Jul. 23, 2020
Alice Cooper talks new album, quarantine hobbies and family time in Phoenix
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Rest assured that Alice Cooper is not spending his quarantine time near Phoenix cutting fruits and vegetables with his guillotine, experimenting with his make-up, feeding his Frankenstein or chopping up baby dolls just for recreation.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s shock-rock pioneer is actually, as the song says, working up a sweat — or at least working hard. He released a new song, “Don’t Give Up,” in May, with an accompanying video featuring crowd-sourced footage submitted by more than 15,000 fans. Cooper is also finishing work on his next album, tentatively titled “Detroit Stories,” with producer Bob Ezrin and a variety of Motor City music mates as guests.
He’s made appearances in a few virtual fundraising events, and he’s also up to a few things that may surprise you — including a new brand of chocolate milk being sold to raise money for his Solid Rock youth non-profit.
Fortunately, Cooper found time to squeeze us in for a few minutes to talk about what he’s been up to now that school’s, er, out…
You would normally be on tour now — and were supposed to be. Are you going stir crazy?
Cooper: Y’know what? I kind of really like this. I spend so much time on the road and in the studio, I like having to take four or five months off, as much as I was looking forward to (the tours). It’s kind of nice to be home and see everybody every day. Our big deal is, “What are we eating tonight?”‘ My daughter (Sonora) is going to have a baby in July, so I get to be there for that. We’ll be ready to play again when it’s time, and I think a lot of people are going to want to go to a concert again. But I really appreciate what we’ve got going on here now, too.”
What do you think it’s going to be like when things resume?
Cooper: I think there’ll be about 30 percent of people afraid to go to concerts, and the other 70 percent can’t wait to go to concerts. But a lot of people will be afraid. Nobody’s ever going to want to go to a concert again, with all the people there. It’s a very weird time.
What do you miss most about not being on the road?
Cooper: Our tour was at its peak. It was just, like, sharp as a knife every night, and now you’ve got to get that back. You’ve got to go out and do a bunch of rehearsals and get that edge back, ’cause it was right at that point where every night was like, “Holy crap! That was really good tonight.” You really know when the show was on it. Now we’re gonna have to get all those little, tiny things back that make it really good.”
So, what’s life like in Cooper quarantine?
Cooper: Camp Cooper here is pretty cool. (laughs) My daughters are both here. We’ve got three studios going and stuff to do. So, every night, instead of playing Monopoly we’re recording, which is very cool. (Sons-in-law) Jed and Diego are both engineers. Jed and Calico do voiceovers for cartoons and for commercials and all that. So, we’re just going all the time, staying creative. And, oh, I started taking tap dance lessons.
Cooper: Oh yeah. (laughs) I said, “I just want to do something I haven’t done. Let’s do this!” Everybody in the house, on Wednesday night. We have a friend here who teaches tap dance and he’s great. We have tap shoes. We do the whole thing outside. It’s not that Geico commercial, “the clogging problem,” it’s for real. Calico and (wife) Sheryl and Sonora are all professional dancers, so they’re flying. They’re Ginger Rodgers out there, and all the guys are kind of walking through it, trying to get some semblance of it. It’s pretty cool, though. We have a neighbor who lives right above us, and Wednesday night all they hear is (tapping) for an hour.
Any more surprises?
Cooper: I actually bought a lot of painting equipment and I’m going to start painting a little bit, ‘cause I was an art major at school. It’s something I used to do before I was in a band. I figured, “Eh, I’ll go back and do some painting.” If Bernie Taupin is doing it and Ronnie Wood is doing it and all these other guys are doing it, why not me?
No just sitting on the couch and goofing off, then, eh?
Cooper: There’s a movie night every night here, too. Sonora is walking around the house with this great big stomach, and I go, “Have you ever seen ‘What WE Do in the Dark?’ or ‘In the Shadows?'” She goes “no,” so I go, “Oh, we’re gonna watch this tonight, then.” Jed had never seen any of the Pink Panther movies, so I said, “Oh, well, we’re gonna have a festival there,” and we have six, seven people in the living room watching these great, old movies.
The “Don’t Give Up” video response was massive.
Cooper: I know. I thought we might get 1,500 people, something like that. But, y’know, these people are at home. They’re not running around. I think people are searching for things to do. They’re not running around doing stuff. I think they were like, “Yeah, I want to be in anything right now…,” so we wound up benefiting from that.
You were already working on the song for “Detroit Stories,” right?
Cooper: That was one of ’em, yeah. We always over-write for every album, and here was a song that was just sitting there, and we just went, “Y’know, if we just direct that song to Covid-19, it might be something.” And I said, “Let’s make it a positive, encouraging song rather than tap into the horror of it,” which Alice normally would do. I wanted to make it something where it’s like, “Hey, don’t be so afraid. We’ll get through it. Let’s treat it as an enemy and attack it as an enemy, and let’s be smart enough to know how to fight this thing.” It has that everybody pull-together, kind of rah-rah thing to it. It didn’t lose its edge. If it had turned out sappy we wouldn’t have put it out. But I think that when you have a character like Alice, let him stretch a little bit, y’know?”
What’s the latest on the album?
Cooper: It’s 99 percent done and just being polished. I’m really happy with this album. Right now (Ezrin) is just sitting at home listening to everything, going, “Hmm, I wonder if we should re-do that bass?” or “Let’s try that third verse again” or “Can we sing those three lines over again?” (laughs) I want him at some point to put a lock and key on and it say “It’s done!,’ but I trust him to tell us when it is.