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Originally Published: October 1991
Author: Chris Welch
"HEY STOOPID!" If you hear that aggressive shout echoing down the streets for the next few months, don't go looking for a fight. It's only Alice Cooper, hitting back with a provocative new anthem that threatens to re-enact the glories of past hits like 'School's Out'. 'Hey Stoopid' is the anti-teenage suicide song that is the title track off a new album that is packed with guests stars like Slash from Guns N'Roses, and Nikki Sixx and Mick Mars from Motley Crue. It's a great, exciting performance as we heard when we met the man at the Hollywood studio where he has been working hard with top session players and producer Peter Collins for the past few months.
If Alice Cooper is rock 'n' roll's living nightmare, then the man who invented him is still very much Mr Nice Guy at heart. His charm is not pushy, and his sincerity doesn't make you squirm. He talks with an easy humour, those hooded eyes barely concealing a twinkle and gentle irony. But if there's one thing he takes especially seriously it's his career; rescued from the threat of oblivion due to the demon drink, and his music bolstered by the success of his last album 'Trash'.
Alice has been having the time of his life since he made his come-back in 1986. "We've never stopped. We were in Europe twice on the Trash tour including Yugoslavia and places we had never played before"
Then Alice played Canada, Australia, the States and Japan before heading for the studio to start work on the new album 'Hey Stoopid' due out at the end of June.
"I always feel you should spend more time on the writing than you do in the studio so we spent four or five months just writing. Sometimes you have to go back and make sure the lyrics are not too well thought out. I don't want it to sound mechanical. This album rocks a lot more than 'Trash' did. That was a little stifled, because we were very aware of the radio on 'Trash'. We had three or four hits, and 'Poison' of course was the big one that pushed everything over the top. The album sold three million and for us that was great. A lot of young kids, the 15 year olds especially, think it's my first album! They also think 'Permanent Vacation' was Aerosmith's first album... it's kinda funny because it's like having a whole new life. Oh, you mean there are twenty other albums? But that does seem like another life ago - the OLD Alice does. I was an alcoholic at that point."
THE EARLY Seventies were a period of terrible alcohol abuse among the rock stars of the era. We asked if dependence on drink just crept up on Alice?
"Yeah. I never really decided to become an alcoholic. I just let it happen. It was a very permissive time, and everybody I knew was addicted to something. I thought drinking was a lot less dangerous than being a heroin addict, not realising the problems it could bring. And drink is legal - of all things. If you look at how many people die from alcohol compared to how many die from heroin, 65 per cent of alcoholics die from their addiction. Seven per cent of heroin addicts die from heroin. And yet alcohol is totally legal. It's one of those drugs that just creeps up on you. I had a very high tolerance and was in the Keith Moon league, staying up all night and just going and going. I drank a lot of beer and then drank whiskey - two bottles a day. And functioning. Nowadays, whenever I get together with anybody, from Bowie, to Lou Reed, to Keith Richards, to the new guys who have cleaned up, the Guns N' Roses, and Motley Crues, we all sit around telling horror stories 'Oh yeah, Well I threw up three times a day... and mine had blood in itl' 'So what, I passed out for two weeks! Thank God we got through it."
Alice realised that intensive partying could not go on forever - without a mighty health bill.
"Yes, luckily I was at a point where I really had to decide whether I was gonna live, or whether I was gonna be addicted."
Didn't Alice think it was dangerous for fans to look up to rock stars and try and imitate their life styles?
"Well, I know a couple of heavy drinkers, but I don't know any drug addicts anymore. I don't know anybody that spends all their time getting high. I could never say that in the Seventies. In fact, then I didn't know anybody that DIDN'T get high - one way or another. But in the Nineties rock 'n' roll has become a more corporate big business, but although the party is over, the musical quality is better, more intense. They don't just throw an album together and get as smashed as they can. Nature has put its brakes on with AIDS and drug overdoses. Everybody is giving it a second thought. And - there is such big money in it now. A band takes a look and thinks: 'Jeez, I can clear twenty million dollars on this tour. I'd better stay straight " '
ALICE DOESN'T feel he has lost anything by going straight.
"It's brought back my original love for rock 'n' roll. When I first started I was totally straight. I loved rock for its attitude, for its noise, for its power and sexuality. Everything about it was what I wanted. With drinking, it started getting out of focus. It became a lifestyle, and I didn't appreciate it as much. Now that I've been straight for eight years, when I get up on stage, I'm there for the fun of rock 'n' roll the power and the energy. It's the high point of my day, being on stage, and being in the studio. Hearing something come to life - you go WOW."
The new album is produced by Englishman Peter Collins, famed for his work with Queensrche and Gary Moore. He's helped bring a biting new attack to the Cooper sound, and Alice is knocked out by the results.
"It's going to be a natural evoluion from 'Trash' to this album. We were very happy with the success of 'Trash'. I finally figured out something about Alice Cooper music. Alice never has to chase the charts. If something is going on in the charts, I never have to look at it and say I'll write a song like it. 'Cos 'Poison' had nothing to do with the charts. Then I looked back at my old hits, 'Only Women Bleed,' 'School's Out', 'Elected' - nothing to do with the charts. To me Alice has just got to do a record that is uniquely Alice to get the public's attention. Alice doesn't have to do Bon Jovi-ish music, just unique, Alice music."
WAS THERE a theme or undercurrent in all his records - like a plaintive cry?
"I think so. There is always some angst involved. Alice is about the underdog. He is always Victim/Villain. He can be either one. On stage, I'm definitely a villain, and then become the victim and they always execute me somehow at the end. He always pays for his sins and then comes back. It's semi-religious I guess, like a morality play. But the first purpose in every Alice Cooper show is to make everyone walk away going 'Wow'. Was that worth the twenty quid I paid to get in? I learnt years ago that an audience should always walk away thinking they got their money's worth. If I didn't do the theatrics, it just wouldn't be Alice. On our last tour, seventy per cent of the show WAS just hard rock, but just Alice being on stage creates the theatricality. He has to do a song in his own warped little way. He couldn't stand up there and do it straight "
Alice explained there was a quite a serious message behind the title of the new album 'Hey Stoopid'.
"Alice has avoided saving the trees or the whales, because there are a lot of competent people who have dedicated themselves to that. Nobody would believe us because Alice has not got the image of Mr. Charity. I am very sympathetic to all those causes but you'd have kids saying: 'Come on, what's Alice doing, saving the frogs?'
"I started hearing about the statistics of teenage suicide, so 'Hey Stoopid' is a real message. If I was talking to you, and you said 'I'm gonna kill myself I'd say 'Hey stupid, what are you doing?' I'm not going to wag my finger and say 'Now now now!' because I would be acting like a parent then. I'd sooner talk to them on their terms, on a rock, street level. The songs says 'Hey, stoopid, what are you trying to do?' Their way is so damn permanent, there must be a better way. So the song is about that and I am putting together a rock 'n' roll outlaw choir behind it. Everybody that's ever been accused of writing a suicide song will be on it - Ozzy, I talked to the other day. I've got Slash playing lead on it, and hopefully, if possible, Judas Priest will do some background singing. I don't think anybody has intentionally written a song to get kids to commit suicide. If anything, all those songs were misinterpreted. If Alice is gonna take a stand, instead of saving the trees he'd sooner save the rockers! And the song is a rocker - it's another 'School's Out"'.
All the proceeds of the single will go towards a Teenage Suicide Hotline where callers will be able to hear a taped message from Alice.
Cooper emphasises that the whole album is not devoted to one heavy subject. "The rest of it just rocks. We had thirty songs and had to pare it down to 15. Now we have to pare it down to 12. But we cut a few extra B-sides, especially for England, including 'Fire' by Jimi Hendrix, and two or three other songs fans won't be able to get anywhere else."
Alice has collaborated previously with prolific writer Desmond Child (they wrote 'Spark In The Dark', 'Poison', 'I'm Your Gun' from 'Trash' together), and there are two Child/Cooper songs on the new album.
"I didn't want to go overboard on the Desmond thing this time. I'd hate to have people think I'm depending on anybody. He's a great writer but I need to advance. I wrote the lyrics on 'Hey Stoopid', and I'm very happy with it because it really does smack of the old Alice Cooper. It has a bit of irony and black humour in it. And it's a very valid statement. Alice is not living in the past. I'm not going to write Seventies lyrics. Sometimes I watch pop acts on MTV and I see the kind of kid we used to beat up at high school wearing a suit with pencils in his shirt, and he's like a rock star! I'm thinking - where is the anger here? Where is this generation's anger? That's why I think Heavy Metal will always be there. It has to be dangerous. Maybe I'm anti intellectual when it comes to rock 'n' roll. I don't want it to get too smart and thought provoking. I listen to everybody. Some of it is very clever, some of it is just so...MUNDANE. I think - if I want to hear a crooner, I'll put on Bing Crosby. If l want energy I'll put on Anthrax. I don't want rock 'n' roll to be great. I want it to have excitement. When we started Alice Cooper it was a loud garage band. We were horrible. People shouted 'You guys stink' - but we were having fun. Come on - Guns N' Roses are a great garage band. The Stones are the best garage band in the world. When I was 15 they were my idols"
ALICE AND band will be going out on tour, probably in July or August. "We're itchy to go out and I guarantee it will be another long tour.There will be at least fifty American dates and we'll saturate England, we love to go there."
Alice hopes to play some big out door shows in the U.K. during the summer, and his manager Toby is working on the case right now.
"The new thing in touring now is that every big act will go out with another big act. It has a lot to do with the economy and the recession. That's better for the audience. You are not getting Ozzy Osbourne and three bands you've never heard of"
"I don't know who is going out with us but it will be somebody major"
"The Simpsons", suggested his manager.
"Oh yeah - The Simpsons On Ice!"
Alice Cooper used to be famous for playing golf, like Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. In fact he played with many luminaries, as well as hanging out with Groucho Marx, who admired Alice's theatrical style and sense of outrage. But those days are over. Says Alice: "I don't play golf anymore. I got to the point where I was working much harder in rock 'n' roll. I do play racquet ball now and then. You can take a lot of anger out on a court. And everybody else is playing golf now, so I stopped playing. Every Heavy Metal band goes on the road now with their golf clubs. When they all started doing it - I said, 'I've gotta stop that.'"
Alice prefers acting as a sideline, and was recently offered a big part in a movie with academy award winning actors. But he didn't think it would do anything for his rock credibility and turned it down. He says he had more fun doing a role in 'Friday The 13th Part 6' when he played Freddy's father. "I didn't give up any credibility doing that. It was really Alice. Of course I would love to do a film, and maybe I will, twenty years down the road. I wouldn't play a hero, just a victim or a villain, something I'm good at."
(Originally appeared in the October 1991 issue of Metal Hammer Magazine; Vol. 6, No. 14)