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(November 17, 2002)
Originally Published: November 17, 2002
Author: Murray Scougall
ALICE COOPER - the name sounds more like a clean-cut country singer than a dark monster of rock. And that's exactly why the man born as Vincent Furnier chose it.
He wanted people who came to his concerts to be shocked - and he succeeded with his macabre and unsettling stage show ' and songs.
Alice first shook Britain in 1972 when his single School's Out and LP Billion Dollar Babies both went to No. 1.
After a successful solo career in the mid-70s, Vincent/Alice endured a long battle against alcohol and a self-imposed stay in a mental asylum.
He launched a comeback in the mid-80s, finding a brand new audience and becoming more popular than ever.'
Married to Sheryl for 26 years they have three children and live in Arizona, where he has stayed since he was a child and where he now has his own sports bar, Cooperstown.
At 54 he's preparing for a nine-date British tour, including a concert in Glasgow. Murray Scougall spoke to the man behind the make-up to find out his views on golf, Scotland, religion . . .and guillotines.
DO YOU still try to shock your audience'.
I gave up trying to shock when I realised I couldn't be more shocking than the news on TV. When you realise your audience may have just watched an entire war on CNN, how can Alice being beheaded or hanged be more disturbing? It pales into insignificance, so now I just try to entertain.
If you come to one of my shows now, you'll walk away at the end thinking how fun it was. I try to put on two shows in one a really dark, metal show and then a light, glam show.
ARE YOU still doing scary stunts with stage props?
I have a guillotine with a 40lb blade that misses me by six inches. It's important it doesn't look phoney, so I have to use a real blade and make it come pretty close. That's what makes the trick look great.
But my show isn't necessarily foolproof, so it's not my favourite part of the night!
There were times when I did a 'hang-myself' stunt with a full-size gallows, but then I realised there was only a piano wire one inch shorter than the rope preventing me from really hanging.
Of course, you get second thoughts and I wouldn't normally put myself through that - but when I'm on stage as Alice, he quite enjoys it.
WHAT'S THE show like now?
Well, I'm not trying to scare people in the traditional way. I'm making people look into their soul and look in the mirror at the person they are - that's what scary is nowadays.
I'm a very optimistic person, but the Alice stage character is very pessimistic.
Everyone is going straight to Hell according to him, and the place I'm depicting in my new show, Dragontown, you wouldn't want to go to for five minutes, let alone eternity.
HOW DID the Alice Cooper character come about?
I looked at music in the late '60s and saw all these great heroes. I thought, "Look at all these Peter Pan nice guys . . . but where's Captain Hook? Where's the villain of the piece?"
I was more than happy to play the villain.
I think that was my goal in life, to play the bad guy. I never saw Alice as a hero and I always set out to make sure he'll be punished and get his just desserts by the end of the show.
There has always been a strong morality running through my music and shows. Even after he gets his comeuppance, Alice comes back at the end in white top hat and tails, which suggests salvation and an afterlife - even for this character.
WHY WERE you a hit in Britain before the USA?
Because we were banned in Britain.
The urban legend behind the Alice Cooper show was so blown out of proportion they tried to ban us before we even reached these shores. That sort of publicity never hurts.
As soon as Mary Whitehouse tried to ban us, we sold out every night and the album went to No. 1. But we also delivered when we got here - Britain really liked our music. After we were successful in the UK that's when America sat up and took notice. It wasn't until we had gained notoriety from Britain that things really took off there.
HOW HAS your religious background affected your career?
My father and father-in-law were both ministers. My father understood and was always supportive. I think he knew what path my life would take, he sort of predicted it. He'd say, "There goes the prodigal son". And it ended up like that, because 10 years ago I became a Christian and continue to be so. People thought Alice would suffer because of that, but my last three albums have been the hardest-edged rock of my career.
ANY FOND memories of past Scottish trips'.
I love doing shows in Scotland, especially Glasgow.
The first lime, in the early '70s, we played Green's Playhouse and I couldn't believe how similar the reaction was to the crowd in Detroit, where I originally come from.
In Detroit all they want to hear is rock 'n' roll they're not there to just sit around. Glasgow is exactly the same. The audience is the life and soul of the party.
DO YOU plan to golf while you're here?
Definitely. I've played Gleneagles and Turnberry in the past - they're great courses. I play six times a week when I'm not on the road, although it's a little harder when I am. I play off a handicap of four.
In Arizona, it's really hot - on a cold day it's 70 degrees - but I'm a traditionalist so I like the idea of playing a few rounds in Scotland.
But I may just have to put on my thermal underwear!
HOW DO you compare your music with other current bands?
My latest music is really hard rock, but the great thing is you can still sing along to every single song.
It's still got a strong melody and when you listen to some of the metal music today, it's bereft of tune. It's just someone shouting and yelling at me and I ask myself, 'where's the song?"
You have to be able to sit down at the piano or with a guitar and write a song from there and that will evolve into a big monster rock track.