Alice Cooper on horror, censorship, and battling the PMRC with Raise Your Fist and Yell


By Steve Newton

I bought Alice Cooper’s Killer album last month. That’s right, I’m 30 years old, and I went out and laid down $8.99 for the record with “Dead Babies” on it. Now some people might think: “How immature. Doesn’t the guy have any taste?” But I don’t care. In fact, tomorrow I think I’ll go out and buy a copy of School’s Out as well.

From where I stand, Alice Cooper’s early ’70s albums contained some of the best, most musical guitar-rock tunes ever recorded. Killer alone boasted a whole batch, songs like “Under My Wheels”, “Be My Lover”, “Desperado”, “You Drive Me Nervous”, and “Yeah Yeah Yeah”. Those old gems are the main reason I’m going to see Alice Cooper’s concert at the Pacific Coliseum on December 28, his first local appearance since he injured himself falling off the Coliseum stage in 1975.

Cooper’s return to the concert scene kicked off in Detroit on Halloween night of last year. According to Alice, who called the Georgia Straight recently, it didn’t take long to get back into the live groove.

“It took a little while but I think once you get back on stage and get in front of an audience, it all comes right back. In fact that was the first time that I ever played in front of an audience straight–without drinking. So that was a big adjustment for me, although I did find that it was a lot easier performing like that.”

Cooper’s current tour, in conjunction with the release of his new album Raise Your Fist and Yell, is different from last year’s in a number of ways. For one thing, Alice doesn’t lost his head every night anymore. The guillotine segment is out, and the hanging is back in. Cooper’s pet snake, Julius Squeezer, will show up of course. And there are also a lot of extras who perform as dancers/actors/stuntmen. “You have to be pretty fast on your feet,” says Alice, “or you could get killed on our stage.”

Although Alice Cooper’s latest album is selling well among today’s teen headbangers, those of us who thrived on his earlier work can see that it’s worlds apart musically. The new songs just don’t have the staying power as the old, although Cooper denies that they are a contrived attempt to jump on today’s metal bandwagon.

“There is more of a metal flair to it” he says, “but I really don’t want Alice to live in the past at all, you know. And even when we do a song like ‘No More Mister Nice Guy’ or “Under My Wheels’, we’re doing it 1988-style.

“But I’ve always wanted to do harder rock anyway, ” continues the Coop. “I think in the ’70s we actually didn’t go far enough, rock ‘n’ roll wise. I think everybody was too much into big production, whereas my biggest influences were the Yardbirds and early Who. So when this came around it was terrific for me, ’cause I said ‘That’s great. That’s what I wanted to sound like anyway.'”

Nowadays Cooper’s band features flash guitarist Kane Roberts, a musclebound Rambo type who has speed to burn. His style is a lot different from that of original axemen Michael Bruce and Glen Buxton, who were both powerful and tasty as hell. Cooper’s recording career took a down-turn after the original lineup folded, but he says that today there are no bad feelings about the breakup. In fact, his old rhythm section–bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neil Smith–came down to visit Alice at his show in New Haven, Connecticut last month.

Unlike Cooper, who’s back in the thick of things these days, his old bandmates are pretty well divorced from the music biz. “They did pretty well [financially] with the original band,” explains Alice, “and they have businesses and things like that. They’re all really great guys, so we’re still friends.”

As well as being back on the record charts, Alice Cooper has been active lately in another of his great loves–horror movies. Last year he starred in a low-budget, made-in-Spain splatter flick that was appropriately titled Monster Dog. More recently he could be seen playing a possessed street schizoid in John Carpenter’s latest horror film, Prince of Darkness. “That was fun,” chuckles Cooper. “I actually put a Schwinn bicycle through a guy’s chest.”

As well as being a fan of director Carpenter, gore-hound Cooper says he’s also impressed by the work of newcomer Clive Barker. “I really liked Hellraiser,” says Alice of Barker’s directorial debut. “And right now I’m reading his Books of Blood. He’s a pretty interesting guy.”

Interesting yes, and maybe a little twisted too. When yours truly interviewed Barker recently, he told me that he was the type of guy who’d like to go to an autopsy! The thought of this was enough to startle even the king of shock-rock himself. “Wow,” mused Alice. “I don’t think I would. I have enough autopsy on stage.”

Not real autopsy, of course, although Cooper is famous for spilling his fair share of fake blood on stage. He was mixing horror and rock way before Gene Simmons thought it would be nifty to pretend he was a demon and spout red soup. However, Cooper’s grisly shenanigans have not won him a place in the hearts of do-gooders like the United States’ PMRC (Parents Music Resource Centre).

“When the PMRC heard that Alice Cooper was back on the scene with [his previous album] Constrictor, they immediately put us on the top of their hit list. They even put a thing in the New York newspaper saying Alice Cooper’s out, and warning families to forget all the other bands–this is the one you have to worry about.”

Cooper fought back against the PMRC’s attack in “Freedom”, the opening track of Raise Your Fist and Yell. “Stop pretending that you’ve never been bad/You’re never wrong and you’ve never been dirty/You’re such a saint, that ain’t the way we see you/You want to rule us with an iron hand/You change the lyrics and become Big Brother/This ain’t Russia, you ain’t my Dad or Mother.”

“That whole song was totally written about them,” says Alice. “I wrote it on the level of saying, look, anybody that starts out with a premise that all kids are created stupid…I can’t understand it, but that’s really what they say! They don’t understand that these kids grew up with the Friday the 13th movies. They understand satire and they understand humour. They understand what Alice is about.”

Has Alice Cooper’s rebellious stance and willingness to expose the nasty side of life caused the group to be banned anywhere lately?

“Well, we haven’t been banned yet, but I’m sure it’s coming up, ’cause we’re going down to the south next, and that’s where they like to ban you. We’re going to be doing Nashville and Louisiana next, that whole area, and I got a feeling that they’re waiting for us down there.

“But that’s fine,” chuckles Alice. “I mean, the more you get banned, the better.”

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