Alice Cooper talks heavy metal, sleazy horror, and getting back in the game with Constrictor

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kevin statham photo

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, NOV. 7, 1986

By Steve Newton

Alice Cooper’s early ’70s rock anthems captured my imagination as a teenager, and have stayed with me ever since. Not only was his image so horrifically new and different, what with the ghoulish makeup, wild costumes, and weird props–but his songs were so good. “Eighteen”, “Under My Wheels”, “Desperado”, “No More Mister Nice Guy”–the list goes on and on.

A decade and a half later, those tunes still have twice the impact of anything that’s come out lately in the world of hard rock And those albums! It was like Christmas every time a new Alice album came out, and it wasn’t just the music that made it that way.

The fascination with Alice Cooper went all the way to album packaging–you could pore over his LPs for what seemed like hours. School’s Out came in a jacket that folded into a school desk, and the record came wrapped in a pair of paper panties. Killer had a detachable poster/calendar depicting Alice being hanged. Billion Dollar Babies was a snakeskin wallet unfolding with an oversized billion-dollar bill inside. Muscle of Love came in a grease-stained cardboard box.

Alice Cooper was the first, the original, the one and only. Kiss would still be just a word for bringing lips together if it wasn’t for him. And all the other bands that are raking in big bucks under the heavy metal banner owe him tremendously. But that’s okay, because the one and only has come back to regain the title of King of Nasty Rock. He’s got a new album out called Constrictor and he’s just finished rehearsals for his first tour in five years, his most massive ever, which starts on Halloween night in Detroit. That show sold out in four hours.

The last time Alice Cooper played Vancouver was on the Welcome To My Nightmare tour. And what a nightmare it turned out to be. He tripped on a wire onstage at the Pacific Coliseum, went down hard at the foot of the stage, broke all his ribs, and suffered a concussion. But that hasn’t stopped him from planning a Vancouver appearance sometime early in ’87. “I like Vancouver anyways,” chuckles the Coop. “Only this time I’m gonna go and check the stage personally.”

Alice Cooper called the Georgia Straight from southern California recently, and talked about the upcoming tour, his new LP, horror movies, and heavy metal.

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What have you been up to in the last few years? It’s been a while since you put an album out.

Yeah, well I took some time off which was perfect for me. I had to take some time off. We’d been working just forever. And also it was a time when they weren’t really playing heavy metal music. There wasn’t like the new popularity of metal or glam or whatever you’re gonna call it. But now that’s in, it’s big now. My kinda music is back in.

I see the snake and the makeup are back on the cover of Constrictor.

Absolutely. You know, I played around with a lot of image changes, and then I decided that what I wanted–and pretty much what my fans wanted–was the Alice Cooper from the Nightmare era. And so that’s pretty much what we did. I went back to that character.

Constrictor is a pretty straight-ahead rock and roll album.

Absolutely. Right down the middle.

You seem to have gotten away from the “Only Women Bleed” type of material.

Yeah, absolutely. When we put the ballads out, it was only at the time when disco was so big and that was the only way we could more or less keep in the game, in the realm of being on the radio.

But if you’ll look at the time period for that, there’s been a lot of bands kinda dropped away. Aerosmith did. Alice Cooper did. We all just did the honourable thing and got out while disco was big [laughs]. So I mean now everybody’s back with a vengeance. Aerosmith‘s back out playing, and Iggy’s back out, and Alice. This new show is absolutely diabolical. I mean it’s like Nightmare Part Two.

Can you tell me anything about it, or is it top secret?

Well, there are some special effects that I can’t really talk about. But we’re doing the guillotine again. Only it’s much more vivid this time. A lot more blood. And we have a couple of guys that worked with us on this who did some of the costuming on Aliens and The Fly.

So it’s gonna be a full blown Alice Cooper production. And I’ve got a band that’s just a real heavy street band. They’re not studio guys, they’re just killers.

Are they the same ones who play on your album?

Uh huh. [Guitarist] Kane Roberts and [bassist] Kip Winger. And when you see Kane you’re not gonna believe him. He’s like bigger than Stallone. He’s a body builder.

Like the sax player for Tina Turner?

Well he used to be in the same band as that guy, only he’s bigger than him.

And the band sounds good?

Yeah, they’re great! They’re rock! They’re animals! They’re bloodthirsty! They’re frightening! And they’re snappy dressers too.

Your new album was mainly produced by Beau Hill, who produced Ratt and groups like that. Do you think the kids that listen to bands like Ratt and Motley Crue–who were just toddlers back in the School’s Out days–will start getting into Cooper?

Oh, I think so ’cause all of those bands were a total ripoff of Alice Cooper, you know. I mean, when you look at it they’re total clone bands. If you ask any of them what their influence was, they’ll tell you Alice Cooper. Only at this point, we’re out to literally blow them off the stage. I mean I believe in the competition.

Would you call the current Alice Cooper heavy metal?

I would say it’s pretty close to heavy metal, but it’s not really heavy metal. It’s heavy Alice. I think the most important thing about it is that there’s nothing mellow about it. Alice is back totally, totally, to be more Alice than he ever was, you know. And there are parts of the show that are just… I mean every time I get home from rehearsal I have to go and clean the blood off myself. It’s great.

There’s been a lot of talk in the press about heavy metal being a bad influence, with the violence and all that. What’s your opinion on that?

I think there was more violence with punk music than there is with heavy metal, the slam dancing and stuff like that. Heavy metal is much more of a show kind of thing. With my show we have very few problems in our audience because the audience is riveted to the stage. If they look away they’re gonna miss something.

As far as Alice’s violence, Alice is a character that lashes out at three main things. I mean, there’s three things that Alice totally makes fun of, and that’s sex, death, and money. Those are the three things that he finds to be the most spiritual things with people [laughs]. Not religion or politics–those things he doesn’t touch–he only talks about sex, death, and money ’cause those are the three things that effect more people. I mean, they’ve killed Alice on stage more times than they’ve killed Jason in the Friday the 13th movies.

But there’s nothing to do with any satanism or anything like that. Then you’re talking about religion, something we ‘re not involved in. I don’t even think that those Satan bands–whoever they are–even know what they’re talkin’ about. I think it’s just sad more than anything else.

Which of the old songs will be part of your new show?

Actually about 70 percent! It’s out of demand. I get this fan mail all the time that says, “You gotta play ‘Billion Dollar Babies’.” “You gotta play ‘Eighteen’.” “You gotta play ‘Under My Wheels’.” “You gotta do ‘School’s Out’.” So like 70 percent of the show is the older stuff, and about 30 percent is the new stuff.

I was wondering whether you had a particular favourite Alice album from the ’70s.

Well no, when you’re doing that it’s like picking a child. You can’t pick out what you’re favourite kid is, you know. ‘Cause they all mean different periods of your life. I loved School’s Out and I loved all of those albums in the ’70s.

But I think the highest energy album is Constrictor. I think it’s by the far the highest energy album.

I rented your new movie last night, Monster Dog. How did you get involved in that?

Well I get like 10 scripts a week from people that want me to do movies, and I got this one that was going to be like three months in Spain, and about a million-dollar budget. And I said great, because I didn’t want to do a heavy budget movie. I said if I do one of these I want to make sure it’s sleazy. I want it to be really cheap. I said ‘How many people do we get to kill in this? [laughs]”

You’re a regular Rambo in that movie.

Yeah, I wipe out everybody. But I mean it was totally for fun. They told me it would never get released in the movie houses, and I said, “Great. It should just be one of those movies you can rent at the video place.” And they said that’s what it would be, so I did it.

Did they pay you well for that?

Oh yeah! I got a lot of money for it [laughs]. I think I was the biggest part of the budget.

Do you read many horror books?

I read a lot of Stephen King, yeah.

Have you read his new one yet, It?

I’m not reading It right now. What I’m reading is a thing called Headhunter.

headhunter-michael-slade-1986-onyx-pbk

That was written by three Vancouver lawyers [under the pseudonym Michael Slade].

Yeah, that’s right. It’s really good.

How old are you, if you don’t mind my asking?

Thirty-eight. Two years younger than Ronnie Dio [laughs]. Same age as Ozzy Osbourne. So I hate it when people say Alice is older than anybody. I’m not! I’m actually younger than most of them. It’s just that I’ve been popular longer than any of them [laughs].

 

To hear the full audio of my 1986 interview with Alice Cooper subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on nearly 300 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

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Taj Mahal, 2001
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Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
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Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
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Joe Satriani, 1990
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Alice Cooper, 1986
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Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
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Joe Bonamassa, 2011
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John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
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Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
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Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
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Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
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Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
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Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
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…with hundreds more to come

2 thoughts on “Alice Cooper talks heavy metal, sleazy horror, and getting back in the game with Constrictor

  1. Great interview Newt! Brought back some great memories, as I’ve been an avid Coop fan, since “Pretties For You”. I was at the “Welcome to My Nightmare” show in Van. He didn’t trip on a wire. He climbed into the toybox prop & it wasn’t secured to the stage. It threw him backwards & his heels took out a foot light & he broke his ribs & smashed his head on the barricade. He ended up 2 feet in front of me! The crowd rushed the stage & the bouncers were side arming fans to get him back on stage. The guy beside me caught his remote mic & handed it back to the bouncers. (I would have kept it) lol. Also, Stallone is a shrimp, compared to Tony Kane. I’ve met them both. Tony is taller than me & Sly is about a foot shorter.

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