Patricia Sheridan’s Breakfast With … Joe Perry

Aerosmith founding member Joe Perry’s volatile bond with frontman Steven Tyler is chronicled in his memoir, “Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith.” The guitarist also has recorded five solo albums and this year produced a Christmas EP. The 64-year-old father of three sons has been married twice — since 1985 to current wife Billie — and although he no longer pilots his own plane, he and his wife spend time relaxing with their horses or scuba diving.

Patricia Sheridan's Breakfast With Joe Perry     

How did you reconcile the boy you were who loved science and nature with the rocker you became?

I think as the music business started to change and all the pressure we’d been under, we still had that same kind of “we’ve got to keep pushing and playing.” We never really stopped. Personal things weighed into it. Being a celebrity was really not what I’d set out to do. Certainly, I wanted the band to be famous and have people hear our music, but the whole celebrity thing was not part of the deal. I think that is why we never moved away from Boston. I think Steven [Tyler], that is what he craved and still does. I just wanted to get out and play. The politics inside the band just got crazy. I had to leave. During that time, I was able to sort out my personal life, which was a mess. I met the love of my life and she didn’t know about Aerosmith.

You have said it was always a concern once you made it: Do women love you for you or the fame?

That is true and it is true about any high-profile profession. The celebrity thing and the fame adds a whole new layer. I didn’t lay there and go, “Wow, she really likes me for me.” I wasn’t that introspective at that point.

That is  what is so different about you and Steven Tyler. He has a way more live-out-loud ego.

Exactly. Steven was a couple of years ahead of us. He was a couple of years older but he makes no bones about it. He will say he knew from the time he was 6 years old that he wanted to be famous. That’s what drives him and that’s what makes him such a great front man. We waited for 10 years to do the last Sony record. Basically we waited for Steven to get in the mood.

Along with five solo albums, you also wrote a book while waiting. Were you concerned what the band members would think?

Certainly. I wanted to get down at least from my perspective what was going on.

Did you run it by Billie?

We talked about it as far as, “Is it time?” I had been wanting to do it for a long time. I thought it was something you did when you quit your career and you were done. Then I realized we are still winding our way through this crazy music business and we have all these fans from every generation. There’s no stopping here. Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have written it. My kids were too young. I didn’t want the parents of their friends reading some of that stuff. So yeah, we talked about it.

Do you know if Steven liked the book?

I’ll know when I start hanging around with him more. It’s kind of hard to tell. I’m sure he respects the whole book. I don’t like putting words in other people’s mouths, but my gut tells me there is stuff in there that he doesn’t like and stuff in there he is probably proud is in there. He knows all the stuff in there is at least my truth. He knows what his truth is. I mean, he wrote a book that put down everything he felt. If there is stuff he doesn’t agree with, that is his option.

So you dropped out of prep school because you refused to cut your hair.

It was just ironic that it was so symbolic, the hair thing, you know? I didn’t see any other path.

Your parents were pretty calm about it.

Well, there was a certain point where there was nothing they could do, really. There was nothing they could hold over my head because I would leave. I was pretty self-sufficient early on. I mean, I knew I wasn’t going to live in that beautiful suburban little town. I was a loner and very rebellious. I was really stubborn and arrogant. It was a really tough time for an 18-year-old in 1968 with the war raging and they kept on sending more people over there, and the marches and Selma, and “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”

Did you ever find out why you were 4F and couldn’t be drafted?

The psychiatrist or psychologist or whatever I went to apparently had written a letter that I wasn’t suitable for the military way of life, I guess. I never saw the letter. I knew when I quit school I wasn’t going down that path and it wasn’t just about my hair. It was almost like an excuse.

Have you talked to your sons about the pitfalls of drugs and alcohol?

Well, they grew up on the road. I didn’t have kids when we were in the thick of all the madness. When Billie and I started a family, I had a son from my first marriage and she had a son. They were around it but they were really too young to see me blasted all the time. Of course I’ve had talks with them about it. Seeing what they saw growing up was a lot more powerful than me trying to tell them.

What are you doing for New Year’s?

Well, this year we are going to be home with the family. There is nothing like Vermont in the winter.

 

By Patricia Sheridan for Pittsburgh Post-Gazette