Originally Published: February 25, 2010
Rock legend Alice Cooper is 60 and still touring throughout the year. This is not uncommon, since so many musicians from the sixties still do so. However, Cooper is one of the few fully active musicians from that time.
He released four albums in the last decade, along with two live discs. Not just that, he still thinks about his albums just as he used to: blood-splatter, serial killers and plot twists. In this interview, he talks about touring, staying fit and why Saw isn't close to being as good as The Exorcist.
Doing upwards of a 100 shows every year can be taxing, but Cooper says they don't take much of a toll on him when compared to how hard it was when he was drinking. He says, "Touring used to be a lot harder, when I was drinking. I used to think that it was easier because the alcohol kind of numbed you out a little bit. In all honesty though, it made it harder because you were always battling a hangover. Whereas now, after 28 years of not drinking, I get up on stage as a 60-year-old and I feel like I'm 30."
Cooper says he was always in shape, ever since he was a kid. "At school I was a 1,500 and 3,000 metre runner, so I always maintained a healthy slim body when it came to that; that helped me in my touring a lot. And surprisingly, I can still go out now and run long distances pretty well," he says.
Even at writing albums and concepts, Cooper still shows the same artistic ability. About his latest character Spider, he says, "I wanted to create a serial killer that has flaws. If you think of Hannibal Lecter, well this guy was flawlessly brilliant, he out-thought everybody, well my guy thinks he's that good, but he's not. He decides, 'I'll fashion myself after a spider, my victims will have one leg missing, so there's eight victims, eight legs, and I'll wrap them in silk 'cos that's what a spider would do'...and that's all fine and well until he gets to the eighth victim and falls in love with her, and that's a sure way to get caught, because he can't kill her, and she knows who he is!"
At writing, too, Cooper claims he showed tremendous aptitude from the time he was a youngster.
"I was always a pretty good short story writer. At school I was a feature writer for the paper, I was always a good creative writer. So I'll come up with an idea and then look for a twist on it. So not only does this guy fall in love with one of his victims, he also has a religious epiphany. He sits there thinking about killing the next person, then he thinks 'what if I'm wrong?' Now a psycho killer, even as crazy as he is, never ever doubts himself, but this guy thinks 'I wonder if I'm wrong?' and then he starts totally crumbling..."
While popular horror fare is films like the Saw series, Cooper says they lack depth. He says, "I don't like things like Hostel and Saw, these movies are not scary to me, they're just brutal. I think Saw is clever because the devices are clever. But when it comes to a really good scary movie, I prefer things like Dario Argento's Suspiria, Salem's Lot, Psycho and The Exorcist. I think The Exorcist was scary for one good reason: it didn't speak to your intellect, it spoke to your soul. It made you feel like you were vulnerable."
Cooper is also very interested in what remains unsolved, hence his interest in paranormal activity. He says, "Another thing that's truly scary is when you watch something like Ghosthunters (paranormal investigation TV show). Eighty per cent of the time they debunk whatever it is they're investigating. But about 20 per cent of the time they have something on video or tape that they just can't explain, and you sit there in your house and think 'what?'...."
Having recorded 25 solo albums, Cooper says it can be hard developing a set list. "It's one of the hardest things, because when you've got that many songs, including 14 or 15 top 40 hits, you don't have time to play everything. But as far as I'm concerned, if I go to see the Rolling Stones or the Who, I want to hear all my favorite songs, and I want to hear them sound just like the record. I don't know why that is but I hate it when you go to see a band and they do one of their songs in a reggae version or an acoustic version. When I go and see the Who and they play ‘Substitute’ just like the record, that to me is great."
He adds: "So I try to give my audience every one of the hits and make it just like the record. Then I have about 10 more songs in there that are good stage songs, that are also really satisfying songs for the audience. But you're right, it is a hard thing to find that set-list to make everybody happy."
(Originally appeared online at the Planet Radio City website on 25th February 2010)