"We're an old fashioned rock band," Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler tells Rolling Stone. "You know what? We're still fucking together, we still have the passion, and we still fight and we still make up and it's still alive. It's still rock & roll."
Five years ago, the multi-platinum Boston act hardly seemed to have much of a future at all, with years of stalled recording projects, onstage injuries and general band tensions. There was talk of solo projects, a new singer. But Monday at the London Hotel in West Hollywood, California, Aerosmith were like a band of brothers again: Tyler sat with his leg up on the armrest, leaning comfortably against guitarist Joe Perry, his main songwriting partner for more than four decades.
An hour earlier, the band (minus rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford, currently on the road) finished a six-song set within the intimate Sunset Strip confines of the Whisky a Go Go, where Aerosmith made their West Coast debut on December 3rd, 1973. Sitting in on guitar for the songs "Mama Kin" and ‘"Train Kept a Rollin'" was Slash, who first met the band as a member of Guns N' Roses.
The occasion Monday was the announcement for a new Aerosmith world tour, which begins May 14th in Istanbul, Turkey. Slash and his band the Conspirators (with singer Myles Kennedy) will be Aerosmith's support act on the North American Let Rock Rule Tour beginning July 10th in New York.
Combined with some vivid Aerosmith graffiti seen around Los Angeles (and online footage of Perry wielding a spray can last week), the packed club gig on the Strip was more street-level marketing from the longtime arena rock act. Tyler, in flowing scarves, big shades and a floppy hat, announced: "Ladies and genitals! Welcome to the Whisky! You love this band almost as much as I do . . ."
For Aerosmith, the coming tour is another chance to spread the word on 2012's Music From Another Dimension!, the band's first album of new material in 11 years. It debuted at Number Five on the Billboard 200 but didn't perform at the level the band has come to expect.
"To me the record is still fresh. We haven't really dug into it and played some of the best songs live," Perry says. "I think its one of the best records we've made in years and years. We got tied up in the whole corporate thing about it not getting promoted. The head of the label left three weeks before the record came out, the whole promotion thing got screwed up. We didn't really tour behind the record like we usually do."
Tyler adds, "How refreshing after 10 years to get fucked by your label again. God I missed that."
"We don't have to worry about that anymore," says Perry.
Music From Another Dimension! was Aerosmith's final album under contract with Columbia Records, their label for most of the band's career. Bassist Tom Hamilton is excited about the possibilities. "We don't have a record company now. We're our own record company," says Hamilton. "It's going to be really fun to see what we do that opportunity. I think about it every day."
The band's set list for the 2014 tour will ebb and flow, depending on the city and venue, and will have to contend with a history that has gone from hard rock to pop ballads and back again. At the Whisky, the band showed itself still ready to erupt with the kind of snarling rock & roll that began their career at the beginning of the Seventies. It's a tradition Perry says still excites new fans and a younger generation of rockers.
"There are bands out there that want to rock. Jack White hasn't lost sight of this," says Perry. "He does some amazing stuff. I heard an instrumental he did just the other day, and sure enough he's still using old guitars and old amps and just making them sound different."
Adds Tyler, "It's a thing, it's a vibe. It's unlike any other. You cannot sit still listening to that. What was it that pushed our buttons and made us want to write ‘Sweet Emotion' and things like that? We're still involved in that. It's not about the money. It's about the game and the passion for me. "
Leaning forward, drummer Joey Kramer says, "We're still doing what we were doing when we were 20 years old we're still loving the shit out of it. No matter what goes on, whether it's feuding with one another, things happen to us, personally or as a group, when it comes time to get onstage nothing else matters."
For Slash, the U.S. tour will be a kind of reunion with a band he first got to know when Aerosmith took a young band called Guns N' Roses on their first arena tour in 1988. It was also Aerosmith, he says, that was a key influence on his direction as a guitarist after hearing Rocks as a teenager.
"It really became my band," Slash told Rolling Stone. "It was really sexy grooving hard rock riff-based shit with an out of control singer. It had so much angst and soul to it. It's really the band that pointed me in a direction when I started playing guitar."
On that 1988 tour, Aerosmith watched as GN'R grew into a confident arena rock band of peers. "Slash doesn't make any bones about the influence we had on him," says Perry. "They turned into a great, great band. They sure made their mark."