An interview with Alice Cooper, from The Courier-Mail, 10 June 2005
By: Jason Nahrung
AT 57, with a back catalogue of 30 albums and hits such as School’s Out and Poison, Alice Cooper could sit back and churn out a greatest hits tour every so often to fund his golfing passions.
But that’s not his way.
Cooper, born in Detroit but resident in Phoenix, has consistently turned out new and evolutionary work since his career kicked off in the ’60s. Australian audiences will sample his latest turn when he tours here this month.
If the new tunes from forthcoming album Dirty Diamonds seem familiar, it’s probably because they are: everything old is new again for the Coop.
Before he donned the make-up, pythons and guillotines that made his Alice Cooper Group the bane of middle-class parents in the ’70s, the Coop — then Vincent Furnier — rocked out as a 16-year-old student, forming Yardbirds-inspired bands the Spiders and Nazz.
Now, with bands such as Aussie up-and-comers Jet and Alice’s own hometown heroes, Detroit’s White Stripes, making a good living from revived old-style rock ‘n’ roll, Cooper has found the taste once more. While there’s an argument that he never really left those roots, his 2003 album, The Eyes of Alice Cooper, and Dirty Diamonds, explore them in more detail than his famous metal nightmare offerings.
“I’ve never said I’m going to rest on my laurels,” he says from Phoenix where his band is rehearsing the stage show. “I’m not going to turn up, play my greatest hits and take the money and run. I want my next album to be better and my next stage show to be better than the last. If I can leave them standing at the last show I can leave them standing at the next, and if they’re not standing at the end, then maybe it’s time to pack it in.”
Not that that has happened yet.
“I’m in better shape than most of the young bands,” he laughs.
While he admits there are some songs he simply has to play, he likes to find new ways to present them.
“I know there are 15 or 16 songs the audience has to hear — if you don’t do them they’ll stone you.”
Part of rehearsal is not only choosing the classic cuts, but less well-known gems and new material, and also working out the production itself.
“Visualising the lighting, working out when the guillotine should come out, when the casket should open, how I get into the casket. . . we’re not your normal band.”
The glee is evident in his voice.
“I believe in giving the audience what they want, and then giving them some more.”
He says Dirty Diamonds harks back to the band’s Ezrin-steered albums Love it to Death and Killer.
“Those albums are the ones I would call classic Alice,” Cooper says. “They’re not over-produced. I’m a big believer of letting the band be the stars. Don’t let the production shine, let the band shine.”
So the 13 tracks of Dirty Diamonds, due for release later this year, were recorded in just 13 days.
“I say if you can’t record a song in a day, there’s something wrong with the song,” he says.
Cooper has shown no sign of slowing down. He has appeared in films and played on soundtracks, hosts a late-night radio show, has founded two themed restaurants and still fits in a round or three of his beloved golf, often for charity.
“I like Brisbane,” he says. “I know where all the golf courses are there. I can always find four hours in the morning wherever I am.”
And he still loves sticking it to the system, using his radio show to spread the word about classic as well as new rock.
“I play all the stuff that corporate radio won’t play. People were tired of hearing the same Van Halen songs, the same AC/DC, the same Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin . . .
“I said to Paul McCartney, `If you did an album better than Sgt Pepper, would it get played on the radio?’ And he said no. It’s not about quality, it’s about what’s coming next.” Cooper especially gets his radio kicks by playing the new album by Robert Plant as well as the likes of King Crimson, early Them and the Yardbirds.
“For some of these young kids, they’re hearing the Yardbirds for the first time.”
Review: Along Came A Spider
ALICE Cooper dishes up his 25th studio album and what a tasty morsel it is. The album opens with a spooky stalker rock number as Alice lays down the premise for this concept album — a serial killer with an affinity for spiders is on the prowl. Vengeance is Mine, with Slash guesting on guitar, gives us insight into the making of the monster, and then comes the reign of terror.
Wake the Dead takes us back to a summer of love groove — but the lyrics are anything but sunny. We descend into heavier fare with (In Touch With) Your Feminine Side as the descent picks up pace, the bass and guitars getting heavier as the intensity of hunter and prey increases. It isn’t right that a song as catchy as Wrapped in Silk has such evil overtones.
Killed by Love is a ballad in the style of Only Women Bleed, and then it’s back into the rock ‘n’ roll as the anti-hero struggles with his surprising surge of conscience, complete with occasional voiceovers that give a soundtrack feel.