by LIZA MITCHELL
Alice Cooper is tying up a few loose ends before he boards a plane to Russia for a three-night stretch of shows. It’s not the kind of place one might expect to play host to the Godfather of Shock Rock, but the power of change can be a remarkable thing. “It’s a great audience over there. I don’t know if it’s because for so long, they really didn’t have anything, and now all of the bands go over there, but we are very well-received. These are the same people who years ago could’ve gone to jail for having our albums, so it’s pretty interesting.”
Cooper, 65, is bringing his electric brand of shock rock to the Florida Theatre on October 29, just in time for Halloween. The three-act show will be equal parts glam rock, macabre theatre and nostalgic trip to the Hollywood graveyard where Cooper will pay homage to his fallen heroes like Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Keith Moon. He promises to deliver an epic concert experience, complete with guillotines, nightmarish imagery, confetti-filled weather balloons and a first rate band. “I expect the audience to come in full costume,” he says. “It will be a full-on Alice Cooper show.”
Time and clean living have done nothing to soften the character that Cooper created over 45 years ago. He still approaches his craft with the same intensity and bravado that inspired the Rob Zombies and Marilyn Mansons of the world to embrace the darker elements of rock. The insatiable temptations of the rock star lifestyle have given way to philanthropy, community service–and golf. But center stage amongst the glitz and gore is Cooper’s gateway to immortality, and he’s not about to turn back now.
“I used to drink, and when you are in your 20s and 30s, everything is a party. I quit drinking 31 years ago, so touring is a lot easier than it used to be,” he says. “You would think that the older you get, the harder it would be. It’s actually a lot easier, so it’s kind of gone the other way. The shows are easier even though they are longer and physically harder, but it’s what you feed into it. In my 20s, I used to do a two-hour show and feel horrible, but now I feel great. At 65, I am in better shape than when I was 30.”
While his tales of excess are legendary, Cooper is committed to his sobriety. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t look back on his antics with fondness now and again. “I can’t say it wasn’t fun,” he says. “But it’s nice to be able to do a show and remember it.” Portions of his past life, like the Hollywood Vampires, are reincarnated in his current stage show. That was the name of his former drinking club that boasted such famous members as Moon, Janis Joplin and John Lennon.
He doesn’t offer up intimate details about his relationship, but Cooper readily admits that no one could ever take down the Moon. Part of the fun, he says, was seeing which Keith would show up to the party, one in full Hitler regalia or one doing a less than regal impersonation of the Queen of England. “It was kind of the last man standing,” he says.
There is no question that Cooper earned his stripes as a warrior who survived the decadence and depravity of the 60s and 70s. As such, he has become a tireless ally for new bands. He shoots straight and isn’t afraid to expose the struggles of the business, from the endless touring to the tireless production of new music. And as he casually peppers a conversation with references to the world’s most iconic rock gods, you know he is for real.
“When you are just starting out, you are trying to sell yourself to everybody. It’s up to you not to just get to where you are going but to stay there. It’s really hard to get that first hit and book that first headlining tour. The harder part is staying in the arenas and in the theatres and making records,” he says. “In this atmosphere, one or two records and you are pretty much done. When Bowie and Elton and I came out, we did two albums a year. That was normal. When you weren’t recording, you were touring. I guess all us warhorses from that era are used to hard work.”
Cooper has worked to weave himself a place in the fabric of rock culture and expects anyone with similar aspirations to knuckle down and bust ass if they want to be remembered for their contributions. He offers quick praise to current artists like Dave Grohl and Jack White, but Cooper points to the rock music of the 60s and 70s as a touchstone for today’s rock-obsessed youth and the staying power of honest music.
“It’s the music that has held up over the years. If you look at the t-shirts that 16 and 17-year-old kids are wearing today, it’s Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors. They don’t think that their bands are doing it. Even if they are doing it, they aren’t around long enough to really pledge allegiance to,” he says. “If you were an Alice fan, you were an Alice fan for life, and I will keep going until they stop showing up.”
by LIZA MITCHELL