Notebook - October 19th, 2014

(October 19, 2014)

Originally Published: October 19, 2014

'I might slit your throat, but at least I'd do it with style'

He's only playing! Alice Cooper, 66, is a rock legend famous for his dark side - but he talks about his softer, pyjama-clad ways and how love saved his life. He's a pussycat really (maybe)

Author: Danny Scott

Alice Cooper maybe be 66 years old now, but there is zilch chance of this rock legend hanging up his well-worn leather trousers and wiping off that black mascara. Currently in the middle of a massive US tour with fellow bad boys Motley Crue, Alice is already working on his twenty-seventh album (yes, you read that right - twenty-seventh) and has just released a new DVD, Raise The Dead - Live From Waken.

Born Vincent Damon Furnier in Detroit, Michigan, Alice was brought up in a strict religious family - his father was a lay preacher, his grandfather an ambassador for the Church Of Jesus Christ, but the young Alice turned to rock 'n' roll and became one of the most successful stars of the 1970s and 80s. Legendary reports of him biting the head off chickens, on-stage 'executions' by gallows and electric chair, alcoholism and drug abuse, also turned him into one of the most controversial.

Today, resplendent in a leather suit, make-up and raggedy hair-do, the modern-day Alice is sitting on a vast sofa in his favourite London hotel. Thankfully, no chickens are present and he welcomes Notebook with nothing stronger than Diet Coke and coffee, ready to discuss a career that has just celebrated a remarkable fiftieth anniversary. Rock on...

When you formed your first band at 16, did you think you'd still be making records in 2014?

None of us did back then. Not me, not McCartney, not Jagger or Bowie. But when you love your job and you realise that God put you on this planet to rock, that's what you gotta do.

You get hung and beheaded on stage every night. Do you worry something will go wrong?

Ha ha! You mean I might actually get beheaded? C'mon, that's the way Alice would want to die. Right there on stage in front of 10,000 screaming fans.

Are Alice and Vincent two different people?

They have to be. That's the only way I can do what I do. Alice lives on stage, that's his home. He is a villain and represents the worst in all of us. Off-stage, I'm me, sitting here talking to you. I'm a nice guy and don't mind having my picture taken with you mom.

Do the two every get confused?

There was a time, back in the 70s and 80s, when I started to confuse the two characters. A couple of bottles of whisky and a case of beer was a normal day for me. I drank and took drugs to help me cope with the pressure of being Alice, but Alice was taking over. One day, I started throwing up blood and my wife, Sheryl, sent me to hospital. That was over 30 years ago and I haven't touched a drop since.

Do you miss the booze and drugs?

When you're there, that kind of life is great fun, but I looked at all the people I knew - Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Moon - and I watched them die. Around the time that I sobered up, Sheryl got pregnant with our first child, my daughter Calico, and I decided that I didn't want to die. I wanted to be around to watch Cali grow up.

Any regrets?

People will point to my drinking years and say, 'Man, you wasted your life.' Sure, there was a period where I was being eaten alive by alcohol, but now I can look back and say, 'I beat alcohol, I beat my demons.' If you can survive those tough times - and not everybody does - you learn and you grow. I can't regret something that's become part of who I am.

Does everyone call you Alice? Even you mum?

Most people call me Alice... my wife, my kids. Mom calls me Vincent. Especially when she's annoyed with me. It's Vincent or Superstar. 'Hey, Superstar. Take out the trash...' Yeah, Mom even gets to make Alice Cooper do his chores!

Everyone knows you like golf, but what else do you do when you're no touring? What are you like at home?

I do normal stuff, same as any other guy. When the kids were younger, I used to help out with homework and do the school run. I don't really cook, but I enjoy shopping... I lounge around on the sofa in my pyjamas watching terrible TV.

Alice Cooper wears pyjamas?

And slippers! He also reads the Bible every day and, on Wednesday morning, takes Bible class at the local church.

Do people get freaked out?

Most people know me by now and they seem to enjoy what I do. Look, I've been performing for 50 yeas, so I know how to work a crowd. Alice Cooper hosts a pretty mean Bible class!

You come from a very religious family.

Yes, and I'm proud of that. I used to listen to my dad in church when I was a kid, that's where I learned about life and people. Sure, I'm the first to admit I lost myself for a few years when I was partying, but as soon as I straightened out, I started looking for something more than drugs and booze. I turned to Christianity. When I went into hospital I was told I was a week away from death. When a doctor tells you that, you start to see the world in a whole new light. It puts things in perspective.

Did you give you kids (Calico, 33, Dash, 29, Sonora Rose, 22) advice about the dangers of rock 'n' roll?

No, never. I never had to. None of them have drug problems, none of them have drink problems. Hey, their dad is Alice Coper, they understand drink and drugs can take you down a dark, lonely road. And we all know where the road ends up.

Are you fans still pretty wild?

Oh, yeah, we'll still get the lunatic fringe. In a good way! I'm never scared by my fans. They just like to send me stuff. Horror films and paintings. As crazy as they are, the fans never fight at my gigs. They just came to watch the show.

You and Sheryl have been married for almost 40 years. What's the secret?

She's the most beautiful woman in the world, my best friend, she wasn't afraid to kick my ass when I was outta control and she saved my life. Without her, I wouldn't be here. Some say she's a saint for staying with me, but, deep down, she's as crazy as I am.

What makes you cry?

I'm not afraid to wear my heart on my sleeve. Watching the new makes me very, very sad. Seeing kids caught up in the middle of stupid wars. Sometimes I think that this world is on the verge of tearing itself apart. I just hope there are enough good people to keep it together.

You've met and worked with some of the greats - Groucho Marx, Vincent Price, Led Zeppelin, Elton John...

Those guys are cool, but I like to tell the story about Frank Sinatra. I was in Vegas and I helped this kid get into a baseball game. Little did I know, this kid was a friend of Frank's. Frank heard about it, so he sent his boys to come and get me. 'Get in the car. The Boss wants to see you.' Turn out Frank wanted to thank me personally.

Three words to describe Alice Cooper?

Crazy, glam, showbiz. Alice is a gentleman villain. He might slit your throat, but as least he'd do it with style!

(Originally published in the Sunday Mirror supplement, Notebook, October 19th, 2014)