Alice Cooper is 75 and he’s STILL on the road. But, the kicker is, he STILL rocks. He sounds great and the band rips. Indeed, as a paean to his own never-ending journey, Alice releases Road tomorrow *(out via earMusic). Cut with his crack touring band, Alice details the glory and gruesome guts of touring life. He talks about speeding down the highway while on crank, seeing people as interchangeable objects, the fire you get from a crowd, and the heartbreak of living your partner for four months.
Also, the record rips. So, Punknews’ John Gentile spoke to Alice about the new LP, his influence on punk, and A.I. You can check out the interview below.
The new album opens with I’m Alice, which declares what the Alice Cooper character is. I know people have asked you what sparked the Alice Cooper and you usually reply that everyone was a hero and you wanted to be a villain. But, how often do you find yourself contemplating what the Alice Cooper character represents now? I think he’s so established as being that character that he’s a household word now. I think he’s less threatening to parents now than in the ‘70s, because no one knew what to compare Alice to. He was just something that frightened everyone. Now, I think he’s more the Vincent Price of Rock and Roll. He’s still scary, but he’s kind of funny and most importantly, he just rocks. I have a killer band around me and they are killer players. I will not be in a band that’s a half-hearted hard rock band. I want to be in a band that is as good as we ever where and I surround myself with the best players. Always.
Do you think people project what they think Alice Cooper should be onto Alice Cooper? I think people see rock stars as something they would love to be, but will never that. So, we are basically cathartic. We are doing it for them. It’s always been like that. When I saw mick Jagger on stage, I thought, “Man, I’d love to be that, but I never will.” But I stayed at it and eventually realized that I’ll never be Mick Jagger, but I can create somebody else that will be different than Mick jagger, but still hard rock. It has to be guitar driven hard rock. I’ve never gotten tired of the power chord. I’ve never gotten tired of the great lyric. I’ve never gotten tired of the audience reaction- especially when you are playing Allice, who is this arrogant villain.
You mention Alice as the villain- the new album has the lyrics “for a slice of heaven in this living hell.” That’s a very negative viewpoint. Is that you speaking? Is that Alice speaking? I write songs for Alice and I think that Alice is very satirical. He’s very snide. He makes comments about things and he’s not going to be what you think he’s going to be at times. He’s not political at all. There’s nothing satanic in the show. Alice is sort of this phantom in the show. I am the character that they could never be. I designed Alice to be my favorite rock star. I wanted him to be slim, to be vampiric, unearthly, sexy, scary, but also funny. I don’t see why he couldn’t let his guard down and be vulnerable. People love seeing that character and they love seeing him get killed… and come back to life.
You mentioned that Alice is never political. But, if we look at songs like “Billion Dollar Babies,” or ‘is it my body,” or “Dead Babies,” isn’t there some sort of social commentary there? Well, yes there is. People always thought that “dead babies” was about killing babies, but it’s rally about child abuse. Way, way back when we started. “Dead babies can’t take care of themselves.” There were a lot of things that we write about that if you dissected the lyrics wasn’t really about what it seemed like at first. “Only women bleed” was about how women are more emotionally vulnerable than men, and it was covered by 15 different women artists. That’s really all that song was saying. But, people looked at it and were like oh I know what he’s talking about.” People were really pissed off about some of the songs. Look at “cold ethyl.” No one is actually sitting there writing about what it would be like to have sex with a dead person. But, I mean if you don’t get my sense of humor there, you’re just not going to get my sense of humor.
A lot of your tracks were hugely inspirational to punk rock. Johnny Rotten tried out for the Sex Pistols by singing “I’m Eighteen.” Jello Biafra and the Melvins are huge fans and covered “Halo of Flies.” Do you ever think about your influence on punk rock? I think that Alice was such a piss-off to every parent, and I think Johnny Rotten saw that with his parents and it was so rebellious and it upset everybody. I think the Sex Pistols saw that and decided to do that. If you’re going to be a punk rovk band, be the band that is the reference point. When you say punk rock, who do you think of? Sex Pistols. Even though Iggy was the first punk for sure. They made it their signature. Rotten called Killer his Sgt. Pepper. I was a little surprised but I got it. He was at the right age to really get it and let it affect him.
The new album is a concept album about being on the road. Is it saying “being on the road is great.” Is it a warning? Is it objective analysis of the road? I look at the road as being a magical place where every band wants to end up being. On the road, on tour, playing a show every night. The song “rules of the road”- the funny part of that is Alice is telling this young band all the rules of the road… and they are all wrong! And at the end, instead of it being “if you do all these things you’re going to be successful rock star and live forever and have a giant house,” he goes, “if you follow these rules, you’re going to die!” That was exactly bob Ezrin and my sense of humor. “Get the money, and don’t forget to get the money, and whatever you do, don’t forget to get the money.” That’s exactly what the band’s SHOULDN’T be thinking about. They should be thinking about their songs, not how to get the money.
And then there’s the song, “Baby, please don’t go.” That song is the only song that is a real personal song on the album. Everybody in every band has had that moment where you’re ready to leave for four months and your wife knows it or your girlfriend knows it, right as you get to the door, she says “baby, please don’t go.” You both know that you have to go, but I wanted to have that real heartbreak. All the other songs, “white line Frankenstein,” those are exaggerated characters that live in this imaginary place called the road.
Along the lines of “rules of the road,” a lot of your contemporaries passed away, essentially on the road- Jim Morrison, Keith Moon, Jimi Hendrix. Why did you manage to survive? Well, they were our big brothers and sisters. The first time I ever got high was with Jimi Hendrix. I used to sit and drink with Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin. All those people that died at 27. Keith Moon was a walking party. He was exhausting! He never stopped. He would stay at your house for two weeks and then go over Harry Nilsson’s house for two weeks and then go over Ringo’s house for two weeks- you’d have to take a vacation because he would exhaust you. He was also the best drummer I ever heard. Those are the guys that can’t help from burning out. They don’t have any turn off button.
Guys like us would go out and party- you’re bullet proof when you are 20- you can tour forever. And then when you start getting a little bit older, you start learning how to navigate the road. “I have to be a 100% at my show, so I can’t drink whisky all day before the show.” I got sober 40 years ago. My live show was better than ever. I got addicted to being sober. Steven Tyler got addicted to being sober. So did Iggy. So did everybody that’s still here. We had ot get control of our life or we wouldn’t be around. Rock and roll is a dangerous business.
Why do you think you were able to get control of your life while other people died? Well, I got up one morning and was throwing up blood. My wife- we’ve been married 47 years- it was 1983, my wife said “party’s over, let’s go.” I was in the hospital for about three weeks. When I came out I was not a cured alcoholic, I was a healed alcoholic. In other words, God literally took it away from me. Every doctor in there said you should be hiding bottles around, you should be in AA, you should be doing this or that. I said no, it’s gone. I’m never drinking again. I’m never taking drugs again. And the doctors said, “it’s the one time I gotta agree with you. You’re a healed alcoholic.”
At Live in Wacken you had the “my dead drunk friends’ segment of the show. Hollywood Vampires focuses on your dead contemporaries. The new album talks about people dying on the road. How often do you think about death? It’s funny, now I don’t think about it at all. Being a Christian, I know my destination. It use dto be “Oh no, dying, it’s going to be the worst thing, I don’t wanna die!” Now, I have a faith in something that I believe in. So, it doesn’t occur to me. I also know that I’m 75, in two bands, and I’ve never felt better in my life. I’ve got a great wife, great kids, great grand-kids. I’m not financially stressed. I‘m not spiritually stressed. I feel like I’m 40. If I were to wake up today, I’d say, “I don’t know how old I am? 35? 40?” I have no physical ailments. I’m the only one not breathing hard at the end of the show.
I will say, live you sound absolutely fantastic. You sound just like the guy from 1973. That’s rare for an artist that have been performing for five decades. I think that’s because I didn’t smoke cigarettes. I think cigarettes has really ruined a lot of lungs. If you are smoking cigarettes and you are 75, you cannot do more than teow shows a week. Your lung capacity is gone. I never smoked cigarettes and I’ve been sober for 40 years. That has a lot to do with it.
Also, another interesting little thing, I was a long-distance runner. I was better at 10,000 meters than I was at 5,000 meters. The longer the distance, the better I was. That’s in me somehow. The idea of non-quitting. That’s in me somewhere- the never giving up. I think that has a lot to do with my career.
The new album makes it a point to mention that it has no overdubs, or almost no overdubs and is a very real recording, but now, more and more artists are using A.I. What’s your perspective of A.I. in the arts… I hate it! I think the only person that should be able to use A.I. is McCartney. Who doesn’t want to hear a new Beatles song? Who doesn’t want to hear Paul singing with John again? I get that. But aside from that, if AI ever gets into society, you can pretty much forget everything you hear on tv or hear on the radio because it could so easily be faked. There could easily be a video of you saying “I’m going to shoot the Pope tonight,” but it’s not you, but it is your voice and your face. It’s the end of any sense of reality. I think it’s very dangerous and could cause world wars. But, I think McCartney should have the only right to do it!