“Ego, chicks, booze and drugs have killed more bands than anything else.”
It’s November 1, 2009. In a backstage compound a good distance from the rest of his Aerosmith bandmates somewhere in the Ferrari Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Steven Tyler is telling Classic Rock about his future plans.
“I’m going to do something Steven Tyler, working on the brand of myself – Brand Tyler,” he says. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do but a bunch of things have come in that will piss the band off real good. We’ll see what happens.”
This is news. Until tonight, the band and management had limited communications, only revealing snippets of (mis)information indicating that Aerosmith were to take a sabbatical and letting Tyler pursue some vague solo ambitions. The term ‘sabbatical’ is usually PR code for a number of scenarios including a drug relapse, a band member going into rehab, the band sacking their manager, the band sacking a member, their record label refusing to release an album, or a member quitting.
All this and a whole lot more has occurred in Aerosmith’s chequered history and today a mix of rumour and fact flies thick and fast: Steven Tyler has relapsed. There are worrying reports that his Hepatitis C has returned. Tyler wants to take time off and release a solo album but reportedly the record company won’t allow this to happen until Aerosmith deliver a new record – their last on Sony. Tyler sacked Aerosmith’s management and went with friend and superfan Jason Flom of UEG (and later sacks them to go with Allen Kovac of 10th Street Entertainment, reps for Mötley Crüe and Buckcherry).
So while Damage Control Inc raise their hands and bleat “Hiatus!” elsewhere in Abu Dhabi the rest of the band are in no mood to gloss over the problems. “We’ve been putting up with Steven’s bullshit for 40 years,” says drummer Joey Kramer who in his candid memoirs, Hit Hard, explained that “the band was my life, but it was also the source of pain, humiliation, and abuse. Steven could be punishing and critical when his expectations weren’t met.”
“[Tyler]’s not the easiest person to have a conversation with,” agrees guitarist Brad Whitford. “Right now I wouldn’t want to talk to him. He’s all angry and… I don’t know what’s going on with him. It’s all just very depressing…”
A month later, Steven Tyler admits himself to rehab and Joe Perry announces that the band are looking for a new singer.
So what, exactly, is happening in the world of Aerosmith?
New York, 1986. It’s been almost two years since Aerosmith’s re-formation and the stench of addiction, resentments and general dysfunction still clings to the tenuous threads that hold this once legendary American rock’n’roll institution together. The entire band have their little peccadilloes and habits but Steven Tyler, as usual, is the proverbial loose cannon. With cancelled dates and embarrassing press interviews – in which the obviously inebriated singer espouses the virtues of his ‘new-found sobriety’ – it’s becoming evident that this once anticipated reunion is going to extinguish itself like some pathetic, anti-climactic damp squib.
Comeback album, Done With Mirrors, is done on mirrors, sells badly and leaves their new record label boss, the fearsome David Geffen, fuming. Redemption comes when Tyler and Perry guest on New York rap trio Run-DMC’s hip-hop cover version of Walk This Way, introducing Aerosmith to a whole new MTV generation.
Unfortunately, Tyler (and other members of the band) is in no fit state to take advantage of this golden opportunity as he puts all his energies into a burgeoning opiate addiction. As a last resort, the band’s latest manager – Tim Collins – decides to organise an intervention (where, in a last ditch attempt, addicts/alcoholics are confronted by family, friends and a professional third party), luring the drug-addled frontman to his office at 6am under the pretence of doing an interview with a British radio station. Suffering from acute withdrawals (it’s too early in the morning to pick up his daily script at the methadone clinic), Tyler finds himself confronted by his bandmates who proceed to air their list of grievances and give him a final ultimatum.
“I had to listen to all my friends – who I just got high with the day before – tell me what a schmuck I am and what a total fuck-up I’d become!” Tyler recalled in the band’s autobiography Walk This Way. “I’m grateful because I got sober. But I’m resentful to this day over the way it happened.”
Walk This Way, which charts Aerosmith rise, fall and miraculous resurrection, had a significant part to play in the band’s restored credibility and subsequent role as poster boys for sobriety. Tyler was the first member to go to rehab and clean up (bassist Tom Hamilton was the last) and when the band returned to touring, Tim Collins did everything in his power to ensure that they were kept away from temptation (mini bars in hotels were emptied and the road crew were not allowed to drink or take drugs in front of the band).
When Guns N’ Roses (protégés both musically and in chemical consumption) came on as support due to the insistence of the record company, Collins quite rightly feared the worst and ensured that GN’R were out of the venue and long gone before his charges arrived. Aerosmith garnered a reputation as recovery Nazis. (To add a bit of levity to the situation, the band made up some t-shirts with a list of all the rehabs they had been through instead of tour dates.)
Was the whole ‘sharp as a thistle, clean as a whistle’ image foisted upon Aerosmith to win back the trust of industry peers? Was Walk This Way just part of an elaborate PR campaign? “You’ll have noticed that I contributed hardly anything to that book,” says drummer Joey Kramer today. “That’s because I was really unhappy about it. It was Tim Collins’ idea.”
“Making our problems public was about proving that we were back,” counters guitarist Joe Perry. “We were one of the first bands to come out and say we burnt out. Now people could see that you could actually go through some pretty horrible times, come back and have some sanity in your life again. But it started to wear pretty thin after a while, it got to be old news and we just wanted to be known as Aerosmith.” Having survived four decades of fights, fallouts and fateful accidents, at the end of the noughties Aerosmith’s ‘old news’ became headline news again. Steven Tyler had again fallen off the wagon (as well as a stage in Sturgis, North Dakota, in August 2009) in spectacular fashion and in many ways Aerosmith seemed to be pretty much in the same place they were in 1986. This time round Tyler had checked himself into rehab and, instead of celebrating their 40th anniversary, the band seemed to be going through another midlife crisis. Were Aerosmith finished?
Los Angeles, November 23, 2009. Joe Perry removes his black ‘Mad Max’ style goggles. “OK,” he says, “so it’s official: Aerosmith are looking for a new singer.”
A gaunt figure, attired in a stylish junkie chic that involves a copious amount of scarves, antique jewellery and muted colours, Perry appears to be a shy, humble and intense man who only talks when he has something to say. And tonight he wants to talk.
We are sitting in a space cruiser of a limousine gliding effortlessly down the West Coast freeway towards Fresno, where the newly revived Joe Perry Project will play a show at the House Of Blues as a part of a mini-tour to promote his new album, Have Guitar, Will Travel (released in October in the US and available for the first time in the UK and Europe free with issue 142 of Classic Rock).
When I say ‘we’ I’m talking about me, Joe, photographer Ross Halfin, tour manager John Bionelli and Mrs Billie Perry, the lady whose exquisite torso is displayed on Joe’s ‘Billie’ guitar. Ross and I were initially assigned to cover Perry’s solo outing but since then the story had become inextricably linked with the Aerosmith drama that seemed to be unfolding around us by the hour. Over the last couple of months the internet had been ablaze with gossip, rumour and even some hard facts about Steven Tyler’s rapidly fracturing relationship with his bandmates, kicked off by the ‘Brand Tyler’ story on Classic Rock’s website in November.
Although Perry was then focused on promoting his new album, he accepted that media focus would be on Aerosmith. “That band has been my life for almost 40 years so I’d expect you to have some Aerosmith questions,” he sighs. And then a smile spreads across his distinct chiselled features: “And to be honest: all the current media attention and bullshit hasn’t done any harm to ticket sales for my band.”
The seeds of the Have Guitar, Will Travel album were sown in early 2009 when Tyler called off pre-production sessions for a new Aerosmith album, leaving two and a half months’ studio downtime. Originally Perry was planning to put together an all-star production calling upon the services of a vast array of talent including Jimmy Page, Slash, Scott Weiland, Lil Wayne and Snoop Dog (something he still planned to do at a later date). “I envisioned doing that after the Aerosmith album was done,” he explains, “but I didn’t have time to call people up and get it together. I knew I could do Have Guitar… if I really put pedal to the metal.”
The aborted Aerosmith album was one of the key factors responsible for the split. Perry had been dissatisfied with recent releases, wasn’t happy about using outside songwriters and felt that the band had lost direction and needed to return to their roots and recapture past glories like Toys In The Attic and Rocks.
“I don’t think we’ve made a decent album in years,” he snorts. “Just Push Play is my least favourite… When we recorded it there was never a point where all five members were in the room at the same time and Aerosmith’s major strength is playing together. It was a learning experience for me: it showed me how not to make an Aerosmith record.”
In an effort to pull things together, Perry called upon the services of über producer Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Rage Against The Machine and Neil Young), a man who had first impressed him as a fledging engineer on the sessions for their 1993 album Get A Grip.
Perry: “I’ve always wanted to work with Brendan. He’s recorded some of the best rock’n’roll in the last 10 years. After we did Get A Grip, both Steven and I wanted to work with that guy. Steven was supposed to come down to my studio. The two of us hadn’t written a song together for over 10 years and I just finally just said, ‘Steven: c’mon, let’s get down and do it the way we used to, y’know; you play drums [Tyler began his career as a drummer with a band called The Strangeurs], I’ll play guitar and we’ll write some songs.’ I was expecting him in the studio and then suddenly didn’t hear from him.”
Tyler resurfaced a couple of weeks later and cancelled the sessions, disrupting the recording schedule as Billie Perry recalls: “It was devastating,we were all set to go. We all made arrangements at home: the kids, the crew, everything was fucking booked! It’s a big process.”
“Moving Aerosmith – it’s like an ocean liner, y’know what I mean?” agrees Joe. “It’s difficult to change direction.”
It was early in the summer of 2008 that rumours began circulating about Tyler auditioning for Led Zeppelin (six months after their 02 reunion gig) – a rumour that Joe, who normally deals with the press by the code of Omerta, confirms. Perry: “When Steven disappeared I called around and somebody said that he was in London trying out for Led Zeppelin. It’s something I’ve never talked about before outside of the family, so to speak, and kept out of the press. It’s a kind of window into how hard it’s been to keep the partnership together. It’s certainly not the first time things like that have happened. That’s the downside of our relationship.”
The Led Zeppelin auditions came about through Henry Smith, a childhood friend of Tyler’s who’d worked with Zeppelin (in fact Tyler invited Smith to accompany him to the Classic Rock Roll Of Honour in 2007, where they sat at a table with Jimmy Page). From various reports it transpires that Tyler came to the rehearsals unprepared and under the impression that he would be writing new material with the band: resulting in some shambolic sessions, embarrassed awkward moments and the Plant-shaped lead singer post still vacant.
Perry recently managed to catch up with Jimmy Page at last year’s Classic Rock awards to get the full SP on the situation: “[Page] said he felt really awkward about the audition, but ultimately it was a group decision.” Tyler returned to the States thinking that Aerosmith were oblivious to his recent escapades and things carried on as normal until the tumble in Dakota, after which it gradually became apparent to Perry that his cohort was working to a different agenda.
“After the Jimmy Page thing happened, Brendan, who was waiting for us to get something together, ran out of time and went off to produce Pearl Jam who got a number one record,” Perry says with a grimace. “Steven didn’t want to work with him – that was the vibe I got. It was like, ‘Let’s go into the studio and we can finish the record in a month with Marti Frederiksen, then we can be off Sony and take two years off.’ I wanted the last record on Sony to be at least as fucking good as it could be, so why wouldn’t you want to work with a Brendan O’Brien or Rick Rubin? We hadn’t done a studio album for about eight years and I felt it was time to make a real Aerosmith record. Steven just wanted to get off Sony so he could do his solo album.”
Despite the fact that Aerosmith completed their postponed dates, this was the last time the Toxic Twins communicated, with the exception of a brief telephone call and Tyler’s bewildering guest appearance with the Joe Perry Project in New York in late November 2009. Appearing from out of nowhere (and leaving as soon as the song finished) he said cryptically from the stage, “Joe Perry, you are a man of many colours. But I, motherfucker, am the rainbow!” (“I wonder if Steven knows that the rainbow is the symbol of Gay Pride?” says Perry.) Since then, up until 2010 they had only liaised via their separate managers and Joe could only surmise what his other half was up to.
Perry: “I think Steven wants to go off and do other projects and that’s unfortunate. I’ve had to put things on hold many times. I’ve wanted to say, ‘Look guys, I need three months off’ to do this or that. But to be viable, Aerosmith needs to record a new studio record and do a tour behind it. We need to deliver to the fans. I know Steven wants to do an album, write a book and go on Fantasy Camp. He’s never told me to my face that’s what he wants to do. He’s never come to me and said, ‘Look, I wanna do this, so if we do this we can get to there’ – I just pick up everything second hand. I know he loves to play with Aerosmith or at least I know that’s what he used to love to do. But now I guess he wants to do other things, which is fine as long as it’s planned out, so the rest of the band can plan their lives around it.”
With the new solo album under his belt and a touring outfit (making their debut in the UK as guests of Bad Company in April 2010) Perry had at last been able to put his personal ambitions to the fore.
“I’ve wanted for years to find some guys that I could work with because I realised a long time ago that I can do other things alongside Aerosmith. When the band first got back together it was 24 hours Aerosmith, rebuilding the band, because we had burned so many bridges. I didn’t have time to explore anything else. In the past I’ve had to turn down a lot of things that would have been fun to do. Now that Aerosmith are on an indefinite hiatus, everyday I’m getting requests to do stuff, it’s just great.”
This was the first time the Joe Perry Project had been on the road since the early 80s and with the exception of the guitarist and bassist David Hull featured an all new line-up; Marty Richards (drums), Paul Santo (keyboards/guitar) and Hagen Grohe. Like Hull, both Richards and Santos were grizzled veterans of the local Boston scene with CVs that included stints with J. Geils and Ringo Starr. Grohe, hailing from a small village in Germany, was the new kid on the block, having been discovered by Billie Perry. After hearing about Journey finding their new singer, Arnel Pineda, via the internet, Billie decided to scour the sites for new talent.
“I saw this group called Hagen and decided to check them out for a couple of days,” she explains. “He was doing covers and there was something about him. I told Joe and he wasn’t sure. I said, ‘Joe: it’s once in a lifetime you hear someone like that – what do we have to lose? A plane ticket?’ He’s been in the business for 10 years and is the nicest person you could meet. So after Steven blew the friggin’ Aerosmith record we got on a bus and headed down south to play Brendan the new material and he said, ‘Yeah, the kid has pipes.’ So we thought, ‘Fuck it, let’s just put out our own record. We can’t count on Tyler anymore, he’s a fuckin’ burnout.’”
“Steven Tyler doesn’t act like a sober person. I’m not hanging out with the guy, but his history of drug abuse is well documented and, like many people in this position, the prospects aren’t good.” – Brad Whitford
‘I kept the right ones out and let the wrong ones in.’ – Amazing, Aerosmith
Ferrari Stadium, Abu Dhabi, November 1, 2009. Aerosmith are about to close the World Grand Prix at the newly built United Emirates venue and Steven Tyler is getting ready to perform what at the moment looks like being the last ever show featuring the classic line up. The flamboyant if not slightly eccentric singer is ensconced in a compound a significant walk away from Aerosmith’s dressing rooms (he is also staying in a hotel a three-hour drive away from the rest of the band and crew’s accommodation). Located on top of a man-made mound, it consists of two large white portakabins with exotic interiors that are draped in sheets and colourful cushions, accoutrements one would expect to find in a local opium den rather than a band dressing room. It’s typical Tyler: high camp, low rent. He is accompanied with an equally ostentatious entourage that includes manager Tim Heyne, who has the gracious but ferocious manner of a sedated Rottweiler (and whose services will be dispensed with a month later).
Feisty and fashionable girlfriend, Erin Brady, is also on hand. My most memorable encounter with Erin occurred at a hotel in London a couple of years previously. It was a cold, crisp winter evening and photographer Ross Halfin and myself were sat in her room waiting for Tyler. Erin was wearing a gossamer wisp of a designer skirt and when Ross pointed out that it was freezing outside, she just smiled, lifted up her dress, and stuck a couple of fingers between her legs. “It may be cold outside boys, but it’s hot in here!” she said as Tyler emerged from the bathroom to observe our paralysed expressions with a conspiratorial grin.
Today Tyler seems slightly edgy, especially about my appearance in Abu Dhabi. “Once the band hit the final note and the show is over, then I’ll tell you the whole story,” he promises. It never happens: all further attempts to interview the singer are rebuffed, with management telling us that, “regretfully, Steven has had to return to the East Coast quickly to immerse himself into some time-sensitive endeavours that require his full attention.”
Outwardly Tyler looks OK. He has the beginnings of a beer gut that is at odds with his scrawny gait and with his hyperactive mannerisms and speed jive-talk that bounces off at surreal tangents, it’s difficult to tell if the man is out of it or his normal crazy self. The fact that a couple of months later he’d put himself back into rehab suggests the former.
At the time of the interview, Tyler was enthused about the break from the band and was still finishing his autobiography (entitled Does The Noise In My Head Bother You?). “It should be coming out in March/April,” he says. “It’s been a difficult run. The original transcripts were done while I was on tour with the band. It’s kind of hard writing a book between dates.”
Still recovering from his fall, the dressing room is kitted out with exercise equipment and Tyler admits it has taken a couple of months to get well enough to do this show, which gave him more time to work on the book. But even with the current rift, he says he’s elated at playing in the United Emirates and has noticed that Aerosmith seem to still be capable of pulling in a new young audience. “Holy shit! Because of Guitar Hero there are 12 and 13-year-old kids coming up and telling me the lyrics they like,” he enthuses. “And they know I wrote the lyrics, whereas on some of the albums it says ‘Tyler/Perry’ and people thought that Joe wrote the lyrics. I am the lyricist of this band. Joe’s got a tech to change his strings. I don’t have one to change my strings [laughs]. Some of us have to work a little harder, write the songs – but that’s what I love to do the most. I’ve got eight songs written for the solo record, whereas Joe has his own solo record out with some German guy singing on it. I wish him the best of luck. I’m not sure how it’s going. I don’t think the radio’s playing it. I haven’t heard it. ”
As a lady behind us makes gestures that it’s time to wind up, I ask a by-now- animated and communicative Tyler about his future with the band. “No matter what I do I am looked upon as the vocalist of Aerosmith,” he says. “So I can use that to my advantage. We don’t speak much anymore. I know Tom [Hamilton] is working on health issues and I just say my prayers for him. I’ve nothing but love for Tom. The band is so fucking great. It’s still the original guys, we’re still kicking ass and taking names.”
‘And I’m saying a prayer for the desperate hearts tonight.’ – Amazing, Aerosmith
“One of the reasons for the current hiatus is because there are internal problems in the band and to be perfectly honest one of them is prescription drugs,” says Joey Kramer, when we speak in Abu Dhabi before the show. “It needs to be dealt with and I’m sure it will be. For younger people it’s easier to come in and out of using. But when you get to the point where you’re 61 years old [Tyler was 61 at the time of this interview] and you are abusing prescription drugs it’s much more difficult to stop. It’s about people, places and things. If you’re surrounding yourself with the wrong people, everybody is enabling you and you are weak-minded, that’s where you’re going to go.”
There had been quite a few stories querying Tyler’s state of health in recent years, one of the most famous being his appearance at the MAP awards in May 2008, giving Slash an award for sobriety. As one onlooker observed: “He was so wasted that he didn’t know where he was and completely incoherent.”
Meanwhile, some of the singer’s friends in recovery had come up to the plate to confirm that there was a time when the troubled singer took his recovery very seriously.
“I remember when I played with Aerosmith at The Marquee and Donington in 1990 they really embraced their sobriety,” recalls Jimmy Page. “This is before I got clean and it was inspiring to be around.”
“I’m the only sober member of the band at the moment,” one of the group tells me off the record, and it is hard to gauge the band’s current state of health. One of them openly drinks and there are suspicions that it’s not only Tyler who is indulging in a bit of self-medication, which would seem to make their current hostility towards him a bit hypocritical.
As Tim Cain of the Illinois Herald pointed out: “It’s interesting to watch Aerosmith throw Steven Tyler under the bus, then man the wheels of the bus to back over him a couple of times to make sure that he’s down. Is the pot calling the kettle black here?”
It seems that in an effort to win back the trust of the industry, Aerosmith painted themselves into a corner with an image that was championed by an over-zealous manager and not totally supported by the rest of the band. It was a sorry state of affairs that they had recently hit the headlines not because of their stunning live shows or a number one album but due to the fact that their frontman took a dive from the stage and then a few days later was captured on YouTube buying booze. For the likes of Keith Richards this sort of behaviour is mandatory. For Tyler it’s a faux pas that seemed to have sent them spiralling into another personal rock bottom.
“It’s so sad that the breaking up of the band is due to the same things as before: drugs and girlfriends,” laments Billie Perry. “You would think that people would learn from past mistakes. I guess history just repeats itself. It’s so selfish because it involves four other mates.”
“We can’t sit around waiting for Steven,” Joe Perry says firmly, sounding like a man losing his patience. “It’s not fair to the rest of the guys. This is an important year for us and we need to get out there, tour and celebrate our anniversary.”
The rest of the band had already put out the feelers for potential frontmen. Billy Idol, Chris Cornell and Paul Rodgers had all been approached. Lenny Kravitz, meanwhile, had already publicly turned down an offer out of apparent loyalty to Tyler, a family friend.
“It would be great to find some fresh talent but in all honesty we need to find someone with a track record or we wouldn’t be able to get decent-sized venues,” admits Perry. “If we got someone like Chris Cornell then we could do some of each other’s material, put on a great show and go out for a respectable fee.”
So would Aerosmith sans Tyler work? Judging from the postings on the internet, most fans were totally appalled at the thought. “There is no Aerosmith without Steven Tyler!” seemed to be the unanimous verdict.
“It’s big shoes: nobody could replace Steven, he’s one of a kind,” agrees Whitford, adding, “but if somebody was willing to do it and the chemistry was right, why not?”
Perry was also aware that the band’s career is time-limited, some members were totally dependent on money made from touring, and as he so eloquently put it, “the end is closer than the beginning”.
“I grew up in an era when a band lasted two or three years and then died – literally. Janis, Jimi, and Jim…” Perry reflects. “Five years after Aerosmith got back together I realised how fragile we are as humans. There was a time I thought we were bullet proof but then things happened and I came to a realisation that I had to play every gig as if it was my last show.”
Perry admitted that the door would always be open for Tyler: “It would be great to do a special concert to celebrate our 40th anniversary and if Steven wants to show up and sing a couple of songs, he will always be welcome.”
“My ideal scenario would be to put to put Aerosmith back on track,” agrees Whitford. “We’re in the twilight of our career so it would be nice to do it right. No one person in this band is going to make anything as big as Aerosmith,” he adds, laughing. “It’s not going to happen.”
At the time of going to press there had been another strange twist to this ever-evolving story. According to certain sources, Aerosmith would be regrouping in the spring to rehearse for a series of large shows in 2010. This coincided with when Tyler completed his stint in rehab. To add fuel to the fire it seemed that Perry had cancelled some mooted European and Japanese dates (just leaving the UK part of the tour intact). If this was true then the first date for the re-formed Aerosmith, with or without Tyler, would more than likely be in April at the International Show Of Peace Concert in China at Beijing’s famous Bird’s Nest Stadium (the venue for the 2008 Olympics). Perry had claimed that, in fact, he – not Aerosmith – would be playing, but the rumours persisted. Certainly, Aerosmith still appeared on the event’s official website as one of the ‘invited’ artists .
(The thought occurred that perhaps all of this was just another form of intervention – a way of shocking Tyler into action and rehab – but Classic Rock didn’t think so. Apart from anything else, that would happen behind closed doors, not with knives out in public.)
Of course, for Steven Tyler to front the band in China was dependent on him completing rehab, which was not a given (success rate for people completing treatment is between 30-50 percent) and wanting to rejoin the band. This did, at least, seem to be the case as Tyler had confirmed in his most recent press statement: “I am eager to be back on the stage and in the recording studio with my bandmates.”
“I think that over the years we’ve learned that the magic is in having five guys that work together, make music and put personalities aside,” said Perry. “We may not be the best musicians in the world but there’s a certain thing that meshes together and it gets stronger with time. We’re at our strongest when we’re playing together. We’re kinda like a family by choice and as with most families you’re not always on the best of terms. So you’ve got to figure out how to make it work because you’re bonded together. Families are bonded by blood – bands are bonded together by the magic of being able to make music.”
“It’s like a marriage,” concluded Tyler. “Some of us don’t get along but when we’re on stage we sure as fuck do and that’s all that really matters. Right?”
Have Guitar, Will Travel Joe Perry talks you through his solo album, track by track.
WE’VE GOT A LONG WAY TO GO
“I had most of the album on demos with my vocals on them, but I wrote that one with Hagen in mind. Usually I stockpile lyrics over the years for songs. Usually it’s a phrase or a line and it will gel and I’ll thumb through my lyric book. Sometimes I’ll go down to the studio and I won’t leave until I have some lyrics, even a chorus, just something to get it started. In this case, it was one of the ones I had in the notebook and the whole line about ‘give me something real’ was all about listening to conspiracy stuff and the bullshit that goes on with the elections.”
“The sound at the beginning is an instrument called a Waterphone and it inspired something in me that brought a whole Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas thing. I can remember reading that and actually doing it when the Project played Vegas. We went from gig to gig in a van, we’d picked up some stewardesses, and it was just three days of madness. I admire Hunter S. Thompson from a distance and I can definitely relate to his need for isolation and space so you can blow up things if you need to. That probably explains my fascination for explosives, although I didn’t fool around with that stuff back in the days when I was fucked up.”
DO YOU WONDER
“Marti Frederiksen and I wrote that for Just Push Play about 10 years ago. When I played to Brendan O’Brien he loved it and said we should consider it for the next Aerosmith album but Steven never came up with any lyrics for it. And when work on the album went down I thought, ‘Fuck it! It’s been almost 10 years, Brendan thinks it’s got potential, I think I’ll put it on my record’.”
SOMEBODY’S GONNA GET (THEIR HEAD KICKED IN TONITE)
“It’s pretty well known that I’m a huge Fleetwood Mac fan. They probably influenced me the most as to what a band could be. It’s a song I’ve always wanted to cover and I can remember playing it to the guys about 15 years ago but it never went anywhere. I knew it was a song that needed a band to play it, which is why I didn’t consider it for my last solo record. But this time around it was a no brainer. It’s also a tribute to Gene Vincent. If Elvis is the polished diamond ring, Gene Vincent wears the brass knuckles.”
“That’s the one that articulates the feelings on what’s going on out there. We’re fed bullshit through the media and all the world’s leaders are puppets. That’s why the lyrics are a little darker than you would find on an Aerosmith record. That’s another reason for doing a solo record, because you can get out there and do whatever you want and you don’t have to answer to anybody.”
“It didn’t occur to me that there was an Aerosmith song with the same title until much later. Basically I wanted this album to be a soundtrack for a live show. I wanted to play songs that people hadn’t heard before that they would remember. So I kind of simplified things. I’ve boxed myself in many times with weird tuning and things like that. On this one I was determined to be able to play the whole album on one guitar and I pretty much got away with it. When I was originally thinking about doing this album I was going to bring in a bunch of different singers and getting some guest players. Obviously Jimmy Page is someone I would have called, Slash. As for singers I was thinking about Scott Weiland, Robin Zander, and Lil Wayne. Maybe I’ll do that next time.”
“This one has to be about 12⁄14 years old and it was one of the first things I wrote when I built my new studio, The Boneyard. I went guitar crazy on it and in the end it was really hard to find places to sing on it, so I decided to turn it into an instrumental and throw a few more guitars on it!”
OH LORD (21 GRAMS)
“That’s one of those songs that’s more like a poem. I’ve always loved Jim Morrison and the way he approached rock’n’roll. I always looked at his stuff as poetry with music under it. Even though he was a rock singer who wrote rock songs, he always thought of himself as more of a performance artist, he was always very impromptu and never doing a song the same twice and I’ve always admired that.”
SCARE THE CAT
“We’d had our cat for about a month and he was kind of experimenting, loitering around different parts of the house and finally came down to the studio and started getting used to the music. Anyway we were getting ready to lay down this track, I had set everything up, and he was sitting on top of the amp. I hit a chord to check the sound and he bolted like lightning. So hence the name.”
“That speaks for itself. They’ve been putting chips in animals for years. I have Friesian horses that are pure bred and they put a chip in under the skin that has all the information that proves they’re legitimate. Then I saw some pictures of people having them injected under their skin. Freedom speaks to that in a very cynical black-humour kind of way.”