Original Alice Cooper band bassist Dennis Dunaway has just released a great new album called 'Bones From The Yard' under the Dennis Dunaway Project moniker. He speaks candidly about why the Alice Cooper band broke-up and the upcoming “reunion” show (on Dec 16th in Phoenix, Arizona) with Alice and the other two surviving members of The Alice Cooper group (Michael Bruce and Neal Smith).
Mitch Lafon: How is it going to feel playing the Pudding show in December with Neal, Michael and Alice?
Dennis Dunaway: It’ll be fun providing everybody’s equipment is working.
ML: Would you like to do more shows or record a new album with Alice?
DD:“Alice is the one that has to call the shot on that. He’s the one that has not wanted to do it all these years and we’ve always wanted to. I figure if it was going to happen, it would have happened years ago. So, I don’t think it’s going to happen. How many times can you ask somebody and have it not happen before you realize that it’s really not going to happen?
ML: What made The Alice Cooper band unique other than just the theatrics?
DD: The image was different to anything that was happening then. The stage show was different other than just the theatrical presentation. It was the first time a band ever took a stage and their own lights on the road. Nobody did that before us. You just showed up and if the stage and lights were good – you were happy. But if it was crappy – you had to work with what the promoter supplied. That’s how it was even for The Beatles and Hendrix. We started taking our own lights on the road and that made a big impact; the visuals of the band made people not realize the extent of the light show, but it was extremely elaborate and ahead of its time.
ML: Did you ever get frustrated that the stage show sometimes overshadowed the musicianship of the band?
DD: Yeah, it was frustrating when it wasn’t balanced. We were putting out two albums a year and coming up with an elaborate stage show. We hardly had a day off and when we did we worked on music. We’d work for months on these new songs, record them, work up this whole show, go out and play and then somebody would write about ‘the snake’. But that was part of our creation as well (laughs). It was the imbalance of it. I didn’t mind people talking about the stage show because we created that as well as the music and the music was always number one.
ML: When the band went its separate ways – was it really a question of the band wanting to cut back on the stage show and concentrating on music while Alice wanted to take the theatrics further?
DD: No, that’s not true. We are the ones that thought of the theatrical ideas. When we did the Battle Axe show that was probably the most elaborate show we’ve ever done. That was something to make it seem like there was a reason for the band to be shed.
ML: What really happened then?
DD: We were working more than any band out there. We were putting out two albums a year and the bookings... we’d record a track in the studio go out and do a couple of live gigs and come back to the studio to lay down another track. It was just that busy and it’s hard to keep up that pace. When it was time to re-negotiate our contract with Warner Bros.... bands rarely made money on their first recording contract. It’s only if you managed to still be popular enough to have clout to re-negotiate or go shopping to other record labels (that you made money), and as that was approaching wedges started to come into play and it was made miserable for the band members. The more we rebelled against it – the more we were made to look like we were being unreasonable. Low and behold the new contract was re-negotiated and split two ways rather than seven ways (we all had had equal pay plus the two managers – so that seven people would have enjoyed the fruits of their labours after so many years). But the contract was re-negotiated on behalf of two people rather than seven.
ML: How did you feel when Alice moved on without the band and started making new albums? How was it to hear Flush The Fashion or the song ‘Poison’ in later years? Did you think it could have sounded better if you had played on them?
DD: Well, musicians are notorious for thinking that (laughs). I was busy working on my own music and hiding out in my basement. I was pretty bitter with the whole situation, so there’s no way I could listen to it objectively.
ML: Can you today?
DD:“I’m too busy writing music and working on ideas for stage and things like that. It’s not like I hide Alice’s solo albums in the closet and never dig’em out. I dig’em out once in a while, but as far as sitting down and listening to the old Alice Cooper albums... I’ll do that if I have a gig coming up and I’m going to play the songs. It’s not something I put on for enjoyment necessarily.
ML: I noticed you called them ‘Alice’s solo albums’.
DD: We’ve gotten into the habit of calling it the Alice Cooper Band or Alice Cooper Group, but really Alice Cooper means five people. Alice was a vital part of that band – no question, but it was the name of the band and it wasn’t the name of any individual and it was intended to be shared equally as all of the creativity came from all five. The rewards were intended to be shared by five.