Skillet’s John Cooper talks about the bands debut graphic novel “Eden”

John Cooper is the vocalist/bassist for the Platinum selling rock group Skillet. The band recently partnered with Z2 Comics to release their first graphic novel titled “Eden”. Media Mikes caught up with John and the band at New York Comic Con to discuss the creation of the book, its similarities to the group’s music and if there will be books to come in the future.    

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us a little bit about the bands new comic “Eden”?

John Cooper: I love comics and they are something I grew up with. I have always looked at Skillet as sort of a theatrical band. When I say theatrical I am meaning more from an operatic feel than that of a visual feel like Kiss or Alice Cooper. I had always envisioned doing a comic book as I see us all as characters. I had sort of put it off because if it’s not done right it can become terribly cheesy. On social media I am always posting about comics and I ended up getting a call from Z2 Comics asking if I would be interested in doing a graphic novel. I told them yes and that I had some story ideas but I wasn’t sure where to begin. They said that’s ok as they had some ideas of their own. I wanted to do something that was more science fiction as opposed to hero driven. I was looking for something with a post-apocalyptic feel but with a message of hope. That’s something you don’t see a lot. The book has sci-fi and super-natural elements mixed in with some religious undertones. In my view I think all great science-fiction have religious elements. When I say “religious” I’m not necessarily meaning Christianity but just religious. Films like “Dune”, “Blade Runner” and “Battlestar Galactica” are solid examples of that.

AL: How much collaboration went into the book?

JC: I brought the theme of a dying world filled with people all having the same dream which is leading them to paradise. I worked with some really great writers who helped me put together all the different ideas I had. Sadly the idea of the glowing eyes was not my idea but one I really liked as it was sort of an homage to “Dune” which is one of my all time favorite books.

Ian Lawton: What did the rest of the band think about the comic?

JC: The band loves the comic. At first I think they weren’t too sure what to expect. My wife Corey knew what I was going for as she knows me really well. I think it’s hard for people to understand what’s in your head when you are creating something. Once the book was done I think they were a little shocked as to how good it was and how emotional it is.

AL: Did the writing for “Eden” happen at the same time you were writing the band’s latest album “Victorious”?   

JC: Yes, I was writing for both things at the same time. It was a very crazy and busy two years. While these two things were going on I also released a side project EP titled “Fight the Fury” along with our drummer Jen’s side project “Ledger”. All of these things were basically written and released in two and half years. Writing for the comic was making me really want to write music so all of these things had me firing on all pistons. Each project worked off of one another.

IM: Was writing the book similar to writing music?

JC: I didn’t notice this until after the book was done and I had read it. I know that may sound sort of silly but, sometimes when you are writing you don’t always notice things others might as you are just going with what is coming out. After I read the book I felt as thou it was very similar to our music. The book is a little dark but it is meaningful. That’s what people say about Skillet songs and I think “Eden” has that same feel.

IM: Can you tell us about the special hardcover edition that will be available?

JC: That’s something that I am still waiting to see myself. I have seen parts of what are going to be in it and I am very excited for the finished version to be available. It’s going to have this really cool axe on it which is my weapon in the book. With this beard I sort of feel like a lumberjack and thought that an axe would be a perfect weapon as opposed to some of the other more futuristic weapons you see in the book.

AL: Is this just a one off book or are there plans to do others?

JC: The band is going to be out on the road until mid December so that’s going to have me tied up for a few months. We have started to talk a little about the possibility of more books but nothing is definite. I think it would be great to do a second one.

To order a copy “Eden” click here and to order Skillets latest album “Victorious” click here   

Film Review – “Clyde Cooper”

CLYDE COOPER
Starring:  Jordi Vilasuso, Abigail Titmuss and Richard Neil
Directed by:  Peter Daskaloff
Not Rated
Running time:  1 hr 21 mins
Souvenir Films

While a man sits sadly on the edge of a bed, two beautiful women begin to experiment with each other.  Suddenly they are interrupted by the sound of a single gunshot.  Thus begins the noir-ish drama “Clyde Cooper.”

A slickly shot mystery, the plot finds the title private investigator (Vilasuso, a staple the past 15-years on various daytime soap operas) being asked to help a smitten gentleman find a woman who, despite only knowing her for a few days, has become, in his mind, THE one.  Cooper takes the case only to discover that there is a lot more going on then meets the eye.  People aren’t who the seem to be and, as the bodies begin to pile up, Cooper discovers a twist in the case that adds a new dimension to the film.

The script, by director Daskaloff, gives Cooper some nice throw-away lines and it’s a credit to Vilasuso’s talent that he comes off as a well intentioned wise ass instead of a boor.  Production credits are strong and whoever came up with the idea of a house with a piano key stairway – one that plays when you’re going up or down – deserves to never be without a job.  An entertaining musical score by Jonathan Price helps keep the action flowing.

Concert Review: “A Paranormal Evening with Alice Cooper” – Kansas City

 

A Paranormal Evening with Alice Cooper

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts ,  Kansas City, Missouri

August 6, 2018

REVIEW BY J.R. DEETER

 

 

First off, let me just say that if you get an opportunity to see a concert performance at the Kauffman Center in Kansas City you should absolutely do so…..it is fast becoming my favorite venue to see concerts.

I have always been a casual fan of Alice Cooper and the “hits.”  I admit I really didn’t know many of the album songs….ones long-time fans know, but for this show, it didn’t seem to matter.   I really enjoyed every minute of the entire playlist.

Opening with a non stop barrage of Brutal Planet, No More Mr. Nice Guy, Under My Wheels and Billion Dollar Babies, you could tell this was going to be an awesome night.   As promised, this was to be “ A Paranormal Evening” and the stage set delivered….ghoulish and dark….strange, frightening elements filled the space, everything from small doll sized things….a large box, from which minions provided several props to Alice throughout the night, including a dancing demonic creature, a shocking electric chair and, of course, a guillotine, which eventually was used for the beheading of Cooper, to the screaming delight of the near capacity audience.

The song Lost in America is now one of my favorites….this was one I hadn’t heard before. Same with Woman of Mass Destruction.  How could I have missed those over the years?

Poison…..Feed My Frankenstein….even a bit of a slow down for Only Women Bleed didn’t drop the level of energy of the band, or the level of love from the crowd for this 70 year old Godfather of Shock Rock.

There were a couple of “rest periods” when Alice exited the stage for the obligatory solos by members of the band….every one of them very entertaining and capable on their instrument.  A special shout-out to Nita Straus, kicking ass on lead and rhythm guitar while providing backing vocals.

Wrapping up the show with I’m Eighteen and the confetti filled rousing rendition of School’s Out left my ears ringing and my heart filled with joy.  I had finally experienced Alice Cooper, clearly not in his prime, but certainly still able to deliver a killer performance.

(My .5 deduction is for not playing 1977’s You and Me.  I’m a former 80’s DJ, and that was a staple JAM we played often…great tune.)

Blu-ray Review “Super Duper Alice Cooper”

Actors: Alice Cooper
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Eagle Rock
Release Date: June 3, 2014
Run Time: 127 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

“Feed Me Frankenstein”! Watching “Wayne’s World” was one of my first exposures as a kid to the legendary Alice Cooper. “Super Duper Alice Cooper” is the first ever “doc opera” around the rock star. What really drew me to the film was the it is not your typical interview after interview doc, this contains of a great blend of documentary archive footage, animation, and rock opera. What makes this even cooler is that it is from Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn of Banger Films. They guys produced other great music documentaries like of “Iron Maiden: Flight 666” and “Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage”. If you are an Alice Cooper fan, this is definitely a much purchase. If not just wait till it airs on VH1 Classic this September.

Official Premise: Super Duper Alice Cooper is the first ever “doc opera” – featuring a blend of documentary archive footage, animation and rock opera that will cement forever the legend of Alice Cooper. The film is the twisted tale of a teenage Dr. Jekyll whose rock n’ roll Mr. Hyde almost kills him. It is the story of Vincent Furnier, a preacher’s son who struck fear into the hearts of parents as Alice Cooper, the ultimate rock star of the bizarre. From the advent of Alice as front man for a group of Phoenix freaks in the 60’s to the hazy decadence of celebrity in the 70s to his triumphant comeback as 80s glam metal godfather, we will watch as Alice and Vincent battle for each other’s’ souls. Alice’s story is told not only by the man himself, but through exclusive interviews with members of the original Alice Cooper band, Elton John, Iggy Pop, John Lydon, and Dee Snider.

Like most if not all of Eagle Rock’s Blu-ray’s, “Super Duper Alice Cooper” is presented in 1080i, so not full HD. It still looks impressive I have to say, but I don’t know how they get it in line with the rest of the standard Blu-ray specs. Besides teh film, there is also tons of bonus deleted scenes included. There are Alice Cooper interviews from the VH1 Classic series “Metal Evolution”. There is also additional rare footage included. Even though Eagle Rock doesn’t love Media Mikes enough to hook us up with the Deluxe Edition of this release, I am still going to give it a plug since it is quite rad. It features not only the film but also a second DVD of previously unreleased concert footage from Montreal University in 1972. There is also a CD included of Alice Cooper’s performance at the 2009 Montreux Jazz Festival. The deluxe edition comes all together in a huge LP-sized box with 60-page hardback photobook. Now that is the real must for hardcore fans.

Kevin Cooper talks about directing “I Heart Shakey”

Kevin Cooper has worked various jobs in Hollywood and has lent his talents to such films as “Armageddon” and “Secondhand Lions.” A Midwest boy at heart, after graduating from NYU Cooper made his way west, working his way through the ranks of both independent film making and the studio system. Cooper recently got behind the camera, writing and directing the new family film, “I Heart Shakey.” The film is currently available via Video on Demand and will open in theatres nationwide later this month. Kevin took a few moments out of his schedule to talk about his new film with Media Mikes:

Michael Smith: You’ve worked on many films in many various roles yet this is the first time you’ve added writer and director to your resume’. What made you decide to take on this film at this time?
Kevin Cooper: I’ve been in this business for a long time and I’m always looking for something “new” to attempt. My wife, who ended up producing the film, and I were talking one night and we said to ourselves, “we know how to make movies…we have relationships with distributors and talent…what’s stopping US?” And we decided that if we were going to go into the battle we should focus on a subject that means something to us. And this film is ultimately about loyalty…about family. So we chose to pursue this project. It had been sitting around for a long time. In a way it’s loosely based on my life. I graduated from NYU film school, which is where I met Steve Lemme. I moved to L.A. When I got there I rented an apartment. And only after I had been there for a week did I learn that I would be able to keep my dog. So the film brought up a real challenge. What do you do when you have to get rid of your dog…to in a way tear your family apart? Of course I had just got to Hollywood so I thought, “Shit, I’ll just give away the dog!” But every time I gave the dog away to a prospective owner….basically the next day they were calling me and saying “come get your dog…he’s way too rambunctious for me!” He was such a fun and crazy dog. And ultimately, after about three or four months, I realized that the dog wants to stay with ME. And it was really one of those life lessons about loyalty. So that inspired a really early first draft. But the project just sat there. I wasn’t really a development guy, I was a studio guy. I was constantly working on other peoples projects. So when I got back to the Midwest I decided to find a project that’s personal…one we could dive into. My directing work had been in comedy. When I lived in New York I directed and produced all of Broken Lizards early sketches. They had a live show in New York City and between sketches, when they had to set up different props or change wardrobe, my video sketches would play while they did their changes. And the film is also a great way to come back together with friends. With dear friends, actually. I mean they came up with “Super Troopers” on the way to my wedding! We go way back, those guys and I.

MS: Why did you decide to add the extra burden of shooting in 3D to your first feature?
KC: (laughs) That’s a great question. One of the things we knew early on was that, for the film to succeed, we had to give ourselves every advantage. It was less about how the audience would receive it and more about our perception of where 3D was headed. I ran James Cameron’s company for six years and some of my best friends are technologists and industry leaders. Now for 100 years the industry has really kept people like you and me out. You really had to be a wealthy guy or come from money…you had to have some kind of connection generally speaking. Nepotism ran rampant in this industry for many, many years. But our production budget was $235,000. And we asked how much it would cost to use 3D. We found a camera house here in Chicago that was willing to foot the bill for it so it didn’t really cost us a ton more…at least not in production. In post it did end up costing us a little bit more money. I explored what it meant, artistically, to make a film in 3D. And it really opens up new worlds and frontiers. Hollywood is such a competitive place. We thought why just do a regular film…why not give yourself every advantage you can? It was important for us to know that we were out front like that. Some of our best friends are indie filmmakers. And I would say that seven or eight out of ten of them don’t get their feature films distributed. So our idea was to do everything we could to make this film appealing. That was our thinking. And once you’ve committed to that you really have no choice. When you grasp onto technology there is really no backing out. Our distributor is very committed to the film. They’d put it out in 2D. But they’re very committed to putting it out in 3D. And you ask about the difficulty of working with 3D…you can say the same thing about working with dogs…working with kids. I teach film at Columbia and I was sort of breaking all of the rules (laughs).

MS: Ironically my next question was: was it difficult to work with the animals?
KC: It was hard! (laughs) There’s a great supplemental bit on the DVD for “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” where they talk about how they rescued all the dogs. It seemed very logical and possible that we could do the same thing here in Chicago with one dog. So we found a rescue dog and trained with him for months. And it just didn’t work. We ended up having to call all over the United States. And eventually we ended up with a dog that was pretty good. Most films use a purebreed dog because it’s easier to find a double. But I wanted to use a mutt. We found a double but he was hard to work with. I would say that animals in general take a lot more time. In some cases we didn’t get all the things we wanted the dog to do. One thing I’m proud of is we came up with ways to further some of the sequences in the film with animation…almost like a representation of the girl’s imagination. Originally it was just a crutch but when we tested the film we found that our target audience loved the animation! It’s interesting how what appeared to be one of our problems turned into one of our strengths.

MS: You have a very solid cast, including Steve Lemme, Steve Guttenberg and Beverly D’Angelo. How did you get them interested in the project?
KC: Hollywood is a funny business. My first job out of college was working at CAA (the Creative Artist Agency). One of my best friends is now running the Motion Picture Talent Department at CAA. Not that he helped me get the cast…it’s just that Hollywood is a very small place. You know everybody one person removed if you’ve been there a few years. And it’s important to understand the mentality behind the talent agent. So a guy like Guttenberg…he wants to get paid. He wasn’t paid a lot but he got paid. Three days of work for several thousand bucks. You make him an offer. “Hey, do you want to come out here for three days?” And he’s also a big fan of Steve Lemme and Broken Lizard, so that helped. And having Steve involved…he doesn’t have a huge fan base but the fan base he does have is very loyal to him. In certain circles he’s a major rock star! If you’re a 45 year old lady you’ve probably never heard of him. But if you’re a 22 year old guy, you’ve probably memorized all of his lines from his films. So having Steve on board was definitely an asset to the project. And then we got Alfonso Arau. Now maybe he doesn’t have a lot of fans but he lent a certain level of legitimacy to the project. He directed films like “Like Water for Chocolate.” And his comic role in “The Three Amigos”…El Guapo…you won’t find a comedian who doesn’t consider that performance one of the top five or top ten…everybody loves that role. We didn’t get a “Prometheus” size push with the talent involved but, like a said, for under a half-million bucks…it was enough to get the investors to support the film. So it certainly helps to know the psychology behind a Hollywood talent agent.

MS: So, in a sense, making this film was your own El Guapo?”
KC: (laughing) Exactly! You know it, man. It was a plethora of fun and problems all at the same time.

MS: Finally, once the film is released and behind you, what are you working on next?
KC: I’m working on a project with Steve Lemme called “My Sky.” It’s a script written by Alex Torres and it’s about a guy with Tourette Syndrome. It’s a very different tone…in the vein of “Awakenings.” It’s something that we can really control the tone of…we can dig in deep and roll up our sleeves. I don’t know if you were suggesting this earlier or not but, if you were, you were right on the money. Making a film with all these attributes…3D and kids and dogs…are definitely harder for sure. Unless I have a lot more money I’m not going to be doing that kind of film for a long time. Not so much that I needed money…it’s just that you need more shooting days…you can acquire more takes. “My Sky” is such a gem of a script that we want to do it justice. A lot of people have said to Steve, “you’re sort of this generation’s ‘Cheech and Chong, what with his films with “Broken Lizard.” But it will give us a chance to make a film that’s really cool.

MS: Thank you for your time.
KC: It was a pleasure to talk with you. I should also add you have a very neat site. I think it’s awesome. You guys do a really great job of working in and outside of the systems. Keep up the good work!

 

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Neal Smith talks about Drumming with Alice Cooper and New Solo Album

Neal Smith was inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of Fame in 2011 for his role as drummer in the Alice Cooper Group. Besides working with Alice Cooper, Neal has also played with The Plasmatics and, Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult. Media Mikes had a chance to speak with Neal recently about his career in the music business and his new solo album titled “Kill$mith Two”

Adam Lawton: What initial sparked your interest in becoming a solo artist?
Neal Smith: The original Alice Cooper band broke up in the 70’s. After that I played in a few different bands as well as doing an album with The Plasmatics and Buck Dharma. When I was working with Buck I co-wrote the song “Born to Rock” which got play on MTV. Through the 80’s I got interested in real estate and ended up getting my real estate license in the state of Connecticut. I kept writing over this time and worked on a couple projects. One of the projects was to play some shows in Texas with Mike Bruce and Glen Buxton from the Alice Cooper band. We brought in Richie Scarlett to play as well. Sadly 6 days after the project wrapped up Glen passed away. It was around this time that I decided to finish up a lot of things I had sitting on the back burner. In 1999 I released my first solo album. The album was originally recorded in 1975 and titled “Platinum God”. I got a great response to that album and afterwards put together a group with some friends called “Cinematic”. We were doing shows in New York City and while there I saw bands like Kings X, Pigface and Tapping the Vein. These bands were playing this really hard edge industrial metal. I liked the power of the material and wanted to come up with something that had the early rebellious image of Alice Cooper along with the macabre side. In 2008 we released the first Kill$mith album titled “Sexual Savior”. I was really inspired by all these newer bands that were beyond grunge. We just released “Kill$mith Two” a couple months ago.

AL: What do you think was the hardest part of transitioning from drummer to solo artist?
NS: I have always written. Even before the Alice Cooper Group I was a stand up singer in a band. I have always sung a little bit. I have always been very comfortable in any position even though drums are my forte. It was more of a new challenge. I jumped in over my head and learned everything I could. I had some great teachers and inspiration. Things weren’t difficult but there were some challenges. I think the biggest challenge though for me is coming up with songs that I like. I am the type of writer that writes when I am inspired. I can go for months or even years without being inspired to write a song. However when I am inspired the ideas come like a tsunami. The new album features 12 really solid songs. I don’t think there is any filler on this album. Alice Cooper and producer Bob Ezrin heard the demo for a song on the new album titled “Evil Voodoo Moon” and re-wrote it for Alice’s album “Welcome to my Nightmare 2”. The song is actually the first single off that album titled “I’ll Bite Your Face Off”.

AL: How would you describe/classify the “Kill$mith Two” album?
NS: I would say it’s definitely in the super hard rock/metal category. This album has more melodic choruses than the previous album. The new album may not be for everybody but it gave me the chance to experiment with some writing on my own and create the “Kill$mith” character. I wanted both “Kill$mith” albums to have a much darker and more macabre edge which is something I feel I was very successful at.

AL: What can you tell us about the new video you just put out?
NS: I wanted to pick a song off the album that was a musician’s song. There are a lot of great players on the album and one of those was Pete Hickey. He did an amazing solo on “Squeeze like a Python” and I wanted to feature a song that was one of the better songs that I really liked. I like to play for musicians and I think this song does that. The video is very sexy and hot. There is a fantasy element that is woven in between the verses of the song. We sort of took a classic approach to making the video. I think everyone did a great job. After having the video up for close to a week now we have received 3,000 hits. I have been amazed by the response.

AL: Can you tell us what the touring plans will be for the group?
NS: We will definitely be doing more videos. That right now is really our thrust to get the word out about the band. There has been some interest in the band going to Europe to play however nothing has been confirmed. As soon as dates start to be set up they will be posted on my website www.nealsmithrocks.com