Session File: Steve Hunter on Recording Alice Cooper's "Devil's Food"

“Devil’s Food” is an extended song on Alice Cooper’s Welcome to my Nightmare, where, after the last chorus, we went into a jam/groove thing that became the bed for an awesome “black widow spider” narration by Vincent Price.
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“Devil’s Food” is an extended song on Alice Cooper’s Welcome to my Nightmare, where, after the last chorus, we went into a jam/groove thing that became the bed for an awesome “black widow spider” narration by Vincent Price. Right at the beginning, and throughout the jam, the cool warbly sound is me playing into a weird gizmo from the Ludwig drum company (go figure) called the Phase II Synthesizer. It was just there in the studio, and I still don’t know how they got one in the first place. The Phase II Synthesizer wasn’t really a guitar synthesizer—there weren’t many of those around when we recorded Welcome to my Nightmare in 1975—but it sure made some cool noises. [Editor’s Note: The super-rare Ludwig Phase II was basically a fuzz, phase, and modulation device known for its “yoy yoy” sound. Today, a unit in decent repair can cost $4,000.] It was also very temperamental. Sometimes, it would work great, and, sometimes, not so well. And, some days, it would sound better than on others. But I sure loved the sounds it made on “Devil’s Food.”

I’ve found there’s always a “problem song” when I work on full-album projects, and “Devil’s Food” was exactly that for me. The chorus is in 6/4, which really isn’t that weird, but, for some reason, I couldn’t get a good handle on it. After several takes of not getting it right, I asked [album producer] Bob Ezrin if I could sit out the basic track and do my part as an overdub. I didn’t want to keep throwing everybody else off. He agreed, and I put my guitar down. The strange thing was, after listening in the control room while the rest of the band did a few more takes, the song started making more sense to me. I ended up going back into the studio and recording the basic track with everyone else. I try to prevent these types of mental blocks—they certainly don’t make me feel very professional—but I often find that listening without playing allows things to sort themselves out. Sometimes, you simply have to back off, stop playing, and just listen. That has always worked for me, and you’re lucky when you have a producer who understands that, and who also has the patience to let you do what you have to do.

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