Scott Kara talks to Alice Cooper about what to expect at his latest nightmare concert.>
Your worst nightmare is coming back to haunt you - and the original evil prince of rock, Alice Cooper, plans on giving you a double dose of horror.
He'll be here in person next week, playing West Auckland's Trusts Stadium on his No More Mr Nice Guy: The Original Evil Returns tour and he also releases his 26th album, Welcome 2 My Nightmare, the sequel to his classic 1975 LP.
That earlier album, Welcome To My Nightmare, was his first solo record following the dissolution of the classic Alice Cooper band line-up, also made up of guitarists Glen Buxton and Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith.
Together they released four classic Cooper albums - including 1971's Killer and the iconic School's Out in '72 - but then decided to go their separate ways.
"Most bands break up when they are angry with each other, with lawsuits flying, but when our band broke up we were too good friends to do that. Everybody wanted to go in different musical directions.
"I said to them, 'I've got an idea and it's going to be bigger, and more expensive than [1973's] Billion Dollar Babies - and I think that's where I lost them," he laughs.
Welcome To My Nightmare was done with long-time collaborator-producer Bob Ezrin and Cooper took "every last penny I had" and poured it into the making. The resulting concept album - that later morphed into a television special, tour and concert film - played out the nightmares of a young lad named Steven.
In 2011, it's come full circle, with Ezrin on board again and Dunaway, Bruce, and Smith reuniting with their old mate for three songs.
"We said 'let's give Alice a new nightmare'. And I kind of look at it this way, that first nightmare was from the perspective of a 7-year-old, and when you're that age and the lights go out at night you are pretty sure there is something in the closet. And you're pretty sure there is something under your bed and that your toys are going to come to life. The best way for all this to go away is to go to sleep. And so I turned myself into a 7-year-old boy.
"So that nightmare was a classic sort of nightmare. So we said, 'what would be a nightmare to Alice 35 years on?"'
Well, things like disco music, which is lambasted in Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever (like Alice doing Eminem-meets-Chic). Also in his nightmare the devil is a woman - or in this case, devilish pop diva Ke$ha, with whom he duets on What Baby Wants. She sings: "I'll drain your veins and bathe in your blood".
"That kid's got a dark side, which I kinda like," says Cooper who met Ke$ha at the last Grammy Awards and took her under his wing.
It's a more diverse album than the original, taking in the pop of What Baby Wants, through to solid rock songs like the charmingly named Bite Your Face Off and stomper Caffeine. Then there's Last Man On Earth, which Cooper reckons sounds like a Tom Waits song.
He plans on putting together a stage production for Welcome 2 My Nightmare for next year but on the current tour he will be playing some new songs - as well as the hits.
"We do a world tour every year," he says. "And I do all the hits, but it's just how you decorate the hits and every year we do it a little differently. I think last time they killed me five times on stage. This year it's a classic guillotine, but it's an entirely different set-up."
The hits include the big ones, like breakthrough song I'm Eighteen, School's Out, Billion Dollar Babies, and late-80s mega hit Poison, but what keeps it fresh for Cooper and his band is trawling the back catalogue to play favourites and other gems such as the psychedelic and trippy Halo of Flies and Hey Stoopid, the gonzo metal title track to his 19th album, released way back in 1991.
It was two years ago to the month that he was last in Auckland, a wild show not only for the fact Cooper died four (maybe five) times during the course of the show but because one rabid fan fell off the balcony into the stalls at the Aotea Centre.
"We rarely have something like that happen," he says with that serious cackle of his. Which is odd, considering the years of excess Cooper has lived through (he's now sober) and the thousands of dangerous shows he's done since starting out in the 60s, which have included hangings, beheadings, and drinking chicken blood on stage.
"Maybe he [the fan] was drinking too much, because usually the audience are watching the show so intently. We keep them interested and don't give them any down time."
The thing about the 63-year-old is his endearing passion for his music and the business of being Alice Cooper. He loves it. Be it reeling off the tour schedule - "we're in Phoenix, Arizona, it's about 111 degrees. We've done South America, we just finished Europe, we're just finishing off half the States and then we're in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Jakarta, and back to Europe" - or enthusing about how his shows don't have any violence, just plenty of horror, gore, and glam and then gushing about his new guitarist, Orianthi (Michael Jackson's former guitarist).
"I told her right upfront, 'I can guarantee you three things: you will see the world, you're gonna get paid and you're probably going to get stitches'.
"She is such a great guitar player. You know, girls play like girls, but this is a girl who is just an exception. She plays like a guy - in the middle of the fret board and [she] really gets that great tone. She plays like Joe Perry or Slash and that's what I really love."
Who: Alice Cooper
Where & when: Trusts Stadium, Auckland, Thursday
New album: Welcome 2 My Nightmare, out Friday
See also: Love It To Death (1971), Killer (1971), School's Out (1972), Billion Dollar Babies (1973)