When Alice Cooper decided to do a "tip of the hat to Detroit" with his new music, he felt compelled to do some Detroit songs with a few famed Motor City players. That led to his upcoming Breadcrumbs EP, a six-song mostly covers set whose high-octane rendition of Bob Seger's 1966 single "East Side Story" is premiering exclusively below.
"When people say, 'Well, what is your music?' I say it's Detroit rock — we just put a different slant on it," says the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame shock rocker, a Detroit native who moved with his family to Phoenix when he was an adolescent. "At the bottom of it, all Alice Cooper records are Detroit, Chuck Berry, hard rock and then twisting it up into what we are lyrically and performance-wise. But you take the bottom of all those songs and they're all guitar-driven rock n' roll songs, which is what I associate as the Detroit sound. I wanted to use all Detroit players and songs either about Detroit or written by (Detroit musicians)."
Cooper acknowledges that he never heard "East Side Story" — a regional hit for Seger and his band The Last Heard that was influenced by Them's "Gloria" — back in the day. Rather, he and Breadcrumbs producer Bob Ezrin found the song via YouTube and a performance on the Canadian TV show Swingin' Time. "I had never heard that song on the radio," Cooper says. "(Ezrin) and I saw that (video) and went, 'We could jazz that song up a little bit and turn it into something else.' It has a great story and I love the chord structure and everything to it. We just treated it a little more hard rock."
Cooper and Ezrin recorded it during a March visit to Detroit at the suburban Rustbelt Studios (where Greta Van Fleet recorded its 2017 EPs Black Smoke Rising and From the Fires) and using players such as the MC5's Wayne Kramer, former Grand Frunk Railroad frontman Mark Farner and drummer Johnny "Bee" Badanjek from Mitch Ryder's Detroit Wheels and the Rockets, who's played with Cooper in the past. "It really does have that Detroit feel all the way through it," Cooper says. "It came out as a pretty unique song, and I think that has a lot to do with those players."
Cooper got a chance to tell Seger about the recording when he caught him in Arizona on his current Farewell tour. "I said, 'We're gonna do one of your songs,' and he probably thought I wanted to do one of the hits," Cooper recalls. "I told him 'East Side Story,' and he goes, 'What?!' I said, 'Yeah, we're gonna do that one.' I hope he likes it. I'm glad we gave it a second life."
The Breadcrumbs EP, out Sept. 13, also includes covers of the MC5's "Sister Anne," Suzi Quatro's "Your Mama Won't Like Me" and Ryder & the Detroit Wheels' "Devil With a Blue Dress On," as well as the new song "Go Man Go" and "Detroit City 2020," a remake of the track from his 2003 album The Eyes of Alice Cooper.
The EP will also serve as an introduction to Cooper's next album, which will be all original but, he says, feature the Detroit flavor showcased on Breadcrumbs. "We knew we couldn't get to this new album until 2020, so (the EP) is kind of 'let's throw them some bread crumbs' and give everybody a feel of what it's going to be," explains Cooper, who's currently on tour in Europe. He's continued working on the album when he has time, collaborating more with Kramer and others and has even spoken with Iggy Pop about contributing to the set. "This way we don't have to put something together quickly and try to make it work. We have time to really make sure all the songs are right.
"But I think people are going to be surprised by the EP. I've never done an EP before. It's a little different than the normal Alice Cooper thing, and I like that. I like stretching it a little bit."