Alice Cooper

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Alice Cooper was last in Australia as support to Mötley Crüe on the latter’s ‘Final Tour’ in 2015, with many punters believing he upstaged the main act.

Regardless, Cooper will be out here again this October headlining his own run on the ‘Spend The Night With Alice Cooper’ tour with Ace Frehley in tow.

“The Alice Cooper show has got quite a reputation,” observed Cooper on his run with Mötley Crüe. “It’s almost like going to see Cirque du Soleil; it’s always expected to be really interesting and you know it’s gonna rock. So when we play with other bands, Mötley Crüe or anybody like that, especially when a band is doing a farewell tour, you kind of… I don’t know, it’s sort of like the death throes of a band. Every once in a while, you notice a certain lack of energy in it, so I’m never gonna do a final tour!”

“We’re doing something different on this upcoming tour,” he continued. “About once a week, we’re changing songs, so if you come and see the show and then come and see it again two weeks later there are two or three different songs in there. We never, ever do that but we’re doing a lot of rearranging this time to please everyone.”

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While the name of the tour suggests something a little more intimate, Cooper is quick to point out that an Alice Cooper show is always going to be a full-on aural assault.

“It is what it always is,” he replied cryptically. “It’s going to be a theatrical production; it’s gonna be all the hits. And I think that for me, the most important thing with the band is that it is probably the best touring band I’ve ever worked with and it’s really great to see the reviews where they review the music first and then the theatrics, which is really kind of unique for me. For fifty years, it’s always been the theatrics first and then they mention how good the songs were. Now they’re talking about how good the guitar players are, how good the drummer is, and how good the songs are and to me that’s really refreshing.”

Featuring three guitarists, Cooper says the backing band is set to produce a massive sound that justifies these statements.

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“I have one guitar player who I kind of look at as being my anchor,” he enthused. “You always want a guy who’s like a John Lennon that just covers rhythm and making sure all those parts are there. And then I have Ryan Roxie who is just a superb blues rock guitar player, and then I’ve got ‘Hurricane’ Nita Strauss. She’s just 27 years old and she looks like a model but she plays like Steve Vai. I’ve got a shredder and I’ve got a rock and roll player so I can really let loose on the guitar solos.”

While perhaps better known for his stage props and theatrics, Cooper reveals that more time is spent on the music rather than the stage show, especially in rehearsal.

“You’d be surprised,” he affirmed. “We do an eight-hour rehearsal and seven hours of that is the music because you really have to have the cake before you put the icing on top, so to me if you don’t have the music then you’ve really only got a puppet show up there. I always really, really make sure that the band is super rehearsed so that when we get on stage the last thing that we have to worry about is music. Then we really let go with the theatrics because once you have the basics down then it sets you free to do that.”

Cooper introduced the stage show to his performance early on his career, realizing that sometimes good music wasn’t enough to hold people’s attention. To this day he maintains having some form of gimmick is vital to ensuring success.

“I think it’s very important,” he stressed, “and it’s something that is really lacking right now. I think that there’s a lot of bands that—especially young bands—I find are anaemic. They don’t seem to have a lot of personality. They don’t seem to care about the idea that people are paying to see them play. To me, my idea… and probably The Who’s idea and Led Zeppelin’s idea and certainly Ozzy Osbourne and Aerosmith’s idea was… yeah, of course, you’re gonna do your songs, but you’ve got to do a show around it. You’ve gotta give the audience their money’s worth, and I think that’s really lacking now with young bands. They seem to get up there and be very introspective and they don’t really care about their image and they don’t really care if the audience is getting off on the whole thing, but that’s not all bands. Green Day will always give you a good show, as will the Foo Fighters, but I notice when I go to see a young band I’ll sit there and I’ll think geez, you guys are just phoning it in. They’re not giving me everything that they can give me.”

Despite experimenting with different sounds throughout his career, including rock, hard rock, heavy metal, glam rock and new age, Cooper says the definitive Alice Cooper sound has always remained constant.

“I’m a Detroit hard rock guitar band,” he stated. “I think most of the bands from my era were based in blues rock. We’re much more. If you trace us back, you can trace us and the Rolling Stones and The Who and The Kinks and everybody back to Chuck Berry. He’s sort of the patron saint of the kind of music we do. But then, each one of those bands invents themselves around that kind of music. You suddenly find what your personality is and that’s your sound. We’re a blues rock band, but you would never catch us doing a blues song even though we are based in that kind of thing (laughs).”

Alice Cooper has not always been the juggernaut he is today. In fact, after early failures with his first two albums, “Pretties For You” and “Easy Action”, it wasn’t until the unlikely breakthrough success of his third album – and the last of his three record contract – “Love It to Death”, that Cooper’s career began to flourish.

“I think that early failure actually encouraged us,” he recalled. “One of the first reviews that we ever got for “Pretties For You”, and the only person who ever really liked that album, was Frank Zappa, and that was because he said he didn’t get it and I asked if that was good to which he replied, ‘Yeah, if you can make Frank Zappa say I don’t get it then it’s pretty good’ (laughs). But that was very, very early Alice stuff that was experimental and we were really just doing… we had no rules at all. When we got Bob Ezrin in, all of a sudden, our third album “Love It to Death” and then “Killer” and “Billion Dollar Babies” and “School’s Out”, those albums were very disciplined when it comes to playing – what was gonna get played and what wasn’t. We trimmed a lot of the fat off it and Bob was really like our George Martin. He kind of, like, found all the really good stuff and said, ‘Okay, let’s leave this stuff out and leave the holes and it’ll move’ and we listened to him and all those albums were platinum albums.”

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When Alice Cooper first entered the music world in the late 1960’s the landscape was vastly different to that of today, and it is to his state of relative freedom to. It was a period of time when people wanted rock bands to invent something new,” he recalled.

“They gave us the license to invent. David Bowie and Alice and T-Rex and all these bands, they didn’t really say, ‘Okay, it has to sound like this’. They kind of went, ‘We are willing to listen to something completely new’. When they heard “Love it to Death” and then “Killer”, all of a sudden they accepted it and said this is really good rock and roll but with a different twist on it. Now, I think it’s a different thing. Now, I think that if you’re gonna get airplay you almost have to have a formula. I don’t think we even worry about airplay anymore. When I make an album now, I make an album for my fans. I don’t really make an album to try and win new people so when I make an album I make one that is gonna be interesting for the Alice Cooper Band first and foremost.”

After spending the 1970’s solidifying his audience, Cooper lost his way in the early 1980’s with a succession of albums such as “Flush the Fashion”, “Special Forces”, “Zipper Catches Skin” and “DaDa” that failed critically and commercially and threatened to bring a premature end to his career. It was a period where Cooper was consumed by drugs and alcohol and wasn’t arrested until the release of “Constrictor” in 1986.

“That was during what I call my ‘blackout period’,” he revealed without a hint of regret. “I was doing everything in the world. I was doing every kind of pharmaceutical and everything else back then but I was still making albums, and in some cases, they were very interesting (laughs). Albums like “DaDa” and “Zipper Catches Skin”, I listen to them now and think, ‘Wow, those songs are really interesting”. They’re not produced really well and they’re not played that well, but I listen to the songs and think that my drunken and drug-addled brain was actually creating something really different. I would love to go back at this point now and re-record all of those albums (laughs). Our new album is coming out in July and it’s called “Paranormal” and Bob Ezrin and I decided this time we’re gonna do an album of things that we like, so there’s no storyline in there but every single song is something that we listen to and go, ‘WOW!’ We’re very happy with this album. Larry Mullin from U2 plays drums on it and Billy Gibbs plays some guitar and Glenn Buxton, Neal Smith and Mike Bruce – my original guys – we have three songs that we put on there, so it’s a really interesting album. I think when people hear it they’re gonna think it’s definitely something that we want Alice to put out and sound like.”

Despite media reports of altercations with other profile bands and musicians including KISS and David Bowie, Cooper maintains there never has, nor will be any lingering problems with either of them, and that as a whole, he has a cordial relationship with most of the music world.

“We met KISS and actually told them where to buy their make up!” he laughed. “KISS and Alice Cooper have always been friends. I think a lot of times people thought there was going to be a gigantic problem with KISS when they came out because of this and that but we were friends the whole time. Same with Bowie and me. There was never a time when he and I were at each other’s throats because we were at odds and people always wanted there to be some rivalry, but I think that’s more invented. I was always… I would encourage David Bowie and he would encourage me. We would listen to each other’s albums and it would push us. I would listen to his and think, ‘Wow, this is really good, our next album’s gotta be as good’. I like the idea of friendly competition, but I’ve never really had any enemies in this business at all.

Written by Kris Peters

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Written by Dave Griffiths

Dave has worked as a music & film journalist for over 20 years now. Aside from Heavy he does radio and various podcasts as well. He is the proud owner of Metal Cat.

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