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Alice Cooper feeds off Clinton-Trump election battle

PREVIEW What: An Evening with Alice Cooper Where: The Q Centre, 1767 Island Hwy. When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. (doors at 6) Tickets: $58.50-$99.50 at the Select Your Tickets box office (1925 Blanshard St.), by phone at 250-220-7777 or selectyourtickets.
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Alice Cooper has been sober since 1981, preferring to be addicted to golf.

PREVIEW

What: An Evening with Alice Cooper
Where: The Q Centre, 1767 Island Hwy.
When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. (doors at 6)
Tickets: $58.50-$99.50 at the Select Your Tickets box office (1925 Blanshard St.), by phone at 250-220-7777 or selectyourtickets.com

 

Alice Cooper — shock-rock legend or political prophet?

Equal amounts of both, it turns out.

Cooper, 68, made waves during the early 1970s with a theatrical stage show deemed by many to be obscene and outré. The beheadings, blood and bondage presented in Cooper’s concerts were all done tongue-in-cheek, but that didn’t stop the band from earning a reputation as one of the most controversial acts in rock history.

The metal icon no longer draws the ire of the police, but the Phoenix-based performer, born Vincent Furnier, isn’t done prodding politicians. Just as he did in 1972, when U.S. president Richard Nixon was being investigated for the Watergate scandal, Cooper is again poking fun at the U.S. presidency.

With two divisive candidates running for office, Cooper has been mining the topic for gold during his concerts and on his website, both of which provide a treasure trove of mockery.

“We make light of it because it’s so easy to satirize,” Cooper said during an interview.

“If you were Kurt Vonnegut and writing a novel, and you wrote a character like Donald Trump that was going to run for president, everybody would laugh and say: ‘That’s never going to happen.’ And with Hillary they would say: ‘That could never happen.’ And these two are running for president.”

Cooper is having a ball performing his 1972 hit Elected on his current tour. The song was written as a parody of U.S. politics when Nixon was in the White House. Cooper said it’s shocking how little has changed in the 44 years since he sang the words: “I’m your Yankee Doodle Dandy in a gold Rolls- Royce.”

Cooper had a good laugh at the irony. However, the Detroit native is gravely concerned about where his country is headed. “This president will get the same cards Obama got dealt — he or she. They are not going to change much. Because they can’t change much. The government is going to do what it’s going to do, and basically the economy is going to run everything.”

Cooper has never come across a topic he couldn’t satirize, so in that sense he’s sitting on an endless well of material. He is pitching himself as a candidate fit for the Oval Office, with a series of campaign slogans (“A Troubled Man for Troubled Times,” “Make America Sick Again”) that seem halfway reasonable in 2016.

His is not simply an au courant approach, however. He has been staging similar stunts for decades.

“I’ve always thought that an Alice Cooper show was much closer to a Broadway show, or to a vaudeville show, than what you see now,” he said. “Anybody can go out and buy pyro and lasers and say: ‘OK, here’s our show.’ That’s not really a show. I think you’ve got to make the lyrics come to life.”

Between tours with his own band and dates with the Hollywood Vampires, his supergroup that features actor Johnny Depp and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, Cooper has been on the road since April. His current string of dates, which brings him to the Q Centre on Tuesday, will eventually wind down in November. That’s business as usual for Cooper.

“My generation has a different work ethic, I think, from other generations. All we remember doing is recording and touring.”

The roots of the Hollywood Vampires — the celebrity drinking association, not the rock ’n’ roll group — dates back to the early ’70s, when Cooper would join the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Keith Moon and John Belushi for nights of extreme excess. The meetings took place at the Rainbow Bar and Grill in Los Angeles — that is, until members began to die from their excessive exploits.

By the time each honorary member had died, Cooper (whose served as the association’s president) started to look closely at his own health. He got sober in 1981 and has stayed the course.

“I saw that was exactly what killed Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, all these guys, so early in their life,” Cooper said.

“You can’t live that animated character that you are on stage [when you’re] off stage. You have to fuel it with drugs or alcohol or something, in order to keep it going.

“When I saw all my friends dying at 27 years old, I decided to find a way to separate these two characters, so that I can appreciate Alice.

“I wanted to be able to play Alice and really look forward to playing him. When I walked off stage, I didn’t have to be him. And it took me getting sober to do that.”

Cooper performed two sold-out shows in 2013 at Nanaimo’s Port Theatre, but his concert on the West Shore next week will be his first Greater Victoria appearance since 1987, when he brought his carnal circus to the former Memorial Arena.

Now that he’s sober and clear-headed, he can make good on a single promise — the 29-year Victoria concert drought will come to a close in fine style. Eagle-eyed fans might catch him on a local course playing nine holes of golf before the show, which Cooper said he does six days a week, whether he’s on tour or not. By putting the focus on golf, not drugs and alcohol, he remains in game-shape when the time comes for Alice Cooper to manifest his mayhem.

“I had a hard time early on in my career — when I was drinking and taking drugs — understanding where Alice ended and where I began. I just decided to be Alice all the time.

“If you look at Iggy [Pop] and [Aerosmith singer] Steven Tyler and Ozzy [Osbourne], we all sort of came to that crossroads with drinking and drugs: ‘Are we going to live, or are we going to die?’ I decided to live.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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