The history of Rock and Roll is laden with heroes, guitar gods and bands that have achieved an almost mythical status in our minds. Rock and Roll also has its villains. The anti hero. Those musicians who chose to go against the grain and build their popularity and stardom on being infamous. A few names instantly pop into mind like Johnny Rotten, Iggy Pop and Ozzy. Johnny cash was certainly one of the first true Rock and Roll rebels; but the grand daddy of them all surely has to be Alice Cooper.
Hard Rock was at its peak during the 1970’s. Super groups ruled arenas and tickets were only $10 bucks. Alice Cooper built a reputation by having the wildest, craziest and most elaborate stage shows. He took on stage theatrics to a new level that shocked and enthralled audiences world wide. I found out first hand how Alice invented his stage persona and his thoughts on music today.
MikeC: Hi Mr. Cooper
Alice: Geez, you make me sound like a high school math teacher. Please, Coop is fine.
MikeC: Got It. What influenced you to make music the way you did and how did you invent your stage persona?
Alice: Rock and Roll is about attitude. All the heavy rock groups were doing the same thing. I noticed there was no definitive villain in Rock and Roll.
MikeC: So you wanted to take things to a different level?
Alice: Yes. I wanted to give audiences something completely different. Push the boundaries.
MikeC: Is that where the idea for the make up and wardrobe came in?
Alice: The persona I developed or became comes from two movies I watched. Barbarella and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. In Barbarella there’s a scene where the Black Queen comes out all in leather and vinyl and flicks her wrists making switchblades pop out. I was like “yeah”, I want to do that. The influence for the make up came from watching Bettie Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. Bettie’s character had this caked up, smeared make up all over her face. That was the look I needed.
MikeC: You definitely created an iconic look. Your stage shows are legendary. Tell me about the sword incident.
Alice: (laughs) That one never goes away. We were on tour in Europe. I had this sword, a real dueling one, real sharp, that I carried on stage and swung around. I would jam it into the stage to let the audience know it was real. This particular night I went to stick in the stage and it went right through my thigh and came out the other side. Of course the audience thought it was part of the show. The band was freaking out because they knew it was real.
MikeC: Jesus, what did you do?
Alice: I pulled the sword out and finished the show. My pants were soaked with blood, but the adrenaline and alcohol got me through. The next day I remember limping onto the tour bus.
MikeC: That’s a crazy story, you don’t see things like that anymore at concerts. How do you think the rock scene has changed?
Alice: I think younger bands are wimpy. Ladies seem to rule the stage. When you go to a Rihanna concert or Britney or Pink, They put on some big shows. It’s a huge production. The guys just aren’t doing that.
MikeC: What role do you think technology has played in all this?
Alice: That’s tough. I love technology, but at the same time it’s hurt music overall.
MikeC: How do you mean?
Alice: The best example is albums. People used to buy whole albums. Bands would write music that told a story from track one to the end. Now people just buy songs. They don’t get the whole vision the band was trying to create.
MikeC: Do you think the music corporations have a lot to do this?
Alice: Definitely. So much of today’s music is disposable. Tell me one song that is still going to be around ten, fifteen, twenty years from now. I could name a 100 songs from the 50’s,60’s and 70’s that will still be popular a 100 years from now.
MikeC: Do you think that is because of autotune and a lack of great musicians?
Alice: I could grab five OK musicians off the street, put them in the studio and make them sound amazing. Take those same guys and put them onstage. Disaster.
MikeC: Do reality shows like American Idol have a lot to do with that?
Alice: I love those shows. We have a ton of people with talent in this country. Watch YouTube. You can find some amazing singers and musicians. I think the problem is song writing. There are no more great song writers. I still listen to Cole Porter and Burt Bacharach. They knew how to marry the music with the lyrics. The right chords and melodies. That’s what’s missing. That’s what type of reality music show we need. A song writer’s competition.
(Note** Simon Cowell if you create a show like this, Alice and I want a cut)
MikeC: So where do have to go back to?
Alice: The Beatles. Lennon and McCartney. The fifties. Chuck Berry was a great lyricist. He would just make up a word to fit the music and mood. He made it work.
MikeC: So what will people be listening to in the future?
Alice: I don’t know. Something good I hope. I believe people want music that makes them feel good, whatever that is.
MikeC: Do you think Rock and Roll is dead?
Alice: I think everything in music is cyclical. It’ll come back around.
MikeC: What was your inspiration for the Hollywood Vampires?
Alice: It’s an interesting story of how we came together. Joe and Johnny are good friends. We just wanted to go out and play some straight up Rock and Roll. It’s really not about big arenas or album sales. We just want take audiences back to a time when rock was fun.
MikeC: Changing gears a little. I understand you are a huge golfer.
Alice: I love it. I play at least five days a week.
MikeC: It’s just hard to picture “Alice Cooper” in plaid shorts swinging a nine iron.
Alice: (laughing) I get that a lot. Golf is a very mental game. Getting out on the links early in the morning and focusing on my swing helps put a lot of things in my life into perspective.
MikeC: Ever think you will go pro?
Alice: I’ve played in tournaments. I have to say before a show I find myself thinking more about how to shave a few strokes off my game instead of my set list.
Interviewing Alice Cooper was a real treat. What struck me the most about him is how well spoken and calm he was. Very down to earth. Can he still rock with the best of them? You bet! The Hollywood Vampires are touring America this summer. Check them out.
Got questions? Contact me at Mikecmobilebeat@gmail.com
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