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Originally Published: August 1991
Author: Kerry Doole
Alice Cooper is one aging shock-rocker, but he still knows how to stop traffic and turn curious heads. In an ambitious publicity stunt to launch his new album Hey Stoopid and the Operation Rock 'N' Roll stadium tour, Alice blitzed Toronto with a guerilla action that illustrated his flair for the dramatic. The downtown lunch-hour crowd stared upwards in amazement as Alice and his band ripped through a short set perched atop a record store. As if on cue, threatening storm clouds erupted the seceond Alice exited. Does this man have God (or the devil) on his side?
The elder statesman of the genre certainly has the reigning god of hard rock in his corner for this, the 21st Alice Cooper album. Check this for a cast list - Ozzy Osbourne, Slash, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, Nikki Sixx and Mick Mars of Motley Crue - while Cooper's co-writers range from old comrade Dick Wagner through to Zodiac Mindwarp and formula hitmakers Desmond Child and Jim Vallance.
Spearheaded by a superbly dumb title track anthem, Hey Stoopid appears destined to repeat the success of 1989's multi-platinum Trash, a record that signalled Cooper's triumphant resurrection from the snakepit of commercial decline. As Alice acknowledged, "I'm just starting a career all over again. Hey Stoopid is my sophomore album."
Alice (his real name Vincent Furnier, and he refers to Alice in the third person) is reclining in his palatial hotel suite, sipping Evian and watching a mute Silence Of The Lambs. The years of excess have left their mark on his face and rather reptilian skin, but he seems in good shape and spirits as he reflects candidly on he life and times of Alice.
On his rock 'n' roll logevity: "I've lost count, but I think this is album 21. How many do the Stones have? Must be 40, and they keep making great records. More then anything, it's a matter of attitude. I refuse to age in the least bit gracefully. Physically, I feel and look better than ever before, and as far as I'm concerned, I could go on doing this indefinitely."
On his movie career: "I'm in Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, playing Freddy Krueger's stepfather; a real decrepit character."
On influencing horror films: "We did the hanging when we first came out. It was done as morality play. Alice always had to pay for what he did onstage, then he'd come back out with the message that 'Everything's O.K., it didn't really happen.' Then I saw Halloween and the character Michael Myers, and Jason, who couldn't be killed. I thought, 'That's vaguely familiar.' There was a rock 'n' roll aura to those guys; people looked as them the same way they looked as Alice.
"They were villians, but somehow heroes, because their victims were such despicable characters, like the kids in school you hated. I think there was a lot of influence in A Clockwork Orange. His name was Alex, he had make-up under one eye, and a boa constrictor in his drawer. I kept going, 'Wait a minute! Where have I seen this before?' "
On his music: "Theatrics is just another element of Alice Cooper. We've always been a garage rock 'n' roll band that got our hands on the audience because we did something no one else had ever done, which was adding [theatrics] to the music. We've always felt it was important to prove ourselves musically.
"The other stuff has been icing on the cake, but in reviews, no one ever talked about the music. Once we got past the '60s generation, though, we suddenly got credibility."
On peer respect: "I'm now secure enough to call up people I consider good musicians, like Satriani and Vai. If it had been someone with a lesser reputation, they probably wouldn't have done it, but it was like 'Here's 'Feed My Frankenstein,' a perfect Alice Cooper song, and both of them had been kicked out of school for dressing up like me. I just said, 'Let's put it together, put Nikki Sixx on bass, and create a piece of rock 'n' roll history.' "
On maintaining the competitive fires: "Every time I go onstage I want the feeling I have to prove myself. I have that inner confidence that every night will work fine, but I also have this thing where I'm gonna show these bastards. Alice is not old, he's not tired, he's still competing with Axl Rose, Vince Neil, Perry Ferrell. My idea is still to try and blow them off the stage, and that keeps me in shape.
"I treat Alice Cooper like an athlete. If you're going to be a boxer, you've got to be in good shape. Physically, he's in better shape, but mentally, Alice is as warped as ever."
On getting sober: "What it has done is put me more in focus. When Alice was an alcoholic in the '70s, he was a victim. He was always the one things were happening to; he was getting hung, put in straitjackets. He was treated as a sick human being. Now that I'm not an alcoholic, Alice is much more the aggressor."
On Hey Stoopid, the album: "On this record, Alice is more versatile. Trash was kind of one-dimensional, just about sex. Here, Alice goes through a lot of emotions. He's very romantic on 'Might As Well Be On Mars,' and plaintive elsewhere. It reminds me most of [his 1973 classic] Billion Dollar Babies."
On "Hey Stoopid," the anthem: "The first time I heard it, it was like, 'Hey, this is it!' Just like 'School's Out'. It took a long time to get back to writing a song like that. I had a couple of sleepless nights over the title - 'Will they think I'm calling them stupid?' - but it's an attention getter.
"Just about whenever I do something successful it's because I take one step further out on the limb than I should. Every hit I've had has been something other than what is on the charts. 'Hey Stoopid' is one of those songs where everyone loves the chorus, so you can't waste a boy/girl lyric on it.
"If the lyrics [which are anti-drug and anti-suicide] connect with just three or four people, great. I don't want to be their parents. It even has a line, 'This ain't your Daddy talking.' This is Alice Cooper speaking, and I've been there. Listen to me as a rocker, not a parent. Alice is saying, 'This is stupid, this is dumb.' "
On his social impact: "I gave my audience a lot of credit. The audience saw Alice as the necessary brat, the thing to offset their parents. I had to take money and throw it back in their faces, or make fun of school and everything that was sacred. But I never made fun of religion; I'm a little too religious for that. I'd be afraid of getting hit by lightning. But everything else is a target. Sex, death and money are the biggest targets in the world, and they're such easy targets."
On his moral responsibility: "I never saw Alice saving a forest in the Amazon. I could see Sting doing that, and I applaud that. But teen suicide is melodramatic and emotional, and it fits right in with Alice."
On censorship: "Some things thrive on persecution, like Christianity and rock 'n' roll. If it were safe, it wouldn't be rock 'n' roll.
"In the late '80s, we were getting close to being corporate little rock 'n' rollers. Luckily, a certain outlaw element - Guns N' Roses, Skid Row - came along and got me saying, 'Yeah, let's get back to what I do best.' "
On G N' R bad boy Axl Rose: "I think he's a good guy. I just did a song, 'The Garden,' for his album. Axl either has the worst luck in the world, or he's the most brilliant guy around. The publicity stunts - if he has that much concept of what press is, then it's unbelievable how smart he is. How many people could steal the Stones show by being obnoxious?"
On fellow Detroit bad-boy Iggy Pop: "When we moved to Detroit [in the late '60s], there was an immediate battle between Iggy and Alice. We'd see who could do the most ridiculous things, and I don't know who ever won that. Commercially, I did better, but in reality I still look upon Iggy as one of the greats."
On being a godfather of punk: "Johnny Rotten got his job in The Sex Pistols by miming 'I'm Eighteen.' They all thought if they could somehow control this Alice image and put it into another package, it'd work again. What Alice is doing is basic, primal stuff, but we did it with such great bad taste. That was and is the power of Alice Cooper."
On his own source of inspiration: Salvador Dali. He'd put a series of images in front of an audience and let them make up a story. So I'd pull out a crutch in the middle of 'Eighteen,' and then bring out a snake and a mop. Ten different people would put all those images together in ten different ways. Isn't that what art is all about? Attack the imagination and make them think."
On the power of shock: "How are you going to shock people? They've just seen an entire war on television. I got very caught up in the fact that it wasn't real. It was like a great, dramatic movie.
"If I was trying to shock people, I wouldn't tour. I'd go to a theatre on Broadway or Hollywood and set it up so every sense was affected. On this tour, there'll be two or three things where people will go, 'How did they do that?' That's what I'm going for, not a sexual or horror show."
On Alice at home: "We're the Addams Family. I find the kids are their own best censors. When my son sees something on TV that scares him, he runs away and watches Walt Disney. I don't have to tell him not to watch it."
On his age: "I'm 43. People ask me, 'What about those younger guys like Ozzy?' I go, 'Hey, Ozzy is older than me. David Bowie is older than me [all these ages are in question].' I guess when you get to 43, you get sensitive about your age."
On misconceptions of Alice: "The worst thing you could ever call Alice Cooper is a Satan-worshipper. That's the biggest insult, and I always try to clarify that.
"I get these religious pamphlets with my picture in them, but those people are so wrong. They're putting me in this category with Slayer and King Diamond, but anybody who knows Alice Cooper knows I'm not like that."