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Alice Cooper on Hollywood Vampires and reuniting with his original bandmates

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Cooper on his first breakup: “There were no lawsuits. Nobody ever threatened anybody.” - ROB FENN
  • Rob Fenn
  • Cooper on his first breakup: “There were no lawsuits. Nobody ever threatened anybody.”
Alice Cooper’s major heyday may have been back in the 1970s, when tours behind albums like Billion Dollar Babies were breaking Rolling Stones concert attendance records. But the man born Vincent Damon Furnier is still creatively vibrant some four decades later.

There’s a live album on the way as well as a possible Hollywood Vampires reunion. Right now, though, the shock-rock pioneer’s attention is on touring behind his most recent album Paranormal, for which he reunited three of his original band members, hired some superstar session players, and hit the studio with celebrity producer Bob Ezrin.

Cooper’s first collaboration with Ezrin since 2011’s sequel album Welcome 2 My Nightmare, Paranormal boasts guest appearances by U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr., ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons and Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover. For Cooper and Ezrin, the eclectic mix of musicians reflected their decision to avoid falling into a single musical or thematic concept.

“Bob and I decided we were going to make an album that didn’t necessarily have a story line this time, but an album that got us off,” says Cooper of the summer 2017 release. “The songs don’t necessarily conform to any style. Alice Cooper is always going to do guitar rock — that’s always what I do — but the styles kind of go all over the place, which is great.”

One of Cooper’s favorite moments during the sessions involved the U2 drummer. “When we got to the studio, he asked to see the lyrics,” says Alice. “I’ve never ever had a drummer ask me about the lyrics, and he said he plays to the lyrics, and I loved that.”

Better still was the reunion of the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper lineup: bassist Dennis Dunaway, drummer Neal Smith and guitarist Michael Bruce. Guitarist Glen Buxton died in 1997. “He was our Keith Richards,” recalls Cooper. “That was a huge part of the personality of that band.”
Together, the four instrumentalists played on albums that made Cooper one of the biggest stars of the ’70s and are widely considered artistic high points of his career, beginning with 1971’s Killer and followed over the next two years by School’s Out and Billion Dollar Babies.

By the time Cooper decided that he wanted to make the album that would become 1975’s Welcome to My Nightmare, bandmates Buxton, Dunaway, Smith and Bruce had decided the wear and tear from multiple platinum albums, relentless touring and being together nonstop all through high school and college added up to massive burnout.

The breakup was mutually agreed upon, and Cooper says that the friendship the former bandmates maintained over the years made it easy for them to get back together. The reunited crew recorded 20 songs together, three of which made it to the final album.

“We never broke up with any bad blood. Dennis, Neal, Mike, Glen and I were all best of friends. There were no lawsuits. Nobody ever threatened anybody,” Cooper says. “So I wanted Neal, Mike and Dennis to play on these songs, and Bob absolutely agreed. They came in and nailed it.”

Even with so many decades of recording and performing under his belt, the 70-year-old rocker continues to enjoy playing live. That will be apparent to not only those who see Cooper on his current headlining tour, but also to those who snag a copy of the live album he’ll be releasing on Aug. 31. Called A Paranormal Evening at the Olympia Paris, the two-disc set documents the concert Cooper and his band performed last December at the iconic Paris venue. The 18-song set will include many of Cooper’s best-known songs (“School’s Out,” “I’m Eighteen,” “Under My Wheels” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy”) along with lesser-known back-catalog tracks (“Woman of Mass Distraction” and “Pain”) as well as a few tracks from the Paranormal album.

Once his own touring commitments are fulfilled, there’s also a good chance Cooper will pop up as part of his celebrated side band, the Hollywood Vampires, a group that also features Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry and actor-musician Johnny Depp. The group released its first album in 2015, including two original tracks plus covers of rock classics like The Who’s “My Generation,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression,” and Spirit’s “I Got a Line on You.” The album also featured Paul McCartney on a version of “Come and Get It,” the hit he wrote for Badfinger back in the late 1960s.

“The cool thing about the Vampires is it’s a totally opposite thing than the Alice Cooper show,” says the artist of his extracurricular activity. “I don’t think about theatrics when I think about the Vampires. All of us started out playing in bar bands, so that’s basically what we are.”

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