An innovative hard rock band formed in 1964, and after seven successful studio albums, the lead singer went solo and adapted the group’s name as his own in 1975, Alice Cooper. Considered The Godfather of Shock Rock, Alice Cooper’s persona and stage show was like nothing that audiences had seen before. His concerts often feature guillotines, electric chairs, poisonous snakes, blood, and evil imagery that’s more likely to be found in a horror film than at a concert. In 2011, the Alice Cooper band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Alice Cooper’s 54-year career has thrived not only because of his persona and dynamic stage shows but more so because of his musical talent. Cooper released his 27th album in 2017, titled Paranormal, and it featured collaborations with a variety of iconic musicians, such as ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, U2’s Larry Mullen Jr., Deep Purple’s Roger Glover, and the three original Alice Cooper band members: Neal Smith, Dennis Dunaway, and Michael Bruce. On August 31, Alice Cooper’s new live album will debut, A Paranormal Evening at the Olympia Paris.
The multi-talented artist is keeping busy with his new tour, “A Paranormal Evening with Alice Cooper,” and working on his new studio albums that are set to be released in 2019, including two from his side project, The Hollywood Vampires. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with the rock legend, and we discussed his current tour, what it was like to reunite with his original band, his future projects, and more.
Carter Lee: Hello, sir. How are you?
Alice Cooper: I’m great. How are you?
CL: I’m doing awesome. I really appreciate your time. This is incredibly special for me.
AC: Thank you. I appreciate it.
CL: You’re on your current tour, ‘A Paranormal Evening with Alice Cooper.’ One of the things I admire about you is that any time I see a concert of yours or footage of your concerts, dating back to the ’70s, your stage shows are so incredible that it’s hard to imagine that you could outdo them in the next tour. Yet, each following tour seems to outdo itself every decade. I look forward to seeing you when you come here to Houston. What can fans look forward to with ‘A Paranormal Evening’? Any new illusions?
AC: Well, there’s always new things you can do on stage, but I think one of the main things about this is that fact that—you go through a lot of bands, a lot of combination of people, especially if you’re a lead singer. You know, one guitar player will leave, you’ll add another, it changes the sound a little bit—I think right now, I’ve got the primo touring band.
I mean, my drummer [Glen Sobel] just won Best Drummer in rock ‘n’ roll, and Nita Strauss just won Best Female Guitar Player. It’s one of those things where everybody in the band are best friends, and they’re the best band. So, it’s really hard to get bored doing that, especially with a show that never stops. Once the show starts, it starts in fourth gear and stays there, so we never give the audience a chance to rest. You’ll be bombarded by imagery that night.
CL: That’s so cool. I can’t wait for it. I’ve been hearing great things.
AC: Oh, thank you. I don’t think we’ve ever lost the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll; when I get on stage, I want to hear big power chords. I want to hear drums. I certainly don’t want to hear anything mellow up there—I want to hear the place just go crazy.
CL: And you’ve never failed to entice the place to go crazy.
AC: That’s great. Thank you!
CL: My pleasure. A year ago, you released your 27th studio album, Paranormal, which is an incredible feat on its own. Most bands can’t figure out how to stay relevant, let alone release 27 studio albums. On that album, you reunited with Neal Smith, Dennis Dunaway, and Michael Bruce from the original Cooper band. What was it like getting the band back together?
AC: There’s a joke about that. A friend of mine, a comedian, he says, [Laughing] ‘Yeah, I went back home and tried to put the ole band back together, but they just didn’t want to march anymore.’ Working with Neal, and Dennis, and Mike, I’ve known them all my life, nobody has changed a bit; Dennis is Dennis, Neal is Neal, I am me, Mike is Mike, we all went different directions, but when the band broke up, we did not break up with any bad blood. There were no lawsuits. There was no anger. None of that stuff was going on. So, we always stayed in touch.
Going back into the studio with these guys, the only thing I said I wanted to do was, I don’t want to layer things. I don’t want to put the drums and bass on first, and then put the guitar on, and then put the vocals on. I said, ‘We were always a good live band. Let’s record everything live.’ So, the three songs that we did on the album, we did live in the studio.
To me, that’s why it sounded good because it was the original band playing live. When people hear that, I think they heard a familiar sound that was a warm sound to them and they go, ‘Oh, I remember that.’ And when I play with my original band, it feels more dangerous than when I play with my tour band.
CL: Dangerous in what regard?
AC: Just the whole thing. There was a British review when we played London, and I did the whole show with my touring band, and they said, ‘Wow, that was sparkling. It just clicked, and it was perfect.’ And then on the last five songs, the curtain opened up and it was my original band, and they said, ‘It was just one of those really great crisp evenings, and then it got dangerous.’ And they were talking about, I sang totally differently when I sang with my original band. They said there was a lot more threat involved in it, and that’s how the original band played. They played a little slower, a little heavier, and it had some kind of sinister sound to it.
CL: For sure. Speaking of live performances, you’ve got a new live album coming out soon, A Paranormal Evening at the Olympia Paris. I found some old footage of the Alice Cooper group playing the Olympia in 1972.
AC: Oh, wow.
CL: Was this the first time that you returned to the Olympia since ’72?
AC: No, we’ve been there a couple times since then. I happened to be there one night when Slash was in town, and I went up and did two or three songs with Slash. It’s always fun to play the Olympia. To me, I almost like playing theaters more than I like playing arenas because I think the audience gets a better view of what Alice is in a theater situation. There’s a ton of more money in doing festivals and doing big arenas, and that’s great because the show fits in that too, but I just always like our shows better in a theater.
CL: A little bit more intimate, for sure.
AC: Yeah, and everybody can see detail, and that’s the important thing, the detail in the show.
CL: Absolutely. You also formed another band alongside Johnny Depp and Joe Perry, The Hollywood Vampires. I loved your 2015 album, is there another one in the works?
AC: Yeah, actually. Over the next year, I’ve got four albums coming out. I’ve got a studio album from the Vampires that Johnny, and Tommy, and myself did most of the writing on. All original, no covers this time. There might be one cover that Johnny wants to do, but the rest of it is all original.
And then we have a live album from the Vampires from Montreux Jazz Festival that came out really, really good. Then we’ve got a new studio Alice album out, which will be the answer to Paranormal. Then our live album from Paris. Four albums coming out next year and everybody says, ‘Are you slowing down?’ [Laughing] It doesn’t seem like it [Laughing].
CL: [Laughing] Right?! Far from it. That’s awesome. It’s no secret that you’re a big fan of horror movies and that you got part of your persona from Bette Davis’ character in ‘What Ever Happened to Baby Jane’?
CL: You’ve acted in a couple of horror films, including John Carpenter’s ‘Prince of Darkness.’ I’m a huge horror movie buff and working on my first screenplay right now.
AC: Oh, good, good.
CL: Any thoughts on ever making your own feature-length film? You clearly have a great eye for production, judging by your concerts. You love the genre. Any temptation to, kind of, delve into that realm?
AC: There’s always that thought, and I know Rob Zombie very well. And Rob says you know, what you think is going to happen never happens. He said that he’s never done a movie yet that’s the movie he wanted to do. When you get into big budget film, there’s 90 people that get their fingers in it, and they go, ‘Well, we’re putting the money up for it, so I don’t like this scene there, and I don’t like that character there.’
They start directing the movie for you! I think if you’re going to do a horror movie, you have to produce it yourself, you have to direct it yourself, you have to write it yourself, and then you can get what you actually want.
With all of the touring, and especially with Johnny and Joe and those guys, and my band, it takes up just about all the time. If somebody offered me a good part in a good film, I would definitely take two or four months off. I never get tired of [touring], so that’s a good thing. If this ever became a job to me, I would probably never do it anymore. It’s not a job, it’s a bit of an addiction.
CL: That’s cool and refreshing to hear. I appreciate your time, sir. Thank you much.
AC: I’ll see you in Houston.
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