who have resisted the computer. But I know I'm gonna succumb to it eventually. I wouldn't mind if I didn't have to type. I think it should be voice activated," he laughed. "I used the calculator on the computer the other day to check [son] Dash's homework. I felt like a genius." Dash and his sister Calico are computer "wizards," he said. "We've got like five computers in the house. I walk by and kick them."
Alice owns even more TVs - "we have one in every room, and it's a big house" - but he's been watching less television of late. "I've been really active, running around doing a lot of stuff. I like to get up in the morning and stay active all day." He plays golf, works out in the gym at his house, and as mentioned before, runs nightly. As for his music listening, he currently favors Collective Soul, Green Day, Presidents of the United States, Smashing Pumpkins, and Soundgarden. "I've never been much of an Alice in Chains fan but their writing has progressed to the point where I'm actually believing in them," he commented. "I'm good at hearing some pretty good bands. Good productions. There are bands writing some really good stuff. I think a lot of bands have finally gotten out of their depression." He's like to see one of his favorite hometown bands, Phoenix's Beat Angels, open up for him if local bands fill the third slot on the tour.
"What I want and audience to do on this tour is yell out what they want to hear, and whatever song I hear the most is what we'll play," said Alice. "I'm gonna be very loose on this tour, I might not even have a set list. Let them scream it out and I'll do what they want to hear." That means his band will have to learn "at least 40 songs. The whole charm of the show is the fact that it's not set in stone. But we'll end with 'Elected' every night. I think it will be fun not to do the same songs over and over in the same order every night." We think it will be fun no matter what!
"1966 Ford Fairlane GT 930. It was canary yellow with black racing stripes. I kept burning up the back tires from peeling out all the time" - Alice Cooper