Alice Cooper is arguably the original shock-rocker. The career of the rock 'n' roller born Vincent Furnier spans from the late '60s -- when he was drinking nightly with John Lennon and Jim Morrison in L.A. -- to the very present: You can catch Alice Cooper at the Warfield tonight, performing both classic hits like "School's Out" and "Eighteen" as well as some newer songs. Ahead of the show, we spoke with Furnier about his days partying with '60s rock legends, how it's impossible to truly shock audiences anymore, and why he thinks new rock bands have too many beards and too little testosterone.
What can we expect from the show? Will we hear the classic songs?
Every single time you go out you know that there are at least 15 songs that you have to do, or the audience will feel cheated. You have to do "Eighteen," "School's Out," "Billion Dollar Babies," "No More Mr. Nice Guy," "Poison." This show is in three parts. The first part of the show is glam Alice. The second part of the show was when Alice became full-out villain. The third part of the show is something we've never done before: I used to have a drinking club in Los Angeles called the Hollywood Vampires. It was guys that met every night at the Rainbow and drank themselves until we couldn't walk. It was John Lennon when he was in town, Keith Moon was there every night, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, people like that. So we're doing a tribute to the fallen vampires.
Do you ever look back at what you and the Vampires did then and think, 'God, we were just crazy?"
Well, just the idea that out of the eight [Hollywood Vampires], three are alive. Those guys were like our big brothers, and just horrible influences on us. But you know, how cool were they? But we watched 'em die, and I learned, at least, that if you're going to have a strong stage image, you've got to be able to separate yourself from the image. Whereas Jim never did. Jim Morrison was Jim Morrison all the time. And I guess you could say that's a cool thing, except for the fact that it killed him by 27 years.
How old were you when you figured that out?
I was 34 when I actually got the idea that this Alice and me cannot coexist, unless when I finish the show Alice stays onstage and there's no alcohol involved and no drugs and no anything like that. And I think the guys that are still around now -- Ozzie, Iggy, Lou Reed -- all came to that crossroads. You really do make a decision either you're going to live or die. And I think some of our pals in the past decided they'd rather die.
You've said in the past that it's impossible to shock audiences anymore.
It's pretty hard. I mean you could cut your arm off and eat it, but you can only do it twice. I'm just saying that the Internet, television, movies, have just taken every bit of innocence away from us. And when I was shocking people it was the late '60s, early '70s. They were ripe for shock.
Do you mourn the loss of that naivete?
I'll tell you what: I did it, but I really don't miss it. The thing about it is you can't recreate something. I think that Marilyn Manson just touched on it when he got his shock across, and he had to up the ante on everything in order to get the parents' attention. And even then, the parents were going, 'Ehhh, it's just an act.' So now what could you do to shock an audience? I mean Lady Gaga's not shocking, she's fun.
So with the element of shock gone, what do you think of new rock?
I am so disappointed. I go to see bands, and in our era, you had to be a great band, you had to write great songs, and you had to do a great, great show. That does not exist anymore. The old pros do it. And the Foo Fighters do it. And Green Day does it. And that's about it. There's nobody else out there. I go to see a band and they're all wearing corduroys. They've got a T-shirt on. And they all have the same beards and the hair and they're going to do an acoustic song about oil. And I'm sitting there going, "How boring is this?" Young rock bands, what happened to the swagger? You don't play rock from your brain, you play from your crotch. The testosterone's not there. And then on top of it, they have an accordion in the band! Come on! That's not rock 'n' roll, I'm sorry, that's folk-rock. I'm expecting a total resurgence of Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi, Warrant, all of those Hollywood bands. It was too much fun for it not to happen again.
I wonder if that will happen.
I think it has to. Because there has to be a blowback from the boringness that's going on right now. I mean I don't care if the guy's sensitive, I just don't care.