In a telephone interview this week from Canada, Cooper talked about the show, his Christianity, the secret to surviving decades as a rock star, how golf helped him overcome an alcohol addiction, and a favorite television series filmed here in metro Atlanta, AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
Marietta Daily Journal: You’ve been doing the “No More Mr. Nice Guy Tour” since May. What’s that been like?
Alice Cooper: When we get there (to Cobb), we’re down to our last three shows out of 100 cities. We’ve been ‘round the world one and a half times now since May, from Jakarta to Singapore to Australia, South America, Russia, everywhere, and you know, it’s nice to get near the end of this tour. We have six months off, and then we go back on the tour with the new “Nightmare” show.
MDJ: Give us a preview of the show.
Cooper: This show’s got all the hits in it. I’ve got a band, probably the best band I’ve ever had in my life, this band with Orianthi on guitar, you know who played with Michael Jackson. She’s that guitar player from Australia, just an amazing guitar player. Steve Hunter from the original “Nightmare” band, who’s one of America’s classic guitarists. A new drummer, Glen Sobel, who after every show people come to me and they go, “Who is that drummer?” This band, musically, is the best band I’ve ever had. And then the show, of course, is all the hits, and all of the Alice theatrics sprinkled in. You’re going to see a full-out Alice Cooper show. … The show’s a lot of fun. If you miss this show, you’re going to miss the highest energy show of the year.
MDJ: What do you do to pump yourself up before each performance?
Cooper: Everybody’s got an idiosyncrasy. Peter Frampton, before he goes on, likes to iron. He has an ironing board, and he likes to iron things. I don’t know, it gets him ready. Roger Daltrey fly fishes; you know he practices fly fishing into a bucket. I sit and watch really bad kung fu movies. I’m talking about C and D movies. If there’s anybody I’ve ever heard of in the movie, then I don’t buy it. I want something that’s so ridiculously stupid that it’s mind-numbing.
MDJ: The unofficial mascot of our county is the Big Chicken. Are we going to have any chicken incidents here?
Cooper: The funniest thing about the chicken was that the audience killed the chicken. We’re on stage. Somebody throws a chicken on stage. I didn’t bring the chicken. Somebody in the audience did. And being from Detroit — I’ve never been on a farm in my life — so, it had feathers, it had wings, it should fly. I picked it up and I chucked it in the audience thinking it would fly and somebody would catch it and they would have a great souvenir. The audience tore it to pieces and threw it back on stage, and the next day it was “Alice Cooper kills chicken on stage.” But at the time, it was great for the image. Frank Zappa called me up and said, “Did you kill a chicken on stage last night?” I went “No.” He said “Well, don’t tell anybody. They love it.”
MDJ: Are you still on a high from having the band inducted into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame?
Cooper: 2011 was a big year for me. Getting in the Hall of Fame, having “Welcome 2 My Nightmare” out, I did a movie with Johnny Depp in London, “Dark Shadows,” and the tour. It’s really been a full year, so I’m ready for six months off. The Hall of Fame thing was definitely one of those things that you never quite realize. You think, well, it’s going to happen eventually, but who knows when? We got on the ballot the first time, that was our first nomination, and went in on the first ballot. So it was really cool.
MDJ: This question comes from the women in the newsroom. They want to know how much eyeliner you use and if you have a preferred brand.
Cooper: Well, it used to be Maybelline. I used to have my own eyeliner called Whiplash, and that was with Maybelline, but I really use grease paint. It’s regular black grease paint, and then the base is MAC.
MDJ: You’re 63. What is the secret to surviving as a rock star for as long as you have?
Cooper: It’s all on the song writing. All the bands that are still here from the ’60s had hits on the radio that were really good songs. I try to tell young bands that all the time. I go, look, your image is important, your stage production is important, but if you don’t have the songs, you don’t have anything. You have to have the cake before you can put the icing on it. And song writing is everything. We had 14 Top 40 hits. If you don’t have those songs, I don’t know how far you can go.
MDJ: What is the difference between performing now compared to your twenties and thirties?
Cooper: For one thing, I’m a better singer now, and I’ve got more energy. I’m actually in better shape now than I was when I was 30. When I was 30, I was drinking a bottle of whiskey a day. I haven’t had a drink in 30 years, so at 63 I do five shows a week that are an hour and 45 minutes long and we start in fourth gear. This show is 26 songs that are 90 percent hard-rock songs, so I never stop on stage. I’m in better shape now than I’ve ever been.
MDJ: Would you say your fans are different from back in the day to now?
Cooper: The crazy thing about classic rock is that music has not changed at all in 45 years. If you go listen to the Foo Fighters or the White Stripes, they’re all ’70s bands. You could take the Foo Fighters and put them in 1974, and they would fit right in. Musically, nothing has changed. Technologically, how we make records, how we sell records, how we listen to records, that’s entirely different. I feel sorry if I were a young band right now. I don’t know how you make any money with records. It’s just almost impossible. So I tell young bands if I were you, I would be the best live band in your state. That’s what you got to go for, because they can’t take that away from you. The recording part, though, I just don’t see how anyone can make money.
MDJ: Of all your songs, what’s your favorite?
Cooper: “School’s Out” is still the biggest hit. Probably my favorite song would be a song that wasn’t even a hit, “Might As Well Be on Mars” — that was on the “Hey Stupid” album. That might have been the best song I ever wrote.
MDJ: Where does the name “Alice Cooper” come from? I know you named your band that back in the beginning.
Cooper: We tried to come up with a name that was going to pretty much aggravate every parent in America, and it worked. You know, here was this band called Alice Cooper and it wasn’t a blond folk singer, it was more like a Clockwork Orange gang. We didn’t mind a little violence on stage — that was during the era of peace and love, so we went just the opposite. Instead of calling ourselves some kind of really scary name, we said let’s go the other way. Let’s call ourselves some little old grandmother name, Alice Cooper.
MDJ: I read somewhere that you are a born-again Christian. True?
Cooper: Yeah. Well, every Christian is born again. It’s one of those things where you just have a new life, a new approach to your life. It’s not like Scientology where it’s all about me, me, me, I’m going to get better, I’m going to get … It’s all about more dependence on Christ and one-on-one relationship. There’s nothing in the Bible that says I can’t be a rock star. When you become a Christian, it doesn’t give you like a book of rules. It tells you you can do this. How many Christians are there that are probably snipers or boxers or whatever? Christianity goes through all kinds of jobs, so rock star might be one of the less-offensive jobs.
MDJ: I read that golf helped you overcome an addiction to alcohol. True?
Cooper: Oh absolutely. When I stopped drinking — now God did take away my drinking because I was an alcoholic that was a classic alcoholic and when I got out of the hospital 30 years later I still have never had a craving for alcohol. Every doctor I’ve been to says that’s impossible. And I said, well, that’s what a miracle is, it’s impossible. I have never been to AA, I’ve never had a mentor or any of that. It just stopped. It was gone. But being an addictive personality like I am, I had to find something that was going to be a positive addiction, and so the next thing I knew I went out and I hit a golf ball. I was a good athlete when I was a kid, I was a good baseball player, I had good hand-eye coordination. I said, this looks like it would be fun. I hit a seven iron dead down the middle, first swing I ever took, and I went “oh, I’m addicted.” So I play golf, even now, six days a week.
MDJ: Where do you live now?
Cooper: Scottsdale, Ariz. I’m one of the good guys. Married 35 years and never cheated on her.
MDJ: What music do your children listen to?
Cooper: It’s funny because kids are sort of scattered all over. Almost every kid that I can think of loves classic rock. Our audience through Europe, through Italy, France, Russia, Germany, was all 15- to 25-year-olds, and they love classic rock. That might be because the new bands that are out are just not producing any classic songs.
MDJ: Was that really you calling up “The Talking Dead” show the other day?
Cooper: I watched the show, and they kind of asked me to call. I’m a big fan of the show anyways. They should do the same thing with “Dexter,” where at the end of the show people can call in and ask questions, because it’s like a soap opera. You kind of get involved in the characters more than the zombies.
MDJ: Who’s your favorite character?
Cooper: I like what’s his name? Daryl. The guy that was in “The Boondock Saints.” He’s great because he’s sort of like a guy that would be the real guy. All he knows is being a redneck, and all he really knows is that these are bad things, kill them.