Go Ask Alice: Hanging with Mr. Cooper
Another piece from the 2012 Bonnaroo Beacon…
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Alice Cooper takes over the late-night tent at Bonnaroo tonight for one of the weekend’s most highly-anticipated performances. “If you’re in the first 20 rows, you’ll probably get some blood on you,” says Cooper. “When we get up onstage, my band has the instruction to kill the audience.” At 65, Cooper is still actively touring and recording, having released his 26th studio effort, Welcome 2 My Nightmare, in the fall of last year. We caught up with Cooper to talk about his debut appearance at Bonnaroo, which he will precede with an appearance in the Cinema Tent at 6:30 where he will introduce the Marx Brothers classic, Duck Soup.
Do you have family or friends who have attended Bonnaroo in the past?
I know a lot of people who have been to Bonnaroo and it’s funny because I was recording in Nashville and we kept coming in and out of Nashville and I was on a flight. There were a bunch of kids who had just come from Bonnaroo and, I was listening to them and they were mentioning all these bands that I had never heard of, you know, young bands. And then one girl says, “I like the old, blind black guy,” and I went “Who is that?” and she goes “Stevie…is it Stevie Wonder?” It was just so funny to realize that these kids don’t know somebody as classic as that is to us. You know, that’s a brand new artist to them. We forget that. We forget that a younger audience doesn’t know who Paul McCartney is.
I remember hearing a couple months ago when he performed on the Grammy’s, a number of people were tweeting “Who is Paul McCartney?”
I think that when they see us they’ll be kind of shocked, because as much as it is sort of a legendary thing to be at a Cooper show, I think they might think that it might be a low-energy show. It’s gonna be the highest-energy show they see all year.
Who are you personally excited to see at Bonnaroo? Are there any acts on the bill that catch your eye?
Well you know, I looked at the lineup and you know, of course, I grew up with The Beach Boys. As a kid, the first album I ever bought was All Summer Long by the Beach Boys. And from what I understand, their tour is really amazing right now. I mean, they’ve got 14 people on stage. So all of that background singing and all of that stuff that’s on their records sounds like the record. So I would be excited to see them. And almost everybody that’s on tour I’ve either worked with or had seen before, so it’ll be fun.
You’re also going to be introducing Duck Soup at the Cinema tent. I’m just curious as to how many times you’ve seen the movie and what you would say to someone who’s at Bonnaroo and has yet to watch a Marx Brothers movie?
Well some types of comedy are timeless. The other day I was sitting…Sunday morning I got up and turned on the TV and Laurel and Hardy were on. And I found myself laughing out loud. That movie was made 70 years ago and it still works because a certain amount of slapstick, you don’t need to interpret it. It’s not slick humor, it’s just broad humor. Somebody gets hit in the face with a pie, you know. Or the Three Stooges, they still work, because no matter what you’re doing, when you see the Three Stooges poking each other in the eye and doing all the stuff that they do, it’s funny. Now, the Marx Brothers would, I would say, comparable to Monty Python. I guarantee you that the guys in Monty Python watched the Marx Brothers. They’re just classic comedy. They started in vaudeville, you know. It’s almost impossible to not like the Marx Brothers
Groucho was a very good friend of mine. He would call me every single night, we both lived in Beverly Hills. He was like 86 years old and he would call me up and say, “Alice, I can’t sleep, come on over and watch movies.” So I’d come over and I’d sit there and he’d have a six-pack of Budweiser for me and I would sit and watch old movies until he went to sleep. We got to be really good friends.
Speaking of films, you also appear in Dark Shadows. Can you talk about your experience on that set?
Well, you know, I’ve always been a horror fan and Dark Shadows was the most unlikely hit in the early ‘70s as a soap opera. It was on in the ‘70s and people would rush home from school to see what was gonna happen. It was like “All My Children” or “Guiding Light” or any of these really horrible soap operas except they were vampires. It was really a very unlikely hit, but it worked. Now the only person that would ever drudge up some show like that would be Tim Burton. Tim and I are like separated at birth. We have the same sense of humor, the same background when it comes to horror movies. If I mention a movie he can tell me who directed it, if he mentions a TV show from that era I could tell him who was in it. So we’re very, very close on our backgrounds and same with Johnny Depp. Johnny is another guy that really knows his history when it comes to that era. So when it came to the fact that in 1972, in this movie, Barnabus Collins comes back after 200 years being buried, it goes back to 1972. So Tim Burton said, “Well, who was big in 1972?” Alice Cooper was the biggest band in the world then. So that’s why he called me up and said, “It would be great if you played at the party that Barnabus Collins throws.” So I had to play Alice Cooper as Alice Cooper 1972.
It was great, and Johnny, by the way, is a great guitar player. He came up and played guitar with us in London and then he played with us in Los Angeles and, I’ll tell you what, he could probably play with any band that’s playing at Bonnaroo. He’s a really accomplished guitar player.
When he first came to Los Angeles, he didn’t come there as an actor, he came there as a guitar player. So his band came to Los Angeles and the next thing you know, he’s a good looking kid and all of a sudden casting directors were saying, “Hey, why don’t you try this?” and he goes, “I’m not an actor, I’m a guitar player!” And you know, $25 million of pictures later. I told him, “If this acting thing doesn’t work out, you can always play guitar for me.”