HIT CHANNEL INTERVIEW: 5 December 2010. We had the honour to get in touch with Dennis Dunaway, the original legendary bassist of Alice Cooper Group who currently works again with Alice Cooper after 36 years. In the text below, you’ll read many interesting things…
Some months ago you released “Tornado on the Tracks” with your band Blue Coupe, and your song “You (Like Vampires)” is nominated for the Best Rock Song Grammy. Did you expect that success? Are you happy with the feedback that you’re getting from fans and the press for this release?
“Tornado On The Tracks” is the realization of a long awaited dream for Blue Oyster Cult fans that have always hoped that Joe and Albert Bouchard would record another album together. We’ve known each other since 1972 so we’re also glad that we finally made it happen. Special guest Robby Krieger of the Doors plays slide guitar on “Angel’s Well,” which has lyrics by the late great rock poet Jim Carroll (who wrote the Basketball Diaries starring Leonardo DiCaprio.) And Tish and Snooky of the legendary CBGB’s band, the Sic F*cks sing background vocals on seven of the songs.The recognition for “You (Like Vampires)” came as a complete surprise for me. I’m very pleased with the great response the album is getting.
This year also released “Drawing Blood” with your other band the 5th Avenue Vampires. How difficult is splitting your time between (at least) two bands? Was it a funny process recording Drawing Blood?
Even though the 5th Avenue Vampires music is dark, hard edge rock is our main ingredient. “Cravin’ a Drink” and “Psycho Sexual” demonstrate that. The writing and recording process was collaborative and we all let the music lead the way. Our live shows feature moody scenes but high-energy rock dominates there too, mainly because of Richie Scarlet who always manages to deliver riveting performances. And lead vocalist, Joe Von T., sings lines like I’ve got until day/no time shall I waste/silently searching the night for your taste while drummer Russ Wilson and I hold down the foundation. As far as splitting my time between bands, I’m driven by my love of music and I enjoy every minute of it.
You are currently working on “Welcome II my Nightmare” with Alice Cooper. How did it feel to be in the studio with Alice after 36 years? Are the recordings finished? Are you going to tour with him for this album?
Recording with Michael, Neal (ed:Smith –drums), Alice and Bob Ezrin was like being home again. In some ways it seemed like years had passed but mostly it seemed like we’ve been together all along. The three songs, which Alice and Bob had collaborated with each of us on, are being mixed in Nashville. The original Alice Cooper group will be playing a live show in Phoenix on December 18th, 2010, and depending on the response, we’ll see where that leads.
How important is Bob Ezrin for the Alice Cooper group now and then? Was he really the “George Martin of Alice Cooper Group”?
From the moment that he stepped into our rehearsal room, the Alice Cooper group accepted Bob Ezrin as a creative partner. He laid the guiding rails for a locomotive that was speeding off the tracks. Bob and Jack Richardson taught us how to record. And in that respect, Bob is still of vital importance on this latest endeavor.
You’re one of the best bassists in music history. Who are your influences? I guess Paul McCartney is among them…
Paul was definitely a major influence. I didn’t learn many of his parts but I paid close attention to how his patterns would change within a song. I learned blues patterns from Bill Wyman’s recordings, but my greatest inspiration was Paul Samwell-Smith of the Yardbirds. Hearing his style proved to me that a bassist can explore the farthest reaches of the instrument. That concept set me free.
Do you think you should have received more recognition by fans and press for your work?
The original Alice Cooper Group’s recent nomination for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame might change that.
What artist would you like to play with that hasn’t happened yet? Maybe with Iggy Pop?
I’m lucky because I’ve always worked with artists that I love working with. And New York City is great for sitting in with great musicians. I’ve played “I’m Eighteen” with a lot of highly accomplished artists. Working with Iggy would be great. Mike Watt is playing bass with the Stooges now. I think he is an underrated bassist.
Do you think rock’n’roll is dead and everything now is about contracts, managers and deals? Was Jim Morrison right about that?
As long as you have wide-eyed kids with guitars in their hands, rock will be alive and kicking. Morrison was right about the artist’s brain squirming like a toad but not that. The era of big record deals is what’s suffering now. Rock can still thrive without all of that but the big question is, can artists survive when so many people take their art for free?
You had spent many hours with Jim Morrison. What was he like as a person? He had participated in a séance in the Alice Cooper group’s house, right?
On Halloween, 1968, the Alice Cooper group hosted a party at our house in Topanga Canyon that included a rather eerie séance. Jim was there as well as Robby Krieger and John Densmore, Arthur Lee, Paul Rothchild, David Crosby and all of our girlfriends. Robby (who I recently worked with on the Blue Coupe album) said there were lots of séances in those days but he smiled and said that he remembered that one. Morrison was interested in a coffee table that we had in our living room. It had a glass top and you could see down into a sandy cage with small cactus, tarantulas and lizards. He sat on the floor and stared into it for a long time. And then he sat on the television set blocking the screen, which anyone else would have gotten yelled at for.
What memories do you have from 1966-67 when Pink Floyd were guests in your house? You knew Frank Zappa, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and others, right? Do you think that this sort of thing only happens once in a lifetime?
I was sitting at our kitchen table having a serious conversation with Syd Barrett and then I realized that he wasn’t really with us. It was very sad. David Gilmour was there and the transition was in progress. There were tons of great bands in L.A. during that era and I am glad that I was young and on that exhilarating scene. San Francisco was great as well as Detroit and it will never happen like that again although Reykjavik, Iceland has a great music scene now.
Have you ever been to Greece? Send a message to your Greek fans.
Yasou Greek friends! I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting your country yet but I studied your artistic history in my college art class. I love vegetarian souvlaki with Feta, flaming Sambuca and honey from Mani. As teenagers, Alice and I ran long distance in high school and knew that we were carrying on a tradition that began with the Olympics in Greece.I hope to see you all soon.
Special thanks to Mr Dennis Dunaway