When Motley Crue asked Alice Cooper to be its “special guest” on its farewell tour, which hits the Xfinity Center Sunday, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer responsible for classic rock anthems like “School’s Out” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” didn’t think twice about saying yes. A night with the sleaze-glam kings of the hard-rocking ’80s Sunset Strip and the godfather of shock rock? “That sounded like a good show to me,” says Cooper, who, despite his macabre onstage persona, was characteristically amiable in a recent interview by phone from a Birmingham, Ala., tour stop.
He may be keeping it short and sweet as an opener, but fans can expect vintage Cooper antics. “We’re doing an hour and so we do the ‘best of.’ It’s taking all the good stuff: the straitjacket, the nurse, the snake, the guillotine — all the stuff that everybody wants to see, and all the hits.”
The indefatigable rocker is a little surprised he doesn’t see more of those types of theatrics in younger acts.
“Now it’s just a different animal,” says Cooper of glitz-shy contemporary artists. “I don’t quite understand what’s going on in rock right now. There’s a lot of bands that just don’t want to be rock stars. They want to make records and go onstage, but they don’t want any glamour involved in it! Why would you want to be in a band if you couldn’t explore your alter ego?”
We chatted with the man born Vincent Furnier about exploring his own psycho-emcee persona — and the turbulent life to which it led, onstage and off — in the recently released documentary “Super Duper Alice Cooper,” as well as his upcoming album, his radio show “Nights With Alice Cooper” (heard locally on WZLX 100.7), and the infamous Hollywood Vampires club.
Q. “Super Duper Alice Cooper” recently came out on DVD. How was that process for you? It was an interesting choice to do voice-over instead of talking heads.
A. Yeah, the [filmmakers] were very clever with how they did it. What they decided was Alice Cooper and Jekyll and Hyde — the two stories were very similar. The one talking to you now is the human person, and the Alice character is the Mr. Hyde, who is a purely fictitious person. When I go onstage tonight I’m “playing” Alice Cooper. They fed in [snippets of] the old [John] Barrymore “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” [film] every time they would make a reference to one character or the other and it really came out great.
‘Why would you want to be in a band if you couldn’t explore your alter ego?’
There were a few uncomfortable moments in it for me. The [clip of the] Tom Snyder show where I was totally coked out and I weighed about a hundred pounds, I hadn’t seen that in a long time. And I had never talked about any drug use, ever. I had always been sort of known as a Dean Martin-type alcoholic character. But I thought that in this, you can’t ignore what happened. So I absolutely cop to the fact that I did a short stint with cocaine and it nearly killed me. It is a survival autobiography. And the funny thing is Shep Gordon, my manager’s documentary (directed by Mike Myers) is out at the same time! And it’s great, [the filmmakers will] ask us the same question and we’ll have entirely different answers! I sit there and go, “How does anybody remember that?” I remember Jimi Hendrix introduced Shep and I, and he remembers it being the Chambers Brothers, and we just laugh our heads off about it because neither one of us knows which one is the true story. It just makes me wonder when you read like, a Keith Richards book, how does he remember anything? You have to have some sort of artistic license when it comes to what happened. I mean, I remember stuff, but not necessarily in the order that it happened.
Q. And that’s probably not just about substance abuse, but also aging.
A. Yeah, just the fact that it was 45 years ago!
Q. I’m guessing Vincent Furnier probably didn’t think he’d still be Alice Cooper 45 years later.
A. Yeah, nobody did! The odd thing is almost every band I started with in the late ’60s is still playing. If they didn’t die, they’re still onstage, and a lot of them are better now than they were then.
Q. Where are you with new music? Are you working on “Welcome to My Third Nightmare?”
A. The next album is all done. I had never done a covers album, and so I said let’s do a specific covers album. I had a drinking club called the Hollywood Vampires at the Rainbow Club in LA during the early ’70s. And it was everybody, it was John Lennon and Keith Moon and Mickey Dolenz [of the Monkees] and Harry Nilsson. So, I decided, let’s do a record for all my dead drunk friends. So every song is based on somebody that drank with us back then. And it really did turn out great, and I can’t wait for it to come out next year.
Q. Your radio show, “Nights With Alice Cooper,” just hit the decade mark. What does that outlet offer you creatively?
A. Dick Clark approached me and said, “If you had a radio show, what would it be?” And I said it would be free-form ’70s FM radio, where the deejay plays what he wants to play. I said there would be no computer involved. In other words, I’d go in and play Led Zeppelin and Van Halen, but you’re also going to hear the Yardbirds and Them and Love and Paul Butterfield and all the bands that don’t get played. And I think that’s why I’ve been on for 10 years.
Q. If you were once part of the Hollywood Vampires club, to what club do you belong now, besides the country club? Or do you adhere to the Groucho Marx standard?
A. The Friars Club. You know the very odd thing? It was actually Groucho that got me into the Friars Club. I was the only rocker in the Friars Club. Back in the ’70s I’d be sitting there, and there's Henny Youngman and Steve Allen and Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis and the Rat Pack and Jack Benny and me! And they treated me as an equal, with every bit of respect that every other comedian was [shown]. I think they saw me as vaudeville and not just rock, but that I had a sense of humor to it. It was the oddest thing: I felt out of place, and at the same time I felt like I really did belong there.
Q. I noticed you have a makeup deal with MAC Cosmetics. Of all the male rock stars that would have one, of course it would be you.
A. Yeah, MAC does all of our makeup for the whole tour. It’s kind of neat to walk into MAC and say “Gimme a hundred of those.” And, of course, my daughters are always going “Dad? Dad?” (Laughs.)