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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
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."
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."
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,"
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,
Q: Who else
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.
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
Q: But then
you finally got to where you could create your own soundtrack.
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?
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
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?
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
something about a frontman....
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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 ,
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 , 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.
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.
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 , 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.
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.
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."
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.
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: 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.
you go to Tyler for any tips?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
lyrics to “Dying to be Free” seem to be sending a
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.”
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.
is also a DVD that you get with the CD.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
there a musically defining moment where you all looked at each
other and said, “Everything is going to be okay.”
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
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.
the new album, the hot sauce and Aerosmith, Joe Perry has really
embraced the freedom that life has to offer.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
one: Is it urban legend or is it the truth that Aerosmith really
broke up over spilled milk?
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?