Welcome to his nightmare

His latest "Raise the Dead" tour unfolds like a three-act play: "It's Glam Alice at the beginning and then it goes to Nightmare Alice and then we do a thing where we pay a tribute to all my dead drunk friends," he said. "We do Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Moon and John Lennon in the graveyard."

Before he drops in for his first ever show at the Wells Fargo Center, the 65-year-old duffer took a tour break to chat about chickens, guillotines and church:

Q: Was it Mae West who described your act as an extension of vaudeville?

A: It was Groucho (Marx). He said we were "the last hope for vaudeville." He saw us during the '73-'74-'75 years, and that was his way of describing it.

Q: It was a huge compliment, no?

A: Oh, to me it was one of the great compliments of my life. He came to the show and brought George Burns, Fred Astaire, Mae West and Jack Benny. They were standing on the side watching, and of course they weren't shocked in the least. George Burns was saying, "Oh yeah, me and Gracie worked with a guy who did the guillotine back in 1923 in Toledo."

Q: When you look at bands like Marilyn Manson or Slipknot, does it make you proud to see that they're standing on your shoulders? And have they paid their proper respects?

A: Yeah, every one of them has. We just did a tour with Marilyn Manson, and at the end of the show he would come out and do "Eighteen" with us, and during the duet every single night he would get down and kiss my boots.

Q: Have they influenced you at all?

A: When we went out with Rob Zombie, every night he would watch our show and he would add something, and then I'd do the same, and by the end of the tour we had each added two buses and a truck.

People always wanted there to be some kind of conflict between (David) Bowie and me or Iggy (Pop) and me. I was more dark. I think my show was more clever. There was never any swearing at my show. Alice would slit your throat, but he would never swear at you.

Q: That's where you draw the line?

A: Yeah. He was sort of the gentleman monster, but you couldn't trust him one second.

Q: What are some of the biggest misconceptions you've heard over the years?

A: Oh, in the beginning there was nothing but. Our whole career was urban legend.

Q: Like the chicken incident?

A: Well, that actually happened.

Q: It truly happened that the people sitting in the handicapped area tore the chicken to shreds?

A: The first 10 rows were all in wheelchairs, and they were the ones who destroyed the chicken, which I thought was the more macabre thing about it all. And John Lennon and Yoko Ono were on one side of the stage and Jim Morrison was on the other, and they're all cheering us on.

Q: When you come to Santa Rosa, you'll be playing in a former church. Do you like the idea of that?

A: I don't have a problem with that. It's a theater now, you know.

Q: Church can be theater too, right?

A: It is, depending on what you believe in. If it were a church being used as a church now, I might have a little problem with it.

Q: You're a born-again Christian?

A: Yeah, well if you're Christian, it goes without saying. I think a lot of people have a weird concept of 'Christian.' Christian is your one-on-one relationship with Christ. It's not where you go to church. It's that one-on-one relationship.

Q: So shock rock and Christianity can go together just fine?

A: Yeah, except you can't shock an audience anymore. Being Christian might be the most shocking thing I ever did.

Bay Area freelancer John Beck writes about entertainment for The Press Democrat. You can reach him at 280-8014, john@beckmediaproductions.com and follow on Twitter @becksay.

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