Winnipeg Sun

Originally Published: May 21, 1999

Go Ask Alice

Shock-rock originator Alice Cooper has nothing to hide

Author: Darryl Sterdan

Shock rocker? Guess again -- these days, Alice Cooper is more of a jock rocker.

"I just want you to know we're taking care of the Jets down here," says the 51-year-old rock legend from his home in Phoenix, Ariz. "I have friends from Winnipeg. They come down here in the winter and they feel right at home because the Coyotes are playing. I'm even one of their honourary captains."

From rock god with a snake to celebrity captain with the Coyotes -- Alice has come a long way, baby. And recently, the original Billion Dollar Baby spoke to The Sun about his controversial glam-rock past, his new career-spanning box set, his famous golf and TV habits, and what it takes to shock even him.

Back in the '60s, you were ground zero for the whole shock-rock trend.

Yeah, I was the shock-rock demon. I had no rules. The only rule I had was that (songs) couldn't be political and couldn't be religious. Instead, it was sex, death and money. Those were the things -- cars, girls, switchblades, Clockwork Orange, simulated violence, cartoons. All of that made up Alice cooper. He was a Frankenstein, a piece of a lot of different things all sewn together -- almost like some sort of strange hallucination.

We might not have Marilyn Manson and his ilk without you. Do you feel any sense of responsibility or regret for what you started when tragedies like Littleton, Colo., occur?

No, not really, because I think that would have happened even if there had been no music at all. I don't think that had anything to do with music. I think that had to do with personal sickness. Nothing like that happens out of a normal situation. Pop culture gets blamed because it's the easiest target. You can't explain this; it would take a roomful of psychologists to figure out what happened with these guys. So the easiest way to explain it is, 'Well, what are they listening to? What games are they playing?' I don't think that has anything to do with it. So no, I don't feel responsible at all. I feel responsible for entertaining an audience. And even I had my limits. I had places where I wouldn't go.

So even you feel there should be limits in rock.

If there was a band that said, 'I want you to kill everybody at your school, and here's how you do it,' and they weren't being funny about it, and then something happened, I would say, 'There's a lot of responsibility there.' But taking a lyric of a song and trying to claim it caused something is absurd. Because, you know, nowadays, it's very hard to really shock or influence an audience. It's easy to titillate them, and it's easy to tease them. But to really shock them? It's really hard to out-shock CNN. Talk about shocking an audience! When I heard (about Littleton), that shocked me. Shock rock can't compete with that. I don't even try. I try to entertain and leave people with a good taste in their mouth. I don't think anything I've ever written told an audience to do anything. I always said, 'This is what happened to Alice.' I would always use Alice as the whipping boy. And Alice always got his just desserts; he always got killed in the end.

And offstage, you're -- to quote one of your own songs -- a model citizen.

Well, there are two Alices -- the stage Alice is one Alice. If you come to see an Alice Cooper show, you definitely would not be disappointed in that Alice. But you might be disappointed to see me on the street because I'm not wearing a boa constrictor around my neck. But I never, ever said that I was going to be Alice all the time. I said that when Alice goes onstage, I would be Alice, but offstage, I never promised to be Alice. I don't even think I would want to. Who would want to be him all day?

What is your day like?

Well, I'm a musician. I spend a lot of time writing music. Of course, I golf most days. I play about five times a week. I play every morning and write music in the afternoon.

How's the golf game these days?

Not bad -- I'm a four handicap. If you looked at Alice onstage and said, 'That guy's a four handicap?' I would say, 'No, that guy isn't. That guy up on stage can't play golf at all. But the guy that created him can.'

Who's the most interesting person you've ever golfed with?

I've played with everyone from Dweezil Zappa to Johnny Mathis. It's funny, when you get out there on the course, it doesn't matter what you do for a living. You could play with the president of the United States and never once mention anything political. Not that I have ever played with the president; he's had the good taste not to play with me. Or vice versa.

Do you still watch a lot of TV? You used to be a notorious addict.

I still have 22 TVs in my house.

How many is that per room?

Well, I've got a pretty big house. But there are some rooms where there's three or four in the room. Different sizes, different shows. I put TV on as a tranquilizer. I'll sit there and watch and two hours later I'll realize that I've been watching in Spanish. And I haven't even noticed because I was thinking about something else totally.

Any favourite shows?

I love The Simpsons. That's probably the most clever show on television. The writing is great. I watch The X-Files all the time. And The Andy Griffith Show; can't miss Barney Fife. That's one of the guilty pleasures that I have. And ESPN, I watch a lot of ESPN. I'm a jock, I don't mind admitting it.

You just released the four-CD Life And Crimes Of Alice Cooper box set, which has plenty of input and reminiscences from your old band members. Does that mean there's a reunion tour in the works?

No. I've got two albums that I'm working on right now with all-new material. I've got a tour coming up that I'll be on for four or five months. No, there's no reunion at all. That's really never been in the works. But the original guys in the band are still some of my best friends. When we broke up in the '70s, we didn't leave with bad words. It was just that they didn't want to do theatrics anymore and I did. I wanted to take it to the next Level. But I talk to Dennis (Dunaway, bassist) and Neal (Smith, drummer) all the time. Mike (Bruce, guitarist) drifts in and out of my life. And that old gang, we get together and play. I have a restaurant called Cooper's Town here in Phoenix. It's got a stage and about two months ago, we did an hour show. But a real reunion wouldn't work.

Why not?

I don't live in the past, in some sort of nostalgic state. When I'm 70 years old, I might look back and get nostalgic. And maybe then we'll have a nice senior citizens' band and it'll be great. But if I got together with the old band now, it's like saying, 'Well, I can't think of anything new, so I'd better just revert back to what I used to do.' And I'm just not ready for that yet.