"I always used to think I'd go up onstage and say, 'Boy, I hope you like us tonight. We're going to try to do a great show for you,'" shock rocker Alice Cooper says in a faux-sweet tone. "But you have to just grab the audience by the throat and say, 'You're mine for two hours. So shut up and stand up.'"
With that kind of hard-hitting alpha-male philosophy, it's no wonder Cooper is a legend: If you dare doubt him, his onstage guillotine awaits. But luckily, he has the talent to back up his bravado, as he has proven with more than four decades of aggressive hard-rock hits such as "School's Out," "Eighteen," and "Poison."
Cooper's lifelong dedication to depravity was recognized this past March, when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There he reunited with members of the Alice Cooper Band's original lineup, including guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway, and drummer Neal Smith.
Feeding off the excitement of a banner year, Cooper released his 26th studio album, Welcome 2 My Nightmare, in September. The disc, whose name alludes to Cooper's classic 1975 solo debut, Welcome to My Nightmare, embodies everything that makes him great, including songs written by Bruce, Dunaway, and Smith and production by his '70s collaborator Bob Ezrin, also of Kiss and Pink Floyd fame.
The songs range from the classic rock 'n' roll boogie of "I'll Bite Your Face Off" to the tongue-in-cheek disco sendup "Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever" to groovy rockabilly on "Ghouls Gone Wild" — all with Cooper's trademark B-movie horror lyrics and inimitable hard-rock snarl.
Recently, the shock rocker spoke with New Times about nightmares, the macabre, twisted rumors, the new album, and his favorite scary movies.
New Times: Is Welcome 2 My Nightmare an extension of the original?
Alice Cooper: It's Part 2 without really being Part 2. It's Alice's second nightmare. The first nightmare was 1975; this nightmare is 2011. It hasn't changed that much, but musically I think it may be a better album.
Was it awkward reconnecting with the original Alice Cooper lineup?
It was funny — when we broke up, we never broke up with any bad blood. I never said anything bad about Neal, Dennis, [or] Mike, and they never said anything bad about me.
We had done five years without stopping. And then we were kind of out of breath going, "What's next?" And I went, "They said Billion Dollar Babies was the biggest production anybody's ever seen. I think we can make it look like kindergarten with this new concept, Welcome to My Nightmare.'"
And I think everybody at that point just went, "I don't know if I can do another two years on the road with a bigger production."
Your macabre stage show and persona have always gotten people talking. What is your favorite rumor about Alice Cooper?
You know, there are so many good ones that you sit back and go, "How did that get started?" There was one that my father was Captain Kangaroo. I went, "Really?" Years later, I heard Captain Kangaroo was Marilyn Manson's father, and then I realized it was interchangeable.
And then there was the one that I played Eddie Haskell in Leave It to Beaver. That would've put me at about 75 years old. And unless I have red curly hair and freckles, I can't really picture me being Eddie Haskell. But I know how that one started. A reporter asked me: "What were you like as a kid?" I used to say I was a regular Eddie Haskell. In other words, I was like him — kind of a suckup to the parents, but in the background I was really kind of a real rat. And that got to be I was Eddie Haskell. This was before Ferris Bueller; I now say I was like Ferris Bueller.
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Back then, there was no internet, so everything was word of mouth and everything was myth and urban legend and stuff. By the time we got to England, there was already [a rumor] that we set German shepherds on fire and sacrificed puppies and things like that. And I'd get out of town and go, "I would never hurt an animal ever. People, I have no problem with, but animals I would never hurt."
Last, because horror is such a part of your show, what was the first movie monster to scare you?
The only movie I ever ran out of the movie theater while it was playing was Creature From the Black Lagoon, which I saw when I was about 8 years old. It was the scene where the guy is in the tent and you see from the creature's point of view, and the guy turns around and the creature takes his face right off with his claw. And I ran out of the movie theater. For some reason, Frankenstein and Dracula didn't scare me as much as the Creature From the Black Lagoon.