Originally Published: September 1987
Author: Oliver Klemm
He is back, and you'd better believe it. We should have known that when he got the bit between his teeth last year that he'd regain his love for the taste of blood....and act on it.
And how we loved him for it. When Alice came over to the UK at the tail end of '86 with a brand new band, but with some 'Welcome To My Nightmare', his fans greeted him fanatically and the sense of anticipation was quite overwhelming. But there was also an apprehension over whether he could still pull it off on stage. 'Constrictor', the comeback album, had shown that he had lost none of his verve in the studio, but it was as a live performer that Alice was truly loved.
Was he still the maestro live? Is the pope catholic? Alice's shows at Wembley Arena were amongst the most memorable last year and fans left the show exhausted, entertained and glad that, for once, their memories had served them well.
Now he's on the warpath again. By now, he will have played at Reading. But, be warned, that was the last time you will see the 'Nightmare' show because with his new album, Alice is preparing a new visual assault, which he intends unveiling on a major European tour later this year. Oliver Klemm spoke to the Coop about his plans.
The advance tape of Alice's new album, 'Raise Your Fist And Yell', has been doing the rounds at Metal Hammer for a few weeks now. And the verdict? Everyone agrees that it's even better than his comeback 'Constrictor' and that's not just the Metal Hammer offices, but also the great man himself! Unfortunately, the release date was originally to be September, but it's now been put back to October. You're gonna have to be patient, but believe me the wait is gonna be worth it.
"I think that not only is the songwriting better than the last album, everything on it is better. It sounds heavier and I'm one hundred percent happy with the drum sound on this one. Simmons type drums dominate the 'Constrictor' album. That was Beau Hill's idea and he started the production on this album until Michael Wagener took over. This time round we've used real nasty rock'n'roll type drums - a definitive kind of sound that suits our kind of music the best. After all, we're a rock'n'roll band and the less we have to do with all that electronic junk the better."
Alice and the boys had some twenty songs ready before they went into the studio and the ten best are the ones that appear on 'Raise Your Fist And Yell'. One of the tracks, 'Step On You', was written at the time of 'Constrictor' but didn't appear on the album.
"We didn't use it because it sounded to much like 'Give It Up'. We didn't want to piss the fans off by giving them too tracks that sounded so similar on one album."
It seems that Alice and his cronies spent a great deal of time and effort in choosing the right songs for an album.
"A song will only appear on vinyl if we can play it hundreds of times without getting bored of it. I mean, if we're not going to get bored of it after playing it a few zillion times then nobody is!"
"Before we went into the studio to record the album we checked everything over and over again. I'm a firm believer in the rule that a band should go into a studio and record a song the same way the play that song live. We rehearsed and rehearsed until we were able to play a song inside out. We could have gone onstage and played the whole album as if we'd been doing it for years. That meant we were able to record the album live in the studio and didn't have to record everything over and over again until it was right, it sounds better that way. I really believe in spontaneous playing. When I listen to an album that isn't recorded live then I can hear it clearly. It'll sound as if it's a jigsaw, lots of little bits making up the song and that doesn't sound right. It should sound as a whole."
So after Alice Cooper used Beau Hill to help him produce 'Constrictor', did the idea of using Beau again raise it's head or was it pre-ordained that he wouldn't be used?
"We knew we wouldn't use him. That's why we replaced him with Michael Wagener. Everything that Beau did or wanted to do was completely the opposite of what I wanted to do. He's one of these guys who'll use up every track on the tape to get a big fat sound. That kind of production really messes up what a band really sounds like, it gives a false impression."
"On the whole, we don't spend much time in the studio. I reckon that to record a rock'n'roll album all you need is between six to eight weeks in the studio. Sure, it's a different story with bands like the Moody Blues or bands that want to produce another 'Sergeant Pepper' type of album. After all, those aren't real rock albums anyway. Including the final mix, we took about six weeks from beginning to start. The majority of the tracks were laid down in ten days and that's about one song a day! All that you'll hear with us are guitar, bass, drums, a few keyboards and vocals - all that you really need for real rock."
This time round the guy in the producer's seat was Michael Wagener. It looks as if it could become an ongoing thing between Mr Cooper and Mr Wagener. Something like the relationship that Bob Ezrin and Alice had in the seventies.
"It's a possibility, because I really do believe in what Michael does and how he does it. Up to now we've never had any problems working together and you can bet I'll be using him in the future - that's if he's still alive. He's a fucking workaholic and lives in the studio. He doesn't take more than two days off at a time. One of these days he ought to take a holiday, the catch is that he wouldn't know what to do with himself. I bet that he'd start scouring the area for a studio and a band that he could produce."
Alice has used the same musicians to record the album that were with him on the last tour. Kane "Muscles" Roberts (guitars), Kip Winger (bass), Ken Mary (drums) and Paul Horowitz (keyboards). As for as Kane Roberts is concerned, who incidently is going to be releasing a solo album soon, he was a real catch for Alice. The two of them work together as if they were one. But Alice says that he's learnt not to reply on first impressions though.
"Bob Ezrin gave me a tape done by some guy called Kane Roberts and said that I just had to see him do his stuff. What he didn't say was that Stallone looked a positive wimp beside this guy. Anyway, one night I went to a club in New York to watch him without him knowing that I was there. It takes quite a lot to freak me out, but I couldn't believe it - this guy was a monster. I thought to myself that nobody who looks like that could be a good guitarist. Those kind of people rip guitars apart for fun."
Something that incidentally Kane Roberts has done before!
"I looked at him and thought that he'd have more of a chance of being in a Conan The Barbarian flick than in the Alice Cooper band. But the way the guy played just blew me apart. The thing that impressed me the most was the way that he just continued playing while a bunch of drunks sat and hammered on the stage in front of him. That's when I knew that he was what I was looking for. After the show, I went backstage to meet him and told him that I liked his tape and suggested that we should try and write something together. It worked out perfectly."
Just like on 'Constrictor' the majority of the tracks were written by Kane and Cooper. The only song that wasn't written by the two of them was 'Gail', written by bassist Kip.
"I find that I work better with a guitarist than say a keyboard player. I've got a real soft spot for the guitar and reckon it has to be the most important instrument in a band. When I was younger I was a real Jeff Beck and Yardbirds freak and I always followed what Pete Townsend and Jimi Hendrix were up to. That's why I get on with Kane so well."
"I'm not saying though that the others can't write songs. It's just that some of their ideas aren't quite yet up to scratch. What is certain is that in the future the others will come to the fore and we'll hear more from them. Kip's a good composer, but his style is still a little too clean for what we're after, but the way he wrote 'Gale' was just right for us. The lyrics are really sick and as a contrast we wanted the music to come across nice 'n sweet. Kip had a real sicky sweet melody kicking around that was just right for the song. He played it to us and it fitted like the proverbial johnny."
Alice Cooper dates were announced in Europe a little while back, but then cancelled. Not surprisingly, though.
"It's the first I've heard of the dates, what is certain is that we will be playing Europe sometime during the winter - and that could mean either November or February. We'll be starting our tour off in the United States anyway, so it'll take a while till we get to Europe."
Alice's new stage show is going to be even more over the top than the one last year. Alice still sees himself as the great innovator.
"Look at it this way. I still think that Kiss are the best Alice Cooper rip off so far, but their show is nowhere near ours. Apart from us, no-one has yet managed to theatrically portray each song onstage. There's a whole stack of bands that are copying what we were doing ten years ago. Sure, we still use some of those ideas from back then, but nobody does it as well as we do."
"As far as things stand at the moment we'll be turning the two tracks 'Prince Of Darkness' and 'Freedom' into the real theatre on the tour. Incidentally, 'Prince Of Darkness' is also the name of the John Carpenter film I did in which I play a crazed and brutal killer. You'll also get a glimpse of Kane in the film. The tracks are ideal to stage and are all about psycho-killers. It'll be a kind of concept show that I'd like to turn into a video - guaranteed to be banned by MTV! But I've already told you too much.... Just one more thing .... The effects are really bloody!"
Therefore is Alice going to be a prime target for the PMRC and it's candidate for the president of the United States, Richard Gore?
"Awww, it's a lot of fart! Their whole organisation is a joke. Just like Gore himself. He's got about as much chance of being president as Donald Duck has.... or Alice Cooper!"