The Truth About Johnny Depp's Band Hollywood Vampires

There are supergroups, and then there are supergroups. Hollywood Vampires is the latter. Formed in 2012 by Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp, and Joe Perry, the band started off doing cover songs of their favorite jams from their fellow rockers-in-arms (via Classic Rock). Their eponymous first album was an all-star affair as the band invited musicians such as Dave Grohl, Brian Johnson, Slash, and Sir Paul McCartney to contribute to it. The release of their second album, 2019's "Rise," brought a change: The band had finally found their own sound and released a record consisting of 13 original tracks and only three covers, as per Consequence.

Hollywood Vampires didn't just rise from the ashes of previous bands, though. The story of how this group came to be is much like their music: loud and unapologetic. They might not tour or release music as regularly as they want due to the members' other commitments, but they've certainly made a splash in the entertainment industry with their unchained brand of hard rock. From the origins of the band's unique name to how Depp views music compared to acting, here is the truth about Johnny Depp's band Hollywood Vampires.

The band is named after Alice Cooper's old drinking buddies

Judging from his stage shows, it's clear that Alice Cooper has a fondness for the strange and macabre. As a theatrical performer, he isn't afraid to tackle horror imagery and darker topics that feel like they were pulled from Stephen King novels. After all, this is the performer who wrote the song "Feed My Frankenstein," which appeared in "Wayne's World" (via Discogs). That being said, the name "Hollywood Vampires" isn't just a quirky tribute to Nosferatu, Dracula, or other bloodsuckers; instead, it's deeply rooted in Cooper's past.

According to Robert Sellers' book "An A-Z of Hellraisers," Cooper formed a group of drinking buddies that he dubbed the "Hollywood Vampires." Consisting of well-known actors and musicians such as Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Keith Moon, and John Belushi, the friends would meet up at the infamous Rainbow Bar & Grill on the Sunset Strip and indulge in their favorite alcoholic beverages. To join the gang, one would need to outdrink them — a near-impossible feat, but some succeeded. After Cooper became friends with Johnny Depp on the set of 2012's "Dark Shadows," the two decided to form a band named the Hollywood Vampires to pay homage to their fallen friends from yesteryear, as per Kerrang.

Alice Cooper convinced Johnny Depp to sing in Hollywood Vampires

While Alice Cooper might be seen as the main vocalist of Hollywood Vampires since he takes lead on most of the tracks, the band is something of a free-for-all. Anyone is welcome to grab the mic and belt out a track of their choosing, and the encouragement has been there from the start. However, Cooper had to push Depp a little harder to sing the cover of David Bowie's "Heroes," as he revealed to Billboard.

"He said, 'I'm not a singer,'" Cooper explained to the publication. "And I said, 'Johnny, you did Sweeney Todd!' And he said, 'Oh yeah, I did. I forgot about that.'" To make the event extra special, the band recorded the cover of Bowie's iconic song at the Hansa Tonstudio in Berlin — the exact place where the legendary rocker recorded the song and 1977 album of the same name (via Radio X).

Joe Perry collapsed during a Hollywood Vampires show

Vampires are meant to be immortal creatures of the night who live a thousand lifetimes; however, Hollywood Vampires proved they're only human during the band's gig at the Coney Island Amphitheater in 2016 (via Loudwire). In the middle of the show, guitarist Joe Perry collapsed on stage, leaving both the audience and his bandmates concerned about his health. Fortunately, the cause of the incident wasn't as bad as everyone initially feared, with dehydration being identified as the main culprit.

Speaking to Rolling Stone, Alice Cooper opened up about the event and said he feared that his bandmate had suffered a heart attack. "We were doing 25 to 30 songs with no break," he said. "You're in fourth gear, and there's no 24-hour resting period. I think it just caught up with him. He finally got up there onstage, dehydrated. And I think he was exhausted. He told me the night before he hadn't eaten in two days." Perry returned to the band after a two-week break — hopefully more hydrated and rested than before.

Hollywood Vampires is an entirely collaborative project

Follow the history of popular rock groups, and there's often one constant point of friction: They normally end up fighting over creative control after a while. Many bands don't operate like a democratic system, and only one or two people have a final say in the music. These are obviously people who participated in group projects at school and said "never again."

Despite the size of the egos and reputation of the artists involved in Hollywood Vampires, it's a completely collaborative environment, according to Joe Perry. "Everybody does everything," Perry told Coachella Valley Weekly. "Everybody can write lyrics, everybody can write riffs, everybody can write songs in their own right. Everybody got their chance to do that little thing that they like to do best." Perry added that they'll pass around the ideas, and everyone will add a little something to it. It's like a jam band mentality, where everyone comes together and writes music by experimenting and building on a singular concept that's brought into the room.

Johnny Depp's legal issues haven't impacted the band

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's trial featured shocking moments that no one could ever forget. The years-long dispute between the divorced couple filled up most of the column space, as their respective careers took a backseat to the spectacle of the legal drama surrounding them. As a result, there was always a fear that Depp's personal issues would spill over into the Hollywood Vampires camp and affect the future of the band. However, Alice Cooper insisted that wasn't the case at all when he spoke to The Daily Beast in 2021.

"There's no drama," Cooper said. "[Depp] said, 'Hey, that's another world. That has nothing to do with what I'm doing in the band.' He's like, 'I can't wait to get back onstage.' He's one of my best buddies." The rocker added that Depp had been writing a lot of songs for the band, and he was of the opinion that all of the turmoil could only inspire better songs in the process.

The band has never had an argument

Is it even rock 'n' roll if a band hasn't thrown a drumstick or mic stand at each other? Volatility is a common thread when anyone wants to rock out, and band members are well known for a little less sugar and more spice when dealing with matters of the musical kind. While Hollywood Vampires consists of the who's who in the entertainment world, Alice Cooper maintains that they haven't clashed at all — something that must sound incredibly foreign to the Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan, who is known for his abrasive qualities.

In conversation with Kerrang, Cooper glowed about the atmosphere of Hollywood Vampires as a group. "Despite this being a band of alpha males who are used to calling the shots, from the first rehearsal to this point, there has never been one single argument," he said. "No-one has butted heads on anything. We try things, and all of us instinctively know whether or not it works ... Nobody ever pulls a hissy fit to get their own way." Maybe Cooper can provide some advice and guidance on what they do differently and help heal the bad vibes between Metallica and their former guitarist Dave Mustaine.

Johnny Depp says Hollywood Vampires gives him a freedom that acting doesn't

Not many actors have had the career of Johnny Depp. While others might suffer from type casting or only finding work in one genre, that's never been an issue for Depp. He's been lucky enough to traverse genres and flex his acting range in films such as "Edward Scissorhands," "Pirates of the Caribbean," and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." Yet, despite his fortunes in Hollywood, he still doesn't believe acting affords him the same kind of freedom that music does.

"What do I get from this that I normally don't get? I get me!" Depp told The Guardian. "But when I'm up there on stage with these guys, it's that feeling I had as a kid. It's freedom. In movies someone is always telling you what to do, but here I have the freedom that my day job doesn't allow." Plugging in the guitar and coming up with a riff must be a different sensation to putting on a wig and playing a creepy Willy Wonka, that's for sure.

A Hollywood Vampires bandmate wants Johnny Depp to play him in a biopic

Johnny Depp is no stranger to starring in biopics. Whether it be as famed gangster John Dillinger in "Public Enemies" or J.M. Barrie in "Finding Neverland," some of Depp's best work has come when he has portrayed real-life individuals. If his Hollywood Vampires bandmate Alice Cooper has his way, Depp could be portraying the shock rocker in a biographical film as well.

Cooper revealed to Yahoo that he first met Depp during the production of "Dark Shadows," and they quickly became friends. Since then, they've had a lot of time to get to know each other better, and Cooper believes that Depp is the right actor to bring a big-screen version of Alice Cooper to life. "Johnny would be the best guy to play me," he said. "He knows me well enough where he could imitate me pretty well." Depp might know Cooper's mannerisms, but Steve Carell is practically a doppelganger for the legendary rocker — even Loudwire agrees with this sentiment.

Joe Perry finds Hollywood Vampires more challenging than Aerosmith

For over 50 years, Joe Perry has been shredding guitar, as per Kerrang. Apart from a brief five-year period where he decided he didn't want to dream on and walked away (via Rolling Stone), Aerosmith has been the one constant throughout his guitar-slinging journey. But if he's already a part of a critically acclaimed group that's been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, why does Perry feel the need to have another rock 'n' roll outlet in Hollywood Vampires?

For Perry, it's because the supergroup provides something different. Speaking to Ultimate Guitar, Perry discussed how he approached writing music for Alice Cooper versus Steven Tyler. "We knew because of the way Alice sings and the way he puts songs across and the way what a lot of the lyrics said, we knew it was gonna be a tougher, harder record than an Aerosmith record," Perry said. "So I was able to cut loose on some of the stuff I normally wouldn't do on an Aerosmith record."

Alice Cooper believes Lemmy would have been part of the band

Since Hollywood Vampires is a tribute to the biggest drinkers in rock 'n' roll history, they simply couldn't forget to tip their hats to Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister through a crushing cover of "Ace of Spades." Lemmy was a legendary drinker who was rumored to consume a bottle of Jack Daniel's a day in his prime. However, in 2013, he revealed to Classic Rock magazine (via Blabbermouth) that he slowed down because his health had drastically deteriorated. In December 2015, Lemmy passed away due to a combination of prostate cancer, congestive heart failure, and cardiac arrhythmia, as per Loudwire.

Alice Cooper spoke about his former friend to Kerrang, saying, "If he were alive, Lemmy would certainly be a Vampire. He'd probably be our bass player! All of us knew Lemmy, on different levels, because he played with us so many times — everyone in the band had done tours with Lemmy. He was sort of a journeyman." The only question is, who will play Lemmy in his biopic? Johnny Depp, perhaps?

Christopher Lee's final recording appears on the debut Hollywood Vampires album

The late Christopher Lee's voice is unmistakable. Its deep and bassy quality made it chilling and pitch-perfect for readings of ghoulish horror stories. Lee provided his booming narration to many audiobooks and even delved into music, too. In fact, his last-ever recording before his passing took place on Hollywood Vampires' eponymous album, where he read a passage out of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" for the opening track, "The Last Vampire" (via Discogs).

Speaking to Digital Spy, Alice Cooper remembered Lee's contribution to the band's album. "I think it was the very last thing he recorded," he said. "There's a part of the tape we were listening to when he was reading Bram Stoker, and at one point it's, 'What music they make, the children of the night,' and then you hear him say to the engineer, 'I dread to think what Alice is going to do with this.' I said, 'We've got to keep that, that's great.'" Taking into account how Lee made his mark on Hollywood by portraying the fabled vampire, it's fitting that his final audio performance also involved the fanged creature in some way.

Johnny Depp never wanted to capitalize on his acting fame

Considering how closely linked the arts are to each other, there are many actors who have taken the leap into music after they've achieved mainstream success on stage and screen. Scarlett Johansson, for example, released her debut album, "Anywhere I Lay My Head," in 2008 after her meteoric rise in Hollywood (via AllMusic). Now, this doesn't mean that the actors lacked the passion or talent for music beforehand, but they obviously used their clout and name recognition to secure record deals and jump ahead of other artists on festival bills.

Speaking to the press before the premiere of 2015's "Mortdecai" (via The Sydney Morning Herald), which starred Depp as Charlie Mortdecai, the actor didn't hold back on his thoughts of his fellow thespians using their fame to accelerate their music careers. "That whole idea for me is a sickening thing, it's always just made me sick," he said. "I've been very lucky to play on friends' records and it's still going. Music is still part of my life. But you won't be hearing The Johnny Depp Band. That won't ever exist." His Hollywood Vampires bandmates can attest to that, as even Joe Perry revealed to Consequence that Depp puts in the hard work and doesn't show up to band practice with a diva attitude.