Since the 1970s, Alice Cooper has been making bloody fantastic rock 'n' roll. Known for his shocking stage shows, the artist born Vincent Damon Furnier is now a little further along in years but still touring like crazy.
Cooper lives in Arizona, where he enjoys playing a lot of golf. At 32, when he quit drinking, he got into the sport. "I didn't realize golf is actually more addicting than alcohol," he jokes. He grew up in Detroit, where, he laughingly says, they didn't have golf; there was only "baseball, football, and grand theft auto."
Nowadays, you can find him, six days a week, teeing off at 6:30 a.m. and doing about 30 tournaments a year for charity. He grew up taking trips to Fort Lauderdale to visit relatives and says, "I enjoy being in Florida, because every once in a while, I like to go down there and sweat the toxins out."
He'll perform a pre-Halloween show at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood as part of his Raise the Dead tour. We at New Times spoke with him about the link between humor and horror, teenage suicides, and playing alongside Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson.
New Times: I read your Wall Street Journal article, and there was a quote in there that I liked. You said, "Comedy and horror are so close." What is the connection between the two for you?
Alice Cooper: When you go and see a movie, like, let's say, Evil Dead, it's scary. You jump a couple of times, then you laugh about it, 'cause you're going, "I just jumped in a movie. I know it's a movie; it's just they got me on that one." Then you start laughing. At the same time, there was a moment in the movie — it's one of the bloodiest movies of all time; there can't be any more blood in this movie — he's down in the basement, and he hits this pipe and gets covered in blood. I mean, soaked to the bone in blood. And I just burst out laughing. I could see the absurdity of this. I think that's what a good horror movie does. It scares you, it gets your adrenaline going, it gets your heart going, and then it lets you off the hook. There's the ending, where the bad guy always gets it.
So I incorporated that into my show. I don't mind being the villain. Michael Myers always gets buried in cement, or Freddy Krueger gets blown to pieces — the bad guys always get justice served in the end. Well, I said, Alice Cooper then needs to get his head cut off or needs to get hung or needs to be this or that to make it satisfying. And then what happens? They always come back. They're indestructible. So Alice comes back, top hat and tails, balloons, and it's a party. School's out. I played Freddy Krueger's father in Freddy's Dead, and the hardest part of the movie was us not laughing when he was going to kill me. He's going to put a straight razor through my eye, and in almost every scene, you're going, "OK, don't laugh at this." Because when you're shooting a horror movie, when you're trying to be very serious, that's the time when you really start laughing.
And what about comedies you've done, like Wayne's World, or Dark Shadows, which is sort of a comedy?
It is! It was designed as a comedy. There was definitely Johnny's sense of humor there and Tim Burton's sense of humor. I think it was a comedy before it was a horror movie, for sure. There were so many little innuendos in that film. "Alice Cooper is the ugliest woman I've ever seen." There were some great lines in there. But comedy then is a different thing, because it's all about timing. A punch line has to hit on the right amount of beats or it doesn't work. And that's why great comedy directors, they all come in and they say, "OK, you wait two beats after you say that, and then you look up and to the left." And you go, "Well, that's not funny!" And then you see it on the screen, and you die laughing. You get it after you see it edited and on the screen. That director has to have the faith that that's going to be funny when you shoot it.
You're still touring and making music, and I know this sounds weird, but who would you say is the new you? Who is the new young shock-rock guy or gal?
It's so funny, because I know all the guys that were influenced by me. I know the guys from Kiss, I know Marilyn [Manson], I know Rob Zombie, I know Slipknot — you name the band and I know them. I've worked with all of them. They always start out saying, "Look, we learned all your songs, we tried to learn something from you, and we tried to take it in our own direction." I say that's great, but understand this: I'm still the oldest vampire here, and I'm going out there to blow you off the stage. There's that moment of, this is what I do, and I still feel that I do it better than you guys. But we laugh about it.
Are you guys reissuing Hey Stoopid?
I'm not in control of what goes on at the record companies. I hear all the time that they're reissuing this and repackaging that. If I tried to keep up with that, I'd spend all my time worrying about that. I have people in my organization who work on that. I can't tell you how many times people have come up to me to tell me the song "Hey Stoopid" kept them from committing suicide. Then I just go, "Wow!" You don't realize when you write a song how it's going to affect people, even though that song is an anti-suicide song.
That was your goal with that song then?
Well, there was a rash of teenage suicides. I kept going, "If your best friend said to you, 'I'm going to kill myself,' you'd go, 'Hey, stupid, what are you doing?' You wouldn't say, "Hey, Janice, I don't think that's a good idea." I wanted to talk to the audience that way. I wanted to talk to teenagers: "Hey, stupid, what are you trying to do? If you do this, they win. Whoever was causing your problems wins." At the time, I thought maybe 10 percent of the audience got it. They liked it 'cause it was a good rock song, but apparently a lot of people listened to those lyrics. It was effective.
Is that the song that's gotten you the most feedback from your audience?
I think so. You hear people all the time say, "Boy, 'I'm Eighteen' came out when I was 18. I was confused, I was a mess," and this and that. "And when you said, 'I'm 18, and I like it,' it was like saying, 'It's OK to be 18 and it's OK to be a mess, because when you're 18, you're allowed to be a mess.'" You're not alone. You're on the lunatic fringe, and it's OK to be on the lunatic fringe.
Taylor Swift has a song about being 23. I think that's another dumb age when you're young.
I mean, if you can't be stupid when you're 18, when can you be stupid?