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Be specific: Alice Cooper on his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nod and "the Salvador Dali of divas"

alice cooperI'm, sailing... Alice Cooper -- the man and the band -- in its heyday. (Washington Post archive photo)

By Chris Richards

Got your costume ready? Shock rocker par excellence Alice Cooper brings his “Halloween Hootenanny” tour to Merriweather Post Pavilion on Sunday. Click Track spoke with the mascara-clad 62-year-old about his recent nomination for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and his influence on Lady Gaga.


You’ve been eligible for the Rock Hall for many years. Before being nominated did you feel like you were being snubbed?

I think it’s one of those things where my fans were more annoyed than I was. I just kind of feel that your time comes around.

What do you think of the Rock Hall as a concept? Music isn’t a sport with statistics or championships.

That’s the hardest thing to explain to people. When they say, “How come you’re not in? You’ve sold all these records...” If it were stats, I think I’d be way okay. But it’s your heroes that are voting for you. You’ve got your McCartneys and your Jaggers and your Townshends, the Jeff Becks of this world who get a ballot and your name is on there. And you realize, those are the guys you learned from... It is an exclamation point on your career.

Do you ever think about your legacy?

I’m not going to be considered a great singer, but I want to be considered a great songwriter. And a great performer. But I don't take the fame seriously. I think that’s why I’m still here.

And you’ll certainly be remembered for introducing a sense of spectacle to rock and roll.

I kept thinking, ‘Why isn’t anybody painting that canvas?’ You have that whole big stage there and nobody is making it come alive. If you say “Welcome to My Nightmare,” [the title of Cooper’s 1975 concept album], give them the nightmare. Don’t just say it. Give it to them. So we stepped way out on that limb and on the end of that limb, you’re either a total idiot or a genius... And for a long time, man, we had a lot of resistance. You’d be surprised how many bands did not want us to succeed. Because what it meant was that they were gonna have to do a show.

(Cooper talks about Lady Gaga, plus more vintage pictures after the jump.)

alice cooper

Did you ever worry that the spectacle would outshine the songs?

If you don’t have the cake, you can't put the icing on it... We learned early on that when we're playing with Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones and all theses great bands, that you better be a great band before you start doing theatrics... We would do 10 hours of rehearsal and nine hours would be on the music and one hour would be on the theatrics. Most people would think the opposite, but the music was just so important to us.

In the ’90s, your influence over Marylin Manson felt huge. And now it’s happening again with Lady Gaga. Is there enough cake beneath their icing?

Yeah, especially Gaga. When I saw her I thought, “We have a costume queen, here.” And she was great at it. She was the Salvador Dali of divas. Then I started listening and I went, “Hey! She can sing!” Then I saw her perform at the Grammys with Elton John and she could play piano and sing and write songs. So she suddenly turned into a whole different entity to me.

As a rock star, is it strange to see your influence on pop?

I was a big fan of pop music. The Beatles made the best pop records ever... But I think that our influence, maybe even more than the theatrics, was the attitude. We came out as the underdog and gave out more attitude than the audience did.

You’re on tour right now. Do you feel like you’re out there competing with the visually over-the-top concerts from U2 or Rihanna or Lady Gaga or the Black Eyed Peas?

I still like the idea that Alice is sort of a sideshow... Our show is just on the verge of being sort of psychotic vaudeville. But I don't mind that at all. I think that’s our style. I’ve never used pyro. I’ve never used lasers or anything like that... Whereas, a lot of the shows I see now are just a bombardment of media. And I kind of get lost in it. I think our show might be a little more personal.

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By Chris Richards  | October 15, 2010; 1:22 PM ET
Categories:  Be specific  | Tags:  Alice Cooper  
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Next: In concert: Joshua Redman at Blues Alley



This show is going to rule.

Posted by: JohnnyBlades | October 16, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

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