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Out & About / Ventura County | pop scene

Alice Cooper, who melded theater and rock, offers an elaborate show.

September 15, 2000|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Halloween will arrive a bit early this year when Alice Cooper comes to the venerable Ventura Theatre on Sunday night to welcome fans to his nightmare and hard rock horror show.

Just as scary and much louder than the "The X-Files," Cooper was one of the first musicians to combine major theatrics and rock, and then sold lots of records. Opening will be pouty teen girlie rockers the Donnas.

Cooper will bring his outrageous, elaborate stage show, which in the past has included everything from guillotines to boa constrictors. As the inventor of "shock rock," Cooper has influenced such acts as KISS, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Rob Zombie and Slipknot. He has toured the world and scared millions, recorded countless gold and platinum albums and scored with nine Top 40 hits, including "School's Out," "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and "Poison."

A self-described combination of Bela Lugosi and Eddie Haskell, Cooper will offer lots of black leather and black humor as well as songs from his latest album, "Brutal Planet." Meanwhile, Cooper discussed his favorite scary-looking golfer.

How does "Brutal Planet" fit in with what came before?

I've always tried to invent a new place to take Alice, and this time it's the future.

What does Alice see in the future?

It's a very negative future.

Sounds like the Sci-Fi Channel.

Yeah, it is. And Alice would love to live in the Sci-Fi Channel. It's a perfect vehicle to do "Road Warrior" meets "Blade Runner," sort of a futuristic and extremely nasty place.

So how many albums is that so far?

That's 23 or 24 studio albums.

So you'll probably be keeping your night job then?

Yes. Yes, as long as I stay healthy, skinny and can play the character well.

There's a song on the new one called "Wicked Young Man." Are you telling us it's not the media's fault and it's not all your fault for all this youthful violence?

I think that's just the easiest target. It's the music and the [video] games--that must be it. If that's true, then why didn't every other kid at that school [Columbine High School in Colorado] kill everybody? They all played the same games, watched the same movies and listened to the same albums. Why just these two guys? I really just believe that there are people that are purely wicked. There are some people that are born killers. I really think these two kids, if they hadn't killed then, would've been serial killers later.

Shock rock. Has it gone too far? Can it go too far?

Absolutely. I think it can. There's places I don't go. Everybody in the business has responsibilities. If you're in the business and you're a writer, a lyricist, a director--you definitely have a responsibility. You can write anything you want, but that doesn't mean you can say "I don't care who I hurt."

Do you get royalties from Marilyn Manson, Slipknot and some of these other bands?

I should, shouldn't I? When we broke down the doors of theater and rock, what crawled through crawled through. KISS came out. David Bowie came out and they all became theatrical acts. But before us, there were no theatrical acts--none that sold records, anyway. If you look at what Marilyn Manson does or what Slipknot does, we're nowhere near them. They're industrial and very high-tech kind of rock, while Alice is guitar-driven rock 'n' roll.

After 30 years, who have you angered the most?

Maybe the rock writers, because at the very beginning they really didn't like this whole idea. They thought the pure musicians were like Cream, the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead, and if you had to do theater, then you weren't very good musicians. Their idea was that you couldn't play and be theatrical at the same time. We spent 90% of our time working on the music, because we knew we had to compete with Led Zeppelin. In the end, we had as many hits as anybody.

In 1970 the hippies were still happening. You guys were clearly an anecdote for all that.

Even the hippies hated us. They were peace and love, and they thought music should be free and wonderful, and we're all just groovy out in this field, but Alice Cooper wanted a Ferrari and two blonds.

What did your parents say when you came home and said "Hello, I'm Alice now"?

They understood my sense of humor. They totally did. They got it from the beginning. They understood that for every hero out there, there should be a villain. And I had no problem being the villain.

How's the stage show these days? How many truckloads of stuff do you bring?

I'm back to the big stage show again. If you're going to, say, "Brutal Planet," then you better give it to them. The cool thing about this show is it's the same show we did in Moscow for 20,000 or in London, and it's the same show we do in the theaters. We'll do the same show for 20,000 as we do for 1,500. Personally, I think it works better in a theater.

So the roadies are in good shape?

Oh, yeah. They're also in the show. Anybody that's in my crew is in the show, even the truck drivers. Soon as they get unloaded, they get in costume.

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