Alice Cooper talks about his latest release, a mini-reunion and his vampire side gig
Alice Cooper has gotten to work on his next studio release, and so far it’s shaping up to be a little bit of a killer album.
“I’ve always liked the idea that Alice Cooper has always been a Detroit rock band. We’ve always been a hard rock band, guitar rock, and I’ll never give that up,” Cooper said. “But every once in awhile, though, there’s just a flavor of what album do we want to go to here to give it that flavor. And it seems to be going toward the ‘Killer’ album. And I kind of go, that album, let’s revisit the sound of that album and what we were kind of thinking. You can never go back and totally recapture it, but you can certainly look at the elements that made that album work the way it did.”
It’s early in the writing process, but Cooper said in addition to its sound, what might also connect the next album to “Killer” will be a mini-reunion of the original Alice Cooper Band on the next album.
“I wrote three or four songs with (Alice Cooper Band drummer) Neil Smith and (guitarist) Mike Bruce,” Cooper said. “And so we worked together in Phoenix for about two weeks just writing songs and demoing songs. And you never know which ones are going to make the album, but I said let’s do that.
“Dennis Dunaway (bassist in the Alice Cooper Band) wrote two or three things,” the singer added. “We haven’t seen those yet, but I know Dennis has always written great stuff. It’s fun to go back and work with guys you haven’t worked with in awhile. It’s not trying to recapture your youth. It’s trying to recapture a sound. And it’s a very elusive sound.”
Those three musicians (along with lead guitarist Glen Buxton), of course, played on the original “Killer” album, released in 1971. The album came on the heels of the early hit single “I’m Eighteen” (from the previous album, “Love It To Death”) and included the song “Under My Wheels,” which has become a fan favorite.
The “Killer” album, along with Cooper’s next two albums, 1972’s “School’s Out” and 1973’s “Billion Dollar Babies,” are considered peak Cooper albums that not only established him as a major star, but also solidified his rowdy, garage-ish brand of hard rock.
Whenever the new album is finished and released, it will follow another studio album that found Cooper harkening back to his colorful past. The 2011 release “Welcome 2 My Nightmare,” was something of a sequel to his 1975 classic concept album, “Welcome To My Nightmare,” the first album Cooper made after breaking up his original Alice Cooper band and embarking on his career as a solo artist.
Originally intended to be darker than the original “Nightmare,” the sequel instead took on a different personality as it came together.
“It’s funny how ‘Nightmare’ started out being one thing and ended up being another. I think ‘Nightmare 2’ ended up being our funniest album,” Cooper said. “It didn’t start out being like that, but all of a sudden, I was like ‘Disco Fever’ (“Disco Bloodbeath Boogie Fever”) was really funny. The beach song (“Ghouls Gone Wild”) was really funny. We couldn’t stop it. We just said it’s funny so let’s let it be funny.”
By the time of the original “Welcome To My Nightmare,” Cooper was not only hugely popular, but famous for his macabre live show in which the man whose real name is Vincent Furnier had adopted the villainous (and also dark humored) character of Alice Cooper.
Many of the stage antics that Cooper created in the early 1970s – paving the way for the concert spectacles of later shock rockers like Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson – remain cornerstones of Cooper’s live shows today.
Cooper is doing as much as he can to cram as many goodies into his set list and stage show as possible as he tours this summer and fall.
“You know, when you get to this point, the hardest part is picking the songs because you’ve got 30 albums to go to,” he said. “There are theatrical hits and then there are the radio hits also, the ones people hear on the radio. Then there are things they want to see like ‘Feed My Frankenstein’ and ‘Dwight Fry’ and songs like that that are almost like essential because you’ve got to see the guillotine.
You’ve got to see the straight jacket. You’ve got to see the insane nurse. We’re actually taking some excerpts out of ‘Welcome to My Nightmare’ from 1975 because we haven’t done some of that stuff in awhile and we’re putting it back in the show. I just said we haven’t done that in awhile. Let’s put that in. So it’s a fun show. It’s always a fun show.”
The solo shows won’t be the only ones Cooper does this summer. He also has a run of dates in July with his side band, the Hollywood Vampires – a group that also features Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry and actor/guitarist/recording artist Johnny Depp.
“The cool thing about the Vampires is it’s a totally opposite thing than my show, than the Alice Cooper show,” he said. “I don’t think about theatrics when I think about the Vampires. It’s basically, when we put it together, all of us started out as bar bands. We all started out learning the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, the Who and Chuck Berry and Paul Butterfield, all the stuff we learned from, the Beatles. We said that’s basically what we are.”
The group released its first album last year, with bassist Duff McKagen and drummer Matt Sorum of Guns ‘N Roses fame joining in on the fun. Along with a pair of originals, it includes songs originally done by musicians who have since passed away.
Covers on the guest-filled Hollywood Vampires album included “My Generation” (by the Who), “Jump Into The Fire” (by Nilsson), as well as tunes by Jimi Hendrix (“Manic Depression”), Spirit (“I Got A Line On You”) and the Doors (“Five To One/Break On Through”). Several guest musicians pop up as well, most notably Paul McCartney who is featured on a version of “Come and Get It” (a song he wrote for Badfinger), “
Cooper said he expects the second Hollywood Vampires album to feature original songs.
“I think that’s really what it’s going to be,” he said. “I think the Vampires next album will be almost 90 percent new stuff.”
He also thinks the second album will do more to solidify the group’s own sound and identity as a group.
“It has more of a modern sound,” Cooper said, comparing the music of the Hollywood Vampires to his own music. “I think the Vampires, I allow it to have more of a modern sound, like ‘Bad As I Am’ (a new original not included on the debut album) would never have been an Alice Cooper song. But it works for the Vampires. I don’t mind getting a little more modern rock when it comes to that. And for me, it’s a little more fun. I’m a little bit more steeped in classic Alice rock, but I have no problem listening to a song like that that Johnny brought in. I’m like ‘Yeah, that’s good. Let’s do that.”
Alan Sculley is a correspondent for Weekender. Reach Weekender at [email protected]