The December 10, 2009 issue of Rolling Stone had an in-depth report about Aerosmith’s recent implosion and their plan to replace Steven Tyler with a new singer. Here’s more from the interviews RS conducted for the story with guitarist Joe Perry, drummer Joey Kramer, guitarist Brad Whitford and the band’s former A&R rep John Kalodner, who helped mastermind their late-Eighties comeback. Kalodner even shared an idea for how the band can carry on: “I was talking to Marty Frederiksen the other night about this just because he co-wrote ‘Jaded’ and worked with them for the last 10 years or so,” he says. “We were talking about how no one can replace Steven Tyler, but the only person he said and I agreed with that could even make Aerosmith anything would be Lenny Kravitz.”
How did that Steven wind up on stage with you in New York?
He just came in. There was all this commotion during our encore break and I just sat down on the couch and saw all this commotion at the door and somebody said, “Steven is here.” And I was like, “What?” He came over and it was like, “How are you doing? What have you played so far? What songs have you done?” That kind of thing. I said, “You feel like sitting in and joining the band for a while, or what?” He said, “Of course.” I said, “You got your choice. You can blow harp on the blues song or sing ‘Walk This Way.'” He said he wanted to sing “Walk This Way.” And I said, “All right, we could always use another singer.” And being an acquaintance of 40 years, I said, “Why not?” So he came up and sang and that was the last I saw of him.
He said onstage that he hasn’t quit the band…
With 40 years there’s a lot of emotional ties, but he wants to take two years off from the band. The rest of the band is kind of figuring out what we want to do. We have so many different options to fill up that time. All I know is that we want to work. I’m doing the Joe Perry Project and expecting to be touring through February. All the other guys want to work, so I’m not sure what form that is going to take in middle-future, but everybody in the band wants to work, so we will see.
Is a new singer still possible?
Anything is possible at this point. We are still trying to figure it out. This is kind of new. I just found out that he had reiterated that he wanted to take that time off to do what he was going to do. We’re going just look at all our options. Steven has made it pretty clear; he wants to go off and do what he wants to do. But the band isn’t going to wait around, I mean this bands wants to… Aerosmith is too good a band to sit around and twiddle their thumbs.
Do you think the fans will accept a new singer?
That’s… I don’t know, I really don’t know. There’s certainly plenty of examples of it working, and plenty of examples of it not working, so… At this point I’m just focusing on my solo project.
Why do you think things have broken down so much between the two of you?
I really don’t know. One thing that I got to say is that there isn’t that personal stuff that people have tried to lay on this. Part of the problem in the seventies, but there is no personal grudge or any of that stuff going on. That’s kind of what I got across last night. Other than that, you know, I really don’t know what’s going on over there.
You haven’t written together in a decade. Do you think you drifted off into two different musical direction?
Hard to say. My solo records speak for where I’m at musically and what I’ve tried to bring to the fans’ ears. I let the music do the talking, as far as that goes. As far as he’s at, I can’t say.
Steve has his own manager now, right?
Yeah. Basically, any communication that we’ve had over the last couple of months has been through managers, so that’s been pretty strange.
But you just did some dates with him, right?
Did you talk at all?
No. I called him a little while back about doing these South American dates. He said that he didn’t want to do them and then I realized there was nobody on the other end of the line. So yeah, I guess he hung up.
Is this something that’s been simmering for years or is this sort of a recent development where you didn’t talk all that much?
Over the last probably few months it’s definitely been, since he got his own management it really became apparent that he’s kind of pulling away. Other than that… I mean, we’ve been together for so long sometimes we don’t talk. None of the band talks for a couple of weeks and then we’ll hook up before we go onstage and put on a show and then go off and do our own thing. So, that part is kind of obviously it’s different circumstances but on the surface it’s how bands like us work that have been together for so long.
How do you feel these days about Just Push Play?
I’m not a big fan of that record. I think we got too much into the technical end of things and letting that take over. The band really didn’t play any of those tracks live in the studio. Everybody kind of came in and put their tracks down. I think one of the most valuable things Aerosmith has is the energy we produce when we all play together.
Don’t you just want to sit down face-to-face with Steven and hash this all out?
At this point I’m considering the posture he’s taken, I’m really involved with my band right now, with the project, I’m really digging the direction it’s going in, and each show is a new experience. Hopefully I’m bringing to rock n’ roll the kind of spontaneity that I love, and always believed rock and roll stands for. So, that’s really where my focus is now.
What’s the current status of Aerosmith?
Steven actually was quoted as saying that he wants to do what he’s calling “brand Tyler.” And his management contacted us and told us that he wanted to take two years to do that and we really haven’t heard anything to the contrary so that’s all we have to go on at the moment. But at the same time, we’re not gonna… two years is a long time.
How long have you guys not been speaking to Steven?
Well, the reality of it is that it’s been going on basically since Sturgis but I have reached out a number of times to call Steven or text him and I haven’t gotten any reply from him. So they only contact that we’ve had has been via e-mail from his management and that’s the way that it is.
How did you feel about Steven getting his own management?
I wasn’t really happy about it because it just kind of splits up the tribe, you know, and then you have two different camps to go back and forth from and it really confuses things.
Are you guys thinking about hiring a new singer?
Um… well, yeah. It’s hard to imagine getting onstage without the guy. And you know make no mistake about it, I love the guy, Steven’s been my brother for 40 years and I’ve always been there for him and I’ll always be there for him and you know, I can only hope and pray and you know… I’m sorry, this is kind of emotional for me. But you know I hope that Steven takes the time to put the focus on Steven and get healthy and take care of himself.
What do you mean by “get healthy?”
Well, you know, really the truth of that is something that only Steven can answer and I’m not really at liberty to discuss it, you’d have to speak with him or his management.
Is the rest of the band on the same page about hiring a new singer?
Yeah, it’s the kind of thing where writers write and dancers dance. Playing music is what we do and it’s what we want to continue to do and it’s who we are. We have a 40th anniversary coming up and we all would like to celebrate that with our fans out on the road and everybody deserves to take part in that, and that’s what we’ve been talking about. There’s really no way to replace Steven but like I said, Joe and Brad and Tom and I plan to, we want to continue to tour. And we have a real milestone coming up and we want to celebrate it.
Do you think you’d hire somebody famous?
It’s hard to even imagine getting up there without Steven but… I don’t know, there’s people that we’ve been kicking around but it’s really a difficult thing.
Are the people that you have been talking about, are they known people or are they more unknown people?
Yeah, they’re known people. They’re famous singers.
How did you interpret Steven’s surprise appearance at Joe’s solo gig?
I think that was very self-serving and I think that… first of all I know that Joe didn’t know anything about it and Steven just kind of popped up onstage and he left just as fast as he got there. So what do you make of it? He was just confusing the issue about the band breaking up or him leaving.
How would you describe the songs you cut with Brendan O’Brien last year?
The closest thing I could say is they were probably closer to old school Aerosmith stuff like Toys or Rocks — the older stuff.
Did Steven and you guys argue over the sound of the album?
Well yeah, man, we’re brothers, we’re 40 years, there’s always going to be disagreements. There have been musical differences since day one that this band started, that’s a big part of what makes this band happen the way that it does. It’s 40 years of insanity and a big part of it is musical differences but that’s that’s what makes it Aerosmith — the pushing and the pulling and everybody’s different opinions and how they feel, that’s what makes it go down the way that it is. That’s what Aerosmith’s all about. And the fact that we can find ourselves and relate to one another inside of that insanity for all of this time. I found my sanity inside the insanity which is what my book is all about.
Steven likes stuff that’s a little bit more pop and radio-oriented and I do too, and I like all the other stuff as well. Like I said that’s what we’re all about. But at the same time, you know, you gotta make it work.
Joe told me he didn’t like Just Push Play.
Well. I’m gonna go against my brother and say that I like that record. I like the songs on it. I happen to have worked really hard on that record and changed a lot of my style of playing and learned about a lot of new things and new ways of playing and I had a really good time with Marty Frederickson doing it.
What’s the current status of Aerosmith?
The band is in a rather unique position of having our lead singer announce to us this summer that he wanted to take some time off. I kinda think that he put himself in a position where maybe the people that he’s surrounded himself have sort of a sense that he can go out and do great things without Aerosmith. Now historically, I’ve never seen anybody really do that and I get the sense that they’ve sold him on this and kind of appealed to his ego. I don’t think it’s a smart thing to do, not with someone who has an ego the size of Steven Tyler.
Would you still bill yourselves as Aerosmith if you toured with a new singer?
That’s a good question. I’m not a hundred percent sure on that… I think there’s some discussion and feelings about that.
And Joey told me yesterday that he was leaning towards a more famous singer than an unknown.
I think there’s some name people out there that might be interested in doing it and I think it would be great to have someone with some history that had a name. But I mean, this is really kind of early on for us, we don’t even know if it’ll work. We may not be able to find someone to do this so you know someone has to be willing to do it, and then what’s the best approach? Do we want to go in and make some new music with a new singer and kind of … and you know maybe it has a different name, a different slant on it, maybe it’s called the same thing. I don’t know.
When did things start to collapse? After Steven fell off the stage?
I would go back further than that. There’s been a serious lack of commitment on his part for a while. We’ve been trying to make an album for a few years and he’s been the guy that suddenly one day he just doesn’t show and the next thing we know he doesn’t want to work, he doesn’t like the producer, whatever. And we’ve had these sort of no-show issues with him and tour cancellations and these cancellations have been going on for some time. This unpredictable behavior has just gotten more bizarre and more frequent.
Tell me about the record you tried to cut with Brendan O’Brien.
Now there’s a very sad moment we had. The gentleman that we had was number one on our wish list and it was very exciting for us to be working with Brendan. I don’t think it lasted more than two, three weeks. And he bent over backwards to do whatever he could to make Steven comfortable.
Did Steve explain why he wasn’t happy?
As I recall, he didn’t like working with Brendan. You couldn’t ask for a nicer person or a more talented musician and producer than Brendan.
How did you feel about him hiring his own manager?
Well, actually he’d been talking about it for years it seems like, and I was always like, “Well, stop talking about it if you feel like you need someone else to represent you, do it, get it done.” It was always put in the context of a threat which was not understandable on my part.
I’ve heard Steven is interested a radio-friendly sound and Joe is into more into straight-ahead rock.
Well, I think there’s some validity to that. It’s clear to most of the members in Aerosmith that when you look at, you read comments and you read these blogs and you understand the fans want to return to old school and that’s obviously what the band has always done best. We’ve had some success with pop songs and that sort of thing but we’ve also had some miserable failures with that and pop failures are much harder to take than legitimate rock songs that don’t cut it. The pop thing, it doesn’t sit well with some of us that you come in to write a song with some sort of preconceived notion, that’s not what an artist does. It’s a blank canvas and it either comes from your gut or it doesn’t. If nothing happens that day, it’s fine, come back tomorrow and we’ll throw some more paint at it. But to come and go what everybody used to call a single is just a bad idea.
It’s pretty late in Steven’s career to go solo.
It’s incredibly difficult to pull off. I don’t really understand it. I think it’s one thing to do your own thing and I think everybody would encourage that. Hey you know, I’ve got three months off and I’m going to do this thing and not make a big deal out of it. I feel like I’ve gotta do it… not drawing such hard lines.
I was talking to Joey Kramer yesterday and he was saying that Steven needs to get healthy. Is that what you think?
Well I don’t hang out with the guy. I very rarely see him and have very rarely seen him in a long time. But his behavior suggests to me that he’s… he doesn’t act like a sober person.
So do you think he’s drinking again or on drugs?
Like I said, I’m not hanging with the guy. But he’s had this history of drug abuse that is well documented. And like many other people in this same position, you know the prospects aren’t good. For most people, full blown recovery is a tough thing to pull off.
You think that a contributing factor to your problems right now?
Well, I think if that’s true then it would be a huge contributing factor.
Former Aerosmith A&R Rep John Kalodner
Are you surprised things have broken down to this degree?
I’m never surprised. Bands are the ultimate dysfunctional families, some bands are just better at managing it — like Bon Jovi and U2. Aerosmith should be in their league, but they’re not now. I haven’t worked with them for years but I spent pretty much every day with them for 20 years.
Do you think Steven has a possibility to be successful solo at this stage in his career?
Steven Tyler is one of the most talented artists that I ever worked with, it’s possible that he’d be successful doing something else but I think the big success would always be with Aerosmith. Twenty years ago Mick Jagger tried this and it was a disaster, and he’s one of the biggest stars of all time. It just doesn’t work that way. Lou Gram, Steve Perry, all of these incredibly talented singers… a band is a certain unique entity that people want to go see pay their money for and love their music.
They’re talking about hiring a famous singer. Do you see that working at all?
No. How can it be our Aerosmith without Steven Tyler.
Well, it’s four-fifths of the band.
I was talking to Marty Frederickson the other night about this just artistically because he co-wrote “Jaded” and worked with them for the last 10 years or so. We were talking about how no one can replace Steven Tyler, but the only person he said and I agreed with that could even make Aerosmith anything would be Lenny Kravitz — which was a unique idea Marty had.
Steven is one of the greatest singers and performers that I’ve ever worked with. This whole thing is sad. I don’t know their particular politics but if you’re asking me is there Aerosmith without Steven Tyler my answer is no. And if Steven Tyler goes solo my answer would be no. It’s their lives, they play music so if that’s the conclusion they’ve come to that’s what they have to do.
What do you know about the album they tried to cut with Brendan O’Brien last year?
In the brief conversation I had with Brendan, he said it was a nightmare and he couldn’t believe I worked with them for all those years.
The guys are telling me that they wanted to cut a back to basic albums — like Toys in the Attic.
Well, they can’t do an album like Toys in the Attic because they’re not 23 years old. I don’t see Jon Bon Jovi or Bono saying they’re going to do an album like the first or second albums. It’s ludicrous. Bands always think they can do that, and they never can. I told Jon Bon Jovi years ago that he should work with people in Nashville and he did and you see the success they had. I was relieved of being able to tell Aerosmith that a long time ago and you see the result they have never made a studio record properly since I worked with them.
Is it fair to say that Joe Perry was more focused on a simpler, old-school sound and Steven was more into a more modern pop sound?
That would be sort of accurate. Joe Perry was very smart that he wanted to make simpler bluesier music but he also knew that to be big that to be big Aerosmith had to make pop rock hits, which Steven Tyler had the ability to do. The whole band did very well with those. They never liked it I should add.
Didn’t like what?
They didn’t like doing those pop rock hits that all the people buy and go to see them in concert for. They really hated me because I had them do “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing.” They never spoke to me again after that.
So even when they had “Ragdoll” and these big hits they didn’t like those songs?
No, not to my knowledge.
But they were willing to keep making them.
They were willing to. I would say that I requested four commercial songs on the record and the rest could be about their concept of what they wanted to do at that point in their career. It worked for many years. Think of Pump, Permanent Vacation and Get a Grip, which sold 16 or 17 million copies.