The concept for Alice Cooper‘s new album? Not having one.
The veteran shock rocker — who delivers an exclusive track-by-track breakdown of his just-released new album Paranormal below — tells Billboard that this time he set out to make a straightforward album of songs. “That was the whole prerequisite — it’s got to be 13 songs that get us all off,” he notes. But when the final 12-track lineup (plus six live bonus tracks from 2016) was assembled, Cooper and producer Bob Ezrin discovered that they’d unwittingly achieved what they did NOT set out to do.
“We went in to just do another Alice Cooper album, and it accidentally became a concept,” Cooper explains. “Lyrically every single character has some sort of abnormal, paranormal problem going on and I didn’t have a name for the album, so Paranormal ended up sounding like the thing that cemented this all together. It wasn’t paranormal on a level of ghosts or UFOs or Bigfoot; It was just paranormal on the fact (the characters) were next to normal. It certainly wasn’t normal.”
Paranormal also veered off Cooper’s usual course with its selection of guests. Billy Gibbons plays on the Texas roadhouse-styled “Fallen In Love” while Deep Purple‘s Roger Glover plays bass on the prog-flavored title track. Having U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr. on the album, a suggestion of Ezrin’s, surprised Cooper as well. “I thought that would be very different, and Larry said, ‘Man, I’d love to do it,'” Cooper recalls. “It really did totally change the bottom of the whole album, and he’s the only drummer I ever worked with that said, ‘Let me see the lyrics.’ Drummers don’t usually care about the lyrics and that’s what he wanted to see because he said, ‘That’s how I interpret the songs, by listening to the lyrics.’ It was very unique.”
Just as newsworthy, of course, is Cooper’s reunion with original bandmates Mike Bruce, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith on two tracks: “Genuine American Girl” and “You And All Your Friends.” Dunaway also co-wrote the track “Fireball” and brought out “The Sound Of A,” the first song Cooper wrote entirely himself back in 1968.
“Using the original band just felt normal to me. It didn’t feel like anything unusual at all,” Cooper says. “The band never broke up with any bad blood. Nobody sued anybody, nobody was after anybody’s blood. We didn’t divorce as much as we separated, and we always stayed in touch with each other. Mike was hard to get in touch with…but when he finally showed back up on the scene that’s what made it worthwhile going back in the studio.” The lineup played a show in Nashville earlier this year and will be part of Cooper’s shows during November in the U.K., playing a five-song mini-set as part of the concerts. No U.S. plans are set yet, but Cooper says he’d consider having the original lineup in specific cities — specifically New York, Los Angeles, Detroit (where he’s from) and Phoenix (where he resides and the band formed).
Cooper will be on the road until December, including a North American tour with Deep Purple that begins Aug. 12. For next year, meanwhile, he’s eyeballing a return of the Hollywood Vampires, his ad hoc all-star group with Johnny Depp and Aerosmith‘s Joe Perry. “The Vampires will be going out in 2018 … I would say March or something like that,” Cooper says. “We’ve got to do another album, too. We’ve got to write another album, which is not going to be covers this time. It’s all gonna be original stuff.”