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Dennis Dunaway discusses the audio format of his Alice Cooper Group memoir, 'Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! My Adventures in The Alice Cooper Group'
Alice Cooper is one of the most influential American rock bands formed in the 1960s. A triple-threat, Dennis Dunaway contributed greatly as co-songwriter, bassist and conceptualizer. Their rebellious themes and daring stage theatrics foreshadowed the pulse, makeup and live performance of KISS, the New York Dolls, Marilyn Manson and other shock rockers.
Besides Dennis Dunaway, that original line-up consisted of lead vocalist Vince Furnier, lead guitarist Glen Buxton, rhythm guitarist/keyboardist Michael Bruce and drummer Neal Smith, whose sister, designer Cindy Smith (the future Cindy Dunaway), conceptualized and created the band's sparkling persona; a rock template imitated by countless others.
In 2011, that quintet was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their unforgettable body of work includes: ‘I'm Eighteen’ and albums, 'Love It to Death' and 'Billion Dollar Babies'.
Last year, Dunaway (with former 'Rolling Stone' editor Chris Hodenfield)
published the captivating 'Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! My Adventures in The Alice Cooper Group'.
In his memoir, he recounts the managerial peaks and valleys, on tour escapades and youthful creativity that defined their trajectory, as well as his own personal triumphs and challenges.
Those that have dog-eared last year's hard copy and want to jump start an alternate sense, should check out the newly released audio version, where Dunaway's friendly tone and natural penchant for humour, poignantly capture the Alice Cooper group’s hilarious and bittersweet trajectory in a lively, approachable way. Dunaway then tops it off with post Alice Cooper candour. Those chapters include sonic adventures with Blue Coupe (with former Blue Oyster Cult members, Albert and Joe Bouchard) and more.
In the following interview, Dennis Dunaway provides details about the new audio version of his acclaimed memoir.
I wondered how Dennis felt about conveying his life story over a studio microphone as opposed to the earlier process of writing about his experiences in book form. Did the act of reading out loud cause him to relive some of the more celebratory or bittersweet moments?
“Up until the audio book recording session, I think the longest story I'd ever read aloud was 'Goodnight Moon'. I expected Audible to get a
professional narrator for 'Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!' but they assured me that people wanted to hear my voice reading it.”
“I had done plenty of long recording sessions, but this turned out to be much different. When you are recording a song, your focus is intense while you're playing, but then you take a break to listen back, and for technical adjustments. But narrating 'Snakes!' required sitting in the same position for six hours with occasional breaks. It's harder than driving a car long distance. The sessions took four consecutive days.”
“I often found myself hoping for the next comma or period so I could catch my breath, but Bruce Kitovich of Audible was in the control room reading aloud word after word and offering expert guidance.”
“Reading aloud heightens the emotions and I lost my composure and had to take several breaks in order to make it through the chapter about Glen Buxton. It was a challenge for me but I'm very proud of it, especially when I hear so many people telling me how it's a different experience from the text version.”
Dennis spoke to many fans during the launch of his much-anticipated book during his US promotional tour. Time permitting, he fielded questions after reading selected excerpts. His fans are multi-generational. So what questions did he get asked afterwards? Were there any comments that stood out in his mind?
“I've always enjoyed meeting fans. I've met thousands of people so there are patterns. The most common stories are about their discovery of the Alice Cooper group, usually through an older sibling or their parents. Then come the tales of a particular concert that begins with a detailed description of their car and friends driving to the concert. Then the story gets foggy during the show. I guess that's a sign of the '70s.”
“Lots of bass players tell me that I inspired them to pick up the instrument, which is the greatest compliment. Young kids know 'School's Out' and I can see the same enthusiasm for the concept that Alice Cooper had when we wrote it. I met a family in England that wanted me to know that our music helped the father win his battle with cancer. That's the power of music. It's good for your body and soul.”
After years of playing bass in successful bands like the Alice Cooper Group and Blue Coupe, Dennis Dunaway has demonstrated the ability to be innovative onstage and in the studio. So after having years of such experience, has he developed a set of cardinal rules? Does he have any solid advice for the emerging bassist?
“If you break rules, you're more likely to be uniquely you. The world is always longing for something that's never been done before. Play whatever you enjoy playing, and if someone tells you that you're not doing what others are doing, take that as a sign that you're on the right track. If you love the instrument, it won't matter what anyone says.”
Who wouldn’t want to croon this catchy song, after another year of detentions and dodge ball? I wondered what Dennis will be up to this season now that ‘School’s Out’ for summer. Will he be performing, promoting, recording or relaxing?
“Relaxing is rare, and creating and promoting are a constant in my life, but I do love this time of year because I know every school intercom across the country will be playing our song on the last day,”he responded. “It's the same excitement that every kid has when they hear that final bell.”
Fans are reporting rumors that the remaining, original members of the Alice Cooper group will be recording an album of originals in the near future. Is it true?
“Neal, Alice and Michael got together in Phoenix, Arizona and wrote five new songs. Then Alice called me and asked if I had any songs, so I whipped a dozen demos into shape and sent them to (producer) Bob Ezrin and Alice.”
“Alice is touring all summer so we'll continue writing songs. Who knows what may come of it? But we'll have fun and I love the challenge of trying to create the best album we've ever done.”
The top photo of the Alice Cooper Group was taken in 1972 by Cindy Smith Dunaway. The second photograph of the Alice Cooper Group was taken at the Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood in 1968 by Monica Lauer. The third photograph of Cindy Smith Dunaway and Dennis Dunaway was photographed in 1971 is by Len Delessio, while the lower two photographs were taken by Stacey Katsis on the 'Billion Dollar Babies' tour in 1973.