Alice Cooper has discussed the changing landscape of performance, looking back on the Alice Cooper Band’s “shock rock” tactic and how it mightn’t work today.
Alice Cooper’s band’s first album was released in 1969, but the band formed all the way back in 1964. During their earlier shows, the band would use copious amounts of snakes, blood and guillotines in order to provoke a reaction.
Cooper, along with contemporaries such as Arthur Brown and predecessors such as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, pioneered the combination of horror theatrics with rock, blues and metal – and paved the way for bands like Kiss and Gwar.
Speaking to The Independent, Cooper said: “We gave the audience everything their parents hated,” he told the Independent. “The way we saw it, if you’re driving by and you see Disneyland on the left side and a plane wreck on the right, you’re going to look at the plane wreck. We were that plane wreck.”
However, the musician also said the approach wouldn’t work now as audiences are used to seeing shocking theatrics on stage, at least paired with rock.
“You could cut off your arm and eat it on stage and it wouldn’t matter,” he explained. “The audience is shockproof.”
While Cooper didn’t elaborate on why audiences would be indifferent to this twice-performable stunt, it’s safe to say that the intensity of rock and metal theatrics has increased significantly since the 1960s. The explosion of punk in the subsequent decade, heavy metal’s penchant for blood and blasphemy and the performances of GG Allin have perhaps skewed what’s considered “shocking” on a stage.
The interview comes ahead of Cooper’s latest record, Detroit Stories, set to be released 26 February.
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