When “School’s Out,” so is Alice Cooper. The 65-year-old king of Shock Rock is still on the road six months a year and loving every minute on stage as much as he ever did.
“It’s what I do and what I’ve done for 45 years, so I can’t imagine not being on the road because on stage is where I feel most comfortable,” Cooper said while calling in from his tour bus as it rolled down the road enroute to a gig at the Morris Center in South Bend.
“I’m from that generation where you write an album, you record the album and you go out and tour behind the album,” he continued. “I know that’s not the way a lot of artists do it today, but that’s the way we do it, that’s the way of the old guard, the Ozzys, the Eltons, the Bowies, the Alices. It’s a different kind of work ethic we’ve always had.”
Cooper is famous for his passion for golf and his touring schedule of six months on and six months off enables him to spend plenty of time on the greens. We finish up in December and don’t go back out until late May, which gives me winter and spring at my home in Arizona which is nice.” When he is on the road, Cooper visits local courses whenever time allows.
The Detroit-born, snake wearing, hard rocking son of a minister said he never tires of stalking the world’s stages wearing his trademark mascara, top hat and brandishing a sword while spewing out a myriad of hits like “Billion Dollar Babies,” “School’s Out,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” and others.
“I enjoy it more now than ever,” said Cooper. “Seeing whole audiences singing along on songs like ‘Eighteen’ and ‘Elected’ is amazing. I love performing all the old songs and of course we always have new songs to mix in to the show, because I’m still recording and still putting albums out. We change things around in the show all the time to keep it fresh. In fact, we just decided last night to add a new section to the show, so we’ve got about two hours of working it out before the concert tonight to put this new part into the show.”
While Cooper has been a rock icon in America since the late 1960s, he says Europe has always been his biggest market. “The whole world loves Alice,” he said. “Europe, South America, Australia, Canada are all great places for us. And Russia has really become a great market for us.”
Although he has been known to play the cavernous “sheds” from time to time, Cooper said his show is designed for and best seen in a theater setting like Star Plaza in Merrillville. “We like playing there because it’s just the right size venue for our show,” he said. “It’s big enough, but it’s small enough for people to see everything that we’re doing up there, because the ‘show’ is as much a part of the Alice Cooper experience as the music.”
Cooper is proud he has stayed true to the low-tech Vaudeville style of performance he first created in the late 1960s using homemade props. “Today there’s all the big laser lights and explosions and we don’t do any of that,” he said. “We do a little bit of pyro effect here and there, but our show is pure theater.”
Because they recognized the Vaudevillian aspect of Cooper’s early performances, some of Hollywood’s biggest golden age stars invited Cooper to dine and drink at their tables in fancy and famous Tinseltown haunts like The Brown Derby. “I was the first rock guy to hang at the Derby,” said Cooper proudly. “Groucho (Marx) is the reason I got into that circle (which included Vincent Price, Frank Sinatra, Mae West, Frank Gorshen, George Burns and others). They got what Alice was all about. They got the ‘show’ aspect of the character.
Cooper’s buddy Peter Sellers was actually the inspiration for him to write and record his “Lace And Whiskey” concept album, which was rock ‘n’ roll done in a film noire fashion. Cooper’s primary character of the album’s songs is a gumshoe detective in the tradition of Robert Mitchum, Alan Ladd or Humphrey Bogart, right down to the tiled fedora and the trench coat.
While proud of his colorful past, Cooper is every bit as proud and passionate of his latter day albums and projects, the most recent being “Welcome 2 My Nightmare,” a sequel of sorts to his landmark 1975 epic “Welcome To My Nightmare.”
The new album features a bevy of guest stars. “Rob Zombie was the logical choice for the part of the Curator, which was Vincent Price on the first ‘Nightmare’ album,” said Cooper, who also invited less “logical” and likely guests as country star Vince Gill, dance music diva Ke$ha and Mark Volman of The Turtles to contribute.
Gill, an avid golfer and frequent player with Cooper on the links, delivers blistering lead guitar work on “A Runaway Train,” one of three songs to feature the three surviving original ‘60s-era Alice Cooper band members Dennis Dunaway, Michael Bruce and Neal Smith. “Vince is an amazing guitarist and once he was given the freedom to break out of the box and let his inner rock star out there was no stopping him,” mused Cooper.
“With Ke$ha, I told her to forget all that ‘Tic Toc’ stuff she does,” continued Cooper. “I told her that I wanted her to be a seductive devil and she got totally into it on a song we co-wrote called ‘What Baby Wants, Baby Gets’.”
Cooper has three album projects in the works. “I’m about half way done with my first covers album, which is a tribute to all of my dead drunken friends that were part of ‘The Hollywood Vampires’ (a drinking club of close friends) with me in 1973-75.” That elite club included Keith Moon, John Lennon, Bernie Taupin, Harry Nilsson, Micky Dolenz, Jim Morrison, Marc Bolan and a few select others. “Micky and Bernie and I are the last three surviving members of The Hollywood Vampires,” said Cooper, alluding that Taupin and Dolenz will be actively involved with the project.
Alice Cooper will be the musical guest on a special edition of “Midwest BEAT with Tom Lounges” at 6 p.m. today on 89.1FM-The LakeShore or stream: www.lakeshorepublicmedia.org/radio. Listeners will have opportunities to call in to win tickets.