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Originally Published: January 1987
Author: Jon Sutherland
An interview with Alice Cooper could be a real experience based on speculation concerning his new show. It certainly leads to more anticipation than walking into the room to speak with Billy Joel. There is always a little reminder upstairs that says something could get weird. After all Alice is Alice, or is he?
On this day, Alice was admitting to being fatigued from all the fifteen hour rehearsals, but still delighted in the discovery that he was well on his way to a major tour, his first full production in some time. Must be anticipation of all the blood, the snakes, and of course the surprises that was putting Alice in the spirit. Slowly he slumped into a big red couch that nearly swallowed him and joking said that he was considering napping through the interview. Being wise and taking this assignment with a real solid Alice Cooper expert on board I thought that the odds were in our favor until 'HE' walked in.
'HE' is Kane Roberts, the Alice Cooper lead guitarist and resident hulk in the band. He took up half the room, mostly with his arms, and became part of the interview. He didn't have to ask if he wanted to join in, that was understood. Soon it was easy to see why Alice was so comfortable around him. When Alice was in New York putting together this band he had been advised to check out this guitar player who was described as being a bit 'different.'
"It was a little bit of a drive to upstate New York to a seedy bar where I was supposed to check this guitar player out that I heard about. I got out of the car and all I could hear was this loud feedback coming out of the amps. As soon as I got inside all I could see was bodies piling up in front of the stage and this huge guy on lead guitar taking care of business during his solo. As soon as I saw that I said 'I don't care if this guy can play, I want him.' Turns out he can play."
As soon as Alice finished his interpretation of this chance meeting, Kane sat there with a shit eating grin on his face and admitted his attitude towards the volume of his guitar was self perpetuated.
"I used to work out in my room with weights and play lots of heavy metal. Now I tell people 'just try and tell me to turn it down.'" Somehow looking at that body you have to believe he gets away with this technique all the time.
With Kane on guitar, the search began for a bass player. "We needed someone who was at least as bad as us. See, we're both splatter freaks and it wouldn't work if we didn't have someone who could relate to us. So we asked Donnie Kisselbach, who did the album, if he would join. Bassically we stole him from another band, which is a completely honorable thing to do. The reason he's worked out so well is that he is even sicker than us. This guy is a real closet case, a closet genius, but a closet case. He does stuff that seems weird to me!"
With the band basically intact, Alice and Kane did some important research that was supposed to result in the new record. "We literally did a world tour before the world tour", admits Alice. "We travelled all over the world writing songs and getting ideas together and we ended up in Maui with a Foastex four-track machine and some ideas." Then Kane interrupts, "All the guitars started sounding soft and twanging because it's so lazy over there, a lot like Don Ho. That's when we knew we had to get the fuck out of there and go somewhere that had more energy."
As soon as the word energy was mentioned, Alice sat up and started talking about the new show. "Took me hours to get all the blood off." Maybe the thought of blood, the original source of human energy gets Alice all pumped up. "Let's face it, politics and religion are boring. They're dead subjects. Most people don't really care about them. The only things that matter to people are death, sex and money. So we write songs mostly concerning those subjects. You won't find any sociopolitical quasi-religious songs on the new Alice Cooper album."
So Alice Cooper plays splatter-rock and all the blood stains are part of the job, they come with the territory. The stories he tells are convincing efforts to entertain us in a fantasyland he created for himself. Inside the lights of the stage, different because they come from all angles, he is quickly transformed from Al into Alice. Al used to play golf with Groucho Marx, Alice would hang him onstage. "It's the greatest therapy in the world. When I go out there on stage I can do anything I want to anybody."
Kane too recognises the split personality. "Al can be real cool, and then suddenly he can start talking about Alice in the third person, like they are two different people." "They are," Alice reponds. "After working with Jason from the Friday The 13th movies I saw a little bit of myself in him. He can be cool, a nice guy, but when he becomes Jason, he's gone. You can't even kid with him between takes. He's a real psycho he's so real. Believe me, if more people had the outlet that Jason and I have in our fantasies, this world would be a whole lot better off." Maybe that's why Alice Cooper's appeal has held up so much over the years. People can place themselves inside his fantasy alongside him and subjugate their own dreams. They can relate even if they never get the opportunity to be as devious as he is onstage.
Before "He's Back" hit the airwaves, Alice had been signaling a change to a more heavy form of rock."I have wanted for quite a while to make the music heavier. The song "He's Back" which was chosen for the movie, stands out against all the other songs which are much heavier. That's why we put it on as the last song on side two. We feel that the song that represents us the most fairly now is 'The World Needs Guts' but we'll probably do 'Teenage Frankenstein' for the next video and single."
"It's great to have all these new hard and heavy songs to put in the show but we have to do the old ones as well. There's no way Alice Cooper could do a show without 'Eighteen', 'Be My Lover', 'School's Out', 'Only Women Bleed' and 'Welcome To My Nightmare.' That still leaves us plenty of room to do five songs off the new record on this tour."
'School's Out', which has been covered so many times, was the source of one of Alice Cooper cause celebre."Krokus covers the song, claiming I sang on it and that I produced it. I never knew they were even doing it! I've even had an Arizona band list me on the album jackets as the producer and I never was even involved with the record. Now, I'll do a B minus splatter flick with dubbed over voices that's released in some far away land like the Philipines, with 'Monster Dog'. But I can't produce bands that I've never known to exist." Hey, get it straight, Alice is weird but not that weird. Even he can't do things that he doesn't know about.
"Things are different now," Alice confesses. "I was into running for ten years, I was into drinking for ten years and now I'm back to running. Before we started these marathon reheasals for the tour I was out every evening running a three mile loop in a park near our reheasal studio. It reminds me a lot of the old days when I was really into running and self torture. The running I do now is just for fitness. When I actually competed I ran way over my head going incredible distances. I used to think marathons were nothing, that I would run forty miles and marathons were only twenty-six miles. Then I tried one, collapsed, fell on my face, broke my nose." So folks, those rumours about Alice Cooper trying to take the finish line off the pavement with his nose were true. Alice does have one problem with his new lifestyle. "Can't find my all-time favorite shoes on the racks anymore. I used to love these old shoes that Nike made called 'Astrograbbers'. They had a cool white mesh with waffles on the bottom and a small heel." Sorry to disappoint you Alice, but Nike originally designed those as the first ever Astro-turf football shoe. But has Alice Cooper ever done anything conventional and normal? "I don't think so," is the opinion of Kane Roberts and who's going to fuck with him?
Alice Cooper's famed snake died of a heart Attack. His new slithery friend is called Mystress.
Orange Show Pavilllion
If you were just about to wax nostalgic over what "once was" with the King of Splatter, you had better buckle up your socks. Ripping right through the time barrier, Alice has definitely slithered back onto the scene with a heart stopper. For all us lifers just wondering how long it was going to take Alice to re-establish that honored position left vacant by his departure from the scene about four years ago, the wait came to an abrupt halt. The re-emergence of this legendary figure last Friday night at the Orange Show Pavillion in San Bernadino sent a surge of absolute resolve up the spine... and right out of the old visual threshold here. How the fuck does he get his head out of the guillotine?!
Even those neophytes caught "unawares" by Alice's ability were blown to the wall with those power packed chords thrust into the grey matter to lay open secret veins of established fears. Each consecutive moment developed into a striking vignette of powerful music and visual human epigraphs.
Graphic and explosive the magnetic quality of the music overrides the urge to escape while a madman bequeaths the future as "HE" decapitates, mutilates and masterfully conjugates his new material of a more severe-edged rock while not ignoring all those heavy pieces of the past that brought this incredibly diverse crowd (and I mean crowd) here tonight.
There was not one sniff of disappointment in the enthusiastic and delighted audience, wildly supportive, absolutely everyone was moved to rampant rockin' at one point or another. Next to me one fan wailed - "This is as good as Kiss!" As his friend raised an upthrust fist "THIS IS BETTER THAN KISS MAN!"