Sure, there’s still plenty of fake blood, guts and gore in Alice Cooper’s live shows. But the 57-year-old man behind the mascara is beginning to sound like, dare we say it, a God-fearing family guy. Before he embarked on the North American leg of his current world tour, which includes an Oct. 7 stop at Tower City Amphitheater, the legendary shock-rocker talked about reinventing Alice in the wake of sobriety, beheading Britney onstage and the Halloween he never gets to celebrate.
— Lynne Thompson
How has performing live changed for you over the years?
I am in better shape now than I was 30 years ago. I mean, 30 years ago, I was a mess. I was drinking a bottle of whiskey a day. When I was drinking, Alice was sort of the whipping boy, what I would call the outcast that all the kids related to, the one your parents hated. He didn’t relate to other bands, he didn’t relate to society or anything. After I quit drinking, I realized I could not play that character any more because I was not depressed. I wasn’t depressed when I was drinking, but alcohol is a natural depressant. I realized, if Alice is the arch villain of rock ’n’ roll, then he needs to be this arrogant bastard, this character that is just so insufferable and absolutely condescending. When he walks out onstage, he looks out at the audience with disdain instead of appreciation. And the audience loves that.
I understand you have a new addition to your show, a killer version of Paris Hilton’s pet Chihuahua that attacks its owner.
I think it’s always Alice’s job to exploit the divas of this world. And there comes Paris Hilton, just asking for it. I think that if I talked to her, I would say, “This has nothing to do with Paris Hilton. This has everything to do with the image of Paris Hilton, with the fact that there are 10,000 other Paris Hiltons out there.” The same thing with Britney [Spears]. I always told Britney, “I’m not cutting your head off. I’m cutting pop music’s head off.”
Your 24-year-old daughter Calico plays Paris Hilton?
She plays all the parts [onstage]. My daughter is a really good actress. She’s got four movies coming out this year. I think it’s more fun for her to do my show because it’s immediate gratification. And she gets all the laughs. She’s been with me for about the last three tours.
How did your year-and-a-half-old syndicated radio show, “Nights with Alice Cooper,” come about?
Dick Clark came to us and said, “What about Alice Cooper doing a classic rock show, taping it for five hours a night, five nights a week?” I said, “I would love to do it. But I want to be able to play The Yardbirds, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, early Who, anything I want to play. If I decide it’s time to play Weird Al Yankovic, I can play that.” Most of my e-mails say, “Thank you for not playing the same old stuff.” (Editor’s Note: Though no Cleveland stations currently air Cooper’s show, you can listen to it weeknights at 10 p.m. online via Detroit’s WCSX at www.wcsx.com)
Since you’re coming to Cleveland in October, I can’t let you go without asking about Halloween at your house.
I’m never home! I’m always on the road, especially in October. That’s my busiest month!
OK, so what would you do if you were home?
I would take the kids out trick-or-treating. I’m Christian, and I know there are Christians who look down on Halloween. I think that they’re missing the point. Halloween is not about anything satanic. Halloween is about getting candy and dressing up.