Alice Cooper Believes Rock Music's Current 'Outlaw' Status Is A Good Omen


Alice Cooper says Gene Simmons' repeatedly declarations that rock music is dead is only partially true — and not in the area that really counts.

When the KISS bassist says — as he did again recently on Q104.3 New York's Out of the Box with Jonathan Clarke — that rock was "killed" by young fans and their embrace of music streaming platforms, he's ignoring the most important part of the genre: the music.

Speaking recently with NME, Cooper said Simmons is right that the business side of rock is as tough as it's ever been. But the art form is alive and well.

"He's a businessman, and business-wise, it's valid," Cooper explained. "But I guarantee you, right now, in London somewhere, in garages, they're learning Aerosmith, they're learning Guns N' Roses — a bunch of 18-year-kids are in there with guitars and drums, and they are learning hard rock."

The same thing is happening all over the world. He added that rock shouldn't aspire for acceptance or chart success. Rock is rebellion; it's not about the money.

"In some ways, rock 'n' roll is where it should be right now," he continued. "We're not in the Grammys, we're not in the mainstream. Rock 'n' roll is outside looking in now, and I think that gives us that outlaw attitude. And I think that's very good for rock 'n' roll, 'cause that's how rock 'n' roll starts. We were outlaws at the time, and then we became mainstream."

Traces of rock music can be found all over other, more popular genres. And the guitar segment of the music industry, in particular, keeps reporting record sales numbers.

Simmons told Out of the Box that the lack of healthy sales for rock bands (in light of digital streaming platforms' dominance over music consumption) has prevented new rock artists from developing, "Because when you're worried about [holding down a day job], you don't have time to sit there and devote to your art, whatever that is."

But other evidence suggests rock artists are developing independently, without support from the record industry, and doing just fine at it.

In an interview this fall with QN'A, Gibson Brands CMO Cesar Gueikian reported that the COVID-19 pandemic coincided with a dramatic increase in sales for the company.

"We are pretty severely sold out and backordered. The demand's been at the highest it’s ever been in the history of the company," Gueikian said. "I think there’s a bit of a parallel to what we saw in the second world war where a lot of piano players spent more time playing. A lot of great music and great virtuosos came out of that bad situation.

"Right now I think we’re seeing that happening again. We’re seeing a lot of guitar players — male and female, across all genres of music — being created and a lot guitar players having more time to create music. That’s leading to a record demand."

But the revitalized interest in the guitar isn't a particularly new phenomenon. Guitar sales in general have steadily increased over the last decade, and the guitar industry has been the fastest-growing segment in the music industry for several years running.

Gueikian's counterpart at the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation Evan Jones told QN'A in 2019 that the beginner guitar market has never been more robust than in the past few years, with about 45 percent of guitars bought in 2018 being for first-time players; about half of those beginners were female, according to Fender data.

"The number of guitars on stage and in the studio has gone up, because guitars are now used on everything from alt, to pop, to hip hop, country, Americana, you name it," Jones said.

Rock "started and never ended," Cooper concluded, pointing to the endurance of legacy artists like himself, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and others who are still going.

"We survived those things because guitar-driven hard rock is the only thing that will still be going 30 years from now, 40 years from now. And I think music will go all over the place, but you're gonna find those hard-rock bands still there."

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