Alice Cooper has been embedded into the Valley since he moved here in the late 1960s, but that doesn’t mean that his heart isn’t in his home state of Michigan.
“Go Lions!” he exclaims as he hangs up the phone.
This forthcoming album is a love letter to Detroit. He used Detroit musicians like drummer Johnny “Bee” Badanjek; guitarists Mark Farner and Wayne Kramer; along with Motown session musicians.
“It’s a tip of the hat to Detroit,” says Cooper, calling from Huntsville, Alabama. “For some reason, with Detroit musicians, there’s a certain amount of R&B in guitar playing, in the drums, in the bass. They can’t get away from it. It’s built in—even with the hard rock stuff.”
He’ll spend 2020 promoting that, but this holiday season, his efforts are in Phoenix where he’ll host the Christmas Pudding Fundraiser at 7 p.m. Saturday, December 14, at the Celebrity Theatre.
Cooper’s signature event will bring together Michael Bruce, Neal Smith and Dennis Dunaway from the original Alice Cooper Band. Other guests include Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford of Paradise Valley; guitarist extraordinaire Joe Bonamassa; Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme; musician/comedian Gary Mule Deer; Cooper’s guitarist Nita Strauss; Mark Slaughter of Slaughter; and comedian Jim Breuer.
“Every year, I try to get an entirely different lineup,” Cooper says. “I thought, ‘Who haven’t we had on the show?’ Bonamassa is going to be great. He’s one of the greatest guitar players of all time. Rob Halford, the guys from Extreme, the original Alice Cooper Band, Jim Breuer, Gary Mule Deer, Mark Slaughter, and we invited Nita Strauss and her boyfriend, who plays the drums. They have an album out. She was just voted one of the best female guitarists in the world. She’s going to come up and do a couple songs.
“We make it very loose. Everybody can sit in with everybody. I’ve invited Johnny Depp. He’s been to the Pudding five or six times. If he wants to drop in, he can.”
Depp and Alice Cooper, along with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, perform as the Hollywood Vampires, who return to the road in the spring.
“The Hollywood Vampires is entirely different than my show,” Cooper says. “We’re one of the last hard rock bands out there. It’s fun. The Alice Cooper show is much more produced like a storyline. I call the Vampires ‘the world’s most expensive bar band.’
“The Alice Cooper band never talks to the audience until the end of the show. I don’t want Alice to be human. I want him to be a character. In the Vampires shows, I tell stories about Jim Morrison, The Who and John Lennon. That’s the nature of the show.”
Proceeds benefit the free music, dance, arts and vocational programs for teens ages 12 to 20 at Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Teen Center.
“You’re never going to run out of teenagers who have the potential to go left or right,” Cooper says.
“They’re going to go in a really good direction or a damning sorts of direction where they’re going to get shot or go to jail. I try to give those same kids the opportunity to come in and try to learn art and dance, but mostly they come in to learn guitar, bass and drums. Everything is free.”
The Solid Rock Teen Center sees about 100 children a day and Cooper sees them work.
“I’ll see kids who transform from negative to being positive kids,” he says. “I just love seeing the progression. I’ll see a kid pick up a guitar and three years later, he’s a lead guitarist in a band.
“He’s more addicted to that and he has a career in front of him, rather than saying, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ll just sell drugs.’ I’m not saying every teen is like that. Some are born into it. I like the idea of the kids coming in from the worst parts of town and the rich parts of town and the common denominator is music. They say, ‘Why don’t we put a band together?’”
Solid Rock Teen Center is a Christian nonprofit, but Cooper says, he and his staff don’t press guests about religion.
“We’re not sitting around beating you over the head with a Bible,” he says. “We’re not judging anybody. This is open for you. Come on in.”
Alice Cooper’s Christmas Pudding Fundraiser
The Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd Street, Phoenix, 602.267.1600, celebritytheatre.com, 7 p.m. Saturday, December 14, $50-$220.