Toronto Sun, Canada
August 28, 2009
Joey Kramer tells hard-hitting story
This was supposed to be the year of Aerosmith.
There was the much ballyhooed summer tour – their first since 2007; an album of all-new material; a new solo record from lead guitarist Joe Perry; and autobiographies from two of the members, drummer Joey Kramer and vocalist Steven Tyler.
After a series of accidents, topped by Tyler’s stage-fall in South Dakota, sidelined the tour last month, the band’s carefully plotted return to the spotlight has fallen by the wayside.
But Aerosmith has lived through many ups and downs, and if there’s a message that fans can take away from Kramer’s newly-released autobiography, “Hit Hard: A Story of Hitting Rock Bottom at the Top,” is that the band can bounce back from anything.
Kramer offers an inside glimpse of the girls, parties and drugs that were habitual during the band’s first 15 years (in one scene, he soberly recounts how his drum tech had to literally push him onstage at a show at Boston College).
In “Hit Hard,” the 59-year-old also candidly expands on the strained relationships he and bandmates Tyler, Perry, rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford and bassist Tom Hamilton have endured during their 39-year history, his battle with depression and his painful family upbringing.
Kramer checked in with JAM! from Boston to talk about how his book is different from other rock memoirs, why he thinks the band has lasted as long as it has and just how much gas Aerosmith still has left in the tank.
“Hit Hard” goes a lot deeper and reveals some pretty personal history. Did you have any reservations about telling your story?
Not really. My commitment to it started right from the beginning and part of my commitment was to be as honest about it as I could be because I decided that I wanted to be of service to people. If people are able to identify and relate to what I am writing about then I accomplished what I was after.
Why was now the right time to write the book?
Well, it just happened to get finished at this point in time. It took me four years to write it. But right now was an apropos time because the band was going out on tour and I had the ability to do meet and greets and book signings. So it worked out real well.
Who is the book written for?
For anyone who is suffering from or dealing with alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, anxiety; if they can read about the stuff I’ve been through on the journey of my life, and it can help them out, then those are the people I’m hoping to reach.
There’s a really gut-wrenching scene in which you recount your father’s reaction after you bought him a brand new Cadillac (his dad was less than impressed). Was there any time in writing the book when you thought, man, it’s too hard going back to those places?
It brought up a lot of emotions for me, but it was also cleansing at the same time.
Until the tour was cancelled, you were out meeting fans. So what’s the reaction been like when people meet you one on one?
The book has allowed people to relate to me on a different level. It makes them realize that you don’t have to be a rock star to crash and burn. We’re all subject to these things in life and becoming clean and sober from drugs is only half the battle. All that does is open the door for you to work on what life’s problems are really all about because it’s really a never ending journey.
It’s a pretty lean tale. Did you leave a lot of it on the cutting-room floor?
There were stories that maybe weren’t worthy of being in the book, so we cut them. When we first transcribed the book it came out to over a 1,000 pages and the finished product is less than 300. But what I did manage to keep in there was the thread that I wanted people to hook into, which is the confusion between love and abuse. It’s a timely subject that a lot of people relate to and can identify with in the book.
You mention time and again in the book how there were many things that could have killed the members of Aerosmith over the years. Did you come away from writing your memoirs feeling a bit charmed?
I think more grateful than anything else.
How did your bandmates react when they heard you were writing “Hit Hard”?
They were all for it. They said, ‘As long as everything that’s in there is honest, Joey, then there are no problems.’ And everything in there is as honest as the day is long. They’re all pretty proud of the result and they’ve all read it.
Did you ever consider revealing some of your more personal tidbits in 1997’s “Walk this Way: The Autobiography of Aerosmith”?
Well, that book was about the band; this book is about me. But that book was too manipulated and controlled by certain other people and a lot of us didn’t get a chance to say what we really wanted to say in that book.
”Hit Hard” is more than just the juicy gossip. How did you strike a balance between how much you wanted to talk about with regard to your own personal history and the band’s?
I don’t think there’s striking a balance. You either do it or you don’t do it. Striking a balance is like saying, ‘Well, I’m going to kind of write about it, but not really;’ and I’m just not that kind of person. I either do something all the way or I don’t do it. So this is not about balance; this is the real s**t.
Did you rely on your own memories or did you go back and interview some people from your early years to help tell the story?
I talked to a lot of people and, along with the help of [co-writer] Keith Garde, we talked to everyone from my sisters to [former Aerosmith guitarist] Ray Tabano to my mother and it all made for an interesting ride.
Did you look to any other rock star memoirs for inspiration?
I read some, not necessarily for inspiration, but I read them to see what they were about. Most of what’s out there are war stories.
In terms of live music nowadays, are you impressed by today’s crop of young artists?
There are few I like. For me it’s hard because being a drummer, if the engine in a band isn’t top flight that kind of kills it for me. But there are some bands I like today like Foo Fighters, because Taylor Hawkins is a good drummer, Green Day I like, Adrian Young from No Doubt. So there’s a couple that I like because their bands are good and the drummers are doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
Do you think today’s young guys have the same commitment Aerosmith had when you were first starting out?
There’s a few of them out there, sure. The ones that don’t get discouraged and just keep doing it no matter what and have enough passion; that believe they can live their dream will do well. Those are the ones that will rise to the top.
Aerosmith survived every kind of musical trend there is. Why is that?
Because our message isn’t about anything in particular. It isn’t political or trendy; it’s about the kids, it’s about life, it’s about what you do, it’s about guys and girls together, men and women together, and I think that Steven has never really received the credit he deserves for being such a clever lyricist. That’s what sets us apart from a lot of other bands.
In light of what’s happened with the injuries to Steven and the cancellation of the tour, how soon will you be back on the road?
I have no idea about that, man. Everything’s in limbo right now.
How long do you see yourself doing the live shows, the albums?
Indefinitely. I don’t see any end. There’s too much juice left in this band for it to end.
Looking back at all the albums you guys have released, is there one Aerosmith record you think didn’t get it’s due from the fans or the critics?
“Just Push Play.” I liked that one.