Alice Cooper's nightmarish theatrics remain gloriously gory | Features | Charleston City Paper

Alice Cooper's nightmarish theatrics remain gloriously gory 

The rock 'n' roll horrorshow

Alice Cooper is best known for his role as Vincent Raven in Monster Dog, Street Schizo in John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness, and Freddy Krueger's demented dad in Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare. Or at least that's what the horror nerd in me thinks. As it turns out, he's done other things, like record a shit-ton of hit songs like "School's Out," "I'm Eighteen," "Welcome to My Nightmare," and "No More Mr. Nice Guy."

Cooper is a difficult interview, but not in an awkward or rude way. He's a conversationalist with a vast knowledge of movies, so it's hard to ask the important things like, "Can you tell us about your new album?"

"So you're a horror movie buff?" are the first words Vincent Damon Furnier, the son of a preacher man, says to me after I praise him for his work on the soundtrack for Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives and his recent role as coverboy for the horror magazine Fangoria.

"One of my favorite things in the world is being on the covers of Fangoria and Famous Monsters, because those magazines were where all my allowance went," Cooper says. "I've been on the cover of Rolling Stone and all those magazines, but when I saw myself on the cover of Fangoria and Famous Monsters, I went 'Yes!' That, to me, was really important."

And he wasn't bullshitting about his enthusiasm. "I'm one of those guys who loves to find C-movies. I love C-horror movies. I actually pick them up, and if there's anybody in the cast I've ever heard of, I don't buy it," he says. "Every once in a while, you find one that makes you say, 'Oh,' or you find one that's so bad that you say to yourself, 'This is a gem.'"

As the conversation continues, Cooper heaps praise on films like Sleepaway Camp, the original The Haunting, Salem's Lot, and his new favorite Cabin in the Woods, while pontificating whether or not to check out Chernobyl Diaries. It was like being lost in Nerdsville, but I had to keep focus.

In 1975, Cooper released Welcome to My Nightmare, a concept album that starts off as a tale about a child, Steven (an Alice Cooper alter-ego), who's unable to wake from a series of bad dreams. It spirals into the deeper madness of recalling his own personal isolation in "Years Ago," an abusive relationship in "Only Women Bleed," and killing his wife in "The Awakening." He's even subjected to the horrors of a Vincent Price monologue in "The Black Widow." While reviews were mixed at the time, Welcome to My Nightmare later attained a fawning cult status.

"When I was drinking back in the '60s, '70s, and into the '80s, I looked at Alice and realized he was a victim," Cooper says. "Being an alcoholic, Alice had a different posture and he kind of represented the outcast. He was the guy who didn't fit in with society, and there were a lot of kids out there who were outcasts. They related to Alice."

Now in 2012, Cooper is touring in support of Welcome 2 My Nightmare, the sequel to the 1975 album. This time, the tortured soul of Alice is a bit different. As a recovering alcoholic, Cooper came to an epiphany: "When I got sober, I decided I cannot play this character anymore as an outcast because I feel too good," he says. "I'm going to change Alice into a really arrogant villain, an Alan Rickman type that looks down on everybody — the ultimate villain rock star. It's two entirely different characters. One was a whipping boy, while this one in Welcome 2 My Nightmare is the dominatrix."

Since sobriety, Cooper has taken a bit of time out to pursue his golf addiction as well. "I just played Michael Douglas' tournament in the Bahamas, and Annika Sorenstam's tournament, too. I've played with a lot of those pros." He usually gets on the green a few days each week, but his rock tour will limit him from checking out the PGA championship at Kiawah later this summer.

When asked about being touted as a Republican, Cooper was quick to clarify his political beliefs. "I was just never one of those guys who brought into everything that Hollywood said," he says. "I really do believe in being an individual. I don't vote for the party. I vote for the guy. So, all of a sudden, that made me a right-wing Republican. I'm more of a moderate. With some things, I'm a little left, and with other things I'm a little right. I'm not jumping up and down for either guy [Barack Obama or Mitt Romney]. I wish there was somebody else, to be honest."

Politics, golf, and horror flicks aside, Cooper says he's eager to bring his legendary stage show back on the road. It's a theatrical thrill ride with a macabre and bloody collection of guillotines, electric chairs, slithering snakes, and other creepy props. He kindly doles out a couple nuggets while making sure to keep some gems secret: "There's a giant Alice Frankenstein that comes out on stage. People want the guillotine, so we have that," he says. "There's going to be all kind of stuff."

Guillotines and pointless gore? I'm there dude.


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