Alice Cooper adds 'muscle' for summer tour - East Valley Tribune: Music

Alice Cooper adds 'muscle' for summer tour

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Posted: Thursday, May 19, 2011 12:45 am

Considering Alice Cooper's legacy for onstage theatrics, it's not surprising that the rocker has a fondness for pop sensation Lady Gaga and her anything-goes concert production.

"That's because she does it. She does it to the hilt," he said in a recent phone interview. "She sings, she plays her own music, she designs her own shows. She totally goes outrageous and she doesn't miss a trick. I give her the title 'rock star.' "

Cooper recently received a title of his own, that of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. Weeks after the formal ceremony in New York, Cooper is still getting used to the honor.

"It's weird when people say, could you put 'HOF' at the bottom of your signature ... because I feel like, come on, that's like bragging. But I understand as a collector that 'HOF' means a big deal to them," he said.

"The closest thing that I can say ... is, it's like graduating. When you're being voted on, you're being voted on by your teachers: guys in the Beatles, guys in the Stones, guys in the Kinks, guys in Led Zeppelin. These are the guys who were kind of like your teachers and they're the ones voting on you. So it really does feel like you graduated into the next class. ..."

Cooper, born Vincent Furnier, said his songwriting was influenced by Chuck Berry and Ray Davies of the Kinks, both of whom spun interesting stories in a three-minute musical span.

His hits include "Billion Dollar Babies," "I'm Eighteen," "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and "Welcome to My Nightmare" -- prototypical hard-rock songs mixing lyrical gloom and glam showmanship.

But it's "School's Out," an anthemic rebel yell from a "dumb punk" celebrating summer recess, that has grown into his signature song.

"I think every band gets one of those," Cooper said. "The Who had 'My Generation.' ... The Stones (and) 'Satisfaction,' Alice Cooper (and) 'School's Out,' Deep Purple (and) 'Smoke on the Water.' You always have that one song that identifies you. I have no problem with 'School's Out' being my identification song.

"There's something anarchy about it. It was challenging the school system ... challenging the government system and all that. But (it) had a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. I think any good satire ... you challenge authority, but you do have a sense of humor about it."

Alice Cooper was formed in Arizona by Furnier and some musician friends in the mid-1960s. The group relocated to California hoping to get signed, but soon discovered that its gothic look and music was out of step with the hippy-trippy musical scene led by Buffalo Springfield and the Doors.

The band relocated to Detroit, Cooper's first home, and found kindred spirits in the workingman's local music scene alongside Iggy and the Stooges, MC5,and Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes.

"We fit so right in with those bands," he said. "We were a Detroit band, and I was actually from Detroit, so we were immediately taken into the fold there, and honestly that's where the band broke, out of Detroit."

And as Cooper further developed his macabre stage presentation, Alice Cooper's reputation spread throughout the Midwest and beyond. It didn't take long before he and his bandmates knew they were onto something.

"We realized the more notorious we got the more popular we got, especially if you have hit records," Cooper said.

Alice Cooper the band broke up by 1974, but Cooper continued as a solo artist, recording the album "Welcome to My Nightmare" in 1975, and scoring another hit single, "Poison," in 1989. This summer, for the "No More Mr. Nice Guy Tour," the singer and his band will be playing outdoor festivals with the likes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. To match his heavy-metal counterparts, Cooper decided to "toughen up the set" and add a third lead guitarist, Steve Hunter, to the band's lineup.

Meanwhile, he promises fans he will be playing the hits, while also musically beefing up many of those songs.

"Alice is showing a little muscle, a little teeth this time," he said.

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