Apr 17 2017

An Interview With The Former Mr. Nice Guy Alice Cooper

By: Emily Hingle

Alice Cooper is the band that your mother warned you about! Full of shocking scenes, live snakes, and lots of hard rock, the show that the long-running shock rock band Alice Cooper puts on is not for the faint of heart. You'll jump, you'll marvel, and you may just laugh a little bit. While the band has always wanted to put the fear in their audience, they do it with a healthy dose of humor. It's like watching one of the old monster movies that served as an inspiration to the band. You'll wait, holding your breath, to see what they do next. 

Alice Cooper will be heading out to the luxurious Beau Rivage on Friday, April 21 at 8 PM to bring his timeless shock rock show to the southern masses, and you know that you want to sneak a peek at the nightmare that they've got in store. 

I spoke with the famous frontman Alice Cooper himself to discuss his insidious, poetic lyrics, how the show evolved, and what rock n' roll is up to right now.

 

WYAT:  I love your lyrics. There’s just something about them that sends chills down my spine like “Make my tattoos melt in the heat” from “Feed My Frankenstein” and “I want to hurt you just to hear you screaming my name” from “Poison.” So how do you think up those really cool lyrics, and what is the song-writing process for you?

Alice Cooper: My wife of 41 years, she says, “I love my husband because he’s a poet.” I learned how to write lyrics listening to Chuck Berry; Chuck Berry was the best lyricist of all time. He could tell a story in three minutes, an entire story. If he couldn’t think of a word, he’d make one up. I don’t think there’s such a word like in his line, “Don’t give me no botheration.” I love that word “botheration.” And the other one is “The coolerator was full…” The coolerator? I don’t think there’s such a word as coolerator, but he could tell the story perfectly in three minutes. And I used to listen to him, and I went, “Okay, that’s how you write a lyric.”  Out of the 3 or 400 songs that I have published, believe me there’s 1200 songs in the garbage can that didn’t fit. The ones that you hear are the ones that made the cut. But I always appreciate it when somebody appreciates the lyrics. Bob Dylan one time in Rolling Stone said that Alice Cooper was one of the most underrated lyricists of rock n’ roll which I thought was really nice.

WYAT: Were you actually interested in dark, macabre things or did you feel that it was just a good gimmick to have?

Alice: We were a band like any other band except that we did have this dark sense of humor. Even from the very, very beginning we had a very dark sense of humor. We called the band with this villainous image Alice Cooper which is very much your grandmother’s name, which was part of our sense of humor. Most of the things that are in the Alice Cooper show are driven by humor, even though it’s a very Monty Python, dark sense of humor. When I was a kid, I watched the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits, and I went to all the sci-fi movies and Dracula. The early RKO movies and stuff like that. And I liked the idea that they scared me, but they didn’t freak me out. I could sleep at night. I found that there was a certain amount of humor and horror in bed together. And then put rock n’ roll to that, and you’ve got what we have.

WYAT: When was your first dark, theatrical show?

Alice: I think it just evolved. To me, this was the idea; when I invented Alice Cooper, I looked out there and there were a million rock heroes; The Beatles, The Stones. And I kept going, “Where are the villains?” If these are the Peter Pans, where’s Captain Hook? And there was no Captain Hook. So I said, “I will gladly be Captain Hook for rock n’ roll. That would be something that I could contribute. And what I’m going to bring with that is a theatrical stage show.” So you don’t just say, “Welcome to My Nightmare.” You give them the nightmare. Produce the nightmare on stage. And so we came up with two or three things that no one had ever done before, and it all worked together. But the only way that it works is that you have hit songs to go with it.

WYAT: Do you feel like your music was ever in the mainstream?

Alice: I think the ballads were. I think “Only Women Bleed” and “You and Me” and “I Never Cry…” I mean, Frank Sinatra did “You and Me.” Tina Turner did “Only Women Bleed.” A lot of female artists did a lot of our songs. Joan Jett did “Be My Lover.” I could name you like 20 or 30 different women that have covered Alice Cooper ballads. I don’t think they were necessarily dark; I wanted to write ballads that would really affect women.

WYAT: Maybe that’s why so many women appreciate your lyrics.

Alice: For “Only Women Bleed,” people thought that I was trying to get away with some sort of dig on that, and it wasn’t that at all. I was trying to say that men bleed physically and women bleed emotionally, and that was something that men hardly ever do. And I think most women heard that song and got it; understood what that was about.

WYAT: You performed in New Orleans at the Warehouse in 1970 with The Stooges and MC5 and in 1981. Do you have any interesting stories about those shows?

Alice:  The one in 1981, Anne Rice came to that show, and she was a big Alice fan, which was kind of cool because I read all the Interview With a Vampire books. Bernie Taupin and I tried to buy the rights to Interview With a Vampire when the book came out, but they had already sold it, or we would have owned that. But I do remember doing The Warehouse with Iggy Pop and MC5. If you take three Detroit bands like that, bands that are really intense hard rock bands, and each one of those bands has its own show and its own theatrics, and put them in a place like The Warehouse which holds maybe 1000-1500 people, it’s gonna be pretty intense. I don’t mind going on after anybody; I don’t care who it is, but going on after Iggy in the 70s, you had to get the audience back after that cause he would wear the audience out.

WYAT: What do you feel the state of real rock n’ roll is these days?

Alice: A lot of your young bands are fairly anemic. I really wish that there was a little bit more outlaw involved in young bands. They’ve kind of lost that touch of rock bands almost being gangs. Guns N’ Roses were sort of the last band like that where the bands lived the lifestyle that their music represented. Whereas I think the bands now live pretty much at the mall, and they’re afraid to offend anybody. Rock n’ roll should have an edge to it that doesn’t mind upsetting the norm. I think bands are trying to fit in too much now.

WYAT: You’ve said previously that politics should be kept out of artistry. But do you feel that way during this ridiculously tumultuous political time?

Alice: Here’s a revolutionary idea. We used to say in the 70s “The Man;” it’s our way or the highway, and the young people don’t have a voice. And we fought that. Now those very people are The Man. If you say anything against what they believe, now you’re ostracized. Freedom of Speech is flipped; if you don’t believe in every single thing that hard rock publications say, then you’re some kind of an outcast. Freedom of Speech is as much in trouble now as it ever was. I don’t look at Bono and Sting and what those guys do as being political; I look at that as being humanitarian. I totally believe in that.

I have my own thing called Solid Rock Foundation where we opened up a place where kids can go in and learn guitar, bass, drums, dance, whatever it is, all for free. As long as you’re a teenager, you can go in there; it doesn’t matter if you’re Muslim, if you’re Catholic, whatever you are. If you’re a teenager, you’re welcome. And we do get a lot of gang kids, and it takes them off the street. It takes them out of selling meth and gets them into bands. And I think that’s the healthy thing is getting them involved in the arts.

WYAT: Is there anything else you’d like to say about your upcoming show?

Alice: I’ve got the best touring band I’ve ever had. This band is all gunslingers. And they are unbelievable. Every single night, they blow the audience away, and to me that’s the important thing. I get to do the theatrics, and I sing every song, I wrote every song, but this band interprets my music as well as anybody ever has. I look forward to doing the show every night just to be able to work with these guys, that’s how good they are. My wife is playing the ballerina and does the “Only Women Bleed” ballet, and she’s play the nurse when I’m in the strait jacket. And in the last show before the election, she played Hillary Clinton. She does all the high harmonies too. 

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