Toronto Star

Originally Published: July 1991

When is Cooper not Alice?

Author: Kira Billik

Philadelphia - Veteran rocker Alice Cooper, who claims "everybody I know in rock 'n' roll's a schizo," has always managed to live by that credo.

Cooper (born Vincent Damon Furnier; the son of a minister) refers to his stage alter ego in the third person and writes for him as a separate person. He says musicians are by nature two different people - one offstage, another onstage - but he's just pushed out the edge of the envelope.

"Everybody (in rock 'n' roll) gets more amplified and is certainly bigger and is certainly more animated," the slender, black-haired singer said during a Philadelphia interview while on a recent tour.

"I've just taken it to a different degree. I've really made Alice different.

"I'm bizarre enough on my own, but I totally overamp (Alice), because he's gonna be in front of 10,000 people, and you don't want me in front of 10,000 people - you want my alter self that's bigger and more fun."

He calls Alice "a real good out."

"I don't take responsibility for Alice Cooper, basically," he said. "When he does something, and they say, 'Well, Alice did it,' I say, 'Well, that's Alice - I didn't do it, Alice did it."

Over the years, Cooper said, it's become easier to turn into Alice, partially because he's been sober for nine years.

"It used to be hard, because I didn't know when to be him and when not to be him," he said, "because there was a bottle that was our. actually, that was my problem - Alice never drank, it was only me drinking. I used to think that in order to be Alice, part of the formula was drinking.

"When I stopped drinking nine years ago, the most terrifying moment of mylife was when I came back and did my very first show sober - with the makeup on, I had all the stuff, all the trappings, and all the attitude - and then I went out there and said, 'What if Alice doesn't show up?' But it had nothing to do with the alcohol.

"It was there - in fact, it was more there, because I had energy, I wasn't anesthetized. As soon as I knew I could do it, then it was like there was no stopping it."

Indeed, the 43-year-old singer, who built his bizarre reputation in the 1970s, succeeded in staging a comeback by the late '80s.

His 21st album, Hey Stoopid, follows 1990's multi-platinum Trash. It's vintage Alice Cooper, replete with his unique opinions about sex and love taken with a "Twilight Zone approach," as he calls it.

The title track is Cooper's anti-suicide warning to his fans, a subject he said had to be broached with great care to avoid sounding preachy. He talks to kids, not at them - he even says in the song, "this ain't your daddy talking."

"Alice has always been sort of the ultimate freak, and the last thing that Alice is, is an authority figure," he said. "Almost every one of my anthems has been against authority figures. I don't want to be a preacher, I don't want to be a teacher, I don't want to be a parent - Alice is talking right to their level."

In an interview last year in Metal Edge magazine, Cooper broached the issue of suicide, saying, "The worst thing in the world is some 15-year-old kid trying to kill himself over something that can be fixed. But there's a lot of peer pressure and drugs. The proceeds from the single are going to a teenage suicide prevention center."

Hey Stoopid abounds with guest stars - Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue plays bass on several tracks, Slash of Guns 'n Roses plays guitar on the title track, and a blistering duo between guitar wizards Steve Vai and Joe Satriani takes center stage on the hilarious Feed My Frankenstein co-written with British psychedelic rocker Zodiac Mindwarp.

"All the players I had worked with on some level before, and they knew exactly what they were doing," says Cooper. "It was an effortless album."

In the beginning things weren't so effortless. The Alice Cooper Group cut two unsuccessful albums on Frank Zappa's Straight Records label in 1969 and 1970. Then Cooper and his group struck gold in 1971 with their first two LPs for Warner Bros. Love It To Death contained the hit, I'm Eighteen, while the Killer LP spawned the single Under My Wheels.