Interview: Alice Cooper
After nearly a half-dozen unsuccessful attempts to connect with rock legend Alice Cooper, it started to feel like I was hunting down a serial killer.
With a grueling road schedule that zig-zagged between charity golf tournaments and the almost nightly concerts wrapping up his current Psycho-Drama Tour, the artist eluded our pursuit for a couple of weeks, eventually surfacing long enough for us to get him on the phone for a few minutes.
In an exclusive interview with SoundSpike, The Coop touched on subjects ranging from his childhood as a horror movie nerd to working on his 25th solo release, the concept album "Along Came A Spider," which tracks the dark and devious activities of ... a serial killer.
Born Vincent Furnier on Feb. 4, 1948, the self-admitted class clown from tawny Phoenix has been thrilling and chilling fans since his first band, The Earwigs, lip-synched their way through a Beatles song to win their high school talent contest. It was just a few years later that the harmonica playing Furnier re-named his band the Spiders, moved to Los Angeles, and went looking for a high-profile image to go along with a string of semi-successful regional singles.
That's when Furnier's conjured up alter ego Alice Cooper, decided to dress himself in tattered women's clothing and smeared makeup, and the indelible, androgynous rock star was born. Now, some 40 years later, it's interesting talking to the guy and hearing him constantly referring to Alice in the third person.
But no matter what, Alice Cooper is never far from Furnier, lurking in the shadows, ready to spring forth each night on stage with a vengeance, still presenting one of the most theatrical stage shows ever. While he is currently working several numbers from "Along Came A Spider" into his Psycho-Drama set, Cooper is already plotting logistics for his next tour in full support of the new project, figuring out the best way to showcase his latest and, arguably, most gruesome brainchild to three generations of fans.
Cooper, or Furnier, fashions himself a "techno-tard" who has to tap his 15-year-old to find out what an Alice Cooper widget is, but he still maintains an active role in deciding where and how his mascara-smudged brand is going to be used, especially on the Internet.
"I do see the advantage in it," Cooper said of the newest medium for introducing new consumers to everything Alice. "I let other people handle that, but what I do have control over is what's on [the Internet]. I go, 'Lemme see the artwork, let me control that.' Once the artwork is done and the message is there I say, 'OK, put it out however you want to put it out. If you want to do a pinball machine, great, do it.'
"I don't want people twisting it the wrong way," he said. "There are always boundaries I enjoy, I won't let Alice go certain places. There's a reason for that."
While he says getting 3.6 million hits on his new MySpace page is interesting, the "old school" Cooper admits that all the web exposure, with its "information overload," doesn't leave very much to the imagination.
"When I first saw videos, I said, 'Uh-oh, I'm robbing this audience of their imagination. I'm going to stick this audience with my vision of this song and they're stuck with that,'" Cooper said. "Whereas, before, they had their own vision of Dwight Frye. The problem with video was anybody could look theatrical ... The Thompson Twins could look theatrical; The Cowsills could look theatrical. All the technology, as much as I like it, could be damaging too."
Early on in his career, Cooper said, word-of-mouth rumors about his stage shows took on lives of their own with exaggerations blowing the mystique of Alice Cooper to monstrous proportions.
"You'd go to school and hear: 'Didja' hear what Alice did? His 25-foot snake killed a maid in Memphis.' I used to hear those rumors myself, and it was much better than anything I could do on the Internet," he said with a laugh.
Speaking of his new project, Cooper said he started brainstorming on the theme of a serial killer named Spider, an unrelated but coincidental tie to his earlier band, but nonetheless a perfect predator.
"I kept thinking, 'He wants eight victims because he wants eight legs to be a spider, and he wraps them in silk because that's what a spider would do,'" Cooper recalled. "Then I started finding out he was romantic; he couldn't kill his eighth victim because he was in love with her. He couldn't take the leg.
"He had a religious side; he wakes up one morning and goes, 'What if I'm wrong?' I mean, this guy's got the mentality of Hannibal Lecter, who never questions himself. And yet he goes, 'What if I'm wrong, what if my soul's at stake here?' So I thought, 'That's another interesting, complex personality thing with him, too,'" Cooper said. "So I just kept building on his personality until I had 12 good songs about him."
[Click here to listen to raw footage recorded during our interview with Alice Cooper.]