Undead Legend: Alice Cooper
At 67, rock's ghouliest hit-maker finds new thrills—or else.
Alice Cooper has a rowdy, busy schedule for any musician, let alone a sixty-seven-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who has every right to spend the rest of his days bumming around the fairway. Having released the sequel to 1975’s Welcome to My Nightmare in 2011 (the aptly titled Welcome 2 My Nightmare), Cooper and his band still tour relentlessly, including a recent stint opening for Mötley Crüe, whose antics, theatrics, menace, and hair were surely inspired by Alice himself. On the live stage, Cooper kills, outrunning his far-younger bandmates with the manic energy of a meth head—whether he’s getting guillotined, doing his snake-kissing routine, or running through a slew of singles that would make Taylor Swift jealous. This autumn in particular will be exceedingly busy: he’s releasing the fifteen-disc boxed set Alice Cooper: The Studio Albums 1969-1983 through Rhino and has started work on a new album. Additionally, there’s the Hollywood Vampires, his new outfit named after his old wrecking crew of drinking pals from the ’70s—a group which at times included everyone from Keith Moon to John Lennon to Monkee Mickey Dolenz.
The current incarnation of the Vamps includes actor/guitarist Johnny Depp, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, a handful of Guns N’ Roses (Duff McKagan, Matt Sorum), and guests Dave Grohl, Robbie Krieger, Joe Walsh, Paul McCartney, and Perry Farrell all covering songs by the dearly departed. Sure, there are a few originals by Depp and Cooper, but it’s mostly the work of dead Vampires Harry Nilsson, Lennon, and Moon, as well as songs from the likes of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Marc Bolan, John Bonham and a pair of Small Faces (Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane).
“I have never outgrown my love of the Pete Townshend power chord.”
“It was nice being a Vampire back in the day—that was the only time we didn’t talk about music,” says Cooper. He began thinking about the old group again while filming Dark Shadows in London with Depp in 2011. While there, Cooper and his band played the infamous 100 Club. “We took requests—‘Back in the USSR,’ Sure. ‘Brown Sugar.’ Do it. Then Johnny joined us, and he’s a good tasty little guitar player.” Cooper’s wheels began to turn. “The ironic thing,” he says, “is that the core band—me, Perry, Duffy—we were the guys who got sober.”
After talking the idea up to his professional friends, Cooper decided to “tip his hat” to the guys who took it to “the nth degree, guys we should be honoring.”
Still, shouldn’t Cooper be taking it easy, rather than reinventing his monster Alice character as someone capable of powering his way through metal versions of T. Rex’s “Jeepster” and Lennon’s “Cold Turkey”? What’s pushing him to go beyond his ghoulish usual to find something new and bold in these raging classics?
“I have never outgrown my love of the Pete Townshend power chord,” he answers. “That attitude has only gotten more intense as I get older. I treasure hearing a band that can rock hard. My band is just like that. We are relentless and I have no intention of ever retiring. So I have to keep things interesting. I suddenly want to make a statement: that Alice has not given up on rock. I know I’m 67,” he says. “I should be slowing down. I’m not. Deal with it. I’m going to stay high energy ’til I die.” FL