In a career spanning 50 years, whatever Alice Cooper hasn’t done in rock probably isn’t worth doing.
He was banned on radio, but still managed hit albums and cult singles. He took early shock rock to another level, introducing horror imagery, with litres of fake blood, mock executions and giant snakes on stage. A simulated hanging scene almost ended up killing Cooper in 1998.
Offstage he infamously founded “The Hollywood Vampires”, a drinking club that included hellraisers like Keith Moon, John Lennon and Harry Nilsson. Cooper gave up drugs and alcohol in the mid-1980s (partly by obssessing over golf) and found God.
He’s acted in several comedy and horror films, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was entered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.
The one thing Cooper, now 67, would like to achieve now could be the most shocking of all, to his longtime fans at least.
Cooper would quite like to write an Oscar-winning song, perhaps even for Frozen 2, the just-announced follow-up to the 2013 hit children’s film.
“I could do that, it would be amazing. Four of my biggest hits were ballads. People might be surprised, I could certainly write a good ballad for Frozen 2.”
As good as that sounds, there is another Alice Cooper project likely to see the light of day sooner: his covers album dedicated to his former drinking buddies in the Hollywood Vampires Club, called All My Dear Drunk Friends is due out in September.
“I had never done a covers album before so I wanted to make it very specific. I thought, ‘how about we honour the guys we used to drink with: Harry Nilsson, John Lennon, Marc Bolan. We all drank every night at the Rainbow [Bar and Grill in Los Angeles].”
The idea came from the set of the movie Dark Shadows, where Cooper played himself. He and Johnny Depp played at a nearby club, playing covers of songs like Brown Sugar andBack in the USSR.
Cooper says Depp is on All My Dear Drunk Friends: “Johnny can really play you know”. So too is Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and one Paul McCartney.
“You look around for your piano player and you see Paul McCartney is suddenly your piano player and you think ‘OK, this album isn’t my album any more. When you are in a studio with him it becomes a different world.”
Cooper is on tour in Australia in May, supporting Motley Crue, which is on its farewell world tour. Notwithstanding nostalgia for the hair metal greats, Cooper has been more influential and you could argue the Crue should be supporting Alice, not the other way around.
“They called me and said ‘we’re going to retire and you’ll never ever see us play again. They said you were a big influence … I said ‘we can send you off in grand style’.
“Together these two bands will be like a one-two knockout punch … the audience won’t get their breath. We did 85 shows together this summer and both bands bring it every night.”
One thing the two bands won’t be doing is partying hard. Cooper says the notion of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll “is fun to say but it became a cliche … every guy I know who got heavily into drugs regretted it”.
“Cocaine is the greatest liar of all time. The very nature of drugs and alcohol is that [you think] when you do them, you’re better. Then you go and listen to that song the next day and you realise you’ve got to rewrite it.”
Alcohol wasn’t as bad for a long time, but “it did get to a period where I was throwing up a lot of blood and I realised it was medicine not alcohol. Everyone has different levels [but] being an addict I can’t do any of it.”
Cooper says bands were expected to abuse drugs and alcohol in the 1970s and `80s but that it’s not tolerated in major bands today. “There is no such thing as being in a major band and having an addiction. You won’t get there.
“If you’re in a touring band right now, like Foo Fighters … there’s probably no druggies in the band. It’s not cool any more.
“If you’re going to hire someone to be guitar player on tour for a year the last thing you want is a guy that drinks too much or does drugs. They are looked down upon.”
Alice Cooper supports Motley Crue at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena on May 12 and 13, and Sydney’s Allphones Arena on May 16.