Guitarist Brad Whitford weighs in on 40 years of partying with Aerosmith

Categories:  Brad Whitford

Press Of Atlantic City, NJ
August 26, 2010

This year got off to an admittedly rough start for “America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band.” Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler seemed to be out, due to a 2009 rehab stint and planned surgery to his legs. Meanwhile, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and lead guitarist, Joe Perry, announced a search for a new vocalist.

Then, as so often happens in the tumultuous world of rock, the band managed to patch things up, and get back on the road, including a stop Saturday, Aug. 28, at Boardwalk Hall for the Cocked, Locked and Ready to Rock Tour.

Brad Whitford, who has been with the group almost since its 1970 inception, talks about the state of the band and why, despite four decades of ups and downs, Aerosmith still clicks.

Q: Did you think you’d get to this point, with Aerosmith making music again with Steven and Joe?

A: We went down to South America (earlier in the summer) to do the first shows on the tour. It was a nice surprise to get back on stage. And a reminder of what we were supposed to be doing and what we should be doing.

We just had such great times. It was a reaffirmation that happened for us all. The band is playing better than I’ve ever heard.

There’s some kind of glue that happens when you play with the same guys for so many years. It becomes very unique and very special.

Q: For anyone who has never been to an Aerosmith show, what’s the experience like?

A: I would say the energy of it – people get off on the passion. The passion we have for our music is pretty evident when you see us playing, and that energy swirls all over the room.

Q: How is it for you, as a trained musician who attended the Berklee College of Music, to collaborate with Joe Perry, who is self-taught?

A: It was always as very organic approach for us. Both us really shoot from the hip. There’s a lot of improvisation – we weren’t the type to sit down and work out a lot of stuff.

We just play and it just kind of happens. It’s always been that way. Sometimes there are parts that are worked out, but a lot of it is very natural.

Q: Does the same hold true for the rest of the band?

A: There’s definitely a chemistry – that’s something you really find out when you don’t have the whole band together.

We’ve had situations where we’ve had someone else sit in for (bassist) Tom (Hamilton) when he wasn’t able to play. It changes the whole sound and feel of the band.

Chemistry is really an interesting thing. It’s very amazing when it works – it’s just a God-given thing, something you can’t put your finger on it.

It’s like apple pie – these are the ingredients and these are the results – and you can’t just have any other ingredients.

Q: You left the band in the early ’80s and returned after you got sober. How were you able to get back in the groove with the band?

A: When we started working back in the early ’70s, we were too young to be looking out for ourselves, and I don’t think the people we were working with were really interested in the preservation of it. We were never looking at it – it was just work, work, work, work – (so) we never really stopped.

We still have that tendency to say, “Yeah, we’ll do it,” and we need to be a little more aware and be more reasonable of what we can and what we can’t do.

You have to have a life outside of this thing to bring energy back to it. You have to give yourself energy to have a life outside the band and inside the band.

Probably due to the fact that we’re all around 60 years old, it just gets forced upon you.

Q: Would you say the band is living a cleaner version of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle?

A: We couldn’t live the way we used to. It was pretty much a constant party going on. We all know what happens if we do that – you kill yourself.

So it’s a balance in everything, and sometimes that takes a lifetime to figure out.

Aerosmith’s Beat Goes On

Categories:  Joey Kramer

Aero Force One
August 25, 2010

Last summer, the rock ’n’ roll soap opera that is Aerosmith finally hit the road after some false starts, but then had to cut it short when lead singer Steven Tyler plunged off a stage in Sturgis, S.D. Tyler was laid up, the tour was canceled, everyone went back to their own lives. For guitarist Joe Perry, that meant working on his own Joe Perry Project, which released a new album in October. For drummer Joey Kramer, that meant publicizing his new autobiography.

But drummers rarely get a break, especially in the media. For starters, Kramer’s memoir, Hit Hard: A Story of Hitting Rock Bottom at the Top, was published the same week Michael Jackson died. Then, after Tyler’s fall, the rumor mill started again around the “toxic twins” — Perry and Tyler feuding again through the press, Tyler saying he might quit the band, Perry saying who needs him? At one point, Aerosmith was allegedly auditioning new singers.

But once Tyler emerged from another stint in rehab, this time for addiction to painkillers as a result of his injury treatments, the two made up (for the umpteenth time) and a new Aerosmith world tour was announced. The title even has trademark Aerosmith attitude: the Cocked, Locked, Ready to Rock Tour. It has actually been proceeding according to schedule and is still expected to arrive in the Chicago area Sunday night.

“Really,” Kramer assured us in an interview from Boston during a brief break. “Everything’s copacetic, and the band is playing great.” He pauses, then seems to remember to add: “And getting along.”

Kramer’s memoir, which recently hit paperback, follows the “Behind the Music” template (humble beginnings, huge success, bottom drops out, recovery) and chronicles two different sides of suffering: the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father — which lead him to take up the drums as an outlet for striking back at something, hard — as well as the abuse he brought on himself as a hard-drinking, drug-addled member of a notorious party band. “With more money in the pipeline, Aerosmith became the single biggest market for drugs in New England,” Kramer writes. Later, there’s a chapter about 1976 (he thinks) called “Drug Addicts Dabbling in Music.”

Kramer describes wild parties, sure, but much of it is simply static addiction, sitting down Friday night to drink vodka and snort cocaine and staying there doing just that till Sunday morning. The band, at the height of their drug use, played some “God-awful shows,” he admits. At a few, Kramer was so “blotto” his drum tech would have to dress him, prop him behind the drums and tape the sticks to his hands. “Joey, this is all I can do,” he’d tell Kramer. “The rest is up to you.”

“Mine is a wish of service,” Kramer said, explaining why he aired all this dirty laundry in a book. “I know there are a lot of folks out there who suffer from the same stuff I did — addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, depression, all the pretty stuff in life. By writing about it, I’ve met a lot of them, people who let me know how reassuring it’s been to read about these issues. You don’t have to be a rock star to crash and burn. It can be anybody. But no matter who you are, there’s a way out.”

Kramer’s been in recovery from substance abuse for 23 years now. He suffered a nervous breakdown a couple of years after his father died in 1994, a delayed reaction to that event. “Ten days after I lost my dad, I was in Japan touring,” he said. “I stayed busy, was distracted, like we all like to do in these situations. But if you don’t grieve in the proper way, it comes around to bite you on your ass.”

When this tour wraps next month, Kramer also assures us a new Aerosmith album will be completed. The last proper studio album from the band was “Just Push Play” in 2001 (2004’s “Honkin’ on Bobo” was primarily covers). Work was scheduled to begin with revered producer Brendan O’Brien, but nothing was ever recorded, Kramer said.

“We’ll take some time off after the tour,” he said, “but then recording is supposed to commence. Who we work with is up in the air, but I hope to see an album finished by the end of 2010.”

But the rumor mill around Tyler continues to churn. This month, reports have surfaced that he will replace Simon Cowell as a judge on TV’s “American Idol.”

“He’s assured us that, if this happens, it won’t interfere with recording and touring,” Kramer said. “As long as it’s done within the realms of the schedule of the band, more power to him. It can only be great for us.”