Alice Cooper Says Playing Character Is The Best Job In The World


October 18, 2008

Eric Lewis of the Times & Transcript reports that his stage show is legendary. His songs, some dating back to the early 1970s, are staples of hard rock radio to this day. His reputation as the crown prince of all that is wrong, and yet, all that is right in rock music, is second to none.

And yet, talking to Alice Cooper over the phone, you’d never imagine that he was once loathed by the parents of a few generations of teenagers, or that he spends his evenings on stage, the star of a show where he kills a pretty nurse and later has his own head chopped off by a guillotine.

No, Cooper (nee Vincent Furnier) is clearly a man who loves his family, loves performing and loves singing and writing music.

It’s only his on-stage persona that would ever strike fear into someone’s heart.

In his spare time, Cooper is an accomplished golfer and host of a classic rock satellite radio show Nights with Alice Cooper.

Mild-mannered and clearly not as demonic or insane as his on-stage persona would have you believe, Cooper continues to tour and release well received and critically acclaimed music quite regularly.

At 60, while many of his peers are deceased, releasing the odd disappointing album and touring bars or succumbing to the world of reality TV with their own half-baked television shows, Cooper is still at the top of his game.

This Sunday, Oct. 19, he will bring his latest show, part of the Psycho-Drama tour, to the Moncton Coliseum. Reformed Canadian rockers Econoline Crush are opening the show.

It will be the shock rocker’s third time performing in the Hub City. Cooper performed in Moncton in February 1988 and again in January 1990.

These days he is still playing the hits everyone knows and loves — “School’s Out,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Poison,” “Only Women Bleed” and more — but he’s also dishing out some new tracks from his latest album, Along Came A Spider.

The new disc, released last month, is a concept album that tells the story of a serial killer. In classic twisted Cooper fashion, in the vein of Welcome To My Nightmare, Alice Cooper Goes To Hell and Brutal Planet, the album blends horror, fantasy and dark comedy with great hooks and catchy choruses.

When he spoke to the Times & Transcript recently, Cooper’s Canadian dates were just beginning. The Psycho-Drama tour will take him to 25 Canadian cities, probably his most extensive Canadian tour to date.

Cooper called from Prince George, B.C. just hours before taking the stage.

Cooper’s bandmates are Keri Kelli, Jason Hook, Chuck Garric and Eric Singer (who is also KISS’s current drummer), but in addition to the band, the singer brought “a full slate of Coopers” on tour with him.

His wife Sheryl and their two daughters, Calico and Sonora, perform in the show, which is a haunting, vaudevillian mix of comedy and horror.

“I’ve got a full slate of Coopers in this show, which is great because they’re all professionals,” Cooper explains. “They’re all professional dancers and they’re all professional actors.

Only Cooper’s 23-year-old son Dashiel isn’t in the show. He is currently working on his own record with his band Runaway Phoenix.

“All the kids are pretty well versed in showbiz right now,” Cooper says proudly. “The good thing about it is they’re unspoiled by the whole thing. They’re not bratty rockstar kids. They’re never in trouble, they’re never drunk, drugged out, they’re just professional.”

In addition to providing top-notch talent that he can depend on for his show, Cooper says it’s just nice to have his family with him. When Cooper speaks of himself on stage, he usually speaks in the third person, rarely referring to himself as Alice Cooper.

The singer says Alice Cooper is a character he gets to play each night, and he says it’s the greatest job in the world.

There was a time, however, that Alice Cooper the man and Alice Cooper the character couldn’t be separated.

At the peak of his fame in the mid-’70s, after the original Alice Cooper band broke up and Cooper took the name on to even greater heights, he sunk into a battle with alcoholism that nearly destroyed his career.

“There was a time when I didn’t know where I started and where Alice ended,” he explains. “And really, what it was, I had to figure out after I saw all my friends dying up there, I realize that they were just trying to live their image all the time.

“You can’t be Jim Morrison all the time without dying. You can’t be Jimi Hendrix without dying . . . Janis Joplin.”

Cooper learned his lesson, and now he knows when to be Alice Cooper and when not to.

“Does Alice ever come home with me? No. That way, I can co-exist with him. I can have fun with him. I can look forward to playing him, but I don’t have to be him.”

Cooper compares it to an actor playing a role in a film.

At 60, one has to wonder how difficult the energetic stage show and constant touring is on Cooper. His band is made up of musicians all 20 years his junior.

But Cooper says he’s feeling great and that the more he tours, the better he seems to feel.

“Never better,” he says when asked how he is. “Honestly, it’s the oddest thing. I keep telling them, 60 is the new 30. Except that when I was 30, I was a mess.

“I was a total mess before I stopped drinking. So it’s been 25, 26 years without a drink. And I never did smoke, and I wasn’t a druggie. I am now probably in my peak physical condition that I’ve ever been in my life.

“I do five shows a (week), an hour and 45 minutes, 28 songs, all out. Whereas I know a lot of guys my age can only do two shows a week because physically either they smoked and their lungs are gone, they don’t have the lung capacity or they’re just too tired to do it or physically they can’t do it. I don’t have any physical problems at all. I feel great.”

Cooper stands out from some of his peers in other ways as well. While the likes of Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons (KISS) have gone on to find even more fame via reality shows on television, Cooper has largely stuck to what made him — his music and his stage show.

Asked if he ever considered his own television show, Cooper goes off on a lengthy tangent about the whole culture of reality television.

“I absolutely deplore reality shows,” he says. “I hate them with beyond a shadow of a doubt. There’s one or two that I like. I like The Contender, which is a boxing show, because it’s not cut-throat.

“Most of these shows are built on cruelty — ‘let’s see who we can stab in the back.’ I don’t know, I just don’t get off on that. I could care less about who is living in the house and who is sleeping with who. To me that’s like reading somebody’s diary and you don’t know who it is, and in the end you realize you could care less.

“I look at the island, and I hope they all die on the island,” he says with burst of laughter. “I hate getting non-professional actors shoved down my throat like they’re stars.”

Cooper then turns philosophical, wondering what makes people turn to reality television in droves.

“Is it because we’re all snoops?” he asks. “It has something to do with the fact that we’re all voyeurs or something.”

While TV may not be in his sights, Cooper will continue to tour and release new music regularly. “At this point, it hasn’t even really occurred to me to retire,” he says. “I always say, the (Rolling) Stones are what — six years older than me? When they quit, I have six more years. I’m not going to let the Stones go further than me.”

Alice Cooper will perform with opener Econoline Crush on Sunday, Oct. 19, at The Moncton Coliseum. Tickets are on sale now for $56.50 at the Moncton Coliseum box office, by phone 506-857-4100 or online at

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