There’s a big difference between Alice Cooper the rock star, whose on-stage theatrics include creative ways to be killed every night, and Alice Cooper the man, born Vincent Damon Furnier, an avid golfer and occasional Sunday school teacher.
Cooper is aware of this dichotomy — onstage, he’s a character, and he readily admits it in interviews. He didn’t always used to, though.
“There was a gray area when I was drinking, and I really — my security in the fact that people love Alice Cooper — they liked him when he was stoned and they liked him when he was drunk, but they also just liked him because he was sort of this Keith Richards kind of rebel,” Cooper said recently from New Hampshire, on a break from his tour with Marilyn Manson. “But I didn’t understand, I didn’t know where I began and where Alice left off.”
In the mid-1980s, Cooper got sober — it was around this time that he started playing golf six days a week, which has led to numerous appearances in pro-am competitions. With sobriety, Cooper made a conscious decision to separate his private life from the horror-show-inspired singer.
‘There are two of us’
“When I got sober, I went, ‘OK. Jim Morrison died trying to be Jim Morrison. Jimi Hendrix died trying to be Jimi Hendrix. I have got to separate Alice from me and treat Alice with respect in that I am playing this character,” Cooper said.
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Palace Theatre, 19 Clinton Ave., Albany
How Much: $59.75, $49.75, $34.75, $24.75
More Info: 465-3334, www.palacealbany.com
“I’m not going to ever water him down, but I’m not going to be him. I started playing golf. I started doing the Johnny Carson show, where I would go on and talk and I didn’t have the makeup on. I wanted to kind of prove to the audience that there are two of us, the funny Dr. Jeckyll and the seriously demented character that I played onstage, and it worked. I think people accepted the fact — ‘When I go to see you onstage, you’re not gonna be this guy, right?’ No, I look forward to playing that guy onstage, but he would never sit and talk to you — he’d be chasing you around with an ax.”
Alice Cooper the character will be in full force onstage at the Palace Theatre on Friday night, part of the continuation of his Raise the Dead tour from last year. In addition to performing classic material from his past albums, Cooper will incorporate cover songs into his set in anticipation of his first-ever covers album, which he will work on later this year.
The Monsters of Madness tour with Manson wrapped in late June after 20 dates and turned out to be a memorable experience for both artists.
“I’m surprised, only because a thing like that could go either way — somebody can cop an attitude,” Cooper said. “Marilyn was purely respectful. I’ve always been sort of his go-to guy — when I was a kid, it was The Yardbirds, The Who, The Rolling Stones; for Manson it was Alice Cooper and probably KISS, so there’s a real respect there, and I respect what he’s doing.”
‘Now Alice is an icon’
The two shock rockers mine different musical territory — Manson’s industrial metal and punk is quite different from Cooper’s garage-y glam and hard rock — but share a love of the macabre in their elaborate stage shows. Both also have more than a little experience being hated by the more conservative mainstream, although Cooper’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, alongside his bandmates in the 1970s group that shares Cooper’s stage name, suggests Cooper’s legacy is gaining more acceptance.
“[Manson] definitely has carved out an image for himself that’s sort of early Alice Cooper, and he’s got all the right people hating him,” Cooper said. “And I went through that, too, but they’ve turned it around to, ‘Well, yeah, but now Alice is an icon.’ Once you stay in the business long enough, you turn a corner and you’re suddenly woven into the fabric of Americana. It’s sort of like Liberace — when I was a kid, he was kind of a freak, but yeah, that’s an American icon.”
Cooper’s most recent work has been looking back into that iconic past for inspiration. Following 2008’s “Along Came a Spider,” a concept album that shares some of the characters and spirit of Cooper’s first solo album, 1975’s “Welcome to My Nightmare,” Cooper released “Welcome 2 My Nightmare” in 2011. The title suggests a more direct sequel to the 1975 concept album, with the recording sessions coinciding with that album’s 35th anniversary.
“Bob [Ezrin, producer of both ‘Nightmare’ albums] and I didn’t know exactly what to do on the next album, and we started out just writing some songs,” Cooper said. “With the 35th anniversary of ‘Welcome to My Nightmare,’ that clicked for me — let’s not do Part 2, let’s give Alice a new nightmare. You’re allowed to have as many as you want, right? It’s 35 years later, let’s go back to the same character — now, what would be a nightmare for Alice? Well, technology would be — Alice is an old-school villain. Hip-hop would be a nightmare for him, like disco. Hip-hop is just disco in disguise.”
‘Can’t afford to do that’
The album brings back motifs and characters from the original “Nightmare,” including Steven, who also made an appearance on “Along Came a Spider.” It also reaches back even further into Cooper’s career, reuniting the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper band — guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith — for three songs. The lineup previously reunited for the band’s Hall of Fame induction, with Cooper’s current touring guitarist, Steve Hunter, filling in for deceased lead guitarist Glen Buxton.
“When we broke up, we never broke up with any bad blood,” Cooper said. “It was all we had ever done since we started it in high school, and it finally got to that point where I wanted to keep doing theatrics, and I think the band wanted to kind of stop for a while and regain some sort of composure. I said, ‘Guys, we can’t afford to do that, it’s too competitive. We can’t stop after “Billion Dollar Babies” ’ , even though we probably should have. We’d been going for six, seven years, constant, and everybody said nothing could be bigger than ‘Billion Dollar Babies,’ while I was thinking ‘Welcome to My Nightmare’ at that point.”
The band’s members never lost touch with each other. Despite the fact that the Hall of Fame induction was the first time the band had performed together since the 1970s, both the live performance there, as well as the studio reunion, went off smoothly.
“We rehearsed, and it sounded like we hadn’t missed a day,” Cooper said. “I looked at Bob and said, ‘Hey, let’s write a couple songs with the old band.’ It just felt perfect, the songs we did together — we didn’t have to say, ‘Let’s get back and get that, those ’70s sounds.’ All I had to do was just let them play, and it fell right into place. I have absolutely no qualms doing that again.”
‘Best I’ve worked with’
But Cooper won’t be ditching his touring band anytime soon. The group, which Cooper calls “out of 45 years of playing, the best I’ve ever worked with, as far as just gelling together around my music,” features longtime bassist Chuck Garric and guitarist Ryan Roxie, alongside newcomers Orianthi and Tommy Henriksen on guitar and Glen Sobel and Jonathan Mover on drums and percussion.
“Glen was a great choice. ... He’s a show drummer and a straight-ahead rock drummer who can do a solo and get the audience standing,” Cooper said. “Then we’ve got Orianthi in the band, and getting Orianthi was a coup. ... She is like an old school Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page — she just kills the audience every night. Young audiences are not used to seeing lead guitar players, and this is — she’s like an old-school lead guitar player, and she’s 26, and people are just not expecting all this music to come out of her.”