Chauncé Hayden: Is it shocking in your opinion that you, the Stones, Iggy Pop and a few others are still performing after so many years?
Alice Cooper: I think that there’s something about being the last of your breed. Same thing with Rod Stewart and Elton John. Everyone from that era became superstars and are still working
How do you explain that?
I think it was a different work ethic back then. We saw our careers as a lifelong thing. Rather than, “Well, let’s make a couple of records and get out.”
I hate to use this analogy but rockers from the ‘60s and ‘70s are like cars from that era. They were built better and lasted longer. No offense.
[Laughs] I think that’s true! First of all, when my breed is gone there’s not a second generation there. Nobody came in behind us that had that kind of longevity.
U2 and the Chili Peppers have been around for 20 years. But when you think of it, the Alices’ and the Bowies’ and the Eltons’ have been around for 40 years!
If you watched the MTV Video Awards this summer you would think rock ‘n’ roll is dead. Is rock music a thing of the past?
I know what you mean. The last hope I see for rock is that there are good garage bands out there. There seems to be an influx of bands that are purposely trying to be unproduced. There are thousands of garage bands that listen to the Stooges and MC5. Those bands don’t care about being big stars. I think that’s a good thing. They’re anti-technology and everything that makes music glittery.
What bands meet that criteria?
I love the White Stripes and Jet. The reason I like Jet is because I heard their record and I felt it was gloriously sloppy! They’re just a garage band, but a really good one.
Yet I hear you’re a big fan of Kylie Minogue. I don’t get it.
There was one record she made that I couldn’t get out of my head. I wouldn’t be able to tell you three songs that Kylie Minogue has ever done. I’m a much bigger fan of Annie Lennox or Chrissie Hynde. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you one Kylie Minogue song. I think someone brought her name up to me once and I said, “Gee, that song she has out now is so catchy.” That’s what turned me into being a huge fan. The same thing happened when someone asked me what I thought of Celine Dion. She was standing right there so I said she was great. What was I supposed to say? The next day it was in the papers that I’m the world’s biggest Celine Dion fan! I really just went to her show to see what a $90 million show looked like! Heck, a $90 million production? I don’t care if it’s Seals & Croft, I want to see what that looks like!
Are your shows as elaborate and as theatrical as they were in the ‘70s?
They’re not as elaborate but every bit as theatrical. The show we do now, is probably much more rock ‘n’ roll than it was in the ‘70s. If you’re talking about the Nightmare show and the Billion Dollar Baby show, you’re talking about a really elaborate production. Nobody had ever seen anything like those shows. If I were to do the Nightmare show today it would cost $5 or $6 million. Back in the ‘70s it was probably a million dollars. These days I can get that same effect for much less. I still do the gelatin and the straightjacket, but the show now is more psychotic Vaudeville. I really like that. The guy who drives the truck and the guy who pushes the amp are also in the show. I put everyone in the show. I took a page from the old circus. When you used to go to the circus, the same guy who took your ticket was the juggler and the tightrope walker. The lady who sold the popcorn was also the contortionist. Everyone had several jobs. I always liked that. So all the guys who do all my grunt work also are in the show.
Did Marilyn Manson steal your act?
There were no theatrical bands before Alice Cooper. There was no commercial successful theatrical bands. We were the only band that went way out on the limb and broke that barrier down. We proved you can do Broadway theatrics and turn it into rock ‘n’ roll and have hit records at the same time. We had 14 Top 40 records. Nobody in my genre has ever had that many. The critics had to acknowledge me when people like Dylan and the Beatles were praising what I was doing. Critics had to swallow their words and admit I was the real deal. Once that happened, other bands like Elton John who was a great musical act—could let go on stage. Same with Bowie. He was looking for some sort of arena to show who he was. Before Alice Cooper he was a folk singer and a mime. Same thing with KISS. They were four super-heroes. Four X-men.
Did you ever feel threatened by KISS?
I never did feel threatened by them. They didn’t do anything like what I did on stage.
But Marilyn Manson did. There are two or three things that always lacked in Marilyn Manson’s shows. One was a sense of humor. There was no punch-line in his shows. Plus he never had that one hit single. You need those hit singles. You need those songs that are going to last for 30 years in order to maintain that superstar level.
Is Marilyn’s music career over, in your opinion?
He’ll probably get into film or the stage. That’s where he’ll probably come to life. He started in music but I don’t think that’s where he’s going to be his most powerful.
It’s no secret you’ve overcome years of alcohol abuse. How did you get yourself clean and sober and maintain it?
I just have never been a quitter. I just cannot believe that a little adversity happens to people and they fall apart. As far as I’m concerned you better be able to ride the roller coaster in this business. I was totally healed from alcohol. I want nothing to do with it now. It was one of those things where one day I was an alcoholic and not an alcoholic the next day.
What do you owe that to?
I just never got tired of being a rock star. I really like the job of being a rock star. I still want to make a great rock record. Nobody will ever hear it because classic rockers don’t get played on the radio anymore. But, I got a million of fans that I make records for. I owe it to them.
Will you eventually make it into the rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame?
I think that’s inevitable. There are so many people they can’t put in until they put me in. At least if there’s any rhyme or reason to it. I mean how could they put KISS in before Alice? In fact KISS is a derivative of Alice. So was Bowie. My world does not end or start with the Hall of Fame. That’s like having a Star on Hollywood Boulevard. It will happen though. I just think it’s odd who’s picked for the Hall of Fame. I can think of five or six bands in the Hall of Fame who, if you combined all their record sales combined wouldn’t come close to mine. I mean it’s also about how much you influenced rock ‘n’ roll. Well, man how much more do I have to do? I had Mick Jagger wearing eye makeup! I have to laugh about it. The longer I’m out of the Hall of Fame the more of a story it is. (Editor’s note: In 2011, the original Alice Cooper band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.)
You’re 70 years old. Does getting older scare you?
I’ve never been in better health. I’m on stage for an hour and 45 minutes. When I was 28 I wasn’t as in good a shape as I am now.
Let’s talk about your golf addiction. What’s the deal?
Me and my band basically highjacked that game. We took it away from the old fogies. Now I go out on some of the greatest golf courses in the world. My band plays the game better then most hardcore golfers. It’s no secret that I’m a golf gunslinger. I’m a two handicap. Everybody knows my game.
Could you have gone pro?
I could have a long time ago. I could have taken a year off and trained and gone on the senior’s tour and made a lot of money, actually. But if I ever did do that I would insist on wearing the makeup and be all in black. All the other pro golfers would benefit from it. Just think what they could charge for tickets?
Finally, how many times a day do you hear, “We’re not worthy!”?
In all honesty, about ten. If I go to the mall, 20. If I go to a baseball game I get at least ten people on their knees at different times saying, “We’re not worthy.” And the funny thing is, they all think it’s the first time I’ve seen that in years. I just laugh and go, that’s really funny. Sadly, “We’re not worthy” will probably end up on my gravestone.