Hell will freeze over, pigs will fly, and the earth will whirl backwards on its axis before legendary rockers, Aerosmith, ever bid farewell to the studio, right? Well, prepare for snow down below, airborne pork, and the earth doing a smoky burnout in reverse, because the band’s musical train may stop a-rollin’ after the release of their upcoming CD, Music From Another Dimension.
“This could be our last record we ever make,” says bassist Tom Hamilton about the band’s 15th studio album, and newest collection of all-original material in over a decade, scheduled for release on November 6, with singles like Legendary Child, What Could Have Been Love and Lover Alot already debuting. He cites his prediction as the reason why the band — one of the few with all of the original members intact — strove to make each song a standout. “There’s nothing there where we just said, ‘Okay, fuck it, put it on there.’ We sweated everything. We really mean it with every song. When we made Rocks we had the whole rest of our lives, if it didn’t come out great. It’s not such a huge chunk of time now. [Laughter]. It’s like, ‘Man, this might be your last chance, so fucking get in there.’”
Dramatic, perhaps, but the Bad Boys From Boston are no strangers to drama. The band, which has sold 150 million albums in 40 tumultuous years, has weathered its share of breakups and makeups, clashes with record companies, notoriety, accidents, addictions, and rehabilitations. Yet the spark created from the friction of that drama, combined with classic songs, universal appeal, and the band’s unique personality — both individually and collectively — have made Aerosmith a highly influential and enduring force upon rock music.
“We do have our disagreements, which I think is one of the reasons why the band is dynamic,” guitarist Joe Perry admits, “because it wouldn’t be as good as it could be if we always thought the same way. It would be kind of bland. But the intensity has dropped a lot over the years, and that’s probably why we’re still together. We don’t take it home. It used to be, ‘You motherfucker, how could you want to play it that fast, and you played it too fast and you made a mistake.’ [Laughter] And then we’d be arguing about it for the next 24 hours. Then we realized, ‘Fuck it. We’ll deal with it, we’ll figure it out, and then we’ll move on.’ There’s too much of life out there to spend time being kids in high school. We’ve learned a lot over the years, but that’s a real basic thing we’ve learned.”
Drummer Joey Kramer concurs, adding, “I think we have a greater appreciation and respect now for what it is that we contribute to one another and what we are as a whole. And we realize that sometimes you gotta pick and choose your battles. There are certain things that are just not worth arguing about. But it’s taken this long to get to that point. The one common denominator all of us have is the love to play together. And we have the ability to bring so much joy to so many people, as well as ourselves. That common denominator, I think, is what really keeps it together. Fortunately for us, we have what we have, we do what we do, and we’re the only five guys that can do it.”
Well, six if you count veteran producer Jack Douglas, who imparted his magic touch to Music From Another Dimension, and whose long term history with Aerosmith could be equated to renowned producer George Martin’s intense bond with the Beatles. “This time, we sat in there with Jack,” describes singer Steven Tyler. “I’d called up Rick Rubin, and I didn’t feel like he really wanted to do a record with Aerosmith. And some of us got to talking that if it’s the last record, why not get Jack to do it?”
“We attempted a couple of times to start this album unsuccessfully,” says guitarist Brad Whitford. “We sat down with Brendan O’Brien. We just weren’t ready, the chemistry wasn’t right. It was a very short-lived project. But Jack understood from day one. The first night we met Jack Douglas we were playing at a high school north of Boston. And you could tell he got it. He was like, ‘Let’s go. I want to do this.’ And some guys just aren’t like that.”
Kramer elaborates, “We had a good coach in Jack Douglas because he’s of the mind that no idea is a bad idea. So we tried all kinds of different ideas that everybody would come up with. We would sit in a little room, the five of us, and put ideas and riffs and songs together, and then go into the studio all together and play them together. So between Jack producing, and us all playing together in the studio, I think that was a big part of the chemistry that made it happen.”
If Aerosmith’s studio days are, indeed, going down for the count, then Music From Another Dimension packs a knockout final punch. The band’s multifaceted talents shine in songs reminiscent of their raunchy, raw early recordings, alongside slick metal, blues shadings, crooning ballads, and even tubas, tambourines, and a bowed bass. Tyler and Perry, the band’s dominant songwriters, are also joined by numerous co-writers, including mainstay Diane Warren and Marti Frederiksen, as well as several guest stars. Hamilton and Perry each get to show off their lead vocal chops, and Tyler (who was originally a drummer) plays drums on Something. Typically not the band’s prominent songwriters, Kramer contributed a song, and Whitford and Hamilton each penned three. Initially intended to be 12 tracks, the album is now filled to bursting with 15 songs, sure to thrill fans with its diversity and length.
“When we do an album, one of our secrets is to overdo,” says Tyler, whose octave-defying vocal gymnastics are still in top form. “That way it’s not just nine songs. If it’s nine songs and someone goes, ‘Eh, you know what, I’m not sure about these three’ — we always over-write. So for every album you’ve ever seen, there’s 20 songs. And usually five that we don’t use that get used for the next record. And out of those five, three we might not use and two we do. But this one, we just threw them all in. Why? Because we could.”
Another treat for listeners is that many of those classic, unused tidbits are like precious collector’s items that have been retooled and incorporated into the new album. “There was a whole bunch of material left over, the kind of stuff that was in the can that we didn’t use,” says Kramer. “Some of the licks might have been around for a while, but they never got put into songs and used. A good lick is a good lick. It’s gotta get used at some point in time. And if it’s left over and it’s still getting played, then it’s obviously good enough to be used somewhere instead of being forgotten. And those are the ones that poke their heads through, and those are the ones that are on the songs.”
Perry expounds, describing a song showcasing his vocals and Tyler’s drumming. “It’s interesting, because I wrote the lyrics to Something 20 years ago. It was a song about — you can pile the lawyers, ex-managers, some of the promoters — into the same pile. They rip you off. And that was where the inspiration for that song came from. As it turns out, 20 years later those lyrics are just as relevant as they were 20 years ago. So it was a lot of fun to cut that song and re-sing it to a whole new batch of people that I’m pissed off at.” [Laughter]
And, just as adept with a six-shooter as he is with a six string, Perry, who wrote the politically conscious Freedom Fighter (featuring Johnny Depp on background vocals), and who guest starred on the TV show Sons of Guns, is equally candid about being pissed off about constraints that have been aimed squarely at the Second Amendment. “I think most people support the Constitution, no matter what the press wants to manipulate, or talk about, or turn into an issue between the candidates, especially this being an election year,” he fires off. “I don’t mind talking about the fact that I’m a gun collector. I grew up with guns. We all grew up with guns. There isn’t a fucking movie poster that comes out, two-thirds of them have a gun in them. Every fucking other TV show has to do with guns. It’s such a hypocritical country when it comes to that shit, and living in Massachusetts is like the height of hypocrisy as far as gun laws and how screwed up they are. Thank God we have the Second Amendment. But I think that the government is out of place where they would love to take all our guns away. And the people that give up their guns would be the biggest fools and the least defended, because the criminals are gonna keep their guns no matter what. And then what? Then we’re fucked.”
But Perry’s ire turns to pride when he continues to talk about Music From Another Dimension. “This is an important record. I look at it as an event. It’s a milestone — just like a fucking big, giant piece of granite stuck in the ground of rock and roll. And for us, because of how long it took to get us here, it does have earmarks of what a typical Aerosmith record is. If you really want to get down to it, there’s a precedent for everything we did on this record, whether it was an out-and-out fucking jam song like Something, to a song Tom sang, to a song Joey wrote, to a Diane Warren song.”
In addition to patting themselves on the back for a job well done, the band humbly heaps praise onto collaborators like Warren, who co-wrote the poignant, soul-stirring ballad, We All Fall Down. “Diane, she’s another one that understands what Aerosmith is about,” says Whitford. “When she says, ‘Steven, I got a song I wrote with you in mind,’ he automatically knows, and we just know it’s going to be [great] because she understands the Aerosmith thing. And that song is stunning. His vocal on it, it just takes you on a ride. It’s beautiful.”
And despite his supernova status, Tyler exudes the enthusiasm of a fan when describing his duet with Carrie Underwood on Can’t Stop Loving You. “I sang it a little country. And one of the guys in the band said, ‘You need to re-sing it, because you’re singing it too country.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s how I wrote it.’ Then Marti [Frederiksen], who wrote it with me, was talking about, ‘If it gets on the radio, and it sounds like a country song [adopting Southern accent] why not get one o’ them thar people to sing on that?’ So I called Carrie Underwood up because she’s a friend of mine, and she was in L.A. She was leaving the next morning, and I went, ‘Well get over here quick.’ The rest is history. She sang on it, and it’s perfect. It’s just perfect.”
“Their two voices are absolutely mind-bending when they sing that thing together,” Whitford describes. “It was like God was looking down and smiling.”
Hamilton draws not only smiles, but laughter when modestly describing his own lead vocals on the bonus track, Up On The Mountain. “The thing that gave me a little bit of confidence was knowing that I was going to have Steven with the very prominent background vocals so that it would sound okay.”
Give Aerosmith any musical genre, and they’ll imbue it with their own unique hue of blues rock, a hue integral to their palette because of the enormous influence the Rolling Stones have had upon them. Whitford describes how he — and his digestive tract — reacted when he played in front of his heroes during Aerosmith’s 2001 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “We’re such Stones fanatics,” he says. “People have said, ‘Have you ever been nervous when you play?’ ‘No, not really, anymore.’ But I’ll tell you, when we got inducted, and then right after everybody finishes talking and you go to play, I was ready to vomit. [Laughter] I get out there, and there’s Keith [Richards], and Jeff Beck, and all these people. I don’t think I would be that way anymore because I know them better and they’re not so scary. But I was scared intensely.”
Although that incident didn’t get immortalized in a song, many of Aerosmith’s tunes, including the pulsating single Legendary Child, describe various chapters in the story of Aerosmith. Tyler quotes a verse, with its clever play on words and swipes at the music industry, saying the tune depicts the band’s early years. “They said we don’t know Jack (Douglas)/At the Plant we proved them wrong (Record Plant)/We traded in our souls at night/And sold them for a song. It’s what we did back then. It was pretty nuts. And those lyrics just fell in. I rewrote all those lyrics from what it was when it was a demo from before, and it just worked perfect.”
The song debuted on American Idol, where, as a judge for two seasons, Tyler and his colorful-as-neon quotes (“They loved me last year when I went “Hellfire, save matches, fuck a duck, and [see what hatches]”) were often more entertaining than the contestants. But his desire to be wielding a scarf-draped microphone onstage overrode his interest in perching in front of a camera. “Because it’s television, it’s different — you could equate it maybe to a band, but a band has to get into a fight and argue and break up,” he explains. “Television, it’s just the next moment. The producers are watching that, and instead of going, ‘This is great,’, they’re thinking about how to make it greater the next year. So finally one day I just went, ‘This don’t feel right. I’m quitting now. What would I rather do? Do a show called American Idol that’s been out for 10 years or go with your band that’s been together for 40 years?’ ”
Choosing to let Aerosmith’s music do the talking, Tyler and his bandmates took to the stage like conquering gladiators on the first leg of the Global Warming Tour, where they’ve already sneak previewed three songs — and they’d like to add more new songs to the set. Before doing that, though, Perry test drove the idea past the band’s fans. “I remember during the tour I tweeted somewhere about how we were talking about adding another song from the new record into the set,” he describes. “I tweeted out there, ‘What song would you like to hear? A ballad, or would you like to hear a rocker?’ And one of the tweets I got back was ‘What song are you gonna have to leave off to make room for one of those songs?’ [Laughter] I didn’t even think of it like that — that somebody’s thinking, ‘God, I hope they don’t leave off Rag Doll to hear something I don’t know,’ because they know the record’s gonna come out. The point is, they were thinking about what are we gonna have to leave off the set list to make room for something they’ve never heard before.
Without missing a beat, Kramer says, “That’s always gonna be a problem. And that should be the worst problem we ever have.”
Other than the reverential value they place on their fans’ opinions, Aerosmith is and always has written their own rule book. And despite ups and downs that would have toppled lesser bands, that rule book has remained unabridged. Doing what they want, the way they want, has led them to fiercely triumph as one of the most significant bands in rock n’ roll history. “We set our own precedent,” Perry states. “Back in 1976, we were looking back at Led Zeppelin, and the Stones, and the Yardbirds, and the Who, and what they did. Now we’ve got our own precedents we can live up to.”
Concert Photos By Steve Trager. Click here to view all Live Concert Photos