'70s all-star rockers Hollywood Vampires reconvene for charity
September 17, 2015
he Los Angeles music scene of the 1970s was often analogous to late 19th century London as characterized by Charles Dickens: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
That duality was personified by the Hollywood Vampires, an ad hoc collective of some of the era's biggest rock stars who hung out in Hollywood, usually into the wee hours. The group's revolving door of sobriety-challenged participants included such luminaries as John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Keith Moon, Micky Dolenz, Elton John's longtime lyricist, Bernie Taupin, and Alice Cooper.
Now the Vampires are back, celebrating a time and place that yielded scores of songs and albums that influenced generations but that also left a trail of much professional and personal destruction in its wake..
"In the '70s, it's like you had to use drugs and alcohol to be in a band," said Cooper, 67, a.k.a. Vincent Furnier, earlier this week in a West Hollywood rehearsal studio a few blocks from the Sunset Strip, where he and a new band of Hollywood Vampires were rehearsing for two shows this week.
He was joined by one of his new bandmates, Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry. Both sat near a mixing console while taking a break from rehearsals to talk about the Vampires' new album, the upcoming performances and the philanthropic purpose of the project.
Cooper and Perry are part of a new Vampires that lineup that includes Johnny Depp and former Guns N' Roses members Matt Sorum and Duff McKagan, among others. The Vampires will play Thursday at the Roxy Theatre with the goal of raising funds for MusiCares, a Recording Academy program that provides assistance to musicians in need.
The shows come on the heels of a "Hollywood Vampires" album that features veterans Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, Doors' guitarist Robbie Krieger and AC/DC's Brian Johnson, as well as a newer generation of artists such as Dave Grohl, Perry Farrell and Slash. They all cover new versions of classic-rock songs, including Lennon's "Cold Turkey," the Who's "My Generation," Harry Nilsson's "One" and "Jump Into the Fire," Hendrix's "Manic Depression," The Doors' "Break On Through (To the Other Side)," T. Rex's "Jeepster," Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" and Cooper's own "School's Out."
Resurrecting the Hollywood Vampires might have been a nightmare on any number of fronts, but Cooper said that "it all worked so smoothly. You'd expect with a bunch of A-list egos, there'd be a lot of arguments, but I can't think of one time when anybody said, 'I think this is a bad idea' or 'That song is a mistake.' Everybody just looked at the song list and said 'Oh, I have to play on that one too.'"
"I'd have to say that one of the biggest moments for all of us was when Paul McCartney came in," said Perry, 65, of the former Beatle's duet with Cooper on "Come and Get It." McCartney wrote the song for their Apple Records discovery, Badfinger, to use in the film "The Magic Christian," which starred Peter Sellers and one Ringo Starr.
"Paul would turn to away to say something and everybody else would be like, 'That's Paul McCartney!'" Cooper added, silently mouthing the last three words. "Then he'd turn back around and we'd be all, 'Yeah, we're cool.'"
Cooper is one of only three of the original Vampires who are still among us (the others, Taupin and Dolenz, do not appear in the new lineup). The era that spawned the original group was filled with such excess, it took its toll of many of the artists who were part of the L.A. music scene.
"Eventually you come to a crossroads where you realize, I can either die, or make 20 more albums," Cooper said. "So for me, I decided, 'The party's over. Now let's see what I can do.'"
While substance abuse remains an issue in music today, Cooper said attitudes have shifted over time.
"I tell young musicians now, 'If you have a problem, you're probably not going to get hired by any major band,'" he said.
MusiCares Vice President Scott Goldman noted that Cooper was honored in 2008 by MusiCares' MAP Fund for his work helping the organization raise funds for struggling musicians. "We are so deeply appreciative of all the people involved in the Hollywood Vampires project for choosing MusiCares as their beneficiary," Goldman said.
Cooper's longtime manager, Shep Gordon, said the decision to donate all proceeds to MusiCares eliminated most of the business entanglements that could have turned an all-star gathering like this into a contractual quagmire.
"Because all the money is going to charity, there were no managers, agents or lawyers arguing over money," he said.
Johnny Depp, Alice Cooper cover The Who as all-star band play debut Hollywood Vampires gig Aerosmith's Joe Perry, Guns N' Roses' Matt Sorum and Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello also present at LA's Roxy
17th September 2015
Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper played their first gig as Hollywood Vampires last night (September 16) at The Roxy in Los Angeles.
The supergroup featured Alice Cooper on vocals, Johnny Depp and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry on lead and rhythm guitar and Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum on bass and drums.
A rotating cast of guests arrived onstage for various cover versions. The Who's touring drummer Zak Starkey appeared for a version of The Who’s 'I'm A Boy'. Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler and Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello appeared for Jimi Hendrix's 'Manic Depression', while Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell sang lead vocals on Nilsson’s 'Jump Into The Fire'.
Pop star Ke$ha also arrived, sporting a leather leotard, to sing Led Zeppelin’s 'Whole Lotta Love' backed by Alice Cooper on harmonica. She later re-appeared with Tom Morello and Perry Farrell for a cover of Cooper’s 'School’s Out' which ran into Pink Floyd’s 'Another Brick In The Wall.'
The band released the 'Hollywood Vampires' album last week (September 11).
Devised by Cooper and Depp as a way to cover songs by "their dead friends and heroes", the album features Slash, Brian Johnson and Perry Farrell and includes renditions of songs by John Lennon, The Doors, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, T Rex and the Small Faces.
Speaking to NME about the album, Cooper explained how the concept for 'Hollywood Vampires' came about.
"We decided to put the band together and kind of celebrate all of our dead, drunk friends. You know, all of our big brothers died at 27 years old. Jim Morrison, we toured with The Doors, and Jimi Hendrix was one of our best friends, and we drank with these guys, and Johnny Depp and I were doing that movie Dark Shadows, and we decided that one night we were gonna go to the 100 Club and just be a bar band. No glitz, no glam. Somebody yells out [The Rolling Stones'] ‘Brown Sugar’. Yeah, we’ll play that. [Jane's Addiction's] ‘Been Caught Stealing’. Sure, we know that. Just to kind of have fun with it," he said.
Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper kick out the jams at star-studded Hollywood Vampires show
by Chris Lee
September 17, 2015
For the overwhelming majority of Hollywood Vampires’ Wednesday night set in Los Angeles, Johnny Depp was content to hang stage right and strum his Gibson with a minimum of guitar hero posturing. Fresh off promo duties for his gangster opus Black Mass at the Toronto International Film Festival, the actor seemed content to let his more illustrious bandmates—Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan and Alice Cooper on vocals—bask and preen in the Sunset Strip limelight.
But just before the curtain went down on the c**k-rock supergroup at Hollywood’s venerable Roxy Theatre—Hollywood Vampires’ first-ever live show—Depp stepped to the lip of the low proscenium to crank out the angular opening chords to the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar.” Call it an oblique homage to Keith Richards. Keef, of course, inspired the movie star’s most famous (and lucrative) dramatic persona, Pirates of the Caribbean’s Captain Jack Sparrow.
But befitting a loose rock collective that claimed its name from an Angeleno drinking club of a certain distinction that gathered at the Rainbow Bar & Grill (located next door to the Roxy) in the ‘70s—John Lennon, Keith Moon, Harry Nilsson, Cooper, Bernie Taupin and the Monkees’ Micky Dolenz were charter Hollywood Vampires members—the vibe last night was bar-band jovial. Easy, fun and familiar. Even as the small stage clogged with platinum-selling recording artists, everyone was in it for the love. (All proceeds from the group’s Sept. 11 album are being donated to the charity MusiCares). “We didn’t drink the blood of the vein,” Cooper explained of the group’s name, “but the blood of the vine.”
Hollywood Vampires opened by throwing down an ageist gauntlet apropos of the members’ advanced years; Perry is 64, Cooper, 67; and Depp is the baby at just 52 years of age. They ran through the Doors “Five to One” with its memorable refrain, “The old get old and the young get stronger…You got the guns but we got the numbers.” And they performed the Who’s “My Generation”—Roger Daltry’s famous line, “I hope I die before I get old,” not getting lost on anyone in the crowd.
But the celebrity cameos became their own kind of show. Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and Black Sabbath bassist-lyricist Geezer Butler joined in for an athletic rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression.” (Morello played the solo with his teeth). Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Ferrell grabbed the mike to pogo and vogue his way through Nilsson’s “Jump Into the Fire.” Pop songstress Kesha joined the all-male guitar maelstrom to head-bang her way through Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” wearing an obsidian-colored monotard and star-sparkled waistcoat.
And about two-thirds of the way through the Hollywood Vampires’ performance, Cooper took time out to introduce its core members with fittingly phallic and blood-sucking magniloquence: “The balls of the vampire: Duff McCagan, Matt Sorum! The wings of the vampire: Joe Perry, Johnny Depp! And, of course, the fangs of the vampire: Me.”
Standing near the wing of the stage with rhythm guitar in hand, Depp arrived as a curiosity of the first order. A star with a global following and his own island in the Bahamas, to be sure. But appearing as a musician Wednesday, Depp seemed earnestly focused upon being himself in public for a change.
Disappearing into role after movie role—the flamboyant Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, gonzo tweaker/truth-seeker Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, all blue contacts and bald cap as Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger in Black Mass—it was a fascinating spectacle to see Depp out of character. On Wednesday, the star’s tattoos were visible beneath his rolled-up shirtsleeves. He wore a suit vest, a fedora, and a collection of rough-hewn necklaces including an anchor and a trident.
As Hollywood Vampires steam-rollered their way through the members’ cherished hits—Cooper’s 1973 single “Million Dollar Babies,” Aerosmith’s “Train Kept a Rollin’” (1974)—Depp’s face was affixed with a shy smile and he was dripping in sweat.
But the closing “yeahs” and “woos” of “Brown Sugar” would be his curtain call. Hollywood Vampires clasped hands, drew together at the edge of the Roxy stage in a bow and then retreated into the velvety Hollywood night.
Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper on Undead Supergroup Hollywood Vampires Four famous musicians, one A-list actor and a fierce version of 'Brown Sugar': An afternoon with the world's coolest cover band
By Stephen Rodrick
September 25, 2015
There's a break in rehearsals for the Hollywood Vampires — a band made up, as singer Alice Cooper says, of men who've all had near-death experiences. The group recently released its self-titled debut, a blast of classic-rock karaoke featuring covers of "My Generation," "Manic Depression" and an un-reinvented "Whole Lotta Love," not to mention a "School's Out"/"Another Brick in the Wall" medley. Now the band is in a Burbank warehouse, getting ready to play its first shows.
Cooper, looking gothic-casual in a black T-shirt and black jeans, gives his longtime manager Shep Gordon a big hug. Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry's dark-copper-colored chest is covered in puka shells, and he's mumbling something about working as a janitor in a synagogue. Natural hair color seems largely absent. Drummer Matt Sorum and bassist Duff McKagan — Guns N' Roses' old rhythm section — are having a laugh as a dude in a bandana, baggy jeans and black boots listens respectfully. That would be Johnny Depp, the group's surprisingly adept second guitarist.
Things have been going well today, but now producer Bob Ezrin walks over and shakes his head. The Vampires' set runs 44 minutes, but they're supposed to play for an hour. Cooper suggests they pad out the set with "Brown Sugar." Depp launches into an impeccable Keith Richards imitation, and the song reaches a joyous crescendo as Depp and Perry trade licks.
Ezrin applauds and tells the band to take a short break. Sorum talks to a hanger-on about how he used to keep it together during shows by sweating the booze out onstage. "When I was in GNR with Slash and Duff and everyone, I gauged my alcoholism on their drinking," Sorum says. "They drank all day. I always started at happy hour. I would kind of ease into the gig. So I'm like, 'I'm not an alcoholic.'"
Depp and Cooper met on the set of Depp's 2012 film Dark Shadows. Hollywood Vampires started with the idea of recording a covers album, giving them an excuse to fool around in the actor's well-appointed studio ("He has the best guitar collection I've seen," says Perry). The band took its name from a 1970s L.A. drinking collective that included Cooper, Keith Moon, Harry Nilsson and guest stars like John Lennon and Ringo Starr. Eventually, the new Hollywood Vampires cut an album, with a number of tracks paying tribute to rock greats who drank or drugged themselves to death — Moon, John Bonham, Jim Morrison — some of whom were friends of Cooper. (Cooper himself quit drinking in the 1980s after his doctor told him he could either stop or join his friends in the hereafter.)
Recalling all those ghosts might've been a melancholy experience for Cooper, but he shrugs off that suggestion. "These are historical characters," he says. "When you're talking about a John Lennon, that goes beyond being a guy you drank with and into Abraham Lincoln. You're over the sadness of it, and you're now going, 'All right, if John were here, what would he do?'"
For his part, Depp acts like he's won the classic-rock Powerball. Music was always at the center of his life. His first $600 went toward a '56 Telecaster. The guitar was later stolen, but he played in bands long before he started acting. Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare got him through some tough times. "I approach my work as an actor in the same way I play music," says Depp. "There is this element of chance — grabbing some moment that you didn't really plan on. Music is the fastest way to emotion." He puffs on what he calls a "poison stick" and admits there's something nice about being in a band rather than being the sole focus of a project, like on a tent-pole film. Perry has to sometimes entice him to the front of the stage.
There have already been fantasy-camp moments. Depp's friend Paul McCartney stopped by the actor's studio, and they banged out "Come and Get It," a 1969 song McCartney wrote for Badfinger. During the recording, Depp found himself staring at Perry with a "can you believe this s**t?" look that Perry returned with a grin.
I ask them if, now that they're older, they were doing anything to protect their health as they get ready for a series of gigs that will include a festival in Rio. Perry says he's a closet health-food junkie. Cooper shoots me his ageless demonic grin. "Me? White Castle."
It's time for more rehearsal, before Depp has to go catch a flight. At one point, the Vampires launch into "My Generation." And for a second the world's most famous cover band makes one of the world's most covered songs sound almost young again.
Johnny Depp Performs With His Rock-Legend Supergroup, The Hollywood Vampires Last week, the actor took a break from Black Mass Oscar buzz to rock out at West Hollywood's Roxy.
by Britt Hennemuth
September 25, 2015 8:25 pm
Before Sunset Junction or Sunset and Glendale, there was the Sunset Strip—an infamously raucous stretch of punk rock and metal venues perched on the edge of Los Angeles's most seductive boulevard. A hybrid of sleaze and glamour, it became the epicenter of L.A.’s alternative sound. So it’s no surprise that silver-screen superstar Johnny Depp and glam-rock icon Alice Cooper chose Lou Adler’s longstanding Sunset Strip hotspot The Roxy to launch the new incarnation of their band, the Hollywood Vampires.
On a recent week night, the Roxy’s audience—more vampire than Hollywood—twitched with anticipation anytime a drum or reverb echoed from behind the velvet curtain. At 9:00 P.M. sharp, the lights gave way to the roar of the MGM lion over Dracula’s Transylvanian theme song. This sonic homage to the band’s name built to a full rock sound as the curtain rose on this curated team of living legends. And for an hour a half straight, these boys had fun.
Bouncing around from Cooper’s own songs to John Lennon to Black Sabbath to the Doors, the Vampires—whose album debuted on September 11—put their own stamp on these classics and proved their talents have only improved with age. The band was rounded out by Joe Perry of Aerosmith on lead guitar, Matt Sorum of Guns N’ Roses on drums, Duff McKagan on bass, Tom Henriksen on guitar, and Bruce Witkin on keys. Despite the band members’ impressive rock résumés, the Vampires appeared as giddy as a young band allowed onstage and out of their garage for the first time.
Fresh off promoting his Oscar-buzzed film Black Mass at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, Depp appeared calm and focused, occasionally smiling in the direction of a booth where new wife Amber Heard was sitting. The actor hung back onstage with understated control of his instrument, allowing Cooper and Perry to have the limelight, while he nonchalantly anchored the sound.
When surprise guest Marilyn Manson, Cooper’s self-proclaimed “little sister,” appeared onstage though, the goth rocker pulled focus to Depp. Embodying his androgynous charm, Manson flirtatiously copped a puff of Depp’s spliff and later grabbed him for a fang-filled kiss, leaving a visibly vampire-sized hickey on Depp’s neck for the remainder of the night. Later, Kesha made an additional cameo, taking the stage in a black coat and top hat to add some female range to the testosterone-heavy line-up, wowing the crowd with her rendition of “Whole Lotta Love.”
The after party took place upstairs at On the Rox, the legendary Adler-family hangout that has hosted V.I.P.s like Jack Nicholson, Henry Nilsson, and Elton John over the years. Family and friends like Shep Gordon and Jerry Bruckheimer were treated to Dobel Tequila as they mingled with band members into the wee hours.
You couldn’t help but notice there was something tame about the night—the rock edge still there, but embodied by a band of mature adults together to celebrate pride for the Angelino influence on rock n’ roll. While the Sunset Strip may reflect this notion these days—more Drybars, less dive bars—the Roxy was alive last Thursday as a time capsule of classic cool.