May 8, 2013
Rock star Steven Tyler laps up the attention as the frontman of Aerosmith, dubbed America’s greatest rock ’n’ roll band. — Photo: Zack Whitford
As a rock star, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith is as old school and larger than life as it gets.
He is flashy, vivacious and clearly revels in the attention directed at him. Unlike many of today’s bands, whose frontmen would defer to bandmates, he makes no apologies for being, essentially, the face of Aerosmith.
He drops f-bombs liberally and speaks like an unrepentant politically incorrect alpha-male from an era where rock ‘n’ roll was not shy about its sexual overtones. If you are looking for angst-ridden navel-gazing or namby-pamby emotional musings, go elsewhere. For Tyler and, by extension, Aerosmith, sexy never went away.
Meeting Life! backstage before the band’s gig at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne last Saturday, he says his mission is to get girls hot under the collar when he performs. His exact words were a little more explicit than that, of course, and unprintable in a family newspaper.
In more child-friendly terms, he adds: “We still like the sexy part of songs and songs are like water, which makes up 80 per cent of the human body. Sexy has got to be 90 per cent of every song.
“When I’m on stage, you don’t really see that I’m 65. Maybe next year, maybe in five years. I think our sound is still as fresh because we like rock ‘n’ roll, man.”
During this exclusive interview in a room decorated with his trademark loud- print scarves hanging from the walls and scented with incense, he showed that more than four decades after Aerosmith first emerged from Boston, his libido is still very much intact. He also dominated most of the interview, which lasted half an hour, while the rest of the band were content to sit back and let him talk.
Guitarist Joe Perry, 62, the band’s most recognised member next to Tyler, was exactly the opposite of the singer – cool and collected, he fielded questions with measured responses.
Drummer Joey Kramer, also 62, filled in during Tyler’s lull moments, while 61- year-old guitarist Brad Whitford – seemingly the only one in the band who looked his age with his white hair and hardened look – sat on the sofa and hardly said a word, occasionally squinting into an iPhone.
The only member missing was bass player Tom Hamilton, 61, who returned to the United States after contracting pneumonia. He was replaced onstage by David Hull, who plays in Perry’s solo band.
Aerosmith, dubbed America’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band, will be performing in Singapore on May 23 at the inaugural Social Star Awards ceremony at Marina Bay Sands and also at a full gig on May 25 at Gardens by the Bay as part of the awards show. The Straits Times is the official Singapore media partner of the event, Hot FM91.3 is the official Singapore radio station and Kiss 92, the supporting Singapore radio station.
Tyler, nicknamed the “Demon Of Screamin” for his banshee wails, says that he is looking forward to coming to Singapore with Aerosmith for their first-ever concert here – not just to play for fans but also for the weather.
“It is called the Global Warming tour,” he says of the name that they have coined for their latest series of worldwide shows. “It’s tropical, hot… I love it. I got a thing about humid. I loooove it. Your skin loves it, your face loves it.”
Fans should expect “good, oldfashioned rock ‘n’ roll”, he says. “Everyone leaves an Aerosmith concert on cloud nine just because we rock their world and they came to see us.”
Indeed, their show after the interview – their second Melbourne show in a week – was full of energy and rock ‘n’ roll theatrics. Tyler’s wide-ranging voice and hyperactive stage antics were in top form. Together with Perry, he ran along the stage’s extended runway right into the sold- out crowd and hammed it up with his trademark scarf-wrapped microphone stand, while smoke machines and a rain of confetti added a celebratory and carnivalesque mood to the stadium rock show.
When the band ran through their bag of hits from the past four decades – including big ballads such as I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, swaggering rockers such as Walk This Way and signature tunes such as Dream On and Janie’s Got A Gun – the crowd of young adults and middle-aged fans sang along lustily.
Perry says the past year has been very good for the band because of the current tour and their new album, Music From Another Dimension!, their 15th studio LP which was released in November.
He says: “We went up on stage and played to amazing crowds in South America and Japan and it was just great. Then, playing those shows with all the energy from the fans when we started finishing the record, we went back to the studio with that energy, so it was kind of like we were together. So it was kind of a pretty good year to keep the energy high. One thing helped the other.”
What makes Aerosmith stand out, other than their achievement as America’s most successful rock band with more than 150 million copies of their albums sold worldwide, is the fact that they have remained nearly the same from their founding in 1970. Whitford joined a year after the band were formed and in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Perry and Whitford briefly left the band.
So, despite talk in recent years of band in-fighting – Tyler’s stint as a judge on American Idol from 2011 to last year, his long recovery from a 2009 stage injury and time in rehabilitation were apparently contentious issues with the rest of the band – they insist that their relationship is tighter than ever.
Says Kramer: “All those things that happened, even if some of them were a long time ago, I think that they made us stronger and helped us to where we are today. Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t trade where we are now for anything because I think we have a better appreciation for what it is that we do and for ourselves and for each other. I have more fun now onstage than I ever did before.”
Tyler, in typically over-the-top fashion, says his life has a “greater meaning” because of the band and the only things that matter to him are Aerosmith and his children. He has been married twice and has a son and three daughters, one of whom is 35-year-old actress Liv Tyler.
“I spent 25 years where I come offstage and I couldn’t talk because my throat hurt, my feet hurt. I’m sick and tired of being in pain, that’s why I took drugs for so many years. But now, the band have never been better – except for Tom not being here – and my feet, they hurt. But my throat right now? It’s good, I still hit the notes, man.”
Thanks to Aerosmith, he says he has been living his dream for more than four decades and he is not about to let a few tiffs between band members get in the way of the group’s longevity.
“It got us our wives, it got us our lovers, it got us our scars on our knees, it got us the money, it got us the hardships. This band is to blame for it all and many people love it and don’t you think we know that?”
Another high point for the group this year was when Tyler and Perry’s songwriting partnership was honoured with one of America’s top accolades for songwriters – a Founders Award given out by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, as well as entry into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
It is a fitting tribute for the pair, once dubbed “The Toxic Twins” for their infamous drug usage, who are responsible for most of the band’s vast discography, which includes 21 Top 40 hit songs such as rock/rap anthem Walk This Way, Love In An Elevator and Dude (Looks Like A Lady).
Tyler, whose full name is Steven Victor Tallarico and who is of Cherokee Indian, Russian and Italian descent, says their songwriting chemistry comes from three factors: head, heart and gut.
“You can either think with your head, play with your heart or play with your gut and it’s gotta be a mixture of all three if you want to stay in it. You can always do an album from your heart but sometimes, I think you got to think with your head a little too.
“The Indians had an old saying: ‘There is something wrong with the white men because they thought with their heads and not with their heart.’”
More diplomatically, if less colourfully, Perry credits the rest of the band for their input. “Even though Steven and I have written a majority of the songs, it’s more about the band. We couldn’t have done it without the band, everybody putting in so it’s kind of like getting it for the fans. Because again, it’s not like the two of us sat down from the beginning and wrote all the songs and did everything ourselves. I mean, everybody threw it in. It’s a little warped, you know what I mean? It’s certainly nice to get noticed for that, it’s not quite exactly accurate, you know.”
They are not only loyal to one another in the band but are also fiercely proud of their hometown of Boston. Aerosmith are among the stars lined up for a May 30 charity concert there in aid of the victims of the recent bombings.
Perry, whose sons were at the marathon but were unhurt, says: “Not being there, well, kind of sucked, you know. Just watching our town going through what it went through from afar was really hard. So we are doing this charity gig for the people who got hurt and just to show that Boston’s a tough town.”
Looking back at their long career, Tyler jokes that the band will be around for the next 43 years. “We’ll be playing, we’ll be f****** playing. As long as I can stand up, I will stand next to this man and play in a band with him. As long as we got each other, we are going to play in a band together,” says the singer, who knows their legacy lies in their songs.
This is his parting shot: “What would you rather hear? Some old Phil Collins song? Or Janie’s Got A Gun?