An Interview with
The original drummer of 'The Alice Cooper Band'
that took place via telephone on Wednesday 3rd March 2010.
Interviewed By Glenn Milligan.
Glenn: Hi is that Neal?
Neal: This is Neal.
Glenn: Hi it's Glenn from Metalliville.
Neal: I'm doing good. How you doing Glenn?
Glenn: I'm doing good.
Neal: Good. Hows your weather been?
Glenn: Not too bad - a bit cold. How's New England right now?
Neal: Well we actually had a very harsh winter with a lot of snow up to like 2 feet sometimes but I looking now over the golf course where I live and it's in the high forties today. I don't know what that is in celcius but it's abover freezing which is good and it's very sunny so it's melting a lot of the snow and we can see a lot of grass and there's some geese out on the golf course and in the water so it's starting to look a little bit like spring. We still have a little bit of snow but other than that we're great. How's it over there?
Glenn: It's getting there now - we've had it really bad as well in November/December it was like 2.5 feet of snow and we didn't expect it. We got that stream from up north and it was very unexpected - we must have had 2 feet of snow in less than a day and a half. It was incredible.
Neal: Yep. I mean, I've lived in New England now since the band moved here in 1972 and this is one of the reasons I like it here because we are off the North Atlantic so in Long Island Sound and so the winters are not too harsh here because of the ocean. I was born in the mid west where there are very harsh winters and lots of snow but once in a while we'll get a bad one and that's what this one certainly was but hopefully it's behind us now. We're just above New York City so it's a little bit mild and we're south of Massachusetts and just above New York City and the Northern part of the state gets weather like Massachusets.
Glenn: Before I go any further I want to congratulate you on the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame for 14th March as well.
Neal: Well thank you Glenn. I appreciate that. We'll all be together for then and probably play a couple of songs.
Glenn: What originally turned you onto playing drums?
Neal: Well it was just something... I started when I was like 9 or 10 years old and it was something that I always wanted to do. I had tried to play a couple of other instruments miserably - piano and trombone and I just couldn't play them. I asked my cousin at the time - he had a field snare drum - a big snare drum and I asked him if I could borrow it and I started taking lessons and I played ever since.
Glenn: Cool. I never realised that the Alice Cooper band actually started in 1964 - I was amazed by that.
Neal: Well the genesis of the band with them in high school - yes that was where they started. I met them and knew them in 1966 and '67 and became very good friends with them and I didn't join till late fall/early winter of 1967 so they'd been together about 3 years before I hooked up with them.
Glenn: Whom would you say your influences are as a drummer and why?
Neal: Well I have the classical influences which is Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. I also like the.. I was very influenced by the surf music of the early 60's which was Sandy Nelson who was a great drummer and you had the drummer in the band called 'The Surfaris' who had the hit 'Wipeout' and I don't know his name and also Dennis Wilson from The Beach Boys. So those were pretty much my American influences and then when the British Invasion came of course, there was a whole new generation of great drummers and at the top of that list was Keith Moon but I did like Ringo (Starr) and I did like Charlie Watts a lot and I also later on in the 60's I really liked Ginger Baker and Mitch Mitchell. So those were some of my favourite and/or inspirational drummers.
Glenn: I bet it was pretty incredible to later on meet some of those guys and become firm friends with them?
Neal: Yeah. Well I had met Mitch Mitchell and Keith Moon and Charlie Watts I met also - yeah it was. At that time when the band... in the heyday of the band... I was never really.. after we started doing our thing.. really after palying, after hanging out with Jimi Hendrix, when I found out he was like such a normal person and I was so.. I mean I'm a drummer but I also play guitar and on my new project, Killsmith I play all the guitar on that so I am very aware of guitar players and Jimi I think is the best that's ever been on the planet so when we met him and hung out with him several times back in the 60's everybody else was, if I was starstruck when I met Jimi Hendrix, I wasn't after I was with him and Mitch and Noel because they were really nice down to earth people. So after that everybody I met were just great musicians and they were either very nice or they weren't nice and most people I ever met that were of celebrity status were always very nice people.
Glenn: Yeah because they've all started from ground level and worked there way up I guess as well?
Neal: Right. Yep. It makes a difference and that was when we sort of learnt that they're successful but we have a lot in common. Like you said, they had a vision and they followed their dreams and they're great musicians and with a little bit of luck and business savy they were able to become successful.
Glenn: Yeah. Before you joined The Alice Cooper Band, what geared up to the sort of stuff you did in Alice Cooper?
Neal: Well that's a great question. When I 1st moved to Phoenix, Arizona I was born in the mid-west and had played in a couple of musical ensembles that played for amateur theatre houses and I played in the band for the musicals, the fantastics and three penny opera and that was by the time I was 15 years old. Then I was in marching bands, you know in high school marching bands and then in pipe and drum cores and then when I moved to Arizona I immediately in 1963, I immediatley joined up with a band in my high school, Camelback High School in Phoenix and for the remainder 2 years of high school I was in those bands. We played a lot of surf music, the original band was an instrumental group and then we added a singer and the band was originally called 'The Nightriders'. When we added a singer we called it 'The Laserbeats' after James Bond's 'Goldfinger' movie and laser was so popular at the time. So in that band we played a little bit more popular music, played a lot of the music that ws coming over from the UK in the British Invasion but nothing along the lines of like The Rolling Stones. It was more.. well actually we did a couple of 'Rolling Stones' songs, actually I sang the 'Rolling Stones' songs in that bands - but just a couple not many but I really loved that music and I wanted to be in a band that had a rougher edge to it.
So after graduating from High School the band broke up and I stayed in Phoenix and I met some other musicians and I joined uo with another popular band in the Phoenix area called 'The Holy Grail' and we were like Phoenix's answer to like the San Francisco bands - Jefferson Airplane and bands like that. We did a lot of blues, rock kinda pschedelic music. Actually we did a couple of Frank Zappa songs and The Mothers Of Invention. So I was loving that kind of music. We did some Stones songs and there was some R'N'B stuff that we did but as I was now out of High School and a couple of years into college I was more interested in writing and creating music than actually just being in a copy band anymore.
In 1966/67 I met all the guys in the band that would eventually become 'Alice Cooper' - they were called 'The Nazz' at the time and we all went to school together and we all had a lot of art classes we took and Vince (Furnier (Alice Cooper)) was in one and Dennis (Dunaway) was in another and Glenn (Buxton) was in another. So I got to be really good friends with them and I found out that Glenn was from Akron, Ohio - the same place in the mid-west that I was from, so we got to be really good buddies and one thing led to another and sometimes when they had moved to Los Angeles and the band I was in moved to San Fracisco, my band broke up and the guys in The Nazz were nice enough to invite me down there to live with them while I was looking for another band to join with. While I was living with them their drummer quit so I happened to be at the right place at the right time and you know, they were my best friends and they asked me if I would be interested in playing with them. I said, "You crazy - of course I would be". So that's how I got involved in the band. That was late 1967 and one of the big draws for me was that they were all.. they were doing and writing all of their own music. They were not copying any music anymore at all - it was all original. So for me, not only the fact that I was playing with my best friends but the fact that we were all... I was writing songs at the time as well. But we were all writing music - all original music and we all had a very similar idea of what we wanted to do and it all started with being original and the theatrics followed suit. We all had outrageously long hair and our clothes were always very flambouyant so we had an awful lot in common. It was just a perfect mixture between me and the other 4 guys in the band.
Glenn: Yeah I think the amazing thing about the early Alice Cooper is the theatrics fit the songs and the songs fit the theatrics and it all moulded together. When I got the 1st 2 albums (Pretties For You/Easy Action), I got it like a double set called 'The Early Years, School Days'.
Neal: Right Glenn.
Glenn: ...and the material is like pure rock but it's also got that weird avant-guard as though bodies are escaping out the earth with worms and god knows what aroud them. They've got such a strange aura to them. It's amazing how you created that sort of style in the 1st place. I guess it was from like films and books and stuff and you just put it into 1 thing.
Neal: Yeah exactly. We were inspired.. I guess every musician is inspired by other musicians - that goes without saying but we were also inspired by films of the thirties, the forties and the fifties - all the way from Busby Berkley films and 42nd Street and then all the horror movies with Frankinstein and Dracula and The Werewolf and all the monster and the flying saucer movies. Everything you can imagine and we just wanted to be that... Well while everyone else was trying to be the 'heroes of Rock 'N' Roll' or the good guys, it was just a natural evolution for us to kind of go in a darker direction. We already liked what The Doors were doing but we figured that The Doors were just scratching the surface - we could do so much more and go so much deeper and take music to... I mean we created a name called Alice Cooper - we basically could mould that and make it whatever we wanted to so once we realised that the sky was the limits for us. Then we could just start creating the music and then... it's liike you say, the theatrics were crafted around the music and it's not like you just do a song and do all this crazy b*llsh*t that means nothing which I still see people do that. I go, 'Why are they doing that with the song because that has nothing to do with the lyrics or nothing to do with it. It's like writing a soundtrack to a movie is the way you have to approach it and it has to make sense and it has to merge together and it has to mesh together. So we spent a lot of time thinking about it and brainstorming over ideas about that so it wasn't an accident by any stretch of imagination.
Glenn: When did you guys realise when you'd got to a really big level and how did it hit you?
Neal: Well we came up when I joined the guys and we moved to Baga Canyon after I joined in early 1968. I mean we were very, very poor - we were making just enough money to pay our bills and not always even to buying food. We had a lot of friends, a lot of girlfriends that would bring us food and things. So we literally came from the ground up and I think when... We were just happy first of all that Frank Zappa noticed us and gave us a record deal and we tried two albums that didn't really work commercially. We were really happy with these.
Glenn: I think they're incredible.
Neal: I think that when the 1st level that we hit when we were to have a hit record with 'I'm Eighteen' and then have the album 'Love It To Death' go gold - that was a huge plateaux and then our very next album which is actually our fourth album, 'Killer' - that went platinum. So right away we were successful where we were hoping we would be. But then when we were putting all our ideas and the concept came together for 'School's Out' that kind of even went...even though we were totally prepared for it - the success that that found, you know put us on a level that I guess, you know because we always had high expectations for ourselves but you are still happy when you achieve those things. I think that 'School's Out' going to number 2 in Billboard in 1972 was a huge plateaux for us but then even more than that, 'Billion Dollar Babies' went to number 1 in '73 so I think that's probably our biggest plateaux - I think that's one of them. The next one is of course March 14th, 2011 when we're inducted into 'The Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame' but I never thought we would have a number one album in 1973 in all the record charts at the same time but we did and Icouldn't have been happier - financially and emotionally so. It was all good but I think that's probably with the success of 'School's Out' and Billion Dollar Babies' - it really put it to a level that even though we were totally prepared for it - we loved it but selling gold and platinum albums is wonderful but to have a number 1 album is unbelievable.
Glenn: When you got to that stage at that particular time what would you say your material on album? Was it the more successful material or would you go for them more on artistic merits as such for you personally?
Neal: I think the magic of Alice Cooper was we were able to be commercial, yet we were still able to write songs like 'I Love The Dead'; 'Sick Things' and 'Killer'. We had the really macabre - that's the side I love of the band. I mean, I know Dennis was really the heart and soul of the dark side of the band but that's the part of the band I really, really love the most and I am surprised that there's never been a compilation album put together of like 'Lay Down And Die Goodbye' and 'Black JuJu and 'Killer' and you know, the really dark side of Alice Cooper. 'Halo Of Flies'; 'I Love The Dead'; 'Sick Things' - there's so many of them. I mean I'd love to see a CD released of just those songs - not always the hit songs which of course which... you know the hitn songs are what pave the way for us to do our thing so I think that was the special thing about this band is that we could be dark and we could be all mysterious and macabre and we can do all the sick stuff that we wanted to do but yet there was an incredibly commercial side too and not too many bands have ever walked that fine line. They're either totally, ridiculously commercial or totally the other side - a little macabre or heavy, you know, however you wanna say it.
Glenn: Yeah, I mean when you go from something like 'Levity Ball' or 'Halo Of Flies' to something like 'School's Out' it's like, "What is this the same band?".
Neal: Right - it's exactly what I'm talking about.
Glenn: Yeah. Awesome. How did it make you feel when you 1st heard your songs on radio or in aclub or something? Did it really blow your mind or..?
Neal: Well again, by the time 'Love It To Death'... we let's go back to 'Pretties For You' because 'Pretties For You' was our 1st album that we had ever released - recorded and released But you have to go back even to when we lived in Phoenix when the band 'The Spiders & The Nazz' - the early version of Alice Cooper and then the bands I was in, in Phoenix as well I had - The Laserbeats - we had recorded singles back in the day and they actually got airplay on the local radios when we in high school and in college. So I have been used to hearing the song on the radio but when the song on the radio like the song 'I'm Eighteen' is going up the charts in the mid-west and it's right alongside George Harrison and 'My Sweet Lord' and they're climbing the charts together and 'I'm Eighteen' starts to surpass' George Harrison's 'My Sweet Lord' and all the other popular songs of the day then that's when it starts getting very, very exciting.
Glenn: Did you find it changed you as a person, like a different sort of person set in or did you stay on that level and think, 'We let's just keep going, let it not go to our heads or...', how did it affect you personally all that?
Neal: Well I've always had a pretty out of control ego. I mean even when we were poor, I mean I always used to think I was the 'King of the World' and I think that the attitude of the band was always.. we were always number 1. I mean that was one of the visions, one of the things that made us all sort of gell as a unit. I mean, I never really changed, I always had a lot of confidence in myself. I know the band always had a lot of confidence in itself too. So I think the only thing that was different is that we were able to eat better.
That was probably the biggest change. We were all just kind of, you know we loved what we were doing, we loved the band, we loved each other and it was just (that) we had more money to buy better clothes and own more food or to buy food period, buy cars and start buying houses so I think everybody in the band stayed exactly the same - I didn't notice any difference. I mean, we became more professional as time went on because you know you have to - you know you're not making $50 a night anymore, you're making a million dollars a month as we did on the 'Billion Dollar Baby' tours so there is a time when you have to just handle things a little bit differently. I think the band did it really well but I don't think anybody, at least between ourselves nobody changed. I think everyone's pretty much remained the same - a crazy bunch of wacky guys.
Glenn: (I laugh) What would you say some of your highlights have been, while you've been on tour and which tours that stood out for you?
Neal: Well I think just the fact that the 1st time we came over to the UK and to Europe as fantastic because we were able to do that and that was incredibly special but I mean naturally the biggest show that we ever did in 1974, one of our last shows, we played for the indoor concert in Sau Paulo, Brazil and we played for 125,000 people indoors. I mean, that has to... that has to be right up there with one of the big concerts we ever did. Now then, the other big one we did was the 'School's Out' Tour in 1972 when we played the Hollywood Bowl, we headlined the Hollywood Bowl, sold out, sold it out and we had Wolfman Jack and his entourage with camels and elephants and harem girls on one stage and introduce us and then the finale of the show, at the end of the show we have a helicopter fly over the audience because it's an outdoor venue the Hollywood Bowl and the helicopter flies over and throws out thousands and thousands of pairs of women's panties - you know the panties from the schools out album that were left over. So that was a pretty amazing show and that was a big homecoming for us because again being in Los Angeles and starving for all those years and then coming back and headlining the Hollywood Bowl and spending tons of money to put on one hell of a show - one of the biggest shows they've ever seen there. That was pretty special so... also Madison Square Garden - that was another sort of a big show for us the 1st time we played there.
Glenn: Who would you say your favourite support acts were that supported you on tour?
Neal: Well Flo and Eddy were good friends of ours - they were great. We really only had several tours that were so organised that we would have bands come on opening for us. Of course, the last American Tour that we did in the late holiday tour of 1973, while 'Muscle Of Love' was being released, ZZ Top opened for us.
Neal: ...and it was really their first big national tour and I went out almost every night - I love these guys.
Glenn: So do I.
Neal: My guitar love of guitar playing roots - I went out, not every night but I watched them an awful lot. They were a fantastic band - I loove them and as time went on and our original band broke up, ZZ Top just got so huge I almost... it's like living vicariously through them. I love seeing their success and what they had done even though we didn't get to know them too well on the tour - they pretty much stayed to themselves but they're a phenominal band and they were great to watch. I also enjoyed... we played the 'Fillmore West' in California, San Francisco several times and one time was with Ike and Tina Turner - but we opened for them back in those days and Tina and the Ikettes were just some of the most beautiful, sexy girls in the world - they were just amazing dancers and I used to love to watch them also.
Glenn: I was talking to a guy called Teddy John Mueller last night and he said his old band called Tongie opened for you guys 2 or 3 times and he said one night Alice came on stage and he was banging a hammer on stage.
Neal: He was probably talking about the 'Love It To Death' show because that was when we opened with 'Sun Arise' - the song off the 'Love It To Death' album which is one of the only cover versions we've ever done but Alice came out and he's playing the hammer on the mike stand right along with the drums. It was very, very cool. That was a show. I don't really remember him that well. That was back in 1971 probably.
Glenn: Wow. No wonder. What was it like hanging out with guys like Keith Moon?
Neal: Well actually Keith was definately an interesting character. I mean, he surprised me he lived as long as he did, drinking as much as he did but 1st of all he's one of the most incredible entertainers I think ever in rock 'n' roll and there's never been a drummer like him. I don't know how he was ever contained even. I just know that there's only 2 people I have ever watched perform in any kind of entertainment capacity in my entire life and I just laugh when I see them because I just don't believe what I'm seeing - one was Jimi Hendrix and the other was Keith Moon. You watch him playing and you just can't believe what he's doing and how amazingly easily he does it too. But hanging out with him, he would come over every night when we recorded... we were finishing off recordings of 'Billion Dollar Babies' at the Morgan Studios there in London and he would come over and he would get so f*ck*d up and that was the thing - he was drinking so much cognac - he was drinking like a bottle of cavarsiet every night and you can't keep that up too long. So he would do his best Robert Newly as a pirate.
Glenn: I was gonna ask you if he came dressed up and stuff.
Neal: I tell ya, he became Robert Newly - he became that actor and he was amazing. He was sitting bacase we were all sitting at the table. Alice and me and Marc Bolan and Keith Moon and Marc keeps trying to get Keith to start a band with him.
That's one of the dumbest ideas I've ever heard in my life. Marc Bolan and Keith Moon in the same band. I mean they go... like I don't know who was more f*ck*d up - was it Marc Bolan or was it Keith? I mean Keith wasn't even paying attention to him at all. He would stay in his.. he was doing his Robert Newly thing but I was just amazing. No Keith was great - I actually still have the set of drums Keith played on I recorded the 'Billion Dollar Babies' album on - I still have that set of drums and Keith played 'em in the studio that night. They came over to Detroit a couple of times - we did some shows with them in Detroit a few years before that and I met him at The Rainbow Theatre in London when we played - that was in 1972. It was the same time we were over there recording and we actually played The Rainbow but they did a holiday version of 'Tommy' with I think the London Philharmonic and Peter Sellars was there and it was just amazing.
Glenn: Was it them one that was bootlegged and you've got Jon Pertwee on it?
Neal: I think so - they weren't really playing - they were just sitting there onstage just singing all the songs.
Glenn: Got ya - awesome.
Neal: Oh he was definately a trip - there was nobody.. Oh he was one of a kind and he was something else. I've been writing a book for the last several years and all the stories with The Who and with Keith are.. well there's not that many but they will be in the book. He was just so amazing and still to this day everytime I hear.. I mean to me The Who were the best band in the world. That's my own opinion, I mean I love Jimi hendrix and he's probably close to 2nd but that's because of him, but the whole band, The Who just on stage - there's nothing like 'em. There's nothing more powerful or nothing more entertaining - they're theatrical in their own right just by being there, you know?
Glenn: Yeah as soon as John (Entwistle) died, the band was dead. I mean when Kenny was in it wasn't the same.
Neal: I mean I would have loved to play drums for them and I was actually, when The Who played at The Superbowl last year in 2010 they had Zack Starkey. I mean he's a lot younger than I am. I was very dissappointed - I thought he was going to be more kick-ass on stage. I don't know if you ever saw that performance but they did some great songs and he just kinda sat there and played 'em. I thought, 'What the f*ck is he doing man?', I thought 'This is The Who you are playing with, not The Monkees for christ sake. I was very, very dissappointed. I mean the band was great, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend - you just can't go wrong but man there's such a legacy of drumming with The Who, you just can't sit back there and like fall asleep at the wheel.
Glenn: I thought that Simon Phillips did a good job in '89 but you can't replace Keith but he had something about him.
Neal: Yeah there's some people that would be a lot more capable that Zack Starkey.
Glenn: After you were a member of The Alice Cooper Band, you've had various bands and projects, what have been your faves that you are proud of?
Neal: Well I played on The Plasmatics second album and they were an amazing band to work with too. I loved Wendy and Richy Stabbs who was the guitar player of the band, The Plasmatics and I was really honoured when they asked me to play with them - this was back in the early 80's. I tell ya man, the speed rock punk that they had was, oh my god, I mean that was a gruelling challenge to play with those guys - I loved it. They were great. I never played live with them, I only recorded the album with them but I should have taken the challenge and tried to play with them live - they asked me too, I just declined on it.
Glenn: I was going through your online discography and I realised I had one of the albums on there I bought years ago by a band called 'Deadringer'.
Neal: A friend of ours who used to play with Ted Nugent, Charlie Hume who was in the early 80's he was over in Germany and had a band called 'Victory' and somehow I had heard a couple of the albums. They were amazing and the vocals were fantastic and so I saw him somewhere along the line and I told him, "Man if we ever do something and need a vocalist, would he be interested in singing?", amd he said he'd, "Love to", so we had an opportunity to put an album together at the end of the 80's with some of the executives from CBS that were fired when Sony took over and they started their own record label called 'Grudge Records' and they, as a matter of fact through my real estate business here in New England, one of the agents ladies that I know, her husband was one of the excecutives and he had contacted me and wanted to know if I was working on anything and put a record together.
So Dennis and Joe Bouchard and I had been working on writing songs for quite a while - Joe Bouchard from The Blue Oyster Cult. He was the original bass player but he also plays guitar as his main instrument - sort of like Mitch Mitchell with Jimi Hendrix - he played bass with Jimi but he was actually a guitar player and Joe was the same way. So he went back when he left Blue Oyster Cult, he went back to playing guitar. So we had a band together for a while called 'Bouchard, Dunaway and Smith' but we had written songs for years. So we had a collection of songs and I had a friend of mine, Jay Jesse Johnson who was from Hertford, Ct who was a lead guitar player and so that would be.. we'd have the bass, 2 guitars and Joe also plays keyboards, so we had keyboards, bass and guitars and drums but we needed a vocalist so we asked Charlie and he agreed to do it and he came in and sang the songs for us. So that was where that band came from and as a matter of fact it's out of print. I do have a limited licensing agreement with the people that were from the record company and I do sell a couple of copies occasionally with people coming to my website, they can find it there. But it's a great album, I mean it's a real 80's kind of hair band sounding album. Have you heard it?
Glenn: I've got it, I've not played it in years - I've got the original vinyl on Grudge.
Neal: Oh you still have the vinyl of it?
Neal: Actually I have a full box of like 20 copies that are still wrapped in the box.
Glenn: Wow - there you go, that's awesome.
Neal: But it's a good album - I mean it's got some cool songs on it and it's got that 80's sound that every band in the 80's had but it was our version of it. That was right around the same time that Alice had the 'Poison' album. It's a great record.
Glenn: What are you working on at the moment?
Neal: I'm actually working on my brand new Killsmith 2 right now and I've mixed everything and I will be mastering hopefully soon and I'll probably have the downloads ready before the end of the month. I'm very excited about that new stuff - it's great.
Glenn: How did the Killsmith project come about?
Neal: Well I never went out and played it. I mean I never performed it and I was going to do a couple of videos but I've sold copies all over the world which is great. The critics that listened to it loved it. It's very different to Alice Cooper stuff. I think that the 1st Killsmith, 'Sexual Saviour' probably has a heavier edge to it than the new one. Musically they are about the same as far as the production but the new one, Killsmith 2 is gonna be just a little more radio friendly I think. I really don't say the F word on the new one at all because the other one I kindof.. I really had to get that.. I mean I have a tendency to talk like a drunken sailor sometimes. But I pulled it back on it. The last one I just really wanted to.. I didn't want any restraints. When I was writing the lyrics and I felt something very strongly, even the title track, 'Sexual Saviour' says the word 'f*ck' in it twice. It's one of those things that I just had to do and I was doing it basically for myself and if anybody liked it that's cool but like I said, the new one, the songs always take on a life of their own when I'm writing them and I have to be very inspired when they are being created and the newer ones, thery just took on a life of there own. Like I said, they can be played on the radio whereas a lot of the songs on 'Sexual Saviour' cannot be played on the radio.
Glenn: Got ya. And I guess you've got more chance of selling more copies of the album because they have heard the songs on the radio as well.
Neal: Well I get some airplay in the UK. One of the songs off 'Sexual Saviour' is called 'Beware The Dog' that got some airplay in the UK. Alice on his programme here in the United States, his radio show, he really liked the song, 'How Do You Bleed?' and he played that song quite often - he still does as a matter of fact.
Glenn: What was it like for you when you got back together in 2006 and you reunited for a while and what was it like entering in and meeting everyone again and getting onstange or just in rehearsal with all the original guys again apart from Glen, (Rest In Peace)?
Neal: Well you know what, people say this all the time when they get together but it's really true, it's like no time passes. I mean, Michael Bruce is still the same, Dennis is still the same, you know Alice is still the same, I'm still the same, we're the same, the same sense of humour. Bob Ezrin, our Producer who also did Kiss and also did 'The Wall' for Pink Floyd and a lot of other great hit albums. He's continually worked through his whole lifetime and he's still a very dear friend. He's like the 6th member of our band and he goes in the studio and he goes, when we are altogether, he goes, "Nothing's changed with you guys?", he says, "You're still as ridiculous as you ever have been". He says, "It's like never changed and it's been decades - you guys walk in the same room and it's like you just left and came in yesterday!".
Neal: It's like we have such a tight family and when the band broke up in the mid 70's, there was talks of lawsuits and everything and I just said, "I'm not for it". I will not go to war with my four best friends. I just wasn't interested to do it.
Glenn: I guess it's because of the money side of it, because bands break up and then they form other bands and I guess it's because Alice got such a big name and the stakes went up and all that and all the money side of things and I guess it all got a bit ugly at the time and you thought, "I can't be doing with all this stuff".
Neal: Well yeah - he's done great over the years and that's fantastic and it's fantastic for us because again because we created so muich of the original music now - it's all the classic music and I mean that's why sometimes, I know he's always out there working and I just, I wanna do our part in making... bringing our music to the public as well. When we get these opportunities we love to do it for sure.
Glenn: And I guess the good thing about Alice out there working is that it brings new fans in and they discover the old Alice Cooper stuff and go out and buy the earlier albums, so it's more royalties at the end of the day so he's like scratching your back and you do whatever you need to do in the meantime as well because you've got other things going on.
Neal: Well I think that's another good point and I know that there's a lot of kids these days that have no idea who Alice Cooper is. I think that if you've ever gone to school, you know, you know the song. There's people I know that know the song but don't really know that it's Alice Cooper. I mean I'm talking about really young kids these days. But there are a surprising amount of kids like you say, will go out and find the albums or go on the internet and find the songs and they love 'em. There's a whole new generation of fans and again I think it's a testimonial to the music, how great the music is and I know music changes a lot and right now I don't even know what a band would do because it's just so difficult. You know the music business has changed so much. You don't go in and get a record deal and sell a million records anymore. You have a hit and it's 250,000 people download it in 2 weeks you know - that's a hit?
Glenn: Yeah - it's weird.
Neal: So it's all about singles again with one single song. I think it was 5 years ago that a CD sold a million copies and it just happened, I think it was a country and western CD last summer and they said it had been 5 years since a CD had sold a million copies. They just don't do it anymore. I mean CD's are almost dead, so that may be the last time there ever is a million selling cd, so things do change but with all those changes I think that Alice Cooper, the original band has probably become one of the strongest entities of the Warner Brothers Catalogue. I know that Warner Brothers does have a great catalogue. I think they probably make more money with the older catalogue, the vintage music than they do with the new stuff. I don't know - I mean, someone can be popluar and then 3 weeks later somebody goes, "Who's that?". I mean talk about a flash in the pan - it used to be like a year and nobody would hear from you but now it's literally months and then somebody takes their place and I don't know how it's ever going to.. Like 'American Idol', these people go by the wayside so fast, they come so fast, hit so fast and then the publicity they receive on televison is so monstrous. Do you know how much it costs to keep that up after you're on the show? It's a fortune to get all that kind of publicity.
Glenn: It's crazy.
Neal: So it's tough but I'm very happy whenever there's new people that are coming in and listening to our stuff. It's fantastic.
Glenn: I know, when you look at the change as well - you guys would have never had a chance because you didn't really break until about 3rd or 4th album properly - you'd have gone by the wayside after the 1st single or 1st album or something - we'd have never have got Alice Cooper if it was like that back then.
Neal: Well that's right, well we almost didn't record 'Love It To Death' so if 'Love It To Death' hadn't have been recorded we would have just been just sitting there stagnent and would have been it but it was through our management, through Shep Gordon that he was able to make that work for us and that was one of the key things that we wanted in the early days. Frank Zappa when he signed us, he wanted us to sign with his management and I was very adamant about never doing that. I said, "No Herbie Cohen is your Manager, now we have to find somebody who's our Manager - you see we don't want to be second to anybody", and that was another thing that everybody in the band was in 100% agreement on. We didn't just wanna sign with a manager, we wanted a manager to represent us, Alice Cooper, their number 1 act and that's exactly what we found. It's just amazing the things that we wanted to all happen but it just took a little bit of time and we had to stick to it.
Glenn: From those days though, the heydays, what songs would you say were the hardest to play and why?
Neal: You mean live on stage?
Glenn: Either live or when you 1st had to put them together in the studio?
Neal: Well I guess I never look at a song. I mean once it's recorded and once I write the part for it it becomes second nature to me. So once it's any song that we have I never consider it hard to play - it's just something that.. because I write the part, I created it.. Now if I go to a band like (The) Police and look at the drummer, Stewart Copeland - he is a great drummer and he has a totally different feel now. If I go to him, there's a lot of stuff that he plays I couldn't play. That would be difficult or if I go to.. there's some things John Bonham plays that with his timing in and out of grooves and stuff that I couldn't play. So everybody has their style but once I write my own stuff I don't consider it difficult. It's an interesting question but otherwise I guess if it's too tough for me to play I wouldn't have written it.
Glenn: Because it's you.
Neal: I know that Bob Ezrin, you know, when we were writing the song, 'Billion Dollar Babies', he ultimately heard a straighter beat through the whole song than the one I created for it but I think that that's a... I mean that was, you know, the initial idea but I really had a vision of the drum part that's on there and has been there forever and it's not an easy part. I know other people tried to play it and can't figure it out. So for me, it's simple. I write it and I play these songs all the time. I guess one of the ones that might have been, I mean 'Halo Of Flies' could seem like a tough one but I can play that one almost in my sleep and backwards - I love that song. But again, it's second nature to me. I guess 'The Grand Finale' on the 'School's Out' album - that was little.. you know we never really played that live but if I would have to say one that might be a little more difficult because we're playing some broadway and some theatrical sorts of things on there which is great, I love them but they were just a little bit challenging.
Glenn: It wasn't your forte at the time and it wasn't natural to do it. It was gonna work for the end of the album. You thought we must do this to do it right and get it finished on..
Neal: Yeah but where we left was like 'West Side Story' - I mean, we loved those songs but that's a little bit different but it still fits into the different time-changes that we did on 'Pretties For You' and 'Easy Action' but basically 'Pretties For You'. So there were a lot of orchestration changes in the songs - so that we were always very familiar with but I think because we didn't write it, that you know, it always seems to be a little tougher to play when you don't write it but that's a great question.
Glenn: Yeah we had Black Sabbath over here shocking people with what they did and you did that to people over in the USA - not in style of music but in general perspective.
Neal: Well I think that first of all, that's what 'Rock 'N' Roll' is about anyway. Even when Elvis went on Ed Sullivan, they wouldn't show him from the waist down - that was almost like the 1st shock thing. So it never stops - I mean it just keeps going and going and going until now really Lady Gaga comes out to the Grammys and she's in an egg, like who the f*ck cares. It's like everything's been done and as far as I'm conscerned that could have been Yoko Ono in a bag with John Lennon with the Plastic Ono Band so I mean all this stuffs been done it's just recycled but I think that Black Sabbath were totally an entity to themselves. I like Ozzy and I like what he's done and he's certainly maintained a legacy. There was the Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, I mean there was stuff that was happening in America and in the UK at the same time that was bubbling. It was a sign of the times because of the Vietnamese War and the politics and the economy and everything and what was going on in the United States in the late 60's and people were kinda getting tired of the hippy thing which we were never fond of and it was time for somthing new and different and so from that standpoint I admored what they did but they were kind of coming up just as we were peaking and maintaining for a while.
Over time there were one of those bands and Ozzy has certainly maintained a position in 'Rock 'n' Roll' and I think that's great. Just from that standpoint alone and I think they've gotten better over the years. I don't follow their music much but I remember a couple of songs that Ozzy has sang over the years and they are just great, great songs. They had their own niche and that's a great thing about rock 'n' roll music and there's so many directions you can go in and even if people wanna talk about the bands that we influenced over the years. There's such a variety - there's different.. once that door's open.. once that whole new aspect of music is out into the public there's a million ways to interpret it and somebody can just take like the sick things and then boom, they get into something like Black Sabbath or whatever and they take the real macabre side of it. Or they get into the real theatrical side of it and they come up with something like a punk thing like 'The Plasmatics' but there's always all the clothes on stage and that's Kiss. You know, they took it in a direction too but I think Black Sabbath's great and I wish I would have seen them but I was kinda busy at the time.
Glenn: How did the band come together with Dennis Dunaway and Joe Bouchard from Blue Oyster Cult?
Neal: Well again we were friends with Blue Oyster Cult - we had played with them on tour and they had opened a few shows for us and there's another band when we were talking about opening bands that they did hit a leg of one of our earlier tours I think - somewhere around 'Killer'. We were going through the south and they came on for a leg of that tour and opened for us. So we got to be pretty good friends with them and they actually live hered in Connecticut where we lived at the time back in the 70's and Dennis and I got to be pretty good friends with Buck Darmer and Joe Bouchard. So being fellow musicians and living relatively close together, we'd get together and play and jam and write songs and Joe and I had written a couple of songs that were actually on a couple of the last Blue Oyster Cult albums that he played on. One of them was called 'Shadows Of California' - we wrote that and that was on one of the albums and then of course I played on Buck Dharma's solo album, so did Dennis 'Flat Out' and the MTV hit that was off of that, that was played over and over again was called 'Born To Rock' and that was a song that actually I had written and then he collaborated with me and wrote the version that's on his album. So we'd been friends professionally and socially and still are and actually Dennis still plays with Joe to this day and also Albert Bouchard, the drummer from the band - Joe's brother plays with Dennis as well. So we still have a great friendship and they are just great guys.
Glenn: Yeah cool. I know Alice Cooper himself has now got a slot at the Download Festival in June at Donington Park in the UK. Can you see yourselves as the original Alice Cooper band doing a full tour as such or is it just going to be one-offs now and again?
Neal: Well we've been talking about something like that for the past five years and I'm sure that we'll probably do some shows after 'The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction' but whether it will ever escalate to full tour, I don't know. I would certainly be interested in at some point, some sort of way over to play over in the UK and in Europe. We have talked about it, whether it will actually happen or not I don't know. Whether it be for one special show or a couple of special shows. I know that all of these things have been discussed - whether they'll actually happen or not, I don't know. There are some plans to play a few select cities in the United States after 'The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction' and we've talked about that but there's nothing that's been booked yet but there are some, you know there are conversations about that right now. So whether it happens or not - I know Alice is still planning on touring himself and I'm sure because he loves to play and loves to tour and he will do that. Whether in there we do some dates as the original band or not we'll just have to wait and see.
Glenn: Right - so it's in the lap of the gods - so to speak. We'll see what happens.
Neal: Hm Hm yeah (laughs).
Glenn: It's all you can say really isn't it?
Neal: It is at this point.
Glenn: Yeah exactly.
Neal: I hope we do it though. I'd love to come over to the UK again - I really would. We spent a lof of time over there. The Blakes Hotel and recording and playing and touring and being based out of London - it was.. we loved it.
Glenn: Would you say the fanbase was different to what you got in America? A different sort of reception you got?
Neal: It was always crazy. Our reaction... we were told when we went to Europe the 1st time because the crowds were pretty crazy in the United States and we were told, "Well when you go over to the UK and you go over to Europe, you're not The Beatles and it's gonna be a little more reserved, a little more civilised, you know crowds". And we just go, "That's f*ck*ng unacceptable, we can't do that - what do you mean it's a little more civilised - that's b*llsh*t. So we had already experimented with when Alice came out with 'Love It To Death' with the sword and back in those days we actually had real money on the sword. We had actually stopped using it after somewhere around 'School's Out' or whatever. But we were over.. well before that we were over in the UK and in Europe and we said we'll bring the sword back out and whatever country we went into, we got their currency and we just put hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of bills up and down the sword with holes in 'em and Alice went out there and there's people just sitting there and applauding nicely and they are like 20 feet from the stage or something and Alice starts taking the money and peeling it off and throwing it in front of the stage and the people ran up and went crazy. "We'll get 'em off their seats even if we have to pay 'em to do it". So they ended up jumping over each other just to get to the f*ck*ng money. So oh my, it worked, it worked.
Glenn: That's madness innit?
Neal: And from then on, people heard about that the crowds go crazy when they went to see Alice Cooper. So yeah, that's cause they're getting the money we're throwing out.
Glenn: I used to think it was fake money and never realised it was real money.
Neal: In the early days it was always real money.
Glenn: Jesus, how times change.
Neal: The economy you know?
Glenn: Exactly. It's the same everywhere isn't it. The bankers and all that. With regards to the business side, how did you get into 'Real Estate'?
Neal: Well actually back in the early 70's when we started making enough money and we had some left over, Michael, Alice and I bought some properties out in Arizona for investments. In the band we had a couple of these, we used to called 'em tax shelters back in the early 70's and you can shelter some of your income by putting them into what was called 'Tax Shelters' and most of the time that was real estate and it could be anywhere from... it was usually something commercial - it would be like an apartment building or a business or something like that. So we had made an investment in a building in Florida and then one in Minnesota, so we had a couple of investments. So I just became interested in it from that standpoint and when I went through my divorce in the late 70's into the early 80's I met some people in the real estate business near the west port area where I live in Connecticut. I got interested in it, I wanted to know more about it so I took the classes, got my real estate license and the next thing I knew one of my friends said they had their office and like I could join their office and they had a desk available. That was in 1985 and I got lucky and I started selling and listing homes right away and had a pretty successful career and it last 25 years until the economy slowed down about 2 years ago. I mean I do residential homes, houses and peoples homes and stuff. I don't do commercial but that's just a niche that I got into so if you know anybody that's looking for house in Fairfield County, Connecticut, I'm the guy.
Glenn: Cool. Yeah. You were saying yo were writing a book because I was gonna ask you about an autobiography coming out in the future.
Neal: I probably have a few more years to go in writing it because I can't get to it every single second unfortunately but I probably have some of the most comprehensive records of anybody back in the band from back in the day because I would basically keep a lot of logs of where we played and actually how much money we made. So also when my mother passed away back in the mid 90's and I was cleaning out her home to sell her home - she had moved from Arizona back to Connecticut here. I found a box that had letters in it and it was every single letter I had ever written her from the beginning of the band through the end of the band...
Neal: ...And I would send them to her in postcards from all over the world, wherever we'd play. So all of a sudden it gave me another timeline of where I was and what I was doing and I would say things like for example one of the letters was when Cream came to play at the Shrine Auditorium in 1968. This was after the hunting accident that Alice accidentally shot me and I had a cast on my left leg all the way up to my ankle. We went to see Cream play at Shrine Auditorium with Ginger Baker and Clapton and Jack Bruce and they were the only band there that night. They played the 1st set, they took an intermission and went back and that's when they would do 'Spoonful' for a whole set. So when I got to go backstage and I met Ginger Baker. I was talking to him and their roadies because I had stood up for the whole 1st set, they said. "You know, you want to sit down for the next set?". So they got a chair for me and they put it right behind Clapton's Amp, right next to Ginger Baker - Onstage! And you know what Glenn, all these years, I mean I remember going to the show but I don't remember being up there and I remember.. and then in the letter it said that I was sitting right behind Clapton's amp but even through the back of the amp the tone of the amp was just so amazing and I was right there watching Ginger Baker, right from the side and I totally forgot that I was actually up on stage with them watching hidden behind Clapton's amp until I saw this letter. And through some of my things, you'd think I'd remember that right?
Glenn: But you go through so many things don't you through life. It's like, "Oh yeah, I remember that now".
Neal: Well it just takes a little spark of a couple of words to bring back the whole thing, you know?
Neal: And that's exactly what I found with this so there's been a lot of stories that I.. it just kinda like jumpstarts your memory when you find this. It's like, 'Oh my god, yes I do remember that', but that's the sort of thing that I'll be talking about as well - not only about the band. A little bit about the history timeline with what was going on socially in the United States at the time and you know, bringing in the Vietnam War because there were a lot of... You know it was a really dismal time, you know people, I know we have a couple of wars going on right now but there was something about the Vietnam War was just a very, very err, it was... everybody was always thinking about it, it was always on everybodys mind. It was on the news every single night and it was part of the culture and then the Kennedys got shot and Martin Luther King gets shot and I mean it was just oh you know.. unbelievable time.
Glenn: I mean you've got som many things and if I said, "What have been some of the main highlights of your life so far?", that's what the book's about isn't it?
Neal: Well, I mean I'm basically a pretty positive person, a pretty happy person. I've found an overwhelming amount of success in what I wanted to accomplish early in my life. So I've just had to, you know I find an awful lot of satisfaction in that but then I think we've also disappointed the fans an awful lot by not playing as much and bringing them newer music. I mean Alice has done a beautiful job on his own in his solo career and we've all written music and it's available if people wanna find it and they do find it and they do buy it and download it. But we've done some new tracks for Alice's new album, 'Welcome To My Nightmare 2'.
Glenn: Right - wow.
Neal: We collaborated on 3 songs on it and those 3 songs, Mike and Dennis and I play the music on it. So that's going to be very, very special but I would be happier if it was a complete original band album. That has not been talked about yet but at this point we just don't know where this will all take us but I have had a lot of wonderful things happen in my life and as long as I am still healthy I'll keep playing my guitar and my drums and writing songs and when I'm asked to play live I love to do it.
Glenn: It's like you read my mind then because I was gonna ask you if there was ever going to be a new Alice Cooper band album.
Neal: I mean we've talked about doing some shows. If we play the shows, hopefully they'll be recorded and film which would be recorded and filmed. It would be the classic material on a new live DVD like Cream did when they had their performances. But we have not talked about an official complete Alice Cooper album as of yet...
Neal: ... And also Bob Ezrin is involved in the brand new album, 'Welcome To My Nightmare 2' with Alice also. So if something leads from that, I don't know - it depends. If those 3 songs become some of the most popular songs on the album and they're f*ck*ng great songs basically. You know it's back to Mike and Dennis and I writing the music and Alice writing the lyrics and it's great stuff. So they are the 1st things that have been recorded with that chemistry in over 30 years now. So it seems like a lifetime and to most people, they won't even remember the band but it is a long time ago but those sorts of things never change - that chemistry never changes.
Glenn: Yeah. I know when I heard 'The Eyes Of Alice Cooper' and 'Dirty Diamonds' I thought, 'Great, it's going back to more of a garagey rock band as opposed to the more conceptual stuff like what he was doing with 'Brutal Planet' or 'Chinatown'. I thought, 'That's more like it again' and if we ever get you guys doing something together again then that's the icing on the cake really.
Neal: Yeah well doing a concept album, I could see in it, I mean we could each individually do that but again it's very different when.. I mean there's just nothing like Michael playing rhythm guitar and he was singing background behind Alice. It's like Keith Richards singing behinds Mick Jagger - that's the sound right there and it's raw, it's powerful and that's the 1st thing I noticed that was really different when because it was back when Alice opened his restaurant in Phoenix - it was either 1999 or 2000. It was about 10 years ago. We did a reunion and it was just Mike and Alice and I and we had another bass player at the time and that was the 1st thing I noticed that as the songs were being played - is that Mike singing behind Alice - that's great. It's the sound right there and Mike is cranking on his SG Gibson Guitar man, it's just great - great stuff. Hopefully we can do more.
Glenn: That'd be just incredible. I'd just love to see you guys play Download as opposed to the current Alice Cooper band as I've seen them about 5 or 6 times anyway.
Neal: Well those guys are good.
Glenn: Oh yeah - Keri's a nice guy.
Neal: Damon Johnson's great. He's a great guy - we've played with him before too. The reunion we played in 2006 was Damon and that was very, very cool.
Glenn: You are totally different bands and I just think it's brilliant that you are gonna be doing a few things together as such.
Neal: Well you never know until we get out there and play.
Neal: I'm nor quite sure but it's just like you said before, "What's it like to get out?', it's like a day hasn't passed, you go out there and you know, it's Alice's great vocals and Dennis is just an amazing bass player and I think he and I are, you know, this is what I like to bost too - I don't think enough people talk about he and I as a rhythm section. We get together and we just play by ourselves and it's just like.. it's like I know I know what he's going to play, he knows what I'm going to play. He's so comfortable with that - it's quite awesome.
Glenn: Yeah. Excellent. Well it's just been great to have a good chat with you mate.
Neal: Well it's been my pleasure Glenn and it's been fun.
Glenn: Have you got a title for the book that is gonna be coming out (in a few years) yet?
Neal: I've had a couple of ideas - 'Kill The Singer' was one of 'em but I don't know if I'll.. no I'm only teasing about that.
Glenn: I don't think Alice will ber too happy about that one even though we might laugh.
Neal: It's like, "What? Do you have animosity against Alice?", I said, "No - that's what we did - we killed him - we killed him every night for years and years and years.
Neal: But as I say, maybe 'Kill The Singer' would be a good name for the book but no.. I really don't know. I have a couple of different ideas but I'm still not quite sure but... I don't know, maybe I will call it that but err.. maybe I'll have a contest on my website and I'll let the fans pick the name like an album.
Glenn: What would you say you are most proud of as a person or as a drummer or just through life in general?
Neal: Well I think the thing I'm most proud of is that I'm f*ck*ng still alive.
I mean, when you go back to all the drummers - I mean Keith Moon, John Bonham - they're gone. I mean there was so many musicians and you know, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. I mean, so many.. I mean I'm not even talking about, you know, so many are gone now over the last 10 years and all those all died in the 60's and early 70's and Jim Morrison. I mean, Jesus Christ, we weren't doing anything less or more than any of those people were doing. There was a time and I just had to go, 'Ok, I'd rather have the slow burn than than the quick burn'. So that's what I decided to do. I had made a lot of lifestyle changes a long time ago. I think my songwritings gotten better over the years and I would have loved to hear Jimi Hendrix in his older years and see what he's playing. I don't care if it's blues or whatever - it had to be amazing. You know but those people are all taken away from us and I'm quite serious when I say this that my biggest accomplishments is still being alive and in this business when especially coming out of the era that we came out of, I mean people were dropping like flies and mostly drumers. I mean, the craziest most popular drummers were.. I was always up there in all the poles in the United States like Circus and Cream magazine. I was always there with John Bonham and Keith Moon a couple of times - I was the No. 1 drummer. So that always amazed me but again the fact that all the stuff we've done that we've all got to this point and unfortunately we've lost Glen (Buxton) but the other four of us are still alive and I think that's an accomplishment too.
Glenn: What would you say your favourite parts of the original shows were on stage and why?
Neal: Oh I just loved killing Alice.
The executions always. We always called that the dark part of the set because we usually had the show done in 3 sections and the second section would be the darker or the more macabre part of it. So that's what said before, you know I love that show. But I love being on stage, I'm a big show-off and I always love big gaudy, big shiny drums and loud music. But those parts, we really got into the theatre of it was in that dark section - that theatrical section of the show and I love that stuff.
Glenn: Awesome - that's brilliant. Right I'll thank you again for your time - it's been special.
Neal: There will be some things people have read before but some things that they haven't.
Glenn: Right I'll let you get off but thanks again.
Neal: Right Glenn, you are very, very welcome - a pleasure talking to you and I hope we get to meet each other some day.
Glenn: Have a great day for the rest of the day.
Neal: Oh right - thank you very much Glenn.
Glenn: And enjoy the 14th March.
Neal: Yeah. I will. Thank you very much.
Glenn: Not a problem.
Neal: Okay. Take Care.
Glenn: Take Care Bro. See ya. Thanks Bye.
Neal: Thanks Bye.