"I'm getting crazier," declared Alice Cooper. "I jump in my Corvette and put on (Long Beach heavy-metal station) KNAC as loud as it will go. That's what rock 'n' roll is about."
The 38-year-old performer wanted to make it clear that he's recaptured the renegade spirit that made him one of rock's most outlandish figures in the early '70s. Armed with a new heavy-metal sound, Cooper recently released his first album in four years ("Constrictor"), and he says his current tour (which includes a stop tonight at the Long Beach Arena) has brought him a whole new following of young heavy-metal fans.
"We did tend toward heavy-metal with this album," Cooper agreed during a recent telephone interview. "I love metal music. I love going in and getting my ears burned out. I think the people who come to see Alice Cooper now are the same people who go to see Ozzy Osbourne and Motley Crue."
Cooper said his appropriation of the pounding heavy-metal form was not a calculated move, but a natural evolution from the brash hard-rock style he championed nearly two decades ago. He said some of his old songs were clearly designed to be heavy-metal rave-ups.
Cooper is also back to the kind of elaborately macabre live show that made him the prototypal parent's nightmare during his heyday. The Detroit-born singer said his current tour is a new and improved sequel to his 1975 "Welcome to My Nightmare" show. An avid fan of splatter movies ("I watch two or three a night for relaxation," he noted), Cooper drew on such blood-and-guts horror films as "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Friday the 13th" when scripting his new show. He has also retained some of his favorite props from the past, including a guillotine and a live boa constrictor.
"It's all very trash-oriented," he said. "After I get done with the show I feel like I've been playing in the garbage for an hour-and-a-half."
Cooper's wholehearted plunge into the old shock mode marks a turnaround from the middlebrow, likeable Alice that emerged in the mid-'70s, when Cooper was seen playing golf with celebrities like George Burns and delivering lame lines as a panelist on "Hollywood Squares." At the same time, his live shows also lost their dramatic thrust, and he tried his hand at some conventional pop ballads. Not surprisingly, his career began to sputter, and it finally stalled altogether in 1982.
Cooper admitted he made a mistake by venturing into mainstream society. But he insists he wasn't looking for a broader acceptance.
"I was forcing Alice into places where he didn't belong," Cooper said ruefully. "I thought it was humorous having Alice show up on 'Hollywood Squares.'
"But the audience didn't get the joke. . . . I had to explain my way out of that, and I'm still explaining my out of that. It was like a practical joke I tried to play on the world and it backfired in my face."