Holidays

Alice Cooper: Our Christmas Is More Ozzie Nelson Than Ozzy Osbourne

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So the Rock Teen Center opened in spring of 2012, and that was the building that inspired you to launch the annual Christmas Pudding in 2001. Tell me a bit about that inspiration. We started Solid Rock in the late '90s really, putting it together. We were a foundation so we would raise money and then give it to organizations that worked with teens, whether it was for eating disorders or anything that had to do with teenagers. But then we decided, well, we always wanted to open our own place, which would be our own teen center. It would be dedicated to teaching music and all the arts--for free.

In other words, why not let every teenager come in who wants to learn guitar, bass, drums--my wife teaches jazz and ballet--and everything is free. All they have to do is show up and decide they want to learn something. Fender gave us all the guitars we wanted, all the basses. Again, my idea with this is, when I'm down on the West side and I look at a corner, I can tell if those people are sitting there selling drugs. These teenage kids. And I think to myself, how does that kid right there know or not if he's the best guitar player in town? Because he's never picked up a guitar. He's never had that opportunity to actually pick up a guitar or sit behind a set of drums or pick up a bass.

So what you do is, you say, I challenge you. Come on in, and once you learn five or six chords you can play just about any rock and roll with that. Look, a band is a gang, you know? The only difference is you aren't getting shot at or going to jail. I understand the idea of a gang. If you don't have a family, a gang is your family and I get that. They got your back.

But when kids come to the Rock they can feel more comfortable there than they do at home. They feel safer there. A lot of these kids have some rough family life, but really we're just there to be there for them. To give them an alternative to selling drugs, going to jail, getting shot, you know; why not put all that energy into music? We average about 100 kids in there a day. There are kids whose whole lives have been changed, and we like to think that their future will hold something other than jail or getting shot at.

And Christmas Pudding was originally started just to save that money to open up the Teen Center. You know, with Christmas Pudding it was like, where do we start on this? You know, I'm not a teacher, but I have a great rolodex. If I do a Christmas show I can go through that rolodex and call different people and they will show up and do a few songs. When you get Alice Cooper, KISS, Rob Zombie, Dee Snider, Joan Jett, Vince Neil, Stephen Pearcy all on one stage in one night? That should pretty much pack the place.

And every year, all the performers perform for free as their contribution to the cause, correct? Yes. Normally we bring the whole band in and then it's a five hour show, because you have to break down the equipment, and during that time we had comedians and different stuff going on. But this year we decided we're having one band that knows everybody's songs. So we just bring in Rob Zombie, not his entire band. We bring in Paul and Gene from KISS. I mean, the whole band can come if they want.

I will be performing with this band called Hairball. They literally do everybody's songs exactly how they are on the record. So Vince Neil will do two or three Motley Crue songs, then when he's done, Rob Zombie will go up and do three or four songs. So we're just putting in the lead singer and it's a lot faster way to do it.

I love having, like, Rob Zombie and somebody who is absolute opposite of Rob Zombie up there. It's fun to watch people who should never play together be together on stage. Glenn Campbell and... the guys from Twisted Sister. It's insane combinations of people. But it's a Christmas party with all headliners.

And it is going to expand from its current 22,000 square feet, with an auditorium, dance studio and music room, to 60,000 square feet? Right now it's music rooms and a big rec room where they can play ping pong or just hang out. It's a safe place to hang out, where there's not going to be bad stuff around. The kids just sit around and talk. There are even three or four bands organized within Solid Rock. It's great.

A lot of them go, what's the catch? But there's no catch you just have to want to learn. Show up and it's free. The more you learn how to play the more you'll want to come back.

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Lauren Wise has worked as a rock/heavy metal journalist for 15 years. She contributes to Noisey and LA Weekly, edits books, and drinks whiskey.
Contact: Lauren Wise