Posted July 2019
To the uninitiated, one may still think of Alice Cooper as some psycho with a girl’s name, wears eye make-up, and gets his head chopped off via guillotine every show.
Everything but the psycho part is true.
Actually, Alice is your typical husband/father/grandfather/Bible believer. Okay, all but the “typical” part is true. Seriously.
I called up the man formerly known as Vincent Furnier at his home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, to chat about his upcoming brand spanking new tour that starts this year and a few other things. Boomerocity readers will recall that we spoke with the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer early last year. So, when Alice called up, I asked him what has been happening with him since we last spoke.
“Things have been going great. I was just speaking with my assistant. He lives in Nashville and he says the NFL draft thing is insane over there. Ha! Ha! Pretty crazy. He says it’s pretty insane over there. They were going to pull down the cherry trees just before the Cherry Tree Festival. What does that have to do with the NFL?! Oh, the NFL guys don’t like cherry blossoms. I get it.
“Since I talked to you last, I think I’ve done 191 cities. The last tour was 191 cities, 17 countries, 4 continents, and that’s not counting the Hollywood Vampires in Europe. We did about 20 shows – 20-something shows in Europe with the Vampires. I’ve been off the road for three months now and we’re getting ready to go back.”
When I said that the tour would start just in time to miss the heat in Paradise Valley, Arizona, he said:
“Yeah, well, it’s gonna be 100 here on Friday.”
Continuing on with describing the upcoming tour, Coop said:
“Actually, it’s going to be more like the end of the last tour – the last time we’re ever gonna do this show that we’ve done for the last year and a half is in Mexico City with Kiss. It’s big – eighty thousand or ninety thousand people – then we’re putting that show to bed. Then, I start rehearsing with the Vampires. Then I go out with the Vampires for about two weeks or three weeks. Then that’s done for a while. There’s a new Vampires studio album coming out and a live album, so that’s going to be another thing. And, then, we start rehearsing for a brand-new tour which I’d say will be another one hundred and fifty shows.
“There’s twelve to fifteen songs we have to do on stage. You have to do School’s Out. You have to do Eighteen and No More Mr. Nice Guy, Poison. Those are the songs the audience have to hear. Then how do you produce that on stage visually different from the last time you did it? That’s really where the fun puzzle comes in. You start putting pieces together. You know you can’t use the Frankenstein again because we did it two shows in a row. So, now, that’s put to bed. Something else has to take its place.
“It is, actually, part of the fun – is knitting the show together from beginning to end in rehearsal.”
Cooper has an incredibly strong fan base that he calls his minions. I belong to several of the fan pages/groups on Facebook and they are as loyal and fervent as any star could ever hope for. Alice had this to say about them:
“Oh, I know! They let us know all kinds of things. Of course, they want us to do songs from Zipper Catches Skin and Special Forces. I’m going, ‘Guys. We only have two hours.’ We’re gonna put as many things in there that you haven’t heard as we can.
“One nice thing is you play to the band’s strengths. In other words, I wouldn’t be able to do songs like Roses On White Lace or songs like The World Needs Guts or things like that if I didn’t have Nita Strauss because she is a shredder. She can play the Kane Roberts stuff. If she was the only guitar player, then it would be very hard to do things like blues rock oriented – Under My Wheels and stuff. She plays all that stuff great. But her strength is really – when it comes to those solos – in a little bit more modern rock. So, we can throw those songs her way and the audience goes, ‘Oh, man, I never thought you would play that song!’ I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for her being in the band.”
Speaking of songs, I had always been curious about a song from his Welcome 2 My Nightmare album entitled, “I Am Made Of You”. To me, it sounds like a song you would hear in many of the “big box” churches across the fruited plain. Knowing that he is, in fact, a Christian (for those of you who didn’t know that little factoid, you can close you gaping mouth now), I wondered if it was a song about his faith and if it was written for use in church.
“It has been. It actually has been done by a church choir. Here was the deal: Desmond (Child), Bob Ezrin, and I sat down and wrote it at Desmond’s house. Desmond wrote it as a love song between a guy and a girl, right? Or a guy and a guy, whatever. I Am Made Of You. In other words, I am connected to you. Totally connected to you. I am nothing without you.
“Bob wanted it to be Alice singing to the audience; that he’s connected to them. I am made of you. Without you guys, I’m nothing. I wrote it as a hymn. I wrote it as from me to God. I am made of You. In the beginning, I was just a shadow. In other words, I was empty until You filled me.
“It really works as a three-pronged song; however, you want to take it. But I have heard it, now, by a choir and it is BEAUTIFUL by a choir! The guitar on that, by the way – Steve Hunter’s guitar solo on that is one of the best solos I’ve ever heard. But there’s another song on Along Came A Spider called Salvation which was also done by a choir. I listened to it lyrically and it totally makes sense.
“In all honesty, when I look back at a lot of my songs – even when I hadn’t yet come back to the church – Second Coming – there are certain songs that are talking against Satanic (things) and pro Christ. They may be disguised, but when you listen to them, you go, ‘Yeah! I get that! I totally understand what he’s saying there!’
“Last Temptation. I mean, people were really surprised when they heard Last Temptation because it was being sold in Christian bookstores. Christians were going, ‘Oh, I get it – what he’s saying here.’ Same with Brutal Planet and Dragontown. It was saying, ‘What is the worst thing that can happen to you? The worst thing that can happen to anybody is the fact that you had your chance on earth and you didn’t accept. And, now, you’re here in Dragontown and there is no. getting. out. It is the worst horror you could ever imagine. More scary than any vampire. More scary than anything is you’re here. That’s it. I wanted whoever was Christian to hear that and go, ‘Wow! You’re right!’ And other people that did hear it go, ‘What do you meant there’s no way out?’ I want those questions, yeah!”
When I told Alice that I Am Made Of You is one of the most beautiful songs he’s written, he added:
“I had five ballads in a row. I had Only Women Bleed. I had You And Me. I had I Never Cry and How You Gonna See Me Now. They were all Top Twenty hits. It was because disco was going on and it (radio) would not play any rock and roll. Kiss had Beth. Aerosmith, all their hits were ballads. And all Alice Cooper songs that were being played were ballads. It was a weird time.
“Ezrin and I and Wagner, I said, ‘I want at least one song that people go, ‘What?!’ It’s more shocking. It’s easy to write a shock rock song. It’s even better when you write a song that is so pretty that it’s shocking. Wagner and I wrote a song – it was on my Welcome 2 My Nightmare album: ‘Something To Remember Me By,’ which is one of the prettiest songs ever, after Dick passed it away. It was really a tribute to him. There’s another called, ‘Might As Well Be On Mars,” that I think might be the best song I ever wrote. That was never a single. It was just an album track. When you work with Ezrin, he said, ‘If you’re gonna make a ballad, make it a heartbreaker.’”
Alice’s new tour is being joined on a many of its dates with Halestorm. I asked Cooper why he made that choice.
“Lzzy has been a friend of ours for a long time. We met Lzzy the very first time the Vampires hit Rock In Rio. Lzzy was down there and we were gonna do ‘Whole Lotta Love’ in honor of Bonham. Lzzy was there and I think Johnny (Depp) or somebody said, ‘Let Lzzy sing this.’ And I went, ‘Yeah! Absolutely!’ She came out and sang it with us and killed it, of course, and we’ve been friends ever since. So, when it came time to pick an opening act for this tour, and when her name came up, everybody went, ‘Hell, yeah! Halestorm would be great on this show!’
“So, it’s a little variety, Halestorm, and I think there are other shows that are gonna come up. The Strut’s maybe playing with us in Australia. We have different people at different segments of the tour. Lzzy’s a great hit for us.”
If you haven’t been keeping up with Alice when he’s not on stage, you might be surprised to hear that he has established a ministry for youth in the Phoenix area. It is called Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock. He and his wife, Sheryl, established Solid Rock in 1995 with their close friend, Chuck Sevale. According to its website, “Like all great ideas, Solid Rock began on a simple premise. That inside every teen, there is a purpose. It all begins with hope.
A faith-based organization, Solid Rock’s primary mission is to make an everlasting difference in the lives of teens by helping them meet the spiritual, economical, physical, and social needs of teens in the community by offering a safe, engaging environment during non-school hours. Maintaining ‘a teen’s worst enemy is too much time on their hands,’ Solid Rock provides the music, arts, vocational programs and fellowship that challenge teens to discover their passion through music, dance, video and sound production, self-expression, and creativity.”
I asked Cooper to tell me more about Solid Rock.
“The idea behind was I was watching two sixteen-year-olds do a drug deal on the corner. It came to me, ‘How does that kid not know he might be the best guitar player in Arizona? Or how does the other kid know that he might not be the best singer or might be the best drummer?’ Because neither one has ever had the opportunity because they were born into drug dealing. They were born into gangs. They were born into – their mom and dad. Everything.
“I said, ‘Why not provide them with a place where they could actually have an option?’ I got a bunch of Christian business men together and we sat down as a board and for twenty years we made money and gave it away to teenage organizations. Then, we built our own place. It’s thirty thousand square feet. We get a hundred kids a day in there – from ALL walks.
“The whole idea is come on in, find your talent. If it’s art, if it’s photography, if it’s dance, if it’s guitar or bass, drums, whatever, come in and find your talent and it’s all free. All of it’s free. We’ll foot the bill for it. We get gang kids and we get rich kids. We get Muslims. We get Christians. We get gay. We get straight and they’re all teenagers and we say, ‘You’re all welcome. We’re not going to beat you over the head (with a Bible).’ That’s the whole idea. They’re not stupid. They go, ‘Why are you doing this? What’s the catch?’ And I say, ‘The catch is you show up. You do it. Why we’re doing it is because we’re taught to do it.’ I say, ‘That’s the only catch there is, is that we see what your problems are, and we can help. We don’t need anything else from you.’
“And the thing about it is – I had one girl. Sixteen years old. She comes up to me and she goes, ‘I want you to see the list I made last year.’ I said, ‘What list?’ She said, ‘I do everything by lists. Every morning, I get up and I write down what I have to do that day on a list.’ I go, ‘Oh, okay, let me see,’ and it said, ‘Get up in the morning. Have breakfast with the family. Go to school. Due my morning classes. Have lunch with my friends. Do my afternoon classes. Go to the park. Kill myself.’ And I went, ‘What?!’ And she said, ‘I had a pocket full of pills and a razor blade.’
“We don’t go in and ask them why. That’s not our job. We’re not psychologists. We’re just there to provide some sort of relief from whatever their life is. And on her way to the park, a friend of hers said, ‘Have you heard about Solid Rock?’ and she said, ‘No’ and she said, ‘It’s a bunch of kids over there. You can learn guitar, bass, drums’ and she said, ‘Well, I got nothing to lose.’
“So, she comes over, and she’s there every day at 3 o’clock. Every day. Some of these kids say, ‘We feel safer here than we do at home.’ Other kids go, ‘This is exactly what I was looking for. I didn’t know where I was headed. Now I can sort of explore my talent.’ You’ll get a kid from the worst barrio; from the most expensive house; get them in the same room playing music together and neither one of them care where they came from. All they care about is the song or the music or what they’re doing. It’s been working. We get a hundred kids a day in there.
“We’ve only got one open. We’ve had people trying to open these places all over and I’m always afraid to farm them out because the original idea – there are certain things that we want to be at the bottom of it. It’s usually Christian business men – not that you have to be Christian, either. There’s no Bible study – unless you want there to be. There’s no requirement. You don’t have to learn Bible verses or anything. There’s no beating you over the head with a Bible. BUT it is available.”
At the end of our chat, Solid Rock came up again. Alice said:
“If you ever get a chance – if you’re ever in Phoenix and get a chance, come in and see it because we love for people to come in and just watch the kids working and watch the kids having fun in there. It’s a lot of lives changing in there! A lot of kids got dealt really bad hands in the beginning and this changes everything. Yeah. Yeah. All we have to do is be faithful to it. That’s all.
Another thing that the uninitiated might not know about Alice Cooper is that he and his wife are grandparents. I asked him if bedtime stories with the grandkids were frightening coming from Grandpa Alice.
“No, no, no! In fact, I had the twins over yesterday. Sheryl and I had Falcon and Riot over. They live up to their names. Riot, especially, was living up to his name. And they have a new little brother named Rexington who we call T-Rex. They got the power trio already going. They’re just absolutely so much fun! They’re a lot of work but they’re fun!
“They know that I’m not the same guy on stage. They know that’s Alice Cooper. I’m Pop Pop. I play Alice Cooper. They all get that. And their dad is in a band. Co-op (the band’s name) is really good. They sorta sound like Linkin Park – a heavier Linkin Park, and they’re Christian! I’m tellin’ ya, they have an album out that’s really, really good – Co-op does. It’s really, really a good record! The band is really good. I’m a little jealous of them, they’re that good.
“Calico (Alice’s daughter) is out with Beasto Blanco. She’s lead singer for Beasto Blanco and she’s still doing improv comedy. Sonora (Alice’s other daughter) is a make-up artist and her husband had Stage 5 kidney failure and got a new kidney. It’s not rejecting. It’s right there. So, we’ve been very, very blessed with that one.”
When can fans expect a new album from Alice?
“To be honest with you, I’m going to be writing the album with Tommy (Henriksen) on the road with Bob Ezrin. We don’t really have a target date for that album but a lot of it’s written right now. I think when there’s time off of the road, we’ll be going into the studio on that time off. We do albums fairly quick because Bob and I and Tommy work really well together, really quickly and we surround ourselves with great players. And we know – absolutely know if a song is right or if it isn’t right. We always over record everything. If we want twelve songs, we do eighteen. We do eighteen songs and pick the best ones.
“The legacy? You know, I would love to think that nobody wanted to go on after us. Do the show that nobody’s ever gonna forget and do it consistently for fifty years. I want to be the one that people compare to. That’s not out of ego, that’s out of the fact that a lot of work goes into writing and producing these shows. I like the fact that people still come to me and say, ‘I saw you in 1978. Best show I ever saw. I saw you in 1986. Best show I ever saw. I saw you in 1992. I saw you in 2005. Best show I ever saw.’
“To me, the consistency of how good the show was has a lot to do with the fact that Sheryl and I have been in show business since we were fifteen. Both of us kind of like really know if it’s right and really know if it’s wrong. Then, we have Shep (Gordon) and Bob Ezrin that are kind of the overlords that get it all done.
“I think the fact that Sheryl’s a perfectionist; I’m a perfectionist, and when it comes to getting it perfect – I don’t want it to be so perfect that it’s not fun. I want it to have a looseness to it. But I know you can be loose and still be perfect up there. I can tell now if one little thing is not quite in tune – and I’m never gonna yell at anybody. But I come over and I go, ‘I should tighten that bit up a little bit.’ And, a lot of times, mistakes stay in the show because, sometimes, mistakes are so good.’ They say, ‘Hey, I’m so sorry that happened.’ And I go, ‘No, no! They reacted great to it. We’re gonna do it again tomorrow!’
As our time to visit drew to a close, I asked Alice if he is staying with the same band as he has been touring with, he said:
“Yeah, yeah, same band. I’d never get rid of a winning combination like that. My job as a rock star is probably is fourth or fifth on my list of importance in life. But, it’s something that Shep and I and Sheryl have been doing for as long as I can remember, and I don’t see any way of stopping it. So, we’re just going to keep going until we can’t anymore.”