Original Alice Cooper band bassist Dennis Dunaway talks about stage shows gone horribly wrong, the influence of producer Bob Ezrin, “Billion Dollar Babies” and Michael Bruce’s development as a songwriter in round two of our two-part interview.
Now fronting the Dennis Dunaway Project, whose hardscrabble, garage-rock opus Bones From The Yard CD dropped in 2007, Dunaway takes you into the inner workings of Alice Cooper and the band’s theatrical nightmare.
When Alice Cooper was forming, was everybody on board as far as musical philosophy?
Dennis Dunaway: Yeah, we all had pretty much the same influences, and the variations seemed to always get sort of pushed into the thick of it, as it were. Like Michael Bruce … he came more from a background of bands like The Buckinghams, you know? He did more pop songs with lots of harmonies, and more girl-oriented songs, but you know, we wouldn’t have anything to do with that. But in the early days, there were some variations in what people liked, but … early on, everybody was on board.
I mean, I was kind of like the taskmaster in the early days for pushing us to be abstract, avant-garde, which Pretties For You resulted from that, which in my opinion was way too commercial for what I wanted us to do. But, if you go back through all of the different avant-garde sort of songs we did over the years, you could pretty much say it was an even collaboration. Michael Bruce came up with some great ideas that were just as crazy, if not crazier, than everybody else and the same with Glen (Buxton), and Neil (Smith), and of course, Alice, and it was definitely a fun collaboration.
Anybody that would be around the rehearsal room would think that we were all arguing. It didn’t even have to be the rehearsal room. We did it everywhere. We’d be in a restaurant, and everybody would be passionately making a point about what they thought would be best for the band, but it was always all for the same goal. So the friction was good friction.
I would imagine in such a show, when you have so many props and such an elaborate going on, there must have been times when things went really wrong.
DD: Yeah, definitely, tons of “Spinal Tap” moments. But, that’s an interesting thing, because there was a cartoon show … “Wallace and Ladmo,” anybody from Phoenix way back to the ’60s knows “Wallace and Ladmo,” grew up with them, and they would do schtick routines in between the cartoons… the great thing about “Wallace and Ladmo” is, it was silly humor, and it was almost to the point where you wanted everything to go wrong, and their skits would fall apart, and that was the humor of it.
It was really fun to watch them try to pull something out, and they almost got to the point where it was intentional, that they would make something go wrong so that they could fix it. And we all grew up with that, and I really think that was an element in our show, because we had so many props in the early days that if five things didn’t work, it didn’t matter. And the props were nonsensical, so it gave you something to think about, anyway. And if something bombed, usually we’d just throw it out. And if something worked, then we’d keep it, but sometimes if something bombed, we would keep that, because it was funny. We just went with the flow.
But we did have one where we had a cannon. We had Warner Bros. built this gigantic cannon. It looked like Jules Verne. It was made out of wood