Interview with Alice Cooper May 4, 2012June 7, 2012 by: Shauna O'Donnell
May 4, 2012
Singer, Songwriter, Actor
By: Shauna O’Donnell
Alice Cooper needs no introduction. His career has span over four decades that includes thirty albums and forty world tours. He is the host of his own radio show called “Nights With Alice Cooper” and he even has his own restaurant. I talked with Alice recently and got up to speed on the new movie Dark Shadows that he is in, his upcoming tour and we even compared notes on our best and worst interviews.
Alice Cooper: Hi Shauna, how are you?
I’m doing well. I would like to say that it is an incredible honor and pleasure to be talking with you today.
Alice: Awe! Thank you very much. I’m going to be in LA on Monday for the premiere of Dark Shadows. It was a fun movie to do.
I bet it was. Tell me a little about the role that you played in the movie.
Alice: It is one of those things where if you remember Dark Shadows from when it was a soap opera on television, it was the strangest hit of the time. In the 70’s, think of it, everything was like General Hospital and All My Children. It was the same plot formula every single night. All of a sudden there was a sister that came out of nowhere, the niece gets pregnant and all of that. All the same things happened in Dark Shadows except they were vampires and they were in the 18th Century. They had the same family problems. The daughter shows up that no one knew was there and she is a witch. A son is born out of wedlock and on full moons he turns into a werewolf. I just thought that was the funniest idea that every family has it’s dynamics of problems. The idea is that Barnabus Collins (Johnny Depp) comes back after 300 years of being buried to the year 1972. Of course every single thing in the world is new to him. Barnabus says in the movie “We must have a ball. A giant Collinswood ball.” His granddaughter who is Chloe Moretz says “We don’t have balls anymore, we have happenings now.” He asks “What do we need for a happening?” She said “Well, we need booze, cool people and we have to have Alice Cooper.” In 1972 “School’s Out” came out and all the big hits for Alice Cooper were in that year. They hire Alice Cooper to show up at this giant ball. I think the funniest line in the previews was when Barnabus says “Alice Cooper is the ugliest woman I have ever seen!” (Laughs) It was really a lot of fun working on the film. Johnny is great. First of all, I know Johnny as a guitar player. Of course, everyone knows him as an actor, but I know he is a great guitar player. When we were in London, he played with us. After we got done shooting one of the days, we did a show in just a little theatre. We decided to be a bar band that night, not the big production, we were just going to be a pub band. I said to him “Come down and play”, so he came down and played with us. He really is a great guitar player.
Absolutely! He looks hilarious in this movie.
Alice Cooper: I give Johnny the best compliment I can think of when I call him the new Lon Chaney. Lon Chaney was the man of a thousand faces. He never looked the same in any movie. Think of it, when has Johnny Depp ever looked the same in any movie? He has always played with something on his face that makes him look totally different, so he is the new Lon Chaney. Tim Burton has a great sense of humor. I don’t think this movie could have worked without Tim Burton.
I’m really excited to see the movie. Did you write any music for the movie along with Danny Elfman?
Alice Cooper: No, they wanted classic Alice stuff. They said we needed to keep it 1972. We did “No More Mr. Nice Guy” in a straight jacket. I don’t know what’s going to be in the movie because I haven’t seen it yet. We shot for two days and it was really a lot of fun. We were shooting at Pinewood Studios and the studio next to us on the right was shooting the new James Bond movie. We had 007, all the Aston Martins and all the spies to our right, then you’ve got Dark Shadows with all the vampires and on the left they were shooting Prometheus. It is the prequel to Aliens, so you have aliens going on. They had Snow White going on in the other studio. It was one of those classic moments where you are walking into the lunchroom and you’ve got aliens, vampires, spies and Snow White.
Speaking of the 70’s, I saw that you were on an episode of That 70’s Show. That show is so funny.
Alice Cooper: That is a very funny show to do. I love the fact that they brought in a new formula. They have these kids and they would go to a different kind of shot where they shoot in the round and get everybody’s reaction. It would jump here and then jump over there. It was really cool, when they asked me to do it they said “Okay, you are going to be a fantasy that he is having about her. She is going to work at the radio station and you are going to come into the radio station. He thinks she is going to fall in love with you or you are going to fall in love with her and it is going to be a big thing.”
I bet you get asked to do a lot of cameos.
Alice Cooper: I do and I love doing that, but I always love it though when I get to play another character. In Nightmare on Elm Street, part 28 or whatever it was, I got to play Freddy’s father. It was like a hillbilly drunk. I thought it was great because I got to play something other than Alice. In Suck, I got to play a full out vampire, a really ancient, bad vampire. When a movie comes up, I’m like “Make me the school teacher or make me the priest.” I want them to make me something that I wouldn’t normally be. I think I’m always going to be a villain and I understand that, but it is fun to play a different kind of character once in a while.
You are known as the Master of Horror, so people would assume that horror flicks would be your favorite, but I’m sure you enjoy watching other types of movies as well.
Alice Cooper: Oh yeah, I like to as much as anything else. I certainly do prefer really good horror movies or really good sci-fi. I’m actually one of those guys who likes really bad C movies. I really enjoy really cheesy, horrible, awful, bad kung fu movies and things like that.
Why is that?
Alice Cooper: I like the idea that it is consistently awful. You just sit there looking at it and you go “Wow! How did this ever get made?” There is something really satisfying about a movie that is just awful all the way through.
Do you have any current projects going on right now as far as movies or TV?
Alice Cooper: No, right now we are putting the new show together. We go out in June with Iron Maiden. There is going to be two different shows. There is a one hour show since we are their special guests on this tour. They only work like two or three days a week and we are used to working five or six days a week. On the days off, we are going to be doing our own production, which is our normal hour and forty-five minute show. We are going to be on a different schedule then Iron Maiden.
It is called Tour Terror correct?
Alice Cooper: Yeah, there are a lot of good tours going on. There is KISS and Motley Crue, Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper, which are both really solid tours.
I hear that you usually tour nonstop June-November. Is that because the weather is best during those months?
Alice Cooper: Yeah, there is a big difference between having to tour and wanting to tour. It used to be that we had to tour, we had to go out and we had to make two albums a year. Thirty albums and forty world tours later I’m in a position now where I can work when I want to work and under my own terms. I enjoy going out because if you live in Arizona, you don’t really want to be there June, July or August, so we go on tour and go all over the country. I tour now because if I don’t, I miss it. I really do like being on stage, behind the microphone with a great band and a great production. I think most bands like Aerosmith, Ozzy and Alice could have all retired in the 70’s financially, but that is not what we do. What we do is we get onstage and perform. That is actually what my calling in life is. I look forward to touring. We go out June through November and that is 50 to 100 shows. It sounds like a lot, but it’s not really a lot compared to what we used to do.
Let’s talk about the show you are currently going to do. The tour starts in June, what will be different about this one that you have not done on previous tours?
Alice Cooper: There are all kinds of things that I can’t talk about because that ruins the surprise. All I can say is that it is probably the best band that I’ve had. The only guy that I lost from the last tour was Steve Hunter (guitar). He was a classic guitar player. He played with me, Lou Reed and everybody you can think of. I got Ryan Roxie back in who used to be with me. Orianthi Panagaris is on guitar, which played with Michael Jackson, she is the Australian girl guitar player. She is a monster guitarist and really a bizarre character. We also have Tommy Henriksen on guitar, so I have three guitarists, Chuck Garric on bass and Glen Sobel on drums. It is an amazing band. It is one of those bands where I can get up on stage and the last thing I have to worry about is the band. They are stone cold professionals and they play everything right to the T. I get to go onstage and be good ole Alice and never have to worry if the band is going to be good. They could be asleep and play better than anybody out there.
Do you foresee any west coast dates?
Alice Cooper: I think we are going everywhere really. We are starting this tour out in Europe. It is a total idiosyncrasy of mine to never look at the itinerary. If you look at the itinerary at the beginning of a tour, you will psych yourself out. You look at hundreds of cities and you go “Wow! That is going to be a lot of traveling.” So you just don’t do that, you don’t sit around psyching yourself out. It’s like being an alcoholic, it’s one day at a time, for me it is one show at a time.
Have you already begun planning a next album? Are you currently working on new music whether it is for your own project or someone else’s?
Alice Cooper: You are always working on new music. It seems like if you are a songwriter, you are always writing. I’ll be sitting around watching Ghost Hunters or something, someone will say something and I’ll go “What? That was a great line.” It probably has nothing to do with what they are doing, but that line could be a great song. I always have a pad of paper around with me just in case I hear something that sounds like a great song title or a great phrase and I write it down.
You have an internationally syndicated nightly radio show called “Nights With Alice Cooper;” How long have you been doing the show?
Alice Cooper: I’m into my ninth year now. It is five hours a night, five nights a week on 150 stations.
How do you find time to do that?
Alice Cooper: Well I tape it. I don’t do it live or I wouldn’t be able to tour. I get a script from New York City and of course I ignore that. I look at it and get an idea of what it is. A five hour show takes me about an hour once I get going, get started and look at the playlist. I get full say on what the playlist is. Dick Clark was the guy that hired me. He told me that he had this series of rock stations and he asked “If you had a rock show, what would it be?” I said “Well think of it, everybody that I would play in classic rock is somebody that I know. I would just tell all the backstage stories.” I have no problem insulting the hierarchy of rock n roll or the royalty of rock because they are friends of mine. They were a little touchy at the beginning because I would say something caddy about this person or that person. I started realizing that when I quit talking about them, they would call me up and go “Hey, what happened? Why did you quit making fun of me?” It was sort of like being Don Rickles, if Don Rickles makes fun of you then that is a feather in your hat. I would have certain people that I would have running jokes going on with and I just don’t see anybody as being sacred in rock n roll. We all come from the same place.
I have been interviewing bands and artists for over seven years. I have stories of my own that I consider treasured memories.
Alice Cooper: Oh! Then you’ve talked to everybody.
I have my own memories from every conversation. It is so cool to have those one on one conversations that maybe no one else got.
Alice Cooper: Let’s compare notes on something. Who was the worst interview you ever did?
It was actually an unsigned band. I cannot remember the name of them, but I remember getting the singer on the phone and I started asking questions. He would answer with yep, nope and barely said anything. I tried to bring it out of him, but with no luck. I made an MP3 of the conversation and sent it to their publicist. I’ve never done that before and I haven’t done that since. They were really apologetic. Other than that, everybody has been pretty amazing. I’ve interviewed David Ellefson a bunch of times and he is always great.
Alice Cooper: Yeah, he is one of my best friends. The worst interview I ever did and I thought it was going to be one of my best was Jerry Lee Lewis. Here is the guy that is the total eccentric, 50’s rock, crazy guy. I get this guy on the phone and I must have just woken him up or he wasn’t on his meds or something. Everything was yep, nope, ok, eh or nah. That interview was startling. I expect someone who is going to do an interview to kind of give you something. I’ve interviewed everybody on the planet and they are always ready to talk. Finally I realized that this guy probably just woke up and his nurse hadn’t gotten him ready. It was easily the worst interview I ever did. The craziest one I ever did was Question Mark from Question Mark and the Mysterians. I’m talking to him and all of a sudden he starts talking about how his cabin burned down with his Yorkies in the cabin. He had to go bury the Yorkies in the backyard and he starts crying. I’m going “Okay this is awkward.” Then he starts telling me about what life actually is like on Mars, not on Mars, in Mars because people don’t live on the planet, they live in the planet. The air is actually food and they don’t wear clothes there. Elvis likes it there. My whole interview was me going “Uh-huh.” It got more and more like “Uh-huh, Okayyy.” Catherine, my producer, is going “Keep it going. This is great.” This guy was truly insane. I broke up the interview into little three minute pieces and people were going “I can’t wait to hear the next part of this.” It got crazier and crazier, but I tell you, I couldn’t write this stuff. It was so insane.
My craziest was Scott Stapp from Creed.
Alice Cooper: Yeah well he is the bi-polar poster boy of the year. He is a unique guy. It’s part of it, everybody has a different way of looking at it. Like Ted Nugent for instance, you can’t stop him, all I had to say to him was Iraq and then I just put the phone down for an hour and let him go.
I would love to interview Ted Nugent.
Alice Cooper: Ted is one of the best interviews you will ever do. I actually sat down and broke up his interview into one minute segments calling it the “Wit and Wisdom of Ted Nugent.”
I was at the taping of That Metal Show when you were on. I found you to be incredibly funny and so personable.
Alice Cooper: Well thanks, in this business if you are not a people person, you are going to have a hard time. If I am going to do a show like that, I realize that the audience is my audience. Eddie Trunk and those guys are really funny and nice. I think sometimes you get built up, especially if you have been around as long as we have, as legendary myths. For me, I try to be almost opposite of what my character is on stage. My character never talks to the audience and he is just this horrific, arrogant villain. I’m just the opposite of that.
Yes, during the taping of the show you would always turn and address the audience.
Alice Cooper: Yeah, I’m used to doing that. I used to do the Johnny Carson show. I’d be talking to Johnny and if I was going to tell the punch line I’d look at the audience. I’d give them the punch line and they would laugh because I wouldn’t give it to Johnny, I’d give it to them.
I’ve really enjoyed my conversation with you and I feel very lucky. Thank you so much for the interview.
Alice Cooper: I’m glad we compared notes on our worst and best interviews.
Yeah, I have many stories from doing interviews.
Alice Cooper: Yeah, especially when you are doing an interview face to face with somebody and you end up giving them mouth to mouth because they are going into some kind of shock. (Laughing)
Was there anything you’d like to add or say?
Alice Cooper: No, I think it’s going to be great; it’s a very high energy show that we are going to be doing. It always has been and always will be. We make sure that the audience does not get a minute to breath. That is part of the character of the Alice Cooper show, never give the audience a chance, just keep hitting them over the head with song after song and visual after visual. When they leave they say “That was exhausting!” I want the Alice Cooper show to be exhausting.
I am hoping to get to Alice Cooper’stown one day because I was looking at the menu and it looks incredible.
Alice Cooper: It is actually better than it looks on the menu.
Did you come up with the menu?
Alice Cooper: Oh yeah and my manager is a foodie. We decided on that whole menu. I said “Let’s do all the things that we can do consistently. Let’s not try to do things we can’t do. Let’s make a great tuna noodle casserole. Let’s make a great meatloaf and great barbequed ribs. Things that mom used to make for you.” I love mom and pop food.
Do you hang out there very often?
Alice Cooper: Oh yeah, I’m there at least once a week. I do almost all my interviews in town.