Las Vegas Sun

May 26, 2024

Q+A: ALICE COOPER:

Along came a nightmare

Shock rocker’s concert features his greatest hits — music and violence

Beyond the Sun

IF YOU GO

What: Alice Cooper’s Psycho-Drama Tour

When: 8 p.m. Friday-Sunday

Where: Orleans Showroom

Tickets: $54.95; 365-7075

There will be hangings, stabbings and enough blood to satisfy the goriest tastes — in short, your typical Alice Cooper concert.

“It’s going to be fun,” Cooper says by phone from Bismarck, N.D.

The 60-year-old singer had just played for 450,000 bikers at the Sturgis (S.D.) Motorcycle Rally, and he’s headed for the 800-seat showroom at the Orleans for a three-day engagement this weekend.

“Even though we do the same show with a big outdoor audience, I like it in a theater setting,” Cooper says. “It’s a lot more claustrophobic and more intense in a smaller theater, so I love it.”

If he’d been born a century earlier, Vincent Furnier — Cooper’s real name — might have been a star of vaudeville. He embraces theatrics; his metier is the macabre.

He formed his first band, the Spiders, in Phoenix in the ’60s. By the early ’70s, he’d adopted the stage (and band) name of a legendary 17th-century witch, and Alice Cooper gained fame with hits such as “I’m Eighteen” and “School’s Out.” His 1975 concept album, “Welcome to My Nightmare,” created “shock rock,” paving the way for the likes of Kiss, Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie.

His 25th and latest album, “Along Came a Spider,” is a concept album about a serial killer.

Cooper talked to the Sun about his upcoming engagement.

So, what do you think of Las Vegas?

I keep saying Vegas is going to be rock ’n’ roll’s Branson. You don’t see the Rat Pack there anymore. You see Moody Blues and Crosby, Stills and Nash and Blue Oyster Cult and the Allman Brothers. I’m going, “This is rock ’n’ roll’s Branson.”

I know you’re a golf fanatic. Are you going to have a chance to play a few rounds while you’re in town?

I just got back from the emergency ward. I have two broken ribs. During one segment in the show, the “Welcome to My Nightmare” segment in about the middle of the show, they change everything — all the lights go down, the zombies come out. During the rehearsal I got knocked into a staircase and broke two ribs, so I can’t swing a club for another two weeks. It makes the hanging scene a little harder. When you get hung you have this jolt. The floor drops out and the device that keeps you from really hanging gives you a darn good jolt. Yeah, my rib lets me know that’s not my favorite part of the show. I feel like I took a left hook in the body from Roberto Duran.

Tell us about your latest album, “Along Came a Spider.”

The album is doing great. It charted higher than any album I’ve had in a long time. For one thing it’s one of my better stories. America does have its own little love affair with fictitious serial killers. We all like our Hannibal Lecters and Jason Voorheeses (“Friday the 13th”). It’s not easy to get behind a real serial killer. We don’t sit around saying, “I’m kind of a Jeffrey Dahmer man myself.” So as much as we abhor real serial killers we kind of accept the other ones and almost like them.

So I decided if I’m going to write an album about this serial killer, “Along Came a Spider,” he will fashion himself after a spider and he will get to the point where he will wrap his victims in silk the way a spider would wrap his victims in silk. He’ll take one leg, because he needs eight legs for his spider. So he’s got a lot of quirky little things, but that’s what makes him interesting. If you get an interesting character like that, then you can write 12 songs around him. Now the trick on this thing was how do I make it, at the end, something that even gives that a twist. So at the very end, when you’re hearing the epilogue, you hear them talking about this diary they found that has all these murders in it and you realize he’s been in the insane asylum for 28 years. According to him he couldn’t have killed any of these people, so it does have the twist ending. It makes you go, “Wait a minute. Either none of these murders happened or somebody else is killing all these people.”

I like leaving the audience with that. I’ve always been a big fan of “The Twilight Zone” and O. Henry. You give them a good story and then twist it at the end so they really don’t know what happened. Not very many other rock writers do that. I understand that. But I’ve always kept it interesting for myself to not just write 12 songs and just say, “OK, this is about my girlfriend, this one’s about politics and this one’s about saving the planet.” I think Alice should always tell stories.

How do you compare it with “Welcome to My Nightmare”?

Every once in a while you click on something — you have the right producer, the right writer, the right story and you write 12 songs that just totally feel like they belong together. That’s what happened with “Welcome to My Nightmare,” one of my biggest albums, because they all just fit together, story and everything. People related with it. I try to write things that are universal, things anybody can relate to. If I go onstage in Japan or China or Russia or Toledo, Ohio, you don’t have to explain the guillotine. It’s pretty self-explanatory. Or you don’t have to explain boa constrictors or a straitjacket. Everybody gets that. So I try to keep it in those realms so there is no language barrier in what I’m doing. It’s kind of like some sort of warped vaudeville.

Does the “Psycho-Drama” tour promote “Spider”?

No, it’s a “best of” tour. I’m doing all the hits. The show starts out with a very vaudevillian type of look — there’s a screen and there’s a shadow show behind it. The very first thing you see Alice do in shadow is come up behind somebody behind the screen and put a knife to them. When the curtain comes up it’s him. He’s killing another version of himself. One’s in white top hat and tails and the one behind him is all in black. So you immediately have a good and evil battle going on. That’s pure Alice right there. We hit everybody with 12 hits in a row and then we get into the theatrics, the hanging, the straitjacket and all the stuff people really want to see Alice do. It’s a very satisfying show. We did a show last night in Sturgis and set an attendance record. We actually beat Kid Rock’s record. It was just one of those things. You can do theatrics, but the great thing about the theatrics in our case is the fact that it’s backed up by hit records. All the songs we’re doing are classic Alice songs. Maybe we’ll do two songs off the new album here, but next year will be the “Along Came a Spider” show. That will be very similar to the “Welcome to My Nightmare” show, an all-out production. I think people would feel disappointed if I didn’t do that.

Why do you get so heavily into theatrics?

I can’t imagine myself just being a lead singer. For 40 years I’ve gone out of my way to distinguish Alice Cooper from everybody else by being the villain of rock ’n’ roll and by going out of my way to do shows that other people wouldn’t do. Then again, it’s all fueled by the music. If you don’t have the music to back it up, it’s just a puppet show. The thing that’s crazy about it is I can’t imagine why more people don’t do it. It’s so much fun to get up on that stage and have the show set — you know every night people are going to be laughing and scared and applauding. I draw just about every emotion out of people and they know they’re going to walk away going, “That was the best party I’ve ever been to.” They’ve got stage blood on them. They’ve got confetti in their hair. It’s like being at some kind of a strange Mardi Gras.

Have you ever had the urge to change your image to, say, like Perry Como?

That might have even been crazier. If Alice was really straight looking and really kind of Pat Boone-ish and did this kind of music in this kind of theater, I think that would have been even sicker.

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