The godfather of shock rock, Alice Cooper, has guested as a despicable villain in horror flicks by John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and Jeremy Kasten. Now, the man of a million nightmares has his own film.
"Super Duper Alice Cooper" is a vivid documentary that chronicles the ups and downs of one of rock's most legendary figures. And unlike many other rock docs, it does so in a stylized, cinematic way that makes use of classic live footage, rare archival interviews, and snippets of black-and-white horror films. "Super Duper Alice Cooper" was directed by the team of Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn ("Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey," "Iron Maiden: Flight 666," "Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage") along with Reginald Harkema ("Goon," "The Brother").
"They went out of their way to do something different, which I thought was great," Alice Cooper told Yahoo Music. "They said, 'When you’re doing an Alice Cooper documentary, it has to be as theatrical as the character. We’re going to use different devices on this so it doesn't look like any other documentary.' And they made good on their word by using this Jekyll and Hyde theme to tell the tale."
As the movie describes the transformation of Vincent Damon Furnier, the son of a preacher man, to Alice Cooper, the rock star leader of a flock of disenfranchised youth, the directors repeatedly insert scenes from the 1920 John S. Robertson movie "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
"They were spot-on," Cooper says. "Alice Cooper is definitely a living Jekyll and Hyde, or a Frankenstein and his monster. There are two personalities there, so I said, 'That’s a great device. Let’s go with that.'"
Unlike most music documentaries, in which artists, journalists, and industry sources are filmed talking to the camera, all of the dialogue in "Super Duper Alice Cooper" — whether from Alice, his band mates, producers, or manager — is layered over photos, live footage, animation, and other cinematic conventions.
"We are one of the most theatrical bands," Cooper said. "I always laugh when I see that a tour movie is going to come out on 3D, and then it's always for a band that's not theatrical at all. Why would you waste 3D on a band that doesn't do anything? If you see Jackson Browne in 3D — what's he going to do, spit gum in the audience? It's the same thing with something like this. If you’re going to an Alice Cooper documentary, make it fun, make it entertaining."
One way the directors made the movie entertaining is by using an abundance of archival footage, including a scene of Cooper bursting open pillows and throwing a live chicken into the crowd from 1969 at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival; To Cooper’s, horror, the audience killed the chicken. "They went and found a lot of stuff, stuff I've never seen," Cooper said. "The first time I saw some of the footage I said, 'Where’d you get that?' They said, 'We had to find it. We'd go on the Internet and say, "Hey, we need footage of this or that,'" and people would come up to them and say, 'Hey, I've got that.' They found one-of-a-kind stuff that nobody else had, which was great. I was even surprised."
The only part of the movie Cooper was initially uncomfortable with is the section in which he talks about his former cocaine abuse. In the past, Cooper has been open about being an ex-alcoholic, but he hasn't copped to doing drugs.
"It’s true that Alice has never ever been known as a drug user," said Cooper, who today is clean, sober, and a practicing Christian. "But you can't have lived in the '60s, '70s and '80s without being affected by that. We always kept it away from the public because I was not one of those guys that was beyond control. Everyone sort of knew me as the Dean Martin of rock and roll — sort of the functional alcoholic — and people wanted that to be it, but there were drugs involved and I wasn't going to deny that."
Even though "Super Duper Alice Cooper" has moments of tension, where it looks like Cooper is going to spiral down the path of rock 'n' roll oblivion, it's ultimately uplifting because not only does he overcome his demons, he makes peace with them and continues to perform. "It was more of a story about how to survive in this business and come out the other end rather than... 'and then they died,'" he said. "I was the guy that didn't die. I should have been with Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix and those guys. But I was the guy that survived."
This summer, Alice Cooper will tour with Mötley Crüe as the opening act on their farewell tour. In some ways, the pairing seems absurd. Cooper has decades more stage experience than the Crüe, and was a huge influence to them and most other theatrical metal bands. But Cooper has no problems playing second fiddle to a younger band.
"It's their tour," he said. "Mötley Crüe decided they were going to do their final tour and they said, 'Do you guys want to be our special guests?' and I said, 'Yeah, sure.' We've known each other for 30 years and we've never done a show together. They said, 'We’re going to do 72 shows. We'd love to have you come out.' I said, 'Absolutely.' How good of a rock 'n' roll show is that going to be? Finally there’s two bands going out that are real. They’re not phony rock bands. So where there seems to be an awful lot of anemic rock tours happening these days, Mötley Crüe and Alice Cooper is pretty darned good together. Plus, it's cool to be in the special guest slot. We've already made it. We’ve headlined 75 tours, and it's nice to be somebody else's guest where the pressure's not all on you."
The dates with Mötley Crüe launch July 5 in Noblesville, Indiana and run through November 22 in Spokane, Washington. Before then, Cooper hopes to finish up his next studio album, which is currently 95 percent done and is tentatively scheduled for early next year. It will be his first covers record and will include its own morbid twist.
"Producer Bob Ezrin said to me, 'You know, you're a rock 'n' roll singer. It would be great to hear you doing someone else's material once in a while," Cooper explained. "And then we thought, 'Well, we can't just do a covers album where we bounce around from song to song.' So Bob came up with the idea, 'Let’s concentrate it on all the guys that you drank with in L.A., the Hollywood Vampires, the ones that are all dead.' It’s really an ode to all my dead, drunk friends: Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, some of the Small Faces, Harry Nilsson, T. Rex. These were all of my drinking buddies. I like the title 'All My Dead Drunk Friends.' It’s just offensive enough to work, but all those guys would have totally got it. They had the same sense of humor. If you told them you were going to do an album after they were gone called 'All My Dead Drunk Friends,' they would have died laughing."