He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask) (Constrictor, 1986) We talk to the Godfather of Shock rock about the Friday The 13th anthem that revitalised his career
The year is 1986. Nine years after a spell in a sanitarium to recover from alcoholism, alice cooper is preparing his 16th album, Constrictor, with a sharp new perspective on his career. as the mainstream media veered away from alice’s signature heavy sound, favouring schmaltzy power ballads, the godfather of shock rock needed a blunt-force trauma to bring his villainous alter-ego back to his former glory. cue a chance meeting with metal guitarist, Kane roberts.
“I panicked with Constrictor because they wouldn’t play hard rock on the radio,” alice admits today. “I had four power ballads in a row that were hits and my audience started to think I was mellowing out, but the rest of the album was heavy and they just wouldn’t play it. So I got with this metal monster Kane and put a band together that was relentlessly heavy for two albums based entirely on splatter movies. I wanted my album cover to say ‘featuring no ballads’!”
as the album was coming together, the team behind 80s horror megafranchise Friday The 13th approached alice to pen a theme song for Friday The 13th
Part VI: Jason Lives. they tasked the right man to embody the hockey mask-clad baddie for the song that would become He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask).
“I started thinking, ‘Who is the man behind that hockey mask? What is driving this thing to kill people? What’s his motivation?’ Kane and I were writing monstrous songs about survival at the time, then we ended up working with tom Kelly who wrote a lot of Madonna’s hits. We came into the studio with a heavy version of He’s Back, and Kelly changed the whole bassline but it danced this time. It still had the creepy factor because my lyrics were still there, but it moved really well. It had an almost-Michael Jackson beat.”
In the process of making Jason Voorhees into a proper household name, the man born Vincent Furnier recognised the masked murderer as a contemporary of his own alice cooper character – a dangerous and inscrutable individual.
“the scariest part about Jason, and Halloween’s Michael Myers, too, is that they show zero emotion. Killing for them is just like swatting a fly – it’s business as usual and you don’t see them getting mad,” alice observes. “Freddy Krueger’s face gets all contorted when he does something, but Jason can put a butcher’s knife through a guy’s chest and stick him to the wall, then cock his head and look at his work.”
Alice’s iconic ode to the crystal lake maniac reached a whole new level of meta when combined with the seemingly limitless alice cooper miscreant of his own design.
“If you think about it, the Man Behind the Mask is alice cooper, who wears a mask. I put the makeup on and I hide behind the mask. I become the villain and I have total control over everything, and that sets the character free… but as soon as the show’s over and I take the makeup off, I’m back to being a very nice guy!”
Ironically, Jason’s new theme song topped the charts in Finland and Sweden, despite the two countries’ bans of the Friday The 13th franchise movies for excessive violence. alice credits his and his writing partner’s ability to spectate horror from the inside looking out.
“Kane and I see that rock music, horror and comedy are in bed together,” alice admits.
“You can’t have horror just for horror’s sake, it has to get so ridiculously over the top that you start to laugh. that scene in The Evil Dead when a shotgun accidentally hits a pipe and the pipe bursts and every inch of this guy is covered in blood – I burst out laughing, like, ‘You can’t put any more blood in this movie!’”
horror movies became hot property in the 1980s, as the Friday The 13th and Halloween sagas competed at the box office with
A Nightmare On Elm Street. the key to a successful splatter franchise is not the array of victims their antagonist chooses, but the supernatural and often comedic elements of their survival against any and all methods of death and destruction.
“In the first Halloween movie, Jamie lee curtis puts a knitting needle through Michael Myers’ ear and he goes down. the next shot you see him sit up behind her and you realise right there that he can’t be killed. You see the world opening up and now there’s gonna be 25 of these movies because you can’t kill him. I’d love to be at the writers’ sessions and they’re discussing how he died in the last movie: ‘they’ve blown him up and he’s in a puddle of mud – it just so happens that mud is what brings him back to life!’”
a horror junkie, alice may have seen it all both onscreen and onstage, but he admits that sometimes the scariest horror movie concepts are those that feel a little closer to home.
“I rarely see a horror movie that makes me flinch. If you asked 100 people for the scariest movie ever made, they’d say The Exorcist. You can laugh off Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers, they’re the boogeymen that live under your bed, but when you’re talking about demon possession of a little girl that’s documented and has actually happened, it speaks to your soul.”
alice also played Freddy Krueger’s drunk adoptive father in 1991’s Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, luring him into another classic horror universe. although he welcomed the opportunity to play a character that didn’t involve guillotines and gallows on a stage in front of metal fans baying for fake blood, he’s more at home with his own psychotic shock rock persona.
“I always show the audience that I’m playing this relentlessly arrogant bastard that never says ‘thank you’ or talks to the audience, because if he did he would be human,” he notes. “I never want them to see alice onstage as human. I want him to be truly phantom-like!”
CHOICE LYRIC: “He’s back / The man behind the mask / And he’s after your soul”
“i Wanted to know the killer’s Motivation” ALICE COOPER
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