It's a great honor for me, doing this interview with a man, a member of a legendary band who continues being active, even though the lights for him are now half-lit.
Neal Smith, drummer of the Alice Cooper Group, tells us about the times when this band wrote history, throws a few implies to the "prince of darkness" because of the band's breakup in 1975, his return to Alice Cooper and of course about his latest studio work. Interview with Dimitris Kazantzis.
Dimitris Kazantzis: Neal, first of all I would like to you to tell us a few words about your brand new album, “KillSmith – Two”. What should one wanting to buy the album expect to listen to? Neal Smith: If you like a driving beat with industrial strength metal guitars and keyboards with a little sex and death thrown in, then you will love “KillSmith Two” to death!
Dimitris Kazantzis: You are one of the people playing a very important part regarding the rise and award of a legendary personality. What was the most important gain for you, from your cooperation with Alice Cooper during his classical era? Neal Smith: First of all it was not HIS classical era, it was OUR band Alice Cooper's classical era. Together as a five piece band, we created a brand new direction in rock when we introduced theatrics as part of our stage show.
Dimitris Kazantzis: After those first two experimental albums, “Pretties For You” and “Easy Action”, the group has presented a more rock and roll sound. Have you ever considered those albums as failures? Neal Smith: NEVER! Commercially they did not sell millions of copies, but they were groundbreaking records that made us who we were and put us on the path to be both original and successful.
Dimitris Kazantzis: By the way, was Alice Cooper setting the whole show by himself? Was he also asking the opinion of the people he was working with? Neal Smith: We were not people Alice was working with! Let’s be 100 % clear here, Alice was one fifth or 20% of an incredibly creative and ground breaking band called Alice Cooper. Dennis Dunaway, Glen Buxton, Michael Bruce, myself and Alice were collectively creating our music and our stage show, 24 hours a day seven days a week. No one was the boss or the leader, we were a team working and striving for the same goals. For example Dennis came up with the idea for the electric chair to electrocute Alice on his song “Black Ju Ju” for the “Love It To Death” show. Kachina was my pet boa constructor and I came up with the idea of Alice using her on stage with the song “Is It My Body.” We were all coming up with ideas from brainstorming ever day, some were not so great, but some were great and Alice still uses them to this very day.
Dimitris Kazantzis: It is well-known that Media in America were not that fond of Alice Cooper, for reasons we all know. What that a concern to you? Was it amusing? Neal Smith: It absolutely was never a concern to me. The media, like everyone else either loved us or hated us, there were no grey areas only black and white. Anything new is always met with negativity until it finds an audience that gets it! I loved the negativity, the more the media hated us the more our fans loved us. I have a song on my new “KillSmith Two” CD ' called “Kiss My Rock n' Roll Ass.” It's about everyone that hated and doubted us back in the 60’s and 70’s.We are now in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame proving that they were f-ing wrong, but they probably really hate us now.
Dimitris Kazantzis: In 1975 Alice Cooper and the rest of the band decide to go separate ways. What was the main reason for that? Neal Smith: Well, the band didn’t decide to go separate ways, Alice decided to go his separate way. Glen, Dennis, Michael and I would have be out of our minds to decide to stop making all of that money! The band Alice Cooper was grossing about a million dollars a month after the release of our Billion Dollar Babies album in 1973. After we played in South America in the spring of 1974 we all agreed to take a year off so that Michael Bruce could record a solo album. Glen, Dennis, Alice and I all agreed to that. We also unanimously agreed that we would reunite one year later to record our next Alice Cooper Group album. Unknown to us, Alice was recording a solo album of his own during that time off. With the success of Welcome to My Nightmare, his first solo album and tour, when it came time for us to reunite, Alice changed his mind and reneged on our agreement. He simply decided not to get back together with the band to record what would have been our ninth Alice Cooper Group album. All other accounts of our bands breakup are completely false!
Dimitris Kazantzis: Although you were not cooperating with Alice at the time, how would you characterize “Welcome To My Nightmare” as a musical genre? Neal Smith: It was definitely rock theatre, but not as dark or as threatening as our Alice Cooper Group shows.
Dimitris Kazantzis: Why didn’t Billion Dollar Babies continue? “Battle Axe” was a very good project... Neal Smith: There were managerial problems and logistical problems that couldn't be overcome. It was a great band with a great theatrical show.
Dimitris Kazantzis: Besides KillSmith, which projects of your own, apart from the Alice Cooper ones, do you consider as most important? Neal Smith: All projects and groups I've been involved with including the Plasmatics, Deadringer, Bouchard, Dunaway & Smith, Cinematik and now KillSmith.
Dimitris Kazantzis: Is Nazz something you think about over the past few years? Neal Smith: Not really. I joined the Nazz and six months later in March of 1968, we changed the name of the band to Alice Cooper and didn't look back.
Dimitris Kazantzis: In 2011 we get to see you again alongside Alice Cooper. Apart from the Steven issue, which common elements would you say exist between “Welcome To My Nightmare” and “Welcome 2 My Nightmare”? Neal Smith: Bob Ezrin produced both albums and Alice wrote the lyrics to both albums and they are both great albums. Other than that you'd have to ask the fans. I haven’t listened to the original “Welcome To My Nightmare” in over 35 years.
Dimitris Kazantzis: Whilst recording your parts for “Welcome 2 My Nightmare”, did you lose track of time? Were you thinking about the “first years” at all? Neal Smith: No, I did not lose track of time, timing and tempo is one of my most important jobs as a drummer (just kidding)! But seriously, I concentrated on recording these three very special songs with Michael, Dennis and Alice to make them as energetic and as precise as I possibly could. That's always my job as always as a percussionist and I’m pretty good at it! When we get together it like no time has passed at all, we just have a great time together.
Dimitris Kazantzis: Do we get to see you on stage with Alice Cooper again? Neal Smith: Only time will tell. The four of us have talked about it, but as of right now nothing is in the works. Michael, Dennis and I are ready if and when we all agree to playing together again!
Dimitris Kazantzis: How important was it to you the presence of Vincent Price on “Welcome To My Nightmare”? Neal Smith: I really don't comment on Alice’s solo work. But I love Vincent Price, he was great!
Dimitris Kazantzis: Do you believe he could also be featured in “Welcome 2 My Nightmare”, if he was still alive? Neal Smith: I have no idea, it wasn’t my album you'd have to ask Alice. But it would have been very cool if he was on it!
Dimitris Kazantzis: Do you think that, without Bob Ezrin, Alice Cooper would have been “poorer”? Neal Smith: I only know that Bob was essential in the chemistry and formula for our successful albums. He was and will always be the sixth member of the band in my opinion.
Dimitris Kazantzis: Let’s say you walk the street somewhere and hear somebody calling somebody else “Steven”… Would Alice Cooper pop into mind? Neal Smith: No, not at all.
Dimitris Kazantzis: Do you get to see too many… Stevens out there today? There’s a lot of people living on prescription drugs and nightmares... Neal Smith: I try to stay away from the Stevens of the world. If they approach me, I might just have to bite their face off!
Dimitris Kazantzis: What is the next step for Neal Smith? Neal Smith: Keep writing music for KillSmith for as long as I am able and to play some KillSmith shows live soon. And I'm always be ready to play with Dennis, Michael and Alice if the time ever comes in the studio or on the stage. I will do anything for our great fans!