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Interview:
Hollywood Vampires playing for more than just their dead, drunk friends
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Unlike kindred "spirits" such as Dracula and Nosferatu, the Hollywood Vampires aren't afraid of daylight.

So Alice Cooper is happy to hop on the phone in the morning (he's even known to prefer an early a.m. tee time), while guitarist Joe Perry is full conscious and lucid -- downright chatty, even -- in mid-afternoon. And the two Rock and Roll Hall of Famers express both delight and surprise that the Vampires -- which was conceived as a side project by Cooper and actor Johnny Depp -- is taking a bigger bite out of their time than they ever anticipated.

"I was expecting to do five shows this summer with the band, so I'm pleasantly surprised we're doing more," Detroit native Cooper, 68, says. "I was like, 'Wow, how did we get Johnny away from the movie business for that long?' He's just decided he's gonna take that time off and do the Vampire thing."

Perry, 65, adds from his tour bus that Hollywood Vampires is "a once in a lifetime thing" that has never operated on a grand plan.

"This is something that kind of went day to day," explains the guitarist, who's missing some shows after collapsing on stage July 10 in Brooklyn, but plans to return "soon." "We did a few shows last year and then we all told our managers, 'We're gonna cut some time out and we really want to take this on the road' and we got it together. It's kind of like we're a baby band on one hand, 'cause the fans really don't know what to expect, then on the other hand we're all veterans who have played hundreds and hundreds of shows.

"It's a very cool thing."

Hollywood Vampires was the brainchild of Cooper and Depp after they filmed a scene in the 2012 film adaptation of "Dark Shadows." Returning to Los Angeles they latched on the concept of a musical tribute to the Hollywood Vampires, which was the name Cooper and an ad hoc collection of celebrity friends -- including John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson, the Who's Keith Moon, Joe Walsh and others -- gave themselves as they partied primarily at the Rainbow Bar and Grill, where they had their own upstairs "lair," during the early 70s.

"We were all pretty out of control; It was the height of sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll, although the drugs and booze probably made us forget the other stuff," Cooper recalls. With veteran producer Bob Ezrin they began working up covers of songs by Led Zeppelin, the Who, Spirit, the Doors, NIlsson, Jimi Hednrix and more, as well as a pair of originals -- "Raise The Dead" and the appropriately titled "My Dead Drunk Friends."

Cooper, Depp and Ezrin recruited an all-star roster to make the album, of which Perry -- who was actually living in Depp's house while writing his 2014 memoir "Rocks" -- was an early recruit.

"I kept getting phone calls -- 'We're gonna be cutting some tracks. You want to sit in and put a lead on this song or that one?' And then we started cutting some fresh tracks and before we knew it, it was an album," Perry says. Other guests on the album included Walsh, Foo Fighters` Dave Grohl, Slash, the Doors' Robbie Krieger, AC/DC's Brian Johnson, Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Farrell and members of Cooper's original band.

But having Paul McCartney perform on "Come and Get It," the 1969 hit he wrote for Badfinger, was a highlight for all concerned.

"That was pretty amazing, I have to say," Perry remembers with a laugh. "That was on a whole other level, y'know? I could never have imagined I'd be in a studio with Paul McCartney; I've met him before once or twice but never had a chance to play with him. Just to touch the bass he played his whole career and do a session with him...That was really something, man."

Hollywood Vampires became a live act last September with shows at the Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood and then at the Rock in Rio Festival. The group paid tribute to the late Motorhead bassist Lemmy Kilmister at the Grammy Awards in February -- where it also debuted another new song, "As Bad As I Am" -- while its current road trip takes the group to Europe and North America, with Stone Temple Pilots' bassist Robert DeLeo coming on board after Duff McKagan left to be part of this year's Guns N' Roses reunion (though former GNR drummer Matt Sorum is still a Vampire).

"I think that who's on stage is the show," explains Cooper, who calls the Vampires "a super bar band" that's far less theatrical than his usual shows. "I think you're going to see that a Vampires show, musically, is tight, but I think visually it's not going to be anywhere like an Alice show as far as this happens here, this happens there. I wanted to have some looseness to it.

"Even the makeup; sometimes I go back to the band and go, "Makeup or no makeup? You want me to be this Alice or that Alice?' I'm really just the lead singer, which is kind of neat."

The Vampires are also open to anyone guest that might want to drop in on the shows as well. "If Robbie Krieger wants to come up and play Doors stuff, great," Cooper says. "I don't think anybody's gonna say no to Paul McCartney coming up and doing a song or two. Anybody can come up and plug in with us if they've been around for 20, 30 years."

Perry adds that, "We've all been buddies for so long. I've known all these guys way, way before I thought I'd be in a band with them. Everybody's so good and everybody's got each other's back. We're almost like a garage band, that same spirit and camaraderie."

If Cooper, Perry and Depp have their way, the coffin won't be closing any time soon on the Vampires. They've already started writing original material for a second album; Cooper says he has three or four, though he's also recording a new album of his own. "I don't know what Joe's gonna bring. I don't know what Johnny's gonna bring in," he adds. "It's still guitar rock, but it might have more elements of modern rock. I don't think this is ever gonna be a keyboard band, ever."

Perry, who's anticipating an Aerosmith tour next year, notes that scheduling will remain an issue for the Vampires. But with careful planning he's confident we haven't heard the last of the band.

"If we can plan far enough ahead we'll be able to knock off some more song and do some short runs (of shows)," he says. "All of us are hoping that can happen. It's something I've never done before; I've jammed before with other bands but there's nothing like having it be a real band. I don't know if I'm having more fun watching the audience or watching the other guys. It's a hard feeling to describe."

Hollywood Vampires perform twice in Michigan during the next week:

Hollywood Vampiresperforms at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 16 at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75. Andrew Watt opens. Tickets are $33.50-$108 pavilion, $33.50 lawn with a $100 four-pack. Call 248-377-0100 or visit palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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