Interview: Steven Tyler & Joe Perry, Aerosmith


BASIC INSTINCT


The Aerosmith saga began in the early 1970s in Boston, where the band put its twisted spin on the blues, mixing heavy rock with R n' B. Songs such as Sweet Emotion, Dream On, Walk This Way, Mama Kin and Draw The Line helped rack up platinum album sales and elevate them to rock superstardom. However, the excesses of that lifestyle finally took their toll, both personally and creatively. What happened next was one of the most dramatic comebacks ever in rock. Ironically, according to guitarist Joe Perry, the band's disintegration may partly explain its continued longevity into the '90s.

"We hadn't reached our creative pinnacle yet when we were put on hold for a few years," he reflects. So when we started over there was a lot of mountain left to climb. It's not like our best album was Rocks and since then we've been doing it for the money."

Aerosmith's first album for new label Geffen, Done With Mirrors went gold, and the resulting tour saw them hailed as conquering heroes. When rappers Run DMC gave Walk This Way the hip-hop treatment and the video featured Messers Tyler and Perry, the song went Top 10 and marked a ground-breaking moment for the reformed rejuvenated Aerosmith.

Next came Permanent Vacation which spawned three US Top 20 singles in the shape of Dude, Rag Doll, and Angel. Amazingly 1989's follow-up Pump outdid even that performance with the likes of Love In An Elevator, Janie's Got A Gun, What It Takes, and The Other Side attaining even higher chart positions.

MASTERS OF REALITY


How do Aerosmith stay on the edge of things after so much success? Of course, Aerosmith have always lived on some periphery. Out on their newfound creative edge, America's premier hard rock band rips open to reveal many hidden inner gems. Now says singer Steven Tyler, what he sees there is change, a time to get their shit together.

"I'm still screaming about what's inside me but now a lot of that relates to what's happening in the world outside," he muses. "Everybody likes to blame shit on everybody else so they don't have to own it themselves. But sooner or later it hits you upside in the head, unless you get a grip."

Their current piece de resistance' Get A Grip, produced by Bruce Fairbairn, is Aerosmith's eleventh outing and their fourth for Geffen Records. Over three years since the release of the quintuple platinum seller Pump, Aerosmith are just as raw and in-yer-face as ever they were. But while familiar themes such as lust figure prominently in songs such as Fever, Flesh, Cryin' and Crazy, the album also tackles subjects such as rebellion and taking charge, from Livin' On The Edge to Line Up and Eat The Rich.

With a balls-out irreverance and satirical wit, Tyler takes aim at the comfortable and the cynical.

"It's about attitude," he smirks. "I'm disgusted with those kind of people with fuck-all ways. They know the price of everything but the value of nothing. What can we do about them? Rat'em."

"Get A Grip makes a simple statement," he continues. "It's how we feel about what's going on and this is what it sounds like."

PRIMITIVE DESIRE


Even after selling something in the region of 35 million albums, Aerosmith are still tuned in to their original primitive desire to rock n' roll.

"You don't miss the water until the well runs dry and when we were at the bottom, I realised it wasn't any of that. It was about getting off on this band. That's all it's ever been," states Joe Perry. "We live it, breathe it, and bring it home."

In fact, as Joe Perry mentions, 1992 was the most intensely creative period of their career. A group that loves the road, Aerosmith toured the world for some 18 months promoting Pump, then took a break before getting back to writing songs.

During a period of three months composing and three months recording, Aerosmith created Get A Grip's pivotal songs, Eat The Rich, Get A Grip, Fever, Crazy, and Amazing.

"We try not to get caught up in trends but we're not afraid to try new things," affirms Perry. "We never say, 'Aerosmith shouldn't sound like this.' And we're not afraid to put our egos aside. Being brought to our knees by drugs made us realise that we don't have all the answers."

So rather than rush ahead, Tyler and Perry retreated to Boston to compose more songs of the quality of those already created. With their mission accomplished they then returned to Vancouver to record Walk On Down, Gotta Love It and the rest. Admits Tyler: "It feels like a long time but the longer it takes the better it feels."

RIGHTS AND WRONGS


For Aerosmith, says Tyler, "Rock n' roll is about a backbeat you can fuck to, but it's also about saying 'fuck you' to people who don't get off on freedom. We're protecting our right to rock."

Getting on a soapbox though isn't the band's style.

"We've done songs with messages," says Perry. "More are creeping in, but if it's preachy, I don't want to hear it."

Tyler agrees. "We'll always bring ideas into the open. But the secret to enlightenment is to lighten up. Whether you're talking rock n' roll or women, the fever's what it's about. This band has fever. We're all here because we're not all there. If you want to see the other side you have to live on the edge."

Near the end of Get A Grip, Tyler croons, "The light at the end of the tunnel may be you." For the past, present, and future of rock n' roll, the light at the end of the tunnel was, is, and forever will be Aerosmith.

Anna Marx
Riff Raff
December 1993

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