When Alice Cooper takes over the late-night tent at Bonnaroo next month, he plans to come out swinging. “If you’re in the first 20 rows, you’ll probably get some blood on you,” Cooper told reporters on a conference call about the festival. “When we get up onstage, my band has the instruction: kill the audience.”
Cooper knows that Bonnaroo’s younger attendees might be unfamiliar with his theatrics, and he plans to capitalize on it by relishing in the grisly onstage persona that he’s been mining for more than four decades now. “We’re old school,” Cooper tells Rolling Stone. “We’re going to go up there and just be Alice. I don’t go up there with the attitude of, ‘Gosh, I hope you like me tonight.’ I go up there to grab them by the throat and shake ’em. And when they get done, hopefully they’re going to go, ‘What was that?'”
Cooper keeps up with major music festivals by reading about them in the press, but Bonnaroo in particular caught his attention during a flight from Nashville a couple years ago. A group of kids sitting nearby on the plane happened to be returning from the festival, and they were recapping the highlights. “They were talking about all the bands at Bonnaroo, bands I’ve never heard of,” recalls Cooper. “And then the guy says, ‘I liked the old, blind, black guy'” – in reference to Stevie Wonder.
At 64, Cooper says he still feels on top of his game and isn’t ready to pass the torch to any new bands. “I’m not one of those guys that sits around in their rocking chair going, ‘Well, in my day …,’ and, ‘They just don’t write them like that anymore,'” explains Cooper. “But I’m starting to get a little discouraged … I read the articles and I go, ‘This is the greatest new band!’ And then I look at ’em and I go, ‘There’s an accordion in the band. Come on!’
“I champion all the new bands,” adds Cooper. “I just hope that this generation gets a big shot of testosterone, because a lot of the bands just don’t seem like they want to be rock stars. I listen to these bands and I look at them and I go, ‘Well, okay, they buy their clothes at the Gap.’ And they’re kind of, like, very timid. It’s almost like folk-rock rather than hard rock. So I’m looking for the bands that are garage bands – the next Guns N’ Roses, the next Nirvana. Those are the bands with some energy that I want to see.”
Until he finds suitable heirs, Cooper says his show is still the one to beat – even at a festival with jam band roots. “I always like to put Alice where he doesn’t belong,” he says. “The guillotine, the whole thing. And my band is probably the best band I’ve ever had. So it’s going to be the highest-energy thing to see all night.”