Back on Maui for the holidays, Alice Cooper will rock in the New Year at Mala Wailea's benefit party for the MACC and the Maui Food Bank. And this time he'll front his own band, which will also accompany other special guests like Pat Simmons of the Doobie Brothers, Michael McDonald and Weird Al Yancovic.
Alice's group includes bassist Chuck Garrick, guitarists Damon Rogers Johnson and Tommy Henriksen and drummer Glen Sobel.
"This is the best band I've had in my life," says Alice. "We can go in a million directions from 'Brown Sugar' to 'Back in the U.S.S.R.,' so that night we're going to be playing lots of different stuff."
Alice Cooper to ring in 2012 with his ‘best band ever’ at Mala Wailea in a benefit for the MACC
Photo provided by the artist
It's been an exciting year for the icon of shock rock. He released an acclaimed new album, "Welcome 2 My Nightmare," joined Johnny Depp in London making a cameo appearance in the upcoming Tim Burton movie "Dark Shadows," and he was finally inducted into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame.
"It's been a busy year, but really great," says Alice. "We got into the Hall of Fame, and part two of 'Welcome to My Nightmare' has charted higher than anything we've done in 20 years."
Stylistically wide ranging, "Welcome 2" finds Alice in fine form, rocking strong.
* The Mala Wailea New Year's Eve benefit party for the MACC and the Maui Food Bank will feature Alice Cooper and his band with special guests performing including Pat Simmons, Michael McDonald and Weird Al Yancovic. Tom Arnold will emcee. Dinner begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $500. Call 875-9394.
Ultimate Classic Rock proclaimed it its Album of the Year, AllMusicGuide hailed it as "the best Alice Cooper record in decades." And the U.K. Guardian pronounced that Alice "has rediscovered his mojo. The sequel nods to the old glam stomp, but is a thoroughly inventive, modern-sounding record, with unlikely shifts ranging from an auto-tuned ballad to Tom Waits-style vaudeville to classical/ opera and even a duet with Ke$ha."
A follow-up to his 1975 concept record, "Welcome To My Nightmare," Alice reunited with producer Bob Ezrin on "2."
"Bob is my George Martin," says Alice. "He produced my first solo album and we did 10 platinum albums together. He takes all the raw ideas and silliness and it ends up being Alice Cooper. On this new album I said, 'Let's do a new nightmare with 13 totally different songs, 13 different voices."
Collaborating with some of his former band mates on a few tunes, Alice surprised fans by inviting "Tik Tok" star Ke$ha along for the thrilling ride.
"I talked to her and said, 'You're a pop diva, but in your heart you're a rocker. You'd rather be Robert Plant,' " he reports. "You're going to play Satan on my record, coming to collect my soul, but you're not going to be scary, you're going to be a seductive femme fatale. We wrote a song called 'What Baby Wants.' A lot of people were like, Ke$ha? I said, trust me, and she nailed it. I hired her to play Satan not realizing she actually is Satan."
Reflecting some of his early influences, we hear echoes of the Beatles on the track "The Congregation," while "Runaway Train" and "I'll Bite Your Face Off" rock with classic Stones grooves.
" 'Bite Your Face Off' is pure Rolling Stones," he agrees. "It sounds like something written for the Stones in 1965."
"Runaway Train" features another surprising guest - country star Vince Gill wailing on lead guitar.
"Vince is one of the great guitar players," Alice notes. "We put a Telecaster in his hands and he just ripped. It's one of the best solos I've heard in my life."
After 45 years of performing and 27 studio albums, Alice was finally inducted into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame in March. The rock legend who crafted classic rebellious anthems such as "School's Out," "I'm Eighteen" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy," had been passed over 16 times before being inducted this year.
"There's no chronological order to it," he says. "Bands like the Moody Blues should have been in 15 years ago. Alice Cooper was eligible 16 years ago and we just got in, yet there are newer bands that get in. No one quite knows how the nominations work. When I got in, I was expecting a secret handshake, and a dossier on what was really going on at Area 51, who killed Kennedy, and where Hoffa was buried. But none of it happened."
Also this year, Alice toured the U.K. and while in London played himself in Tim Burton's latest movie, "Dark Shadows," starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green and Helena Bonham Carter.
Set in 1972, Depp's character, a recently revived vampire, hires the rock star to play a private ball at his seaside home.
And when Alice decided to play a small gig at the 100 Club in London in August, the famous actor jumped on stage to unleash his guitar talent.
"Johnny is a great guitar player," Alice says. "When we were doing the film, we decided to play a club. The 100 Club holds 200 people. The Yardbirds and The Who played there. There were no theatrics that night, we were just a bar band. Johnny shows up and does 'Eighteen' and 'School's Out' with us. And I'm telling you, the guy could play for the Foo Fighters. He's really good. I told him, if this whole acting thing doesn't pan out, feel free to join the band."
Anyone who remembers the British version of the psychedelic '60s might appreciate hearing the "God of Hellfire," Arthur Brown himself, who joined Alice to sing his hit "Fire" on Halloween night in London.
"The theme this year was fire, so I said I've got to get hold of Arthur Brown. The lights went out and all you heard was, 'I am the god of hellfire.' And everybody went nuts. He had his hair on fire. It was great."
The British press love covering Alice when he visits. It's an opportunity for even staid dailies such as The Independent to run headlines like - "Rock and horror: Alice Cooper on 40 years of beheadings, fake blood - and voting Republican."
In between concert dates, Alice even got invited to the Houses of Parliament to have a tour and tea with Conservative Member of Parliament Mike Weatherley.
My, how times have changed.
Back in the early '70s, a politician attempted to ban Alice from entering England. "Cooper is peddling the culture of the concentration camp," the MP had railed at the time.
In October, along with thanking Alice for his support of Rock the House, an annual contest that promotes live music and awareness of intellectual property rights, Weatherly announced: "I first got involved in politics as a result of an MP in 1973 trying to ban him from getting into the country. It is wonderful that now in 2011 we embrace the creativity of such a unique artist as Alice Cooper."
"They're trying to make the House more in touch with the people though music," Alice explains. "It was very cool. I told them when Americans think of England, they think music, because of the Beatles, the Stones, The Who, all the great bands. I said, I think music is your greatest asset."
In recent years the Detroit-born rock star has long championed British bands through his nationally syndicated radio show.
Heard here on KAOI 95.1 FM, six nights week, the Coop plays music by legendary bands from The Who and Pink Floyd to Deep Purple and The Clash, interspersed with nuggets from more obscure acts like Humble Pie and Stealer's Wheel, along with anecdotes about the rock luminaries he's hung with.
"When I took the show I said, I'll play Van Halen and Led Zeppelin, but I will play a healthy dose of the Yardbirds and Them and Love and lot of bands that were forgotten like the Swinging Blue Jeans and Nashville Teens," he says. "Great bands that didn't get the recognition they should have. That's the reason I took the show. These are the records that got me to do what I do - British invasion bands like the Pretty Things, who weren't big hits in the States, but we knew who they were."
More than 40 years after Alice Cooper first emerged, the 63-year-old rocker still loves thrilling fans.
"I'm glad I never grew out of loving the character of Alice," he concludes. "Alice will always be my favorite rock star. It's fun to play him. I don't have to be him all the time. On stage I can be this really over the top Allan Rickman-type villain. I never get tired of it and apparently the audience never gets tired because we sell out every show.
"I'm 30 years sober and when I was drinking I never knew where Alice began and I stopped. Now it's easy to clearly understand that that Alice belongs on stage and doesn't belong walking the streets. I look forward to playing him now."