Interview – Michael Bruce of Alice Cooper Group

When looking at some of the most storied performers of the past four decades, a handful that come to mind in the Rock genre might be David Bowie, Marilyn Manson, and Alice Cooper. All recognized by name alone, does anyone ever stop to think about the bands behind each artist playing a major part in the music? There was The Spiders From Mars with Bowie for the early portion of his career, an array of impressive lineups behind Manson, and then there was the original Alice Cooper Group, a band through and through that worked as a team.

Attaining success together with albums such as 1971’s Love It To Death and 1972’s School’s Out, one of the key components of the magic was Mr. Michael Bruce, lead guitarist and songwriter for the Cooper clan. A part of it all through many important years, Bruce is a piece of the story that needs to be told. Recently we caught up with the musician to talk his time a part of the Alice Cooper Group, the latest edition of his book, No More Mr. Nice Guy, being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, plus more. – You have been involved in music professionally for over 5 decades. From your extensive contributions to Alice Cooper’s Group to your solo work, you have attained a good deal of success. Through everything, briefly tell us, how would you describe the ride of a life in Rock-n-Roll?    

Michael Bruce – When I started out, in high school, I was a Folk singer and I started playing in a band kind of to meet girls. (Laughs) Then it became a passion of mine to write music. I remember when we started out, I thought, “The Beatles are famous now, it’s all over, everything has been done.” Although, that is never true, music evolves just like everything does. It’s been something I am really fortunate to have done. I was very lucky as well. I would recommend it to anyone who loves music. – You have really accomplished a lot. As mentioned, you were a key part of the Alice Cooper Group, being the main songwriter of many of the band’s songs. For you, what was the creative energy like during that period?

Michael Bruce – We had kind of a bumpy start with our first two album – 1969’s Pretties for You and 1970’s Easy Action. We were really not comfortable with the label and Frank (Zappa) – once we got on his label, we spent a lot of time trying to get off. (Laughs) When we started working with Bob Ezrin, we saw someone who could take the ideas that we were doing and make them happen musically as well as our live shows.

For that time, for those first few albums, 1971’s Love It To Death and Killer, as well as 1972’s School’s Out, we were really writing frantically. It’s just one of those things when it’s happening, you just keep doing it. I was very prolific at that time. I really love the stuff on Love It To Death and Killer, it is the kind of stuff we got away from later on. I missed a lot of it, I think it was really a departure from a lot of the things we did later on and I thought it was really unique. 

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. – It was a great time for the band! Speaking of the band even more, much of the life and times of the Alice Cooper Group is vividly outlined in your book, No More Mr. Nice Guy. The original book was released some 20 years ago, but you have a new edition of the book out now. Tell us about the updated version of the book.  

Michael Bruce – It pretty much paraphrases the original book and we have added chapters and photographs, such as The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, getting back together with Alice, going over to the UK, etc. I left a lot of it intact from the first book because I thought it would appeal to a whole different crowd of music fans who are following the band today. I still think a lot of it is very pertinent to what is going on now.

Dennis Dunaway’s book is so detailed, you can use that as a reference book. I didn’t get as precise as he did and detailed, I kind of went for the bigger picture. I think people will really enjoy it, it’s a good read. We are going to be having different book signings around the country later this year. I hope to meet some of the fans and get their reaction to the book. It’s kind of interesting 20 years ago we did it, now we are back. It seems to be doing really well. – Yes, and 20 years ago it received a good reaction too. Now, an entire whole new generation of Rock fans can dig into it. When we write something, years later our feelings may change about what we created. Do you look back in hindsight and think this is exactly what I wanted to say with my music? 

Michael Bruce – I try not to get in that would of, should of, could of trap. When you have hindsight, you can always look back and think, “I should have done this or that.” I pretty much think what we did, and what I did, was pretty representative of what we were feeling and going through at the time. We were living a lot of the Rock-n-Roll, we did straight ahead. Later on, Billion Dollar Babies (1973), that was kind of more a fantasy trip that we were kind of living at the same time. (Laughs) It was pretty realistic, a lot of those song titles and different things we wrote about were things that were happening with the band, it was like a living chronology. I think it’s very representative of that period. 

Gonzo Multimedia – A lot of it is very classic material that people love today. Beyond Alice Cooper Group, you have also done your share of other projects, including a list of solo albums. Do you have any new music in the works?

Michael Bruce – I do! Actually, my wife plays bass, she is a trained Jazz bass player. We also have a drummer. I have been writing all along as the years have gone by and I have some really good songs. One of them was used when Alice did the sequel to Welcome 2 My Nightmare (2011). We used a song on there he calls “When Hell Comes Home,” and it was a song of mine called “Hellhole #9.” I am going to redo it the way I did and it will be on the album.

We are hoping to come out with something probably this fall. We are arranging the tunes now and I am looking forward to it. I really want to do this one, it’s a collection and I think people will be surprised at the music I have written over the years. It is kind of like Cooper stuff that never got to be Cooper stuff. – Very cool! Can we expect some tour dates associated with the new music?

Michael Bruce – Absolutely! We are still putting the band together. I am going to start working in the studio and we are trying to find players who aren’t just looking for a gig, but who want to get involved with it. It’s a time-consuming, labor of love type thing. We can headline or we can open for somebody. We will have to wait until the album takes shape and see where we are going with it. 

earMUSIC – That will be something to look forward to as it unfolds. You mentioned the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You were rightfully included in the induction with the band back in 2011. What was it like to be honored like that?

Michael Bruce – When I found out about it, I was kind of surprised after all this time. I thought we were pretty much passed over and it was not going to happen. Then I got to thinking, what took so long? From what I understand, there was a change in the conceptual direction of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

As the artists started changing, one of Alice’s roadmen said, “When Iggy Pop gets in, you guys will be shortly after that.” He was exactly right, Iggy got in, and boom, the next year we were inducted. It’s changed a lot from the direction I think they originally conceived it for. People change, the country changes, music styles change. I think it was only correct that it evolved and adapted to the ongoing changes in music. When I watch the awards shows, I’m not sure where it’s going now. For me, it’s kind of like treading water, it doesn’t know where it’s going. – Yes, and it was long overdue that you got in. It is great it finally happened.

Michael Bruce – Absolutely. I’m glad we all got inducted and it wasn’t just an Alice thing. The one thing I do kind of regret is there has been such a separation from Alice and the original band, because it was pretty much what got us where we are today, the original group thing. Now he is so much of a solo artist, people are looking at it as two different things, which wasn’t the case originally. 

ETR – That is very true. It is good you were put in as a band. Unfortunately, sometimes members of a band are slighted by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Michael Bruce – Yes, when David Bowie was inducted, he was inducted by himself. I think the Spiders from Mars on the first couple of albums were really incredible. – Yes! They certainly should be honored too. Last question. We also cover Horror and Sci-Fi films on CrypticRock. If you are a fan of either or both genres, what are some of your favorites and why?

Michael Bruce – Where do I start? I was big on Science Fiction. Through my fifties, I was always making flying saucer type things – I would see something that looked like a saucer, I would grab it and glue it together. One of my early black and white favorites was Invaders from Mars (1953), and of course, The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951). A great Japanese movie I don’t see much in reruns is The Mysterians (1957), it stuck with me.

For Horror, some of it is really tacky. When I look back at the old Vincent Price stuff such as House of Usher (1960), it gets kind of eh. It’s real dramatic and there is always some girl in distress. The Sci-Fi stuff with futuristic alien type stuff is where my head’s at. (Laughs)

Twentieth Century Fox
RKO Radio Pictures

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