Killsmith (Neal Smith of Alice Cooper Band)

Only the mind of one of the originators of Shock Rock could spawn a record like Sexual Savior. Legendary Alice Cooper drummer Neal Smith has managed to keep his hand in the music scene since the band went on a 34 year hiatus. While he has put out records such as his Cinematik project and a collaboration with former Cooper bassist Dennis Dunaway and Blue Oyster Cult's Joe Bouchard, Sexual Savior is a return to form of material like "Sick Things" and "I Love The Dead".

This is a gritty affair that takes on outlooks of the fringe of society, murderers, those that walk a solitary path due to alienation or madness, and others who just choose the darker side of the highway --- pure sex, drugs and rock & roll. The titles of the songs will give you all the direction you need, "Disturbed", "Thrill, Thrill, Thrill, Shoot to Kill", "Monsters in the Attic", "Naked and the Raw". This is a record to be consumed in one whole sitting, not just a blast here and there. Put this on after dark and slowly sink into the dirt.

Sexual Savior, released on Valentine's Day, represents a huge chunk of Smith. He wrote all the songs and played almost everything on it as well as producing the affair. Accompanying the CD is a companion booklet with lyrics, augmented by steamy pictures of eye candy that represent each song. It was with great pleasure that I had the opportunity to speak with Neal recently to talk about the record.

antiMusic: Congrats on Sexual Savior.

Neal: Oh thank you. It was a fun project to work on, I can tell you that much.

antiMusic: I can imagine. One of my jobs is an hour away by car so it's a perfect record to put in the car and cruise to.

Neal: (Laughs.) That's one of the main reasons I wrote it, was because I just wanted to put some songs together that I liked. You know, people talk about the reasons or the target, and I go�I wasn't really thinking about that. I was inspired to write some songs and when I listened to them I could play them more than one time and still enjoy them. So that was MY motivation.

antiMusic: Yeah, I like everything on there. But there are four cuts that really stand out to me. "Dynasty Of Darkness" is probably my favorite cut on there. "Human Condition", "Beware Of The Dog" and "Naked In The Raw" all fit a certain kind of vibe for me.

Neal: Oh cool. Yeah, "Naked In The Raw" I really liked that one too. It was a cool song from the standpoint. I don't know if too many people would listen to it and understand that the names of all the women that are mentioned in there are starlets over the last couple of decades. If you listen to it, the first names of everybody are from Britt Ekland, Marilyn Monroe, and Jayne Mansfield. They were the inspiration. So I get inspired by women and these were certainly good women to be inspired by.

antiMusic: Absolutely. And on that topic, I was going to say, in addition, thanks so much for the outstanding artwork and everything on the record too. (laughs.)

Neal: (laughs) Well that was another fun part of it too. The photographer, Jayson Byrd, he and I had been talking about this for a number years. And I know with the invention of iPods and mp3s and everything, I felt that cdBaby would download mp3s for people on Sexual Savior and but I, because of my background and being so visual and everything I wanted, I couldn't have 11 cd covers but I certainly could have 11 pictures that represented each song, and that's what I wanted to do. If it was going to be one photograph that was going to be representative of each song, it was going to be the ones that we had in there. So that was kind of fun working with the photographer on that�

antiMusic: Absolutely. I guess to start with, besides your other band projects that you've been involved with, your last solo record was Platinum God. How did the Killsmith evolve in terms of when were the songs written and why did you go with that name instead of under your name?

Neal: The way that it evolved was I had been inspired since 2002-2003. I was fortunate to get to some concerts in New York City and saw some bands that were high energy; you know, very industrial strength, kind of metal band that varied from bands that we know. And some of them certainly were not world famous or nationally famous across the United States but they just inspired me with their energy and most of them were younger bands. A band like Thrill Kill Cult was a band that I had liked over the last couple of decades and through the '90s and '2000s and actually got to know those guys pretty well. And they were sort of the inspiration for the song "Thrill, Thrill, Thrill, Shoot to Kill". And they�and I thought, well that's kind of cool stuff. And actually one of the bands I was in before I had joined Mike Bruce and Dennis, and Vince at the time, I was actually in a band where I was a stand up singer and actually we opened for the Nazz which you know was the band I eventually became a member of and then we became Alice Cooper. So I had a little bit of experience, and I mean very little, as a lead singer, so when I wrote these songs, I wrote them from the stand point of being a singer rather than being a drummer. Like Platinum God was more or less, I wrote all the songs on there but I never really saw myself as front man on that. But actually the character sort of developed itself. I didn't want to do rap, and I didn't really want to be like a virtuoso singer, which I'm not, but I still got to sing if I felt like it. But I just wanted something that was a little bit rawer. And just putting the name Neal Smith to it, it just demanded something with a little more guts to it. And a long time ago, when people, with Jimi Hendrix and The Who and those bands were starting to come out in the late sixties, early '70s, really power rock. It wasn't like the Stones, like hard rock, and there really wasn't the term heavy metal at the time. And we used to just call it Kill Rock. That was an expression we used to use. So I kind of used the combination of kill rock and my last name for Killsmith. And also, if a black smith makes horseshoes or a goldsmith deals in gold and making precious metal jewelry and what have you, then Killsmith simply means, creator of really powerful music. So that was sort of the inspiration for it.

antiMusic: Oh cool. People obviously know you as a drummer but how comfortable were you shifting to guitar for the record, even though I suppose you wrote it on guitar?

Neal: Yeah. I did. And that was the other thing too that ever since Pretties For You, the song "Apple Bush" that was on that album, and then the first one that I actually had on any gold or platinum album which was Love it to Death, and that was "Hallowed Be My Name". That song was pretty much identical, every chord, every note, to the way I wrote it. Over time, a song like "Alma Mater" that I wrote, on the School's Out album, that was changed significantly from�I mean it had the same vibe and the same sort of feeling, but I worked with Mike Bruce a lot on the music. I mean he's a great guitar player and songwriter, so he'd just take it to the next level. But this one I wanted to do everything. So I arranged, played all the guitar. As a mater of fact, when we play a live show, I probably would have a guitar player because I'd have to go back and learn it. I mean I can write a song and I can play a song, but then it's almost impossible for me to relearn it. So that's why I'm still a drummer at heart. But I mean with the technology, you just go up there and you just play through the song and then they can fix it and then after that it's not one of those gifts that I have that I remember all the chord changes and everything. But they're there, obviously. But it was really cool to do that. And then I did the keyboards on it. It was just a challenge for me and I think that was the fun part of it. And I could create the image of a really powerful guitar as well as the vocal and song structures. I find it a compliment a lot of time when I'm talking to guitar players, they'll say: I would have never written a song like that or the arrangement. And I think, that's good. It's just different, that's all. It's just a different approach.

antiMusic: Who else plays on the record?

Neal: If you go on my website NealSmith.com, back in the early 2000s, I had done two cds called Cinematic. And the bass player who had the idea for that concept, and actually that evolved from the song "Platinum God" off the cd Platinum God, where there's a lot of like African, native African percussion. He thought it would be a great idea to do a cd, because I have quite an extensive collection of percussion instruments and hand instruments, and drums from all over the world. So I had the opportunity to play them on that cd and we actually ended up doing another one where one was called Cinematic and the other one was Cinematic One Full Moon Away, and there's a little bit on my website which is Nealsmith.com. So when I started on this project---he's a bass player---he has a studio in his home in Connecticut here where I live, and so we just started putting tracks down, and really liked it. And he more or less engineered it because I don't know how to work his studio, but I produced the whole thing and then we went and found somebody to mix it. So it's basically the two of us. I mean we did most of the music. And then, the song "Beware The Dog", you mentioned, we have a friend of ours, and he came in and he played the synthesizer. I played one synthesizer on it and he played the other. And Peter's his name. And the lead guitar work that happens throughout the cd, with these two young guys; one was in his late teens, the other was in his 20s and then we just, again, were friends of ours we know from local, from here in Connecticut, and I think they did a killer job on the stuff. Because I really didn't want to have anything that sounded like classic rock, and these guys, they're so young, they're aware of classic rock, but they have a whole brand new approach and a fresh attitude towards the music. And there's one other kid that we may be using on some new tracks, that's even younger than these guys, and they're just like speedballs. You know, these guys are just full speed ahead. They're pretty crazy and I love them. So we'll see what happens. But if we do anything live, it may be some of the people that worked with me on this, because they're great people, but it may not be as well.

antiMusic: For most of your career, Alice Cooper was known to provoke extreme reactions in people. I guess that's why you didn't shy away from the provocative format of the songs and packaging.

Neal: Well, I appreciate that. And I think that's one thing that's sort of been watered down over the years. And I was talking to someone the other day that, you know, knew a little bit of the history of Alice Cooper from today's perspective. And I think a lot of people really forget how dangerous the public and adults thought we really were in the '70s. I mean there were a lot of bands who were really outrageous. There were The Doors and that sort of thing but they just didn't know what to make of us. We had a bomb scare and it's one of the only one's I ever heard about and this was in the Billion Dollar Baby tour in 1973 at the New Haven Coliseum and I said, ok, that's the state I have to live in, that was Connecticut. So (laughs) we actually had the bomb sniffing dogs and the police, the fire department out there and they said, "Look, we're recommending you guys don't go on stage." And we said the hell with it. If we're going to die, we're going to do it, doing something that we love to do and so we went on stage. And of course nothing happened but you know, people really forget that, and I think one of the main things, and Alice is certainly, since he was on the Muppets and those things that he did and that, I mean, that's fine, but when he became like Barry Manilow wearing make-up , I just� I mean we're good buddies and everything but, after a while it got so watered down, it really was not the original band anymore, I mean, it wasn't. So I wanted to at least capture that spirit in my new music. My vocabulary is pretty good with you right now, but I can talk like a drunken sailor pretty good...(laughs), so I didn't want anything to hold me back. And people say, well some of these things can't be played on radio, and I say, "Well that's fine". There's certainly some things, some of the things you mentioned there, "Dynasty Of Darkness", and "Beware Of The Dog", "Naked In The Raw", they certainly play that on the radio, but the majority of them, I didn't want any restrictions for my creative juices to flow. And it is part of me and that was another thing, I just wanted to really be me. And that I could say, okay, I didn't have to twist or bend for anybody on this. And that was what the original band used to do. It used to be: fire, ready, aim. That's what we did. We used to put it out there and whatever happened, happened. We really didn't shy away from doing what we did best. And people, they weren't surprised when we called it Shock Rock.

antiMusic: Part of a featured section on the website has musicians talking about 5 tracks on the record. Can you tell us about some of songs, either what they're about or something about the writing/record process with them?:

Neal: Sure, go ahead.

antiMusic: Okay, let's just take the first five, starting with "Leave Me Alone".

Neal: "Leave Me Alone", what I was trying to do, Morley� I find that I have all sorts of inspirations for writing material. But what I try to do some times is put myself into somebody's head and I was imagining what, if I could get inside the head of the kids that did so much damage in Columbine, and try to see what they may have been thinking about days or weeks before this happened. And that's totally where this came from. I mean it was pretty simplistic in its approach. And I wanted to try something just a little bit different. Instead of just hammering out lines, just to belt out words , that were very powerful words to talk about what someone may have been thinking, and actually, I probably can imagine there's not too many kids in high school that at some point or another, no matter who they are, may have not had those feelings. Now reacting to them the way that people do sometimes unfortunately in some of these instances with weapons which is totally outrageous. Not everybody does that but they still think those things. I mean we're all in high school at one point. So that was sort of the inspiration for that one. "Sexual Savior", the next one, I'm not going to tell you how it all came about. (Laughs) Now that was just, through the history of the band, I mean, we knew some of the most outrageous groupies in the country. And it was a sort of tribute, or homage to them, if you will, and some of the women that I've known personally through my lifetime. That was pretty much it. All I'm trying to do is�you know, there are three parts to classic rock and roll, and that's sex, drugs and rock and roll. And I was just trying to sort of highlight the sex part of it, which is always a part of rock and roll.

antiMusic: Absolutely. Why did you decide to go with that as the record title?

Neal: As a title, well you know, I guess it's like everything else. When you write a song, you write an album, I like to have a song that's representative of everything you're trying to do; now we always didn't do it. Love it to Death, we didn't have a song called "Love it to Death", but certainly Killer, we did have a song called "Killer", and School's Out as well. Billion Dollar Babies and Muscle of Love. It's sort of traditional with the original Alice Cooper. I haven't always done that but I like to do that if it works. And in this situation, that song is tough enough to represent KillSmith, and Sexual Savior certainly represents the sexual part of rock and roll, and what this project was about. And like you said, the 16 page booklet inside is certainly representative of that.

antiMusic: "Disturbed"?

Neal: Yeah, "Distributed", I sort of think that, is sort of along the lines of "Leave Me Alone". You know, people can be perceived as disturbed when that's not really the case. You know, maybe they're just a little bit different. Or it's sort of a brief case study of that sort of a personality. To an extent I've been called that myself, I'm sure we all have�you probably too, Morley. (laughs.)

antiMusic: (laughs.) More than once.

Neal: (laughs.) More than once� and probably mostly by my parents too by the way. And one thing I liked about this book, we went through and really did a nice�all the lyrics in the booklet as well. And they're pretty clear on the album as well but I do like to do that once in a while. These particular lyrics, when you talk about, I think kids today probably, go to psychiatrist and take medication that probably they don't need. I don't know. I'm not an expert. That's just my opinion. I'm very opinionated about stuff by the way, I hate to tell you. (laughs.) I know it's hard to believe, right? But I think that people take kids, and once they're labeled with some sort of, or anything from schizophrenia to god-only- knows-what, that sort of puts a label on them. The song sort of dwells in that vein. Plus I may be crazy too. You never know. It's one of those two stories, Morley.

antiMusic: (laughs)

Neal: So let's go to "Beware of the Dog". It's probably my oldest song on the record from the standpoint that probably the groove of it and the chords originated actually back right after Platinum God. I mean they've been around that long. But I changed the lyrics an awful lot. I mean I like to have a little dynamics so I wanted to have an acoustic song on this cd. And I thought, I probably will in the future. That's also why I liked that song "Human Evolution" because it's a little bit different than the others as far as musically. I like dynamics in a piece and from that standpoint I wanted something acoustic that sounded powerful and still had, well, it's not exactly a love song with an acoustic guitar. I don't think the Eagles would have had this on their album "Hotel California", but I don't know, maybe they would. (laughs). I wanted to write something that was sort of a fantasy, that was a little bit of a mixture between like "Beware Of The Dog", it could be, it could take a human form, when somebody's a really, really hard-core businessperson, or it could actually be like a werewolf. So it sort of goes along a line like that. That the full moon affects your personality. And there's definitely in there as well, that this character is definitely able to be a murderer. And I think that's what made it exciting for me, when I wrote it. You know it's no different than any gangster movie that you see at the theatre. But I tend to put a little bit of fantasy in there but also there could be my reality which is one of television and movies. Which again is still fantasy, because we were all into that so much and (we) always have been fans of the classic and even the horror movies and everything. So it sort of runs in that vein.

antiMusic: Cool. And "Naked And Raw"?

Neal: Well "Naked And Raw", well you know, we just talked about that and to me that was my tribute to all the starlets that have been through the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s. Plus, it was a great way to get some naked chicks to take pictures with me and have the girls kiss. I mean let's be realistic about this, Morley.

antiMusic: (Laughs)

Neal: (Laughs.) This is my mid life crisis right here. And I had an awful lot of fun with it.

antiMusic: And we all appreciate it, Neal.

Neal: (laughs.) Good. I hope that everybody else who's in the same frame of mind will be able to relate to it. But then I also wanted to do something percussion -wise with it. And I haven't really dwelled very much on that, because each one of these was a challenge to play the percussion to match the song. Which I've always done. I just listen to the song, and the song tells me what to play. This particular one is really just a percussion loop, like a synthesized loop. And then I laid some big giant electronic toms over the top of it, on the choruses. So even going back to "School's Out", with the Bolero on the chorus with the tom toms, you know, I always like to do things like that. And when it's done right, I still like to write and play my music as if I were a drummer listening to a new song. And if I say, if I'm a drummer and I'm listening to and I go: wow those drums are really cool. Or I like what's happening with that, for me, because I think drummers are the most critical people in the world about percussion on records anyway. I mean everybody else just stands and gets in the grooves. But the biggest compliments I've had over the years, and still have, I just got one this morning on my email, is people who still to this day listen to the music and they're inspired by the drums to they make a comment about it. There's something they really like about it that was really different. To me that's a compliment. I take that very personally. I mean that's my forte. At least I know I had a pretty good drummer working with me on the songs with me.

antiMusic: (laughs)

Neal: But you know, I'm very, very anti-synthesized drums, so what do you do when you're afraid of something? You grab it and you work with it. And that's what I did. And I probably will do in the future too just because most of the time I'm very critical again about most of the time you hear synthesized drums or percussion it's been programmed, it's usually done by keyboard players. Now there's nothing wrong with keyboard players but they're not drummers. So that's why, Phil Collins, I loved the stuff he did in the '70s and '80s. He just did great stuff. It was really produced big. And you know, he's a drummer, it should be big. And I was hoping to accomplish the same thing as well. So "Naked And the Raw" is a tribute to the starlets of past decades... and it's also a great percussion groove for me to work on as well.

antiMusic: What are your expectations for the record and what has been the response so far?

Neal: Well the initial response has been actually a lot more favorable than I would have imagined. Trying to create something that's a little bit new and powerful like this, you know, from the standpoint of people that if they were expecting classic like Alice Cooper sort of rock or something a little bit more laid back, that really isn't me. When I'm involved and totally in control of a project, you know, we probably had the most negative is from, probably from older Alice Cooper fans that were expecting something else. I've had people say, "Where the hell does this come from?" And that's great because even though I'm not targeting anyone, to me it would be great if there was a newer audience that would listen to it and really like it. Some of the people I've talked to, they've played it for their kids and I haven't heard any response from any kids who've bought it because obviously with the x rating or triple x rating on it you have to be 18 to buy it, but I don't know how they check that on the internet, but that's not any of my business. But the song "How Do You Bleed", this one review �where are you located, Morley?

antiMusic: Near Ottawa Canada.

Neal: Oh, Canada. This was done�and it's on my website and it was the first review that was done. And the man that did it, he listened to the cd 10 times. Now as far as I'm concerned that's somebody who really knows how to listen to a CD. I can't listen to music one or two times and evaluate it. I really have to listen to it a lot of times. And so he did that. And in the process, his son who is like 12 years old, he heard the song "How Do You Bleed", and he just loves that song. And as a matter of fact, there's a station in Cleveland that's playing "How Do You Bleed". So it is getting some airplay. So Canada. We love Canada. Bob Ezrin produced all our stuff from Toronto up there.

antiMusic: Plus famous other things that went on here as well.

Neal: Absolutely. (Laughs). I'm in the middle of writing my book, and there's going to be a lot of fun stories of when we were in Canada, I'll tell you that much.

antiMusic: Excellent. You mentioned the possibility of live shows�how great a possibility is that?

Neal: Well, I think right now, what I'm more concentrating on the possibility of doing a couple of videos and then putting them maybe on YouTube or maybe putting them on my site, so I'm not sure. Because of my time restraints, that's a little more realistic for me. But again I haven't really decided. If something happens where we find there's an audience, then I will certainly put something together. But I think at this point I just want to get the music out there and get the feedback and the response. But it's not out of the realm of possibilities. I would love to do it. It would rip the hell out of my throat, but I'd love to do it.

antiMusic: You've got your own studio, is that correct?

Neal: Well I've always had my own studio, but basically I write in, and I have my drums, I still have my original drums. So those pretty much take up an awful lot of room because I probably have with all the percussion and the drums sets. I probably have over 200 drums. So it does take up a lot of room. But basically when I record, like I mentioned, Peter Catucci, Peter the Cat, we use his studio, so that works out the best for us.

antiMusic: Are you a techno junkie or is this a means to the end to have your own studio?

Neal: I really am not that much of technical of a person. I like to have people do what they do best around me. Peter recorded it great. We worked with an engineer that I mixed this down with. Actually he's a drummer who is very, very technically oriented. I mean he made the drums very powerful on it. And then the fellow who mastered it with me, he actually has won a Grammy for mixing and mastering. He really was the final polishing touch on it. And you know, I want to keep these people together for my next project definitely, because they're very, very good.

antiMusic: Do you prefer the modern digital approach to recording now or do you yearn for the bare bones, more straightforward techniques from your first few records?

Neal: Well you know, I think that technology moves so fast in the world, but I think it moves the fastest in the music business. Especially through the '80s, a lot of the technology that was developed or used in business actually came through the recording industry. Because it was moving so rapidly and these guys are so smart. And like I said, I don't pretend to be in their shoes or know what they think and that's fine. Everybody's got their own gifts, and that's just not one of mine. The thing I like about it right now for recording, is I used to have to record--- every single album we did, all eight albums---I used to have to record the song from beginning to the end for the drums, we tried to get the basic tracks for the drums, it was the number one we had to try to get down was the drums. We could re-record the bass; re-record the guitars, and everything else. But the drum had to be done perfectly from beginning to end. So that's why I was so much into preproduction to learn the songs, work out the songs before we ever went into the studio. Because when we were in the studio we did things pretty fast. That certainly makes your art, your professionalism and your ability to play your instrument a lot sharper. But not you can play through and you can stop and start again. With technology, digital technology, with guitar when I played, that's one reason I can play guitar on it. I play the song through and go back and fix the parts that need work. So I actually love the technology in today's recording studio.

antiMusic: You have retained an off and on working relationship with Dennis (Dunaway). You were the rhythm section of Alice Cooper so that instantly makes a bit of a connection but what is it about him or the two of you actually that has allowed the partnership to continue almost 40 years?

Neal: Well first of all, he's married to my sister.

antiMusic: Oh, I didn't know that.

Neal: Yeah, he's my brother in law. It's a very musical family, which is great. I'm very blessed because of that. I think because we've done so many projects together, and it's really an interesting situation when Dennis and I play because it's like, I know where he's going and he knows where I'm going when we're playing together. And I think that there's a lot of things that are underrated about the original band Alice Cooper and I think that's certainly one of them, the rhythm section. Because Dennis is a phenomenal bass player and I've always loved his stuff. He's got a great personality and he's actually a lot of the real dark side of Alice Cooper. You know we were talking about my inspiration for Sexual Savior and Killsmith is really the dark side of Alice Cooper. And Dennis certainly with "Black Juju" and the song "Killer", and I can go on and on to songs that he was the inspiration for. As far as his impact on the band, without question was very dynamic and powerful but as the rhythm section, yeah, all my favorite bands I can think of, the bass player and the drummer are always two of my favorite musicians. From The Who to the Beatles to the Stones, any of the great bands, even a band like the Police; they had a great rhythm section. I think that's something that's not talked enough about, so whenever somebody compliments us about the rhythm section of the original Alice Cooper, it is a compliment first of all and secondly of all, it really is overlooked a little bit.

antiMusic: Obviously the songs still get played on radio but is it a tough pill to swallow that for a large percentage of people, Alice Cooper was known more for the live act than the actual music?

Neal: You know, we've talked about that over the years, too. And I think that, that was always something we always had to overcome. But it was also a monster that we had created ourselves. But the other side of the coin is, when the Killer album was done, we had a little ditty on there called "Halo of Flies" and as soon as that song was released, we didn't hear that any more. Or anybody who ever said anything to us, we'd just say: "Could you please play "Halo of Flies" for us? Just listen to that song. And if you want to talk about musicianship or what have you, just go away." That song is still great to this day. It's always exciting, it never lets you down. And it does exactly what we did on stage, musically. So that pretty much rested it for me. By the time you get to Killer, and School's Out, there's great stuff on that. And Billion Dollar Baby, there's so much good music on that too. I think it was something early on in the history of the band, but it pretty much dissipated. In my opinion it dissipated after Killer.

antiMusic: I think that some people in the industry were actually surprised at how many hits the band continued to generate as each record was released. Was the band surprised at the creative well that continued to create with such ease or was everybody very much aware of the talent pool?

Neal: I think it was just one of those things, Morley, and that's a great question. And I think it's one of these things, because people asked us, "How did you handle it when Love it to Death became so successful?" And in my mind, I'd say, well what the hell! Why did it take you so long? That was our third record. I mean, we were so ready for it. And so, the music was changing by the time we went from Easy Action to Love it to Death and you know, nothing against, Bob Ezrin and Jack Richardson, they did a great job producing our records, but the music was also continually growing all the time. So we knew that as time went on, the songs were going to get better and better. I mean, that wasn't even a question. We didn't even sit around and talk about it. It was just happening. When it's happening around you, you just sense it and you can't wait to get to the next record. And I think one of the things, to follow with that same train of thought, one of the things that I was most disappointed in when Alice decided after the Nightmare albums, he reneged on getting back together with the band, which was totally his decision not to do that, was the music that was forever lost by the original band after that point. Because I'll tell you 100 per cent truth it was the chemistry with that band, because even when Mike and Dennis and I wrote as Battleaxe which was supposed to be, we were being sued by Warner Bros, it was supposed to be our next album, that album, I loved the music on that album, but it would have been definitely different if Glen and Alice had been involved in it. So no, it was the total chemistry of all of us. And as long as we were together, working together, and I think you can put it like Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Look at how different their songs were when they weren't together, compared to when they were together. It's the chemistry. So when you're in the middle of it, as long as that can stay together you're going to get, you're going to get music.

antiMusic: The band was known for its excesses in both stage presentations and for the way you partied.

Neal: Yeah, we partied pretty good. (laughs.)

antiMusic: Glen was a casualty obviously and Alice had his own high profile speed bumps. How did the rest of you manage to hold everything together and not follow those two into the ditch?

Neal: I can't speak for everybody else, but I know for myself, it was actually in the spring of, it was April 1993, Billion Dollar Babies hit no. 1 in Cashbox, Record World and Billboard Magazine. And we were down in Florida playing on the Billion Dollar Babies tour, and Alice and I took a limo. We wanted to go celebrate and we took one of the limos. And we were in Fort Lauderdale, it was spring break, there were kids everywhere. We went into this bar, and I said, "What's the biggest glass you got?" And he showed me this big huge beer glass. It'd hold like 32 ounces of liquid. And I said, "Fill it up with vodka". And he looked at me and said, "Are you kidding me? You know how much this is going to cost you?" And I said, "Give me break. Fill it up with vodka". So he filled it up. And by the time it was half gone, Alice and I were dancing on the floor. I was trashing chairs. And people were screaming and yelling. And I remember passing out and they had to carry me out of there. And that was an incredible celebration obviously, but that certainly wasn't the worst (laughs) evening I ever had.

I think it was on the Muscle of Love tour, when (author) Bob Greene talks about the room, the hotel being trashed. And that ended up on my hotel room bill and that was $5000 for one night in 1973. That was a lot of money back then. There were musicians dying around us before us, with Jimi Hendrix and Brian Jones and Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison. And we knew Jimi Hendrix really well. We knew Jim Morrison. Janis Joplin we had met one time. So I mean these were people that we knew. And had partied with and hung out with. And they were dropping off like flies. I don't know how anybody else in the band handled it, but at one point I had to decide, I mean there were drugs and alcohol around us all the time and we never had to spend a penny. At that point �I always tell people, when you're making millions dollars, you don't have to spend any because everybody always buys everything for you. But where were they when we were starving? (laughs.) You know, like a couple years ago when we had no food in the house, could you come buy and drop a bag of groceries for us or something? So I had to make a decision, Morley, that if I was going to survive that business, I was going for the long haul, as opposed to the quick flash out, so I just decided to stop drinking hard liquor on my own. And so I've just been drinking beer ever since. And I love beer and I drink a lot of it but I stopped back then. Because even then, I said, you know, if these people that have died, Jimi Hendrix when he's like 50 years old, 60 years old and he's still recording what could he be doing it? And that's why I'm just so blessed, you know, I just turned 60 last September and I'm able to put out a kick ass album like this. So I made a decision and I stuck to it, and so far so good. I mean, you never know one day to the next in this crazy life. I was with Glen 10 days before he passed away. We split up and six days later he's dead. I would have never guessed that in a million years. We were having a great time. Not partying that much, but he got sick, that's what happened. So, like I said, I can't speak for the other guys, but Glen and Alice and I partied an awful lot. That's all I know.

antiMusic: A lot of bands that make it in a big way can point to a singular event that put them over the top, such as Woodstock or whatever. Was there one event or thing that helped Alice Cooper punch through?

Neal: Well, I know, there were several. And I always tell everybody, one of them was of course Frank Zappa discovering us and wanting to sign us. That was the first one. The next one was Shep Gordon�and I may pick one of these as number one or maybe you can---the next one was Shep Gordon deciding to manage us and he still manages Alice to this day. He managed Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass, Blondie, Anne Murray.

Right before that was the chicken incident in Toronto. And that put us on the map nationally where nothing we'd ever done because prior to that, because at that point we'd sold maybe 15 thousand albums between Pretties For You and Easy Action nationwide. That's not a lot of records obviously back in those days. So, this band that had no record sales had this huge underground. All of a sudden everybody in the country, it was a United Press release or whatever it is, throughout Canada and America, and that was a huge thing for us. And after that, I would say having Nimbus 9 and Bob Ezrin. Being able to take the songs we were writing and put them into hit album after hit album, after hit album, I think that was huge. You know there were a couple of publicity things obviously, when School's Out, the other big publicity thing we did that happened, the panties that was the dust cover for School's Out, that they were actually, something in customs, they wouldn't let them come into the country because they weren't flammable, or I should say they were flammable and you know, whatever it was, it was like the chicken incident, Alice biting the head off a chicken and drinking the blood which was great. It just doesn't get any better than that. But with the panties, those were the two big things. I really think it was, and another thing that was great about it, it put Alice Cooper on the map in Canada as well with Bob Ezrin. Multi-national isn't the right word but I'm very proud of that. You know there were good producers in America but I mean it was just the expanse of the band�it was great. And I just love those guys. A couple of years ago I was up there for their 40th year reunion in Toronto. I do, they're part of the family.

antiMusic: Was there ever anything that the band turned down that you regret passing over? Either an event or collaboration with a producer or other artist?

Neal: Well, the only one that probably saved our lives, I was just talking about it last night, that when we were in Europe in 1972 on the School's Out tour, we'd never played in Italy, and at the time you couldn't take lire out of the country. We were supposed to play there and what they were going to do there was give each guy in the band a Lamborghini. And Emerson Lake and Palmer had just done it, they'd just played there. But again the way their concerts went, there was no security. Once they were on the stage, they were basically on their own except for the people who worked for them and their crew. And apparently at some point the crowd went crazy and attacked the stage and started stealing cymbals and whatever they could lay their hands on. And basically the band got away with just their lives. So the minute we heard that, we said, we probably shouldn't do that. Dude, if we'd had the proper security I would have loved to have done that because it would have been nice to have a Lamborghini in 1972, a brand new 1972 Lamborghini. It would be a classic now, wouldn't it?

antiMusic: Absolutely.

Neal: So that I regret. But as far as working with other producers, I'm very much a chemistry person, and when something works, I don't want to fix it. I would have worked with Bob on records as long as we could have.

antiMusic: Considering the partying that was going on during the heyday, do you have a full appreciation for the things that the band went through at the time in terms of the little things or do you just look back at the milestones?

Neal: No I actually took a lot of notes, wrote a lot of letters and I based my book on a lot of facts actually, rather than relying on my memory, so there were a lot of things that I remember. To me, it was, we went from five guys who were from starving to being the number one band in the world. And you just don't think of those two extremes. You think of all the million things that happened in between. I'm very detail-oriented. I know that Dennis is too. He remembers a lot of the things. We remember different things. But a lot of it is, things that happened, like I said, like when we were back in Canada, what happened in dressing rooms. What happened at parties afterwards, and I remember an awful lot of those things.

antiMusic: I've read that you started purchasing real estate early on when the money started coming in. How and why did you make the leap to becoming a realtor instead of continuing on in music full-time?

Neal: Well, I first of all I did get involved in some real estate transactions and also the band did in the early '70s, something they called a tax shelter. There was a way to shelter income by investing in properties, and we had done a couple of those investments around the country. And I was very much a hands-on, so I was very interested in that. It sort of spurred my interest. Also, I bought a property and flipped it over a couple of years later and I tripled my initial investment. So I knew personally from that standpoint that it could be a good way to make money. But that was just as an investor, it wasn't being in real estate sales like I have been since the eighties. I think it was just one of those things, because I'm always a Libra and I'm very balanced as an artist and a businessperson. And I was always very interested in the business part of the band, while I was in the band. And thank our lucky stars that this far after the band, the business is still intact and we still get royalties from airplay and cd sales and all those things. It was very important to me. It was a natural progression and it was just something I was interested in. And I got involved with it and I enjoy it.

antiMusic: I know you have it listed on your website but do people know who you are when involved in a house sale?

Neal: At this point in my career, because I've been doing it so long, a lot of people who come to work with me certainly know my background. Some people think, isn't that weird? Has anybody not wanted to work with you? Well you have to remember that in Connecticut, it's like Los Angeles, there are successful people from all walks of life. The town I live in, Connecticut, Keith Richards lives there and also Paul Newman. You know, there are people in the arts, and people in business, some of the richest people in the world. So people that are a success when they meet people who are successful, they're more curious about the person than about how they came to be successful. So it's never been a negative at all. It sort of makes me stand out a little bit differently than anyone else.

antiMusic: Just to wrap up and come back to the cd. Whenever you were done, did you bask in the moment or were you already beyond it and writing the next album in your head?

Neal: When I do something, again because I'm detail oriented, I wanted every single aspect of this�and even the photographs, they were taken back in June of 2007. And by the time we had the final�it was well into Christmas and probably early January when we had all the graphics finely tweaked. I mean it took that long to do it. It wasn't like a three week project. It was more like about six or seven months to get this booklet together. I was just very satisfied when it was finished that it was exactly like I wanted it. From the music to the order of the songs, and everything that I do, it just takes a long time to do it. The buck stops here with me because I'm like the executive producer on it as well. So if there's something that somebody does like, well it's me who did it. So I hope it does piss a lot of people off but that's another story. But no, I was very, very pleased with it, Morley. But I have started writing more songs, because that's what I do is I write songs and play drums. As long as I can do it, I'll keep doing it.

antiMusic: How do people buy the record?

Neal: Well if someone's interested in getting a copy of it, it's on eBay. It's on cdBaby and Nealsmith.com, my own website, we sell it there too. It's on there through PayPal. It's available and I'm working on some distribution things, but right now that's the best way to get it, if somebody's interested in getting it. And I appreciate the people that enjoy it.

antiMusic: Excellent. Any last thoughts about it that I didn't ask you?

Neal: No, I just would say that I really miss Canada a lot because you've got great freaking beer up there.

antiMusic: Yes we do.

Neal: To say the least man. The restaurants and the beer up there were phenomenal and the people are amazing. And I can't wait to get back there some day.

antiMusic: Well thank so much for your time. This has been a real thrill. It was a pleasure speaking with you and best of luck with the record.

Neal: Ok Morley. It was a pleasure talking to you too, man.

Morley and antiMusic thank Neal for taking the time to do this interview.


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