20 Aug 2012

Alice Cooper Interview

Alice Cooper entered the small meeting room of the Radisson Hotel in Göteborg, where I had been waiting. He mumbled some words to his assistant as he came in and went forward to greet me. He took a seat, and facing his assistant at the other side of the table he asked him if he found a good movie for the whole band to go and watch that night...

Interview to George Anasontzis

 

alicecooper 017
Alice Cooper: Only Men in Black III is playing? What about the theater, either here or walkable?
Rockpages.gr: Everything is close-by.
Alice Cooper: And everything is in English!
Kyle Killer: All the movies… it’s crazy.
Alice Cooper: Which is great for us (laughs). You know, we have seen every movie… (turns to Kyle) What about Snow White?

And as Kyle goes through the movie program for that night, we start talking about their show, the previous night.

alicecooper 020Rockpages.gr: It was a great show yesterday.
Alice Cooper: Thank you, thank you. We had fun. It’s a really good band. Everybody is handpicked in this band and the great thing about it is not only that they are all great players, but they understand how to perform an Alice Cooper show. And the best of friends. So, even on days off, they hang out together, they go out, you know, to movies or shopping or golf or whatever they gonna do. And there is nobody that is sort of a loner, or doesn’t hang out. It’s great to have a band that is really like that. It makes it easier for everybody.
Rockpages.gr: If they are close off stage, they are also close on stage.
Alice Cooper: Yeah, yeah. They are close off stage and on stage, so that’s great. I know bands that don’t wanna talk to each other. We played with bands before and they were surprised that on a night off, we were all going to a movie. And the guy goes “I don’t even see the guys in my band, until I get on stage”. They don’t go to dinner, they don’t… talk, you know. They hate each other.
alicecooper 030Rockpages.gr: Is this something new for the Alice Cooper band?
Alice Cooper: No, no, I always picked people that liked each other. To me, it’s really important that it’s a family affair. I tried to make it so that everyone is really having fun in the show and they take pride that the show is different from anybody else’s show. A lot of these people come out of bands that are just… you know… (ed. he pretends like playing with a low profile) and this band you’ve got to get extrovert. And you have to become something other than (what) you were before. And they all do it. They get into the real-show part of it. Orianthi when she first started was a little bit shy. Now she got blood coming out of her mouth and she’s great on stage.
Rockpages.gr: I thought that was part of the contract…
Alice Cooper: Well, I didn’t tell her to put the blood there, she just put it there, which is great; every night she gets a little more insane. (laughs)
Rockpages.gr: She gets in the role.
Alice Cooper: She likes to play the part, yeah.
alicecooper 043Rockpages.gr: Just half the band was the same in Greece (in 2004)…
Alice Cooper: Yeah, Chuck Garrick, Ryan Roxie, and myself were the three that were actually in that band. And of course, that was when we had Eric Singer… There are many great players and everybody knows everybody, so on this tour, I had a choice of Keri Kelly or Ryan Roxie and I could have gone either way. I had Keri in the band but I thought that, on this tour, I will get Roxie back in the band, just to change it up. And it just happens that Ryan and Ori play great together. Their sound really mixes well together, so that was a good choice.
Rockpages.gr: Was Ryan easily convinced?
Alice Cooper: Oh yeah, he really wanted to be back to the band. It was actually Ryan who had called and had said that Keri was one of his best friends and he would play a lot with him. So, every once in a while, he would just come up and play with us. So, when Ryan left the band, the first person we got was Keri. Ryan even told us, Keri Kelly is the guy you want. So, Keri is sort of in and out of the band but he’s still part of the family. Anybody that’s been in the band, Damon Johnson, people like that, are always in the family. Eric Singer hasn’t been with us for almost, what, ten years, but he’s still part of the family.
alicecooper 046Rockpages.gr: But this should be the first time you have a girl in the band?
Alice Cooper: Yes, and you know, there wasn’t the idea to get a girl in the band. It was getting a guitar player. If I had just heard the guitar, I would have said, whoever that is, I want that person. It’s just so happens that it’s phenomenal, this girl. And what she plays at my show isn’t even what she is best at. She’s a great blues player. When you listen to her play slide and blues, it’s unbelievable. Sounds like Stevie Ray Vaughan. There is no real place in our show for that. But I don’t bother. I tell her “Do a metal solo”. Turn on the Jimmi Hendrix stuff, you know. And people are just shocked when they see her play, because she’s so pretty, you look at her you are… Wow… eye-candy. And then when she plays you realize that she is as good a guitar player as anyone I ever had. So, I give her a solo, I say, knock them out. Give them like two minutes of your best stuff. She’s one of those girls that gets better and better all the time. In five years, she’ll be an even better guitar player. So hopefully I can hold on with her until then.
Rockpages.gr: And she’s half Greek…
Alice Cooper: Yes… Orianthi. And I can’t even pronounce her last name. She’s Greek though and Australian. Is that a common name? Orianthi?
Rockpages.gr: Not really.
Alice Cooper: I’ve never heard that name.
alicecooper 048Rockpages.gr: Do you know what it means?
Alice Cooper: Does it mean great guitar player? (laughs)
Rockpages.gr: It means beautiful flower [ed. in retrospect, it probably means flower of the mountain]
Alice Cooper: Really? Well, I guess sometimes she is a beautiful flower. But when she’s on stage, she’s a terror (laughs).
Rockpages.gr: Has the fact that you have a girl in the band brought any competition between the other members?
Alice Cooper: No. It’s a funny thing. She gets treated like everybody else. She has her own dressing room of course, but you know, she fits right in there in the band. She’s just one of the guys. When they are jamming and getting ready to play, she’s right in the middle of it. It’s great to have a band you can depend on. I know that no matter what happens, the band is going to play great. And even the fact that we don’t have Glen (Sobel), who was our A drummer… Jonathan Mover who is one of the best drummers around, we were lucky to get him at the last minute. Glen got in the middle of some torn pulley, or so [neck problems – Ed.] and could not play. And we were stuck. We were going through drummers’ names and somebody mentioned Jonathan Mover. If we can get Jonathan Mover we are fine. He came in and knew every song in one day. And a lot of complicated stuff, Halo of Flies, the Black Widow, there are five or six songs that they are not just you “come and 4/4” songs. They are really, pretty complicated. And he came and he knew all of them.
alicecooper 057Rockpages.gr: But back to having Orianthi in the band… it hasn’t provoked the other guys, to impress her or so?
Alice Cooper: No. You know I will tell you why. Tommy (Henriksen) and Oreo are best friends, Tommy is not married. Ryan was married but he isn’t married now. Jonathan Mover is not married. Myself and Chuck are married. She does not come in as a sexual problem, because they treat her like if she was Jeff Beck. If she was Jimmy Page. I don’t think they even look at her that way. We can only look at her as our little sister. And if there is a guy who comes around her, we are like “Hey, who are you”. We kind of treat her like our little sister. So, she’s protected… hehe. She does have a boyfriend too, who is an actor and a musician. So, we told them, don’t worry, we’ll take care of her. The reality is that she can really beat the hell out of all of us… hahahaha. In this band, everyone is so tight, everybody knows everybody, everybody knows everybody’s family. Cause we all hang out, we all go out for dinner. If you were trying to get away with something, like if you were trying to cheat on your wife, everybody would know it. There is nothing secret in this band at all. It’s kind of good in a setup like that. In the old days, we used to have a ball scores. None of us was married. So, David Lieber we get on the plane and we go “Ball Scores!” he’d say. “Glen, 2, New Jersey, nothing” hahaha. “Alice Cooper, one! New Jersey, nothing!” and then “Neil! Was that a guy or a girl last night?” (laughs). But there was the ball score every night, how many people scored.
Rockpages.gr: Ever miss those days?
Alice Cooper: No no no… I’ve been married 36 years and never cheated on Sheryl.
alicecooper 062Rockpages.gr: Last night was an interesting show. You were playing in Liseberg and Liseberg is an amusement park… for kids!
Alice Cooper: 22000 people! We broke the record last night. They said they never had anyone nearly as many people. It was in the papers today that it shattered the record. We broke the record there, Italy, France… in this tour we broke four records for attendance. It’s been a really good tour. And to me a stage is a stage. I don’t care where it is. I don’t care if it’s in the middle of this hotel. As long as the people are all there.
Rockpages.gr: That’s for sure. But you know, people were asking me “Is he playing there?”. It’s a horror show in an amusement park for children.
Alice Cooper: Well, I tell you what I like to do; on a lot of tours we play big outdoor shows. With Iron Maiden or Rob Zombie, we are doing two headlining acts. Three shows a week. But with this show it’s much creepier in a theatre situation. Sometimes, in other tours we did nothing but theatres. Instead of going in and play 10000, we play 2500, and the ticket was really hard to get. But the shows were so good in theatres, that I selected just theatres this time. And we found these old theatres in the Midwest, in New York or Pennsylvania and it became a very hard ticket to get. But it was the coolest place to see Alice Cooper, with the old-theatre tour. Now, I watch a show called Ghost Hunters, where these guys are real guys, they have all this great equipment, they say, “we had a lot of paranormal activity”. Half of the theatres we played, they have been in and they say “we keep getting voices, we hear footsteps, a guy got hung here”, and I’m sitting there, in that dressing room, watching it on television, on one of the shows, and going “I’m in this dressing room and they have already proven there are ghosts in here”!! And there are places in this theater that in the afternoon you don’t wanna go. So, most of the theaters we have played at are haunted anyways.
alicecooper 065Rockpages.gr: Although I don’t believe in these things, I wouldn’t want to go to that theater in the evening…
Alice Cooper: I was very sceptic. Pure sceptic. These guys, they go in with all kinds of equipment and they say “we are going in to this house where this stuff have been reported, to prove there are no ghosts here”. You know, maybe the wood is creaking… their job is to prove that it doesn’t work. They say “80% of the times we debunk it. The other 20% of the time, we have no idea how that voice got in there, that said “Get out”. Or why that chair moved two feet to the left… on film”. What?? (laughs). “Or how I got scratches down my back”. The guy takes his shirt off and he has scratches down his back… “I just felt the burning on my back and there are like three claw marks”. So, he says, “I don’t know how to explain it, except that something is going on”. They say “we try to disprove and yet we are in the middle of this stuff going on”. And that guy goes “what was that? Let’s play that back and you see something that’s transparent, right across the window”. And the guy goes “I have no idea what that was” (laughs). So, I’m a sceptic too, but when I talk to these guys they go “Look, we try our hardest to prove it’s not true and we can’t, because 20% of the time, we’re scared off our minds. We are sitting in a room and something is in there with us”.
alicecooper 066Rockpages.gr: But if that 20% was not there, would this show be successful?
Alice Cooper: You know there are like five or six shows and in most of these, every little noise they go “Oh yeah, it’s a ghost!”. The only way to prove that there are ghosts, is to prove there are not. They go out of the way to prove that there is nothing going on. But they say, “we cannot disregard the fact that that thing moved all the way over here, right in front of us”. (Laughs) Well, my theory is this: I don’t think they are ghosts. I think they are dealing with demonic. That’s biblical. I mean that’s something that… a demon can imitate anything. A little girl, an old man. I think these guys are dealing with demonic.
Rockpages.gr: Why in that place only?
Alice Cooper: Well, to me, it’s the only thing I can explain as a Christian, that when you die, you either go one place or the other place. You don’t just float around. The only thing that has access to float around are demonics. So, who are these guys dealing with, I think they are dealing with demons. I don’t think they are dealing with ghosts.
alicecooper 073Rockpages.gr: Ghosts are not demons?
Alice Cooper: No. Demons are entities. Evil entities. A demon could come off as a sweet little girl.
Rockpages.gr: I’ll keep that in mind next time I meet a sweet little girl…
Alice Cooper: But there is something bad going on with them, cause why would they live in the dark? Why would they live only in these dark and unholy places?
Rockpages.gr: But I would like to go back to last night show. You were on stage and on the background, you could hear people screaming from the rides.
Alice Cooper: (Laughs). It’s perfect for us. Because our show is a ride anyway. Every time we play in these places, I always think we should be doing The Last Temptation. In a carnival, because the whole thing is placed in a carnival and it always makes sense to me that we are the side show. We are the little show that you don’t really want to go into… and the guy says (whispering): “Come on, it’s only one time, come on in”. We always feel like we are that show. Where Bruce Springsteen is that “Yeeeey!”. (Laughs). You know. We are the freak show.
Rockpages.gr: Yes, that would fit perfectly…
Alice Cooper: I would love to do just carnival places like that. The weirdest thing for me is the carnies. The guys that run the carnival. Who are these guys? I mean, half of them have been in prison, they have no teeth, they have one eye, and they are running this machine that you’re putting your wife into! And you say, “I know this guy has got a bottle of whiskey in his pocket”! The carnies are really scary.
Rockpages.gr: Well, not in Sweden…
Kyle Killer: We tour with guys who could be like that…
Alice Cooper: Well, I always say that the road crew is the closest thing to pirates. Look at him (Points to Kyle) Arrrrg!
alicecooper 082Rockpages.gr: He looks like a nice guy.
Alice Cooper: Well, I look at my road crew and I go… What?... I can imagine their bus is like their ship. (All laugh) Who knows what’s going on on that bus… Someone once asked me, do you want to go with the road crew… No, no, no (Kyle laughs) I don’t want to spend the night on the pirate bus.
Kyle Killer: On the Black Pearl.
Rockpages.gr: But you did play with Johnny Depp.
Alice Cooper: Johnny is great. Johnny is a surprisingly good guitar player. When he came to Hollywood, he came to Hollywood as a guitar player, not as an actor. His band came in. He found an apartment and shared it with Nicolas Cage. They were housemates. And Nicolas Cage had to go to an audition for a TV show and he said, Johnny come with me. But Johnny says, “I’m a guitar player”, but Cage said, “no just come with me, to help me out, for support”. They go to the audition, and they look at Johnny and they say, “we want him”. And he goes, “I’m a guitar player, not an actor”. They said, “we want you”. And that was like 21 Jump Street. That was the first big and then he got A Nightmare on Elm Street and after that he became the actor he is. But when we did the movie with him (ed. Dark Shadows), we were going to play a 100-capacity club in London; we were gonna be a bar band that night. Not even Alice Cooper. We were gonna do Brown Sugar… and I said to Johnny why don’t you come play with us? And he said OK and he shows up with his guitar and this guy can play! I mean, it didn’t matter which song it was, he could get up there and play it. I saw him play with Merilyn Manson, I saw him play with Slash, he’s a pretty good guitar player. We told him, if that acting thing doesn’t work out for you… (laughs) 25 million a picture, I can probably get you 1500 a week.
alicecooper 085Rockpages.gr: He should join for a tour or so
Alice Cooper: When I said, why don’t you come on tour with us for a month, if he wasn’t doing the Lone Ranger and Tonto, he said, “I’d be on, I’d be with you, just go out with you, just to be your guitar player”. And I said we invite you anytime, so you may see him come out and play with us. Cause I think that he misses that aspect of his life, just being a guitar player, not being Johnny Depp, the idol. When he’s on stage, his head is down, he’s kind of Keith Richards, you know, just play the guitar. He doesn’t want anybody looking. No recognition.
Rockpages.gr: He’s shy with the publicity…
Alice Cooper: Yeah (laughs).
alicecooper 097Rockpages.gr: Let’s go to Welcome 2 my Nightmare. What initiated this idea?
Alice Cooper: Working with Bon Ezrin, you are working with a great song writer and we hadn’t worked together for a while, and we started working on a couple of songs, and he mentioned it, “You know this is the 35th anniversary”. And I said, “really?” And I started thinking… well, what if we did a part 2? And then we started thinking about it, we said let’s not think about it that way, let’s think about it another way. Let’s just give Alice a new nightmare. We don’t have to continue that nightmare, let’s just give him another one. I’ll take a nap in the afternoon and have a nightmare. And then that night, I have an entirely different nightmare, when I go to sleep at night. So, you can have as many as you want. So, I said, let's put Alice at a disco, let’s put Alice at a beach party with zombies, let’s put him on a runaway train, let’s put him as last man on earth, do all this, send him to all these places. And in the end, the devil is Kesha… You know, the devil isn’t some horrible character, the devil is a seductress. And I told Kesha, play it not angry, play it seductive. What baby wants, baby gets. In other words, no matter what you think, I’m the devil, I’m gonna get it from you. And I said, play it like that. So, we wrote that song to be more of a seductive song, not an evil song, part of the nightmare. So, when people say, how can you have Vince Gill and Kesha in this, I said, it’s a nightmare! Anything can happen in a nightmare! Anyone can show up in a nightmare.
Rockpages.gr: Well, with all these people it’s more like a good dream…
Alice Cooper: Well yeah! To me, it was like putting pieces together, that don’t necessarily belong together. Every song on that album, if you take it and separate it, it doesn’t belong with the next song. They are entirely different… “I am made of you” has nothing to do with the “A Runaway Train”. “A Runaway Train” has nothing to do with “Last Man on Earth”. “Last Man on Earth” doesn’t sound anything like the Bloodbath Disco… So, I like that each song takes him to a new place. Writing songs like this, I didn’t feel confined to write it like… when we did Welcome to My Nightmare, the first one, we kept it pretty much in the same vein, in the same kind of feel. This one we just said let’s just go crazy with it.
alicecooper 106Rockpages.gr: Well, the first one was definitely spookier.
Alice Cooper: Yeah, definitely, the first one was more nightmarish. This one was a little bit more a funny nightmare. We could have gone the other way, we could have gone really dark, but it’s a summer album! Let’s make it fun. That’s not to say the next album won’t be very dark, but this one I wanted it to be an up album.
Rockpages.gr: It’s more modern and up-beat.
Alice Cooper: The energy! We have it up!
Kyle Killer: It’s a great headphone album.
alicecooper 111Alice Cooper: Yeah, it seems that everyone is writing at minor keys. You put on a record from a band, and everything is minor and everything is dark. Everything is introspective. And everything is “I’m tortured” and I get so tired of that. I don’t wanna hear about your problems. I’m in to write an album that takes you somewhere. I want you to be on that Runaway Train with me. I want you to be in the Disco with me. I want you to be on that beach party with me. To me, I don’t want everything to be down. I’d rather have it up and that to me is a summer album. Now, a winter album I would probably treat a lot darker. Like Along Came a Spider, so much darker album.
Kyle Killer: That was recorded on winter time.
Alice Cooper: And it was a serial killer! It had its humour, but I really wanted it to kind of feel the cobwebs.
alicecooper 119Rockpages.gr: So, the next album is going to be a winter album.
Alice Cooper: The next album is going to be an interesting album. I have never done an album of just covers. And I said let’s just pick some really cool songs. Not ones that you would expect.
Rockpages.gr: It actually feels great talking to you, you always give me passes for the stuff I had in mind to discuss.
Alice Cooper: (laughs)
Rockpages.gr: So, Dee Snider did a cover album lately and he got the idea from you.
Alice Cooper: We were talking about joining in on Broadway. He wanted to do a Broadway album.
Rockpages.gr: He did it (Dee Does Broadway, 2012).
Alice Cooper: We did Luck Be a Lady Tonight, from Guys and Dolls, we did a version of that together. And I thought… “Really?? A full album of these?”. I don’t mind doing one, but if you are gonna do a whole album, it’s gonna have to be a real production and you really should take it to Broadway. I wasn’t really ready for that trip by then. But Dee is great! Dee’s got a BIG voice! He can hit high high notes… But these are my best buddies, so I wished them the best with that.
Rockpages.gr: Well, I heard it and of course he has a great voice, it sounds classy, old-fashioned.
Alice Cooper: Yeah… Did you hear Iggy’s album? French poetry album? He did an album about French songs… (laughs) I grew up with Iggy in Detroit and that would be the last thing I would expect him to do. But I kind of like the fact that he did it! Just because it’s unexpected. The idea of the Stooges was that they were a band and that’s what made them so great. They made the Ramones sound like the Beatles. But I love the Stooges because they were pure Detroit. Street four chord rock. And they just didn’t care about what happened, if Iggy got in a fight or got his nose broken, they just kept playing. That was great. But I’d be interested hearing his album, his French jazz album. It throws me at the other side of the room, it’s such an oddity that now I might have to hear it!
Rockpages.gr: Since you are thinking of making a cover album, which song would you love to cover but you would never dare to.
Alice Cooper: Oh man, they ‘re so many, they ‘re so many good ones. See, I think that all of us are hidden Carpenters fans. I think every metal band from Cradle of Filth to anybody has somewhere got a Carpenters album, hidden, a guilty pleasure, or an Antônio Carlos Jobim. Or somebody that you wouldn’t expect. Probably an Abba album somewhere. Saturday Night Fever… Choiry songs on that. There are songs on that album that I wouldn’t mind covering. What’s that one… (thinks and mumbles a tune) Staying Alive! Staying Alive could be a great hard rock song. If it was handled, take all this instrumentation do it, all the guitars (sings the tune with a coarse voice). Treated like the Who, it would be a very cool song.
alicecooper 149Rockpages.gr: So, you would dare to do that.
Alice Cooper: Oh, I would do that. I actually would take songs that people wouldn’t expect. That one we did, Pretty Ballerina, from The Left Banke, now the reason I did that song was that it had so weird chord things, it was creepy. And my wife and my two daughters are both ballerinas. They are all ballerinas. My wife teaches ballet. So, I said that’s perfect. I wanna do this song. But I wanted to follow that song in the way that The Left Banke did it, because it had a lot of really strange chord changes in it. You know, it wasn’t just the normal rock song. It was very odd. But I love finding songs like that. I would like to do the Beach Boys, I Get Around as a rock song. (Sings) Round round, I get around… So, those would be the songs I would look for. I wouldn’t do Immigrant Song, I wouldn’t do the obvious ones. Dude Looks Like a Lady would be fun to do, but it would be too obvious. We don’t want to do an album song. Not Saturday Night is Alright for Fighting but All the Young Girls Love Alice is the out of left field one, that no one would expect, that would be the one I would think about… Well, now I think of another one… But I would try to find one that nobody would cover. I would love to do Heroin, by Lou Reed, but like a pop version. (Laughs) Something like (sings in a pop upbeat tone) dit-di-dit-di-dit-He-roin!-It’s my life-it’s my wife (laughs). Take a song that is so aaaaaaarg and really make to a real perky… You know, bad joke… Yukalele… (Laughs).

We ended by discussing how he loves playing in Greece as there is the best flea market in the world (ed. referring to the Monastiraki flea market in Athens).

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