Originally Published: 1990
Author: Steven Blush
As far as rock history goes, few have been as important and influential as ALICE COOPER. For almost two decades, he's been belting out blood-curdling tales of mystery and mayhem, all the while defying critics of his eerie style. After years of multi-platinum success, he kinda lost his direction and strong fan base during the mid-late '70s, admittedly too busy playin' the Hollywood playboy to notice. Deep in a profuse alcohol stupor for way too long, Alice as been slowly and methodically rising back to form. After two recent and unmemorable MCA releases, Cooper has finally unleashed a hit album, Trash (Epic), that displays strong hints of what once was. Tight and powerful with a potent dose of black humor, this ain't exactly Welcome To My Nightmare-revisted, but it's more than good enough for now. An innovator and originator, Alice deserves to be recognized for the generations of evil, garish rockers he helped spawn. Bombastic theatrics still intact, he reminds us that fun and entertainment are still paramount to the rock formula. The garbageman explains, in his own words.
SECONDS: Although there were some people in rock before you used horror elements in their persona - like Arthur Brown or Screamin' Jay Hawkins - you were the first person to bring full-blown gore to your act. What were some of the influences behind that?
ALICE: Well, to me, I just always thought that there was a great marriage between the two. it was the kind of thing where hard rock and horror really went together. On the last tour, I think we really took it to the enth degree. I don't think we could go any further with it and still stay legal. So on this tour, even though there's still some elements of that, it isn't as over-the-top. I think we were locking a lot of people out. I think you can give people doses of horror in rock 'n' roll, and they'll take it. But if you try to force-feed 'em, then they're gonna spit it out. So, I'm gonna give them a certain amount of it on this tour, and I'm also gonna give them a certain amount of it on this tour, and I'm also gonna give them a certain amount of dramatics, a certain amount of comedy - you know, black humor. It's not gonna be an over-blown horror show this time. There will always be some of it, I'm sure 'cause it wouldn't be an Alice Cooper show if it didn't have some.
SECONDS: People have come to expect that from you.
ALICE: Well, I do too. I mean, I wouldn't want to do it unless it had a certain amount of it.
SECONDS: Wasn't your first experiment in gore after you band got beat up by a bunch of bikers at a gig?
ALICE: Well, actually, they were gonna beat us up. But we talked them out of it. They ended up being out biggest fans. Living in Detroit at the time was not the easiest thing in the world, and bikers didn't know if they liked hard rock or not, they wanted to fight somebody. When we came along, they didn't know what to make of us. We had eye make-up on, but we didn't really flinch when they came up to us. We talked their language, so they took us under their wing... You know, I've just always liked horror films. I mean, I'm watching The Munsters right now. And what's scarier than The Munsters?
SECONDS: Where does Alice Cooper end and Vincent Furnier begin? Is there any difference anymore?
ALICE: Well, it used to be that we were the same person, and I would try to be Alice all the time. But I don't think you can do that anymore, the people who died in the process of rock'n'roll prove that. Like Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison off stage, and it's just too intense. Instead of having a drink, they'd have a bottle. Instead of taking a pill, they would take twenty-five pills because they had to be as big as their stage image. These guys were just living way beyond reality. I think once I realized that I didn't have to be a martyr to be a rock'n'roller, learned how to be two separate people again. So, now I enjoy playing Alice. When I play Alice on stage, I am more intense at it than if I try to be him all the time.
SECONDS: A lot is made of your father being a minister. Do you feel that the gore and horror was a reaction to all that?
ALICE: No, I just think that it was something I enjoyed. There was never anything Satanic about it. See, I never did this King Diamond kind of thing, with upside-down crosses on stage.
SECONDS: I wasn't taking about Satanism, I was referring to the bad-boy image. I mean, lots of rockers have fathers who are power figures, like cops or clergymen or politicians.
ALICE: Oh yeah, I think it had a lot to do with the character. I wanted my character to be the ultimate rock villain. Even toady, I still want him to be a combination of Dracula, The Joker, and everybody that you've ever seen in a comic book, on t.v., or in a movie, that would give you a chill. That's what Alice is supposed to be, and that's really what he is. So, when I go on stage, I live being a character. On the new album, Trash, Alice becomes the sexual villain. He's not a sexual hero, he's a sexual villain.
SECONDS: Was the Alice cooper persona pre-planned all along, or did it evolve on its own?
ALICE: It evolved, but it evolved in a really good way. I started out thinking of how to come up with a character that was going to be socially unacceptable and acceptable at the same time. It's not an easy thing to do. A character that the parents hate, the kids love, while at the same time selling records because people liked the songs and the music. So, Alice was kind of a puzzle. It ended up being simple. I found that the music had to always come first, because the theatrics wouldn't stand up without the music. The theatrics were always just an icing on the cake. After the music came together, then the theatrics came very easily.
SECONDS: I understand that the idea for Alice Cooper came to you on a ouija board.
ALICE: Somebody I know had a mother who was a medium - maybe she was a large! She one time asked the ouija board who Alice Cooper was, and it spelled out Vincent Furnier, and she didn't know my name, supposedly. So, that's where it came from.
SECONDS: I know you touched upon this before, but how important is comedy to what you do?
ALICE: Every good horror movie is also a good comedy. I mean, if you go to see Evil Dead or Evil Dead II, it's very funny. But it's also real scary. My idea is to take the audience on a roller-coaster ride; I wanna scare 'em to death for a second, and then the next second they're laughing. So, Alice tries to play ping-pong with your emotions. That's really what I like to do, because it brings you back safely. I want your heart to be pounding, but to also have fun.
SECONDS: You first gained attention warming up for the Doors, right?
ALICE: We did do a tour with them of upper California and the Northwest. That's pretty much where people started noticing us. We toured with Zappa first, and then we toured with the Doors for a while. People were just staring at us. They knew there was something going on, but they couldn't figure out what it was. We freaked a lot of people out. I mean, the Doors were out there, but Alice Cooper was maybe even a little further out.
SECONDS: Do you ever regret the pop star trip during the mid to late '70s? I mean, stuff like being on Hollywood Squares. I'm sure it effected your rock base credibility.
ALICE: Well, it did on one level. You've got to realize that back the there was no rock'n'roll on the radio. Everything was disco. I did do rock albums then, but the songs that they picked out off those albums for radio airplay were all ballads. It was the only thing they would play in rock'n'roll. Aerosmith disappeared, Alice disappeared; all these bands just couldn't compete with the Bee Gees. So, that's a period of time that I'd call the Dark Ages. Back then, it looked as though we weren't rockin', but we were. It was just a real lull in rock'n'roll. So, when puck came along, and when metal returned after that, we were right back in business.
SECONDS: At what point in time back then do you feel that your career lost direction?
ALICE: Well, you gotta realize that we were at our prime at that point. We had made millions of dollars, and we were drinking ourselves to death. I mean, I was a complete alcoholic at that point in time. So, I just did whatever I wanted to do. And a couple of those things that I did were unwise. I'd become the Hollywood playboy, and that was very un-rock'n'roll, although I was still a hard rocker at heart. But since we couldn't really get on the radio and weren't touring that much, we were just sitting around spending money. When punk and everything came around in the early-'80s, that's when I had to clean up from drinking, and that's when I came back with Constrictor, Raise Your Fist And Yell, and now Trash.
SECONDS: Yeah, I was recently looking at some pictures of you from the '70s, and it's amazing how much better you look today.
ALICE: It was fun for a while, but I was really out of it physically. It took me about three or four years to come back. I mean, the difference is amazing, six years without a drink for me. I look and feel better now than I did when I was twenty-six.
SECONDS: Didn't the breakup of the original Alice Cooper Band have a lot to do with the excessive partying?
ALICE: It really wasn't that. We'd done School's Out, and Billion Dollar Babies, which both went #1, and then Muscle of Love was directionless. I mean, it was still a Top Ten album, and sold millions of copies, but I just realized that it wasn't working. One guy wanted to be Pink Floyd, another wanted to be George Harrison, and they didn't want to do the stage act anymore. They totally lost direction, and I was really the only one that was true to the Alice Cooper thing. I didn't want to change it. So, I didn't really break up from the band, they kind of broke up with me.
SECONDS: In retrospect, what's your favorite Cooper album, and why?
ALICE: I don't know, that's so hard to do. There's so many different reasons: Love It To Death was the first successful record, School's Out was the first to go #1, Billion Dollar Babies was out biggest record, Nightmare was our most creative. They all have different meanings to me. Trash I love because I think it has the best collection of songs. For this album, I wanted a 1990's production with a 1970's kind of writing, and that's what we really got. I really needed Desmond (Child) to help me with the melodic parts, because I'm not a melody writer, I'm much more of a lyricist and arranger. It was a perfect combination.
SECONDS: I understand that you've always been kind of a jock. Do you feel there's a natural relationship between rock and sports?
ALICE: Alice isn't, but I am. Well, I mean, the whole original Alice Cooper Band started in a letterman's club, we were all jocks. I was a miler and a two-miler. You have to remember, at that time there wasn't very much glamor in being a miler, it was considered to be a futile kind of race. It wasn't very exciting, but it was guts all the way, and I think that had something to do with being a rock'n'roller too. Unfortunately, I don't have time to do anything now except this. I'm really dedicated to just the whole rock'n'roll thing right now.
SECONDS: Also, I know that Kip Winger is a buddy and ex-band member of yours, but what do you honestly think of his music?
ALICE: Well, you know, Kip was writing his whole album when he was on tour with us. We'd be traveling on the bus, and he'd be writing. He's really found the kind of music that he wants to play, and I think he's good at it, obviously. I mean, he's doing very well.
SECONDS: In your eyes, when did the resurrection of Alice Cooper take place, or has it not even happened yet?
ALICE: Well, I think its just on the rise now. With Constrictor, we sort of put out calling card in. We said that Alice is back; Alice is not soft, Alice is not bald-headed, and he's not fat. Alice is back, and he's slim, mean and ready to go again. Now, everybody's aware that I'm back. What's weird is that a lot of fifteen-year-old kids watching MTV think that this is my first album, which is great. I mean, nineteen albums later, and I'm still new.
(Original publised in Seconds magazine Issue #10, in 1990)