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Originally Published: June 1999
Author: Malcolm Dome
The Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper
Ageing rock stars used to contend themselves with staring bleary-eyed into the remains of last night's bourbon, perennially reminding the barflies that they once meant something somewhere. But times have changed. Old rock stars now make continual comebacks and release box sets. Well, it helps prop up the pension fund.
Now, let's be honest. Most box sets either don't do the artist in question justice, or else show that the subject has, in fact been over-valued. But with 'The Life And Crimes...' neither is the case. This is just stunning.
Alice fans can revel in 81 (count 'em) tracks over four CDs, spanning more than 30 years of a career that has not only spawned some of the greatest music ever committed to vinyl or CD, but also proved a massive influence on such icons as Axl Rose, Marilyn Manson... in fact, just about every theatrically motivated band to have emerged over the past two decades.
Staring out with songs from his first recording band The Spiders, this takes you through every aspect of Alice's professional life and crimes. The hits are all here (you surely don't need them listed!), plus previously unreleased stuff (including demos) and rarities. And great care has been taken to make sure each CD flows musically, while paying attention to chronology. There's also an 84-page booklet, with extensive quotes from Alice fans (John Lydon, Dave Mustaine, Lemmy, cult movie director John Carpenter and... David Cassidy!) and an exhaustive history of the man who was once Vincent Furnier.
It all adds up to hours of enjoyment for those already committed to the cause, while those who've never previously investigated Alice, here's the ultimate introduction. (10)
He is considered the prototype shock-rocker, who has infuenced generations of fellow musicians - from Kiss to Marilyn Manson. Vincent Damon Furnier aka Alice Cooper.
In the mid sixties by being a member of a college band the former art student Vincent Damon Furnier was already indulging in Rock´n´Roll and created early the character Alice Cooper (a usual american name) and relied heavily on shock and horror for his stage shows. Now "The Coop", who always refers to the creature invented by himself in the third person, srtikes the balance: the 4-CD-boxset TLACOAC reflects the career of a musician over the quarter of a century.
"Your last regular album TLT came out about 5 years ago. It seems "The Coop" got lazy?"
I never released albums just to release anything. There are already too many bands who do that. It is important to me to have an interesting story, so that AC-albums still are something special, as expected.
"Did it become problematic for you to find an interesting concept?"
The concept is not too much of a problem, it is more difficult to get the story line straight. I can´t just go and record 12 songs at random and that´s it. Music and content have to harmonize perfectly.
"In the past there were a lot of live albums, tributes and best-of`s released. Sellout?"
Funny thing is, I am not involved in that. I was not even co-producing! But I found it fascinating to hear how, let´s say Roger Daltrey or Def Leppard have interpreted my clssics. And concerning A Fistful of Alice: We had our last live album recorded in 1977. Generally I consider live albums to be important, so that the audience is able to hear what the artist in the venue will be like. This can help understanding the music. And we have proven during the era of the grunge- and alternative-boom that AC is still a great rockband. That´s why we recorded that album in a small club with an intimate atmospere, and not in an arena with space for 30.00 people, where there is no possibily of personal contact with the audience.
"Why is TLACOAC *now*?"
Every major band usually puts together compilations that are a kind of acoustical history. I have released 25 albums so far. And I thought it would be more sensible to create a boxset consisting of four or five cds containing lots of previosly unreleased material instead of putting the complete back catalogue on the market. And there are songs on it which I like in the first place, which were never played on the radio. Today´s kids don´t know these songs! Of course I can´t neglect my smash hits, but the focus was on the ununsual. It took me 5 years of hard work, investigation and negotiation to get this partly exclusive material. A nightmare! Alice Cooper´s Nightmare! Some people sat on their copyrights, some couldn´t find the tapes...
"Some early things of those four cds, for example Hitch Hike are from 1965!"
I still went to school then. We covered every Rolling Stones song imaginable, to improve our abilities. Some songs are so strange, I ask myself "Man, those were the days?!". But this is part of my history. Hitch Hike was about the tenth song we learned. I was 15 or 16 at the time!
" In the early seventies your bad boy image caused quite a stir, was that calculated or coincidence?"
We were a theatrical band from the start. Of course some things happened to strengthen that image. Especially in those times: The Woodstock generation was still under the influence of that Make-peace-not-war-idea. And when somebody like AC with his "Clockwork Orange" shock concept came along being far from well-behaved, this of course caused irritation. Rumors were around automatically...
"Like that one about you killing a chicken at the 1977 Torontofestival?"
Yes, that was those kind of story...
"What do you think of Marilyn Manson?"
I have never seen him. Between him and AC are no doubt parallels where image and concept are concerned. Musically we are worlds apart: AC is a Rock´n´roll band, MM is more an industrial band with Trent Raznor and Rob Zombie influences. Of course Rob is better looking, haha!
"Do you think MM´s image is a Cooper-Rip off?"
He has certainly adapted some ideas from me. Maybe the time is ripe for a new AC of the nineties. Everybody has the right and freedom to do or let be what he wants to do or not wants to do. And I would not compare him too much with Alice, we both are doing our own thing.
"If you say that time is ripe for a new AC, does that mean your message is delivered and you don´t have anything to say to the audience at the end of the millenium?"
No! AC is a timeless, classic character. But honestly, Wouldn´t it be ridiculous if I pretended to be able to guess the inmost thoughts of 15-year olds and to understand their problems at that age? I am no teenage rebel for quite some time anymore! MM isn´t also, but for him the problems of puperty are not as far away as they are for me. And who goes to see an AC concert today goes there to see a real show. It is my job to entertain the audience, not to give advice or guess their inmost thoughts.
"Would you agree when I say that AC is a theatrical band, whereas MM only incorporates a certain attitude?"
No! I would even state that AC has three times more attitude and personality on stage compared to MM, but in a different way!
AC is a creature of itself! On stage you see different things in our show. Manson tries to copy what AC is about in his show. This is interesting and legitimate for me, because the two figures are so different musically. And MM tries to become a victim of censorship. This is, contrary to AC, part of his image.
"How do you see the relationship between art and censorship?"
In our constitution evbery citizen is granted to express his opinion freely. On the other hand the citizen is responsible for what he is saying. Same is valid for artists. If I provoke, I need a cause, because I am responsible or the emertging controverse. I cannot pretend afterwards that it does not concern me. There is some kind of responsibility for something you say in your lyrics.
"Is provocation still a major part of your concept?"
An artist has to provoke. If he stops challenging society, he is mentally dead. We challenge the system with our shows all the time and try to get the audience thinking with our lyrics.
"25 years in the business: what changed for the better, what for worse?"
The worst part is, that many bands now think too much about business and money. In my time rock´n´roll was equal with having fun. Now the fun has stopped and turned into tough business more than ever. But the technical aspect changed for the better: There is better equipment, therefore better sounds...But I don´t think rock´n´roll has changed so much itself: if I listen to many new bands now, I end up thinking that they reflect what was going on in the 70s and 80s. But it is generally difficult to create something new nowadays; every sound, every chord was played before. Now it is only a question of interpreting them. Therefore I think it is a pity that newcomer bands do not define themselves by their music. Instead they ask themselves: Which music do I have to make to sell as many records as possible and make a lot of money? Art should not be influenced by money. Of course ther is this dialectic between art and money to survive. But the scale should not go down in misfavour of art!
"But money makes the world go around!"
It depend on how you invest it. When we started to earn properly, we reinvested the profit in our show. We never hung around in clubs wasting it.
"Your actual AC-rock´n´roll-carnival-show is verysimilar to the Kiss Rock´n´Roll circus..."
They got that from me! I am on tour with a carnival for three years now, and suddeenly Kiss are making a circus! So: ho is copying who? But that´s how it always was: The only thing Kiss were good at was copying. Starting with make up to the circus today.. I asked myself then: If AC would stage a carnival, how would that look? Our roadies dress up as clowns, for example. There are generally a lot of costum changes. A picturesque show, about an hour and 45 min long, a compact unit of music and show.
" Your plans for the future?"
With TLACOAC we reflect our first 25 albums. After our second 25 albums I will again put together a box set!
" This means we will see you on stage for at least another 25 years?"
"You are not afraifd of falling off the stage?"
I will more likely fall from earth!"