Wall of Sound

Originally Published: May 1999


School may be almost out for summer, but it's definitely in for those wishing to learn a little more about Alice Cooper, the original shock-rocker and forebear to the likes of KISS, Ozzy Osbourne, Motley Crue, Rob Zombie, and Marilyn Manson. With a new episode of VH1's Behind the Music airing footage of his assorted beheadings, electrocutions, hangings, and baby doll demolitions, The Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper has entered stores, a four-CD, 91-song treasure crypt of hits, misses, and rarities that makes a case that the ghoul once known as Vincent Furnier - the son of a Detroit minister - can do more than just put on black mascara and cavort with boa constrictors.

But Cooper's not just living in the past: His current endeavors include two new albums - a rock and roll release with his latest band and a conceptual piece, Alice's Deadly Seven, with Disney composer Alan Mencken; a new sports and music theme restaurant, Cooper'sTown; a couple of songs on the upcoming British Rock Symphony album; as well as a late summer tour. Oh, then there's a May 17 appearance on the Late Show With David Letterman and, of course, plenty of golf. His driver's license may say he's 51, but Cooper clearly thinks there's nothing wrong with declaring "I'm Eighteen" forever.

Does The Life and Crimes' bring back a lot of memories?

I'll tell you what; I've never been nostalgic about my music, ever. Maybe when I'm 70, 75 years old, I might get nostalgic about it, but not now. I tend to remember the stupid stuff, which to me is the important stuff. I remember [bassist] Dennis Dunaway getting diarrhea on stage in Chicago, or the fact that Neil [Smith] and Glen [Buxton] and I used to flip a coin to see who slept on the foldaway bed in the Holiday Inn. When we got our first No. 1 album, I'm sure I said, "Wow, that's great," but I remember more that I didn't have enough money to buy a six pack.

You guys were all jocks in high school. How did you morph into this band with long hair and makeup and not get the crap beaten out of you?

I was Ferris Bueller in high school; when I saw the movie, I said, "Hey, that's me." I controlled the school. I was accepted in all the circles: the jocks liked me, the greasers liked me, the eggheads liked me, the soshes liked me. I was sort of in on every one of those groups. I always wanted to go back to a reunion, but I was afraid I'd forget people's names. I thought it would look arrogant. Then I realized they give you these little stickers with your names on them.

One of the more dubious distinctions in your career was playing the Sun King in the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie. Any regrets?

You know, when you were asked to do the Beatles, and George Martin was going to produce it, what could you say? "And I get to beat up the Bee Gees in this movie?" It was perfect. When I heard what the whole deal was, and Aerosmith was gonna be in it, and Steve Martin was gonna be in it, I said, "What's not to do?" Right there, that was enough for me to do it. Nobody knew it was going to be the stinker that it was.

You've also released the video edition of Welcome to My Nightmare, which is considered your greatest onstage triumph. Would you like to do a show of that magnitude again?

I've had people actually approach me saying, "What do you think about me bringing this up to some backers and taking Welcome to My Nightmare to Broadway for the year 2000?" Of course, that's intriguing to me, only because of the fact that, for one thing, I would remember it! I'm a better singer now, and think of all the technical things you could do now, the technology - especially if you didn't have to move it every night. Having to move the show every night did kind of limit us. Imagine if you had that show in a theater for a year, what you could do with it. That would be pretty good.

What's going on with the piece you're working on with Alan Mencken?

Right now it's called Alice's Deadly Seven, the seven deadly sins. It's fun to work on, because this guy sits down at the piano and everything he plays is a hit. And all it really needs is for Alice to take it and warp it a little bit. I wrote all the lyrics; I took lust and sloth and all of that and wrote songs concerning those, and it really came out great. It'll be a rock and roll album - these seven different little stories all entwined with one guy telling the entire tale. It could be an album, a Broadway play, a cartoon, a movie. It's very visual, and it's full of hits, and when you have that, you can go in any direction with it.