Residents of Phoenix Arizona already know that rock and roll legend Alice Cooper is one of the nicest guys to ever strap on the leather and gothic eye shadow. Cooper is best known internationally for his metal classics and a stage show that features guillotines, snakes and the occasional baby on a spike, but when he’s not on tour, he’s just the guy the locals buzz about after their chance encounters with the rocker at church, the grocery store, the movie theater and the golf course.
Earlier this month Alice Cooper presented his 12th Christmas Pudding Concert, a perennial holiday favorite for local residents that always features an all star line up of rockers and celebrities. This year’s list of who’s who included Don Felder (formerly of The Eagles), up and coming guitarist Orianthi, Sebastian Bach (former lead singer of Skid Row), LA Guns and movie star Johnny Depp, who temporarily joined Alice Cooper’s band for the evening’s festivities.
Proceeds from the concert go to Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock, a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of teens through music, dance and self expression. The primary goal is to honor Jesus Christ by helping to meet the spiritual, economical, physical and social needs of teenagers and children within the community.
The night before the big show, on a break from the soundcheck/ rehearsal, I had a chance to sit down and talk with the newly elected member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, what follows are the highlights.
Alice Cooper with Pop Bitez Editor in Chief Scott Hopkins
Alice on his 12th Christmas Pudding show: “Every year it’s a different show, with different people, some come back, this will be Don Felder’s fourth year, this will be Johnny Depp’s first year, LA Guns first year, Sebastion Bach’s first year. Every year we go through the rolodex and say, “who would be great to have this year?”, and we always get five or six major acts, so it’s great.”
Alice on a few of the highlights from the past 11 shows: “Anytime you get Pat Boone and Ted Nugent together, or Amy Grant and Megadeath, Rob Zombie and Cheech Marin, I try to put people together that don’t belong together, that makes it even more of a Christmas party, you know, the whole idea from the beginning was it’s like a Christmas party where everybody gets up and does something. We’ve had so may great people, Glen Campbell, Peter Frampton, Nils Lofgren. Rob Zombie was great, he kept saying. ‘This is not my audience!’, and I said, ‘It’s NOBODY’S audience!’, I said, ‘You think that’s an Alice audience out there? It’s an all ages Christmas party!” I tell them all up front, ‘there’s going to be a VERY expensive swear jar backstage, I’m talking REALLY expensive, (he laughs), so no F-bombs tonight, this is a Christmas show!”. It was the hardest thing in the world for Dee Snyder and Rob Zombie to do, Lita Ford had a little problem with that too, but she was great.”
Alice on his inspiration for creating the Solid Rock Foundation: “I’m extremely un-political but the humanitarian things are important to me because that’s really where you can do some good work. Every major city has got a problem with guns, gangs and drugs, and me being in Phoenix for 50 years of my life… I thought, let’s do something about it, let’s open a place for kids where, instead of going into gangs they’ll go into bands, learn how to play guitars, drums, bass… and we’re open every night, 3:00 to 9:00 and 75 to 100 kids are there every night, learning instruments, I call it the ‘Glorious Racket’ because you walk in and it’s just noise and I love that, because the kids are all learning. We have three kids, three thirteen year old kids that are going to play guitar in the show that’ll surprise you and these are three kids that go to The Rock. They get all their instruments for free, Fender has said ‘if there are 100 kids, they’ll be 100 guitars there’, they’ve been behind us 100%, we love that.”
Alice on the possibility of expanding his Solid Rock Foundation: “We travel around the world, (Alice and his band), we just finished 100 cities from Europe to South America, Australia, everywhere…and every city’s got the same problem, and I’ll see a kid that’s 15, selling drugs on the street and I say, ‘how does that kid know he’s not the best guitar player?’ He’s never had a guitar in his hand, he might be a great bass player or drummer or singer, so give them that alternative. We’ve had Detroit, San Diego, Denver…a bunch of cities call us up and say, ‘can you build one here?’, and we say ‘this is the mother ship, we want to show that it works here and then we’ll give you the formula.’ Detroit needs 15 of these places, I’m from Detroit so I know, the bigger the city, the tougher the city, the more industrial, the more they need these places, because…where are these kids gonna go, 13 to 19? Boy’s Club is over, they’ve got nothing, so here’s a place that they can go and make it your own.”
Alice on Doomsday 12/21/2012: “The Mayan Calendar? You know, I can’t remember the last time I asked a Mayan about anything..wait a minute, there are no Mayans! Ah yes, that’s right! I think we like to get into this frenzy because it’s almost fun, we did the same thing with the computers in 1999, you know the computers were going to go crazy and all the nuclear bombs were going to go off and, you know, THAT didn’t happen and the Mayan’s are probably wrong on this one too.”
Alice on working with Johnny Depp: “Johnny’s a great guitar player, we were doing Dark Shadows in London and after we were done filming we were going to go play a place called ‘The Hundred Club‘ , which is like the size of this room, but The Beatles played there, The Stones played there, The Yardbirds, everybody and we said we wanna go play there and it’s basically like you’re a bar band and if somebody yells out ‘Brown Sugar’ you play ‘Brown Sugar’, you know, no makeup, no snakes, no nothing and we said, ‘Johnny come out and play with us’, and he said, ‘O.K.’ and she shows up with his amp and his guitar and.. he can play! He can really play! He’s played with Aerosmith, Rob Zombie, he’s played with everybody. He played with us last week at the Orpheum in LA and he blew it away.When he’s on stage he’s a guitar player, he’s Johnny Depp, but he’s a guitar player.“
Alice on his favorite Christmas Song: “There are so many great ones, those Sinatra songs, those great standards, ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, that’s a great one.”
Alice on his LEAST favorite Christmas song: “There are some where you start getting to the point where you say, ‘You know what? Enough!’ I could probably name about 5 or 6 of those, ‘Jingle Bells’ is getting a little old.”
*Editor’s Note: Merry Christmas Mr. Cooper, you’re truly a king among men, thanks again, ROCK ON!