Back in the mad, bad 1970s, the Hollywood Vampires were a loosely knit, deeply booze-soaked rock-celebrity drinking club formed by Alice Cooper. Based around West Hollywood's Rainbow Grill, Cooper held court regularly with fellow drunkards Ringo Starr and Keith Moon, with the likes of John Lennon and John Belushi chiming in.
While most of his old Vampire pals and influences are no longer in the living world, Cooper dried out, stayed sober and hooked up with Joe Perry (Aerosmith), actor/guitarist Johnny Depp and Matt Sorum (Guns N' Roses), for a new edition of Hollywood Vampires.
Yes, they released an eponymous, big hard rock album of originals and classics, and start their tour this week in Bethlehem, PA. They just have to contend with Depp's marriage to Amber Heard falling apart under controversial charges of abuse. Joe Perry takes it all in stride.
I can see the glam outfits, but I'm not sure about the macabre stuff. Were you into Cooper growing up?
Alice was the music I heard on the radio. His songs were classic, an overused word but an apt one. Who knew how long forever was going to be back then, as far as rock 'n roll goes. He started something that others built upon. It's an honor to be playing with him. Working with Alice now is like going on vacation.
How did you, he and Depp get together on this?
Alice called me when he started putting together tracks; said he thought of me. I was the next generation after Cooper. Back in the day, as we came up, we hung out at the Rainbow. I knew that legend.
And Depp and Cooper knew each from filming Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows" together.
Those two got together and began writing songs. Everybody is surprised that Johnny has chops. The songs we recorded sounded great, so why stop there? Let’s do some gigs. After the first few shows last year, they felt great, so Alice asked "Who’s in?" All we had to do was raise our hands and clear our schedules. Nothing could stop this energy.
Let’s rip this off like a Band-Aid: Depp's troubles. How is he? How much of a distraction is his situation?
When you're as world-renowned a guy as Johnny, something like that occurs within the media and doesn’t have anything to do with what we’re doing. The media wants to make the most out of this, but for us, it's going on elsewhere. Not here. You wouldn't know anything is going on with him to talk to him. Look, we've all had our ups-and-down with wives and ex-wives. We're all friends. He doesn’t bring his troubles to the party — and if he did want to, he's free to talk to me about it, I've been married for over 30 years.
So neither Depp nor you are dwelling on it.
No, he's dwelling on what power amps to use. He's had to deal with some electrical problems. He's busy sorting that out.
Everybody knew the reputation of the original Vampires. They famously drank to excess. Now Alice doesn’t drink. You're drug-free. What is a sober man's Hollywood Vampires?
I like that I'm part of something that pays tribute to rock 'n roll's men and women who passed away before their time. You also have to put everything into context. When this music was first made, it was a time of social and political upheaval. I didn't get drafted but a lot of my friends did. Walking down the street now with a guitar case is no big deal — but then, the time [during which] most of Hollywood Vampires songs came to be — you stood out.
Are you anxious to get back to Aerosmith in September and do you think Hollywood Vampires can carry on after this summer?
I hope so; I don’t see why not. We all have day jobs, so we have to deal with that. I've been doing Aerosmith for 45 years. I'm not just going to drop that, but, hey, there are always gigs and places to play.
If you go:
July 3 at 8 p.m.
Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa Event Center
1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City, NJ
$84.50-$69.50, 609-317-1000, www.theborgata.com
July 10 at 8 p.m.
The Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk