Alice Cooper
Photo: Mick Burgess

Mick Burgess hooked up with Alice Cooper to talk about joining Mötley Crüe on their farewell tour, his new project The Hollywood Vampires and a lot more!

Alice Cooper and Orianthi
Photo: Mick Burgess

In a few weeks you’re over in the UK. Are you looking forward to coming back here to play?

We have about 30 more shows left on this tour. We’ve been over to the UK a lot over the years but we haven’t actually done a British tour in a while so we’re doing these dates with Mötley Crüe and I’m sure we will be back over next year for a bigger tour. I can’t wait to play again. I’m doing a couple of my own shows with Michael Monroe from Hanoi Rocks too. I’m really looking forward to play for you in the UK again.

You’re playing 4 shows as part of Mötley Crüe’s Final Tour. Who’s idea was it for you to tour with Mötley Crüe?

I’ve known these guys forever. They are old friends of mine and they called me and said they were going off on their final tour. They asked if I could send them off in grand style. They said I was one of their biggest influences and would love to have me on the tour as special guest. I just thought that would be a lot of fun. The whole idea in Rock’n’Roll now is to put two headliners together. KISS went out with Def Leppard and Aerosmith went out with Slash. It’s one of those things where you get a one, two punch with two acts that really bring it every night and it’s great for the audience.

This is of course Mötley Crüe’s farewell tour and they have vowed never to reunite again. You have even offered to help them with that pledge by executing them on stage as part of your act? Would you use the guillotine, the gallows, the electric chair or do you have a special method reserved especially for Mötley Crüe?

I think it’s really funny when bands talk about going out on their final tour then they go on for 5 or 6 years. Motley keeps insisting that this is their final tour. New Year’s Eve is their LAST show. When they announced that at the press conference we did together, I piped in that I could ensure that happens by killing them all that night. Everybody laughed and Tommy Lee leant over and said that was not a bad idea. The actual reality is that we’re done with them on 22nd December so we’re not even doing the last show but I think the idea of them all being guillotined would be a great idea.

Will you still get to put on a big production or will this be more of a stripped down show focussing more on the music?

I know Mötley Crüe will do a great show and we know what our show is. It’s fun to go out in front of big crowds every night and I think we broke all kinds of records last summer with this show. You’ll get Alice Cooper full out and then you’ll get Mötley Crüe with all the pyro. You’ll get two different kinds of shows but both on the same night. Almost every song you’ll hear, you’ll have heard on the radio. This show will be very Cooper-esq. When you see the show you can’t get away from it, it’s Alice Cooper all the way.

You have the songs that everyone expects like Schools Out, No More Mr Nice Guy and 18. In the past you’ve thrown in some real vintage stuff like Nurse Rozetta and Gutter Cats Vs The Jets. What have you lined up for this tour?

What we always try to do is find something that we can surprise the audience with. I like to do that because when we opened for The Stones on the Steel Wheels Tour in The States, I knew what most of the songs they were going to play, then every once in a while they’d do Down The Road Apiece from their No. 2 album or they’d play Fortune Teller or something really deep that my High School band would have played because it was so cool. For me that was great and such a cool moment, that all the real fans would really get off on, so every once in a while we’ll be playing one of those. It may even be off an album that didn’t do that well but I know the fans will love it.

You always have the knack of picking a great band. The band you have now is exceptional.

What I really like is that I normally get reviews about the show and that’s great. I’m getting reviews now that start out saying that you should see the band that I have. I love getting musical reviews like that first and then the theatrical reviews. I have 3 guitarists in the band now, Ryan Roxie, Tommy Henriksen and Nita Strauss who’s just a pure shredder. We also have Glen Sobel and Chuck Garric on drums and bass. People are talking about how good musically the show was and for me that’s really great to hear. I love that.

Ryan Roxie and Chuck Garric have been with you for a while now. What do they bring to the Alice Cooper show?

Ryan’s a great guy. He’s the one that brings a touch of Glam to the show. He’s always been a Randy Rhodes type of guitar player and really understands the whole Glam look and has that built into him. Chuck is much more Beasto Blanco, almost like a Hell’s Angel. You wouldn’t mess with him, not one bit. The whole combination of these guys just works so well together. If anyone hits a bad note everyone jerks their head around as we’re just not used to hearing wrong notes, the music is that tight.

On your last tour Orianthi joined as a third guitarist and she was the first ever girl in your band and now you have Nita Strauss. How did she end up with you?

Orianthi was a great Blues player and fit into the band really well. She was the first girl we’d had in our band. When she wanted to go and do her own thing I wanted to get another girl in the band. When I found Nita Strauss, knowing that I’m going out with Mötley Crüe, we had a shredder in the band. We didn’t have one of those and we wanted a girl who could play like that so when we heard her we were like, man she’s the one. She kills it every night.

You’re latest album is out but this one is a little different, this is with The Hollywood Vampires and is mainly a covers album that includes a whole host of special guests. When did you first get the idea to put this together?

It’s not really an Alice album. When we started doing it I mentioned to Johnny Depp, when we were doing the Dark Shadows movie, that I’d never done a covers album. I said everybody else I knew had done a covers album. We started talking about The Hollywood Vampires and we ended up going over to the 100 Club in Oxford Street and doing all covers that night with my band and Johnny’s band. At that point I was telling him about The Hollywood Vampires, the drinking club. Instead of being an Alice Cooper album it ended up being a Hollywood Vampires album.

Not many people realise that Johnny Deep is such a good guitarist.

Oh, he’s a great guitarist. In his movie Chocolat, he plays a Gypsy guitar player. All of that guitar work that is like Django Reinhardt, it’s all his playing. Joe Perry from Aerosmith heard him play that and when he realised it was Johnny playing he called him up for a guitar lesson so that shows how good he is.

Your voice sounds in great shape. You almost sound younger than you did 20 years ago.

I’ve done 180 shows on this tour and I have not lost my voice once. I don’t know what it is but my voice is just stronger than it’s ever been. I’ve always been pretty good at mimicry so I could do a good John Lennon on Cold Turkey and a good Marc Bolan on Jeepster. It was just so much fun to do those songs. I then had to pull out a plain voice for I Got A Line On You by Spirit which featured Randy California.

Is the concept a tribute to your fallen friends?

It’s basically about all of the guys that I used to drink with and they are all songs by those guys who are no longer with us.

Trying to select the songs for a project such as this must have been challenging. How did you whittle down the song choice to the ones that made the album?

If you’re going to do a John Lennon song, then after drinking with him and hearing him argue with Harry Nilsson all night, I wasn’t going to do Imagine. We had to do something that represented John’s drinking problem and that was Cold Turkey. The heroin and drinking and the rest made Cold Turkey the obvious choice. We did Manic Depression for Jimi Hendrix; Break on Through for Jim Morrison from The Doors. When we got into the studio we were asking each other what songs did we want to do and what would be fun for us. What song did we always want to do for The Small Faces? Itchycoo Park was the one we all wanted to do. There wasn’t one argument throughout the process. We all did the songs that we wanted to do.

How on earth did you manage to get Paul McCartney, Joe Perry, Joe Walsh, Sir Christopher Lee and Johnny Depp to join the band, you must have a great address book?

It is a pretty good Rolodex address book. If it wasn’t in my Rolodex it was in Johnny’s. How great was it having Paul McCartney drop in? Johnny called him and said we were recording and he came over. He sat down at the piano and started playing Come and Get It by Badfinger that he wrote for them. That was such a tragic story with two of Badfinger hanging themselves. We felt that we should really do something for them too. Paul started singing and I was looking at Johnny and Joe Perry and we were pointing and whispering to each other “It’s Paul McCartney” We were like little kids. It wasn’t just a Beatle it was THE Beatle. He’s such a nice guy and he just loves to be in a band. Every time I see him he asks if I’m still a vampire.

You must have been one of the last people to have worked with Sir Christopher before he passed away. His narration at the start of the album is masterful.

We had a few things in common including a love of Horror movies. I worked with Vincent Price on Welcome To My Nightmare so when we had the chance at the start of Hollywood Vampires I knew exactly who I wanted to do it. We had a reading from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, especially the line “Children of the night, what music they make”, well that sets the album up right there. Sir Christopher Lee was the absolute perfect person to do that and for him to be able to do it was great. That was the last thing he did professionally so I am absolutely honoured for him to be on the album. There is one outtake for the recording where he says “Alice Cooper, I wonder what he’s going to do with this?” and the way he said it, I thought it sounded great. We did share the love of golf together. He loved the game and played in a few tournaments together so it was great to have all those things in common with him and at the same time he was still going strong with Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. He never ever said that he was done, he just kept going.

There’s two great new songs, The Last Vampire and Dead Drunk Friends, at each end of the album and perfectly set and close the scene. Who did you write those with?

I wrote those with Johnny and Bob Ezrin. We needed something that Rocked to open up the album and raise the dead. Just because they’re dead doesn’t mean they are dead!! Their music lives on and that was the message on the first song. On the last song it was Alice in the Rainbow at 5:00 in the morning with nobody there other than the ghosts of those people. It ends up almost turning into a pirate drinking song. “We fight and we puke and we fight and we drink” I know their sense of humour. I knew all of those guys that passed away. They all had a nice dark sense of humour.

There’s one of yours in there too in School’s Out. It seems such a natural fit combining Schools Out together with Another Brick In The Wall. Who came up with that idea?

Bob Ezrin, produced both of those songs for me and Pink Floyd. It’s funny as if you played those two songs together they literally just fit together. They were like two pieces of a puzzle. I wanted Brian Johnson from AC/DC to come in and do the high parts. He just brings a whole different edge to it. He did Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love too. We did that for John Bonham. We wondered how we could do it without it sounding exactly like Led Zeppelin. We substituted the guitar solo with a harmonica solo and started the song as a slow Blues number and worked it into that.

Bernie Taupin, Elton John’s lyricist wrote the liner notes for the album and you worked together on your From The Inside album. How did Bernie influence you as a lyric writer and what did you learn from working with him?

Bernie and I were both lyricists and we are also best friends. When I lived in LA he lived down the street and we went everywhere together. If I went to Barbados, he went to Barbados. We were inseparable for a long time. When I came out of the hospital, from the inside, I said to him that I had so many great stories. I said we had to write an album about the hospital and that’s when we started the From The Inside album. Being lyricists it was fun for us as we’d throw each other lines and try to end each line with words that didn’t rhyme to catch each other out and each time we’d come back with a great word and it went backwards and forwards like ping pong. Bernie was there every night, he was one of The Vampires. He had such a great way with words, he could say so much with his lyrics and tell a great story.

Are you planning on playing any live shows with The Hollywood Vampires?

The only thing we have to do with that is people’s timing. Johnny’s got movies, Joe is out with Aerosmith at the moment. We did Rock in Rio in front of 100,000 people and it was unbelievable, it was so good. Everyone looked at each other and said that can’t be it. I said to them that if they scheduled it I’d do it. I’m absolutely sure that we’ll do more shows.

You’ll be back with your own band too?

Oh for sure. Mötley Crüe is retiring at the end of the year. I’m booked into the next century!!

Alice Cooper is special guest with Mötley Crüe who’s UK tour starts at the Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle on 2nd November.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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1 Comment

  1. Awesome interview, Mick!
    I’m so happy to know that Alice is also not secretly retiring like the Crue. Here’s hoping The Coop will go deep with something like “Generation Landslide”, “Hard-Hearted Alice” or even “Prince of Darkness” at one of the upcoming shows; and Nita should be a treat, too! Happy Halloween!

    Rick Wilson

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