Backstage Pass: Dennis Dunaway, Part I

A songwriter in his own right who always had a hand in conceptualizing the elaborate stage shows that made Alice Cooper one of the biggest concert draws of the early ‘70s, Dennis Dunaway was the band’s bassist until its dissolution after the 1973 album Muscle of Love.
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In Vincent Damon Furnier, better known as Alice Cooper, Dennis Dunaway found a kindred spirit.

Their mutual interest in absurdist art and long-distance running made them fast friends at Cortez High School in Phoenix. And their attraction to horror movies would help form the basis of gruesome theatrical stage shows that would enrage parents and thrill rebellious teenagers who loved a little campy blood and gore — and coffins, guillotines and spiderwebs — with their proto-metal art rock.

A songwriter in his own right, who always had a hand in conceptualizing the elaborate stage shows that made Alice Cooper one of the biggest concert draws of the early '70s, Dunaway was the band’s bassist until its dissolution after the 1973 album Muscle of Love.

After a long period of seclusion, and health problems, Dunaway is back with a new band called The Dennis Dunaway Project. In 2007, the group released Bones From The Yard, a throwback to the gritty, creosote-stained garage-rock of early Alice Cooper, and opened for Alice Cooper last fall. Dunaway looks back on his days with Alice and looks to the future with his new project in this two-part interview.

Your new record kind of sounds like early Alice Cooper albums. Did you want to return to your roots for it?

Dennis Dunaway: People say that. As a matter of fact, Shep Gordon, who was Alice’s manager, and was from the early days, was telling me the other night that he hears a lot of elements of early Alice, and he said, very strongly so.

And I said the same thing that I’ll tell you is that it’s not intentional. That’s just how I write music, I guess. Some of the songs have been kicking around for a lot of years, and there are a couple of the songs on the album that I actually wrote for the Alice Cooper group and probably would have been on the next album had the original band stayed together.

Which ones were those?

DD: “Man Is A Beast,” “Subway,” “Me and My Boys,” and others were just ones that came since then, but it’s not, definitely, intentional to make it sound like the Alice Cooper group.

Well, it definitely sounds updated. It’s got a contemporary sound to it, but maybe in spirit, it kind of reminds people of those days?

DD: Well, that’s good. I take that as a compliment.

Talking about those songs, you mentioned that were just sitting around, why is now the time to revisit them?

DD: Well, I had sort of a reclusive era when I became disenchanted with the music business, and I decided to retreat to my basement and just do what I originally started doing music to begin with and that’s to write music.

So, I’d go into my basement and write song after song — I have hundreds of songs from that era. And then, many years later, as my house dwindled, I ended up in the hospital for a month, and it was a little bit touch and go, and at that point, I decided that I was ... I got so many fan letters from all over the world, that it opened my eyes and I had a little bit of soul searching concerning me being reclusive as to getting out there again. So, then when I came across these musicians — Rick Tedesco the guitarist, Russ Wilson the drummer, and Ed Burns the keyboard player — and I recognized the chemistry there and so we dug them up and they breathed new life into them, that’s how we came about with the title for the album, Bones From The Yard. They’re kind of like digging up these old artifacts and revital

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