Aerosmith interview

By Joy Williams

They got it all. They lost it all. And then they got it all back again. The story of Aerosmith - and no one can deny it's very much an ongoing story - begins like that of any number of rock bands. They were a bunch of middle-class kids who loved the rock'n'roll that they grew up listening to, and decided to get together and make some noise themselves.

But from that point on, Aerosmith started breaking ground as they set out on a path very much their own. By the middle of the '70s, Aerosmith were the rulers of rock in America, excelling at all the excesses of the day. But by the beginning of the '80s, some of the band members seemed unlikely to be living, much less flourishing, in the early '90s. "In 1978, Aerosmith represented the living spirit of American rock'n'roll," says David Krebs, Aerosmith's original manager. "To see them destroy themselves through immense disregard for anything but self-indulgence was a tragedy."

It is perhaps fitting that a band which would set off on something of a permanent vacation together started its life in a summer resort town. It was in Sunapee, New Hampshire, in the summer of 1970, that Anthony Joseph Perry and Steven Tallarico met at the Anchorage, an ice cream parlour where Perry was working. By this time Tallarico (or Tyler as he would eventually become known) was, at least in his own mind, already something of a rock star. He was an ambitious veteran of bands like the Strangeurs, William Proud, and Chain Reaction, the latter of which had even recorded and released a single. Perry and his bassist friend Tom Hamilton, meanwhile, were still very much at the local bar band level, playing with groups like Pipe Dream, Plastic Glass and, finally, the Jam Band.

Perry remembers being intimidated at first by Tyler. "Steven sure looked like a rock star, and he definitely acted like one," he says, "so we just assumed he already was one." Perry and Hamilton didn't require a lot of convincing to join forces with Tyler.

Early on, Tyler considered both drumming and singing with the new band, as he'd done in previous groups. Eventually, he decided it made more sense to concentrate on just being the frontman.

The group signed on two acquaintances of Tyler's-drummer Joey Kramer, who was born in the Bronx (New York City) and had recently studied briefly at the Berklee School of Music, and guitarist Raymond Tabano. The fivesome soon moved in together, into a dingy three-bedroom apartment at 1325 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. Tabano was eventually replaced by Brad Ernest Whitford, a Massachusetts native who'd also studied at Berklee and played in bands like The Teapot Dome, The Cymbals of Resistance and Justin Tyme.

Before long, the group decided to call itself Aerosmith, an imaginary band name that Joey Kramer says he had written again and again on his textbooks to pass time in high school. The early days of Aerosmith, as described by those who lived through them, sound something like the Monkees on drugs. They lived under one roof, cooked up a cheap concoction of brown rice and vegetables, got high and watched The Three Stooges, and worked day jobs: Tyler at a bakery, for instance, and Perry as a janitor at a local synagogue. They listened to a lot of Jeff Beck, Cream and Deep Purple records and began to chart their own course. "I think what we wanted to do, without ever really saying it, was to be the American equivalent of all the great British bands like Cream, the Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin," says Hamilton. "They were all so classy and powerful sounding. We couldn't think of an American band like that. We wanted to be the first one."

Aerosmith started to find its own sound as it played unglamorous gigs at area high schools and fraternity parties, or anywhere else where somebody would come up with the $300 and the box of malted milk balls that they requested for their services. After giving up their day jobs, however, Aerosmith started having serious financial trouble. The most immediate problem was that the band was running out of places to rehearse. Eventually, the manager of the Fenway Theater in Boston let them use its stage off-hours, and he invited Frank Connelly, the man who'd brought Jimi Hendrix to Boston, to hear the band. Connelly immediately became Aerosmith's manager, but since he understood he needed someone with more experience in dealing with the record companies, he went into partnership with Krebs-Leber.

Wasting little time, the new managers invited two labels to see the band play a showcase at New York's famed Max's Kansas City. Clive Davis, then-President of Columbia, found his way into the club's backstage area after the show, where he told his label's future best-selling act, "Yes, I think we could do something with you." Aerosmith was hardly an overnight hit, except in Boston where the band had already developed a strong following. The third time around proved to be the charm for Aerosmith. Toys In The Attic - recorded at the Record Plant in 1975 - was the album that found Aerosmith getting its wings for real. The record became the group's first platinum effort, and its acceptance helped both of the first two albums go gold by year-end.

Now headliners in their own right, Aerosmith took time off from the road to record their fourth album, Rocks. "We were doing a lot of drugs by then," recalls Perry, "but you can hear that whatever we were doing, it was still working for us. Sadly, things didn't keep working quite so well for long. The band's fifth album, Draw The Line, was the first on which the band paid a musical price for its members' excessive and ultimately destructive lifestyle."We'd gotten to that dangerous point where we could afford our vices," says Tom Hamilton. "We all had our mansions, our Ferraris, and our never-ending stashes."

The album, released in December, 1977 and which cost over $1 million to make, simply failed to live up to the great expectation that their last two efforts had created. "From the inside I didn't think anything was wrong," says Perry. "But from the outside you could see everything. The focus is completely gone. The Beatles made their White Album; we made our blackout album."

Things came to a head during the making of Night In The Ruts. The sessions once again dragged on endlessly and expensively. Perry was getting fed up with the state of the band, and he announced his intention to do a solo album. The prospect threatened Tyler, who was by this time, in his own words, "totally FUBAR - fucked up beyond all recognition" - on heroin. Relations between Tyler and Perry, already quite strained, worsened radically. "If we were in a different space, we'd have killed each other," says Perry.

Perry quit, and Aerosmith went back into the studio with Jimmy Crespo as the new guitarist. The band attempted to tour in support of the album, but shortly after the tour got underway, Tyler collapsed on stage. As if Tyler weren't in bad enough shape, a serious motorcycle accident laid him up in a hospital for a significant part of the next year. Meanwhile, Whitford went off to record an album with ex-Ted Nugent singer/guitarist Derek St. Holmes. That project came together so easily that it made it clear to him how absurd the situation with Aerosmith had become. He, too, decided it was time to jump ship. Another guitarist, Rick Dufay was brought in to replace Whitford and eventually Rock In A Hard Place was released.

But this would be the end of an era: the last studio album that Aerosmith would record for Columbia Records. At the time, it looked as if it might simply be the end. Indeed, before things got better for Aerosmith, things got even worse. Perry ended up flat broke, living for a time in a Boston boarding house. Tyler, meanwhile, had taken up residence in a Manhattan hotel that he favored because of its access to the heroin dealers on Eighth Avenue. Amazingly, however, Aerosmith reformed and returned, hurtling into superstar status again in 1987 with Permanent Vacation.

The rise and fall of Aerosmith represents rock history at its most genuinely inspiring. With the backing of new band manager Tim Collins, the band has managed to clean and sober up its act, and is now reaping the rewards. For the second time, they have popular acclaim, and for the first time, critical acclaim, especially as they followed the multi-platinum comeback album with another, 1989's Pump.

But it wasn't Steven with whom I recorded the formal interview back in '89, it was Tom Hamilton - the sounding board and mediator - who filled me in on the background to the ups and downs of Aerosmith.

Q: I read the other day about a psychologist who says that he can discern your entire attitude toward life by your earliest memories. So, what are yours?

TOM: I have this memory - I must have been about 4 years old - of my brother getting his first guitar, standing in the living room with his legs spread apart, playing some Elvis song. Right around the same time, I got this little electric toy organ for Christmas and I learned "The Marines' Hymn" on it. When I was really young I listed a lot to The Ventures, who are an instrumental guitar band. I used to dream about being in The Ventures, being up there playing their songs. Come to think of it, even when I was a little kid, I was curious about the bass guitar, because I used to get these "How to" records by The Ventures, and they came with this instruction book that had the bass part laid out, and it felt really great, those low notes. I started learning bass parts and comparing them to guitar parts pretty young, so that probably had a lot to do with when I got into my first band, I just automatically slid into the bass. And I like the power of the bass, it's kind of like this big freight train, cruising along.

Q: Who else influenced you?

TOM: The Beatles. The Beatles were just gigantic to me - that whole experience of seeing them on Ed Sullivan [TV show]. Then, I had to go through this whole traumatic decision over whether I was going to be into The Beatles, who had vocals, or stick with my mainstays, The Ventures. I decided The Ventures had to get in the back seat. With The Beatles such a gigantic, radical change came over the pop music business! I know that it's really, really hard for people who weren't around then to understand just how momentous it was; it's just there was never anything like it before. And all of a sudden these guys came, and they had long hair, and.... You know, rock'n'roll had been on the back burner for a few years; we had all these softies, because Chuck Berry got busted, Jerry Lee Lewis married a 13-year-old, and Buddy Holly died. And that was the end to the really tough era, where it was nasty and it was risky to dig it. After that, there was all this fluff. Then, all of a sudden, The Beatles came along and it was like a whole new revolution in pop music.

Q: Yeah, the young English bands went back to those early guys, and even back to the blues greats like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. But still, it's fascinating when someone comes up with something really different.

TOM: Oh, yeah, it's not like The Beatles sat down and drew out a plan. They learned the music that they loved, and they went to Hamburg and played five sets a night for months, and got really good and really tight and really professional, and wrote their own songs. And exploded. Just exploded! And I got totally swept up in it. I had every Beatles magazine that you could buy, I had all The Beatles bubble gum cards, not to mention their records. I used to drive my friends out of the house, because I'd get the latest Beatles single and play it over and over and over....

Q: But that's how something sinks into you and becomes part of you, rather than being just something you learn and copy. A lot of people can learn the notes, they can learn to copy something. But what you're talking about is the kind of thing where it just becomes part of you, and it then comes out in its own way.

TOM: Because it sinks down into that pit where your emotions are. And once it's touched that area, it's there forever. Then, the next time you hear it, you're going to recall your emotions. Even picking up a Beatles single and looking at the colors of the label will bring me back to the way I felt when.... That music wasn't just entertainment for me, it was the soundtrack of my life. Everything I did was according to whatever Beatles song or whatever Stones song I was getting off on at the time.

Q: You just mentioned the Stones. There's always been this split between the brighter, popier Beatles music and the darker, nastier Stones thing. Did you feel that, too?

TOM: I don't remember really feeling that need to show my allegiance to either one. But I remember looking at a picture of the Stones and thinking they were the ugliest people, trashy-looking and sloppy. And their music was the same, but was it ever great! The Stones, they grabbed me; and I didn't know why it was I liked them, but I had to love their music.

Q: But then you finally got to where you could create your own soundtrack.

TOM: Well, that's like, you've been eating all this food and your musical body is built on that food. So when you start coming up with your own ideas.... You know, there's an old expression, "You are what you eat," and it's the same for music as it is for food.

Q: So what did you do with all this musical food? Did you go through the usual thing in high school, copy bands and such?

TOM: Well, Joe [Perry] and I used to get a band together every summer - I've known him since I was 14 or 15. We put a band together called The Pipe Dream when I was about 15. And then at the end of the summer I would go back to school; and he was a "summer kid," so he'd go back to Massachusetts and go back to school. The summer after that we put another band together, called Plastic Glass, and then the two summers after that, we had a band called The Jam Band.

Q: Did you live for the summer?

TOM: Oh, yeah! We each spent the winter learning songs and just thinking about getting back up there and playing. I listened to a lot of records. I didn't take lessons, I just learned from learning other people's songs, and started to pick out little elements that I liked, and throwing out elements that I thought were boring.

Q: Going back to your musical evolution, you knew Joe from way back, but where did Aerosmith come in?

TOM: When I graduated from high school in 1970, Joe and I went to put a band together. Actually, for the whole winter before that I had been realizing, and Joe and I had been talking, "Let's face it, we're going professional." So, finally, I graduated from high school, Joe and I put a band together that summer, and at the end of the summer Joe and I said, "All right, let's move to Boston and put another band together, one we're going to try to make our living with." And right around the same time, Steven [Tyler] and his bands had been coming up to the area where I lived, and playing. As a matter of fact, they had been doing that for a couple of summers; and when they came up, it was a huge event because they were this New York band that had recorded records. They were professionals.

Joe and I a lot of times couldn't get in where he was playing, so we'd actually hang around outside and listen through the walls. But then Steven got himself into a couple of bands that didn't really go anywhere, he was involved with people who weren't as dedicated and committed as he was. And he started getting frustrated. So, during that last summer, he and Joe started to get to know each other and started to compare notes on what they wanted to do for the future. And I started to get to know Steven, finally, and we found that we had a lot in common as far as what we wanted to do. So Joe and I proceeded to go on down to Boston and start looking for drummers and auditioning people. Finally, we got back together with Steven, and he said, "Let me play drums." So, OK, we had a 3-piece band. But we never actually got together and played as a trio, because all of a sudden, along came Joey Kramer. So Steven, Joe and I were at a party one night and we said, "Look, why don't you go back to singing lead?" 'Cause we'd seen him as a lead singer before, and he was definitely made to be up there.

Q: There's something about a frontman....

TOM: Yeah. They're born. They're not made, they're born. So Steven says, "Yeah, that's great, why don't I do that?" We added one more guy, Ray Tobano, who was a very demanding person. He wanted things to go his way, and his level of playing really didn't justify all the tantrums and fighting that went on as a result of his personality. So we fired him and replaced him with Brad [Whitford]. We'd started writing our own songs shortly before, and putting them into the set. Either Joe would come in with a riff and Steven would expand them and add vocals, or the band would be jamming and Steven would hear a riff pop out that somebody'd just played off the top of their head, and stop everybody. We'd pick up that riff and start playing that over and over again until we thought of another part to it and keep expanding it that way. Steven is that kind of musician who can take his melodic ideas and figure out how to express them on any instrument. He's a real good keyboardist and a good drummer.

We avoided clubs. Steven had a booking agent, and this guy was able to get us gigs in high school gyms and frat houses. We would play three sets a night instead of five sets. In those days, a club gig wasn't a one night deal; it was five or six nights in a club. You'd make great money, but your singer would blow his throat out, especially a singer like Steven; he basically does all the singing, and he's not the kind of singer who hold back and pace himself. He knew that if we did those club gigs, it would ruin his throat.

But there's a fork in the road there. You can either make a good living playing those steady gigs on the small circuit, or you can take a chance and write your own material and play places where they'll let you play your own material. Actually, we'd gone for a while without playing a gig and we were on the brink of being evicted, and we were in a local music store asking around about a place to rehearse and this guy said, "Go ask my brother; he stays with this manager of the Fenway Theater," John O'Toole.

Then, one day some semi-famous band was supposed to play there but they canceled out. We happened to be up in the balcony waiting for them to go on, and all of a sudden the manager came up and said, "Hey, you guys, I need you to play." So we lugged all our gear up onto the stage and played, and the audience loved it. The next day John said, "There's a manager here to see you."

We couldn't see him, the lone figure in this big theater, but we said to ourselves, "OK, start playing, he's out there." So we played for about half an hour, the lights went off, the curtain closed, and he was gone But he left behind a management contract. It was pretty exciting - that was really a scene out of some movie! So he started to manage us, but he realized he didn't really have enough experience in getting bands record deals, so he called Lever-Krebs in New York and they had us come down and play at Max's Kansas City in front of all these record people, and they liked us and we got signed to CBS. And it was weird, because we'd been preparing for that moment since we'd got together, so we were ready. We recorded our first record [Aerosmith, 1973], recorded all these songs we'd been playing for a couple of years. It came out, and failed.

Q: How'd you feel then?

TOM: Pretty bad. Because we thought it was the best record ever made. But Lever-Krebs knew what to do. They got us a booking agent, got us out on the road with bands like John McLaughlin, The Kinks, and eventually Mott the Hoople. That tour with Mott the Hoople, after our second album was released [Get Your Wings, 1974], really got us up there, got people liking us. Then, some time during the recording or initial release of our third album [Toys In The Attic, 1975], the song Dream On caught on with a whole bunch of radio programmers, and it became a big hit two years after it was released.

Q: So here we had a critical turning point in the life of a band, where you go from struggling to make it, to being big stars. That can do some pretty weird things to your head, and many bands find themselves in trouble, Aerosmith among them…

TOM: We started doing really well after that and our third album. With Rocks [1976], our next album, we started doing some really big headline tours and eventually made enough money so that when we made our next album, Draw The Line [1977], we started getting into some of the destructive stuff. That was the atmosphere of the times, and we were burnt from constantly touring and constantly recording. Draw The Line took 6­7 months to record, as opposed to three months for our earlier albums, and it just came out kind of unfocused. And it was a step down. But we had a nice, healthy denial system; figured everybody else was wrong, went out on the road, and we did great there.

However, that nasty relationship, that "healthy denial system," and the substance abuse that earned Joe Perry and Steven Tyler the sobriquet of the Glimmer Twins continued to take its collective toll through 1979's Live! Bootleg and Night In The Ruts, where Joe Perry bailed out and was replaced by Jim Crespo.

Tom found himself as "the guy who is always in the middle in a lot of arguments-you know, always mediating and examining each side. I wound up with my phone ringing, hearing about one guy's misunderstandings about the other guy's misunderstandings. In the old days, just before we broke up, I'd get a lot of calls from Joe and a lot of calls from Steven."

On the Permanent Vacation tour, I remarked to Joe Perry how he appeared to be much less depressed than when I'd interviewed him back in the days of The Joe Perry Project [1983], after he'd left Aerosmith. He looked at me and said, "Well, you know, I quit drinking, and the depression went away." But I'd noticed that it's not always that simple. Some "reformed" alcoholics and/or addicts continue to have the same lousy attitudes towards life and other people as they always did.

"That's right," agreed Tom, "it's called being 'dry drunk.' And we couldn't put Aerosmith back together again until the majority stopped pointing to the minority and saying 'It's your problem,' and acknowledged that we all had a problem. It took years to learn new attitudes. Joe and Steve don't call me all the time now with their mutual misunderstanding, because we've had to be a lot more straightforward with each and talk about what's going on. We're all clean and sober now. We finally realized that we were tired of working at about 40% of our ability, and we had to change.

"And, you know, I dreamed of success when I was I kid but the first time around I took it for granted. This time around, I'm savoring every minute of it."


Joe Perry
Still Letting The Music Do The Talkin'

It goes without saying that Joe Perry is one of the most recognizable names in music history. As a member of Aerosmith he has been elected to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, become an MTV Icon, sold tens of million of albums, been in Wayne’s World II and even created his own brand of hot sauce. Once known as one of the Toxic Twins, Perry is closing in on two decades of being clean and sober. Both Aerosmith and Perry have been able to work miracles, both professionally and personally. Perry, somehow, seems to take everything in stride and not let it go to his head. He has embraced his new life and celebrates his freedom one day at a time.

Joe’s new self-titled solo album is completed and ready to be released. Perry steps up to the microphone and handles all lead vocal duties. Vocally, Joe holds his own and at times impresses (check out his version of the Doors classic “Crystal Ship.”) The guitar playing on Joe Perry will get the old school fans drooling as there are plenty of loud, long and lewd solos – reminding one of the Aerosmith of days gone by.

In this interview we discuss the solo album in-depth as well as how Aerosmith did the unthinkable – get five guys, including the Toxic Twins sober. In the end, Perry is open and honest, even discussing the taboo subject of whether Aerosmith has sold out. Perry is a self described non-social person who likes to keep to himself, so the fact that he is honest, open and candid is a real treat for Aerosmith fans both young and old.

Jeb Wright, April 2005

Jeb: So how does it feel to be a lead singer?

Joe: I am not a lead singer; I am a vocal stylist. I come from the school that believes you need vocals to take up space between guitar solos. I thinkJoe Blue the biggest thing that is different from this record from anything else I have done is that I have found a place where I feel comfortable with my voice and hearing my voice being played back. I am not straining to compete with other, much better singers ­­­­– one in particular that I know of, who is one of the best that I have had the good fortune to be in a band with all these years.

It is tough because I compare everything to how he sings. I have always tried to go for that and it always felt like I was pushing it. My wife goes, “Everybody seems to like it when you’re singing blues stuff.” I started going downstairs to my studio and began tinkering around with different covers to kind of keep the ball rolling. I came across “Crystal Ship” and it was in my range. I was able to hear that one back without cringing and it led the way to try singing.

I have always been fascinated with a lot of Jimi Hendrix stuff. In a lot of songs he is very conversational. He is playing and kind of talking. The band would be ripping it up in back of him and he would just be having this conversation with you. I tried to take a cue from that. Again, I just imagined having the band going the way it was going while I had a speaking, conversational vocal style. You’re hearing what the result it.

Jeb: Did you go to Tyler for any tips?

Joe: No, I did it all myself. I have learned a lot from him over the years. I definitely write lyrics in a different way than he does; I write them as I am singing them. I start playing and scatting some vocals. I may have a nice line or two and then I fill in the blanks. I have to make myself do it because if I wait for inspiration then I will be waiting till the day I die. Very often, I would have demos with only one vocal track on them. They would be okay to get ideas from but they were not something I would want to put out on a record. When I was going back to work on some of these songs – even parts that I was really used to – I would tweak them. I got to thinking that when Steven goes into sing a vocal he does four or five passes and then we take the best of each and he tries to top that one. He will take four or five hours getting the vocal track right. I hadn’t done that yet. I went in and did the same thing and it helped me raise these songs from the demo phase to something I would want to play in public.

Jeb: We have not seen you solo since The Joe Perry Project. Why now?

Joe: It was a combination of things. I had a lot of material and I had a full- blown studio in the basement. I would go down to the basement and record cover songs when I didn’t have anything new to record. I would throw down some licks that never got used for whatever reason. Someone would ask me for a piece of music to be used on a commercial or to play on a song. I was on Mick Jagger’s last solo album. He brought the tapes over and I recorded my parts in the basement. After a while you accumulate some material. People were telling me that it sounded as if I had a solo album going on. I would tell them “someday, someday.” Well, someday is getting closer than I would like to think. With the band taking a year off it seemed like if I was ever going to do it, this was the time to do it.

Jeb: Aerosmith fans are going to notice there is some music on there that could be described as old school.

Joe: I do what I do. It would be kind of out of context for me to do hip-hop.

Jeb: “Shakin’ My Cage” features cool, old style Aerosmith slide guitar. Yet, there are other songs that are not what you would expect to hear on an Aerosmith album. Two songs that come to mind are “Twilight” and “Ten Years.” Both are a step in a direction that most Joe Perry fans might not realize you would be inclined to go it.

Joe: I am a romantic at heart; there is no doubt about it. When I first started off in this business I thought the only good slow song was a slow blues and even that I could only take in small doses. Another thing I learned from Steven over the years is that ballads are a great place to stretch out musically. I have resonated with a lot of the songs that enchanted me when I was younger.

That side of me was the riskiest side for me to open up to and let people in to a place I have never shown before. I wrote the song “Ten Years” for my wife because it was our ten-year anniversary. I never intended it to be heard by anyone else. Once I eventually started playing it for people then I started getting used to showing that side of me. The roof didn’t cave in.

Jeb: The lyrics to “Dying to be Free” seem to be sending a message.

Joe: When I wrote that I did have some specific people in mind. Like a lot of lyrics, it works on a lot of different levels.

Jeb: I was making some notes when I was listing to the album. Next to the song “Mercy” I wrote “HELL YEAH.”

Joe: Yeah, I really loved that riff when I first wrote it. It was probably six minutes long at first. I played it for Steven a bunch of times and he really tried to find a place for some vocals but there was so much guitar going on it made it really hard for him to get a foothold on it. We tried taking stuff out of it but when we did that, it just kind of lost something -- we just went on to something else. “Mercy” has been around for 5-6 years in various forms. I have a bunch of instrumentals but that seemed to be the one. After we cut it down and did some judicious editing and mixing, it turned into a nice little piece of music.

Jeb: There is also a DVD that you get with the CD.

Joe: Sometimes people put out a CD and they put out the Duel Disc. We are only putting out the Duel Disk. It was the only thing that made sense for me to do. On the DVD there is about 25 minutes of footage. There is some ‘making of’ type stuff, some interviews and some home movies of being on the road. They filmed me working on the record and I narrate the thing. More important is a 5.1 mix to play on the surround sound. It is a different mix than what you hear on your stereo. It was a lot of fun to do and we took advantage of the medium and really changed the arrangements on a few of the songs. The instrumentals sound really cool on 5.1. On “Twilight” the guitars answer each other from across the room. The DVD also has Umixit technology on a couple of songs. You can pull the guitars up and down and make your own mix. You will like what you can do on the song “Mercy.”

Jeb: You are just one innovative dude.

Joe: I learned a long time ago, with Aerosmith, that you either embrace the new stuff or you get left behind. I thought it would be a really cool thing to go for. I talked to some artists who want to stay away from the 5.1 thing because they feel rock n’ roll should come out of the stereo. But after I heard it, I fell in love with it. I hope more people take some chances and try some of this stuff because it is really cool.

Jeb: At this stage of the game you have reached heights of success as a musician that 99.9% of all musicians will never touch. How do you stay grounded in reality?

Joe: I still take out the trash. My wife and I are very grounded people. We have been through a lot together. I have been very lucky to have a soul mate who keeps things real. I know it sounds like a cliché but it is the truth. We have kids and we go through all the same things a lot of people go through raising kids – what an adventure that is! We don’t take a lot of stuff too seriously. I think a big part of it is that we never moved to LA or New York. We never got swept up in that part of it. We have never been real social people. We kind of keep to ourselves. We don’t go to a lot of parties. We might make the odd appearance here or there and we may spend an odd weekend in New York or LA but for the most part we are happy to be out with our horses. I love to be outdoors. I think part of it is the cloth I am cut from and part of it is that I have seen what can happen when I go the other way.

Jeb: I am a jalapeño eating fool. Tell me about your hot sauce.

Joe: If you love jalapeños then you will find my sauce to be of a medium threat level. My sauce was meant to be an everyday sauce as opposed to the type of sauce you would put in the chili on the weekend to blow your friends heads off. I found myself over the years collecting sauces and even mixing them together to try to find something that I really liked. An acquaintance of mine has a hot sauce company and we put together this formula. I have it on my table all of the time. It has just been a lot of fun to do. It gives me something else to talk about in interviews. My son took over the reigns of running the company about a year ago. He loves hot food and he has a great head for business. He is totally computer savvy. He has just been running with it. We have a new sauce called Mango Peach Tango. We are going to keep growing it.

Jeb: You said Aerosmith has taken a year off.

Joe: It is not a year anymore. We finished playing the first week of August last year. We are getting close to getting going again. I have got a pile of tapes that I have to listen to. We are thinking of putting a live record together to come out this fall. We are also going to go back on the road in October. That is the main reason I am not taking a solo band out on the road. It took longer than I thought to put this record out. I just want to kick back these last couple of months before the band starts up again. I am going to do some showcase gigs in New York around the release of the album.

Jeb: When Aerosmith got sober, Steven Tyler and yourself were very open about it in the media. It is not advised that people in the pubic eye go out and promote sobriety in the early stages for obvious reasons. What made you guys go against that?

Joe: At the time, it was really risky. There was a side of us that was going, “We are going to lose fans if they know we are straight.” But there was the other side where we had let our fans down to the point where they were not even coming to shows. Our record company didn’t even want us. We had to buy our way off the label. They didn’t want to pick up any of the options for us to record – we had burned a lot of bridges.

We were not even thinking of some aspects of what we were doing. We really just wanted people to know that they could have faith in us again. We also wanted to get gigs. It was really that bad. After I had left the band there were two or three years where they cancelled a ton of shows. They made Guns ‘N Roses look like saints. I heard stories of people passing out onstage and it just got worse and worse. When the band got back together we could not get a gig.

It took us about a year before everyone started to clean up. Geffen signed us but the first record was really not that good – it was not up to our standards. We realized that we had to change the way we were living our lives. Even though the band was back together, we were still up to our old tricks. We basically had to go out and tell people that we meant business and that come hell or high water, we are going to show up on time and we are going to play the hour and half set we need to play and we are going to put everything we have into it. That is kind of where the whole going public thing came from. In response to doing that, we got a lot of feedback from people who were going through the same thing. It almost went too far the other way. I really didn’t like being the poster boy for recovery from drug addiction. It really is nobody’s business. There was some people around us at the time that it was almost self-serving for them to use that. When I look back on it I think I would have been more discrete about it. Who knew? It’s a miracle that we all got sober. It’s a miracle if one person gets sober; it is even a bigger miracle if five guys who have been down that road can get back together again and do that – it is just unheard of. We are not in a position to question that at this point. I look back and I go, “Maybe I wouldn’t have done this interview and talked about that” or “maybe I should not have done that thing with the book” but we did what we did. We have got this far and I can’t say that I have any regrets.

Jeb: Was there a musically defining moment where you all looked at each other and said, “Everything is going to be okay.”

Joe: There was a defining moment where I knew we were not going to be okay. It was after Done With Mirrors. We were really struggling after that album. We had to cancel the tour because people were not well. We didn’t want to take a chance on doing anymore lousy shows. At least we were showing up for gigs but we were still not clean.

I remember that Rick Rubin contacted us. Rick has always been a supporter and a fan – this was like 1985, I think. Steven and I hadn’t written anything but we went ahead and booked a session with Rick. We figured we would just go in and wing it and write something on the spot. We stopped at the liquor store on the way in. I had a pocketful of drugs in one pocket and I had a couple of joints in the other. We walked in with a bottle of Jack Daniels under one arm and a couple of six packs and the next thing I know I am waking up the next day and it was all a haze. We listened back to the tape and it sucked; it was terrible. Steven and I talked to each other and said that it was not working anymore. We knew we had to do something because it just wasn’t right. That was the moment – we heard a really crappy piece of music and I said, “This has got to change.” Aside from how screwed up spiritually I was at that point, the artistic side of me just wasn’t working anymore. There was really no choice.

Jeb: With the new album, the hot sauce and Aerosmith, Joe Perry has really embraced the freedom that life has to offer.

Joe: Definitely. I think it has been a long learning experience. There are people that are early bloomers and then there are people who are late bloomers. We have all experienced people who have their peak at different periods of their life. Some peak early and keep it going while others don’t. For me, I feel that everything I have learned over the last 54 years is all coming into play. A lot of things are falling into place that have always seemed disjointed. I’m a bottom line kind of guy. I’m just a late bloomer.

Jeb: I want to ask you one really hard question.

Joe: Okay.

Jeb: There are a lot of old school Aerosmith fans who don’t like the direction the band has taken since Nine Lives – there are others who don’t like what Aerosmith has done since Permanent Vacation. People have given you some shit about it.

Joe: Yeah.

Jeb: You have heard, “Aerosmith have sold out” time and time again from the older rockers. My question is this: Do you feel there is any validity to that point? How do you respond to your critics?

Joe: Get a Grip was totally our biggest selling record. It is hard to say. It’s a struggle to keep current. It’s much more easy to settle back on your laurels and go out and rely on your first three records for your live shows. We have always tried to keep pushing forward with our recordings – we try really hard to keep current. At this point, the fans really love the early stuff. I thought that we would have gotten more response from Honkin’ On Bobo because that sounds like what people had been asking for – that stuff is still in us. We are always trying to experiment musically and push the edge.

It is hard to answer that question. I think there are different kinds of selling out. I am totally comfortable using songs in commercials; it is another way to get your music out. Obviously, if you’re just doing it for the money and you have songs planned for some product that you would never use or be caught dead with then it is wrong. If it is a marginal thing then it isn’t bad but if it is something that you totally don’t agree with then that kind of sucks. For the most part, it is usually just benign. I think being able to hear “Rock ‘n Roll” by Led Zeppelin 16 times a night on television doesn’t suck. They could be using a lot worse music.

Doing the Gap commercial got Aerosmith more credibility then some of the albums we were doing. It is funny how that works. The times have changed. I think there are things we have done recently that we never thought we would do way back when. The business and the industry have changed so much that it is hard to know. There are certainly some songs that we have done that I have gone like, “Well… ya know…” But it is a band and you have to go with how the group feels is best. If that is the way they want to go then that is the way it is going to go. Musically is the only way I can answer your question so my answer is that musically, we are always experimenting and trying different things. There are some songs on some of the recent records that we never ended up playing live. But you just have to keep trying different things. There are also people who think we made a big mistake doing Honkin’ on Bobo. They think we should have gone and done another studio album. They are asking, “Where is our big ballad?” It’s hard to keep everyone happy without getting an arrow stuck in your back.

Jeb: I can’t talk to you without mentioning that the rest of the country is getting tired of Boston area sports teams winning everything. The Patriots and the Red Sox? Not fair!

Joe: It has been a long time coming. It is great to see that things are coming around. I am really anxious to see what the Pats and the Sox do over the next few years. It has been really exciting for this town for that to finally come to pass. I am just a sideline kind of sports fan. I love to go to the games here with the kids. I love to do the tailgate thing – it is fun. It is always great to have the home team win.

Jeb: Last one: Is it urban legend or is it the truth that Aerosmith really broke up over spilled milk?

Joe: That was the straw – no pun intended – it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I have always thought that you could not script this stuff any better. It was really the last thing that really kind of did it. I remember it as clear as day, one of the wives bumped into the other one and spilled milk and it was a big thing. There was a lot of other stuff that went on before that but it was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. Isn’t that just ridiculous?

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