Alice Cooper performs at the Alcatraz in Milan on June 14, 2016.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the very first Alice Cooper album, Pretties For You. But don’t plan a party or send presents — the shock rock veteran certainly isn’t.
“I am not nostalgic at all. I never look back,” Cooper tells Billboard. “I will sit there and go, ‘Yeah, that happened, and that happened and that was really good and that was really great and that was really fun,’ and then I go, ‘But wait ’til you see the next one.’ I think that any artist should always think that their next album and their next song and their next show is gonna be the best one they ever did.
“If that’s not your attitude, I don’t know why you’re out there.”
Rest assured that Cooper has plenty of “next ones” on his plate this year: a summer tour with a new stage show, three albums — two with the all-star Hollywood Vampires, one on his own — and other projects in the work. “I’m a healthy young man at 71,” notes the guy who gets executed, at least once, on stage during his concerts. “I just leave myself open and people say, ‘Do you want to do this and this and this?’ Sure, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of what we’ve already got planned.'”
With that in mind, here’s a quick rundown of what Cooper’s 2019 is looking like.
A Summer in Makeup
Earlier this week Cooper announced his Ol’ Black Eyes Is Back tour, a 19-date jaunt with Halestorm and Motionless In White that kicks off July 17 in Allentown, Pa.
“It’s going to be a brand-new show, an entirely new production — all new staging, all new props and everything,” says Cooper, refusing to divulge any spoilers. “It’s taking a lot of the stuff we know we have to do and a lot of the stuff people are not going to be expecting. So people who saw the last show and might go, ‘Oh, this can’t be as good as the last show’ — we’ll give them a better show.” Of course, one of the things everybody expects is for Cooper to meet his mortal end — by guillotine, electric chair, gallows or some other grisly device. That will “absolutely” happen this summer as well, but he teases that, “it’s gonna be kind of interesting this time…
“I really want to shock people on a different level, that Alice is still doing the best show out there, the highest energy, best show out there. To me, that’s important.”
Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale, meanwhile, is “an old buddy” who sang with the Hollywood Vampires at Rock in Rio. “Her band, they go out with energy. That’s one of the reasons we picked them,” Cooper says. “And she’s a good guitar player, so you put her and Nita (Strauss, from Cooper’s band) on the same tour, and they’re buddies, so there might be a couple nights when you see those two on stage together.”
Vampires Bite Back
The Hollywood Vampires — Cooper, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, Johnny Depp and mainstay guitarist Tommy Henriksen — has announced a seven-date U.S. West Coast tour starting May 10 in Las Vegas. The group also has a pair of albums in the pipeline (titles and release dates TBA), a live set recorded last year in Europe and its second studio album, comprised of mostly originals sung by Cooper along with three covers handled by Perry and Depp.
“It’s really interesting because it’s not your normal hard rock,” Cooper says of the latter, which Henriksen produced. “It goes places I wouldn’t normally go, and that’s kind of what I like about it.” He adds that Depp’s songs in particular vent frustrations over recent abuse charges by ex-wife Amber Heard, as well as rumors about health and addiction issues.
“I’m spewing his venom on this album, which is kind of good,” says Cooper, who assures that “all the stuff you heard last year about Johnny, 99 percent was just bull. I’ve never seen him look better in my life. I’ve never seen him happier. I’ve never heard him play better, and the way the press would have it is he’s a total destruction and ready to die. Totally not true.”
Home Sweet Home
Cooper is heading to his native Detroit soon, where he’ll be recording new material with producer Bob Ezrin and a selection of Motor City musicians from the area, including Johnny “Bee” Badanjek, the drummer for the Detroit Wheels, Rockets, Edgar Winter, Nils Lofgren and many others. Cooper expects to record four tracks during the first session, possibly for an EP to coincide with his summer tour — “A taster, sort of breadcrumbs,” he says — and also for a full album he hopes to release during 2020.
“There’s a certain Detroit sound we’re looking for,” explains Cooper, who created his breakthrough album, 1971’s Love It To Death, in Detroit. “It’s indefinable. There’s a certain amount of R&B in it. There’s a certain amount of Motown in it. But then you add the guitars and you add the attitude and it turns into Detroit rock. I feel like if we mine around with all Detroit players, we’re gonna find that sound.”
Cooper has reached out some of his homies, including Suzi Quatro and Bob Seger, about participating as well. He even extracted a promise of sorts from the latter when he caught Seger’s farewell tour recently in Phoenix. “I can tell you Seger and I will be working on something on this new album. I talked to him and he said, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s be fun,’ and I said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ So that’s going to happen in the future.”
Cooper has also contacted his remaining original band members — Mike Bruce, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith — about contributing material to the set. “I said, ‘Guys, here’s the idea…Send me stuff.’ I know Dennis is working on something, and so is Neal. Hopefully they’re writing, and they will certainly get the same listen that anybody does that comes in with songs for us.”
A stage adaptation of Cooper’s music is still in play, too — most recently a Welcome to My Nightmare production that will dramatize the dichotomy and past struggles between the demonic Alice stage character and the real-life Cooper. Producers of Foreigner’s Jukebox Hero: The Musical have expressed interest, as have some principals working with Sting’s The Last Ship.
The last person to ask about it, however, is Cooper.
“I’m really not involved,” he says. “I don’t have anything to do with it. Somebody wrote a stage play about the Alice Cooper thing and somebody’s gonna play me and somebody’s gonna play (the band members) and Sheryl (his wife) — and I kind go, ‘I hope it’s good.’ We don’t really have much to say about it; I didn’t do any rewrites or anything like that. I think we gave them our blessings, and we’ll see what happens.”
Cooper does, however, hope that the story honors his 43-year marriage, which he notes is “something you never hear about in rock n’ roll. All you ever hear about is, ‘He’s on his ninth wife’ and blah, blah, blah. You never hear things like, ‘They’re gonna be married for 45 years.’ I guess that’s not exciting to people — but it should be the norm, you know?”