Alice Cooper, 65, is the original shock-rocker. He’s the guy who pioneered the drippy black eye makeup, who shook up sweet folk-rock with the psycho guitar riffs and violent drums of 1972’s “School’s Out,” and who created the first long-form music video with his 1975 classic “Welcome to My Nightmare.”
After a life-threatening dip into alcoholism in the early 1980s, Cooper has been touring, cavorting and screaming his way through concerts, albums and movies ever since, including “Friday the 13th part VII” and “Wayne’s World.” He plays about 100 concerts a year, and in 2011 released “Welcome 2 My Nightmare,” a gritty, tongue-in-cheek look at contemporary nightmares like Facebook (Alice is “old school,” he says), Lady Gaga and hip hop.
Tonight, he’s in Tacoma. The Emerald Queen Casino show, which sold out quickly, comes at the end of a West Coast extension to his “Raise the Dead” tour. But Cooper still has plenty of energy left for on-stage guillotining, off-stage golfing – and talking with The News Tribune in his gravelly voice on topics such as symphonies and taxidermy.
Q: Hi, Mr. Cooper. Can I call you Mr. Cooper?
A: Alice Cooper: It makes me sound like a math teacher. Call me Alice, or Coop.
Q: OK, Alice. So how’s the tour going?
A: I’m onto my 85th concert now, more or less; we’ve been to Europe twice, Canada twice and the U.S. It’s really a fun show. Actually I feel guilty, because the band is having as much fun as the audience. Anytime you have 30 good albums to choose from, you’re gonna have some good songs, and this band is so tight, they’re pretty amazing. There’s so much emphasis on theatrics in an Alice Cooper show that people forget we’re still a rock and roll band. But with three guitars, bass, drum and lead, it’s rock and roll at its ’70s best.
Q: What’s on the program? Mostly songs from “Welcome 2”?
A: No, we’re only playing two songs from the new album: “Caffeine,” which is about our Starbucks addiction, and the Rolling Stones tribute “I’ll Bite Your Face Off.” We might also play “Welcome to the Congregation.” No, I know if I go to see The Who or the Stones, I want the hits. So we play all the classics like “School’s Out,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Billion Dollar Babies.” We don’t change it up; you get the same show as we’ll do in L.A., London or New York.
Q: So obviously horror isn’t dead?
A: The thing about horror is that when we started in 1968-69, it shocked everybody. Everyone was so easy to shock then. Every parent in America hated it. But actually the theatrics were not satanic, there was no nudity or profanity. Now, I don’t think you can shock an audience. We pretended to be shocked by the [Lady Gaga] meat dress, by Miley Cyrus, by Kanye West taking the microphone from Taylor Swift. Everyone tries to shock the VMAs. But if you can be more shocking than CNN, you’re doing well – these days, reality is far more shocking.
Q: What kind of sound are you aiming for these days?
A: Classic rock from the ’70s. And what’s interesting is that in Europe, the average concertgoer age is 15-25. Those kids know every single lyric. Because with classic songs, like Pink Floyd or The Doors – and I hope we’re in that category, too – the lyrics still relate to these kids. A 16-year-old still hears those lyrics and thinks, that’s me. I don’t think there’s a lot of rock bands now that write really classic lyrics – Jack White, Green Day, maybe – but not that many.
Q: OK, Alice, I have a bunch of questions from our readers on Facebook. Firstly, we know you’re a keen golfer, and we’re wondering if you’ll get the time in Tacoma to play at our Chambers Bay course, which is hosting the U.S. Open in 2015.
A: Yes, I play almost every single day, though lately we’ve been in Nevada and had to put away the clubs. But we’ll be playing in Tacoma, if it’s not snowing.
Q: What’s your handicap?
Q: That’s pretty impressive. Here’s a question from your fans in the Tacoma Symphony. We hear you’re starting some symphony concerts, so do you think you’ll come and play with the TSO?
A: That’d be interesting. I’m doing about 20 shows in Germany (Austria, Switzerland and France, in 2014) called “Rock Meets Classics” with the Bohemian Prague Symphony Orchestra. It’s not the first time – I did one back in the ’90s with Peter Frampton and Roger Daltrey, where we all sang each other’s songs with a 90-piece orchestra.
Q: Here’s a question from a 9-year-old Tacoma fan: Do you like taxidermy?
A: (long pause) I think it’s one of the strangest hobbies I’ve seen. But I keep wondering when they’ll do humans?
Q: And finally, one of your famous quotes (on Internet Movie Data Base) is “I love to lie. That’s one of my favorite things in the world, coming up to somebody, especially press people, and telling them some enormous lie that couldn’t possibly be true.” Is that true?
A: I always say, never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Nine times out of 10, the story is 100 percent true, but it does get embellished over the years. But in the old days we could say anything and audiences believed it. Anything you’ve ever heard about Marilyn Manson, Keith Moon, any of those old rockers – around 50 percent may be true.
When: 8:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Emerald Queen Casino, 2024 E. 29th St., Tacoma
Tickets: Tickets with a face value of $35-$75 for the sold-out, 21-and-older concert were going for $163 and up on resale websites earlier this week.
Information: 253-594-7777, ticketmaster.comRosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568 email@example.com