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With Alice Cooper, School’s Out for Christmas

Published: Monday, December 12, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 16:12

Alice Cooper

Courtesy GCA

Phoenix has a few musical claims to fame but none is more decorated and celebrated than the Phoenician patron of All Hallow's Eve and Christmas pageantry than Alice Cooper.

While enjoying a "white Christmas" in Pennsylvania and counting down to the end of a 100-city world tour, the 63-year-old recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee talked with College Times about his upcoming 11th annual Christmas Pudding concert in Phoenix, which includes talent such as The Tubes and members of Korn, Judas Priest, KISS and Mötley Crüe, plus his son's band Runaway Phoenix featuring Orianthi – the blonde female guitarist of Michael Jackson's "This Is It" fame.


College Times: How hands-on is the Christmas Pudding show? Do you pick the talent every year?

Alice Cooper: Absolutely. If there's one thing I know how to do, it's put a show on. […] Anytime anything comes up and there needs to be a show produced [my wife and I] are the first two who are like, "Okay, we know how to do this." […] I'll go to the Rolodex and say, "Let's do a Christmas show," and it'll be like a Christmas party where everybody gets up and does something, except everybody who gets up and does something is a headliner. […] I like to put people [onstage] who don't belong together, you know? Glen Campbell and Rob Zombie. To me, that's what's really fun about doing it. At Christmas, everyone is all at the same party and you never know who's going to get onstage and what they're going to do.


Are you hinting at some surprises, then?

Oh, there are always surprises! At the last minute, people always show up. This year, we've got The Tubes, who I went to high school with, and they were, like, another really maverick theatrical band that made it internationally. […] It's just one of those things where I call people up and say, "Are you available to come in and do a couple songs?" And nine times out of 10, if they're not out on tour, they come in and do it. And my band is gonna play for an hour, at least. This is the best band I've ever had.


You never get tired, do you?

I'm at the point now where I see the light at the end of the tunnel. [laughs] At the beginning of the tour, when we saw a hundred cities and we knew we were going to be in Australia and Chile, you don't even think about looking at the itinerary. You just do the shows.


So three more shows and Phoenix'll seem like the final kick-back.

It will. Almost like an office party for us.


Tell me about The Rock at 32nd Street, a music venue and school that Christmas Pudding raises money for.

[…] A lot of kids are born into the gang world and society or neighborhood where they're going to be into the drug trade or into the violence or into this or that. [The Rock] gives them an option. This is where you can come and learn guitar, bass or drums. Or, you can learn piano or dance or lighting and sound. […] Music is the one denominator of all kids in the world. So, here's an option, you don't have to be a drug dealer. You can learn guitar. We're opening this year. We have programs now at neighborhood ministries, but this will be the home of it. It's 66,000 square feet. We're taking over a strip mall. […] If there's a coffee shop, they're going to learn how to work the cash register. It's totally vocational and they don't have to pay anything. All they have to do is show up and we'll teach them.


Is that something you had or wished you had growing up?

Well, it's something that's needed. The mother of invention is necessity. The thing that will get a kid in more trouble is having so much free time and nothing to do because the options that show up are always going to be things that will kill you or put you in jail. [The Rock] is going to be a place where you can get out of the syndrome of jail or death.


Heavy stuff.

It is, but it's so simple. The fact of it is they can learn something new if they want to. This is a Christian, non-profit organization, but we're not beating them over the head with a Bible. As Christians, we're called to go where the problem is.


Will you be working there, then?

I will be doing hands-on. I'm a lyric writer, so if we start a lyric class – I mean, these days kids are all [about] rappers, right? That's lyrics. I'm gonna go in and say, "Rap lyrics are basically your language and saying what you feel. Let's see how that works poetically."


Have you ever tried writing a rap song?

I never have, but sometimes rock lyrics can be as close to rap as anything else. When I look at some of my lyrics if I put a beat to it, it would be a rap song. Bob Dylan lyrics could be rap lyrics.


I can't wait to see how that turns out.

I can't wait until the first band is formed.


Alice Cooper's Christmas Pudding, Comerica Theatre, Saturday, December 17, 7 p.m., $51-$83

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