Episode 16: Poison by Alice Cooper

Trash by Alice Cooper

Our takes

The Inspiration: Poison by Alice Cooper

Trash by Alice Cooper

Poison by Alice Cooper is a track I have fond memories of from the 1980’s.  When we started working on this episode it was the 28th anniversary of the release of Trash, the album from which it originates.  Fittingly it’s now the 30th Anniversary of the album’s release.


Alice talks about the song itself here: 


Frosty 1973’s take (featuring Mystery Jeż)

A lot has happened since our friend Ray (@munkeetwit) made the off-hand suggestion that we should do Alice Cooper’s Poison for the next Frozen Veg Project episode.

Ray (@munkeetwit)

I laboured long and hard on a, sort of, pastoral orchestral version of the song and in two years I’d made even less progress towards completing something I liked than those attempting to direct Brexit.  I thought I could pull off a Nick Cave inspired version but it didn’t really come to anything. In the end I’d half given up when I first met Jez at the Timperley Folk Club.

When Jez first heard the song he asked whether he was obliged to do it.  I told him he should do it for the good of his career and he said I could call him Mystery Jez.

Mystery Jez

Jez puts it, “I’ve given up on having a legacy but want to encourage other people to live for their legacy, to the max.”

Inspired by Jez’s brand of performance poetry I imagined something like Peter Sellers’ version of A Hard Days Night.  He didn’t like that idea.  He found it disrespectful to the artist so we decided to record his dramatic performance of the piece and try to fit in some music around it.  In the end I was fairly pleased with the results.  A number of people have described it as dark which is exactly how it should be.

Jez concluded, “Despite my nervousness leading up to, and throughout the project I’m impressed with the final results and it’s given me a new-found respect for Alice Cooper. (It hasn’t really…)”

I’d like to say a big thank you to Ray for the last two years of poison and to Mystery Jez for his impassioned performance.  I may put a 12inch extended version up if I ever get round to finishing it.

The Parsnip’s Take

This was a hard one from start to finish. I spent seemingly endless hours trying to get a decent guitar and drums combination but wasn’t happy with anything that I came up with that was reminiscent of the original. The concept was a new song about gratuitous key changes but I lost faith and interest in it all of it after a while. Eventually the situation was rescued by a trip to Nottingham with my legendary mate Bob for a band reunion that wound up being the two of us in a plush rehearsal room at Pirate Studios. I mentioned the poisonous mental block and that I was thinking of a Dub Reggae version so we knocked out what we could remember of the original. I then created the arrangement around it in an entirely different key and voila! A shambolic Dub-ish collage.

What I’ve learned from this episode:
  • When a mental block sets in, try different ideas for a bit but then just commit to one and get it finished. I had no enthusiasm for my creation until I was more than half way through it at which point it started to take shape, gel and feel good. Even if it remains painful throughout then all the better to get it finished quickly and move onto something else.
  • I used Ableton Live for this one and became painfully aware of some of the Propellerhead Reason features I rely on but take for granted. The biggest one is the mixer. I’m used to using mixing desk EQ to position elements in the mix and trying to do the same process using Ableton seemed to take a lot longer. I was using Izotope Neutron on tracks and groups and this was simultaneously unwieldy and taxing on the modest resources of my PC.
  • It’s hard to simulate live brass. I tried combinations of trumpet, saxophone and trombone but it all sounded too synthetic so I opted for buying horn samples instead.
  • It’s hard to find a sampled melodian. I’ve used accordion (again) instead.
  • Tape delays with a job lot of feedback are where it’s at for Dub. I used Ableton Live Echo and Surreal Machines Modnetic and Diffuse in various combinations.
  • Any out of tune vocals are down to my poor matching of the arrangement.
  • To get some kind of connection to Poison use melodic phrases from the original. In my case played by different instruments.


2 responses to “Episode 16: Poison by Alice Cooper”

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