I'm Eighteen,". "The Ballad Of Dwight Fry,"... "Under My Wheels,"... "Desperado,"..."School's Out,"... "Billion Dollar Babies,"... "No More Mr. Nice Guy." What do all these songs have in common, besides being some of the most popular songs recorded by the original Alice Cooper Group? What these songs also have in common is the fact that all these were either written, or co written by guitarist Michael Bruce.
While Alice was, and still is, one of the best frontmen ever to come along in the long history of Rock, one should remember that before there was "Alice Cooper" there was ALICE COOPER the band. It was this ensemble - which, besides Alice, consisted of guitarists Michael Bruce and Glen Buxton, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith - that rose to superstardom in the early 70's, influencing countless subsequent bands in both image and musical style in the process. Not to mention becoming the band your parents warned you about, as well as being the scourge of chickens everywhere. It was this configuration of musicians who, along with producer Bob Ezrin, recorded such classic albums as 'Love It To Death,' 'Killer', 'School's Out', 'Billion Dollar Babies' and 'Muscle Of Love.' Even to this very day, if one goes to an Alice Cooper show, a good share of the set will be comprised of songs written during this time period, a fact that three decades after the breakup of the original band goes a long way in showing just how timeless the music really is.
In 2005, I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down and talk with Michael over the course of two nights - a total of over seven hours. Not only about the Cooper days, but waht he's been up to since, in particular the wonderful album he had just then released at the time , 'The Second Coming Of Michael Bruce : Alive & Re-Cooperated.' So with his fresh induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame along with the rest of the original band March 14th, I present to you dear readers this in depth, exclusive archival interview with guitarist/songwriter Michael Bruce of Alice Cooper...
Special thanks go to Billy James of Glass Onyon PR for coordinating, Si Halley at Sick Things U.K. for his input, and a BILLION thanks to Michael for doing this interview!
Interview and text by Keith Langerman for Nightwatcher's House Of Rock
Nightwatcher's House Of Rock : You've just released a new album, 'The Second Coming Of Michael Bruce : Alive & Re-Cooperated.' What can you tell us about that?
Michael Bruce : That's the release in Iceland, and that's going to be a limited release at this time. I'm in the process of trying to decide what to do with it for the States, in terms of the title, the pictures and whatnot. For now, it's not being released, but it's going to be. The release that they have in Iceland is a limited edition, written in Icelandic, so you couldn't read it. (Laughs) I'm just trying to figure out the best way to do it. It's not really a big enough thing for a label to do, I don't really see Apple Records knocking at my door, or Capitol. And, I'm really bad at licking stamps and sending stuff out in the mail. I'll have some guy from Peoria going, "Where's my CD?"(Laughs) I have to find some situation where I have somebody do that, and pay them for it, so I don't have to worry about it.
NHOR : Is this the same recording as 'Halo Of Ice' with a few bonus tracks added onto it?
MB : Actually, 'Halo Of Ice' was from the first outing I did in Iceland. The second one, we did a videotape of, and this is the recording from that, a much better recording. A lot of the same songs, but we included some other things. There's a new version of "Eighteen" that's called "Forever Eighteen," that's really a trip. It's like "Rocky Mountain Way" and "Revolution" by The Beatles together as "Eighteen." It's really cool. Then, I've got one original song on there called "Left For Dead Meat," that's going to be on the studio CD that I've been working on for it seems like forever. (Laughs). That's called 'Dark Side Of Love.' It's got a lot of the same stuff as 'Halo Of Ice,' but it's got some extras. It's actually a different performance, so it's not the same one as 'Halo Of Ice.'
NHOR : On the 'Halo Of Ice' and also this album, you have a version of "Halo Of Flies" that features the original lyrics for the song?
MB : Yes, I did, because see, I never learned the lyrics, and by the time I got around to singing it, I just did the original lyrics, I didn't do the stuff off the album. On some shows I do the original lyrics to "No More Mr. Nice Guy." I wish I had changed it on one of them, but I think I sang the ones on the record for both shows.
NHOR : Why were the lyrics changed for the version that's on 'Killer'?
MB : Well, it's not so much that they were changed. Brian Nelson might argue this point with you, but basically I would write a lot of songs, and if we were working on something with the other guys, or there was some song that needed something, I would feel free to dip into the Michael Bruce stash and rip the heart right out of some song. (Laughs) Because it didn't make any difference back then. So, I ended up with a lot of song fragments. I used to spend time in the hotel room, or wherever we were before a gig warming up, and I'd start playing through a lot of these songs that I had taken other songs out of. And, a lot of that was the beginning of "Halo Of Flies." So, some of those had some rough lyric ideas. So, when we started working up these things, I just gave the whole thing lock, stock and barrel into the band kitty, showed Alice what I had, sang some of the melodies, then he would take what he liked. But, some things he wouldn't like. Like the "I like the ocean, you like the sea," that was one song. That was part of it, and we used the melody, and changed the lyric a little bit in there. That happened pretty frequently.
"No More Mr. Nice Guy" was one song that was completely done except I didn't have the second verse. He changed the whole song about himself and the press. The original lyric was, "I used to be such a sweet sweet thing, but that was just a burn. I used to break my back just to kiss your ass and got nothin' in return. All my friends told me man you're crazy for being such a fool, but I guess I was because being in love made me so uncool, Now I'm no more Mr. Nice Guy." So, he made it about himself and the press, rather than about a guy/girl thing. It worked, and who knows, the other might've worked as well, we'll never know. (Laughs)
NHOR : Is there a version of that in the vaults perhaps somewhere?
MB : Not of the Cooper band doing it, but I performed them somewhere. When I was in Texas, and I was really trying to get the career going, and looking back when the band disbanded after 'Battleaxe,' I got married and disappeared for awhile. It was really, really hard to come back. Alice is doing a good job, he's out there knocking them dead playing the old stuff, and I still get a thrill when I go see him play. Unfortunately, for me, he's using younger guys, and we're older. (Laughs) But, it works, and whether he's selling the new stuff or not he's certainly selling the old stuff. It's great, it's wonderful for me. So, it's a bittersweet sort of thing. Somewhere I have CD's of performances that I did, I think I did it at CBGB's before they closed in New York with the original lyrics on it.
NHOR : Now, on the new album there are three bonus tracks?
MB : Yeah, it's got "Forever Eighteen," which is a studio thing we did in Iceland with Ingo Geirdal and his brother Silli. Peter's the keyboard player. I have to say this, it's funny, there's a guy that does my website, Brad Cooper, and for some reason, him and his assistant, they took this picture, which I really like, but they put in somebody else's nose. Now, they never told me WHY they did, if they thought my nose was too big, or too small, but it kind of looks like Pinocchio's. (Laughs) Kind of pointy. They did all kinds of stuff to the picture, changed the guitar neck, just stuff that nobody would know. Why would you spend all this time on this? It just really bothers me to have somebody else's nose. (Laughs) So, you see this picture, I've got this white tuxedo on with this guitar, and it's somebody else's nose.(Laughs)
NHOR : A couple of years ago it was reported that you were working on a new studio album by the name of 'The Dark Side Of Love'. What's the status on that, and when can we see that released?
MB : Well, here's what happened. I've got pretty much most of it done. Neal called me up, and he was telling me a story about how Bob Ezrin got out of L.A.. He's from Toronto, so he wanted to be closer to his family, so Bob bought a place back there in Connecticut and they've been hanging out and whatnot. Bob had said to Neal, "We ought to get together and do one more album." And, that was kind of music to Neal's ears. We need to find some songs, so I guess the thing is potentially there, except I guess we have to sort of audition the songs. (Laughs) Rather than, it used to be, when the band was the BAND, and we had a record deal, those were our songs, and we had to make the best of them, and guess what, they turned out to be great hits. Now that there's no band anymore, and Alice is the guy, we submit songs to Bob Ezrin and Alice, and if they don't think they're good enough, then it doesn't happen. It's very strange to say the least. So I told Neal, "Well, I'm putting this album out, and I've got a bunch of tunes on it that could be Cooper tunes just like they were before." He said, "Why don't you send some, I'll let Bob hear them, and see what he thinks."
So, I kind of held off releasing the album, and I swore I wouldn't do this again, because that's what I did with 'In My Own Way.' I held off on that, and it never happened, then I went and did 'Battle Axe' with The Billion Dollar Babies. That almost happened, but it didn't. (Laughs) So, I said that I wasn't going to do it, but at this point in time if it could be the catalyst for us coming together again, even if it's just writing some songs, that'd be great. I'm not that much of an egomaniac that they've got to be MY songs on MY solo album. So, 'Dark Side Of Love' is sort of looming in the dark side waiting to see if the powers that be think that there's anything there that could develop into a Cooper thing. He keeps telling Neal and Alice that if there was a project, he would do it. He doesn't sit around and wait, he's booked up. It'd be interesting to see if we could get penciled in his day planner.
NHOR : Well, there's certainly a tremendous amount of interest in something like that happening..
MB : That's what I think. I just don't know if Alice knows that, or if he doesn't care, or if it would make things more complicated for him. But, everybody else does it. That's the only thing that's frustrating to me, is Ozzy's been able to do it, anybody in Led Zeppelin, well, they could pretty much do anything, but a lot of artists have done it. Why couldn't Alice? I think pretty much by now there's the Cooper camp from the old days, then there's the new Cooper people, and there's plenty of room in between I think. Anyway, I'm going to send off a few songs from that album to Bob Ezrin and Neal, and see if it amounts to anything, and if it doesn't then I'm just going to go ahead and release it. No particular time, before my death hopefully. (Laughs)
NHOR : Last year you formed a new Michael Bruce Group in Tucson?
MB : Yes, now basically it was a friend of mine, Bob Russell on guitar, he's from Ohio, and he came out,Jeff Harris on sax and piano,Thomas Dominick on keyboards and myself, and we played some shows out here. My kids live in Mesa, which is outside of Phoenix, so I thought I ought to move back from Texas, but I went to Phoenix, and it's like L.A., but it's not L.A. If I wanted to go through that, I'll live in L.A. rather than Phoenix. But, Tucson is really nice, I'm looking out the window at Mt. Lemon, and there's maybe one or two drive-by's, nothing serious. (Laughs) The University's here, and it's not as hot as Phoenix, it's four or five degrees cooler, it's near New Mexico, it's close to L.A.. So, I've been here a year and a half, I met this girl, we live together and it's great. The only other thing is, the guys that I played with, the drummer left, the bass player left, we got some other players and they wanted to go in kind of a different direction, so I just stepped out. I fired myself from the Michael Bruce Group. (Laughs) We did a couple of gigs, and we were just doing basically the old Cooper stuff, but I wanted to concentrate on finishing the 'Dark Side Of Love' and work on some new stuff, which I have.
NHOR : So I take it then that there aren't any plans for any touring at this point?
MB : Well, actually yes. A friend of mine, Paul Tomczak back in Philly, who when I was living in Texas and played at CBGB's a couple of times, a really good group there, Richie Scarlet from Ace Frehley's band is back there. So, if I did do something, I'd probably go back there and pull these guys together and do the live stuff to go out and tour. The thing is, that's been the hardest thing for me to overcome. Getting on some sort of tour and convincing somebody that I could be any kind of draw. There's just so much time that has passed. If Alice played somewhere, and had Neal's band open and my band open, a lot of people would come out of curiosity. I just don't know if Alice would, it might be too, too much for him. (Laughs)
NHOR : Let's go all the way back to the beginning if you don't mind, Michael. What was the defining moment for you when you decided to become a musician?
MB : Well, I was going to North High School, this was back in the 60's, I think it was when I was in the auditorium for some reason, and I heard "She Loves You" by The Beatles. Man, it just pushed all the buttons for me. I was off and running. I was a gymnast, played football and tennis, and I slowly degenerated into being a musician.(Laughs) I started taking guitar lessons, my mother played piano, so I already played a little piano. I started forming bands, and the rest is history. (Laughs) I had seen Elvis, and he had an influence on me, but I don't think... I was too immature to really formulate it into, "Okay I'm going to be a musician for my career." But by the time I got to high school, it was like, "Wow, I can get girls this way." (Laughs)
NHOR : Besides Elvis and The Beatles, who else were you drawn to in the early days?
MB : A lot of that English music, it was just wonderful. I did The Beach Boys, The Kinks, Gerry and The Pacemakers' "Ferry Cross The Mersey." I was a real English fanatic, I loved all of it. I really liked The Kinks, they were great. Most anything done well, with a good melody made my day.
NHOR : As a guitarist, who were your main influences when you were starting out?
MB : I suppose... well, George Harrison, I just loved him. The Kinks. But really, my mother's sister passed away, and her son, my cousin, came to live with us. There wasn't any room in the house, she didn't trust him living out back, we had a travel trailer, so I got moved out back to the travel trailer, which was great, I had my own little world. I just immersed myself in learning songs. I honed in on The Beatles, and a lot of other groups, but I learned how to write songs. I learned composition, intros, extros, guitar riffing. I gleaned everything I could from everybody. I was obviously influenced by The Beatles, there's a little Hendrix in there, not so much in the lead, but just in that kick back thing going on. The Doors were a big influence for me, and there's probably more to that than I care to admit. (Laughs) I try real hard not to emulate too much consciously from anybody, but if I can get something going that sounds Doors-ish, I do. (Laughs)
NHOR : What was the first record you ever bought?
MB : I remember seeing, what's the guy that did "Rawhide"? Frankie Laine. He did (Sings), "In The May Of 1941, the war had just begun, the Germans had the biggest ships, they had the biggest guns." "The Battle Of Bismarck" (Laughs) He was on Ed Sullivan, and I ran over and bought it. The English made great records, they were way ahead of us. We had a lot of the strong personalities, in the Nashville, Country & Western realm. It kind of amazes me, if the Alice Cooper Group had been English, we would've done a lot better. (Laughs) We would've been right up there with Bowie, and Marc Bolan from T Rex.
NHOR : Well Michael, you guys influenced a lot of those people too though...
MB : Yeah, but it just seems to me that we didn't have the staying power, unfortunately, that a lot of these groups did that were English. But I'm certainly not disappointed, we fared pretty well, all things considered.
NHOR : Your first band that you recorded with in Phoenix was The Wildflowers. What kind of music were you playing then?
MB : They were just some songs that we wrote. There's one recording that's called "More Than Me," it sounds like The Beatles. It's real catchy. I did a song that they played on the radio here called "Man Like Myself," with the harmony, real heady stuff. (Laughs) It was kind of uptempo, it wasn't anything bizarre like we later did with The Spiders. That's where I met Mick Mashbir, and I started taking lessons, he was the guitar player who did a lot of the stuff on 'Billion Dollar Babies' and 'Muscle Of Love.' He went to Camelback High, where Neal went, and I went to North High. He was in some rival bands in high school, and we were good friends. Some other players, Bill Spooner was around then. We didn't really play out, we just met this guy and he had a little recording place with a 4 track machine, and we went in there and made records. It was great.
NHOR : How did that lead up to you joining The Spiders?
MB : Well, speaking of Bill Spooner, I got together with Bill, this guy Michael Collins, Mike Tempturio and myself, we had a group called Our Gang. Bill's from The Tubes, an incredible guitar player, and I knew him from Little League ball when I was in grade school. They liked this guy John Tatum in The Spiders because he had long hair. See, I had long hair, but I decided to go play football for my senior year because I figured I could do music too. My coach kept pulling my hair out through the hole in my helmet.(Laughs) He told me if I didn't cut it he couldn't let me play. So, I cut it, and the guys in the band didn't like that. They all had long hair. So that shows you where the priorities were. John Tatum went over and played with them, I didn't realize that he was leaving The Spiders and I was kicked out of Our Gang. They said they were just going to jam. It turns out that The Spiders had kicked John Tatum out, and these friends of mine, Joel and Mark Rumerfield said, "Hey, they're auditioning guitar players why don't you go down?" So, I drove down there, and I had this Willies jeep, got up there and did everything like The Yardbirds' rave ups and all that stuff. I was a good rhythm guitar player but, I had this VAN that I could carry gear in, and guess what? I was in the band but they never really said, "You're in the band," they just said, "We've got a gig, come get the gear." So, that's how it started. (Laughs)
NHOR : In 1967, you guys moved out to L.A. for the first time. What do you recall about the L.A. scene at that time?
MB : It was bizarre. I remember the first time we went, we had this light show. The guy that worked with us had these flashing, colored, strobe lights and we had this big wheel that'd spin with black light colors painted on it and stuff. His name was Charlie Carnel, we all did some drugs and he either did more, or something, he was really getting out there. We walked back to the van and locked him in. (Laughs) Then we went ahead with our little parade down Sunset Boulevard, but it was really bizarre, people walking up and down the strip, it was like a zoo. You can imagine, you go to the state fair, the midway, all the carnies barking from all these games, rides on all sides, it was kind of like that. It was just bizarre, everybody of course is doing this and that, and the police are trying to hold it together. I remember when Bobby Kennedy got killed, and they tear gassed everybody there.
We went down there later to Hollywood Boulevard, and you could still smell the tear gas hanging in the air. Everything was so extreme. Nothing was done gradually, they just dealt with things in a different way, it was just outrageous. I remember they'd pull a van down, people coming out of the clubs, and they'd just put them right in the paddy wagon and haul them off and then just deal with them later. That's the way they've always done it, and look where it ended up, with the riots and that whole thing. It was really bizarre, and we'd come back from Arizona, we'd make little trips over.
I remember one trip, we and a gazillion other bands played there, with The Grateful Dead, and Pigpen was still alive and playing keyboards. It was at The Aquarius Theater, where the stage turned, they had a circle that turned around. We didn't get the gig, but we met a lot of people over there, and that's where we auditioned for Original Sound, the label that did "Talk Talk" by The Music Machine. We started doing "Talk Talk," the Music Machine song, and they pulled Glen Buxton and I aside and said, "Look, we'll sign you guys right now, just get rid of that Vince guy." (Laughs) We said, "No, we can't do that, we're a band." Funny how the tables turned later.
It was bizarre in a way, we wanted to be there, we finally moved over there, and we were dealing with this guy, we lived in his house because we were looking for a house for about $300. We were out of our minds with six people. (Laughs) He said, "Oh, I'll let you live in my house," so when he went to work, we moved all of his furniture to the wall, opened the van, brought all of our stuff in, rehearsed all day, before he got back moved it all back, put all his furniture back, then we slept. I remember two of us slept in the closet, and we camped out in his house. We did that for three or four months til we found a place. We must have REALLY liked music. (Laughs) We just wanted to get out of Arizona badly and out of our parent's houses.
NHOR : During the early days in L.A., you guys were pretty tight with The Doors. Did you ever hang around with Morrison much, and what were your impressions of him?
MB : We went down a couple of times when they were recording and watched them record. I was at another recording session for this band called The Clear Light, some guys that we knew from Arizona, and they were being produced by Paul Rothchild. Dallas Taylor, who later joined Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young and Taylor played with them, we grew up in the same neighborhood, the same block. So, they came up to our house in Topanga Canyon one time, it was Bruce Botnick, the engineer for Paul Rothchild, Arthur Lee, David Crosby and Jim Morrison. What a lineup. We sat in a circle and held hands, and chanted trying to bring some spirits or something, and Morrison leans over to me and says, "You guys do this often?" I said "No, we're just doing it because you're here." (Laughs) And he laughed.
We didn't see lots of them, but Glen would hitchhike into town and hang out with Robbie Krieger and his girlfriend, Lynn. I think they even mentioned Glen in The Doors book. We'd see them a lot, we were a struggling band, they were a local band, too, but yet they weren't a local band, you know what I mean? That's the trouble with L.A., all the local bands were famous, huge, and we couldn't get arrested. (Laughs) That's why we moved to Michigan, so we could sow our seeds out in the Midwest.
NHOR : Well, that certainly worked out great for you though..
MB : Yes, it did. Of all the stuff, and we worked with some talented people, Frank was very talented, but a jerk as a person, we worked with David Briggs, who produced Neil Young & Crazy Horse, but Bob Ezrin was the guy. He was the guy who was supposed to do our music. Our zany sort of ideas and music were fertile for his production techniques. This guy was incredibly talented, intelligent, and I feel very happy and proud that we were the first group he ever produced. He got on the map because of us.
Later, after we met Pink Floyd in L.A., we caught up with them again, first in Michigan, then later I believe they were doing 'Echoes' in Carnegie Hall and we hung out with them a lot. That was strange because we got to meet Syd Barrett out in L.A., they came down to Gazzari's to hear us play, and it was so funny because Alice, he didn't do anything, and he did something in Brownie form, all of a sudden he was like, "Oh, I feel faint," and he passed out, fell off the stage, just like one of those Morrison things, right in front of them. All four of them were sitting there right in front of us, because we were pretty obscure then, doing a lot of the 'Pretties For You' stuff, and they loved it (Laughs)
NHOR : Did you ever get a chance to meet and talk with Syd?
MB : He'd just kind of look at you with this glassy look, what do they call that? The Thorazine shuffle. He was very sweet, polite and charming. Very nice, he didn't really talk a lot, but they were all just happy to be over here, and we just loved 'The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn.' I listen back to it, and it's just so psychedelic that I can't believe it. "Interstellar Overdrive," the recording is just so crystal clear and clean, again light years ahead of the American recordings of that time. It's amazing that we won the war. (Laughs)
NHOR : Rock legend has that when you guys played the Cheetah Club in L.A. for a memorial concert for Lenny Bruce, you cleared the entire club of approximately 2000 people in a matter of just a few songs. What was the story there and how accurate is that?
MB : It seems that in the later years of my career a lot is commenting on how inaccurate that story is. (Laughs) That's two stories that kind of got melded together. What happened was, we opened for The Doors, got a standing ovation, and The Doors' manager wouldn't let us go back on for an encore. Now think about that, that's incredible. This was the second album that they had out, 'Strange Days,' and you could've knocked me over with a feather.
The other part of the story is, yes we cleared the room, Frank Zappa put on a benefit for Lenny Bruce at the P.O.P. Pier, where the Cheetah club is, in the daytime, and they had all kinds of bands there. It was the L.A. groove you know, "Kick back, catch some rays, smoke a doobie," then here comes The Alice Cooper Group on... I don't think so. (Laughs) A lot of people left. That's that story. They're two different things. We must've kicked some serious butt, because The Doors' fans loved us, they gave us a standing ovation, and intimidated the manager enough that he wouldn't let us play. I don't think Shep was there, I think Shep was at the Lenny Bruce thing, perhaps he was, but combined they make a better story. (Laughs) I guess the handwriting was on the wall there, a foreshadowing of the future.
NHOR : Speaking of Zappa, how was the band's relationship with Frank, and what do you feel that he brought to the table concerning the band?
MB: Well, I can sum it up by saying he was Adolf Hitler, and we were some of the guys that were around the table that wanted to blow him up. (Laughs) Frank was a genius, incredible, but he was just really, really hard. He knew what he wanted, he had a strong ego. What he brought to the table was the record deal, that's pretty much it. He put up with us as long as he could, for three days, then he said he was sick. On 'Pretties For You,' and it was either "Beautiful Flyaway" or "Titanic Overture," I made a mistake on one of those, and I wanted to do it over again, and he said, "No, that's fine." I had to have a little argument, but I finally got my way, though. (Laughs)
What happened was, and let me back up a little bit, Frank made all this money when 'Freak Out' became a huge hit. People thought he was talking about the establishment, but he was making fun of hippies. They made him, he made all this money, what is he going to do? He doesn't want to pay taxes..."I know, I will sign EVERY band in L.A. that sucks so big," and did you ever see the movie 'The Producers'? It's 'The Producers' but about rock and roll. He went and signed every band that he was for sure wouldn't make it. We were the band, we ran into Joe Greenburg and Shep Gordon, who used to manage The Left Banke, the day before, told them what was happening, and they said they'd be happy to represent us.
So, we didn't sign with Frank's manager, Herbie Cohen, that means we didn't get the dagger in the back. Because all the rest of the bands, they weren't supposed to make it, they were weird, of course we were weird too, but we're talking Wildman Fischer, Captain Beefheart, The G.T.O.'s. But we, because we weren't signed to Herbie Cohen, managed to slip through, Shep went to Warner Brothers and got us off Straight. It's actually a survival story. By the time we got off Straight, the first album was on Straight, the second was on Straight/Bizarre, then it went to Bizarre/Warner, then just Warner. By the time we got to just Warner for the third album, 'Love It To Death,' we met Bob Ezrin and we got out just in time. Shep went in there and just kicked some butt. I remember we were playing, people loving the show, we were getting some airplay, then the next week there were stand up cutouts of Alice with the whip in the record stores. (Laughs) He motivated those people, it all came together, and it was incredible. Now, the thing that really launched us, and do you know what the first bootleg album there ever was?
NHOR : That was Bob Dylan's 'The Great White Wonder'?
MB : Yeah, Joe and Shep, at the Landmark Hotel, met obviously somebody who worked at Columbia Records, they worked out some sordid deal, made them an offer they couldn't refuse. They went in, somebody got tapes, and to finance the Alice Cooper band, we schlepped 'The Great White Wonder' all around when we were touring in the Midwest. We had all of our gear in the truck behind us, our clothes in the station wagon, and piles of 'The Great White Wonder.' We'd unload them at night, the roadies would take them to the record stores, and $60,000 got us going and helped us get to the point where we were able to meet Bob Ezrin, got the whole ball rolling and convinced Warner Brothers. It was a juggling act, Shep was juggling five different things, and it was either going to happen or it was going to come crashing down... and it happened. But, thank you Bob Dylan, you helped us. (Laughs)
NHOR : Moving on a little bit here to the "Chicken Incident" at the Toronto Rock Revival in 1969. Now, that's become one of the most infamous incidents in all of rock history. What do you recall about what went down there, and was any of that staged?
MB : Well, I'm putting on my spoiler hat again. (Laughs) What happened is, we used to do, during our last song, when we did "Animal Pajamas" which was kind of a jam, it was the same song that when we were in Colorado playing with Steppenwolf, an outdoor concert, we were jamming away and when the vocals finished, Alice jumps off, starts running around the track, and everybody starts jumping up and down in the bleachers. He's running, the music's building, he runs up and grabs the microphone as Neal does the roll right into the vocal, and people just lost it. They started leaving the stadium because, and I can't explain it because it was just a moment. He was just running around the track, we were just playing the song and it came together. People were leaving, and Steppenwolf hadn't even gone on. That was one of a couple of incidents which was why John Kay didn't like us.
Well anyway, during that song, we broke open feather pillows. We did this all through the Midwest, courtesy thank you to the Holiday Inn. Well, times were catching up with us, not only when we'd come back to a club they were still picking feathers out of their butts, and everywhere else in the place, you just couldn't get them all. The Holiday Inn, in an effort to save money, probably because we were stealing all their pillows, changed to foam rubber. So, we figured out, well, the price of pillows is going up, the fun's not there anymore. We decided, we played at Detroit's Grande Ballroom, we opened for The Who, and we had chickens on the stage, because that's where the feathers came from for the pillow. You see the correlation there? (Laughs) We started taking... and in a couple of places we threw out chickens instead of feathers. We were just really campy that way. Call it stupid, call it whatever. Alice says, "I don't know where those chickens came from." Well Alice, turn around behind you, see that cage? In the back of the stage there? There's your chickens. (Laughs)
But who could've known, and what we didn't know was that when Alice was throwing these chickens out, people started grabbing them. He was throwing them right on top of the disabled area, where the handicapped folks were, in wheelchairs. They were getting mobbed, people crashing over the fence, ripping at these chickens trying to get them. People in Toronto were upset about that, that was the big deal after the show, that we were insensitive to the needs of the physically challenged. We just managed to push all these people's buttons. (Laughs)
Another one that happened, in Detroit, we were trying to find something to do for the feathers. Before we did the chicken thing, we lived in Detroit, so we got old used tires and painted them silver, and we were rolling them around on stage. It's the "Motor City" ya know? Keith Moon came out and he got a tire, was rolling it around onstage at that Who show, it was one of the things that we tried. We were willing to try anything, but it didn't catch on like the feathers and the chickens, then we gave up the chicken thing after awhile. (Laughs) One of the other things, and this was just at one show, my aunt was there, somewhere in Kansas, we went to this church and played where they had concerts. We were in the back, we'd been rummaging around all day, there was a big wooden cross, hollow but three dimensional, and like a prop during the last song Alice carried it like Christ going to the Crucifixion. Oh man, there was press about that. My aunt called up my mother and said, "What are they doing making fun of Jesus like that?" (Laughs) But, that was a one shot deal. We were poor, didn't have any money, so we'd take props where we could find them.
NHOR : By Neal's estimation, the first two albums 'Pretties For You' and 'Easy Action' sold a combined total of approximately 16,000 copies when they first came out. What kept you guys going? A lot of bands would've said "That's it" at that point. That shows a lot of perseverance....
MB : Really, what it was all about, we didn't want to move home. Here we signed with Frank Zappa, and even though as far as the industry was concerned they were two failed albums, we were stars in our hometown when we came back. We got laid, and we got to play clubs, we were living the good life. When we went back to L.A., we were starving.(Laughs) Then when we met Shep and Joe, they really pulled it together, and it continued to the point where we realized we had to get out of L.A. because we had to go sort of cut our teeth, get out on the road, and develop our thing. That was after David Briggs and the second album. Just try to pay our dues so to speak on the real circuit. We weren't just a local band anymore. We had to go out there and prove our stuff. That's where you make it or break it. We managed to make it.The money we got from the 'Great White Wonder' that Shep funded us with, they went back to New York.
They hadn't been back there, they got an apartment, started doing what they do, and they ended up living in Toronto, probably because people in New York wouldn't have much to do with them. They were going to get a Canadian producer, because then they'd play our records on the radio there due to Canadian content. It didn't have to be the greatest, but they'd play it because there's a stipulation that they have to play a certain amount of Canadian music. So, we qualified, that's another angle that Shep was working. When 'Love It To Death' came out, we must've had a $10,000 phone bill every month, calling "Hi, I'd like to hear that new "I'm Eighteen", that Alice Cooper song."(Laughs) We're calling from Detroit to Canada, that's long distance, but guess what? WCKW broke the song. That's where it started. The rest is history.
NHOR : After the first two albums, the band moved to Detroit, and that's where you signed with Nimbus 9 after they sent Bob Ezrin down to see you...
MB: Supposedly they heard the first two albums, and the joke around Nimbus 9 was whoever fucks up next has to produce the Alice Cooper Group. (Laughs) I don't know what Bob did. He had been doing April Wine, he heard the record and came down and saw a live show. I think he saw something there, and I still can't believe that he thought "I'm Eighteen" was "I'm Edgy." That sounds like a story. (Laughs) He came down and started working with us, and we worked really, really hard. We worked so hard, when we went in the studio, we got the songs in two or three takes. There's virtually no outtakes. We didn't jam or anything. When Bob started working, and everything started cooking I just loved him, everybody else did too. Glen though thought it was like being in school again, he had to learn all his parts and discipline. He loved him, but he really had to put his nose to the grindstone.
NHOR : What do you feel that Bob contributed to the band that wasn't there before?
MB : Well, he was a child prodigy at the piano, his father was a doctor in Toronto. He just knew music, classical music, and he had a good feel for how things should be, and he was a real perfectionist. There was no part that was vague, it was all nailed down. We took the unstructured parts, made them structured, and tried to make them sound unstructured. We knew what we were doing. It gave us a lot of confidence. I think it really helped us feel like we were musicians, that we could do the stuff, even though technically we weren't the best musicians. We were very effective musicians. I think that helped us a lot. In that early period we were writing fools, we were doing two albums a year. It's a shame Glen's demons got the best of him. It wasn't just that, but that was enough, and we needed some time off. When Alice decided he didn't want to work with the band anymore... there's a lot of stuff that I've been doing over the years that I think could easily have been Cooper songs. I wish we had an opportunity to do them with Bob, because I just hear them happening in the same way. I don't know if they'd be a hit or not, but I just know that they'd sound great. (Laughs)
NHOR : During the early days of the band you did a lot of touring in the South. Given your image, stage show and social climate at that time, how was the reaction to the band? Did you get any extreme reactions?
MB : I think we got mixed reviews. Some of the places, and I remember playing in Michigan, and one of the things that seemed to turn the corner for us, was when we were at this festival up in Ann Arbor. We'd been doing alright, but bikers had built this big bonfire in the middle, it was getting dark and cold. We were doing our thing, and Alice had this inflatable sex doll onstage, and he was beating it around and stuff. Not unlike he did later during "Only Women Bleed."(Laughs) This biker, they had a ramp up the stage, and he rode his Harley up the ramp. Alice got on back with this sex doll, rode down, rode round and round in circles around the fire. Again, this is just another of those "Happening" things. He threw the doll in the fire, the doll caught on fire, then he drove Alice back on stage. (Laughs) People just went nuts, and we cleared another hurdle.
There were other shows that I don't remember. We started getting less obscure and less psychedelic, and we got more musical. That was one thing, we got into double guitar harmonies, and I think they liked that in the South. (Laughs) Coming from where we did, we relatively had hardly any incidents. As a matter of fact, the incidents we did have were all here in Arizona when we started. This one guy came up and pulled a knife, shook it at us, then we got run out of town. It was the only thing that the Indians and the cowboys in Arizona could agree upon, was kill the longhairs. (Laughs) One time at a Catholic Youth Organization dance, we had to wait, they told us to stay in because there were guys out there who were going to beat us up. This was in high school, they were the Cowboy/Jocks, I guess. Once we got out of Arizona, we didn't really have any problems.
NHOR : You've mentioned before hanging out with Hendrix. Where was this at, and what were your impressions of Jimi as a person?
MB : When Pink Floyd came over, there was a roadie, Les Braden, who worked for them, he'd also been with Cream and worked with The Soft Machine. He stayed and lived with us, and was our roadie. He started showing us some neat things, and worked in some ideas like that. "What horrors must invade the mind, when the approaching death should find," that's the Catholic Rites Of The Dead or something... he was saying, "Hey Alice, why don't you read this?" and he got very into it.
Anyway, he worked with The Soft Machine, we went down there, they were opening for Hendrix, met the guys and stayed for the show when they played at Tempe University. We went up to a party, Dr. Dante, who married Lana Turner, he hypnotized a bunch of people, then we went down to Tucson, hung out in a hotel. Hendrix put this kilo of pot on the bed, was putting quarters in the Magic Fingers, and said "C'mon everybody, get on my rocket ship." (Laughs) Mitch and Noel were running around with this thing full of acid, they were like, "Hey, want some, man?" I'm surprised they didn't get busted. It was just anything goes.
Later, we met them over in L.A. when he opened up Electric Ladyland, which I used to call "Electric Landlady." We went down there, they had this expensive spread out there, we were eating all this rich food. I drank, and I went up to the bass player for Iron Butterfly, and I threw up all over. I got so sick from eating all that stuff, I threw up all over his table. (Laughs) That's where we know Jimi from. He was just a fun loving, easy going, nice man. He was just enjoying himself, partying, he seemed to be having a great time. Everybody around him did too. It was just really a trip watching him, everything he did seems very different.
I think going over after he got out of The Isley Brothers, and went over to England, and the story goes somebody phoned up Eric Clapton and Townshend, they went down and were blown away or intimidated. Chas Chandler was there, and he was the one who put Hendrix together with the Experience. I heard some of the original recordings, the jams that he did, and you hear him playing "Purple Haze" or whatever, he'd go into a solo, then it would just go awful wrong, a wrong note... a bad acid trip. (Laughs) So, he was still getting it together. I can really relate, when you're there, right in the pocket and the licks are happenin', then all of a sudden you stumble off, and it all falls apart. (Laughs) It's a bad train wreck but you're the only one living it and you've still got to play. I just thought, if we could've just got over to England, we could've done some incredible things. Not that we didn't, but just with a whole different twist on it.
NHOR : If you had to pick one song out of all that you've written that would say, "This is what Michael Bruce is all about," which one would that be?
MB : "No More Mr. Nice Guy" has got to be the pop/rocker song. But the hard rock guy in me just loves "Billion Dollar Babies." That song really turned out incredible in the way it moved, it just really cooked. Somewhere in between those. There's a song on every album, "You Drive Me Nervous" was one, "Halo Of Flies" was one, but if I had to choose, "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and "Billion Dollar Babies."
NHOR : What is the process you go through, and where do you get your inspiration from when you're writing a song?
MB : Well, I don't have the guys around to bounce it off of. I pretty much just write, sort of muddle through it.(Laughs) I suppose just like any other player I fool around a lot, I play guitar, keyboards too, so I'll get something that feels good, play it, and it sounds good. I was always one of those kids, when I brought home my report card they had wrote "Michael needs to apply himself and quit daydreaming." I would always be off in my own little world in my head, and I suppose that, coupled with guitar riffs and stuff, that I'd have nights where I'd wake up in the middle of the night and come put something down. It's just letting yourself be comfortable with what you're doing to the point where you can just hang with it until you get it going.
A lot of players, I've seen them they'll jump around and have to change riffs every five seconds to compensate because nothing else seems to be going on. There's songs that I do that in intentionally, but I also like to see if I like to get the groove, and get some counterpoint things going. A lot of that has nothing to do with lyrics, as a lot of times I'll sit down, play some chords and the lyrics will just come. To me, that would be the ultimate, to sit down and have the lyrics just come out, and I've had that happen. It's great, but it doesn't usually happen all the time.(Laughs)
Alice, I always thought his lyrics were pretty interesting, the way he would write. I liked what he did with "No More Mr. Nice Guy", he's got a strong personality , so that's why I thought it was a good combination of his lyrics, my writing, and also Neal, Dennis's and Glen's. Now I think when he's on his own he doesn't have that interaction, there's nobody there to call him. The things that he has done, like what he did with Desmond Child and Ezrin, those are the things that I've liked that are better.
NHOR : Well, you guys were a very formidable writing team. Even Lester Bangs called you two "The Lennon and McCartney of hard rock"...
MB : Did he really? Wow, Lester Bangs, he used to hate us. I wonder how much that cost Shep.(Laughs) Maybe he meant Vladimir Lenin and Senator McCarthy.(Laughs)
NHOR : You either wrote, or had a hand in cowriting, some of the biggest hits during the original Cooper band's reign at the top of the charts - such as "I'm Eighteen," "The Ballad Of Dwight Fry," "Under My Wheels," "Desperado," "Billion Dollar Babies," and "No More Mr. Nice Guy," just to name a few. In your opinion, has Alice ever come up with anything as good as those songs since he went solo?
MB : Yeah, I mean, you could hear some of that stuff on 'Welcome To My Nightmare,' he had two great guitar players in Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner. So, it was happening, and they had the momentum of the band, and I think that after that dissipated and Wagner wanted his own album, he was having the same problems with those guys that he was with us. Musicians always want stuff. (Laughs) I think that his writing has always been good, and his lyrics, if you feed him like I always thought I fed him what he needed, a little bit of lyric, and idea, melody, something to write to then "boom," it would happen.
I know with "Eighteen," he came up with some good lyrics, he started singing them, and kind of as a band said, "That's good, those ideas are good, keep going." He went back, did it again, we encouraged him to do it again, and he must've been like, "Oh, those motherfuckers." He went back and BOOM, the third time we went, "Wow, right on." It was very obvious that they were good lyrics then. I didn't know if the song was going to be a hit. That started from a jam that was, "I Wish I was Eighteen Again, Be My High School Queen," or something like that. And with the right lyrics, and again Ezrin helping to put that together, it worked out really well.
There's a couple of songs that I've been working on, one's a ballad called "Man Without A Heart" that could be an Alice thing, maybe on the softer side. There's this other one called "Born Screamer" that, like a lot of the songs that I did, I just have a chorus, and I would have one verse, no second verse, or no verse at all, and it would give him a lot of elbow room. "Be My Lover" is one that I did that he didn't change any lyrics, he sang all the lyrics that I wrote. "Muscle Of Love," on the other hand, I didn't have any lyrics to and just gave him the music. It actually started out as "Respect For The Sleepers," which was a phrase that Glen used when he'd been up partying all night, you know, "Have some respect for the sleepers because we're sleepin' in."(Laughs) I think 'Welcome To My Nightmare' came the closest in quality to what we did. There was also 'Alice Cooper Goes To Hell,' that had a couple of great songs on it.
NHOR : What was the songwriting process when the band wrote songs?
MB : A lot of times Neal and I, we'd get down there, I'd start playing the stuff that I'd written, we'd be warming up, and Alice would sometimes come down, Dennis, and of course Glen would usually be last. I was a fairly prolific writer, but I'd try to help Neal and Dennis have some songs. Like "Black Juju," I'd sit down and work with Dennis, "Teenage Lament," I worked with Neal on that, but generally I'd just just try to play and get something going, not saying, "Here, I have a song, let's learn it and let's play it." That the music would hopefully draw them in. But other than that, early on we'd sit down with an acoustic guitar, write songs and wish we were The Beatles, and put clues in that people would never get. (Laughs) All kinds of silly stuff, but it kept us entertained and it kept us on the job so to speak. It kept our heads into the whole thing, because when you're not living at home, you don't have any money, you're not playing any gigs, and you're not famous, it can be really a drag. (Laughs)
NHOR : What is your favorite Alice Cooper album?
MB : Probably 'Killer.' It's just God, when I hear 'Killer', the song, it just makes the hair, wherever I have hair stand on end. It's got a lot of good stuff on it. "Desperado" is a favorite song of mine, just the way it worked out with the strings and everything. I have a hard side and a soft side, so if I get to pick two songs it'd probably be "Desperado" and "Killer." It was a great album, because we were really writing as a band. We were really hitting on all eight cylinders, as they say. I could've wished for that to go on for a lot longer. But nothing lasts forever. (Laughs) It's almost like a marriage. When it was great, it was great, when it was bad it was really bad.We hung in there as long as we could, wanted to hang longer.
One of the last things that we did together was when Neal, Alice and myself went over to Glen's house and tried to reason with him, and get him to do some things, and he wouldn't do it. That was kind of the last straw. Then we decided to do some solo things in the meantime to stall for time, hoping that he would maybe change his mind, but by that time Alice didn't want to go back into it. I think it was not that interesting and he wanted to go do other things. I can understand that, because I did, too. But I never wanted to stop the Cooper stuff either. Shep always said, "I told you if you did a solo album that would be it," like opening Pandora's box. But to me it was like a lot of other people have done it, what's the deal? But I guess there could only be one Alice Cooper.(Laughs)
NHOR : How much of an impact do you think Glen's inability to play on the studio albums for awhile had on the breakup?
MB : Looking back, I think it had more to do with us than it did the public. Because they heard the cool riffs, whether they were his, mine, Wagner, Hunter's... Mick Mashbir... they were still there. The songs were still there, but it started affecting us individually. Like Alice, I think we just didn't want to deal with it anymore. When he got sick and was out in Arizona, we'd make him tapes and send them of 'Billion Dollar Babies.' Mick Mashbir came back, and was filling in for him. When he came back, he didn't know anything, and made us feel like why are we even bothering? Here he is, he's got a great job, people would die to do that, and he didn't care. I have to say that no matter whatever else Alice, Neal, Dennis and myself were into, the band was still the most important thing for us. It wasn't for Glen. It wasn't that important to him. He had better things to do.
NHOR : So, that affected the overall chemistry of the band?
MB : Yeah, absolutely. Because he was there from the beginning, John Speer, the original drummer, and Alice, so he was there early on. His sarcastic personality, he was one of a kind. It was time to move on, I think, after Glen. We couldn't replace him, we didn't want to deal with it. All of us had become more... everything seemed like it was a big deal, it wasn't as easy as it used to be. It just got tiring. I think the band felt that we were in the back seat, not that we weren't all stars then, we were, it wasn't that important, but the way it was handled. There was a chasm that developed, a separation between us and the band. Feeling excluded. It wouldn't have taken much to be felt included, because most of the time Dennis didn't want to go, or I didn't want to go and be part of a particular function. But when you read about it, see about it, hear about it, you didn't even know it happened. When you're that involved, and it's something you've worked on for so long and sacrificed for, it hurts. I think it was insensitive, either that or it was the master plan. (Laughs)
NHOR : Neal has said that he had a problem with it when it came down to where Alice had his own separate limo from the rest of the band...
MB : Yeah, talk about politically incorrect. (Laughs) I remember when Alice opened for the Scorpions, I went back and met Rudolf and Michael Schenker, they were going, "Oh, we used to play your songs when we were in high school." They were arguing about them and their girlfriends/ex wives about the limos, so... it happens.(Laughs)
NHOR : During the sessions for 'Billion Dollar Babies,' you had a lot of musicians come down and either visit or played on the album, such as Keith Moon, Harry Nilsson, Marc Bolan, Donovan, even John Lennon came down to the studio during the recording of "Elected." What are your memories of that time?
MB : Well, they're mixed, because Donovan was there, and he was a really neat guy, I was playing his custom made guitar. Harry Nilsson, on the other hand, was a drunk fuck up, and we almost went to blows a couple of times. I didn't really enjoy that much. Rick Grech was there, Marc Bolan... they were all fine. It was like the cake had been made, and this was the icing on it, so I kind of hung back, did some things on my own. I didn't really participate in it as much as Neal. He was down there a lot. I don't think I was down there at all. I don't know if Dennis was. I was down there when Donovan did "Billion Dollar Babies," we worked up that vocal, the "row row row your boat" thing, the counterpoint vocals. I threw in my two cents, but I kind of let them be. I just felt that I'd done it a lot, I didn't want to be a pig about it. (Laughs)
NHOR : Did you meet Lennon when he came down?
MB : I met Lennon, actually, back with the famous "Chicken Incident," when we did the Toronto Rock And Roll Festival. He was sitting back in the dressing room. It was just him and Yoko, their white suits on, and I just walked in to the dressing room, they were just sitting there, exhausted, they were in Canada, they probably just made it in through the backdoor because Nixon wouldn't let him into the States. Trudeau let him in. I just walked in and said, "Hello, I'm Michael Bruce, I just wanted to say 'Hello'." and I couldn't think of anything else to say, so I'll just stand here and feel stupid... and now, I'm leaving. (Laughs). I just kicked myself most of my young life, like why couldn't I have said something clever? It would've meant nothing to them, but to me it would've been everything. It was great watching him on stage, Clapton was there, Klaus Voormann, his whole band. Then Yoko comes out and ruins it all. (Laughs) They did "Cold Turkey," and they did a couple neat versions of Beatles songs, it was great.
NHOR : A lot of sources say that, during the 'Billion Dollar Babies' tour, Glen's guitar was either totally unplugged, or it was turned down way low in the mix so that it was barely audible, and that Mick Mashbir and you played Glen's parts. What's the real story on that?
MB : There were some songs that Glen did better than others. I don't recall which songs they were, but the ones with the sort of "sound effect" type leads, he could do whatever and get away with it. Whoever was mixing, I think it was Artie King at the time, he would know to push it up, then when we were doing something more intricate, Glen may or may not be present, he was down. He occasionally would bring him up to see what was going on, and if it seemed alright, he'd bring him in. If it wasn't he'd drop him out. It was the only way you could do it. Glen was not consistent. Which was unfortunate, because when he was good, he was really good. When he wasn't he was really bad. I've heard that about Robbie Krieger, too, that he had times when he was just God awful. Those guys hung out, and they reminded me of each other a lot, so it's interesting. Glen had a Fender amp, that's what he wanted, it was mic'd, and it was just turned down, but the mic was always on. It just may or may not be in the mix.
NHOR : So, he could hear himself in the monitors, so he didn't know that he wasn't in the mix...
MB : Oh yeah, he heard himself in the monitors. He had his own monitor, he could hear himself in it, most everybody else didn't have him. We had a big enough P.A. that we could do that. Because he wasn't playing a lot of the basic parts. If he was, between Bob Dolin, Dennis, Mick and myself, we had the lines down well enough so that Glen didn't need to be there. I mean even four pieces, a couple of guitars, it starts getting cluttered anyway.
NHOR : During that tour, it seemed like every member of the band was, at one point in time, injured by "fans" throwing objects up on stage. Was there ever a time when you actually feared for your life? They were throwing bottles, M-80's, all kinds of stuff, Neal was hit by a dart....
MB : It's funny, I found that dart after the show, the next gig we flew from Chicago to the middle of the Black Hills of South Dakota, I opened the door to the Holiday Inn, it's like "whooooooosh," just nothing, where are we? (Laughs) So, I was up, and I couldn't sleep, I went down to the lobby, got a newspaper, and started cutting out letters. I wrote sort of a note that said, "I'm not through with you yet - The Dart," and stuck the dart in Neal's door. I just waited to see if he'd say anything, Neal's playing it cool, he didn't say a thing. Later he goes, "I knew it was you all the time." (Laughs) No, I never really feared for my life. The people that night of the M-80 thing, they were just having a good time, I think they were just throwing them. They must've been out of their minds, because an M-80 is a bit much, it's not a firecracker. In a crowded room like that, it's not a good idea.
The only place that I felt like that was when we played in Brazil, there was 150,000 people indoors, and the guys come out on stage with machine guns telling everybody to sit down. By the third song, the stage was so high, 10-15 feet, bodies were piling up. This guy got up on stage, he was able to climb up on the bodies, so they stopped the show, we went offstage for about twenty minutes, came back on and everybody was quiet. It was pretty spooky, because they were all carrying automatic weapons. These guys came out with machine guns, a military looking gang, a guy in a suit came out, pulls a pistol out and shot it, told everybody to sit down in Portuguese. So, I sat down. (Laughs) That was pretty scary, that was just fear.
NHOR : You, Neal, Glen, and Alice reunited for one last time in October of '97 at Area 51 in Texas. What are your recollections of that night?
MB : We rehearsed for a couple of weeks. Glen had been living in Iowa, he hadn't been playing that much. He came out. I'd been playing a lot, Neal had been playing a lot, Richie Scarlet plays a lot, so Glen was trying to do the best he could. We showed him the chords he'd forgotten. He'd write them down, but then he'd leave them there. Again, he wasn't trying that hard. Finally, towards the end of the rehearsal, I started playing stuff that he was supposed to be playing. I'd been playing it all along, because I had a three piece for awhile, so I was playing everybody's parts. I'd just start playing, then he got mad, and he kind of pissed me off because I'd loaned him a couple of pedals, and he kicked the pedals with his foot, went out and threw a hissy fit. He told my manager, "Michael Bruce is stepping all over my parts." I was like, "That's the reason you're not playing? What about the five days before, when I wasn't playing, and you weren't playing?" So, it was that kind of thing.
He just did the best he could, and he kept turning his amp up, because he would do these little subtle things, he had the wrong guitar set up, he was using a semi-hollow body, and it was feeding back, so they'd turn him down in the monitor. The more he got turned down in the monitor, the more he'd crank the amp up. It was rough. It was a lot of fun, too, it was fun doing things together again. We did a live radio broadcast, a record signing thing. It was great... of course, not knowing that Glen wasn't going to be with us a week later.
NHOR : Were there any indications that he wasn't feeling well at the time?
MB : Well... it was pretty humid there, moist in Houston, and he'd come from a relatively dry climate, Iowa, in the middle of the country, where in the winter time it's cold and crisp and boring. (Laughs) He died of pneumonia in his heart. We later were told that his girlfriend, who was a registered nurse, said the doctor said that if he got pneumonia or the flu he'd probably die, because he didn't get a flu shot. And that's what happened, he got pneumonia, and it was too much for him.
NHOR : What's your favorite memory of Glen?
MB : There was this one time in San Francisco when we had our first two albums out, we were with Frank Zappa, everybody thought we were gay. This one guy was following Glen around like a puppy dog, everywhere. So Glen finally said, "C'mere." He goes in the bathroom, and this guy's like, "Oh boy! I'm so excited." (Laughs) Glen told him to get in the bathtub, he got in the bathtub and Glen turned on the water, walked out and closed the door. He turned on the shower with the guy in it. (Laughs) So that was Glen, he could do some amazing things.
On the other end of the spectrum, I remember one of the first times we went to New York, somebody broke in, they had these huge rooms with six plus beds in them, all of our guitars were stacked. Somebody came in the room and took his guitar. We check out of that hotel, went to another hotel, and when were in THAT hotel, they managed to steal JUST his suitcase. So now Glen has no sound, and no clothes. I don't think he ever recovered from it, frankly. He lost his sound, he lost his identity, it was rough. I don't know if it just happened that they stole his stuff, or he owed them money or something, but it was rough, really rough.
NHOR : So, things kind of went downhill for him from that point?
MB : Well, you know, he had a hard time. He had such a sound, he'd get that sustain from his Gretsch. He'd get feedback on it, he had a Fender pickup that he put in, and he just never recovered. Then he got this white Les Paul with the three pickups that you see in a lot of the pictures. I remember the high E string kept jumping out of the bridge saddle. So he said, "Just a minute," he went upstairs, came back down and he said, "I've got it fixed," He'd driven a nail down in right next to it. It worked, I guess.(Laughs) Prior to that he'd had that setup, he had quite a good sound. He'd get this feedback, sustain... like Jeff Beck. Jeff Beck was his hero, and he learned all that early Yardbirds stuff, played the triplets, you know, "Over Under Sideways Down." And it changed him, because he couldn't do it anymore.
NHOR : In 1975 you released your first solo album 'In My Own Way', and that's kind of a shock to people who were expecting the same type of music as on the Cooper records. It's more late Beatlesque in nature. Was that planned as a departure from the sound of the band?
MB : Yeah, I did that pretty much intentionally. That was my intention, to do something that was a departure from the Alice Cooper thing. I thought it would be a nice counter to it. I wasn't Alice, after all. I think it probably would've worked. Unfortunately, not only was I a bit immature, Shep was handling Alice, and it seemed kind of like a conflict of interest to me at the time. Shep did go to A&M, and of course they had Captain & Tennille, Peter Frampton, The Tubes, they had a lot going on, and they passed. But he did get me a deal with Polydor in Germany. I just didn't stick it out. Then when Neal said, "Hey let's get the band back together," after all that, it seemed like the right thing to do. I went back, and of course that's when Alice said he didn't want to work with us.
Then I asked Shep to release me from our management contract, which of course he did. Hindsight is 20/20, I wish I'd stuck with it a little more, and got it released in the States at that time, because I think it would've done well. We'll never know, but after all that hard work, I kind of threw in the towel. But see, I was always really a band member, a team player. I loved playing guitar in the band, keyboards and writing songs. It's just at the time there was so much going on, the situation with Glen... of course, we'd all spent a lot of time together, and it just got... we just got road weariness. I think we took it out on each other, and we really shouldn't have, because we were all trying to work for the same thing. It was disheartening after Alice said that he wanted to go it alone, because we felt that we still had a lot to offer, and I think we did.
NHOR : During that time, when you decided to take the year off, you did your solo album, Neal did his, and Alice did his as well...
MB : What happened was Shep submitted my solo album to Polydor, he submitted Alice's to Warner Brothers, and Warner passed on Alice's solo thing, my solo thing and Neal's, because they wanted the band back together. They didn't want to promote us trying to do anything individually. But we had a deal, and now it's the same as an escape clause, but what it was is a soundtrack album, if they passed on it, then we could place it with another label. So, they did 'Welcome To My Nightmare' as a soundtrack to the special. So he could get out of the Warner Brothers contract, which was really with US. So he got out of the contract with us. Plus, we didn't have an employment contract in our corporation unfortunately. With all these high powered lawyers that we had, we didn't have that. So we couldn't stop Alice from working until he'd fulfilled the commitment to us. That's a must have in any situation like this, because if one guy decides to walk, there's really nothing that you can do.
Well, there was something we could've done. We could've sued Shep and Alice, Warner Brothers and everybody. But we wanted to remain friends. I probably would've gone ahead if Neal and Dennis would've said yes. Then we probably would've gone for it, because I wanted to do it. But they didn't want to rupture the relationship with Shep or Alice. They just thought they'd take their chances, see what would happen down the road, and maybe there'd be a chance for a reunion. If we were stand up guys, and not do anything that would rock the boat so to speak. Dennis said that even after he'd done all this, still nothing, Alice still didn't seem to be coming forth to embrace that.
NHOR : So, you basically didn't want to burn any bridges?
MB : Well, I wanted to burn everything down. (Laughs) I wanted total saturation bombing. Because I felt we'd all created that name, and I thought it'd be easy. There were plenty of articles where it referred to the group. I thought we could've won. If we would've got a piece of the Alice Cooper pie. Of course, we never would've done a reunion, but we didn't anyway. (Laughs) You don't know that, so that's what that amounted to. It's just unfortunate that it didn't happen differently.
NHOR : What was your reaction when you found out that wasn't going to be the case, that you weren't going to go back and record another album?
MB : We had already had a concept, an idea, and we were working on 'Battleaxe.' We were going to do it with Alice. Did you know that there was a stage show to go with it? We only did four gigs before it went down. What it was, it was a futuristic event that combined what I like to call "Jock Rock." (Laughs) It was a sporting thing in a rock and roll musical environment, where competitors would sort of fight to the death, a duel in a musical arena. It's pretty neat, I wish we could've pulled it off. People were really awestruck. I think it'd still be really cool now if we went back and did it. It's funny because Alice used to say, "They got tired of theatrics, they just want to stand onstage in their jeans and play." That really wasn't the case.
We had a way hot show. We didn't have any dancing spiders, that's true, no dancing chickens, we didn't whip anybody, wives or otherwise. (Laughs) Unfortunately our manager, who was supposed to be giving us wisdom, was Leo Fenn, who helped Shep break the group in the Michigan area, and the Midwest. He was going to show everybody that it wasn't just Alice and Shep, he was carrying around like a two hundred pound chip on his shoulder. It took us down, he lost sight, we all did. I can't just blame him. Though it is ironic, and conspiracy theorists would wonder how our publicity manager, Toby Mamis, got to be Shep's partner. (Laughs)
NHOR : Speaking of 'Battleaxe,' you, Dennis, and Neal joined forces with Mike Marconi and Bob Dolin in Billion Dollar Babies for that album. Given your status and the pedigree of the musicians in the band, what do you feel the reason was that Polydor didn't promote the album as well as they could've?
MB : Well, it was a comedy of errors. One of the problems was the fact that everybody was having TOO good of a time. Lee DeCarlo was overindulging himself in extra party favor activities. I think we all were to some degree, but he went in and mastered it. You know a record groove is supposed to look like a nice, roundish "U" shape? It's not supposed to look like the letter "V". What happens when you have the letter "V" as a groove, the stylus doesn't sit very well, and it tends to fly out. So that's what we ended up with. We ended up with a flying record. (Laughs) Not only that, but when they shipped 60,000, we easily could've broken #155 with a bullet, we were supposed to do a whole tour with Concerts West. We were going to play small arenas, sell them out, look good to the promoter. One of the guys at Polydor who collected all the sales information, then took it to the trades, he was either fired or his boyfriend was fired and he quit. We didn't get any reports. Even though we were selling records, they didn't get reported.
That's a real shame because what happened is we came up at #199 with an anchor. We could never recover. The tour fell apart because the promoter saw that. And if that wasn't bad enough, the album started getting returned because of the mastering defect. Polydor had done a lot, we had regional breakouts, ads on TV, they'd done a lot actually. But they'd also paid $100,000 for a budget for the album and the stage show. It was falling apart, and we were trying to find someone else who didn't have a vendetta against Shep to replace Leo Fenn. Sid Bernstein said he'd come in and manage the group. Remember, too, this was disco time, so we were like an endangered species. Just too many anchors. I just decided to fold up my table and go home. After that, I'd just had enough of rock n roll for awhile. (Laughs) It was a shame, because we put a lot of hard work into it. I thought we came out with a good product. But, you know, that's not an unusual story in this business.
NHOR : Let's touch briefly on the Bob Greene book 'Billion Dollar Baby' if you don't mind. Do you think that book coming out had any effect on the break up of the band?
MB : No, not really. I think that it just reiterated the situation regarding the relationship with everybody. Everybody was just tired. During this thing there was the fuel embargo, it just got to be too much. We just waffled under it, people were feeling the strain of Alice being the center of attention. Neal tells the story of the the promoter saying, "That's Alice's limo,"... "No, that's MY fucking limo." (Laughs) Good for Neal. That's the kind of situation we had, and Glen was over there, "I'm over here drowning, hello?" (Laughs) We were too busy, you've got to take care of yourself. We'd already tried to help him musically. He was sick, his pancreas I think erupted or something and he almost died then. That was sort of a foretelling of future events.
It's just, this is a situation where this is an opportunity that we worked hard for, struggled really hard for, sacrificed for, and you should really realize that not a lot of people get to do this. A lot of people took it for granted. It was like when you went to the fair when you were a kid, and you got some cotton candy, and it was so cool that you didn't want to eat it. So you took it home and put it in your room, then when you woke up it was gone.(Laughs) That's what happened with our careers. They were just gone the next time we looked. We did make it, we just didn't hang very well. We didn't ride the storm very well, our ship wasn't that worthy. The thing was, Shep didn't want all the headaches either. So with Alice by himself he could just deal with one person, and manage a boatload of other people. Which he did.
NHOR : How do you think you came off in the book?
MB : You mean the devil incarnate? (Laughs) You know, it's been so long since I read it... a disgruntled musician? That didn't think he got enough credit?
NHOR : Well, to me, it just seemed like you were a smartass, which is cool, I loved it.
MB : Well, I am, I have a very sarcastic wit. So I probably was. (Laughs) I'm only human, and I calls 'em as I sees 'em. A lot of times it was because, "Ouch," they didn't like what I said because... what, did it hurt because it was right on? Keep in mind that this was OUR band, OUR corporation, we thought. We had every right to run it the way we wanted to. That stopped happening. In any other corporation people would've been fired. As it turns out, we didn't have the people that were involved with putting things together doing their jobs. We didn't have the real corporate structure that we thought we did, it was a sham. That enabled things to happen the way they did. We ended up being gutted, a powerless corporation. We didn't have any voting rights, as Neal says. Shep had all those. That certainly shouldn't have been the case, because we had sold him our publishing for the money he'd invested in the group. But he was our manager, after all. That's what we formed a corporation for. That's not what happened. I'd like somebody to explain that to me.
Another thing that I might as well mention here, and I'm sure I'll get some flack about it, but I've learned to live with all these things that have happened. I think I've been a good sport about it, I love seeing Shep, I love seeing Alice on stage, I love going to the concerts, I get along with Brian. I'm not trying to create trouble, but as I walk in to see him play, wherever he may be, there's vendors selling shirts and they're shirts licensed by Alice and Shep. Alive, I guess, I don't know exactly. But, they're selling 'School's Out,' and they're selling 'Love It To Death,' 'Billion Dollar Babies,' "Elected" just with Alice's image on it. And excuse me, but wasn't that from the period of the BAND? Alice didn't do THAT stuff by himself. So why is he entitled? I mean, we don't see any money. We never got a bit of merchandising. I guess their feeling is, well, he's "Alice Cooper."
That was the name of the group, and that's HIS name, so he gets ALL of it? All we get are the royalties for the songwriting that we did. I'm glad to get that, Shep makes sure we get it, he's great about it. Nobody's fucked with him, and he makes sure we got our money. But I think that we came up short in a lot of other areas because, hell, one thing that came out, the DVD 'Prime Cuts,' my name wasn't on one of the songs as writer. I don't know if we ever got paid for any of that. It's like we're not entitled to any of that. These are all my opinions about things, and I could very well be wrong about all of it. But I certainly know what hasn't happened, and I wonder why those things haven't happened.
NHOR : It's been put forth that it was much cheaper for Alice and Shep to just hire musicians, rather than to continue with the 20% split that he had with the band. Do you think that's accurate at all?
MB : Yeah, they split it I guess 50/50, then when Toby came aboard, Shep split his half when he got out of the business. But after Wagner was on the road, he wanted his own solo album, and they weren't happy being behind the screen. They pissed and moaned until they got in front of the screen, so he was having the same problems. You just can't treat good musicians like that. A lot of people just won't put up with it. After all this great relationship with Ezrin, what, Alice did a couple of albums with him, and he was done.
NHOR : Do you feel that there's been a certain downplaying of the importance of the original members of the band?
MB : Well all along, through this whole thing, like when I started getting back into music again, I'd never been on the Internet. Then I moved to Texas and my manager at the time owned a computer company, so I got thrust into it. They were calling Alice, on the website, "The Master," and Renfield was his assistant. I was just going, "What in the world is THIS?" He was like some sort of demigod. So we just naturally started in on him, because it seemed like the thing to do. (Laughs) Sort of like taking the magic out of the temple, it wasn't really magic anyway.
To the point where I was kind of an outcast, and Alice wouldn't see me in Texas, then I did a full circle and played with him a couple of times, various places all over. It was just that he was asked, "What happened to the original group?" and he goes, "Well, they don't want to play, I think one of them's a doctor or something... a real estate agent." It would be funny if it wasn't so pathetic. The more Neal, Dennis, and I got out there, the more they had to drop that sort of nonsense. Then we started doing things, like at Cooper's Town, then Neal and Dennis back east did a record signing thing back there with Alice. He couldn't ignore them anymore, the cat was out of the bag. What started it all was the 'No More Mr. Nice Guy' book. The whole thing that I thought was that everybody has heard Alice's opinion about everything all along, over and over. And wouldn't anybody like to hear ANOTHER side of the story? It's just MY opinion.
NHOR : Well, there's always different sides to every story...
MB : Absolutely. There's my side, your side, then the truth is somewhere in the middle. And they didn't like that at ALL. I think they had to change their attitude, they didn't want to do it at first, they just wouldn't see me. When Alice came to Texas, I sat up and argued with Toby for hours, then when I finally got in, I was mobbed at the front and I almost felt bad. Alice was playing and there was a whole bunch of people around me, which totally shocked and surprised me. It was like, if we'd been doing anything musically, Neal, Dennis and I, if we'd gotten back together and had really worked on it, we probably could've given Alice a run for his money. Even then, way after 'Battleaxe.'
But by then, Neal was tasting the fruit of his real estate, and he didn't want to do the uncertainty thing. He'd been there, done that. And, I don't blame him. Of course Neal's a character, too, and I like Brian Nelson, he's always been pretty good to me. Although there was this one little incident, when Billy James thought that somebody out in California would be interested in doing some outtakes of some stuff that I had. Next thing you know, they seized the tape because I was going to bootleg it. It was my own property anyway, I certainly couldn't have done that, I would've had to get licensing to put it out because I don't own the publishing. So that was kind of ridiculous. This was some Cooper stuff, some of it, like "Call It Evil" ended up on the coffin album, the "Life and Crimes" box set. Somebody asked me what I thought of that album, and I said I think that they did really well, they put together a good package, but there just wasn't enough pictures of Alice for me, I'm a big fan. (Laughs) But everybody's calmed down, and life goes on, the past is forgotten. Alice makes the music, and WE cash the checks. (Laughs)
NHOR : Have you ever thought about a movie about the band?
MB : Yeah, actually, I've thought of some great ideas for something like that. You know, have it like 'Almost Famous'. Where it's like what happens to the people, like when we left Phoenix, and we were like babes in the woods. All the stuff that goes on to the band, like the guy that took me to get chicken for the band when I was on acid, and ended up propositioning me to go spend time with him at his parent's summer house, he worked for Mercury Records. All this stuff that happened to all the members of the band, the rise up to that, and that would be kind of interesting. Another was kind of like 'The Doors' movie, the fame part, and at the end have a totally different ending, that doesn't end in reality, but goes on to be something really bizarre, like having it projected into the future, just get carried away with it. (Laughs) Have some new, young people playing the band as we go over to L.A. It'd be almost like 'That 70's Show' hits the road. (Laughs) The mind boggles, you can have a lot of fun with it. It just seems logical, Alice is a household word, an icon, he's up for defrocking. (Laughs) Oliver Stone would be good for that, but I'm sure he wouldn't be interested in doing another rock band.
NHOR : Who would you like to have play you in a movie about the band?
MB : God, I don't know. (Laughs) What's his name, the guy that married Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher? (Laughs) Yeah, why not.
NHOR : Since you and Glen were in the band, Alice has had numerous guitar players in his solo band. Have there been any that have particularly impressed you?
MB : Pete Friesen was great, and I love Ryan Roxie. You wouldn't even know he's short on stage. (Laughs) No, just kidding, he's a great guy, and he's always really warm to me. When I played Scotland, after Alice's show, they all came down, just hung out, drank with them. I'm just one of the guys, and we had a great time. I'm living vicariously through them. (Laughs)
NHOR : What's the performance that you're most proud of?
MB : You mean where I felt like so cool? (Laughs) Well, I've gotta say, I don't remember much of the show, but I remember when we were in the limos, and we were pulling down the limo ramp at The Forum, I think we sold out there, and they added a second night. I said, "What's that rumbling? Is there an earthquake or something?" It was the people, they were just going nuts. This was a half hour, an hour before we were even going to play. It was just too much, it was overwhelming. I felt real cool. (Laughs)
Like I said, I don't remember much of the show, I guess we were good. But the 'Billion Dollar Babies' had some great shows when we played. The only thing, and again, Shep brought in Joe Gannon, who worked with Neil Diamond, and developed this stage. Of course, we were the last ones to know about it. It was really awkward. They covered the stage with metal flakes, literally it was metal, not plastic. So watch out when you go by one of them. Your arm, your guitar, whatever, it'll slice and dice you. They put the poles where they had to be for what they made, not thinking about that people have to use this. Of course me, being Michael Bruce, the pain in the ass, I bitched and moaned because I got to talking with the guys, the roadies, how to set it up. I found out that all the problems that Dennis and I had were these two side cages that we were in, because of this one pole. Guess what? By just moving this one thing, and a couple of bolts, it can be supported on three sides. Because our cords would get wrapped around it and get ripped up. We weren't using wireless because they weren't invented yet. We had some real problems, getting scraped, cut. It could've been avoided. But who wants the opinion of the guys in the band? They're just playing on this stage. (Laughs)
So when it was presented to us, we're going, "Well, it looks interesting." Then we got up and it was like, "Hey Neal! What's it like over there?" We were so far apart, and there were these bars between us, so it was rough. About halfway through the tour, I remember on the plane, David Liebert stuffed a pillow in and did a chubby Michael Bruce, "I want this stage moved a half an inch," making fun of me. But they moved it, and it worked fine. But I had to complain and complain for the longest time to get it done. I guess it just pissed them off that I was right, and they did it. (Laughs)
NHOR : Speaking of the 'Billion Dollar Babies' tour, the film 'Good To See You Again Alice Cooper' is just being released on DVD. What are your recollections about making that?
MB : Oh, it's the Monkees reincarnated. That was part of the Bob Greene story, that we were out making this, here's this plot, we're on this camel, we're on this elephant, we're on this ostrich, being chased... and is this all there is? The most outrageous band in the world, we can't come up with anything better than this? You know what was really weird? The scene we did in the movie where Alice smashes a gravestone that says "Alice Cooper R.I.P."? It turns up on the 'Nightmare' special. So here I go, Mr. conspiracy theory... I think Shep, he got $100,000 from Penthouse to do 'Welcome To My Nightmare' for the movie. They just used a little of the money... the band being chased around outdoors, when actually what they were using it for was the filming of the special. Which was going on by the way, with the rehearsals, Ronnie Bolles, a roadie took me over there in the Warner Brothers soundstage. It was all hush hush, quiet quiet. I walked in there, and it was like you could've heard a pin drop. It was like, "Where's security?!" And the same thing happened to me, I was in New York, I was down at the Record Plant, and I heard, "Hey, do you know Alice is down there recording?" I said "No." "Well, it's not Alice, it's his band." This was all before we knew anything. I walked in, and there's Bob Ezrin, Hunter, Wagner, Prakash, Whitey, all these guys, and once again you could've heard a pin drop. Again, "Oh Oh, Hi.."
When we were up at Nimbus, we had written the stuff for 'Muscle Of Love,' we were going up to see Bob, and we'd had no idea that he'd had a nervous breakdown, and he was going through a divorce. When he came in, the first thing he said was, "No, No No, That's not how you want to do it." We were playing "Big Apple Dreaming." He started in, telling us how to play, we were like, "What, no hello?" He ended up leaving, and I wondered if that's what he was supposed to do. Shep took him in, played him all the Cooper albums, then played him 'Muscle Of Love,' and he gave him the budget for 'Nightmare.' Bob hadn't done 'The Wall," so he was not a legend yet. So, I guess he played ball for two albums.
NHOR : Were you consulted at all concerning the re-release of the DVD?
MB : Uh... no. Does that answer your question? (Laughs) Why would they want to talk to me? All I would do is point out that, "Excuse me, you're wrong." (Laughs) I mean Fred Smoot, the director, we'd get together and talk about the filming beforehand, the movie, the filming and all, read the script, and whenever he'd come into the room, he'd say, "Good to see you again Alice Cooper." Yet there was no name for the movie. And I said, "You know what, why don't we call the movie 'Good to see you again Alice Cooper?' " Everybody kind of went, "Yeah, okay." Fred was saying it, but I pointed it out, wouldn't that make a great title? So that's why nobody likes me. And all those cuts from the silent movie, you see there wasn't enough real stuff filmed. It was cheap to buy black & white copies of that stuff because the money went where? More smoke for 'Welcome To My Nightmare' (Laughs) And Dick Wagner needed a room with a king sized bed.
NHOR : Some of the performances on that are the same as the ones that were on the Deluxe remastered version of 'Billion Dollar Babies' that came out a few years ago. How do you rate your performance on that?
MB : That was a good night. I heard the recordings from it, and it was a really good night. It's probably just going to get better with the mix being digitally remastered. That's when Showco was doing the sound, and Artie King was mixing, and he did a good job. Glen is (a) turned down in the mix, (b) not mic'd or (c) other. (Laughs) Fill in your own blank. But the lighting was pretty dark, because most of the budget went to the "Welcome To My Nightmare" special, so they couldn't afford the lights. But anyway, it probably adds to the mystery of it. I thought it was a good show.
NHOR : Do you have any idea when Warner is going to release any of the remasters of the early albums?
MB: Maybe you can tell me. Brian told me awhile back that there was going to be the MEGA box set, that was going to have like 19-20 songs digitally remastered. Then I heard that heads changed at Warner Brothers, that there were some changes in the players there, and then that was not the case. It was just put on hold. Then I didn't know anything about this DVD thing until a few months ago. I had heard that there was going to be the mega box set, and they were looking for a name for it. Brian asked me to contribute, if I had any stuff, then I just chimed out. I did that thing for the 'Life and Crimes' box set, and like I said I thought it was great, but there wasn't enough pictures of Alice, so why am I going to submit pictures that will never get shown anyway? (Laughs) Although with the 'Billion Dollar Babies' album, they rose to the occasion with the perforated picture, that was great. I thought if they did the CD re-issue of 'School's Out,' they could put little panties on the CD. Wouldn't that be cool? Did I mention to you that the calendar for 'Killer' was the millenium? That was too much to be imagined. They should've came out with that on the millenium. That would've been a great heads up.
NHOR : There's so much on those early albums musically that would benefit from the newer technology since they were first put out. There's certainly a demand for them to be reissued Michael...
MB : I keep hearing that, and everybody tells me there's a huge Alice Cooper following. I don't see Alice selling a lot of records these days though. But I know that he's touring a lot, so what's going on? Is there a big chasm?
NHOR : What is your opinion on why either the original band, or Alice, haven't been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?
MB : Well it was explained to me that there's kind of a PG type thing going on there now. They've gotten pretty much everybody they can before rock and roll started taking the turn that it did towards a darker side. They don't think that's going to be selling it as much as a family destination. So, they've held back. Alice has done everything but buy stock in the place. They've got a guillotine there... I'm surprised him and Shep haven't bought it. (Laughs) Well you know, Iggy isn't in yet, I don't think the Moody Blues are in, what's up with that? Whoever's doing the voting, evidently they're the wrong people. They must be from another country or something. I don't know quite how they do that in determining the nominees. I remember reading something, it was on the internet about the scam where one of the guys whose record company was on that got his artists into the Hall Of Fame. He was on the board of directors. Black Sabbath's not in there yet, right?
NHOR : No, not yet, they've finally been nominated this year but still not inducted...
MB : Well see, that's the dark side of rock and roll there, I guess they don't want to take it down that road. Alice, he wants to be in there, he wants to be immortalized. Like he isn't already? (Laughs) It's funny when you watch MTV, or listen to the radio, and you hear, "Today Dave Mustaine turns 40." We had all these hit records, but you'll never hear my birthday on there, or Neal's, or Dennis's. (Laughs) Well, I guess we missed that boat.
NHOR : If you'd come along 10 years later that'd be a different story...
MB : Yeah, but we were ahead of our time. We wouldn't have had the impact, I don't think, that we did. You can't shock anybody anymore, but we could because we did it when we did it. If we'd been any later, we would've just been part of the huddling masses. We would've been just another "Shock Rock" band. And at the time, it seemed like we weren't that controversial to ourselves. You had guys like Arthur Brown jumping around with fire on his head, Jimi Hendrix, and Morrison, we thought that was outrageous. We stepped it up a notch in our own unique showmanship way.
It's funny to see some that came after, some that cop to it, and there are others that don't. There was a guy who played in the original David Bowie band, before Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. He, David Bowie and another guy went to the thing that we did at Piccadilly Circus in '72, we had sort of a circus thing, they had the big naked girl with the large breasts and the cake. David Bowie was there, and his bass player said that when he left there, the next day, he was just a folk singer then, the next day he was Ziggy Stardust. But when asked about Alice Cooper he said, "Alice Who?"(Laughs)
NHOR : You guys were Glam before there was even the term "Glam Rock"...
MB : Yeah, we beat T Rex and all those, but we thought English bands coming over to Arizona in the 60's were pretty glam. But it wasn't quite the glam that we had, it wasn't the Grand glam. (Laughs) Which is not to be confused with the Grand Slam at Denny's. (Laughs) We did kick it up a notch, and then some.
NHOR : What has been your most "Spinal Tap" moment?
MB : Well, we were on stage, we were hanging Alice, I don't remember which night it was, or where in the tour it was, but it was relatively early in the 'Killer' tour. Glen was the hangman, Neal, Dennis and I had torches, we were dragging him up there, and we pulled the thing and Alice doesn't fall. He starts jumping up and down as hard as he can, and we're all standing around going, "What do we do now?" (Laughs) Looking at each other like, "Hey, I thought this guy was well hung?" Finally, he manages to break the thing through, and dropped down in there. It was quite funny. (Laughs) Alice was the last person to try the guillotine, he was very frightened of it. We all were like, "Look Alice, see?" Chuuunk...nothing to it. It was at this big, dramatic moment, and well, I guess not.
NHOR : In the current music scene, are there any bands or artists that have caught your interest?
MB : Yeah, but a lot of these they don't tell who they were, they'll play a bunch of stuff and you don't know who it was. I kind of like Jet, their single that came out. You know who I really liked, and it wasn't rock and roll, was Dirty Vegas. The three guys that went in, sort of disco music, they did a version of 'The Wall'. Their first album was pretty neat. What happened to Moby? Was he finally eaten by Venusians? (Laughs) They come and go so fast. And they thought it was going to be 15 minutes of fame?(Laughs)
NHOR : What advice if any, would you give to someone who's just starting out in the business?
MB : Get out. (Laughs) Man, I feel for people trying to do it now. Your decision, "Should I really learn to play an instrument?" Or should I just go with my natural talents and do a reality thing? Or pretend I have amnesia and pretend I'm lost like The "Piano Man" like what was on '60 Minutes.' Can I make it with true talent? I'd just say I'd chuck the whole thing. (Laughs) Get a regular job, like I have, and enjoy life. It's pretty daunting now. I mean, I see that INXS band sitting up there like "The Gods Of Rock And Roll." Their answers... and I'm watching them, and going, "You know what? You guys should all be taken out and shot." How many records have you had, and you're not even from this country, get outta here. (Laughs) You're so pathetic that your lead singer hung himself. (Laughs) And I don't even own any of your records, I don't even know what your hit was.
These people are trying to live up to the expectation of these guys, I can hardly watch that show. But more power to them, they pulled it off, they get a TV show. But I guess people who are songwriters today persevere right on through it. They're bulletproof, and they're going to do their thing, somebody's going to stumble over them. I have every respect for the journey that they're embarking on, and I wish them well. Practice, practice, practice. Location, location, location, I guess. (Laughs) Write songs that move you, and they'll move other people. Make sure there's melody and hooks in there.