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The Washington Post, Published June 14 2013

Musician Alice Cooper doesn't live that way anymore

Menacing stage props and theatrical antics have been par for the course for Alice Cooper since the late ‘60s. The shock rock pioneer paved the way for Madonna's pop excess, Rob Zombie's horror-movie camp and Lady Gaga's headline-fetching outfits. On his current tour, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer shares billing with the most notorious shock rock persona of the ‘90s, Marilyn Manson.

“It's the tour that people have been waiting for — the teacher and the mentor, the whole thing,” says Cooper, 65. “The two shows work well together, though, it's great. His show is more of a really raw, industrial, dark kind of a show, whereas Alice is much more of a Vaudevillian classic — in some places, it's really scary, and in the next places it's slapstick — and it's pure classic rock.”

Q: How did the tour come together?

A: I did a tour with Rob Zombie, and in rock-and-roll, there are three monsters: Alice is Dracula, Zombie is the Werewolf and Manson is Frankenstein. When we do tours together, it's like Dracula versus Frankenstein, or the Werewolf versus Dracula, and then sometimes it's Abbott and Costello, but all three shows are really good rock shows. It's not boring in the least bit, it's a visual feast.

Q: Do you generally try to keep up with other elaborately staged performances?

A: We did some things with Slipknot, and anytime someone is doing something new, I try to see it. I went to see Lady Gaga, and I said, jeez, this is really good. She basically does what I do. I created a character, Alice Cooper, and I write songs for that character. I perform as that character, but I'm not that character. Gaga does the same. She created her own character, she writes the song, and she writes the show and she performs it as Gaga. There's a separate life there, and I think that's maybe the only way you can survive that.

Q: Do you find there are some people who don't separate life and performance very well?

A: People always ask me about why Jimi [Hendrix], Janis [Joplin] and Jim Morrison all died at 27. I say, “Well, they were trying to be Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison all the time, and you can't.” The fact that Jim Morrison got to 27 is a miracle. You can't do that much abuse to yourself and survive. When he was onstage or writing, he was absolutely brilliant. . . . So, these guys were my best friends, they were my big brothers, and they were falling off one by one. So, I started to realize we were the next generation — me and Ozzy and Steven Tyler were the next generation. I can see the problem there, and I started to figure it out.

Q: Did everybody figure it out?

A: Yeah, and I can say that because we're all here. We're all in our 60s now, and we're still touring, we're still doing the big shows. I've got more energy now than I did when I was 30. I mean, there was a different work ethic then. Our big brothers died at 27 and we're in our 60s, so we had to have learned something. Look at Iggy Pop. Keith Richards, how is he still alive?

Q: He seems immortal.

A: If there's ever a nuclear war or a meteor hits the world and it's over, there'll [still] be cockroaches and Keith Richards.

Q: As an avowed Christian, do you have any issues touring with the author of “Antichrist Superstar”?

A: You know, the funny thing about it is, I never have approached [Manson] about anything on that. I've defended my faith and he defends his, so we meet in the middle somewhere. I stay away from politics and religion onstage, but it's an interesting talk when we talk to each other. It's basically about how do you separate the character from daily life? We both have different views on how that works, and I told him, “What I think is, eventually you're going to have to separate it.” In order to fuel that 24-hour character, you either have to drink or drug yourself into it, and pretty soon that won't last. I tried it, and I was on my way out just trying to maintain the character. I had to say, “I'm going to play this character, I'm not going to be this character.”

Q: As a recovering alcoholic, does being around drug and alcohol abuse make touring difficult?

A: When I came out of the hospital, it was a whole different thing. I was the classic alcoholic, my doctor said I was a textbook alcoholic. He said, “You drink in order to get things done, it's like a medicine for you.” I said, “You're right.” I was always on a golden buzz — I drank all day, but I never slurred my speech or anything. When I came out of the hospital, I kept waiting for the craving to come, and it never came. It was a miracle. I tell people I'm not a cured alcoholic, I'm a healed alcoholic. I never went to AA or anything like that, and I give all credit to God for that. Even the doctor said, “This is a miracle that you're not falling back on alcohol every time there's a stressful situation.”

Q: You've put out a lot of records — 28 studio albums at this point — how do you approach putting together a set list?

A: It's the hardest thing in the world. Well, I thought it was hard for me until I went and saw [Paul] McCartney. I saw his set list backstage, and it was 38 songs. Every single song was something I wanted to hear. He said, “Well, that's our odd number days. Here's our even number days.” And it was just as good.

So, we play 28 songs from different eras. You have to play the hits, that's what people came for — there's 14 songs right there. And then you think, “What do the hardcore fans want to hear? What will surprise them?”

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For more information on the Alice Cooper/Marilyn Manson tour, go to http://alicecooper.com/tour-terror.