Solid Rock

Originally Published: 1987

Malice With Alice

Alice Cooper has spent more years in rock'n'roll than some HM acts have written songs, yet he still has the power to shock. Brian Pithers quizzes the man behind the make-up.

Alice Cooper is back with 'Raise Your Fist And Yell', a new album that promises to hit the streets like a breath of fresh outrage. But can the Grand Master of Shock pull it off again? After all, it was as long ago as 1964 when the plan was put into action that first transformed The Earwigs, The Spiders and The Nazz into Alice Cooper. But now, 23 years later, he is still the Alice Cooper that he set out to be all those years ago. No compromise!

So how come Alice Cooper has remained a constant figure on the ever-changing world of rock'n'roll?

"There were so many changes in rock music for one thing", explains Alice. "We had to cope with disco, we had to cope with synthesized new wave music. There were just all these different waves of music that took over the charts, but it always seemed to come back to rock'n'roll, which is really what metal is."

"We went through some changes in the early eighties, where we took it in different directions, and I think that confused people. We did the Special Forces thing and that was without the make-up - well, the heavy makeup - and without a lot of props but it was still about the music."

In reality, the off-stage Alice is Vince Furnier, and he doesn't change back until the makeup goes on and it's showtime...

"I don't think anybody can maintain their persona off-stage!, he says. "I could never be Alice all the time. But that doesn't mean I'm not just as crazy, just in a different way. You probably won't see me driving down the street in my Corvette in my makeup, but you will see me driving down the street as fast as I can with the music blaring. But I think the ones that tried to live their persona died, the Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrixes and Keith Moons - who were all dear friends - who tried to live their image off-stage and it's too hard a job."

But don't a lot of people expect him to play the part of Alice all the time?

"Yes. That's pretty much when I did go through a drinking problem. It was no secret that I was drinking a bottle and a half of whisky a day - for 10 years. A lot of that had to do with me thinking that people wanted to see me as Alice all the time and that they would be disappointed if they didn't."

But is it still as fresh as it always was when Alice gets to play?

"Oh yeah. I think a lot of it has do with when you do something that's different and new, you never know what's going to happen. So there's a certain sense of mystery and anxiety that I actually nurture. I'm never nervous - anxious is more the word. I want to get up and do it."

Alice Cooper was the first outrageous rock star, no doubt about it, but since his rise to stardom there have been many who have tried to claim his crown. What does the Godfather of Outrage think of all these young pretenders?

"I think it's funny when you see all these groups and everybody says: 'This generation is outa control, look what they're wearing!' and I say: 'Are you kidding? We were doing that in '72.' and it was scary then because nobody dressed like that. They were still into the hippy syndrome and Alice Cooper was Clockwork Orange at that point - we were a pretty vicious bunch."

Cooper's The Man Behind The Mask was used as the theme to one of the Friday the 13th movies, and it was even rumoured that Alice himself played Jason, the murderous character who murders his way through the film series...

"A lot of people actually thought I was Jason. The films came out around the time that I took four years off and to this day, since you never saw the guy, a lot of people think that I played the character. And I'll never tell!"

And what does Alice think of his new album?

"There's things on it that make 'Teenage Frankenstein' sound like Mary Poppins. It's rally heavy stuff and there's not one nice moment on it. I'm proud to say there's not one redeemingly nice moment. And if it does sound nice, you listen to the lyrics and say: 'wait a minute - he can't say that!'"

Alice has just done the last ever performance of his fantastic stage show, 'The Nightmare Returns'. How much does the show take out of him?

"It's not just the action of singing and moving, it's a lot of things, lighting cues et cetera. I leave a lot of it to spontaneity. I am aware of everything that's going on around me and I can react to situations."

"Accidents are the best things in the world on stage. I always told the guys in the band that if they fall over, great - do it again. At the end of the show I want the audience to feel as exhausted as as I do."

Finally, how long does Alice Cooper feel he can continue? When will he stop?

"I think when the audience doesn't react, when I get up on stage and the audience doesn't react the way that they should. If I have 10,000 people and I can't get them off their feet and leave them walking out shaking there heads saying 'Wow, I've never seen anything like that', and I just get polite applause, then I'll know it's over and I'll have to get away from it. It's not fun for me, it's not fun for them, and they're just showing up out of respect. I would much rather see an audience react."

"Our last shows were 80/90 percent sold out, which shocked a lot of people. But when they saw the show they saw why."