It’s only fair that I preface this article by admitting that I’ve never listened to The Hollywood Vampires. But it’s perfectly fine because one doesn’t need to listen to The Hollywood Vampires in order to know exactly what The Hollywood Vampires sound like. All you need to know is who’s involved, a Big Three of rawk decadence, or, well, a Big Two of rawk decadence plus the ultimate rawk decadence pretender Johnny Depp. We’ve got ol’ Aerosmith stone face Les Paul gun slinger Joe Perry and Alice Cooper who’s been shocking people door-to-door for 40 years when not golfing. If this were 1974, heads would EXPLODE. If this were 2019, people would simply post memes making fun of decrepit old men with raccoon-eye mascara. But hey, a vanity project is a vanity project is a vanity project, and if there were any cultural relevance whatsoever it would completely defeat the point.
Care to take a guess what these dudes sound like?
The other way you know exactly what these private jet urchins sound like is by looking at the pictures. Inky dyed black hair that clashes hard against pale, lived-in-for-several-lifetimes reptile skin? Check. Rakish fedoras, bandannas, and other forms of Hot Topic-approved head wear? Check, check, check. Barbed wire, prayer beads, and “Mom” tats? Triple check again! Frilly pirate shirts straight off the “Encore Smoke Machine/Pyro Costume Change 3” rack? Check. Dangling crucifix necklaces and skull rings smashed onto arthritis-ravaged fingers? Check and check. Leather pants stretched over 50-or-60-something torsos? You know it baybee. Metal-tipped boots with bandannas wrapped around them? Wouldn’t live without them! And facial hair straight off the local sex offender registry? Chizzeecckk.
“Paging Hot Topic front desk, we have some old dudes with AmEx Platinum cards looking to buy out the store.”
And then there’s the live shots. The Vampire trio lining up to share the mike in a fit of true rock n roll bro passion. Johnny D with his foot up on the monitor as he rips into what must be a particularly emotional, but certainly muscular and manly, riff. Joe Perry, the “eternally cool silent loner ‘The only thing I can trust is my guitar’ guy”, laying back in the cut but heavily spotlighted with a gleaming Gibson slung low at the knees.
“Allright boys, let’s really bring this chorus home!”
Do we need say more? I think we all know exactly what we’re dealing with here. This is 14th generation generic rock n roll re-heated on the popcorn setting, pseudo-decadence for the sake of pseudo-decadence, a glossy, well-funded vehicle for two rapidly aging (and potentially already dead) rock warhorses and one recently-fallen former Cool King (who always pretended to the rock Rawk Throne anyway) to strut and slither around pay-to-play stages for little more than their own entertainment and perhaps that of a gaggle of sycophantic diehards of the sort who wait in the rain outside godforsaken venues for hours for the privilege of posting a duel devil-horn selfie with The Coop on their Facebook page for nine likes.
“We waited nine hours, but it was totally worth it!”
It’s great that we’ve gotten all this out of the way since The Vamps have an album coming out in June and none of us want to listen to it. There are songs on here called “The Boogieman Surprise” and “Welcome To Bushwhackers” and, ahem, “I Want My Now”.
You know you fucking want this.
But even though we aren’t going to listen to the album, I did have five very important questions regarding the Vamp Clan that have been keeping me up in the night. These questions are burning a hole in my soul like a screechy Alice Cooper chorus. Here is to hoping one of the Vamp Bros, who surely rock n rolls every night and parties hard at least most of every day, and is therefore still awake, can reach out a leathery hand and provide for me some sort of answer. Or at least bust out a manly, sweating, mascara-running “Johnny Depp guitar solo” that contains within its smoking pentatonic scale notes the keys to unlock just these five eternal mysteries of life.
Question One: Does Johnny Depp actually play guitar?
Look up photos of The Hollywood Vampires playing live and you are sure to see nothing but shots of a formerly beautiful character actor rocking out fucking hard on some sort of $12,000 custom gee-tar, cigarette in mouth, eyes clamped shut in soul ecstasy at the very notes ringing out over some half-empty amphitheater. But is he actually playing that thing? Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Johnny can string together some chords and a few leads just like the rest of us could do with an endless amount of time and a few good Youtube Johnny Thunders tutorials, but is he actually any good on that thing? Is that really him ringing out over that cavernous amphitheater? Don’t forget these dudes have endless amounts of late-life money, surely enough for Johnny to pull a Dave Grohl and have nine ringers playing his guitar leads just offstage.
“Damn Johnny you’re shredding so hard. No really.”
Question Two: Is This All Just An Elaborate Acting Project?
Most of us are old enough to remember a time when Johnny Depp was not trying to be Hunter S. Thompson, when dude played a string of lovable misfits with scissors for hands and lots of soul and perfect cheekbones. Then came Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas and suddenly the dude was Hunter S. for a a good 20 years. Stuck in a role. Then came the Pirates franchise and suddenly he was Keith Richards both on and off the screen. Is The Hollywood Vampires Johnny’s character obsession taken to its fullest extreme, the point where dude now actually believes that he’s Keef? Someone wait nine hours in the rain outside an empty club ask him, will you? And get a devil-horns-and-cigarette-selfie while you’re at it.
Question Three: Is Johnny Depp’s Hair Super Human?
How does this guy’s hair go from Mohawk to Keef Shag to preppy spiky all in the space of one tour? Is there an establishment on Sunset next to The Troubadour called “Rock N Roll XXXtensions”?
“Damn this look is punk af, don’t you think?”
“Crazy how my hair grew out since the last show. Must be all that wine.”
Question Four: Who Is Footing The Bill For All This?
Is it Coop or Perry who’s footing the bill for this whole thing? Or could this vanity project be the cause of JD’s money troubles? How many people are going to show up for a HV gig anyway? Sure, you have the “Johnny is the most beautiful creature” online stan army, but how many of these are there in each town? 5? 10? These dudes are playing venues of up to 5,000 capacity on their tours. This means they most likely have to buy out the venue ahead of time just to have a place to slither around in, essentially the equivalent of your uncle setting up a stage in his back yard to trot out his high school band reunion, only on a much larger scale. It also goes without saying that even those Johnny Dearest selfie searchers aren’t going to purchase or stream a Hollywood Vampires album, which means The Boys have to splash out money to record and then shuffle a fat stack of cash to a label to put it out. Then they certainly have to pay the faceless Sunset Strip urchins banging away in the shadows on drums and bass and keys and the nine people playing Johnny’s leads behind the amps. Cocaine isn’t free, people, and these backing musicians surely need it. Then there’s the inevitable decked out tour buses and private jets with grand pianos to impress the chicks and endless, countless expensive fedoras for bad hair days (which are every day if you’re a real Hollywood Vampire). This is not an inexpensive vanity project, so you can be sure those Aerosmith/”School’s Out”/Pirates Of The Caribbean funds are being drained hardcore as each opulent rock n roll night drags on.
Question Five: Is Joe Perry Still alive?
It can’t be too hard to put a pair of shades on a corpse, can it?
Weekend At Perry’s?
In keeping true to the headline, we will keep this at five questions even though several more have popped up while composing this highly important piece. For example, why is Marilyn Manson not a permanent member of this band? And how much does it hurt this trio of true rock n rollers that Keef and Ronnie have NOT shown up backstage at a single one if their gigs? After all, this was the entire point of starting The Hollywood Vampires franchise, wasn’t it? To have Keith and Ron show up for a joint? Imagine the selfies! So far the lonely Vamps have been stuck with backstage C-Listers like this:
“You aren’t Keef, bro, but whatever.”
Until said Vamp Bros/Keef/Ronnie selfie is snapped, the entire Hollywood Vampires project is a colossal failure, a pay-to-play rawk vanity project of the most reptilian, cynical nature, a sub-Velvet Revolver bargain basement hack fest that should have stayed in Alice Cooper’s basement forevermore.
And we didn’t even have to subject ourselves to a single note to come to this conclusion.
“Let’s find that new album, Johnny.”