Alice Cooper, guillotines, snakes, songs — the full stage experience will be at Chrysler Hall April 26.
Tickets are available at www.sevenvenues.com/events/detail/spend-the-night-with-alice-cooper.
He’s with me to answer questions on everything from his concerts to working with WWE Legend Jake “The Snake” Roberts to Johnny Depp, Paul McCartney, John Lennon and so much more.
Yiorgo (Y): Can you set the record straight about the band’s name, Alice Cooper? Is it really after Alice Ghostley, the actress, from the TV show Mayberry RFD?
Alice Cooper (AC): I never even heard of that one there. Yea, Alice Cooper, the whole idea behind it, was to upset every cart in America. Here we were this band that was doing theatrics, snakes and guillotines and all the things — we were like a traveling Halloween show — and to give the name of the band something dark would not be our band’s sense of humor. But we gave the band the name Alice Cooper, like somebody’s aunt making cookies, a non-threatening name, and it works. Those two words were picked out of thin air. There were all these stories that we picked our name with ouija boards. It was none of that. It was us sitting down and saying, it would be better, more of our sense of humor, to be called Alice Cooper.
Y: What were your high school years like?
AC: Our cross-country coach was also our journalism teacher, and he encouraged creative writing and using our imagination. And here is the crazy thing. All of us were four-year lettermen, and we were jocks with long hair on the cross country team. We projected an image of surrealism, and three of us from the band were art majors, so we studied surrealism, and we added that into our show, and when we finally did make it, people did not know what to think about us.
Y: So when did you make it?
AC: Here is the deal. A band like us was a great show band. They did not necessarily come to see us because of our music. They came to see the spectacle. Then all of a sudden, we got with our producer Bob Ezrin, who ended up being like George Martin of the Beatles, taking the songs that we had and turning them into hit records. Without him, I think we would have probably gone away. You cannot deny a band that has 14 top hit singles. We had as many as anybody out there. Then once you have a hit single, now you are different, you are viable. So its very odd for a band with our image to have sold 50-75 million records.
Y: What should your fans expect to see at the show?
AC: When they come to the show now, what it boils down to it, they really want to hear those songs. There’s 30 albums out there, and each one depicts a little area of their life, so they want to hear it and to sound like the album. You know when we do a five-hour rehearsal, four hours of it is on the music. Also they expect to see the guillotine, the giant Frankenstein, the nurse and all the stuff that goes with Alice Cooper. But what I think shocks them is the fact that they have heard the name Alice Cooper for 50 years, so they may be expecting Alice to walk through the show, sort of like an oldies show, and what they get is something so high-energy and so rock-’n’-roll that most of the young bands can’t stay with us. It’s very high;energy; we don’t give the audience a chance to catch their breath. We do 30 songs in the show, and every single song has some sort of a theatrical devise, and on top of it, I have the top-touring band of anybody out there. We kill the audience just with that.
I have been with the same manager for 48 years — Jeff Gordon. We still doesn’t have a contract after 48 years; we are best friends. My guitar player Ryan Roxie and base player Chuck Garric have been together for almost 20 years. Ryan used to play with Slash and Chuck with Dio, Glenn Sobel our drummer just got voted best drummer in rock-’n’-roll. Tommy Henriksen is another guitar player that is also a writer and producer. Our lead player is a 27-year-old girl named Hurricane Nita Strauss — a blond girl who looks like a model and plays like Jimmy Hendricks. So I surround myself with the best players who get out there and rock the audience. This band is a total show band; they can really turn it on.
Y: Can you share your WWF experience working with Jake “The Snake” Roberts?
AC: We did the Silver Dome in Detroit, Michigan, with over 90,000 people. It was during the time of the classic wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Junkyard Dog, Randy Savage. I kind of walked into it. They said it was Detroit, its your hometown. We have Jake the Snake, and with your connection with snakes, your theatricality, you’re from Detroit: This should really be fun. They asked me if I wanted to do it, and I said absolutely. Jake’s snake was not really a very nice snake. It was big and really angry about everything, and we really had to be very careful handling it. It was really amazing to see how hard these guys actually hit each other. And they don’t back off. They know they are going to get hit. And at the same time, when they hit a guy with a chair, they really hit him with a chair. The funny thing I remember about the back, there were these four midgets that were wrestlers, and they were going to wrestle Andre the Giant. And at the end of the thing, they were yelling at Andre saying, “You’re not suppose to slam us!” And Andre says, “Oh I’m sorry!” It was really great. I felt like I really fit right in!
Y: Can you share a “wow” moment or two in your life?
AC: Yes I have a couple of those. There was a Rolling Stone magazine interview about Bob Dylan, and they asked him who do you like, and he said, “I think Alice Cooper is the most underrated songwriter.” I did not even know that Bob Dylan knew I was alive. He said, “Alice is a very good songwriter and a great lyricist.” That is as high a praise as you can get.
The other is that the Beatles were pretty solid Alice Cooper fans. The song “Elected” was John Lennon’s favorite Alice Cooper song. We have this other band called Hollywood Vampires with Johnny Depp, Joe Perry and myself and Duff McKagan. We do songs for all of our dead drunk friends — guys we use to drink with that have passed away. So we are recording the album at Johnny Depp’s house, and Johnny Depp gives guitar lessons to Joe Perry --he is that good. Johnny is a great guitar player. And as we are recording, Paul McCartney walks in sits down at the piano and says, “We are going to record this song that I wrote for Badfinger. Alice you take the high part, Johnny you take the middle. We sat there and did a live version of “Come and Get it,” and we are all looking at each other saying, “That’s Paul McCartney.” I’ve known Paul for 35 years but still being in a studio and being in a band singing with him is a totally different thing than just knowing him. Now that was a wild moment for me. He is actually listening to what my ideas were. To be in a band with him, and I’m a big part on one of his tracks, is just amazing to me. I never thought that would ever happen to me.
Yiorgio is a Hampton Roads arts, entertainment and sports writer. An movie actor, he is also an educator, motivational speaker, and is involved in professional wrestling.