Vincent Furnier, better known as the original shock rocker Alice Cooper, spent his day off from his Monster of Madness tour with Marilyn Manson at a beachside hotel in New Hampshire. With evening approaching, he says he and his tour mates were planning to barbecue right on the beach to end the day.
We just haven’t decided who to barbecue yet, Cooper, 65, says with a chuckle on the phone. At an Alice Cooper/Marilyn Manson barbecue, it’s not what’ to barbecue, it’s who.’
Traveling on two tours at the same time, Alice Cooper will a make separate stop without Manson to perform at Embassy Theatre on Wednesday for his Raise the Dead tour.
For more than 45 years, Cooper has played the villain of rock ’n’ roll, but when he’s out of the makeup and character, Cooper says he is naturally a people person – and that’s not in the edible way.
Whether he’s finishing a game of golf or on an evening out with his wife for dinner, Cooper says it is common for him to stop what he’s doing to sign an autograph or take a photo.
Of course, we’re the reason they’re coming to the show, but at the same (time), I totally understand the give and take on that. I know guys who won’t sign an autograph. I don’t think in 45 years, I’ve ever said no to anybody, because that’s who I’m performing for. How silly would it be for me not to write my name down? That’s the easiest part of my day, he says.
Alice Cooper started as the band name of Furnier’s hard rock band in the early 1970s; Cooper says that shock rock, which separated the band from other rock bands of the era, was born from a few antics and mostly word of mouth.
It was at the 1969 Toronto Rock & Roll Festival that Cooper – unfamiliar with farm animals – threw a live chicken into the crowd that had accidentally walked onstage. The next day, when newspapers began to report nationally that Cooper had bitten off the chicken’s head onstage, he didn’t deny the allegations, fueling even more rumors.
I created this character to be rock’s villain, and back then it was so easy. We didn’t have to do anything. We do one or two things onstage and by the time it got to the press, it was so blown out of proportion, Cooper says. People want to believe and people want to embellish the truth and make it bigger than it was. That’s what caused shock (rock).
The stage show, however, is no substitute for classic rock music. Cooper’s 1972 summer anthem School’s Out was one of Billboard’s top digital rock songs downloaded in June, also peaking at No. 7 on the Hot 100 charts. Other songs, like No More Mr. Nice Guy and Poison, are also included in Cooper’s 14 top 40 hit songs.
That was the big difference between Alice Cooper, the icon, and Alice Cooper, the little blip in the history, he says. It will always be the songs.
I tell young bands that all the time. I tell them, go back and listen to the Beatles, listen to the Beach Boys and then write a song that’s angry but make it a song rather then a riff and you yelling at me. I tell bands the farther they are from the Beatles, the less chance of making a hit.
Cooper says that he has discussed with similar artists like Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie that shock rock doesn’t seem to exist anymore. Similar to how disco declined at the end of the 1970s, the technology boom of the past 15 years has deflated the genre.
I think CNN is more shocking than anything I can do, Cooper says. Shock was basically over when the Internet and CNN came in. Before that, everything was based on urban legend. It was all based on, Did you hear about what Alice Cooper did last night?’
He says his current show still has that gruesome appeal, with Cooper brandishing a boa constrictor and a guillotine onstage, but now he says it is done with more touch and class.
It’s basically entertainment. People want to see the guillotine, the snake and the makeup because it is an American tradition, Cooper says. An Alice Cooper show has been woven into folklore now.
After decades of antics, Cooper says the only thing he finds surprising about the road is how the first rows are still made up of teenagers and 20-year-old fans dressed as characters created over the years. He says that this new generation of fans symbolizes a revival of classic hard rock.
I think what has happened here is that teenagers listen to classic rock because it still works for them, Cooper says. They listen to Smoke on the Water,’ Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, or Pink Floyd and they go, you know what? I like this more than the Lumineers or Vampire Weekend.’ They’re hard rock kids, and they want to listen to hard rock with drums, guitars and things.
With no plans of retirement in sight, Cooper says he will be the last guy at 90 years old to say, Turn it down.
I’m the guy that turns to the guitar player and says boost it,’ he says. It (hard rock) is so built into me that I cringe when I hear soft rock. I want it to be on the level of the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin or the Yardbirds. That’s the kind of music I hope never dies.