Interview: Aerosmith’s Joe Perry Talks New Live DVD and 45-Year Career

Interviews

Aerosmith is celebrating the 45th anniversary of the formation of “America’s Greatest Rock Band” in 1970 with “The Blue Army Tour” this summer which is currently underway. The 2001 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees will release their new Aerosmith Rocks Donington 2014 DVD/CD set on September 4th. The concert film documents the legendary band’s scorching, career-spanning 20song show at Donington Park in LeicestershireEngland on June 15th, 2014.

Aerosmith is the best-selling American hard rock band of all time, having sold more than 150 million albums worldwide – more than 70 million in the U.S. alone.

The day before this interview took place I received an email asking if I was interested in interviewing Aerosmith co-founder/guitarist Joe Perry. As a lifelong Aerosmith fan since buying their 1977 Draw The Line and 1980Greatest Hits albums at age eleven I was floored by the opportunity. Joe Perry called me from Hollywood the next day right before the kickoff of the band’s summer tour. We discussed Aerosmith’s new live DVD, performing with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page in 1990, Joe’s new side project The Hollywood Vampires with Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp, singer Steven Tyler’s new country solo album, Aerosmith’s origins, their future, and amazing longevity during our 25-minute conversation.

Bob Schallau: Your new Aerosmith Rocks Donington 2014 DVD/CD set comes out September 4th. Why did Aerosmith decide to film a live concert at Donington?

Joe Perry: We’ve had a lot of great shows at that venue. We were deciding where to film this DVD and Donington seemed like the obvious place. We figured, ‘Let’s roll the dice.’ It’s a big deal to film a concert, bringing in cameras, lights, and all that. You can make all the plans you want and the show could suck [laughs]. Then you’ve got a two-hour film that you would prefer not to put out. You’re giving people a show that’s the best quality it can be that has been edited and mixed. Even though you can see just about every show now on YouTube, this is really for the hardcore fans. It has another layer of quality to it. Also for the people who were at the show it’s a reminder of having a good time. We figured we could count on a good show because it was Donington. We have a lot of memories of some good times there. So it just made sense.

Aerosmith has played Donington in 1990, 1994, 2010, and 2014. Was encoring with Jimmy Page there in 1990 on “Train Kept A-Rollin’” and “Walk This Way” one of your favorite Donington moments?

Yeah. That whole weekend was like living a dream. I’ve gotten to know Jimmy pretty well. We’ve become friends over the years as much as you can with him living in England. He doesn’t go on the road much. So when I go to England I make an effort to hook up with him. That weekend with Jimmy coming up and playing those songs with us in front of 80,000 people was pretty amazing.

But we also played the Marquee Club in London with Jimmy two days later, which to us was like an English band playing CBGB’s or The Whisky. The Marquee is a famous iconic club. Our soundcheck was about five hours long. We played every Led Zeppelin andYardbirds tune we knew with Jimmy. It was just amazing. That was really the high point of it. After getting Donington and that soundcheck under our belts when Jimmy came up to play at the Marquee it was just a ball of fire. We had those songs down and we were able to give the fans a real taste of our dream; coming from that generation of being influenced by Led Zeppelin and The Yardbirds. That era was just amazing.

I watched the new Aerosmith Rocks Donington 2014 concert film last night and I noticed there are fans in their 20’s singing along to every word. Is it gratifying to see fans from so many different generations at your concerts all over the world?

Quite frankly, it’s a little unbelievable. We never looked past the next week or the next month. In the early days we did the best we could to keep the calendar full to pay the rent and keep some food on the table. Then the dream is to get a record deal and a manager and try to move things up to the next level. Our way of doing things really hasn’t changed much. We still take things month to month.

Every year there are new places to play like the Far East and other cities and countries that used to be off limits. Just the fact that we could play Russia and walk around Red Square is amazing to me. I think a big part of that has to do with rock n’ roll. It has to do with music helping bring down the walls. I remember before the Berlin Wall came down the two biggest things that sold on the black market in that part of the world were blue jeans and American music. When politics went the way they did you got to actually play in East Berlin or St. Petersberg. I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s just amazing. Even going to Japan in the 70’s was a really special event. It was like, ‘Wow! We’re on the other side of the world here.’ It was amazing to go there and have such a following. Now it’s still a rush to go there.

Recently I heard that for The Who’s 2015 farewell tour their insurance company won’t let Roger Daltrey sing back-to-back shows because it strains his voice too much. Does Aerosmith usually play shows every three days on tour to help preserve Steven’s voice?

We usually do one day on, two days off. That’s pretty much the standard. But that comes from the band. We realize that’s the best we can do without taking a chance on Steven’s throat. You do have to make adjustments. So that’s what it is.

Some singers in their 60’s can’t hit the high notes anymore and need to tune down. But Steven still nails the high notes and Aerosmith plays like a well-oiled machine live. Do you feel fortunate that the band has aged so well?

It’s amazing frankly. The fact that it’s still the five of us. It’s really incredible when I stand there onstage with the other guys. I look at the crew and there isn’t a single other person who has been with us the whole time. There are only two people on the crew who have been with us twenty years. It’s been the five of us against the rest of the world for 45 years now experiencing all these different things. Nobody else knows what it’s like to play the Super Bowl [in 2001] the way we did except the other four guys and me. We can talk about that or the first time we played Bolivia, which used to be totally off limits. It’s those kind of things that when you look around at the other guys you can’t believe you’re there with four other adventurers who had the same dream and we’ve managed to keep it together. I don’t know what’s gonna happen tomorrow but we’re gonna put everything we have into the show tonight.

Back in 1969 Steven Tyler first came to see Tom Hamilton and you play in a band called the Jam Band in Sunapee, New Hampshire. If Steven hadn’t come to that show is there a chance Aerosmith would never have formed?

No. Tom and I had made plans three years before that summer to put a band together. We were in the process of doing that. At the same time we met Steven we had auditioned Joey [Kramer] on drums and he was coming into the band. We were checking out a lot of musicians at that time. As it turned out, Steven’s band had broken up and he was actually thinking of getting out of the music business.

Then we jammed with Steven and something clicked. He saw something and I saw something. When I asked if he wanted to play in the band he said, ‘Yeah.’ Actually I wanted him to play drums because he’s a really good drummer as well as being a great singer. He had been a frontman and also a drummer in bands. But he wanted to be up front and I was fine with that because it’s a lot easier to find a good drummer than a good singer. Joey was on the sidelines and it all just worked out. But Tom and I were definitely going to form a band. It may not have been called Aerosmith but it would have been the best guys we could find in Boston. And that was how it started.

During the Aerosmith Rocks Donington 2014 DVD the band plays a great extended jam of “Last Child” and even after everyone else leaves the stage you’re still playing guitar over the stage exit song “Manish Boy” by Muddy Waters. Does playing guitar excite you as much as it did 45 years ago?

It goes through phases. There’s no doubt that there are times when I know I need to take a break. Then I spend time getting into different kinds of music like jazz and R&B. Then I get that feeling like I’ve gotta have a guitar in my hand every day. It’s just a way to keep it fresh.

Will Aerosmith record another album sometime after your current “Blue Army Tour”?

Right now I’m not really sure when, but I’m sure there will be another album. I’m not sure what kind of album it will be. These days there are so many different kinds of opportunities. But right now Steven’s doing his solo thing and I’m involved with The Hollywood Vampires. Right now The Hollywood Vampires only have three shows but I’m hoping we can book a few more.

Who is in The Hollywood Vampires?

Alice Cooper, me, Johnny Depp, and a couple of other names you would recognize that I can’t put out there right now. It’s a project that’s been coming together slowly over the last year or two. The record is finished and we’ll be playing Rock in Rio in September. It’s probably the most exciting project that’s come down the pike for me in a long time.

What do you think about Steven’s new country single “Love Is Your Name”?

Well I can hear when he’s singing it that he’s putting everything he’s got into it. It’s not my style of music but it wouldn’t be a solo record for him if it was. That’s the whole idea. What would be the point of him doing an Aerosmith-style record when he can do it with the whole band? He’s stretching out a little bit and that’s what a solo thing should be. And then he goes and learns some new stuff. When we go back in the studio or back onstage he will bring something new. So for him I think it’s great.

Aerosmith’s members are currently between the ages of 63 to 67. Do you see the band playing into your 70’s like The Rolling Stones?

I have to think that’s how it’s gonna go. I don’t even like to talk about it because I don’t want to jinx it. At this point the odds of it going like that – again you just have to take it day by day. But I really don’t see us saying, ‘Well, this is our last gig.’ I just don’t see it. I just look at guys like B.B. King or Muddy Waters, and the guys who really influenced us in so many ways. I feel like we’ve got the same bug they had. And that bug is gonna stay right under your skin scratching away until I don’t know when. Yeah, I think there’s a good chance that we could be talking about the next tour for quite a while.

By Bob Schallau for About Entertainment

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By 104.7 the Cave

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If Aerosmith makes it hard to decide just when to make a run for it Saturday — to get rid of the last beer and score the next one — Joe Perry might be happy to hear that.

It’s a testament to the band’s longevity, and to set-list science.

“We spend the best part of two hours before the show figuring out what the set’s going to be,” the guitarist said of the “Blue Army Tour” that brings the enduring Boston rockers back to the MGM on Saturday. Continue reading

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