The Hollywood Vampires – a band composed, as singer Alice Cooper says, of men who’ve all had near-death experiences – recently released its self-titled debut and will soon play its first shows.
Cooper fronts a perhaps unlikely rock supergroup. Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry is in the band, as are drummer Matt Sorum and bassist Duff McKagan – the old rhythm section for Guns N’ Roses. And the second guitarist? That would be swashbuckling, Sexiest-Man-Alive winning, Oscar nominee and multi-millionaire movie star Johnny Depp.
The idea for the Hollywood Vampires began when Depp and Cooper met on the set of Depp’s 2012 movie Dark Shadows. Cooper wanted an excuse to fool around in the actor’s studio (“He has the best guitar collection I’ve seen,” Perry told Rolling Stone), and they formed with the idea of recording an album of covers. Taking their name from a 1970s Los Angeles-based drinking collective that included Cooper, Keith Moon, Harry Nilsson and occasional guests including John Lennon and Ringo Starr, Cooper, who has been sober since the 1980s, wanted to play tribute to some of the rock greats who drank or drugged themselves to death – including Moon, John Bonham, and Jim Morrison.
Depp is not as out of his element in this rock-steady lineup as he may seem. He’s a skilled guitarist, and says music was always at the center of his life – his first paycheck went towards a ’56 Telecaster, and he played in bands long before he started his acting career. “I approach my work as an actor in the same way I play music,” Depp told Rolling Stone. “There is this element of chance – grabbing some moment that you didn’t really plan on. Music is the fastest way to emotion.”
Depp is also a fast-track to some star cameos. Friend Paul McCartney stopped by the actor’s studio and helped the group record a cover of “Come and Get It,” a 1969 track McCartney wrote for Badfinger.
It’s just one track on an album that is a blast of classic-rock covers, karaoke-style (played “just as they are”), including iconic rock songs like “My Generation,” “Manic Depression,” and a medley of “School’s Out/Another Brick in the Wall.”
As the band begins rehearsals in preparation for their tour, there’s some question whether the Hollywood Vampires will be a one-hit wonder or are here to stay. Either way, they’ve managed to make some classic rock sound new again for a new generation, and they’re all proud of that.