Steven Tyler of Aerosmith has always been the most outspoken member of the band throughout the years, as most great frontmen tend to be. Lead guitarist Joe Perry has usually let his guitar do the talking for him, up until now. He put his axe down long enough to put pen to paper and open up his soul for the entire world to read about. The end result is a New York Times bestseller entitled ROCKS: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith. It’s a very honest look at Joe’s life in and out of one of the most iconic rock bands of all time. He tells of all the ups and downs, the drugs, how he managed not to kill Steven Tyler, and the unique bond between himself and four other bad boys from Boston. I spoke with Joe recently about his candid book and what the future holds in store for him.
I know a lot of time and work goes into writing an autobiography. Did this end up being harder than you thought it would be?
Yeah, I knew right from the start that the hard part was going to be having to go back and revisit some of the more painful times in my life and own up to some of my own fuck ups, and put them out there for the whole world to see. In my mind, to be worth reading it shouldn’t be a self serving type of thing. You know, “he did this,” and, “they did that,” and, “we hit the road and they did this and that,” and so forth. I needed to put in my share of the screw ups because I could be a real asshole once in a while too, just like anybody else. I was going to put it all out there for everyone to see, even the personal stuff between me and my wife. We had to talk about that first to see if she was going to be ok with putting it all out there. She was ok with it, you know, with the kids being grown up and all that. She was ok with it. It was painful for her; it was painful for me, but there were also a lot of good times to write about in there too. The painful times seem to hang out there and get more focus when you’re going through it, but that’s what writing an autobiography is, or at least a good one anyway.
The media really seems to shift their focus towards the bad stuff that has happened along the way, such as the fighting between you and Steven (Tyler). There was plenty of that to share, but I came away with more of a sense of brotherhood between the two of you. Did you purposely set out to express that in the book or did it just happen naturally once you started writing?
Well, because it’s the truth, it just came out in the book. You know, I’m wondering how I even put up with some of his stuff. I know a lot of people would have turned their back after the first or second time that he did something fucked up like he did, and turned around and left. That’s why a lot of bands break up: because they don’t deal with that shit or accept it. I think that was the hardest part for me to figure out; well, not just me, but the whole band. It’s like you said, they like to focus on me and Steven; we’re the most outspoken and the most A-type personalities in the band and the fucking loudest. Bottom line is learning how to get along and not take it home. Those were probably the biggest things to deal with if we were going to keep the band together. Since that was the goal, no matter what happens backstage or how long we fucking yell at each other, we’re going to get back on-stage tomorrow night and give the audience the best fucking show that we can. We still love to play together and I know it sounds like a cliché, but it keeps you young. I fucking feel like I’m eighteen again when I’m up there playing with Steven and Tom and Joey and Brad. I feel like we’re the same kids that were at the fucking apartment back at 1325 Commonwealth Avenue. It’s a weird fucking sensation because there’s no one else around us who’s been with us from the beginning. It’s like a club and there are only five guys in it and no one else can join it. You can’t be in it because you weren’t there to see all the shit that happened, all the shit backstage, all the trials and tribulations. When we get on-stage, all the other shit just seems to fall away because I haven’t changed and Steven hasn’t changed, and we just learned how to deal with it.
You guys definitely have a quality of trait about you that I think most of the younger generation out there seems to be missing. That kind of kinsmanship seems to be sorely lacking in a lot of bands out there today.
Well, when I look around it’s pretty rare air that we’re in. There’s ZZ Top and up until about a year ago Cheap Trick and that was about it as far as bands that have been around for a long time with the original members and still out there doing it. Rick’s son is drumming for them now and it’s still in the family, but it’s still not the same guys. They’re still a great band and they should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and they’re not and that pisses me off. In the meantime, that’s not what this interview is about, but I wanted to get that in there.
That’s not a problem because I am in total agreement with you there.
Also, just look at the Stones: they’ve had members die or leave, but it’s still that core of them there. When you hear Charlie (Watts) and Keith (Richards) lock up, not matter what they are playing, you can’t bottle that. What you’re hearing is 50 years of playing and playing and playing and you can’t fucking bottle that man; that’s magic man. I saw them this summer and they were the fucking best that I’ve seen them, and I saw them back in 1968-69 when they had just put out the Exile on Main Street record. It’s that element of time that you can’t replace. You can practice, practice and practice, but you can’t replace going out on-stage and playing night after night.
I think you and the Stones are a rare breed of band that we are seeing less and less of these days.
It’s very frustrating because we want to be the last band standing, but it looks like those guys are going to be the last ones the way they are going. It just goes to show that age has nothing to do with it.
Oh, most definitely, and you see examples of that all the time with senior citizens running major marathons and parachuting and all sorts of things.
You see it in art everywhere as well; they’re going to write or paint whether they’re famous or not. I mean, just look at fucking Van Gogh. This was back in a time when not everyone could see a Van Gogh painting; you couldn’t just see it on-line like you can everything today. He died penniless from syphilis in a hut and it wasn’t until years later when more people saw his work that they realized what a genius he was.
I think it was something that I’ve always tried to do and that was a lesson in really trying to listen to your instincts. When I quit prep school, that was one of those turning points where I listened to my instincts. I didn’t know where I was going, but it was like jumping off a boat into the water and not knowing what’s in the water. In the later years, especially before we let go of that last manager, I slipped and let things go as far as I did because I wasn’t following my instincts. So, yeah, that was probably the biggest thing that I can thing that I learned from it.
You have so many different hats that you now wear, including musician, author, husband, father, hot sauce creator, just to name a few. Is there anything else on your bucket list, if you have one, that you still want to do?
I haven’t stopped or slowed down enough over the last four years to even think about that. It’s been so hectic and there seemed to be something going on everyday including the 40th anniversary of the band, Steven and I getting inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, and so many other things have happened as well. I think I need some time and I think that after the book tour and interviews are over that I’m going to take my phone and use it for fucking target practice. I think that I’m going to take my wife, go off in the woods and plant a garden or something because I need some space. I think that after I do that, I will be able to answer your question better.
I think going off the grid would be a great way for you to regain focus and recharge yourself.
That’s it right there, you said it. You know, there are some people that I want to meet, like Bob Dylan, and I hope I get to some day. I want a dog and I haven’t had a dog in four years. I loved that German Shepherd that’s in the book. We’ve had a couple of small dogs that we could bring on the road with us. I think there’s an Elvis or Sinatra song about having a lot of living left to do.
When all is said and done, how do you want people to remember you?
Well, basically as the guy who found his soul mate and was able to have a great family. We’ve raised some great kids. They inspire me all the time. I want to be remembered as a great father and someone who touched a lot of lives with my music. We’ve always tried to stay away from politics and tried to give people a respite from life because life can be very hard. We’re entertainers and providing an outlet for people to feel good is the best that I can ask for.
I took a question from @aeronatty on Twitter who wanted to ask about what your next solo album will be like? Is there going to be one?
Oh yeah, I’m always in the studio writing and I would write for the next Aerosmith record whenever it was going to be. Then, it started getting to the point that the records were coming out further and further apart. There are a lot of bands who did the majority of their writing at the beginning of their careers and then it thinned out, but I think I’m doing just the opposite. I’ve got more and more that I want to get down on tape than I ever have before. Now, how I will release it hasn’t been determined just yet, especially with the way the business is now. I’ve got four or five songs that I need to finish up, plus four or five songs that I’d like to cover, but first I’m going to take that time off.
I have another social media question from Shimaine in New Zealand who wants to know if there is one song that you’re exceptionally proud of and why?
I have to say that I think we got this second wind on the album Night in the Ruts. We were totally burned out when we did Draw the Line, but then we got our second wind for some reason and we were playing really good. We never got to go out and do some of that stuff live because I quit the band during the course of that record. There are some really great songs on there and I think that ”Chiquita” is a great one and it has an interplay between the two guitars that nobody had done before at that point. There are a couple on that record that I’m really proud of, but especially that one. Who knows? Maybe on the next tour we’ll play a couple of them?
One last question and I should have asked this one earlier, but we got side tracked on something else. How is your book tour doing?
Man, I wish I had kept a journal at those things. I was really looking forward to the book signings and it ended up being a really tough process. Well, it was mainly switching gears because of having to do live television at 7:00 in the morning, then podcasts, and this and that. You know, being able to talk to the people was a really cool thing, even if it was just for a few minutes and get a little feedback from them. When I was in Boston, I ran into people that I hadn’t seen in 30 years and even some of the guys from the projects that played with me back in the day. We exchanged phone numbers and I’m going to make a better effort to stay in touch with them now because none of us are getting any younger.
Well, that certainly is an understatement whether we’re rock stars or not. Joe, although I could probably sit here and talk shop with you all night long, I think our time has come to a close. This has definitely been an honor and a treat for me because you guys are definitely a big part of the soundtrack to my life.
Thanks a lot man; that’s why I am still doing it because I hear things like that and I think, “hell yeah, we did it!” I never get tired of it because I never really thought we’d get here, you know what I mean? You know, sometimes I feel like I’m watching a movie and I can’t believe that it’s me up there and that it all really worked out.
ROCKS: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith here:
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