Here’s a friendly warning for any deluded rock and roll fans that are determined to hang on to their misguided notion of Alice Cooper the hell-raising teen scourge.
Do not read this.
But if you’re interested in the teetotaling, Tim Tebowing, teen championing Alice Cooper – and uh, maybe solving the mystery of a certain adolescent named “Steven” once and for all – then read on.
On Dec. 17 the rock icon hosts his 11th Annual Christmas Pudding show at Phoenix’ Comerica Theatre to benefit Cooper’s Solid Rock Foundation and his new teen center – The Rock at 32nd Street – which opens Spring 2012. Solid Rock is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that Cooper formed in 1995 with his friend and fellow long-time Arizonan and father, Chuck Savale in 1995.
The foundation’s long-time focus has been to honor Christ by seeing the center, appropriately named “The Rock”, come to fruition in Phoenix and then create a series of “Rocks” in large metropolitan areas across the country. The center will provide a haven for teens to “cultivate a love of the arts to inspire and challenge teens to choose artistic excellence instead of drugs, guns, or gangs.”
The 2011 edition of Cooper’s yearly holiday treat – aptly named Welcome 2 My Pudding for Cooper’s new album Welcome 2 My Nightmare – features the usual cast of notable characters.
The all-star roster of talent for this year’s show promises to rival any past, present or future superband, with a lineup that includes Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, Korn’s Brian “Head” Welch, The Tubes, KISS’ Bruce Kulick, Mötley Crüe’s John Corabi, Winger’s Kip Winger, and unbelievable guitar genius Orianthi.
As he prepared for the few remaining dates of his 90-plus city, five-continent “2011 No More Mr. Nice Guy World Tour,” Cooper was kind enough to spend some time with lodeplus.com to chat about The Rock, The Pudding, and life.
It would be easy to lament the arduous labor from The Rock’s 1995 conception to its 2012 birth, but Cooper was incredibly energized about the opening.
“Oh yeah! I mean, a working place where there’s schedule and everybody knows when the guitar lessons are, when the dance lessons are, when the bass lessons are, all that. And in a place that has a lot of room to do all that stuff. That’s gonna be amazing!”
While the music industry has been the embodiment of volatility over the last 20 years, Cooper’s vision of a permanent sanctuary for besieged teens has never changed.
“Chuck Savale, who was the youth pastor at our church, and I did bible study together. We kinda both came up with the idea, ‘Let’s do something to help teenagers’ – since my audience is teenagers all my life. And we started thinking about ‘endangered teenagers.’”
“And we realized it wasn’t just kids in the barrio, kids in the hard part of town. It’s kids everywhere. So let’s find something that’s a common denominator to every kid, and that would be music. And that’s right up my alley.”
“Let’s put together a place where kids can go learn music, since you can’t get it in school anymore. Not just music though. (A place) where you could learn lighting, sound, dance – really pretty vocational, but in the arts. And that just may dissuade somebody from entering into a gang situation or into a drug situation.”
“They’re born into it. I mean, these kids are born into this and they don’t really have an option in a lot of cases. So why not give them an option? They can come here, they can learn an instrument, they can learn something other than that – and it just might change their entire life.”
All it takes is a few minutes with Cooper to realize that there is much more to the so-called “shock rocker” than meets the eye – much like the misjudged teens that he fights for.
“I think they’re a lot smarter than we give them credit for. Sometimes they come off as being dull or they come off as being, ‘Oh whatever.’ It’s not really the case. These kids every day have to worry about being bullied or resisting the temptation of starting on drugs or getting a girl in trouble – or getting a guy in trouble or whatever.”
“And I look at it this way. When I was in high school, if you got busted, it was for beer. Now you get busted and it’s for oxycontin and heroin and 56 other things.”
“When there was a fight at school, somebody would get a bloody nose or a black eye. And the next day the other guy would have a bloody nose – and there was sort of a respect for each other – and it was over. Now if there’s a fight, somebody drives by your house with a machine gun.”
“If there was a sexual thing, you got a shot of penicillin. Now you die. So the ante is up on every single thing that teenagers are involved in now. It’s not innocent anymore. It’s much more dangerous.”
The eventual promise of significance in the lives of struggling youths has no doubt made the long wait for the center a little easier for Cooper to manage.
“I think everything has its own time. I thought it would be a lot easier. Of course, this happened all of a sudden, right in the middle of the financial breakdown all over the world. And where money used to come in on a charity level ten times what we’re doing now, it’s a lot harder to raise money.”
“I always thought it would be very easy – just get the money and build this place and open it up. It’s taken 13 years. And it’s basically because you have to convince people there’s a problem. You kind of have to let people know every single teenager in the world is at risk. It’s not just the kids in the barrio, it’s every kid.”
“Drugs are so easy to get. Violence is so available. The world is such a volatile place right now, that now is when you need a place where a kid can go and be safe.”
The center will be well worth the wait for Phoenix area youth. Perhaps even more so for other cities with similar challenges – because it signals the successful beginning of a long awaited franchise.
“This is going to be the prototype. This is gonna be the mothership. Five years ago, when I went on CNN and talked about this, I got calls from Detroit, Chicago, Boston – every place saying, ‘You need to build these here. We have a huge problem. Our kids need a place like this.’”
“Places like that were already asking me to come in and build these places. We don’t even have our place built yet. But the idea was so appealing and it makes so much sense, that people were jumping on it immediately.”
In addition to the annual Pudding which benefits the Solid Rock Foundation, fervent linksman Cooper hosts an annual Rock and Roll Golf Classic in Phoenix. Given his unmistakable passion for the foundation, it’s easy to see him eventually retiring from touring and devoting all of his time to the cause.
“Well, I know that it’s inevitable. You do have to retire at some point from the tour. I’m in totally unbelievable shape. Physically I have nothing wrong with me. God’s been good to me. And mentally, I think all of my ducks are in a row.”
“I’ve got a very happy marriage. My kids are great. Financial is great. Spiritual is great. I’m kind of like in that position of so non-stressed out, that’s what keeps me young.”
“So now, when I do something, it’s because I want to do it – not ‘cause I have to do it. And that’s kinda what makes touring easier, that makes making records easier. Nobody’s breathing down my neck saying, ‘You have to have this album out by here.’”
The opening of The Rock isn’t the only recent milestone that Cooper will have celebrated. The talented performer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year. Given his noteworthy influence on popular music, the conspicuous absence of Cooper in the HOF has surprised a number of fans.
But the godfather of shock rock doesn’t seem to have lost any sleep over it. And he seems to understand its relative importance when compared to the opening of the youth center.
“Well, you know, one is 45 years in the making. And I kind of knew that it was gonna happen. The Hall of Fame was eventually gonna happen and that’s something that’s great. I think that the fans are so appeased now.”
“There was a time when every single interview that I started was, ‘How come you’re not in the Hall of Fame?’ And I would sit there going, ‘I have no idea.’ I don’t even know how people get nominated to the Hall of Fame.”
“I know that we’ve been eligible for 14 years and we never got nominated. We got nominated this year (2010) and we went in on the first ballot. And I was very, very happy for that. It was great. It’s like graduating. Now you’re in with the guys that were our very teachers – the Paul McCartneys and the Mick Jaggers and the Pete Townsends. To me it’s like we’re now the elder statesmen.”
“I kind of thought there’d be like a secret handshake (laughing). Or like a secret dossier of what’s really going on in Area 51, you know, where Hoffa’s buried. None of that happened.”
“But then the opening of The Rock? We have temporary openings all over the valley. We have the neighborhood ministries. We do it in the Salvation Army. We’ve done our programs around the valley. But this is gonna be a home.”
“This is gonna be where they actually know where to go, when the lessons go, when everything is. So it’s going to be a real center now for kids.”
It must be ironic to Cooper that some of the most ardent detractors from early in his career have become the biggest supporters of the religious civic leader.
“You know, it’s funny, because I’ve talked to Iggy (Pop) and Ozzy (Osbourne) before and I said, ‘There was a time when we were young and dangerous. Now, we’re older and lovable.’ (laughing) And I think it’s because we’ve woven ourselves into Americana.”
“When you’re a question in Trivial Pursuit that means that everybody knows your name (chuckling). And that’s only because you stuck around long enough and had enough hits where people know who you are.”
“So you do find a certain amount of responsibility. I know that Ozzy has his own charities that he works with. Everybody has picked up some sort of charity that they have championed. I think that just comes with it.”
“There’s a certain amount of responsibility that I have being 30 years sober now. If somebody calls me up and says, ‘I’m havin’ a problem,’ I drop everything.”
“And I just go, ‘OK, the first thing we gotta do, is you’ve gotta decide that you’re not going into this place to slow down. You gotta be going into this place to stop. If you’re just going in to slow down – you’re just going into this little recreational place, you’re gonna be back 25 times. If you’re going in to stop, I’ll seriously work with you.’”
“Generally, these are people that are sick and tired of being sick and tired. They’re ones that go, ‘I want my career to go on. I want my life to go on. I want my family to go on. I wanna live.’ And I say, ‘OK, now we can start.’”
The rock legend laughingly acknowledged that many of his “young” fans are extremely “experienced” teenagers.
“I have this theory. People always ask me who ‘Steven’ is. I have this character Steven that shows up in every song – not every song, but at least every album. Steven is my seven year-old. I have a seven year-old living in me.”
“And that’s what keeps me going to scary movies. And gets me up in the morning to have cereal and watch cartoons. You know, every time I go on a scary ride, that’s a little seven year-old tryin’ to get out.”
“And so I realize that all of us men have seven year-old boys in us. And that’s Steven. My wife (Sheryl) says, ‘You know, the reason why we put up with you men is we find the seven year-old boy in you adorable.’”
“I find myself doing the most juvenile things. And I say, ‘I’m 63. Why am I doing this?’ And I realize that it’s that little kid in me that wants to get out. I think that the more that little kid is in you, then the longer you’re gonna live.”
Look no further for the fountain of youth – because the Coop has found it. And if you’ve seen him perform lately, you know he speaks the truth.
This week’s Christmas Pudding is a perfect chance to find the Steven in all of us – an unmatched opportunity to stop, look, and listen. So indulge the seven year-old in you and celebrate Christmas early.
And if you’re still searching for the perfect holiday gift, buy a block of seats to donate to underprivileged kids to attend. Contact Lori Beecham at the Solid Rock offices at 602-522-9200.