Interview: Alice Cooper

Social Stoopidity

You'd think dragging Alice Cooper out of rehearsals in order to obtain an interview would be a dodgy move, but not so for Joe 'Killer' Mackett who discovered a few shocks about what Alice receives in his mail, amongst other things.

After more years in 'da Biz' than I care to remember, a career studded with incredible highs and depressing lows, ALICE COOPER, resurrected by Trash, hits back with Hey Stoopid. Twelve tracks of unabashed stadium-tailored rock n' roll. By the time you read this, ALICE will have been on the road in the States, co-headlining a CBS/Sony package with JUDAS PRIEST, MOTORHEAD, METAL CHURCH, and DANGEROUS TOYS.

ALICE, on the old dog and bone from Hollywood was still in rehearsal for the said tour at the time of our chat…

"The very first six weeks of the tour will be just like a warm up for us."

Warm up! This is Irvine Meadows and the largest outdoor arenas he's talking here!

"I'm doing a lot of new stuff and some old stuff I haven't done for a while like Generation Landslide. I'm really having fun."

Noted for his extravagant stage sets, will we be treated to some hopefully bigger effects this time?

"As far as I’m concerned, every time you run an illusion, you're running a risk of going SPINAL TAP unless your music backs it up totally. That's why I spend 80% of my time on the music and 20% on the effects. It's great with this band [Vinnie Moore and Stef Burns handle the guitar slinging], as it was easy to get the music down, so we had more time to spend on the illusions."

But GUNS N' ROSES excepted, there'd be no tour without a new album. Hey Stoopid, while sticking to the formula laid down by Trash, features a list of illustrious musos as long as the proverbial arm. ALICE makes it sound all too easy.

"It's one of those things where everyone lives in LA pretty much, so you're always bumping into people at a club or at a party. I bumped into Nikki Sixx, so he said he'd be down."

I always thought the clubs there were a bit crowded. Still, on with the plot.

"I thought it would be a piece of mini history to get STEVE VAI and JOE SATRIANI to play on the same track [Feed My Frankenstein], so I called them up and they said, 'sure, no problem.' However, if I ran into somebody who was a great friend of mine but didn't fit the song, I wouldn’t ask them.”

He's enthusing again as he recalls enrolling Slash and OZZY to work with on the title cut.

"I needed someone with a 'nasty' guitar, a really 'nasty' guitar, so the first person I thought of was Slash. With OZZY, I wanted him to sing on it as I thought it ironic for him to do an anti-suicide song. I feel he has been wrongly accused so I thought it would work out. Plus, I'd never worked with him so it was interesting."

Obviously delighted with the result, ALICE is still on the topic of the title cut.

"I wanted to write an anthem. I love anthems. It has an immediate chorus which everyone can relate to. But I'll be driving down the street now and everyone’s shouting 'Hey Stoopid' at me, so I've got to get used to that.”

Laughter ensues before he resumes in more serious tones.

"I always included in the lyrics, 'this ain't your daddy talkin.' I don't want audiences to see ALICE as a parent figure."

Talk then turns to the issue of teenage suicide, a plague running riot Stateside at the moment.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's not a remedy. It's not even an option. I get letters from kids whose mum is a junkie or their dad's an alcoholic, and they are asking me ME! what the best way to kill themself is! What are you talkin' about? The word 'stoopid' kept coming to mind."

His exasperation is plain.

"My message is, don't give in to it. Be stronger than your parents. If they're killing themselves, there's no reason to follow suit."

Further debate on this topic, leads us down the alleyway of censorship. ALICE has long been an easy target for the clean up campaigners. This unrelenting burden of censorship has long been a thorn in his side.

"I personally feel censorship should begin in the home. If some kid blows his brains out the first thing they do is check his record collection instead of checking his parents. They just shift the blame onto rock n' roll, though, by law, you can't blame someone for their point of view."

Then there's the increasing pressure to place stickers on album sleeves warning of expletives, etc.

"I'm against the idea of it. Who gives them the right to do it?" Mr. Cooper is vehement in his defence of freedom of speech. "If we got together and voted for it, then it would be a majority rule – but no one's asking ME. We've got a couple of senators' wives trying to clear up the world. I didn't vote for them. Who are they?"

And as if to answer his own question, he can't resist one last dig.

"They're a laughing stock!"

OK. Calm down ALICE, there’s no need to call the nurse just yet. As we return to the subject of the album, in particular, the final track Wind Up Toy, surely there's a hint of Steven in there?

"I'm glad you said that," admits ALICE (to one relieved interviewer). "I decided we go visit Steven. We haven't talked to him for a while. It was a good idea to check in on him and see how he's doing. He's living in this little room with his toys and bugs and he's still got an attitude. I'm glad to say."

I hear him laughing dementedly down the line. Another link to the Nightmare album is Might As Well Be On Mars, co-written by Dick Wagner.

"Well, he wrote Only Woman Bleed and most of the Nightmare album. I hadn't talked to him in ages so I called him up and he came up with this thing with a Women feel to it. I don't really know where the lyrics came from, but I was picturing this Bladerunner society, huge buildings, y'know, where a guy can look out at the next block, which houses maybe a million people, and spots this girl. He knows he'll never get to meet her so he 'Might As Well Be On Mars.'

Before I can pose another question, ALICE is already telling of his favourite track. Who am I to stop him?

Feed My Frankenstein is great. Zodiac Mindwarp sent me that one. I just did some minor surgery on the lyrics to make it a little more ALICE. He's sent me four or five songs now. I really like his stuff, but usually I'm very strong about writing my own stuff, but when something this good comes along, you can't ignore it. It's so perfect for the stage too. The entire production that goes along with Frankenstein is one of our main illusions."

While it's possible, I change tack. ALICE COOPER's Prime Cuts is a documentary video, featuring both rare interview and musical footage from THE EARWIGS (COOPER’S original band) through to the present. One discrepancy is the total omission of his Constrictor and Raise Your Fist albums, both of which feature the muscle-bound guitarist KANE ROBERTS. ALICE is unable to shed light on this oversight.

"KANE is still one of my best friends, but I haven't seen it yet. My assistant is also my archivist. He's been working on it for three months but I haven't seen an inch of it yet. Besides," he continues, "I don't want to be involved with my life story just yet. I'll wait until everyone's dead so they can't sue me!" His laugh trails off.

As if to signify the end of the interview, he tells me he's off to rehearsal again.

"There's still some work to do on the special effects. We're in the studio eight hours a day."

Just like a nine-to-five? I prompt.

"It really is," he jokes. "Don't let anyone tell you this life is glamorous."

Joe Mackett
Riff Raff
October 1991
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