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(October 30, 1971)
Originally Published: October 30, 1971
Author: Steve Peacock
ALICE COOPER is a group. Alice Cooper is a performer who liks to turn press conferences at London airport into performances. Alice Cooper is also a man who sits in a hotel room, drinking Budweiser beer, and talking about the other two.
Alice Cooper had a hit single in the States and people came to see tham expecting a rock group. They got assaulted by a devastating combination of hard rock and freak show outrage. Quickly, they became America's anti-hero figures. Was this a conscious move?
"It happened, and then we became conscious of it, and we worked on it, sure. Now nobody can say anything against Alice Cooper in the States because the kids will tear the place apart, and we've just got more outrageous than ever, and they love it. Now we don't have to compromise with anybody, we just get to do anything we want."
But did he ever feel forced to be outrageous when he didn't want to be?
"Yeah, that happens. It's sometimes hard when you have to keep the Alice Cooper image up - sometimes you don't feel like going out of your way to be totally nuts. Like today at the airport, we'd flown all night and I was so tired, really drawn out. But that's only 10 percent of the time - the rest of the time it's always there, because that's what we like to do, outrage people and entertain people, and that includes people you're being interviewed by. We got some nice things going at the airport in the end.
"But I do have to have a relief from Alice every once in a while, because that's a really overpowering personality."
Though Alice the performer travels in the suitcase, at least to some extent, did he ever get confused between the two?
"Yeah, well that happened at the airport. I told them that wasn't Alice there, that wa me, but really I was pulling a whole psychological trick on them because it was Alice. I didn't realise it at the time, but I got home and I realised I'd been lying. Great, I love lying. Alice is a good liar. That's what's so good about the whole Alice Cooper thing, you never have to answer to anybody. People say 'How come you just said that?' and you just say 'I was lying'. Alice likes, Alice is like a little brat, travelling around lying."
Alice the group has been around some time. In 1966, when "there was all these surf groups trying to break in the long-haired Beatle music". They were plaing the teen clubs with songs pinched from the Yardbirds, Them, the original Moody Blues (with Denny Laine), and the Pretty Things. "We used to do all kinds of obscure British stuff that was coming over . . . finding the weirdest things we could out of Europe to do . . . it was like an experiment in terror I guess."
They used to be able to empty halls with no trouble: "We were going out of our way to be obnoxious to audiences, we used to get so drunk we couldn't play. I'd wear a pink clown suit, and go on stage and sing two numbers and pass out, right there on the stage. I was so drunk. I'd tell the audience to get out, and they would - they loved it, but they left.
"We were notorious, mostly for things we hadn't done. People were making things up about us and writing about them, because there was a lull in the rock business at the time so they were taking Alice Cooper and making us into this anti-heroic thing. Now that whole negative thing has been changed round and we use the guerilla theatrics on a positive level. All the people that left were coming back and bringing their friends to see us, because it was something to see. And when they came back they loved it because we'd improved the music and worked on the theatrics."
The music they've worked on pretty hard, rehearsing something eight hours a day to get it out right, but the theatrics, says Alice, evolved. Custumes ideas came from the film "Barbarella" - a space age extravaganza starring Jane Fonda. "They're very sexual, emphasising sexual part . . . thumbs, knees . . .". Ideas for the stage act often come from TV: "We get a lot of ideas from old musicals, Fred Astaire musicals and things that you'd never expect to work with rock music. I'm a TV addict . . . it's like a source of energy, you plug in to the energy of it. I don't even turn if off at night, I leave it on just to get the static sound, and then I wake up in the morning and there's something on, and everything's good again."
Alice believes the audience is basically masochistic; they'd rather be involved, even if they're being insulted or degraded, than be merely impressed.
"I have no responsibility at all, I really don't care what they do. If they all go crazy and throw up at the same time or something, then that's actually what they're there for. They don't go to a rock concert like they go to school, they go to have some fun and they go to be affected. They don't want to go home and say 'I saw a group last night, they were all right,' they want to go home and say, 'Wait till you see what I saw tonight man, they had snakes and whipes and they scared this person to death . . . it was great.' I'd rather go and see that kind of thing than a blues group - you can see that any night. But that kind of rock carnival, sideshow thing is something special.
"I've always wanted to get a flamethrower and just do the whole audience - that would be a great way to end the act. Mass murder, you'd never have to do anything else, and with all the publicity you'd sell so many albums that you could spend so much money with a lawyer that you'd probably get out of it. 'I went crazy, so what'. But we'll probably never do it, we'll all commit mass suicide on stage. That'll be the end of the act. Have somebody hired to throw a grenade and . . . no, no , what am I saying?"
Back in the suitcase, Alice.