Alice Cooper’s ‘Paranoic Personality’: Hear a Snippet and Learn the Story Behind New Song
You can hear the sample above. The full track will be released tomorrow.
For co-writer, co-producer and guitarist Tommy Denander, it’s a milestone achievement in a career that’s already seen him notch up more than 3,000 album credits. He had contributed some guitar to Cooper’s last album, 2011’s Welcome 2 My Nightmare, but the chance to become much more involved with the rock legend was a dream come true for the lifelong fan.
The experience presented him with the unforgettable experience of working with producer Bob Ezrin, U2 drummer Larry Mullen and the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper Band, who all figure heavily on Paranormal.
Ezrin emailed Denander last August and asked if he had any “cool ‘70s-style guitar riffs” for consideration. “I got a huge kick from Bob asking me,” Denander tells Utimate Classic Rock. “I’m well-known for being a very rare kind of wacko – I write almost every day, and 49 of every 50 songs I write end up on albums. I started giving them one or two ideas every day, and I gave them 13 songs in total.
"They liked the vibe and direction, but they were mostly cool riffs with no complete structure so Bob did his magic with arranging them into great song. Watching him and Alice work on melodies and lyrics is phenomenal – they're amazing! Alice and Bob are two of the most talented people I’ve been around. I spent four days in Nashville with them working on the first batch and it felt like a great start of the album."
Hewas invited to join Cooper’s band for the Hollywood Vampires’ encore at their Christmas show last year, at which point guitarist Tommy Henriksen joined the writing team, and another three days of work ensued. “By now, I’d written 36 ideas, most of which were dismissed for various reasons. Tommy had some great ones which were much more complete. Dennis, Alice and Bob had found a couple old ideas that were never released, which was really exciting. The original band had some and there were more from other writers,”
Denander points out: "Without Alice and Bob sinking their teeth into a song, it’s not gonna end up being what it is. The goal this time was not to make a theme record – they wanted it to be a vintage Alice album, full of cool guitar riffs and great attitude.”
He says he had a very specific aim in mind when he wrote the music for “Paranoic Personality.” “I wanted to come up with a simple but clever bass hook that people would know instantly, like ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ by Queen or ‘Money’ by Pink Floyd," he notes. "I also knew I wanted it to sound like mid-‘70s Alice. I was listening to ‘Black Widow,’ ‘I Love the Dead,’ ‘Welcome to My Nightmare,’ and one thing they did sometimes was add an extra bar with a cool riff. With those ideas in mind, the song came pretty quickly.”
Recording sessions took place at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville, and that was where Denander discovered what Mullen was going to bring to the party. “For Bob to pick Larry was a stroke of genius," he says. "The programmed drums on my demos were much more traditional hard rock, and I was a bit worried how Larry was gonna be able to play like that, since it's not his normal style. but Bob hired him to play like him – and damn, he gave the songs a new life and a much more authentic old-school vibe, in the very best sense."
Denander says that making albums "is mostly about the energy of the people in the room – you capture how people feel more than anything else. So when you understand most of this album was tracked live, with all guys in the same room, you’ll be able to hear what a great time we had, which is of course what a great producer does. I think Alice sings better than ever on this album, strong and vibrant yet cool and a bit mysterious like only he can be.
“It’s absolutely impossible to not laugh all the time around these guys," he adds. "Everyone is so different in age, where in the world we come from and just how we are – but we all really like each other, and it’s perfectly cool to pick on each other with love and a nutty kind of humor. Plus when you’re working with Bob as main producer, things are fast and easy. He keeps a tight ship, which is great.”
Focusing on how “Paranoic Personality” came out, Denander notes, "In a big way, it really captures the core of the album. Paranormal feels like a play with three themes that are pretty different from each other, but they create a whole picture that’s very interesting, and really typical of the early Alice albums. The main theme is based around five songs Alice, Bob, Tommy Henriksen and I wrote the music for. Theme two is the vibe created with the original Alice Cooper Band – Neal, Dennis and Michael, with the help of me and Tommy. Theme three is a couple of songs picked by Bob and Alice that sort of live their own lives. The diversity makes the album extra-interesting.
Denander says he hopes the new album gives younger fans "a lesson in how albums were made in the old days – real people playing, and creating a vibe and sound together. Not Pro Tools mixed to a cold perfection," he says.
"For the older generation, for fans as far back as the ‘70s, I hope it brings huge smiles to their faces," he concludes. "It’s in many ways like getting to time-travel back and hear new music from Alice. Some of it’s so amazing that I get goosebumps every time I listen.
"This is Alice and Bob’s house that they’ve created over more than 45 years together, and the rest of us are just humble guests passing by. I hold this album as the coolest work I’ve done.”
Masterpieces: The Very Best Albums From More Than 100 Classic Rock Acts