From trying to persuade The Muppets‘ Kermit and Gonzo to sell their souls to him to forming a secret “Hollywood Vampire” drinking society with John Lennon, Keith Moon and Marc Bolan, Alice Cooper has had a wild old career.
Now, marking 50 years since the release of his debut album ‘Pretties For You’, he’s preparing to visit seven cities the UK in October with his ‘Ol’ Black Eyes Is Back’ tour, with tickets going on sale on Friday. We caught up with the original shock rocker for a quick chat.
There’s a trend for music biopics at the moment in the wake of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, with the likes of Elton John’s Rocketman and David Bowie’s Stardust. Are we ever likely to see a new one based on Alice Cooper?
“Oh yeah, I think it’s natural. I mean, there’s so many good tales in the Alice Cooper story. We were the band nobody liked. We were the band that never had a chance to make it. Not only did we make it but I’m still doing it 50 years later, and I think the show’s better now that it was then. But the fact we were the biggest underdog of all time to actually make it commercially in this business and keep it going – that story right there is amazing.”
“The fact that my wife [Sheryl Goddard] and I have been married for 43 years; that doesn’t happen in rock ‘n’ roll. So I mean there’s so many aspects to it – me beating alcoholism, beating drug addiction 37 years ago, my association with the Hollywood Vampires – you know, Harry Nilsson and all the guys. It could be a great stage play.”
Who would you like to see play you?
“Well you know, I told Johnny Depp that he would be great at it if he were just a little better looking (Laughs).”
What can we expect from the Ol’ Black Eyes Is Back tour?
“The great thing about the tour coming to the UK is we’ve done this last show for the last two and a half years so we’re ready to retire this show. The next show, all the elements are out there – it’s going to be a pure Alice Cooper show. It’s going to have all the stuff that everybody wants to see and new stuff and for the songs, we dip into a bunch of albums that people probably are not going to expect us to go to. So it’s going to be a total Alice extravaganza.”
You’re the godfather of shock rock and deliberately fuelled the crazy urban myths in the early days. In the age of Twitter, is it more difficult for a band to provoke?
“You know, I don’t know if you can shock an audience anymore – I think audiences are unshockable. Well, think of this: Trump is our president, Bill Cosby is a rapist and Bruce Jenner – the greatest athlete in the world – is a woman. Now: how am I going to shock an audience? (Laughs). So it’s all based now on pure entertainment. I use shock and horror elements, I use comedy and I try to break their hearts in places too, emotionally. But when you come to an Alice show, we’re not going to back off on anything. People usually walk away going: ‘That was the most fun I’ve ever had at a concert’. That’s all I care about – that the audience says, ‘Man, I got my money’s worth with Alice Cooper’. We’ve been doing that for 50 years and that’s why we’re still here – because we never give the audience a bad show.”
Any ambitions you’d still like to fulfill?
“I never look backwards. I always look forwards. I like seeing old pictures of shows and going, ‘That was a good show’ or, ‘That happened, that was pretty neat’ but I’m always looking at ‘What can we do next that we haven’t done yet?’ or ‘What song shall I do off the new album?’. I’m more focused on the future than the past.”
In 50 years, what’s been the most surreal offer you’ve ever turned down?
“Oh man, I was asked to play Billy Sunday, who was a pastor in the ‘30s who was against drinking and he was a real hellfire preacher. I learned 80 pages of sermons of his that were just outrageous – on top of the pulpit and throwing things at the audience and everything like that. Learnt the whole thing! While I was drinking by the way! Which is unusual. And the production ran out of money so it never happened. At least it taught me I could learn 80 pages of dialogue. (Laughs) Nobody’s offered the James Bond part to me yet. I would love to play a James Bond villain – I think I would be great at that. I certainly probably wouldn’t be on the good guy’s side.”
You could reunite with Liza Minnelli and The Pointer Sisters who you recorded a rejected ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ theme with….
“Hey, my henchwomen right there!”
Which artists are you enjoying at the moment – who do you see coming up that’s the next you?
“I really believe that somewhere in some garage there is a young guy that wants to be the next Alice and is planning his entire assault and he’s got a great band with him. I think there will be another character like Alice and it will be based on hard rock. I think hard rock will probably recycle itself because I can’t imagine 16-year-old kids wanting to listen to dance music for the rest of their lives. A 16-year-old kid wants the adventure and he wants the pure excitement of rock n’ roll guitars, drums, screaming kids – it’s too much fun for that to go down. So I believe that hard rock is going to come back big.”
What can we expect from your forthcoming new album?
“I tell ya, the really interesting thing is going to be the new [Hollywood] Vampires album, because most of it was written on the road. A lot of it is Johnny Depp’s writing and there’s a lot of venom in his lyrics because of all the crap that went on. Almost everything I read about Johnny Depp was absolutely untrue. You know, I’m touring with him and it says here in the paper: ‘Well, you [Depp] weigh 90 lbs and you’re a drug addict and you’re drinking and that you’re out of money’ and all this stuff. I’m on tour with him and I’ve never seen him look better in his lifetime, I’ve never heard him play better, he’s laughing all the time. Just the opposite of what you’re reading is what was going on. But on this album, he wrote a lot of the lyrics – and I got to sing them – so I’m the one delivering the venom. Being in a band is, I think, more expressive for him than doing movies. When you’re in rock ‘n’ roll, you can bring your personal life and problems right to the stage – and you can bring your anger to the stage. It’s hard rock, but there’s stuff you’re not going to expect.”
The last Hollywood Vampires album featured appearances from the likes of Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl and Slash. Any big name guests on this one?
“Jeff Beck plays on one of the songs. And certainly, I look at people who are honorary Vampires – so of course, Jimmy Page is one. The ones that have at one time been in a lot of trouble in their lives and are still going. Keith Richards is definitely a Vampire! Just his aura and whole history. Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix – those guys were lifers in rock ‘n’ roll even though they only lived to 27. If they had been alive today, they still would have been doing it. Like me! I think you’ll have fun with the new shows. Whenever I think about them, I start laughing.”
Alice Cooper plays the following dates in October 2019:
4th – Manchester – Manchester Arena
5th – Aberdeen – Event Complex
7th – Leeds – First Direct Arena
8th – Brighton – Brighton Centre
10th – London – The O2
11th – Birmingham – Resorts World Arena
12th – Cardiff Arena