“Detroit Stories” Brings Alice Cooper Back Home to the Motor City

The legendary Detroit rocker returns with his 21st solo studio album on Friday. Cooper calls the album an homage to the proto-punk rock movement that helped launched his career more than 50 years ago.

When Alice Cooper talks about his new album “Detroit Stories,” out Friday, February 26, he swears that it’s not about nostalgia. 

It’s not about looking back on his career and celebrating what was. It’s actually about celebrating the city where he was born and ultimately moved back to as a young man in the late 1960s after spending his teen years in Phoenix, Arizona, where he currently lives. 

“If you went on stage in Detroit without that aggressive attitude, they were just gonna kill you.” — Alice Cooper

Courtesy of Alice Cooper
Courtesy of Alice Cooper

The same scene that forged talents like Iggy Pop and the MC5 is where Cooper made a name for himself and refined his sound. On his 21st solo studio album, he wants to bring that type of raw Detroit rock ‘n’ roll back into focus.

“I always looked at Detroit as being the capital for hard rock. Look at the bands that came out of there. We moved to Detroit and all of a sudden we met this band called the Stooges,” says Cooper on CultureShift on 101.9 WDET. “Every band we met was a hard rock band with attitude. And that’s what we had, so we felt right at home when we got there in 1969.”

That era of Detroit rock has really become something called proto-punk — the groundwork that the early wave of punk bands would look at as a blueprint. Cooper is quick to point out that Iggy Pop was the godfather of the movement.

“He was the very first rock ‘n’ roll punk,” says Cooper. “There was nobody punkier than him.”

Cooper made a huge impact on that sound, too, with a string of records in the early 1970s — “Love It To Death” and “Killer,” both released in 1971, and 1972’s “School’s Out.”

Overseas, those records caught the ear of a young John Lydon, who would go on to become Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten. Rumor has it that Rotten even sang an Alice Cooper song to get his job with the legendary UK punk outfit.

“They used to busk down in the subways — him and Sid Vicious,” laughs Cooper. “They were doing ‘I Love The Dead’ and all these really dark Alice Cooper songs.”

What music influenced Alice Cooper over the years? Click the audio player to hear the full interview with the Detroit rock legend:

When Cooper does allow himself to look back on his influence, he says he’s not all that surprised about what other bands took away from his music and ultimately his stage presence.

“You have to look at the Sex Pistols as being punk, but they’re also very theatrical,” says Cooper. “I expected there to be a theatrical resurgence.”

On the new album “Detroit Stories,” there are some elements of Cooper’s past. Longtime producer Bob Ezrin is back to produce. The band itself is a who’s who of local legends including guitarist Steve Hunter, MC5’s Wayne Kramer, the Detroit Wheels’ Johnny “Bee” Badanjek, legendary Detroit jazz and R&B bassist Paul Randolph, as well as the Motor City Horns and other local musicians.

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  • Ryan Patrick Hooper
    Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host of "In the Groove" on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. Hooper has covered stories for the New York Times, NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.