Originally Published: July 1997
Author: Sue Smith
Theatrics have always played a major part in your shows, yet you've abandoned them for your forthcoming tour; won't you feel vulnerable without all the paraphernalia?
Well, when you play Alice there's no such thing as a straight show. Alice is so theatrical on his own and I can't think of too many songs that are just go-ahead, straight numbers without some prop involved. Sometimes you can do as much with a crutch as with an entire background; a handful of dollar bills and a sword can be much more dramatic than an entire backdrop. And we do Gutter Cats Versus The Jets into Dwight Fry with the straitjacket, so there are some theatrics still there.
Has the stage execution of Alice ever gone wrong?
Oh yeah, lots of times, we go right to Spinal Tap on that. When I would do the hanging, a piano wire would stop me being actually hanged - it was half an inch shorter than a rope. I'd have my hands tied behind my back, so there's no way of saving myself when the floor drops out if that wire doesn't catch. . . Well, at Wembley the wire snapped, it had so much stress on it from a hundred shows. Luckily my jaw snapped back and didn't catch the rope, and I went right onto the floor. The one that can't go wrong is the guillotine 'cos the blade weighs 40lbs - if that goes wrong it's all over! We've got away from the execution thing now, but I guarantee the show's still Cooperesque.
Did you know that Johnny Rotten became a Sex Pistol after miming to Eighteen on a jukebox?
Yeah, I thought it very appropriate. I've always said Johnny Rotten was very funny, he could do stand-up comedy. And he's always had nice things to say about me - I think I'm the only person he's ever had nice things to say about. That kinda worries me. I wonder what I'm doing right?
Are you sick of telling the ouija board and chicken stories yet?
Oh, those were both such farcical things. Who'd have thought a chicken would've caused so much controversy? Especially when I never did anything - the audience killed the chicken. To this day I've got the ASPCA after me. I still find it funny that one chicken became such an incredible thing in my career. And the oujia board thing . . . The name Alice Cooper came out of nowhere. We were going to LA to play with The Doors - we were The Nazz then. I said, "We've gotta come up with something to set us apart it's gonna make other bands cringe. What if we were called Alice Cooper?" I could've said Mary Smith or Joan Fontaine, but Alice Cooper was the name that came out and it stuck. After that people started going, "I checked the ouija board and Alice Cooper was a 15th century witch". We just said, "OK, that'll work!"
You were in the Hollywood Vampires drinking club with John Lennon and Keith Moon; how did that all start?
I was a bad influence on those people 'cos I was there every night... It was at the Rainbow when it first opened, right across from the Whiskey and the Roxy. For some reason everybody would show up there. So they put all these clebrities in the loft. It was always the same guys, myself, Harry Nilsson, Mickey Dolenz, and we'd have guest Vampires. Because we were there until four in the morning they said, "You guys are like vampires!" and it was kinda appropriate.
When Keith Moon came marching in he was the entertainment for the night. He'd come dressed as Hitler or Mae West, hahaha... John Lennon just liked being there. He was on such a deific kinda thing, where he was such a god to everybody, that he liked just hanging out with the guys, drinking. Nobody sat around talking about music - everybody was probably talking about everything but music. It was like a billionaire boys club, all these Rolls Royces parked outside. Our deal was, Who's the last one to crawl outta the loft? It went on for a coupla years. Whoever came into town would show up, and if we felt their liver could take it they were invited... They had to have a good drinking reputation to get in, though.
Have you read Michael Bruce's book, No More Mr Nice Guy?
I read some of it, and after I got through three or four pages I kinda went, "Wow, that's an interesting view of that"; that's not how I remember 90 per cent of it, but I guess that's good old Mike. I'm not gonna knock the book but I don't know if I'd place it under fiction or biography...
You've made 22 albums; any favourites or pet hates?
I think the live album [The Alice Cooper Show] was a mistake. We did it at the end of the most gruelling tour of our lives. We'd done Billion Dollar Babies forever - we were on tour for six years straight. Right after that the band broke up and I put Nightmare together, and that was a two year tour. Then we had an obligation to do this live album. I was exhausted, I was depressed, I was at the end of my drinking career, about ready to stop drinking and go into a hospital, and I just wasn't there for that album. That's one of the reasons for this new live album [A Fistful Of Alice]. We went to Cabo, Sammy Hagar's place, to do it. This place held just 200 people. To me that was the charm of it: let's just play the music. I'd love for people just to appreciate the music for once, and I think that's what we've got on this album. I don't jam with a lot of people, and having Slash, Rob Zombie and Sammy up on-stage was really fun and different for me. I am so on on this new album. And when I play the two back-to-back, to me there's no comparison.
Do you ever play golf with old rival Iggy Pop?
You know, I grew up with Iggy. When we started in Detroit he was the main competition because he was the first person I looked at and thought, This guy's good. He was the one act I didn't want to go on after. Iggy would wear an audience out, he'd drain them of their energy 'cos he was so spontaneous. And the music was just the heart of punk music. We were more theatrical, we needed the audience's attention for us to be powerful. So I didn't like going on after Iggy, and that was a real compliment to him... I understand that he is a pretty good golfer, though I've never played with him. But I'm playing to a four handicap right now, so I'm not afraid of anybody, I'm ready.
What would shock Alice as being too sick and twisted?
I quit trying to shock when I couldn't be more shocking than CNN. When we do a show anything violent is choreographed, it's like a James Bond movie, you know the good guy's gonna win, the bad guy's gonna lose and nobody's gonna get hurt. In the news the people that are spewed around on the ground are for real - real blood, real bones, real pain, real death. That's scarier by far than anything I could create on-stage. I used to be more shocking than the news but I don't think anyone's more shocking than the news any more.
What's the name on your American Express card?
It's Alice Cooper Esquire. Not yet Sir Alice Cooper, like some McCartneys I know. But I live in hope...