I've been waiting until I get the CD to listen to all the tracks, but Alice lead off his local radio show last night with "My Dead Drunk Friends"!!! And after hearing it, I've got one thing to say: HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES RULE!!!!
Unread postby fireflydances » Sat Sep 12, 2015 7:23 pm
That was excellent! I really enjoyed that, lots of information about the old days. And a nice feel of mellowness to the three of them. I really do feel as though I just got through talking to them. Thank you emma!!
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies
Alice Cooper and Joe Perry on Hollywood Vampires' Drunk History How two rock legends teamed with Johnny Depp to create an album that paid tribute to Cooper's old drinking club
By Kory Grow
September 3, 2015
Alice Cooper and Joe Perry have every right to be jaded. Each has sold millions of records and chalked up hits over several decades. But their eyes still light up when they talk about the recent adventure they shared, recording with one of their childhood heroes.
"Paul McCartney just opened up an instrument case and there's his Hofner, left-handed bass, the most famous guitar in the world," Cooper says, grinning. "We were standing around it like Indiana Jones looking at it, like it's got its own light source and our faces are melting over it."
"I asked him a question about it, and he said, 'Here it is. It's OK. Pick it up,'" the Aerosmith guitarist beams. "I actually got a chance to hold it, and it was like the Holy Grail."
"Paul says, 'It's just a piece of wood,' and starts playing it and I said, 'Holy crap!'" Cooper rejoins in his typically confident manner. "To us, that bass a symbol of how we started."
The rockers have been thinking a lot about how they got started in recent years, while they worked on the debut album by Hollywood Vampires, a supergroup they formed with Johnny Depp (yes, that Johnny Depp). Although the record contains two urgent-sounding bloodthirsty originals — three, if you count the intro, in which late horror icon Christopher Lee recites a passage from Dracula — the heart of it is a collection of gritty, hard-edged covers of songs by the trio's peers and inspirations: the Who, Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and more. McCartney happened to stop by Depp's house, where they were recording, to sing a tune he wrote for Badfinger in 1969, "Come and Get It," and the album — out September 11th — also features guest appearances by Joe Walsh, AC/DC's Brian Johnson, Dave Grohl, Slash and Perry Farrell, among many others. What they all have in common is a set of musical roots.
"We were both the same age when we started playing," the 67-year-old, perennially black-clad and surprisingly perky shock-rocker says, gesturing at Perry, who is three years his junior and looks relaxed with a loose, white scarf around his neck. The musicians are sitting on a couch overlooking Manhattan and, though it's the decidedly un-vampiric hour of 9 a.m., both are sprightly and eager to parse just how all the parts of the project fell into place. "We learned the first two Stones albums, the first two Yardbirds albums, the Kinks," the singer continues. "That's how we learned to play and then we invented Alice Cooper and you invented what Aerosmith was going to be from that. Now, when we're doing these songs, it comes pretty easy."
It also came easy for Depp, age 52, who met Cooper in 2011 on the London set of Dark Shadows, the Tim Burton–directed movie in which the actor portrayed (presciently) a vampire and Cooper played another famous fictional villain: himself. When they got to talking, they realized they had more in common than was apparent, namely a love of British Invasion bands and the blues.
It's a really long article, so I'll hide the rest. Good reading, though! ~ Theresa
► Show Spoiler
The actor was slugging it out as a guitarist in bands well before making his big-screen debut in 1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street. He'd gotten his first instrument at age 12, stole a chord book, dropped out of high school three years later and eventually moved from Florida to L.A. to open for Iggy Pop and the Talking Heads with a poppy new-wave group called the Kids. Video of them playing the Romantics' "What I Like About You" in 1982 exists online. When Cooper got wind that Depp was still playing, he invited him to join him at a gig at London's 100 Club, where they played "I'm Eighteen" and "School's Out."
"He comes in and he plays with us, and he knows everything," Cooper says emphatically. "No matter what people yelled out, he knew it. 'Brown Sugar?' 'Yeah, yeah.' We realized this guy could play." The actor, who was unavailable for this interview, has in the years since become much more active with music, playing gigs with Marilyn Manson, Aerosmith, Patti Smith and, most recently, Gene Simmons. And after jamming with Cooper, he invited the "Feed My Frankenstein" singer over to his house.
"We started saying, 'Let's do an album,'" he continues. "I'd never done a covers record so I said, 'I'd like to do one in honor of all our dead drunk friends, the guys that we used to drink with that are now gone.'" In the early Seventies, Cooper was a member of a loose-knit drinking club called the Hollywood Vampires that would congregate at the Sunset Strip outpost the Rainbow. "It was Harry Nilsson, John Lennon and Keith Moon and a bunch of guys," Cooper says. "I told Johnny, 'They're all dead now. Let's do an homage to them.'"
As it happened, Perry was staying on Depp's estate at the time, working on his memoir, Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith, which came out last year. "I was staying literally next door to his studio," says the guitarist, who is soft-spoken compared to Cooper. "So when I would finish working on the book, I would just wander over and they would be doing sessions. Johnny said, 'Hey, you wanna be part of this?' I was like, twist my arm, this was so great. I feel like I'm an honorary member because I was the last guy to join."
"Joe would come down and start playing, and I went, 'There's the band, right there,'" Cooper says. "We've got two guitar players that sing, now we need a drummer and a bass player, and then everybody started emerging. We just rocked it."
The original Hollywood Vampires, Cooper's cronies, took up drinking together in the early Seventies, when Cooper was flying high with hits like "School's Out" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy." His drinking buddies over the years included Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, but at the peak of the Vampires they most included Ringo Starr, the Monkees' Micky Dolenz and songwriter Bernie Taupin, along with Moon, Nilsson and occasionally Lennon. The Rainbow allowed the crew to have their own private loft, which displayed a plaque that proclaimed it "The Lair of the Hollywood Vampires." It listed Cooper, who had a legendary proclivity for imbibing alcohol at the time, as president and Moon as veep.
"The reason we went to the Rainbow every night was to see what Keith was gonna show up as," Cooper says. "He took a lot of time to go out and rent costumes. One day, he shows up and he's in full Queen of England garb." The singer pantomimes Her Royal Highness' grimace and signature dainty wave. "Two weeks later, full-out Hitler, and another night he's fully in drag as a French maid," Cooper recalls. "You're going, 'Wow, this is just another day in his life.'
"He'd wear you out," the singer continues. "If he came to your house and stayed, that week was like, 'Holy crap, I need a vacation,' because he was so intense. He'd stay at my house for two weeks, then he'd go to Harry's for two weeks and then Ringo's for two weeks. Those two weeks would be Hellzapoppin'. But he was also the coolest and funniest guy."
As for the other core members of the club, Dolenz lived next door to Cooper and was also one of the singer's golf buddies, and Taupin was the vocalist's best friend, so they would see each other almost every night. The two Beatles weren't as regular as the others, but attended frequently enough to be members, as did Nilsson. The way to join to the group, as Cooper has bragged, was to out-drink the other members. He explains, that's when he would see what kind of drunks his friends were.
"Everybody's personality changes a little bit when they drink," he says. "I was always the Dean Martin guy; I had the golden buzz, always laughing. I was never the depressed drunk. John and Harry, they would drink, and they could get after each other. If one guy said black, the other guy said white. If one guy said Democrat, the other said Republican. Pretty soon, I'm standing between them going, 'Guys, sit down.' They were the best of friends, but when they drank, they liked to get political and talk about religion and everything else that causes fights. It was funny because neither one was a fighter; they just had a belligerent streak in them every once in a while. Most of the time they were laughing."
Cooper recalls the Hollywood Vampires as having a clubhouse vibe, where only very rarely did these famous musicians talk about music. "We were in music all the time, so if you weren't making an album, you were touring," he says. "If you weren't touring, you were doing something else. So to have a night off from that, the last thing you wanted to talk about was music. You talked about cars and other people."
Photos from one gathering of the Hollywood Vampires, which took place at an Anne Murray concert in November 1973, picture Lennon, Nilsson, Cooper and Dolenz smiling like they were having the times of their lives. Today, the latter two in the photo are the last Vampires standing.
Cooper, who got sober in 1982, looks back at the group's friendships fondly. The last time he saw John Lennon, at one of the former Beatle's concerts before he stopped playing live in the mid-Seventies, is a particularly good memory. "I walked back and he goes, 'Am I still a vampire?'" Cooper recalls. "And I go, 'I smell blood.' And he's, 'I'm a vampire. Yeah!'"
But he also knows he couldn't keep up with the Vampire lifestyle. "I've thought back on it, 'Well, that was a great time,' even though it was the beginning of the end of my drinking career," Cooper says. "When you're an alcoholic, in the back of your mind, you know that it's a death wish. No matter how you disguise it, every time you have another drink, you're closer to the grave. So to me, being able to survive it, I felt, in some way I should document it."
Johnny Depp plays a mid-paced metallic blues riff on Hollywood Vampires' closing track, which is titled after one of Cooper's favorite turns of phrase lately, "Dead Drunk Friends." "I'm raising my glass and tossing it back but I can't remember why," he sings, "So let's have another for all of my brothers who drank until they died." The song is far from maudlin. In the middle, it turns into a pirate chantey with Cooper, Depp and their blood-sucking brethren getting into the spirit of the original Vampires: "We drink and we fight and we fight and we puke and we puke and we fight and we drink... and then we die."
"I think it came out with a good sense of humor," Cooper says. "It wasn't morbid, I don't think. 'My dead drunk friends,' they would have laughed at that. It was their sense of humor."
Unlike the original Vampires, this collective was a sober affair. Perry and his Aerosmith foil, Steven Tyler, earned the nickname the "Toxic Twins" partly because of their extracurricular partying but both quit drinking in the early Eighties. Depp, who told Rolling Stone in 2013 that he never considered himself an alcoholic ("I don't have the physical need for the drug alcohol," he said), said in the same interview that he hadn't touched the stuff in a year and a half. So the only intoxicant for these Vampires was their music.
The cover tunes chosen by the triumvirate of Cooper, Depp and Perry include big hits ("My Generation," "Whole Lotta Love," "Break on Through"), as well as tunes that don't get much classic-rock radio airplay these days: Small Faces' "Itchycoo Park," Spirit's "I Got a Line on You" and Lennon's "Cold Turkey." As they began recording, with Depp's Kids bandmate Bruce Witkin playing bass on many of the tracks alongside a revolving cast of drummers, which most prominently included Zak Starkey (Ringo's son), the Vampires' friends got wind of the project and offered some helping hands.
One of the guests, AC/DC's Brian Johnson, came into the fold after Cooper conducted an interview with him for his syndicated radio show, Nights With Alice Cooper, last year. The "Welcome to My Nightmare" singer mentioned the project, to which the "Back in Black" vocalist said he wanted to join in on the fun. "I said, 'If you're serious, what song do you want to do?'" Cooper recalls. "He said, 'I want to do "School's Out."' And I went, 'Well, that would be really cool: When he comes in with that voice that's an octave higher than mine, it's going to take it to a whole other level.' He always brings an element of 'What?'"
The Vampires ended up recording that tune — with help from Slash and original Cooper group bassist Denis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith — as well as "Whole Lotta Love" with AC/DC's resident screecher. The Led Zeppelin cover holds a special significance to Cooper, since he remembers getting a headlining slot at the Whisky a Go Go in the Sixties only to recognize the opening act's guitarist as a member of the Yardbirds; it was Jimmy Page and the band was Led Zeppelin, and Cooper insisted they headline. The Vampires' "Whole Lotta Love" kicks off with a bluesy, smoldering soul intro with finger snaps and the sort of understated classical strings that defined Isaac Hayes records in the Seventies. Cooper, though, likens it sonically to something the original shock-rocker, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, would do. It features guitar by Joe Walsh, but the most surprising thing about it isn't Johnson's shrieks, it's that the bluesy harmonica playing in the breaks where Jimmy Page would do solos were performed by Alice Cooper himself.
"You're not going to do a guitar solo better than Jimmy Page, so let's make it a harp solo," he says of the rationale. "Jimmy actually heard it and liked it because it's totally the opposite of his. He told [producer] Bob Ezrin he thought it was cool because nobody did that yet."
Cooper says he considers John Bonham a Vampire, though the drummer wasn't a charter member, but says the hardest of the original drinking club members to pay tribute to was Harry Nilsson. "We're all hard-rock guys and Harry was very middle of the road," he says. "We found 'Jump Into the Fire,' and went, 'That works.' And then at the very end, Johnny starts playing 'put the lime in the coconut,' and I went, 'Oh, I love that song. Let's finish with a little bit of that.' So it was that loose. Everybody that came into it brought in what they know and really gave it color."
For the group's covers of the Doors' "Five to One" and "Break on Through," they brought in Doors guitarist Robby Krieger. "He's played with us before and he has a guitar sound that nobody else had," the singer says. "It was like a snake that was running through his guitar. I got a chill in the studio."
"He was a classical guitar player," Perry says. "That's how he started and that's why he fingerpicks with those metal picks. You need to spend a full year learning just how to do that. Apparently, he had only played electric guitar for six months when the Doors hit their stride. They're all jazz guys. The best rockers have that jazz, especially the drummers. There's a vibe about them where they hit the snare drum that really locks things together in a way that the straight-up rock guys lack. That's why a lot of guys in the Eighties came off sounding flat."
Cooper smiles and offers that Moon's drumming idol was Gene Krupa, and that the Who drummer's style was almost exactly the same as the jazz stickman's, save some bass-drum work. "He was the biggest lunatic in the business, but he was still the best drummer in the business," he says.
"I got to see the Who play four or five times in Boston before Woodstock," Perry rejoins. "The whole thing was insane. They were like a ball of fire. I don't think they played two bars the same ever, but it all worked." To create their own drum fireball on their cover of "My Generation," the Vampires recruited Starkey, who has been playing with the Who on their recent Who Hits 50 tour, and he gamely fills in for Moon with crashing cymbals and a firm respect for keeping the rhythm in the pocket.
Each guest came into the project for different reasons but in the case of McCartney, Cooper thinks the Beatle took an interest in the project because of its connection to Lennon. While working with him, the band treated McCartney to an old-school approach to recording. "Everybody was in the studio and we recorded live, the way they would have done in 1964," Perry says. "Very few bands do that anymore. They're always afraid that somebody is going to make a mistake. But Paul walked in and sat down at the piano. He ran through it maybe three four times at the piano, no notes, nothing, and the three of us [Vampires] were in a row watching. Alice, Johnny, me, we've all got our own claims to fame, our own journeys, but man, the three of us looked at each other and our chins were down here." He gestures to his knees.
"You know what was great for me?" Cooper says, lifting his chin. "The second time through, he made a mistake. It's like Tiger shanking a ball — that doesn't happen. And he goes, 'Wait, wait, wait, let me start that again.' And I went, 'Wow, I just saw Paul McCartney make a mistake.' But when he got it, Bob Ezrin went, 'That was on the money.' Then Paul turns around and goes, 'Do you want me to play bass on this?' We all go, 'No, Paul, we have a better bass player than you.'" Cooper laughs. "'Of course, we want you to play bass on it!'" That's when the bassist blew their minds.
Perhaps the most surprising guest on the album, though, is actor Christopher Lee, who played roles ranging from Dracula to Lord of the Rings' Saruman and recorded his own brand of heavy-metal albums before his death at age 93 this past June. Like Depp, he met Cooper on set of Dark Shadows, in which he played a fisherman. They took to golfing together. "He was a good, solid player," the singer says of the actor's golf game. Previously, Cooper had drafted Vincent Price to add a voiceover to his Welcome to My Nightmare album, and he thought with the Hollywood Vampires that it would be nice to have "one of those classic voices" on the record for a track called "The Last Vampire."
"His words are from the pages of Bram Stoker's Dracula," the singer says, pronouncing the author's first name as "Braahm." "The passage ends with 'Children of the night, what music they make.' I think it was the very last thing he did on tape, which was tragic and historic at the same time."
The vocalist pauses for effect and continues. "There's one little bit of the tape that we took off and I kept," he says. "After he said, 'what music they make,' he said, 'I dread to think what Alice is going to do with this.' I kept that."
The other original tune on Hollywood Vampires, "Raise the Dead," kicks in right after Lee recites his ominous line with thunderous drums, heavy guitar and Cooper yowling his own menacing observation: "The soul of rock & roll was buried in a hole." When Rolling Stone asks if he really believes that, the singer demurs. "Well, by the soul, I mean the Brian Joneses, the Jim Morrisons, the guys that really created bands like us, they're buried in a hole, but they're not dead — because we've raised the dead," he says. "Physically they died, but we're not going to let their music die.
"One of the reasons we did this album was to remind everybody about these songs," he continues. "They don't get played on FM radio. You never hear [T. Rex's] 'Jeepster.' You never hear 'Itchycoo Park.' You never hear 'Manic Depression.' You're going to hear what the computer spits out, but you're never going to hear those deeper cuts that I feel were the cooler cuts."
The record serves another purpose, too, in his mind. "It's almost a little educational piece for kids that are 18, 19 and in bands right now," he says. "We're saying, 'Hey, don't forget this song and that song.' I'm hoping there are 16-year-old kids right now in a garage learning old Alice songs and old Aerosmith songs. To me, that's the future of rock & roll."
Although the Hollywood Vampires won't be proselytizing new fans in the name of rock on a lengthy tour, they might be able to inspire a few disciples at the handful of gigs they have planned. The band will play two shows on the Sunset Strip — home to the original Vampires — at the 500-person capacity club the Roxy on September 16th and 17th. Then, on September 24th, they will play the Rock in Rio festival in Brazil. The rhythm section for these gigs will consist of Velvet Revolver and former Guns N' Roses members, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum.
The group will use those concerts as an opportunity to play a few tunes that they didn't put on the record, too. When Cooper was sketching out a set list recently, Perry and Depp called him up asking to play his 1973 tango-inflected single "Billion Dollar Babies." "I said, 'Really? You know I'm not dead yet,'" he says with a laugh. "They said, 'Yeah, but let's do that and "Train Kept a-Rollin'," for an encore,' and I said, 'Absolutely.' I thought doing 'Billion Dollar Babies' was a nice compliment to me. They didn't have to do that. They could have said 'Brown Sugar.' In fact, I was the one who said, 'OK, let's do that, but let's finish with "Brown Sugar."'"
Cooper does not take the fact that he's "not dead yet," as he puts it, for granted. His drinking escapades are well documented, but he still remembers the wake-up call a doctor gave him after he threw up blood. "He told me, 'If you want to join your buddies — your "Hollywood Vampires" — I'll give you another month,'" the singer says. "'Just keep going how you're going and you'll be with them.' And I went, 'Uhh.' He said, 'You have a choice of stopping or joining them.'
"At that point, I said, 'I'm a little tired of this,'" he continues. "And I didn't really want to die. I guarantee you, Steven Tyler, Ozzy, Iggy, all the guys that are still here went through that decision. That's why we're all still here."
In the context of this incarnation of the Hollywood Vampires — less a drinking club than a sober social club these days — the people who are still here and those who are not remain paramount to Cooper. The album may run only 49 minutes, but to him, it spans generations. This time, he's metaphorically pouring one out for the departed. After all, this is a celebration. "If any guy is allowed to make an album about his dead drunk friends, it would be me," he says, as confident and resolute as ever. "Thirty-three years ago, I came as close to joining them as possible without doing it. I'm a survivor."
Johnny Depp’s Rock Supergroup: Alice Cooper and Joe Perry on Hollywood Vampires
The Daily Beast
09.13.1512:42 AM ET
Hollywood Vampires is a group of rock legends—with Johnny Depp on guitar—that pay tribute to their fallen hard-partying friends through rock ’n’ roll.
“We’re doing a Pink Floyd song today that I don’t know at all, ‘Welcome to the Machine,’” Alice Cooper tells me almost immediately after we say hello, with a hint of fear in his voice. “They’re doing some kind of a tribute album and they said, ‘We want you to do this song,’ and I'm thinking, ‘The timing on these lyrics is so wacky and the melody line just kind of lays there,’ and the more I listened to it the more worried I got. So this is going to be a nightmare today.”
When I tell Cooper that it took Pink Floyd friend Roy Harper to nail the vocal he’s instantly relieved. “Oh, good! Honestly that makes me feel better,” Cooper says, loosening up visibly. “Now I can walk in and feel OK. I have so little ammunition.”
Cooper is in New York with Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry to promote their new album, Hollywood Vampires, named for the legendary mid-’70s Los Angeles nightly drinking club that included Cooper, John Lennon, Keith Moon, Bernie Taupin, Harry Nilsson, and “just about anyone who was in town who could seriously drink,” according to Cooper. The album is made up of a fistful of song covers, many completely reimagined by some of the original Hollywood Vampires, as well as two original songs by Cooper that pay a more personal tribute.
Paul McCartney leads the Vampires in a rousing rendition of “Come and Get It,” the peerless tune he gave away to Badfinger for the band’s first hit, and fellow Vampire Johnny Depp plays scorching guitar throughout.
Let’s do the origin story. The “Lost Weekend” stories about John Lennon and the house he shared with Harry Nilsson and Keith Moon and Ringo are legendary. I gather the original Hollywood Vampires were an extension of that?
Alice Cooper: I lived in LA at the time. Bernie Taupin and I drank every night, Mickey Dolenz always drank with us, and we always ended up at the Rainbow. And it ended up with that club being the magnet for everyone. So they gave us our own little loft up there at the Rainbow. And every single night it was last man standing. But you know, John would come into town and Ringo and all the guys, and they’d always say, “You guys are the Hollywood Vampires, you never see daytime.” It’s a New York thing to stay up all night, I guess. So we liked that; we thought that was good, and we put a plaque there, “The Hollywood Vampires.” And we just kind of took that name. Then, when I decided to do a covers album, which I had never done, I figured I’d do one with a theme. I said, “Let’s pay tribute to all of our dead drunk friends.” Think of it: Every song that you’d want to do is by one of these guys that we used to drink with. So, I thought let’s actually turn it into that, and then let’s not make it an Alice Cooper album. Let’s get all the right guys together and make it a Hollywood Vampires album where I’m just the singer. And interestingly, almost every player on the album was either a druggie or an alcoholic that are now straight. So it’s in tribute to all the guys who were our big brothers who didn’t make it for one reason or another.
Joe, were you an original Vampire or were you a second generation Vampire?
Joe Perry: No, I’m an honorary member. You know I happened to be staying at Johnny Depp’s, working on my book, and he said, “Well, you’re out here in LA, I’ve got a house that’s empty, so why not use it.’ And while I was there, all we talked about was music and the studio he also has that was literally 20 feet away, in the next house. So we were there all the time and we’d be listening to music and talking music, and when the album started happening I couldn’t help but get involved.
Cooper: And Johnny had played with both bands over the years. Johnny had played with us, and he’d played with Aerosmith, and we all wanted him as a guitar player. I see him as much as a guitar player as I do an actor.
Perry: I mean, once in a while he would show us some funny outtake or something, but he very rarely would even talk about what was going on with his acting, unless something funny was happening. Like that scene where he was galloping across the prairie…
AC: Oh, the Lone Ranger story?
JP: In The Lone Ranger, he was riding a horse and he lost his rhythm, and if you’re galloping and you kind of lose the rhythm it’s really dangerous. So he starts coming out of his stirrups…
Cooper: And he’s sideways on the horse…
Perry: And he all of a sudden, he’s half on the horse and then he disappears out of the shot. So he shows us this one night, and we’re sitting there watching it just laughing so hard, and he says, “All I remember is seeing these hooves going around like wheels half a foot from my face!” Fortunately, he was able to get back upright. But I can just imagine what the director must have been thinking. “I’m losing my star here!” But that was one of the only times we ever talked about his acting. It was really always about music. And, in fact, that’s how I met him. I was in LA and I needed a guitar, because all of my studio stuff was up in Boston and I knew he was a great guitar player, from hearing him play…
Cooper: And his house looks like a guitar museum, right?
Perry: Oh, yeah.
Cooper: It’s like every kind of guitar you can think of is in that house.
Perry: So we’d just met, but he said, “Just pick any one.” All I wanted was a beater, just something I could play on while I was in town. It didn’t matter if it had a ding here or there. I started going around the room, and it was all 1935 Martins and things like that. You know, almost museum pieces. I said, “Johnny, I can’t pick one. I can’t take one.” And so he just took one down and gave it to me and he said, “Just use this one.” So right from the start it was just all about music. That’s what our relationship was based on. So when I stayed out there working on my book, when I’d finished for the day, and he was done shooting for the day, we’d hang out.
Cooper: You know, the deal is that every good band in the world was a cover band first. The Beatles were and the Stones were. Everybody was a cover band. So going back in to do covers of songs that really influenced us, songs that we really liked, you know, we all just couldn’t wait to play those songs. That’s what made it so much fun. We do a really rocked-up version of “Jeepster” by T.Rex, because Marc Bolan was a Vampire. And we do “I'm A Boy” by The Who and “Itchycoo Park” by the Small Faces. At first we wondered what to do with those, but the answer was easy: Let’s rock it! What about Jimi Hendrix? “Manic Depression,” how about that one? Everybody went, “Yeah. Let’s do that!” So it was fun.
And there are some serious guest stars on the album, like Brian Johnston from AC/DC and Paul McCartney…
Cooper: I’d never had so much fun making an album. Because there was never a moment where I thought, “Well, that doesn’t work.” And people were calling us saying, “Hey, I want to play on this!” And then McCartney wanted to be involved. So on the appointed day he walks in and says, “Okay, here’s how it goes.” We’re standing there in a line around him at the piano, and he’s got his back to us, and we’re going (mouths), “It’s Paul McCartney. From The Beatles!” We were just stunned. Our jaws were on the floor. You know, it’s one thing to meet him or even get to know Paul McCartney. It’s a totally other thing to be in the studio with Paul McCartney, doing the high vocal with him, or sitting next to him while he’s playing guitar.
Perry: Live in the studio!
That’s something I wanted to ask. Were these tracks recorded live?
Cooper: All of it. We might have gone in to redo a bass part or something here or there, but almost all of it was. Although we did Harry Nilsson’s “Jump Into The Fire” into “Lime in the Coconut” live, and it just wasn’t quite right. But then I had to go out to do some gigs, and when I came back and Johnny told me, “I got Dave Grohl to come in and we juiced up that track.” All of a sudden it went from here to here. They brought the life into it. And I said, “Man, I wasn’t sure that one was going to make it onto the album, but now…” It was stellar. It needed that fire from Dave Grohl, but Johnny had the idea of how to make it come alive, and all of a sudden it was back on the album!
And how did you end up doing “Come and Get It”? It’s a great choice and it’s reinvented like the others. But was that Paul’s idea?
Cooper: Yeah, whatever he was going to play we were going to go with it. And we didn’t realize that two of the guys in Badfinger, the band he’d written it for, had hung themselves. Two of the guys in that band committed suicide. But Paul said he wrote the song in 15 minutes.
Perry: Well, he said he wrote it in the morning lying in bed, and then he went to Abbey Road an hour before The Beatles got there and cut the demo—played all the instruments and got it down—and that was it. He showed it to Badfinger, and produced that session, but he’d had nothing else to do with it since.
Cooper: And the great thing about it was that we were all just guys in a band with him for that little moment. I mean, he wasn’t in our band. We were in his band. But we were fine to take a step back and go, “Whatever you say, sir.”
Perry: I call him “the ego-leveler.” You know what I mean? There’s no one in the room, nobody frankly in that part of the world in that moment, that’s bigger than Paul McCartney. The talent is just pouring out of him.
Cooper: And he’s ego-free. He’s done it all. He doesn’t give off any ego at all. He just goes, “OK, I’m the piano player.” And I’m thinking, of course, “Yeah, but you’re Paul McCartney!” And then he goes, “You want me to play bass on this?” We looked at each other and went (nods excitedly), “Oh, OK.”
Talk a little bit about the two original tracks.
Cooper: Well, we needed something that was like an anchor, especially standing in this bar full of ghosts. I wanted to be the guy going, “Well, here’s a toast to everybody that used to be here.” And that’s just kind of what it turned into. And then we added the bit that sounds like pirates—“We drink and we smoke and we fight and we puke”—and I said, oh that’s funny, let’s leave that in because it’s good. It sits right in there. And I told Johnny, when we got to singing, “Give me a little Jack Sparrow here. OK?”
And you’ve got some live shows coming up?
Cooper: Well, two little ones and a giant one.
Perry: It’s hard to believe that we’re only going to do two, even for me. I mean, I don’t know, I guess it’s really going to be about timing. Because I know we all feel it. I know I feel it.
Cooper: I think we’re going to keep it nice and loose so that any time you see the bat signal in the air—we see the vampire signal—and we say, ‘Where are we going?’ Boom. Johnny’s schedule is tough, though. Because, when you’re doing a movie, that means three months of doing the movie and nothing else. You can’t just say, “Hey, I’m off to do a tour.” Or even a few shows.
And you wouldn’t do it without him, would you?
Cooper: Well, you know, he’s the core of this thing. He’s the Brian Jones. He’s that guy that likes to stand in the back and just be the middle of this whole thing.
So you guys never had any qualms about his playing?
Cooper: He’s played with both bands on stage. He knows all my stuff; knows all of Aerosmith’s stuff. He goes up with Foo Fighters, everybody. The guy can play anything. You know that movie Chocolat, where he’s playing the Spanish guitar...
Perry: Whenever anybody asks me about Johnny’s playing, I just say, “Watch that movie and realize that’s him playing.”
Cooper: It’s not studio trickery.
Perry: I’m in awe watching that. I never learned that stuff. And I’ve actually asked him for a lesson every once in a while. “Johnny, show me how you do that.” He’s that good. He’s got all these different styles he can draw on, too. He really loves playing.
Cooper: And there was never a time in the studio where we didn’t have the same language. If somebody mentioned a track, even if it was a pretty deep track on an album, he’d know it and would start playing it! He knows his stuff.