Perry and Tyler produced Just Push Play with longtime associates and songwriters Mark Hudson and Marti Frederiksen, with the four dubbing themselves the Boneyard Boys, taking over the studio in Perry's basement. "My wife loved that thunder coming out of the basement," Perry says. "She's an artist, she's a model, she's a poet, so she loved to hear the creative energy down there. The kids would go to sleep many a night listening to the guitars. My bedroom's on the first floor, right over the studio, so the music just invaded the house. I got a large collection of stringed things downstairs, and we used everything."
"There were no demos," Tyler adds, licking his lips. "Just us staying in the basement and laughing. With a couple of hypotheses, like, 'Let's not get a bag of coke and do it all night so we have the unfinished tapes in the morning. Let's stay in this room and lock ourselves in and not leave until we got a song.'"
Perry breaks in, a little alarmed at the coke reference. "Yeah, but it's been so many years since we've thought of coke, or drinking, as a way to open the door. It's not even, like, an issue."
"It was for the longest time."
"Yeah, it was. I still remember going down to the basement, looking for that one Dilaudid we lost, remember?"
Tyler nods, a bit sheepishly. "Yeah."
Perry turns to me to explain. "Steven said, 'We didn't do it, so we know it's down there.' And I can't tell you how many times I turned that fuckin' basement over, looking for that Dilaudid."
"We did lose it," Tyler mutters, mostly to himself. "We must have crushed it into the floor or the rug or something."
"A Dilaudid is about the size of a Tic Tac," Perry continues. "And it was, like, lost. Gone."
"But we were looking for a feeling," Tyler says, sadly and slowly. "What we realized, I guess, is that feeling was the same all the time. We did it so much, we usually ended up asleep or on our knees or nodded out. And we used to find that feeling in a small pill, and it worked. But after a while, it stops."
In June, Aerosmith will hit the road for at least eighteen months of touring. They're looking forward to cracking new territories, especially in the Pacific Rim: Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand. Between now and then, however, they have to learn the songs from Just Push Play. Such is the Aerosmith way of doing things nowadays that they've worked their asses off making the album piece by piece, but they've yet to play any of the songs all the way through together, except "Jaded." On the studio version, Brad Whitford played three different guitar parts; just a few hours before Saturday Night Live showtime, he's still debating which one to bust out live.
"I'm a couch potato," Whitford admits over lunch. "I'm a homebody." For him, gearing up for another tour gets tougher every time out. Musically, he's always been the heavy one, the guy who wrote metallic apocalypses like "Nobody's Fault" and "Round and Round." He still remembers hanging out with Humble Pie as one of the formative experiences of his life. But as everyone else in the band will tell you, he's the Quiet One. "I'm just the least loudest," he says defensively. "When you're competing with the likes of Steven Tyler ... he can make a lot of people seem quiet, you know? I mean, he is The Mouth. So I don't feel bad when people call me the quiet one. I just think, 'Hey, you try it.'"
Like the other members of the group, Whitford complains freely about the sleaze of the music business. "Guys who ran record companies used to be guys who were really into music," he says. "It's not like that anymore. When our first album came out, it only sold 40,000 copies, but they didn't drop us. Today, you'd be history." Does he ever dream about doing something else? "Yeah, I'd love to do something else," he says. "But I don't, which I guess means I'm not ready to leave this. It's such an incredible sound, and it's so incredible being part of it." He gets really excited describing his extracurricular passion, which is, improbably enough, building, opening and operating European-style indoor go-cart racetracks (he has one in Braintree, Massachusetts, and he's looking to build six to eight more along the Eastern Seaboard). "When I look back on my life, I want to be able to see myself as having had these two great careers — one with a group, and one as an individual." It's definitely strange to hear a rock & roll guitar hero fantasizing about running go-cart tracks instead. But as Whitford himself confesses, he still can't imagine bringing himself to step away from his band, despite the aggravation of touring. "I don't know why the fire's still there," he says, mournfully. "Probably a little bit of insanity."
"I'm happiest when I'm sitting at my drums, seeing those four asses out front," Joey Kramer says. "That's my space." Along with Tom Hamilton and Tyler, Kramer is one of the core members who never left Aerosmith, and everyone credits him with being the most intense about the community within the band. "I have a very strong affection and love for each one of my partners," he says. "I'm not the kind of guy who hems and haws about how he feels. I have a real good, solid relationship with Brad. Tom and I have always gotten along — he's the logic in my life, very forthright and upstanding. My relationship with Joe is one that has grown immensely over the years, especially the past five. Whenever I need a bone-straight answer about something, I go to Joe. Steven's a lot like I am, and we have a very earthbound connection, except we're at opposite ends of the spectrum, because he's in the front and I'm in the back. He knows he's up out front, but he knows he can't be up there without me behind him, and as long as I know that he knows that, that's all that matters to me. I have no secrets from these guys."
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