Throughout his 50-plus-year career, rocker Alice Cooper has shocked and rocked all sizes of venues in Madison. Many heads have rolled during his theatrical “shock rock” stage performances. On Wednesday, July 10, he’ll add The Sylvee to this growing list when he brings his “Ol’ Black Eyes is Back” tour.
He lovingly refers to the city as “Mad City,” since it’s been very supportive of him and rock and roll since the early 70s.
“It's probably the best touring band I've ever worked with, and we've been to Madison many times,” said Cooper during a recent interview. “We know what the Midwest audience is. It's usually the best audience of the whole tour.”
The 71-year-old still enjoys getting to play his hits such as “School’s Out” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy” to fans old and new.
In recent years, he sought to recapture the spirit of his past through several projects. In 2017, he reunited with members of the original Alice Cooper band to perform and record several songs.
Last month, he and Hollywood Vampires – the band he formed with Johnny Depp and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry – released its second album. While the first album featured covers to honor all their deceased drinking buddies of the ‘70s, their latest album features the band writing their own material.
“This album is a much more hard rock album,” said Cooper. “It's got much more variety to it. It doesn't sound like Alice Cooper and it doesn't sound like Aerosmith. It sounds like the Hollywood Vampires, and I think that's due to the fact that Johnny Depp wrote a lot of the sounds.”
With the Vampires, Cooper has enjoyed more flexibility than his solo writing allows.
“The Alice character is a very specific character. I know what he would say, what he wouldn't say, I know what he would do, what he wouldn't do, as a character,” he said. “When I'm with the Vampires, I'm really just the lead singer in the band. I'm Alice Cooper but I'm not the Alice Cooper that you're used to seeing in the Alice Cooper show. I can be a lot looser and the band can be a lot looser.”
The rocker is also working on his next solo material, which will echo his birthplace of Detroit.
“You can't take that out. It's in our DNA,” he said. “I've always thought that, even [with] the Alice Cooper sound and the fact that 18 was written in Detroit and came out Detroit and it was a hit in Detroit. So, I always sort of looked at us as a Detroit band.”
“We were a hard rock band like the Stooges or the MC5, only not the same kind of show. Our show was much more sort of elaborate and a little more psychotic. But there's a certain Detroit guitar-driven rock and roll to it that I've always had in every album. So, there's gonna be a lot of Detroit in this album.”
He recalled the Detroit scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s as being very tightknit.
“Back then, we were just all young bands trying to make it and all the bands knew each other. We all went to each other’s houses. There was a very strong, fraternal kind of thing about Detroit bands. And it might have been the healthiest rock scene going. More than LA, more than New York, more than San Francisco. The Detroit scene was all based in hard guitar rock.”
In his downtime, he enjoys playing golf and helping kids get into music through his Solid Rock organization in Arizona, where he currently lives.
“When you play a lot of golf like I do, I play six days a week, you end up doing a lot of these celebrity golf things. I have one in Phoenix here for Solid Rock, I have a big organization here,” said Cooper. “We have a 30,000-square-foot building and any teenager can come in and learn any instrument for free, or dance or singing, or whatever it is, and it's all for free. And what it does is it gets kids away from the whole gang and street thing.”
Lately he’s become fascinated with the recent stream of music films, including ones on Queen and Elton John. He recently gave his blessing to a musical in the works on his career. While he hasn’t given input, he considers it a “compliment that someone wants to do a musical about you.”
He hopes if anyone tells his story that they include his 43-year marriage to his wife and how converting to Christianity saved him from addiction.
“I think it would be kind of interesting that I started out as a church kid, went as far away as I could, became the poster boy for everything wrong, and then came back to the church and still maintained the Alice Cooper character,” he said. “There is a sort of great, prodigal son story there.”