Non-stop partying. Alcohol. Drugs. Pressure.
Legendary rock star Alice Cooper says the music industry is rife with stress that can trigger mental health issues, and he’s speaking out in hopes of encouraging others to join the conversation.
In an interview in Nashville, Tenn., Cooper spoke with CTV News about why he thinks it’s important to confront mental health rather than brush it aside.
“I really believe everybody has a certain amount of mental disability. I think we are born with certain phobias, certain things we are afraid to talk about,” Cooper said.
The veteran shock rocker recalled his early years in music, a time he said he followed in the reckless footsteps of his fellow musicians.
“I was in generation where we looked at our big brothers. My big brothers were Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. And they were already doing every drug in the world and drinking every day and living this lifestyle that was very appealing, especially for a Christian kid. And so I fell right into it,” he said.
Cooper said he drank every day and, after a while, began taking drugs. It took him years to realize that he had a problem.
“I didn't realize that I was an alcoholic until I realized that the alcohol was not for fun anymore. It was medicine.”
He turned things around by going into treatment and renewing his childhood roots in Christianity.
But mental health issues seep into his music. Cooper wrote “Hey Stoopid,” a song about teen suicide, which includes the lyrics: “No doubt you’re stressin’ out/That ain’t what rock n’ roll’s about/Get off that one way trip down lonely street.”
“That song in particular, I’ve gotten so many emails: ‘That song saved my life,’” he said.
Cooper said he also once had a quick brush with depression, which he called “horrible.”
“All of a sudden for three days, I could not find a bright side to anything. I was just in this place and maybe it was God just saying I want you to know what depression is -- here,” he said. “Now when I hear people are clinically depressed I go, ‘Oh my gosh. I can't see how anybody can live with that.’”
It's given Cooper a deep appreciation of mental health. He has since opened a special program for troubled teens called Solid Rock.
He is working in Nashville with long-time friend and collaborator Canadian producer Bob Ezrin, who also spoke with CTV News about his own struggles with mental health.
The two music legends say they’ve heard from plenty of fans about how music made a difference in their lives.
“We get a ton of emails and letters that say, ‘You spoke for me. You expressed how I feel,’” Ezrin said. “So what we're trying to say here is don't wait for us. If you feel a certain way, talk about it. Express yourself.”
With files from CTV National News medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip