Alice: Albuquerque. Back when we were in high school and college, we used to travel by station wagon everywhere. Albuquerque was our farthest point away that we'd go to play, but we were on tour even then in Albuquerque.
Rhys: Has much changed since those days, and how do Albuquerque audiences respond to you these days?
Alice: Everything has changed. I kind of look at it like — we've watched America grow up. Since we started touring in the mid '60s, every city has totally changed. Every city's now got a mall, every city's got certain things that are common to every major city.
The audience doesn't change much. The kind of music hasn't changed much. The music we're playing now is very derivative of the music we played in the '60s and '70s. It's just you really want to put together a band that can really play it, and can really do it.
Alice then begins talking about hard rock bands from the 1970s, and how some artists, including Aerosmith and Ozzy Osbourne, continue playing guitar-driven music today because audiences still want to hear it.
Alice: We are all guitar-driven rock bands and we all write our own material. Music comes and goes, but it keeps coming back to hard rock. If you look at Aerosmith and Alice and say, They're worlds apart,' you have to consider that we are very similar.
Rhys: You're an artist who has always been known for elaborate stage productions, using storyline theatrics even during your early days. As a musician, how important is image compared to musical content? Are the two separable, or is there ever a time when one becomes more important than the other?
Alice: In the beginning, we fought that; that was our biggest battle. We knew that we were a good band, that we were every bit as good as Thin Lizzy or Foghat, and the rest of those bands. I mean, just the fact that we refused to just be a band — why would we need to be just another band when we could also give them a show, and create a character that could be rock 'n roll's villain? It just means that we give you two things instead of one.
People immediately go, Oh, they're doing the visuals because they can't play.' But after your first or second Number One hit, and after people like Bob Dylan and The Beatles and The Rolling Stones are talking about how much they like your music in the press, they can't really knock you for that.
It was a battle, but I think it's still a battle now. When bands like Marilyn Manson and Slipknot dress up — and they're very theatrical bands that are total derivatives of Alice Cooper — people go, That's great, but what's going on with the music?'
If you don't have those hits, you're really just a puppet show.
It's almost like being a golfer. When you win a few tournaments, OK. But when you win the majors, people start looking at you as a great golfer.
Rhys: How do you balance your song selections each night? Are there certain songs you feel as though you have to play?
Alice: We know which ones we have to do. These certain songs are ones you have to do every time. If you don't do the hits, the audience is going to let you know. I can think of 15 songs that I have to do or the audience would be disappointed.
Alice begins listing hits from the past 35 years at a break-neck speed.
Alice: If I went to see The Who or The Rolling Stones, and they didn't do "Brown Sugar" or "Satisfaction," I'd say, Hey, what's going on here?'
After all of those songs, then we have a secondary bunch of songs of what I call radio hits, or ones that got played on FM radio, or the ones that, if you were an Alice fan, you had to hear those songs. I have to design my show in order to keep those songs fresh. I don't like to mess around with the original songs.
How do you do them visually to get the audience to go, Oh, cool'? If there's a genius to what we do, it's that.
Out of 30 world tours, we've done those songs with 30 different presentations. People who come to the show are going to say, How are they going to do "Eighteen" this year?' That's where you have to be clever.
Rhys: And what about the rumors that you're going to release a new album next year?
Alice: There are always songs being written. I think I want to do albums that — you write the songs, and record them the same day. Don't let the band get tired of the songs. When the band is excited about those songs, that's when you record it.
I think if the song is written well, I would rather hear a great performance than a great production. For a while, we were doing a 14-song album in 14 or 15 days. That's one song per day!
This album is going to be a little more produced. It's more on the level of "The Last Temptation" or "From The Inside."
When I wrote it, I realized there was a character that was really trying to get me to develop him, and I couldn't figure out who he was. I started reading the lyrics and realized there was a guy evolving from this, a guy named Spider. He was a serial killer, but he was a complex serial killer. He doesn't kill for thrills, necessarily, and there's almost a justice about it in his eyes. In our eyes, maybe not.
Rhys: With these character-based albums, do you have a character in mind before you write the lyrics, or does a character develop after you start the writing process?
Alice: Well, the idea behind "The Last Temptation" was that there was an idea there already, sort of in the vein of "Something Wicked This Way Comes."
The whole thought process of that was — here is a moral behind the story. If you're a 14-year-old kid, you don't have to buy into everything the world offers you. It doesn't mean you have to be sexually active, it doesn't mean you have to be a drug addict, it doesn't mean you have to be a 19-year-old before your time. Be innocent for as long as you can! Don't let the world push you around. Don't let Hollywood tell you you're a jerk because you're not having sex every night.
There's a great innocence in being a teenager that you have to hold onto.
Alice then begins describing a comic book written by Neil Gaiman. The comic book told the full story of the album in a three-part series.
Alice: You would see this great-looking girl in the circus, and of course (the boy) would be attracted to her. When you saw the back of her, you saw she was rotting away. Everyone who looked good from the front was rotting away from the back.
It's sort of like that with anything physical. It's not what looks great on the outside but what is it really?
Rhys: Tell me about your new book, "Alice Cooper, Golf Monster." How did that come about?
Alice: It sounds like it would be a golf book, and it is. It's a passion of mine. I guess if I played darts, I would have written it about that. It shows parallels between how golf can be as addictive as drugs. You start realizing it's probably ruined a lot of lives, a lot of relationships and a lot of careers.
You can get so addicted that that's all you think about. I know people who have quit their jobs to play golf, relationships that were ruined from it.
It's a funny book, and it tells you how I got to the position of how I've gotten in my business and in my career, and at the same time it almost killed me.
The interview thus concludes when a PR agent cuts in on the line, and informs Rhys his time with Alice is finished. So it goes.