The Morning Call, PA
June 27, 2009
Getting an interview with Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry is no easy undertaking, and after a month of working to get it, the expectation was it would be brief and wedged between others.
Indeed, when the appointed time came, a publicist warned Perry was running late, and Perryâ€™s handler later called to say it would be even later.
A full hour after the appointed time, Perry finally called. But rather than a rushed and superficial chat, Perry took time to expound on answers, accepted every query as valid, and seemed genuinely interested in fully answering each question.
The conversation lasted 30 minutes.
Perry was calling from Chicago, two days after the first show of the tour. Hereâ€™s a transcript as you prepare for the bandâ€™s show Friday in Hershey:
How did the first show go?
â€œUm, as far as opening nights go, it was probably an 80. Usually they come in as about a 50, but yesterday was about an 80. We really stepped up. We always try and get the best equipment and the best production staff we can, but thereâ€™s a lot of bands out there hiring and because everything got pushed back, we had some guys that were on hold and were willing to stick around, so we managed to hold on to some of the best guys that weâ€™ve ever worked with and the show â€“ I was just watching it last night and listening to it and I was just blown away.
â€œBeing a tech freak, the PA, I could hear every word, I could hear every guitar lick and it sounded like a stereo, except that it sounded like a live band. It didnâ€™t sound like anything canned â€“ we donâ€™t play that well. It just sounded great. And the lights were good â€“ there were some screw-ups and some train wrecks, but overall the audience had a great time and even though we were [ticked] off when things would screw up, we were carried away with the energy and into the audience and it was a good first night.â€
How difficult is it for you to get up for shows these days? Is it still as fun as it was long ago?
â€œUm, itâ€™s a lot of fun. I didnâ€™t feel as much pressure this time â€“ weâ€™ve done it so many times. The hard part is like the very beginning , trying to get a handle on whatâ€™s the stage going to look like and kind of get a vibe for that, and then you start getting some ideas and you start seeing sketches and then once you decide on that, then it kind of builds out and itâ€™s kind of like those rocks you drop in the water, these little tiny colored pebbles that they start to grow and grow and grow and all of a sudden you got this multicolored stalactite castle growing in the water. Itâ€™s the same idea, one thing just builds on the next and then you get ideas when you look at that and then it kind of gets to the point where you go, â€˜Wow, this is different enough from the last time and you just want a really good setting for the band to play the songs that people want to hear.â€
I read that you guys might play the full album â€œToys in the Attic.â€
â€œYeah, thatâ€™s what weâ€™re doing.â€
Thatâ€™s what you did at the first show?
â€œThatâ€™s what we did â€“ we had to cut a couple songs â€“ it was a bad lightning storm that apparently just kind of [messed] up about half the Midwest came through right around showtime and we had to go on about an hour late and so we had to cut a couple songs short. But other than that, everything else wet on OK. There were no lightening strikes on the stage or anything like that.â€
Speaking of mishaps, how is Brad? And do you have any idea when heâ€™s coming back yet?
â€œWell, the last time I talked to him he was feeling better. They were hoping after that first operation that that would be enough and they were hoping his body would take care of it, but they realized that they had to operate. So that was about, oh, I donâ€™t know, a week and a half ago. Iâ€™ve talked to him almost every day and heâ€™s obviously groggy from being under all the time, but heâ€™s real quick and clear-headed and wants to get back out here. Theyâ€™re talking like six weeks, but weâ€™re waiting to see how it goes. I know he wants to be out here. Obviously the fans want him to, and we want him to more than anybody else.
â€œHis guitar tech has taken his place â€“ who actually has played with Slashâ€™s Snakepit, and backed up a lot of bands â€“ Green Day — and played with a lot of bands. And heâ€™s been Bradâ€™s guitar tech for a couple of tours and he knows the songs and heâ€™s a really good guy. So itâ€™s working out. Heâ€™s filling in all the spots and doing a really good job.â€
Precisely what was the surgery for Brad?
â€œWell he came to rehearsal one day, he had this incredible headache. Heâ€™s not one — doesnâ€™t get migraines, and he just said, â€˜This is horrible.â€™ And so he went to the nearest emergency room and they said, â€˜Well, you should go home and ly down and take some Tylenol.â€™ And he came back to rehearsal and he said, â€˜This is wrong, this hurts way, way more than it should,â€™ and he went in to the bandâ€™s doctor in Boston and he put him in the MRI and as soon as he came out of there, they brought him to the hospital and put him on the operating table and they had o drill a hole to let the pressure out.
â€œApparently he had hit his head â€“ at least what he thinks is — he hit his head getting out of his car, but heâ€™d really not sure. I donâ€™t think he knows yet exactly what it was, but it was probably caused by some kind of blow, probably something you do like anybody does, and you just forget about it. You bump your toe or whatever and your toe still works, so you just forget about it. I think it was something like that and thatâ€™s what they think.
â€œAnd judging from what theyâ€™ve found out from all the tests and all the MRIs and all that, thatâ€™s what points to. Itâ€™s not like some kind of aneurism where you tap it, or heâ€™s going to have a stroke. It all happened outside of his brain â€“ it was like between his skull and his brain. I think it was kind of like what happened with Keith. Obviously he would remember falling out of a coconut tree a lot better than hitting your head getting out f a car â€“ especially when youâ€™ve got a bunch of people watching you do it. So I think Brad will be fine and will be back with us in no time.â€
Iâ€™ve been reading about all the delays in recording your next album. Whatâ€™s the story behind that, and how much frustration does it present for you?
â€œOnly about a million percent. I had to have my knee replaced over a year ago and I was just about healed up and it got infected and that happened around Thanksgiving and into Christmas. I think it was right after Christmas I had to have it operated on. That pushed everything back and we lost a lot of time trying to work out our schedules. And then finally we got some time and we got the ball rolling and we had the songs â€“ we were getting ready to cut the songs and Steven got this bronchitis that turned into pneumonia at the same time was getting an ear infection and they had to pierce one of his eardrums and it was just one of those things. I mean this really bad flu bug thatâ€™s been going around â€“ not the swine one â€“ but he got a really bad infection, just that bronchitis and he couldnâ€™t sing. So that just was one of those things. It was going to take four weeks for it to heal. And we just couldnâ€™t do it and still make the tour. And at that point the tour had been booked. We were hopeful weâ€™d have the record out and then tour behind it, but it just wasnâ€™t meant to be.
â€œBut the good side of it for me was I had time â€“ all of a sudden I had this month and a half of time. I have songs â€“ whenever I write I just write a lot and I had a bunch of stuff for a solo record that actually I wasnâ€™t planning on putting out for a while, but I said, â€˜Wow, I got all this time, I got these songs. So I called up some friends and we started playing, and after about a month of around-the-clock work, through the weekends, we got finished the record. So I have a solo record coming out at the end of the summer.â€
You think when this tourâ€™s done, youâ€™ll tour with that record?
â€œIâ€™d like to, even if itâ€™s a short go-around to major markets at least and do that. I was so close to doing it on the last project but we were â€¦ I mean, I was getting offers from all over the world to play and it was the hardest thing to turn down â€˜cause I had like a month and a half before I was going to have to start touring with Aerosmith, and I just didnâ€™t want to step right off a Joe Perry tour right into an Aerosmith tour. I would have been fried at the beginning of a tour and thatâ€™s a formula for a really big screw-up. So I couldnâ€™t do any more live gigs, but I would really like to do it this time.â€
The new album â€“ do you have enough of the music done that you know what itâ€™s going to sound like? Are you happy with what youâ€™ve got?
â€œYeah, weâ€™ve got some great stuff that sounds like Aerosmith â€“ when the band plays it, thereâ€™s a lot of ripping stuff and thereâ€™s some great ballads. And I think the most important thing is that we were recording. And I think thatâ€™s what people miss the most now is hearing a record that actually has that energy and that texture that early records had. I mean obviously you canâ€™t go back and remake â€œGet Your Wings,â€ thatâ€™s just not possible. But you could take some of that energy that we still have when we play live and the heart of playing that on a tape or a computer or MP3 or whatever is still and art, and thatâ€™s not changed. And thatâ€™s our goal â€“ is to capture that energy if the band playing live and get it on the recorded medium and then into peoplesâ€™ heads.â€
Now you mentioned the health things that kept you from putting out the album when you expected to, but itâ€™s really been â€“ by the time this album comes out â€“ nine years since your last album full of new material. So what happened in all those years before? Why did it take so long?
â€œRight, well, we had â€˜Just Push Play,â€™ and then at the point we were doing â€˜Honking on Bobo,â€™ we had barely enough time to do make a record, but we didnâ€™t have the material written at that point, and that would have added another two months probably to the process if we really dug in. And we didnâ€™t have time, so we did another record, which is something that weâ€™d wanted to do for a really long time, which was cover some of our favorite roots blues songs â€“ I mean, â€˜Roadrunnerâ€™ and just â€˜Baby Please Donâ€™t Go,â€™ and just cut loose and not have to worry about writing or singles or any of that stuff and just throw that out the window and just play like weâ€™re getting ready for our first club tour. And thatâ€™s kind of how we approached the record. And we had time to do that.
â€œSo itâ€™s just been a series of timing things and getting the vibe right and keeping our presence out there as a touring band, because we are a touring band and we have to have that, or else weâ€™re not a band.â€
The stuff that you guys have gotten into lately â€“ the Guitar Hero, you lent your name to the â€œRockâ€™nâ€™roll roller coasterâ€ â€“ to be so in the mainstream now. You guys have become a part of popular culture. How does that feel?
â€œUm, itâ€™s interesting. Basically the population has grown so much and it grows so fast. Just as an example, they can be bands that can fill arenas and even stadiums and some music fans might not have even heard of them. Thereâ€™s just so many people out there. There are niches that, say, 30 years ago if 10 percent of the people only liked hard core heavy metal, that same 10 percent no represents 10 times as many people. So I donâ€™t think the percentages have changed. Itâ€™s just that bands that normally would have withered and died out from lack of support are able to find an audience to support them and they can have a career. Thatâ€™s why a lot of the bands that are putting out their own records can really succeed because they can build up an audience, build up a following because of the Internet and because of playing live.â€
Itâ€™s easier to find an audience now because a million people can click on the Internet and hear you.
â€œYou still got to get up there and promote yourself, or get on â€˜American Idol.â€™ â€ [Laughs]
Speaking of American Idol â€“ it knocks me out that every year when they do the rock show, and the contestants pick classic rock songs, â€œDream Onâ€ comes up every year. That obviously has become a classic rock song.
â€œI guess if you stick around long enough, things like that happen. But I think itâ€™s one of the best songs Steven has written. Just the time and the place when we recorded it, and how we were all feeling it, and recording it in the studio and wondering just how people would receive it. You canâ€™t recreate that feeling and that was just a special moment in time. And for it to be accepted by all these generations â€“ because, obviously, every generation has to kind of embrace it for it to last as a classic song. And it just proves that a good song is a good song and good music transcends the trends, you know?â€
One thing I wanted to say about the longevity of Aerosmith is that â€“ a band like the Rolling Stones has been around so long., but the truth is they stopped making hit albums, like, 15 years ago. And you guys have been staying in top of the charts with new songs forever. What is the special magic that you guys have?
â€œWell, I think we were lucky enough to be able to join in the â€˜80s with the whole MTV thing. We had our first career when we were just wild and crazy kids, and all of a sudden catapulted into this world that we had absolutely no idea that it was going to happen. And then we burned out, and then we came back. We were still young enough that we could get into the video thing. And our songwriting, we were willing to kind of, without compromising our feelings about our music, we were able to work with some people and listen to some people that said, â€˜Whatâ€™s going on out there? You can either go along with it or stick to your guns.
â€œI think the Stones have written so many songs and have really got their half of the music business. I mean, theyâ€™ve put out so many records that I donâ€™t know how they can be inspired to write more. But on the other hand I can, because I kind of feel the same way. Itâ€™s like after youâ€™ve written so many songs that you go, â€˜Wow, I donâ€™t know how I can top that.â€™ And then you do â€“ personally, I donâ€™t know, a lot of fans many not agree, but I feel like thereâ€™s still more songs to be written. And I know the Stones, theyâ€™ve found their niche, theyâ€™re not going to be influenced by whatâ€™s going on out there, and they frankly donâ€™t give a shit and theyâ€™re going to play their music and have fun doing it.
â€œAnd then when they go out on the road, I saw them play at Shepherdâ€™s Bush a few years ago and they played almost the whole record of, I think it was â€˜Bridges to Babylon.â€™ And they played all the album cuts, so-called, and it was great. I never would have thought it. Jagger said, â€˜When you want to hear the big hits, go to the big place down the street, â€˜cause they were playing Wembly Stadium like four days later. And this place at Shepherdâ€™s Bush held about 2,000 people. And so they were just playing their so-called album cuts and whatever they wanted and it was all fresh and new, and it was the Stones â€“ it was great. So theyâ€™re in the studio right now putting another one together and theyâ€™re going to keep doing it. It still feels good.â€
You know, the idea that you deal with you knee issues, and Tom has conquered throat cancer and other maladies that you guys face, does it bring into focus anymore about how long you guys still might be doing this? I mean, do you see an end in sight at all, ever?
â€œI see an end in every day. I mean, my best friend, the guy I worked with him for 18 years and produced and worked on my last solo record passed away last year. And he was 52 â€“ I was a few years older than him. Weâ€™re at that age when you just donâ€™t know â€“ know what I mean? But then, who knows at any age? Teenagers drop off like flies. Weâ€™re still animals and itâ€™s still rough out there, even though people go around doing amazing things to their bodies and take incredible chances and just walking away from it. Life is a very fragile thing. Obviously the odds go up the older you get. But my knee thing wasnâ€™t really age-related, it was just because of Aerosmith playing rockâ€™nâ€™roll, or our style of rockâ€™nâ€™roll is a very physical thing, and being a live band we play a lot of live gigs and I fell off the stage 25 years ago and it screwed my knee up and it just kept getting worse and worse and worse, till I had to have it replaced. And I guess having worked on it for 25 years, that length of time, I donâ€™t know if thatâ€™s a direct age-related thing or itâ€™s just â€˜cause I used it up.
â€œAnd some of the other stuff, it just happens. Steven got pneumonia and people 25 years old get pneumonia â€“ I had pneumonia when I was, I think, 26. It just happens, itâ€™s life. And the longer youâ€™re around, the chances of [stuff] happening to you are greater. Itâ€™s simple.â€
But as far as playing music â€“ youâ€™re going to keep going as far as you can see?
â€œAs long as itâ€™s fun for us, and as long as itâ€™s fun for the audience to hear us play, weâ€™ll do it.â€
Anything else we missed talking about?
â€œMy solo record will be out early this fall â€“ maybe even by the end of the summer. And itâ€™s a lot different than the last one. Like I said, I have some guys on there playing that are real killers and just doing the songs a lot more justice than I could if I did it myself. And Iâ€™ve got a singer â€“ heâ€™s a killer, and itâ€™s going to be a lot of fun.â€
Anything unexpected music-wise on it?
â€œThere are a few things. There are some different-sounding kind of songs that you just wouldnâ€™t hear on an Aerosmith record. And thatâ€™s about all I can say.