SickthingsUK: Brutal Planet

Alice's first studio album in six years saw him with a much heavier, more industrial metal sound - far heavier then anything he had previously released (bar the X-files soundtrack song, which was really a Rob Zombie creation). The album was almost universally well received and now considered a benchmark release for Alice.


June 6th 2000

Track listing

  1. Brutal Planet (Cooper, Marlette)(4:39)
  2. Wicked Young Man (Cooper, Marlette)(3:50)
  3. Sanctuary (Cooper, Marlette)(4:00)
  4. Blow Me A Kiss (Cooper, Marlette, Ezrin)(3:18)
  5. Eat Some More (Cooper, Marlette)(4:35)
  6. Pick Up The Bones (Cooper, Marlette)(5:15)
  7. Pessi-Mystic (Cooper, Marlette, Nelson)(4:56)
  8. Gimme (Cooper, Marlette)(4:46)
  9. It's The Little Things (Cooper, Marlette)(4:11)
  10. Take It Like A Woman (Cooper, Marlette)(4:12)
  11. Cold Machines (Cooper, Marlette)(4:18)
  12. Can't Sleep, Clowns Will Eat Me (Cooper, Marlette, Blake, Wilson) - Japanese bonus track (4:09)

A few months after the intial release Spitfire released a special 'Tour Edition' of the album in Europe which featured four live recordings from Hammersmith Odeon and a radio show:

  1. It's The Little Things (live) (Cooper, Marlette) (5.19)
  2. Wicked Young Man (live) (Cooper, Marlette) (3.32)
  3. Poison (live)(Cooper, Child, McCurry) (4.52)
  4. My Generation (live) (Townsend) (1.52)
  5. Total Rock Documnetary (radio show) (35.48)

Musicians

  • Alice Cooper - Vocals
  • Ryan Roxie - Guitars
  • Phil X - Guitars
  • China - Guitars
  • Bob Marlette - Rhythm guitar, Bass, Keyboards
  • Eric Singer - Drums
  • Natalie Delaney - Backup vocals on 'Brutal Planet'

Sleeve Notes

Produced by Bob Marlette
Executive Producer: Bob Ezrin
Additional programming and sound design: Sid Rigs
Strings arrangement: Eva King
Mixed, Engineered and arranged by Bob Marlette
Additional engineering: German Villacourta and Dave Reed
Assistant Engineers: German Villacourta and Jaime Sickora
Recorded at The Blue Room, Woodland Hillsm CA and A&M Studios, Los Angles, CA
Mixed at A&M Studios, Los Angeles, CA
Mastering: Dave Collins at A&M Studios, Los Angeles, CA
CD Artwork/Design: Kane Roberts and Planetf/x Graphics
Photography: William Hames

Album Notes - (Detailed release information)

In the six years since 'The Last Temptation' no one could really have accused Alice of being lazy. He'd toured every year and turned up on a variety of other projects, but he had no record company to hassle for new product so the pressure was off. As he entered the new century the music landscape had changed drastically. Apart from a few of it's leading lights grunge was long gone, making way for a harder, heavier sound. Artists like Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Ministry and White Zombie had taken the hard rock blueprint and combined it with the electronic sounds of Depeche Mode and Gary Numan to create a dense rhythmic sound dubbed 'industrial rock'. Zombie especially had caught his attention. Main man Rob Zombie freely admitted he was heavily influenced by Alice and when the pair met they immediately bonded over cheap and trashy seventies movie. Alice appeared on stage with White Zombie in 1996 performing 'School's Out' at Irvine Meadows, and the pair had worked together on a song for the X-Files TV series. All this led Alice to consider what would happen if he combined 'Alice Cooper' with this new heavier sound. He also spent time watching the news and was horrified at what he saw every day.

"The last thing that I had written was 'The Last Temptation', which again was very novelistic, almost 'Something Wicked This Way Comes', and before that, I've always tried to write in concepts. I said, you know, I've never really written anything science fiction, and I wanted this one to be in the form of a futuristic novel. So 'Brutal Planet' is basically what this planet is going to turn into. And I have to go not by what I feel. I'm very optimistic. Alice is very pessimistic. I have to write the way Alice would think. He thinks we're flying toward a brick wall at 100 miles per hour. And he kind of would like to be there and see what happens at the end. This is Alice's state of the world address, a future state of the world address. But I like the fact that a lot of these things he sees are things that are going on now. In that sense it's not really science fiction but social fiction, or put another way, future horror."

On the record's moral tone, Alice offers the following.

"I think that's always there. I don't think you have to look for it, I think it's always there. I think there is always a moral level to everything. No matter what it is, there is morality, whether it's Frankenstein or Dracula, there is always a moral, good and evil. And I think this evil here on 'Brutal Planet' is just man destroying the place and likely not fixing the damage."

The album was recorded digitally for the first time, but Alice insisted the music was played by real musicians rather than computers as was often the case on industrial styled records.

"For me, technology takes the heart out of everything. Any time you make life easier for man, it suddenly takes the heart out of it. When I hear techno music, I hear music that is basically a machine's idea of music. I hear pulse but no heart. So it's an artificial pulse coming from an artificial place. In other words, when you hear a real drummer play, he makes mistakes. He has timing mistakes. I would personally rather hear that than a perfectly controlled machine that doesn't know how to make mistakes."

Alice hooked up with producer Bob Marlette, who had recently worked with Rob Halford on his industial project '2wo' as well as Black Sabbath and Marilyn Manson, and the pair co-wrote every song on 'Brutal Planet' giving it a uniform sound perfect for the new millenium. They brought in tour guitarist Ryan Roxie and drummer Eric Singer but outsourced much of the album to seasoned session man Phil X (now in Bon Jovi!) and the mysterious 'China' about whom I have yet to find anything!

When the album was released in June 2000 it took a lot of people by surprise. Beyond Alice's distinctive voice there was little that recalled the classic Alice Cooper sound, but the songs were so good most fans quickly got past that. On tour the new show featured seven of the albums eleven songs and they sounded even better live, fitting in with the older material surprisingly well. The album reached #38 in the UK but barely charted in the US, peaking at a very disappointing #193. Some of the blame for the lack of success in the States has been put at the feet of Spitfire Records, who at the time had only been in existance for around two years. That the company didn't release any commercial singles in the US probably didn't help. Whatever the reasons for the lack of sales the album is now considered one of the best latter day Cooper albums and it's timing could be seen as some sort of watershed for Alice. After the follow up album, 'Dragontown', also on Spitfire, Alice would no longer sign long term contracts with record companies and would instead record the albums himself and then license them for release, thus retaining all rights to the recordings.

The only retail single from the album was 'Gimme' which also hd a promotional video shot in London by director Simon Hilton. The video featured Alice both in and out of make-up giving a group of young musicians everything they wanted only for them to turn into a boy-band. There are two versions of the video. In one version the bands heads explode at the end. This is edited out of the second version. 'Gimme' reached #103 in the UK charts but was only released as a promo in the US.
A second single was planned to be 'Take It Like A Woman' with 'Blow Me A Kiss' as a possible third but they were never released to retail stores. However promotional CDs for both 'Blow Me A Kiss' and 'Brutal Planet' were sent to radio stations.

'Can't Sleep, Clowns Will Eat Me' was inspired by The Simpsons cartoon series. In the season four episode 'Lisa's First Word' Homer Simpson makes Bart a 'Krusty the Clown' bed that looks very evil and sinister. Homer is pleased with himself, but the following morning we see a scared Bart repeating "Can't Sleep, Clown Will Eat Me".

The symbols under Alice's eye on the front cover were something added by Kane Roberts when he did the original design.

I've yet to find a match for the first two, but the last three are astrological symbols related to the planets. The last three are as follows: an ascending node (), Jupiter ( ), which is also the alchemical symbol for tin, and the Sun (), also the alchemical symbol for gold. A company spokeswomen from PlanetFX (Kane Roberts's company who did the cover) said that they had no specific meaning, but then why use specific symbols for the last three? Surely if you are going to add such a thing to the design you might as well make them mean something, even if it's just a little joke like the tiny sign on the 'A Fistful Of Alice' cover, which when magnified reads "The Alice is Here".

'Brutal Planet' Live

The stage is a post-apocalyptic landscape of wreckage including a car billowing smoke. On the left is the Frankenstein machine and to the right is a covered Guillotine. The monitors are covered with camouflage netting which also hangs from the lighting rig. Two TV's (three at Hammersmith) show either static or strange video footage all through the show. There is a high platform to the left of the drum kit.

The show starts with large box being wheeled to stage center by two masked henchmen. They open the box to reveal the upper torso and head of 'The Controller' (props master Pat Nowak) who introduces us to the Brutal Planet and warns the audience to 'Leave, before it's too Late'.

The band launch into 'Brutal Planet' and Alice appears on the left platform in a wine red trenchcoat and holding a vicious looking staff. He moves down the stairs to stage center for the song. At three shows in the UK they used a new prop on this song. A giant version of the staff Alice first appears with. At the end of the song, Alice hits the staff onto the floor and it fires a firework. Unfortunately it only worked once and wasn't that impressive so is was dropped from the show.

'Go To Hell' features Alice's daughter Calico as the whip woman who is kicked from the left platform by Alice. 'Eighteen' again features the Crutch. 'Pick Up The Bones' sees Alice with a pillowcase, searching the stage for bones that can been seen all over the place. The end of the song is chillingly effective with the last couple of lines said by Alice with no musical accompaniment, and with white spots picking him out center stage while the sound of the wind is played through the P.A. Breathtaking.

During 'Feed My Frankenstein'. Alice picks up body parts and places them in the Frankenstein Machine. 'Wicked Young Man' sees the band and Alice march around the stage in time to the beat. Very effective.

Calico, as the nurse, appears from time to time on 'Dead Babies'. The Baby carriage is pushed on stage and Alice acts as if it's truly horrible and doesn't really want to touch it. Finally he raises the baby up for all to see. It's a two headed (one human, one wolf) mutant which proceeds to bite his finger, so he throws it to the ground and spears it with the Samurai sword he stuck in the stage during 'Brutal Planet', holding it up on the sword for everyone to see. Henchmen appear and tie Alice into the straightjacket for 'Ballad Of Dwight Fry' and the normal Nurse killing scene follows. Then it's off to the Guillotine.

After the Instrumental section and drums solo (which includes 'I Love The Dead', Devil's Food' and 'The Black Widow') the nurse carries out Alice's severed head and places it in the Frankenstein Machine. She pulls a switch and the machine fills with smoke (when it works!). Alice bursts out in top hat and tails for 'No More Mr Nice Guy'. 'It's Hot Tonight' sees Alice in a gangster hat pretending to roll dice as if playing 'craps'.

'It's The Little Things' is preceded by a monologue from Alice about things that bother him, usually finishing with a comment about someone in the front rows wearing a Marilyn Manson/Kiss T-shirt. "It's just the little things, that drive me wild!"

'Poison' opens with Alice in the Leather Jacket mimicking that album's front cover pose.'Take It Like A Woman' and 'Only Women Bleed' are segued together as Alice sings to the women at the front while sitting on an upturned Can.

'You Drive Me Nervous' see's Alice moving around the stage shaking as if nervous. 'Under My Wheels' features the band introductions. These change a bit from night to night but in the UK Pete was from 'Waynes World' and The Almighty. Greg was either from Carpetworld, Teletubbies or "Waynes World - Non Speaking Role!" Eric from "Every band you've ever seen, and he's finally found a good one!" while Teddy was from Toys-R-Us or "The pages of the National Enquirer", and Ryan, while playing T-Rex's 'Get It On', is from Hollywood circa 1977!

'School's out' has all the normal chaos of Balloons and Confetti. 'Billion Dollar Babies' features the usual sword and dollar bills and moves into a couple of verses of 'My Generation' with Alice and Ryan imitating the famous Pete Townsend guitar windmill thing. Alice is wearing a 'Britney Wants Me' T-shirt. A reference to current teen idol Britney Spears. He turns round and on the back it says 'Dead!'

This leads straight into the finale of 'Elected' featuring the Presidents again, Clinton with cigar and no trousers arguing with his wife (Calico again) and them all falling to the floor fighting. Then out comes the Flag and a quick reprise of 'Brutal Planet' as Alice is dragged off the stage and the original Alice with trenchcoat from the beginning of the show reappears on the platform carrying the severed head. Very effective.

Show differences.

For the first few dates of the tour in Europe, 'Guilty' was played instead of 'It's The Little Things' and the end of the show was originally very different. During the 'Brutal Planet Reprise' Alice reappears as the new Controller and has a short speech. Then 'ballad Of Dwight Fry' is played on just an acoustic guitar, with Alice bound in the straightjacket. When it gets to the "I've got to get out of here" section, Alice is slowly led offstage never to return and thus remains trapped in the straitjacket. People who saw this said it was chillingly effective. No reason was ever given as to why it was changed (most people would never have seen the original), but likely it was simply because it was felt the show needed to end on a high with 'Elected'. Video of at least one performance of this version of the show exists.

Photos courtesy of Antony John and Triin Randlane.

Songs rehearsed for the tour but not performed completely included 'Luney Tunes', 'My Stars', 'I Love The Dead', 'Killer', and 'Sanctuary'.

The full show was filmed at Hamersmith Odeon in London and released as 'Brutally Live'.

The Performers

  • Alice Cooper - Vocals
  • Ryan Roxie - Guitar, Backing Vocals
  • Pete Friesen - Guitar, Backing Vocals
  • Greg Smith - Bass, Backing Vocals
  • Eric Singer - Drums
  • Teddy 'Zigzag' Andreadis - Keyboards, Backing Vocals
  • Pat Nowak - the Controller, The Executioner
  • Calico Cooper - The Nurse

Setlist

  1. Brutal Planet
  2. Gimme
  3. Go To Hell
  4. Blow Me A Kiss
  5. Eighteen
  6. Pick Up The Bones
  7. Feed My Frankenstein
  8. Wicked Young Man
  9. Dead Babies
  10. Ballad Of Dwight Fry
  11. Instrumental Medley (I Love The Dead/Devil's Food/Black Widow)
  12. Drum Solo
  13. Dwight Fry Intro
  14. No More Mr Nice Guy
  15. It's Hot Tonight
  16. Caught In A Dream
  17. It's The Little Things - The first few shows has Guilty here instead.
  18. Poison
  19. Take It Like A Woman/Only Women Bleed
  20. You Drive Me Nervous
  21. Under My Wheels
  22. School's Out
  23. Billion Dollar Babies
  24. My Generation
  25. Elected
  26. Brutal Planet Reprise