Never in his wildest dreams could Alice Cooper have imagined the 2016 presidential election.
Laughing about it over the phone from his sun-drenched home in Phoenix, Arizona, the elder statesman of glam, shock and heavy metal said, “It was the closest thing to a Kurt Vonnegut novel as I’ve ever seen.”
Cooper, who brings the spring leg of his 2017 world tour to the Charleston Municipal Auditorium Tuesday night, is famously apolitical. The 69-year-old rock star has repeatedly bemoaned other rock stars who endorse political candidates or take a big public political stance.
Last year, once again, he ran his own mock presidential campaign, where he promised (among other things) a snake in every pot and to rename the clock tower Big Ben in London “Big Lemmy,” after Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, the recently deceased frontman for English rock legend, Motorhead.
It was all in fun, of course — a send-up of celebrity politicking. Cooper doesn’t get why rock stars want to jump into politics in the first place.
“Suddenly, your rock ’n’ roll rebellion is just part of the establishment,” he said. “Rock ’n’ roll is the cure for politics.”
Still, Cooper had to admit, the 2016 election was one for the books.
“You had two characters who, if they were written into a movie, you wouldn’t believe,” he said. “You had the one guy who kept shooting himself in the foot, but still got more popular. Then you had the woman who should have won, but didn’t, whom everybody is still wary of.”
Generally speaking, Cooper said, presidential elections come down to two pretty trustworthy candidates, but not 2016.
“It was just weird,” he said.
And that’s all the rocker has to say about politics, really. It’s fascinating to watch, but he has other things to do. Cooper’s new tour kicked off in April and will run off and on until December. His show is for fans new and old alike, he promised.
“It’s an Alice revue,” he said. “You get every hit. Every song is a production song and you see the glam rock, the Alice Cooper villain rock, and we even take a trip to the Hollywood rock ’n’ roll graveyard.”
There may be one or two carefully chosen cover songs.
Aside from his own band, Cooper is a core member of the Hollywood Vampires supergroup, along with actor/musician Johnny Depp and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry.
The band has also featured Joe Walsh from The Eagles, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum of Guns N’ Roses, and Dave Grohl, frontman for The Foo Fighters.
“We bill ourselves as the world’s most expensive bar band,” Cooper laughed.
The band was formed by Perry, Depp and Cooper to honor the music of rock stars who died from excess in the 1970s.
Many of them were friends of Cooper’s, including Jim Morrison of The Doors.
“People ask me if I was surprised that Jim died at the age of 27,” Cooper said.
He said he tells them no.
“Nobody abused themselves as hard as Jim.”
The Hollywood Vampires toured last year and released a record in 2015, which included songs from Led Zeppelin, The Who and other artists who lost band members early, mostly to drugs or alcohol.
Cooper said the Hollywood Vampires would probably record another record in the next year or so, but in the meantime, he had an Alice Cooper record ready to release in July.
“It’s a killer. It’s a monster,” Cooper promised. “It’s got some real swagger, like Alice Cooper 71 and 72.”
Swagger, attitude and even a certain kind of showmanship is something that’s sorely lacking with a lot of pop music these days, said Cooper.
“Rock goes in cycles,” he said. “Right now, all the girls are doing big shows.”
He named off a few — Rhianna, Shakira, Pink — as examples.
The men, for the most part, aren’t doing big shows, however, he said.
To Cooper, it feels like that’s about to change. Audiences are hungry for spectacle. He thought the big hair, spandex style of 1980s glam metal could make a comeback.
“It was just too much fun,” he said. “They wrote great songs, did great shows and got to dress in spandex.”
Part of the problem might be that rock music has gotten too serious again.
“Sing about your politic views? Sing about the environment?” He said, “Who cares? Tell me about your girlfriend. That’s what a rock song is about. All the great rock songs by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, even Dylan are about somebody’s girlfriend.”
Cooper said in the song she’s always something.
“You love her, you hate her. She’s silly, she’s funny. A rock song is a love song on steroids,” he said. “So, tell me about your girlfriend.”
And don’t tell him who to vote for.
Reach Bill Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5195 or follow @LostHwys on Twitter and on Instagram at instagram.com/billiscap.