Alice Cooper vividly remembers the shock he felt when he learned that Joe Perry had collapsed onstage mid-song during a Hollywood Vampires concert in Brooklyn. "It scared the hell out of me," he tells Rolling Stone. "The lyrics to ['Raise the Dead'], the first song we played that night, go, 'Cardiac, heart attack … they never feared the reaper,' and I look around the stage and he's gone. He was lying behind an amp on his back, and I went, 'Oh, my God.' We didn't know what happened until after the show."
The causes, he learned, were dehydration and exhaustion. "Aerosmith does two shows a week, but we were on our eighth show in nine days, and I'm used to working like that," the singer says. "I'm used to working an hour and 40 minutes or two hours, five nights a week. I was in shape and so was Johnny and everybody else. I think Joe was not ready for that kind of pace.
"We were doing 25 to 30 songs with no break," he continues. "You're in fourth gear, and there's no 24-hour resting period. I think it just caught up with him. He finally got up there onstage, dehydrated. And I think he was exhausted. He told me the night before he hadn't eaten in two days."
When asked why Perry hadn't been eating, Cooper says, "I said, 'Man, you've got to know when to sleep. You've got to know when to eat on a tour.' I think it just finally got to him. It was not a heart attack; it was pure exhaustion. They checked his heart and said his heart was actually very strong."
It took two weeks for Perry to recover and reunite with the Vampires at a Bay Area gig. "I've never seen him play so good," Cooper says. "He looked great and he played great for the next few shows."
As for the Brooklyn date and the ones Perry missed, Cooper says he was happy to see the other guitarists in the group step up. "Johnny [Depp] took over on lead guitar and so did Tommy Henriksen, who plays guitar in my band," he says. "They just took all of his guitar parts and split 'em up. The show went on and it sounded great. It was great to hear that Johnny could jump in and fill in for all those lead parts."
Perry's Aerosmith bandmate Steven Tyler expressed concern for the guitarist during his recovery, as no one from the guitarist's camp was contacting the singer with updates. "It's starting to scare me a little bit," Tyler told Billboard a few days after the collapse. He added: "I know my brother. … He's always asking me to do three, four [Aerosmith] shows in a row, and I can't. I'll blow my voice out. I know how to maintain my career, my health and Joe's passionate. I don't think he knows how to. I think he's out there and someone's overbooking him."
At the conclusion of the Hollywood Vampires tour, Cooper launched a run of solo dates – dubbed "Spend a Night With Alice Cooper" – that will run through late October. He has also cheekily announced his candidacy for president, releasing a new version of his 1972 hit "Elected." He recently shared his thoughts on the current election – as well as G.O.P. nominee Donald Trump's golf courses – in a new interview with Rolling Stone.