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What's Wrong WIth Kids Today?

Alice Cooper, playing the Outer Harbor with Marilyn Manson on Friday, talks about Gaga, the folk resurgence, and the dawn of a new age of spandex…

First there was Alice Cooper, and then there was Marilyn Manson. Seemingly incarnations of the same being for different generations, these two fathers of shock rock have finally teamed up for what some might consider a dream tour: the Masters of Madness Shock Therapy tour, which will happen live at Buffalo’s Outer Harbor concert site (325 Furhmann Boulevard) this Friday, June 14. The show is part of one of Buffalo’s biggest concert series, which kicked off with Guns N Roses and will continue with shows by the Black Keys, the Tragically Hip, and Mac Miller with the whole Odd Future Gang in July, and Flogging Molly in August.

But before that, the Masters of Madness, the “new monsters,” as shock rock legend Cooper likes to call himself and Manson, come to cause chaos in Buffalo. Cooper, a legend who needs no introduction, talked to us this week about shock value, Wayne’s World, and how to roast Lady Gaga on a fiery spit.

AV: This tour is a little different than the tours you’re used to. How have you been preparing?

Cooper: For us it’s been about putting together a new show, a shorter version because we’re doing two 70-minute sets. [Marilyn Manson is] doing 70 minutes and we’re doing 70 minutes, so we’re doing some surgery on our show to get all of the good stuff in. When you’ve got two bands as theatrical as Alice and Marilyn, there are a lot of technical things you have to rehearse.

AV: Some people see an Alice Cooper/Marilyn Mason as a dream tour. How do you think you guys are the same or different?

Cooper: We’re the same in the fact that we’re the new monsters. We’re the new Dracula, the new werewolf and Frankenstein. You have to fit Rob Zombie in there, too, and you’ve got the trilogy, the sort of classic monsters. We toured with Zombie and that tour was great. The two shows were entirely different. My show was a classic rock show with all of the hits and a really great band and then on top of it you’ve got all of the insane Alice Cooper theatrics. Zombie’s show was much more hi-tech and industrial, like an industrial nightmare come to life. So the two shows were entirely different, and the same goes for Manson. His show is more of an industrial sound whereas our show is incredibly classic.

AV: You’re considered the godfather of shock rock. Has the term “shock rock” changed for you or evolved in the years that you’ve been doing this?

Cooper: You can’t shock an audience anymore. They can pretend to be shocked, but you know. Take Lady GaGa: As much as I like Lady Gaga, she’s not shocking. I told her she didn’t take the meat-dress far enough. I said if it were my show they would have barbecued you on a spit at the end and everybody in the audience would have come up and eaten your dress. That would be shocking. Maybe they would have eaten parts of her too.

AV: I would take a bite of a Lady Gaga burger.

Cooper: The thing about it is, it was easy to shock an audience in the 1970s. We could shock an audience with the guillotine and the snake and all of the mock horror. I think the thing that scared the parents the most was Alice’s image and the fact that we were Alice Cooper, these five guys with hair down to our waists and make-up on…and everybody was straight. So it was kind of like they were looking at their kids and going “Oh, no, you’re not going to look like that.” I think that’s what shocked the audience.

AV: Do you have a favorite Alice Cooper era?

Cooper: People like to ask me what my very favorite Alice Cooper album is and there are a few that come to mind: Welcome to My Nightmare was my first solo album and it was my biggest production. It was my big, big, gigantic show that was so ridiculous that nobody could believe it. I think when we did Love It to Death and Killer before that we proved to the world we weren’t just a theatrical band, that we wrote hit records. At the same time we were as underground as we wanted to be and as commercial as we wanted to be. Very rarely do you find a band as controversial as Alice Cooper with 14 Top 40 hits.

AV: You’re certainly like a direct predecessor to Marilyn Manson. What does it take in culture or society to bring a Marilyn Manson or an Alice Cooper type of personality into the mainstream?

Cooper: The most important element is the songs. If you don’t have hit songs, honestly you just become a puppet show. Of course we do the theatrical things and we’re outrageous, but if you don’t have “Schools Out,” “Elected,” “18,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Poison,” “Only Women Bleed,” that are played everywhere, that is the whole ticket. You have to have those songs. Our emphasis has always been music first, theatrics second. That’s the way it should be. What bothers me more than anything else right now, is the fact that young bands are so milquetoast.

AV: For example?

Cooper: Bands like the Lumineers. If I want to clog dance, I guess they’re a good band for that. I just see all these young bands that want to fit in, but rock music has always been about not fitting in! Where is the outlaw in that? Guns N Roses do that. What happened to the Mötley Crües, all of the bands that were basically outlaws?

AV: Or even Nirvana or Rage Against The Machine in the 1990s.

Cooper: Yeah, to me that was the charm and the fun of being in a rock band, to not fit in. So many young bands, I listen to their music and I go, “What is this crap?” It’s good if you’re going to a folk festival, then okay, I’m all over Mumford and Sons. They’re great at what they do, but it’s not rock and roll. I’ll take the Black Veil Brides over them because at least there is energy behind that. Music is cyclical. I think the next thing that is going to happen is going to be the re-emergence of that Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi era, the spandex and hair. They all wrote great songs, they were great bands, and they did a show. The next generation is going to go for that. It’s going to be much more image-conscious, whereas there is no image now.

AV: I’m in my mid-20s so my first exposure to Alice Cooper was through Wayne’s World. That film was over 20 years ago. Do you still get fans who run up to you and just get down on their knees and yell, “We’re not worthy!”?

Cooper: How many times a day! Mike Myers is one of my best buddies and every time I see him I say, “Thanks for sticking me with ‘We’re not worthy.’” None of us had any idea that movie was going to be as big as it was.

AV: I read that you arrived on the set thinking you would only be performing “Feed My Frankenstein” but they surprised you with a whole monologue to memorize.

Cooper: Yeah. Mike and Dana just said, “Here, you’re an actor.” I said, “Oh, okay.” Then I looked at it and it was like nine pages and they said we were shooting in 20 minutes. A lot of it I was just riffing. They did everything they could from behind the camera to make me laugh while I was sitting there trying to do a monologue about socialist mayors and trying to pronounce Algonquian words.

AV:You mentioned Welcome to My Nightmare before. You did a sort of follow up to that in 2011: Welcome 2 My Nightmare.

Cooper: Yeah, we gave Alice a new nightmare. You can have five nightmares in a row and they can be totally different, so I just figured, we did one in 1976, let’s see what Alice’s nightmare would be like now. Hip-hop would be a nightmare for him. Technology would be a nightmare. American Idol would be a nightmare. There is a lot of funny sarcasm and a lot of funny cynicism in what Alice does, how he looks at the world. He’s a villain that is so out of place. He’s a left-over villain from another time and he just doesn’t fit in.

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