Once America’s public enemy number one, Alice Cooper is now one of its national treasures. Clean and sober for three decades, he’s now more likely to be found on the nearest golf course than the closest hostelry when he’s out on tour. Coming to the end of a run of dates with Mötley Crüe, he’s just been announced as one of the headliners of the inaugural Stone Free festival. We caught up with Alice at the Classic Rock Awards in London to discuss his career, life on the road and keeping it in the family.
Hi, Alice. You’re clutching the ‘Classic Album’ award for ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’, which was your first solo album, wasn’t it?
The first solo album, and the scariest one to do because you’re kind of putting it all out there and hoping that somebody’s going to bite on it, you know? But it worked, and [producer] Bob Ezrin was the key to that.
It must feel pretty special receiving the award, given the album’s significance to your career?
The funny thing about it is when the [original Alice Cooper] band broke up; it never broke up with any bad ‘thing’. There were no lawsuits. In fact, I just did a show with the original guys two weeks ago in Dallas, and it was great. We’re still best of friends. But when a lead singer goes out there – even when Mick Jagger goes out there and does an album away from the Stones – you kind of go; this could go either way, you know?
You’re receiving the award tonight here in London, where you recorded a live concert film on the ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’ tour.
Yeah, at Wembley. It was a big production, and we got banned here – which was the best thing ever happened! But it was great, and I think that any stunt that we ever did worked, and I think that British people ‘got’ the joke before the Americans did.
I wanted to talk to you about the ‘Super Duper Alice Cooper’ Documentary.
It’s the actual true story. It really is the true story. You get a lot of versions of the story, and I love the way that they did the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ thing because that was the closest real way of looking at it. The character I play is Mr. Hyde, and the problem was that Dr. Jekyll had the biggest problem. I had the drinking problem; Mr. Hyde didn’t. You know, Alice [the stage persona] never had the problem – it was me that had the problem.
Some parts of the documentary were quite harrowing to watch. How did you feel watching it?
Well, the funny thing was I was watching it with Neal [Smith] and Dennis [Dunaway] from the original band at the premiere. And when it got to the break-up of the band, we were all squirming in our seats a little bit because we all had our different ideas of why it broke up. But like I say, we’re still all best of friends.
One of the more memorable moments from the film focuses on the ‘From The Inside’ album, which was written about your experience in a mental asylum.
I wrote it with [lyricist] Bernie Taupin, who was my best friend. It was tough, but it was a writer’s paradise because you’re in a mental institution with all these characters, and I’m telling Bernie; “there’s five hundred songs in here.” I said; “that guy’s a song, she’s a song, that guy’s a song”, and we just wrote ‘em all down. I started telling Bernie the stories, and it just kept coming out. So we just kept writing, and suddenly we had the whole album.
A few years later you released ‘Special Forces’, ‘Zipper Catches Skin’ and ‘DaDa’ whilst in the grip of drug addiction. Are they really the ‘lost albums’ that you have no memory of recording?
I don’t really remember recording those, but I had never really understood or been into drugs before, so the cocaine thing was a whole new thing for me. So I got lost in that for about three albums, but after that, it’s been thirty-three years now and I’ve never touched anything.
The documentary ends around the time of your late 1980’s comeback. Are there any plans for a part II that covers your career up to the present day?
Well you know, since then I’ve been sober, so everything’s been ok! It’s been very on the up, and basically these things are built on falling down and getting back up. Well, I’ve been up for thirty-three years now, so there’s not a lot of story left there except that it’s worked.
Bringing things up to date; how have you been enjoying touring with Mötley Crüe?
Oh, they’re great. They’re retiring, and they’re ending everything on New Year’s Eve. But we go on, and we’re at the O2 [in London for the just announced Stone Free Festival] next year. Our normal shows are another hour.
We do like the Hollywood Vampires thing; we do the Jimi Hendrix and the Jim Morrison stuff and all that – there’s a lot of stuff that we’ve had to pull out of the show that when we do the O2 we’ll add back in. I mean, doing an hour set is like warm up. You’re warmed up, and that’s about it. We get off the stage and go, well now what are we gonna do!
You’re going to ‘kill’ Mötley Crüe during their final show, aren’t you?
Well, everybody says; “how do we know it’s going to be their last show?” And I said, well I assume I could just kill ‘em! Four guillotines [makes the sound of a blade dropping] gone! And Tommy [Lee, Mötley Crüe drummer] said, “that’s a good idea!”.
What’s next for Alice Cooper?
Well I’ve already started another album, and we’ve already started another Hollywood Vampires album, so I’ve got two albums on the way. There’s never a moment where it’s like; wait, why don’t we take a month off?
Finally, does Britney still want you dead?
[Laughs] Is she still around? She’s actually doing pretty well in Vegas I think. My daughter used to play that part in the show, but my daughter’s now doing improv comedy, which is very funny, so my wife is back in the show. Sheryl plays the nurse now in the show and brings a whole different insanity to it. And if she got sick, my other daughter Sonora could do it easily. At one point I had all of them in the show. They were all Chinese assassins. It was very cool.