sold over 50 million records during a career spanning over five decades, (and still going strong), Alice Cooper certainly needs no introduction. He’s written some of rock’s all-time greatest anthems; (“I’m Eighteen,” “School’s Out,” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” among many others). And his over-the-top stage show, which is as much campy horror theater as it is rock concert, is one of the greatest spectacles in live music. LEO was recently given the honor of speaking with the man himself ahead of his May 10th performance at The Louisville Palace, and it turns out “The Godfather of Shock Rock” is actually one of the nicest guys in the business!
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
LEO: So you’re coming back to Louisville on May 10th. do you ever get the chance to play any of our golf courses?
Alice Cooper: Oh yeah, we play Valhalla and Chariot Run. There’s so many good golf courses there in Louisville. But Ryan Roxie, Chuck Garric and I play at least nine holes every day. We don’t play 18 because you save all that energy for the show that night. But everybody looks forward to those nine holes the next morning.
So you’re doing a short headlining tour before going out this summer with Rob Zombie. What can you tell us about the upcoming tours?
We have a brand new production, but of course we’ll do the hits. I’m not one of those guys that says, “Well, I’m not gonna do that song one more time.” You have to do those songs because that’s what the audience wants to hear, and they want to hear them like the record. And this band is so tight. My drummer Glen Sobel won best drummer in rock. Nita Strauss won guitarist of the decade, and she’s a show unto herself. And Ryan Roxie, Chuck [Garric] and Tommy [Henriksen], you’re talking about the best of the best, which makes it easy for me. And my wife [Sheryl Goddard] plays three of the characters in the show and does all the high vocals.
Yeah, you’ve had one of the longest marriages in show business.
We’ve been married 47 years. She was a prima ballerina in New York and came into the show when she was 18. We got married the next year and she’s been in the show ever since. We had a lot in common; we were both preachers’ kids and we both grew up in the church. But I went as far away as I could and then came back, and that’s really my lifestyle now.
Alice Cooper was pretty much the same person on and off stage until you got sober and separated yourself from the stage persona. How hard was that transition?
It wasn’t hard because it was essential. When I got sober, I got a clearer view of things. I realized that the early Alice was sort of society’s whipping boy. When I got sober, I went “I can’t play that character anymore.” I felt great and I needed Alice to now be this really condescending, over the top, aristocratic villain who never talks to the audience, who never says thank you. It makes him scary, but it also makes him funny. I love the fact that you get this guy that just is so self-important up there, but every once in a while he slips on a banana peel and you gotta give him that moment of trying to reestablish himself. To me that’s always funny, and it’s so much more fun to play that character.
Where did that original Alice come from?
The band and I kept developing it from high school on. We just had this theatrical kind of thing that ran through us. We’d get up there all dressed in black with a casket on stage, and anything backstage that I could find would be a prop. I could find a mop, and I’d pretend that mop was a girl. It was all just improvised. And when we went to L.A. to make it, the one thing that made us different from the other bands was the visual. People would say, “What is that? Who are these guys?” Even Frank Zappa said “I don’t get it.” He listened to us and he goes “Where are you from? San Francisco?” And I go “No, Arizona.” And he goes, “Okay, now I really don’t get it. I’m signing you to my label and I’m gonna produce you because I don’t get it.”
Speaking of that, is there any chance of another album or tour with the original members?
I can’t say a tour, but we still do a lot of writing and recording together. When we broke up there wasn’t any bad blood. In the beginning we all pulled in the same direction. Once we made it and had five platinum albums, we weren’t hungry anymore and we started drifting off in our own little worlds. Then Glen Buxton, our guitar player, died and we could never really be Alice Cooper the band again without him. But we never really divorced, we just separated. And we’ve written a lot of songs together that will eventually see the light of day.
You are still consistently putting out new albums every few years. What drives you to continue to make new music?
I always thought an Alice Cooper album was like a little play, and we really work hard at making an opening, a storyline and an ending to it. I’m not just gonna put a single out, I’m gonna make an album. Luckily, we were in that golden age where we sold so many records that it’s not money driven anymore. Now it’s just because I want to do it. Why would I start a band called Hollywood Vampires? That’s the last thing I need is another band. And yet, that’s really fun to do. Johnny Depp, Joe Perry, and all the guys that play in that band, we’ve been together seven years and there’s never been one argument. And the nice thing about it is I don’t have to play Alice in that band. I love playing Alice in my band because there’s a story. But with the Vampires, I’m just Alice Cooper the lead singer. •
Alice Cooper brings his “Too Close For Comfort” tour to The Louisville Palace on Wednesday, May 10. Tickets start at $49.50 and can be purchased through LiveNation’s website, and in person at The Louisville Palace box office.