One of the things we love about Alice Cooper is that he’s a genuine horror geek with a big love for a lot of ghoulish stuff. That includes the original Dark Shadows. He was so excited to be in Tim Burton’s remake that he invited us to ring him up to talk about the show, his role in the film and vampires in general. Here’s what The Coop’ had to say…
1. What do you remember about the original Dark Shadows during its original run?
The strange thing about Dark Shadows is that it was in the ’70s and everybody was watching All My Children and General Hospital and all this stuff, but then here’s the same storyline but it’s all vampires, witches and ghosts. And this was before vampires were hip! Somehow, in the ’70s, this show snuck in and became a real cult hit. Kids would come home from school and could not wait to see what happened to the Collins Family. And at three o’clock, I was like, “I gotta go and see what’s happening on Dark Shadows.”
2. The theatricality inherent to the show recalls your own stage show in many ways – did Dark Shadows ever influence anything you put into your shows?
It was extremely gothic and very sexy. The whole Goth thing back then – kind of dark and shadowy and fairly scary but elegant and good looking – and there was something about that. Alice was that in rock ‘n’ roll. I was probably the Barnabas Collins of rock ‘n’ roll! I see the connection there. Of course, we were doing this before Dark Shadows. So when I saw it, I connected with the show, but I didn’t pick up anything I hadn’t already seen.
3. You got involved with the new film because you’ve known Tim Burton for a while now, right?
I see him all the time, we meet up all the time and we certainly have the same background; we talk about horror movies that we love – and Johnny too. It’s pretty much the same list – we talk about Dwight Frye and about what movies really affect us, like Carnival of Souls and The Haunting, those great black and white movies. We’ve all kind of cut from the same cloth on that one. … Dark Shadows was the perfect fit for Tim because he could take now and run with it, re-stylize it the way he would do it.
4. Tell us about playing yourself in the film. How did they make you 40 years younger?
Without killing the plot at all, let’s just say it happens in 1972. The daughter, played by Chloë Moretz, is having a party, and who does she want at the party? It’s 1972 and the hottest band in the world right then was Alice Cooper. So I play Alice Cooper 1972. It’s odd, I thought it would be CGI, but it wasn’t. They spent a whole day on the [makeup] and then I look in the mirror and it’s 1972, through the magic of movie making. I told them, “Can I keep this?’”
5. What is Tim Burton’s set like? You’ve got a bunch of people who have worked together many times before and the atmosphere seems very playful.
It’s very much that. It’s work, but he kept it fun for everybody. Being in a Tim Burton movie is fun enough, even though it’s a lot of work, but the cast, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloë and Johnny Depp, Johnny Miller and some of the cast from the original Dark Shadows.
6. Depp joined you onstage recently, as well. How did he stack up?
He was our guitar player. When he came to Hollywood, he was a guitar player. He came there with his band, he didn’t come as an actor. I kept tabs on him as a guitarist. He’s a really cool guy. His whole family was there and they’re really, really nice people. The thing is, I did a big thing with the Foo Fighters, I went up and sang with them on a few songs, and Depp was there and I told him we were going to do a club show the next night, at The Hunter Club – the Yardbirds played there, the Rolling Stones played there, everybody’s played this little club. I said, “We’re not going to play an Alice Cooper show, we’re going to be a bar band.” He showed up with his own guitar and amp and did “Eighteen” and “School’s Out,” and he’s a really good guitar player.”
7. You’ve said in past interviews that your favourite vampire is Barlow from Salem’s Lot. Why is that?
You’ve got all these vampires out there that are slinky, sort-of sexual characters, and that’s fun, but the Barlow character is much more like the Nosferatu vampire, except that the makeup and the way [the character was portrayed] was pure evil. It literally sent chills up my spine, and I don’t scare easy. I saw the movie and I was expecting it; through the whole movie James Mason keeps saying, “Mr. Barlow would love to meet you,” and you never see him at first, but then there’s this one scene where his whole face takes up the screen and he’s got pink eyes, and he’s bald-headed and he’s got those two teeth in front, and it literally takes your breath away. That whole movie is so well done for a made-for-TV movie. I can name you five or six different scenes that are classic scenes, like when David Soul is trying to tie the two tongue depressors together to try to make a cross, and the woman behind him is rising up. And the music builds up at the exact right time – the music is such a big part of that movie in making it really scary. The kid floating outside, the guy in the rocking chair going [whispers] “Teacher…teacher… .” Every bit of it is great.