Exclusive: How The New Hollywood Vampires Album Makes Alice Cooper ‘Uncomfortable’
Alice Cooper is having a typically busy 2018. Having wrapped a Hollywood Vampires tour back in July, he's gearing up to release a live album, A Paranormal Evening at the Olympia Paris on Aug. 31, and just kicked off another solo headlining tour.
During a recent appearance to dedicate a new pinball exhibit, "Part of the Machine: Rock & Pinball," at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Cooper gave UCR some exclusive details on yet another project: a new Hollywood Vampires studio album.
"The funny thing is, I’m not doing any writing on it," he says. "Johnny Depp, Joe Perry [and] Tommy Henriksen have written almost 90 percent of it. I come in and do a little surgery on the lyrics. But it’s interesting for me to be singing about Johnny’s angst."
Cooper laughs. "But I wanted it that way. It stretches me a little bit, because I have to listen to the lyrics and go, 'Oh, okay, I see what he’s saying here.' For once, I’m not really doing all of my songs. I’m doing somebody else’s songs."
When asked how he finds himself growing and changing as a performer by adopting this approach, Cooper offers some intriguing insights. "We get stuck sometimes in our style of writing," he says.
"So when every once in a while you have to do something else that makes you uncomfortable. That’s a good thing. It stretches you into this place and it makes you think, 'Okay, now how do I interpret this song? Because I didn’t write this. So how am I going to do this?' Normally, that would be easy to do. This makes it a little harder and that’s a good thing in art. Art should always stretch you."
Judging by his busy schedule, longtime Cooper pal and musical foil Dennis Dunaway — who was also at the Rock Hall's pinball exhibit dedication — shares a similar mindset. He tells UCR he's "always very active creatively," which is no exaggeration: Dunaway is working on two albums and a video, and the paperback version of his memoir, Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!: My Adventures in the Alice Cooper Group, just came out.
"We began as artists in art class; that’s when we became friends," Dunaways says, referring to Cooper. "And then music is just another extension of that. Theatrics is another creative expression. It’s all just creative energy."
In recent years, Cooper and Dunaway reunited with surviving Alice Cooper band bandmates Michael Bruce and Neal Smith for a surprise 2015 record store gig and to record two new songs as bonus tracks on Cooper's latest album, 2017's Paranormal.
When asked how it feels working together again, Cooper remarks, "It’s always been sort of like, we’ve never really broken up. It was sort of like, we went different ways. But we all were always in touch with each other. I always knew what Dennis was doing. I knew what Neal [Smith] was doing. You know, Mike [Bruce] disappeared … "
Dunaway interjects with a laugh, "Yeah, but he disappeared when we were working together!"
"Yeah, he did!" Cooper says. "And Glen [Buxton] disappeared off of the planet, you know. But that was of his own choosing. But Dennis and Neal and I always had a creative force together."
"It’s not like we get together and we have to fill in any gaps," adds Dunaway. "It’s just an ongoing thing. When we’re together, it’s like we’ve always been together."
That the musicians have all been friends since they were teenagers also helps, as it ensures the group tends to be on the same creative wavelength.
"It’s so funny, because I’ll be listening to songs and I’ll go, 'That’s a Dunaway song,'" Cooper says. "I can just tell. It’s got Dunaway’s fingerprints all over it. And I can tell if it’s a Neal song. And Mike, when Mike comes in with a song, I go, 'That’s a Mike song.' We’ve worked on so many songs together that you know each other’s fingerprints."