Originally Published: October 25, 2001
Author: Robert Digiamcomo
Alice Cooper still does his 1970s shock rock routine with full makeup and stage regalia - he just doesn't take himself as seriously. In a new TV commercial for Marriott's Residence Inn, for example, Cooper pokes fun at his hard-rock image. He tells a dad to spend more time with his children, and in the last frame is seen jumping rope with some little girls.
"That was fun to do," says Cooper, who is appearing at 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27 at Trump Marina. "I'm not one of those guys who makes the image so precious that you can't have fun with it. Anytime you can juxtapose Alice Cooper with Middle America, I'm all for it."
As his career moves into its fifth decade, the former Vincent Furnier considers his rock alter ego to be an enduring part of American pop culture. "I was always very protective of the image before," Cooper says. "Alice is so American. I don't think there's a lot of mystery. I think people know just about everything there is to know about me."
His lyrics and music still pack a punch, though. In his new CD "Dragontown" (Spitfire), Cooper rants about gluttony, sexual indiscretions and other human foibles. The executive producer of the album, the second of a planned trilogy that began with last year's "Brutal Planet," is Bob Ezrin, who produced Cooper hits like "School's Out," "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and "I'm Eighteen." "I'm being a crotchety old man now," Cooper says. "I'm railing against everything. People talking in movies - that's one of my pet peeves of all time. Also, how do we not notice 400,000 people being macheted to death in one day in Africa?
"How can we be that pathetic? It never makes the paper. How do we not know there are 72 wars going on in the world right now? We are so apathetic. If anything, Sept. 11 kind of woke up the world."
While Cooper will likely wake up audiences with his mock guillotine and other stage shenanigans, he claims it's all done with a wink to the fans.
"I haven't actually tried to shock people in a long time. I've been more into the entertainment idea. How can you be any more shocking than what's happened recently?" he says, referring to the Sept. 11 attacks.
"I think people pretend to be shocked by Marilyn Manson or Madonna. I think that died in 1982 or '83. Idon't sit around saying how can I shock the audience. I used to. Now they get a great laugh out of this."
Speaking of Marilyn Manson and other contemporary shock rock acts, Cooper is happy to take credit for being their inspiration.
"It was a good idea in the 1970s, the idea of the makeup and the big show - to me that was obvious," he says. "We were there first and I still think to this day we do it better than anyone else. Anytime I get the opportunity to make a lyric come alive. Can you get that arm to fall off and crawl off the stage? That's good.
"I think if I had been born in the '20s, I would have been in vaudeville all my life. It's what I do now. It's' rock 'n' roll burlesque. As Groucho (Marx) used to say, Alice is the last hope for rock 'n' roll burlesque. He was one of the few people who wasn't shocked. The kids were shocked, but he wasn't. Nothing's new."
Although Cooper has mellowed, clearly he still likes to push the envelope. He has added a new element to his act in response to pop diva Britney Spears using a snake during her performance at the recent MTV Video Awards.
"That was a declaration of war," says Cooper, whose signature snake prop is a boa constrictor. "How could she use one of my props? - "Let's just stay Britney makes an appearance at our show. It's something everybody wants to see - Britney Spears sing to Alice, 'Hit me baby, one more time.' "
Opening up the show is Arista recording artist Lennon, a teenager who fuses Alanis Morissette angst with an alternative metal sound on her debut CD "5:30. Saturday Morning," which was released in September.
"Dragontown," Alice Cooper (Spitfire)
A lot of metal-heads say Alice Cooper has sold out to Corporate America. He's become an expert golfer, and appears in a TV commercial warning parents to spend quality time with their children at a certain motel chain so they don't grow up to be weirdos like himself.
In many ways, "Dragontown" a diatribe against the excesses of modem American life. Several tracks decry the American preoccupation with sex and money, and how we're killing ourselves with substance abuse. But Cooper's critics have a point, and it shows on this album.
Sure, the 12 tracks are pleasant enough to listen to, with a hard beat aid topics that could make the best metal musicians wish they'd come up with the idea first. But the once-shocking rocker seems to have lost his edge. His voice isn't hard enough to keep up with the music.
Take the opening track, "Triggerman " It has the potential to become a metal classic, but Cooper's voice just Isn't strong enough to see it through. The same, is true for "Fantasy Man," which could be a new national anthem for males with its bashing of women who want their men to love Oprah and poetry and to do the dishes after dinner. But the vocals just don't pull it off.
More enjoyable is "Disgraceland," a country-style song about how Elvis Presley destroyed himself with drugs. Cooper shows he still has a sensitive side with "Every Woman Has a Name," a gentler song about how women's dreams often get tossed by the wayside as they care for their families. It's an excellent follow-up to his 1970s classic, "Only Women Bleed." It seems like all those lazy afternoons on the golf course have turned Alice Cooper into a softie. It's time for him to stop hobnobbing with corporate bigwigs and go back to those mean streets from whence he came.
A Good Old-Fashioned Ghoul
Alice Cooper, king of shock rock, has his head firmly on his shoulders (despite the guillotine)
He was the rock star our parents loved to hate. Black-clad, cobra-draped, with his ghastly white face and smeary black eye makeup, Alice Cooper was truly the Marilyn Manson of the seventies. He pushed the limits of shock rock with his sensational, lurid stage shows while his pounding anthems "School's Out" and "Eighteen," from albums with violent names like Love it To Death and Killer, were woven into the very fabric of the soundtrack of rebellious high school life. So, what does the man who looks like evil incarnate sound like? When Alice graciously agreed to a phone interview with Whoot Weekly, I had my chance to find out. Duty obliges me to report the following fact, and I, apologize, Alice, if the following information wrecks your image: from the very first words of our phone interview, the voice on the other end of the line resonated with - brace yourselves, readers - courtesy, enthusiasm, and warmth. What else would you expect, after all, from a little League coach, a devoted family man with three children who has been happily married ' to the same woman for 25 years, and who can sum up the reason in one word? ("Romance," said the king of shock rock.)
Don't worry, though; Cooper may be a Nice Guy offstage but his new album; Dragontown, is as dark as anything he has ever written, and his stage show promises to be as lurid as ever. Cooper is currently touring to support the album, and will hit the Grand Cayman in Trump Marina this Saturday; Oct. 27, which is something he couldn't be happier about. "Trump Marina has become a regular stop for us," Cooper said. "The setting is ideal, for our show, because, we're set up for a theater. Even though we play outdoors sometimes, in huge, arena-type venues, we prefer the smaller stages because our show is theatrical; it's pure' rock `n' roll.... For example, we have various characters coming on and off stage, and it's very important for the audience to be able to see them coming on and off stage." Also on tap for the show are some "surprises," Cooper said. Without giving away too much, he hinted that the notorious guillotine, long a staple for the gory finale of a Cooper show, would be pressed into extra service. "Let me say "We give a whole new meaning to Britney going topless" chuckled Cooper.
The new album, Dragontown - which is produced by Bob Ezrin, who produced "Eighteen" for Cooper almost 30 years, ago - is a sequel to last year's Brutal Planet, Cooper's apocalyptic view of a future world "a hundred years from now" in which family, technology, and society have all broken down and "nothing works." Upon finishing Planet, Cooper realized he had more to say, hence Dragontown, which is described as "the worst town on Brutal Planet... where the worst of the worst are." The two albums, which Cooper typifies as "social fiction," are based on Dante's Inferno. "The characters have two questions: how did they get here, and how do they get out?" Cooper explained.
"They got there by things they did," said Cooper; apparently they wont be getting out. "There's no working your way out of this one," Cooper stated. He hastened to add that the albums did not address political issues, but rather, dealt with moral decay, "which affects more people," said Cooper.
By creating cautionary tales such as Planet and Dragontown, Cooper is seeking both to warn and instruct his listeners, as well as shaking them out off their complacency. "I want to scare people to make them, think more about things ... the most fulfilling thing for me is when-people say, 'Alice, I got the point.'"
Cooper has stated in past interviews that he feels we are already "living in the brutal planet," and he he has made reference to the various wars going on around the world at any given time. The events of the past few weeks make his point of view particularly unsettling.
"What happened on September 11 de-virginized America," asserted Cooper. "Before, awful things were happening all over the world... a hundred thousand people would die in a year, but it didn't seem real. Now, we are in it. "
Does he think the government is doing the right thing to combat the attacks?
"I think we're doing the right thing, yes," Cooper responded. "In fact, I would do more. I wouldn't be soft."
Both Brutal Planet and Dragontown feature`s a rogue's gallery of desperate characters, and Cooper said the process of writing about them was something like undergoing psychoanalysis. "You don't always know where the ideas come from, then, two years later you get it, When I'm writing a song, I always start with a title, then I ask questions about it. For instance, with 'Wicked Young Man' (a song about a white supremacist on Brutal Planet) I started out with the phrase 'wicked young man,' and I asked who is he, and why is he ... It turned out to be about evil; this guy is really evil."
It's ironic that Alice Cooper, closet nice guy, is most comfortable writing about -evil, but there, you have it. "I like to write about the things under the bed," said Cooper.