Gary James' Interview With Rob Valentine Of
The Alice Cooper Experience
Rob Valentine is considered to be one of the top Alice Cooper tribute acts in the United States. His tribute band was the first American tribute band to perform in Russia. Billed as The Most Exciting Tribute To The King Of Shock Rock, we talked to Rob Valentine about The Alice Cooper Experience.
Q - Rob, how did you get into the Alice Cooper tribute business?
A - Well, ever since I was a kid, I was a big Alice Cooper fan. When my wife moved to Las Vegas, she's a Marilyn Monroe impersonator, and that was about ten years ago (2004), then I decided I wanted to do some act here in Las Vegas. I went through a lot of band members. I never took it so seriously until I came to Vegas.
Q - I take it you were in a cover band before The Alice Cooper Experience?
A - Yeah. I never did an actual tribute until I came to Las Vegas.
Q - I call you a tribute artist. I see you're also referred to as an impersonator. Which term best describes what you do?
A - Sometimes I get hired by agents to basically impersonate him, like a Meet And Greet, or for photos. So I get those kinds of gigs as well. But when I'm in a band, that's a tribute. I kind of have both worlds.
Q - Alice Copper is still out there performing.
A - Yeah.
Q - Where is the marketplace for an act like yours? I know you've been to Russia.
A - We play around the United States, like Kentucky, Arizona, California. When we first started the band up, one of the things we realized was if Alice is still playing, let's do just his early stuff, stuff he doesn't necessarily do anymore. Let's do a tribute to the '70s stuff mostly. So, we don't necessarily play a lot of his newer tunes. I don't want to compete with him. We tried to put a show together that kind of reflected the early days.
Q - Was it difficult to find other musicians who thought this concept would work?
A - Yeah. I went through a lot of different guitar players and drummers. I think the main reason it was difficult is because Alice Cooper music isn't that easy. It's kind of dynamic. There's so many fans out there; "I love Alice Cooper." It's difficult. It's not as easy as a regular song. It's more theatrical. It's hard to get together with that.
Q - But you found guys to do it!
A - Yeah, just very similar to me. Just like Alice Cooper fans. They really loved the music and felt committed to get the old '70s type sound. So many guitar players I went through were just these '80s shredders. I wanted to create that older sound.
Q - When it came to naming the band, you didn't call it "School's Out" or "Sick Things" or "Under My Wheels". How is it that you get to use "The Alice Cooper Experience"?
A - We were one of the first bands to come out and do that because our original name when we first started out was the "Billion Dollars Babys". Even the real group took the Billion Dollar Babys thing. There was also a couple of other bands out there who called themselves "Billion Dollar Babys". We decided we should figure out what we're going to call ourselves. We went through the gamut of names like "Love It To Death" and "Killer". Not only were all the names taken, but also it didn't necessarily say what the show was all about. We're like an Alice Cooper tribute band, so we can say Alice Cooper Tribute Band. So we just said it's like the Alice Cooper Experience. Actually, it's my bass player who thought of it. I said, "Yeah."
Q - Does Alice Cooper know about The Alice Cooper Experience?
A - Yeah. He knows about me. I've never met him. I filled in for him at his radio station once. He was on tour or something. His radio station had a promotional thing where they were giving away cash. They hired me to impersonate him and drive around in a limousine and give away cash. Even though I was pretending I was him, I didn't want to dupe people into thinking I was really him. So many people thought I was him, I had so say "No."
Q - You put the band together in February, 2000. Is that when you started performing?
A - Yeah, but it wasn't necessarily big shows. It was just more like smaller venues, almost doing a guest appearance. I wanted it to be a fairly big production. That's when I started making a lot of the props like the electric chair, the guillotine, a big coffin. A bunch of larger props.
Q - Alice Cooper had dancers in his shows at one point. Do you have anything like that?
A - We did. We had a couple of years where we did a full month of entertainment in October on Fremont Street, so we played six nights a week. For those type shows, we had the budget to hire dancers. It was a fairly big production.
Q - When did you first see Alice Cooper in concert?
A - When I was a kid. He played an outdoor concert with The Runaways. It was like 1977 or 1978.