Alice Cooper is currently on the road with what he calls “a summer show… we do the hits and five, six major special effects things.” But he’s already hatching plans for a show built around “Welcome 2 My Nightmare,” the sequel to his platinum 1975 concept album that drops Sept. 13.
“We’re already talking about what songs should go in, how they would work, all of that,” Cooper tells Billboard.com. “When we get to November, December, when we’re off the road, I imagine we’ll write some pieces of (the show), then start it really next year and do the full-out thing. I can’t wait.” Some sort of TV special, like he did for the first “Nightmare” album, is also a possibility, he adds.
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Cooper is giving his audiences a taste of the new album this summer by including the new “Nightmare’s” the first single, “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” in his shows. “I come out with a jacket around and turn around and it says ‘New Songs,'” Cooper says. “Then I take the jacket off and it says ‘I’ll Bite Your Face Off’ on the T-shirt. And the audience is already singing it. They hear the first chorus, and they’re singing along after that, which is pretty great.”
“Welcome 2 My Nightmare” reunites Cooper with Bob Ezrin, who produced the first “Nightmare” as well as 10 other albums in Cooper’s catalog. The three surviving members of the original Alice Cooper group — guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith — appear on three tracks, building on the group’s April induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, the guitar tandem from the first “Nightmare” album, also worked on the new set, as did Desmond Child, Buckcherry’s Keith Nelson, Vince Gill (“A Runaway Train”) and Ke$ha (“What Baby Wants”).
“I met (Ke$ha) at the Grammys,” says Cooper, “and I immediately looked at her and went, ‘This girl is not a pop diva. She’s a rock singer.’ She would much rather be the female Robert Plant than the next Britney Spears. (Ezrin) said, ‘Nobody’s gonna expect Ke$ha on your album.’ ‘Great! Let’s do it!'”
Cooper adds that, “There’s a little bit of defiance in me. Even when my fans think they know what I’m gonna do, I’m like, ‘Whaddya mean I can’t put Vince Gill on the album?’ Nobody’s going to expect Ke$ha on my album so, great, let’s do it. I like the idea you still can’t put me in a corner and say, ‘This is what you’re gonna sound like.'”
“Welcome 2 My Nightmare” cuts a broad stylistic swatch, which is by design, but Cooper acknowledges that “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” “is a tip of the hate to the (Rolling) Stones, like ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’ in a way. Once it got going, Bob and I said, ‘Let’s just keep going in that direction,’ pure Stones.” And they maintained that philosophy for the entire set. “We just had fun with it,” Cooper explains. “If something sounded like a surf song, we said, ‘Let’s make it a surf song, but let’s make it a beach party song where all the people on the beach are zombies, and Alice is in the middle of it because he’s having a nightmare’…ON the original ‘Nightmare’ I put Alice as a seven-year-old boy named Stephen. On this one, it’s What would Alice’s nightmare be 35 years later? It’s a little scarier, more intense.”
Cooper says he and Ezrin had so much fun on this project that “we are absolutely ready to write again. We just got sort of a whole new breath of fresh air together.” He’s not sure what the next project will be, but Cooper’s not ruling out a third “Nightmare” album down the line.
“How many nightmares are you allowed? As many as you can, I think,” he says. “I keep telling all these guys, the (Rob) Zombies, the Slipknots and everything, ‘I’m still the oldest vampire here. You still have to deal with me, ’cause I’m not done by any means.’ It’s great to be immortalized now, but what’s the album after this one? I’m thinking, ‘What’s next after this?’ I’m not thinking about what we did already.”