Alice Cooper knows who he’s voting for in November: Tom Hanks. “I think I’m going to write his name in,” he says, holding back a laugh. The curiously apolitical hard rocker says he has always kept mum on his opinion of Washington because in, his opinion, rockers are not the people to look to for guidance. “I hate it when fans go, ‘Who should I vote for?'” he says. “Why do you think rock stars would know any more than you do? We’re rock stars; we’re dumber than you.”
The one thing about politics that does appeal to the self-deprecating shock rocker is “the silliness” of it, which is why he cheekily announced his candidacy for the Oval Office and has released a new version of his satirical 1972 single, “Elected.” Musically, the tune is a tip of the patriotically adorned top hat to the Who’s Pete Townshend (“It’s got all these great big power chords,” Cooper marvels), but lyrically it was originally inspired by Richard Nixon, who was running for reelection at the time. “I figured the only person that more offensive than Nixon was me,” he says. “So I figured ‘Alice Cooper for President’ was the right thing to do.” Nixon won 97 percent of the electoral votes that year, and the singer has given the song a special place in his set lists every four years since.
Cooper, who is back on the road with his solo band after a run of dates with the supergroup Hollywood Vampires, caught up with Rolling Stone to talk about the legacy of the song and his view of the current state of American politics.
What do you remember about recording “Elected”?
It was John Lennon’s favorite song. He used to come over to the office in New York City where we were listening back to the mixes and he came three days in a row. I finally passed him in the hall and he goes, “Great record.” He loved politics. I said, “It’s a total satire, you know?” And he goes, “Yeah, but I get it.” It was cool.
In the song’s outro, you say, “Everybody has problem’s and personally I don’t care.” That may be the most honest campaign pledge ever.
When we do the song live, the audience always goes crazy for that line.
You’ve incorporated the song into your recent gigs, and I noticed you have some guests onstage with you.
It’s [actors playing] the zombie versions of Hillary and Trump. They do this whole thing where they shake hands and he pinches her on the butt and she slaps him and there’s a big romantic kiss and they start fighting again. They audience loves it.
Last October, you said you expected to see the “funniest election of all time” unfold this year. Are you still laughing?
Oh, yeah. It’s funny in a Kurt Vonnegut kind of way. It’s also funny and kind of seriously demented that nobody wants to vote for a candidate; they want to vote against the other candidate. I can’t think of anybody that’s going, “I really like Hillary. I’m going to vote for her.” No, it’s: “I’m voting for Hillary ’cause I hate Trump.” Or it’s: “I hate Trump, but I hate her worse.” Nobody’s actually for anybody.
What do you make of Trump?
He’s an interesting character. It seems like he shoots himself in the foot every single day and gets more popular by doing it. It’s the weirdest. Like I said, it’s like Vonnegut: Everything that shouldn’t happen is happening. It’s the same with her. Every time she gets a little bit ahead, something else comes out that makes her look worse ’til you’re sitting there going, “I honestly have no idea who to vote for this time.”
Is that how you feel?
Yeah. I honestly cannot in my head look at either candidate and say, “Oh, yeah. I’m behind that.” So it’s weird. I’m going to vote, but it’s really going to be one of those last-minute decisions going, “Ah.” [Pauses]. You know, I’m voting for Tom Hanks. I just think he would be a great president.
Have you met any presidents?
I met President Ford. Groucho Marx got me into the Friars Club, and I was always the only rocker at the Friars Club meetings; it was all comedians like Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope. But I would sit there and there would be presidents talking to Bob Hope, and they would call me over, and I’d say, “Mr. President. Mr. Hope.” And they’d go, “I’m pushing the ball to the right, what should I do?” All they were talking about was golf. I’d say, “Well, just relax your right hand and it’ll make the club turn over more.” It was so weird to me that it didn’t matter that I was a rock singer and that was the president and that was Bob Hope. What mattered was, how do you turn the ball over a little to the left? It’s really interesting that golf cuts through everything.
You’re on the fence about Trump, but what do you think of his golf courses?
You know what? They’re very good golf courses. I’ve got to give him that. You can’t slight him on that one. … That may be a deciding factor, but I doubt it. [Laughs].