When Joe Perry cracked open Led Zeppelin’s newly remastered albums, he thought they could have sounded better. But he didn’t blame his recordings: It’s his stereo. The Aerosmith and Hollywood Vampires guitarist has teamed up with audio company Monster Products – best known as the driving force behind Beats by Dre headphones – to create a home audio line that he hopes will make rock and classic rock sound better.
“It seems like some of the audio equipment that’s available has been focused more on pop and rap,” Perry tells Rolling Stone. “So I’m going to work with Monster on developing a line of things like boomboxes and headphones that will be focused on rock & roll. There are a lot of bands out there making rock, and it deserves to be heard the way it’s supposed to be heard.”
Monster, which has deep roots in the musical instruments world thanks to its high-end electric guitar cables, is promising a “broad” partnership with Perry. A company statement says the guitarist will be helping with new product development and refiguring existing products for optimal sound “with a particular emphasis on optimizing the rock & roll experience.”
The wording may sound broad, but it makes sense to Perry’s ears. “I can remember back when vinyl was it and what it sounded like,” he says. “That’s where rock & roll sounds best.” Nevertheless, he says while he knows how he likes his music to sound, he’s no elitist when it comes to the way that people listen to music.
“I’m a fan first,” Perry says. “I’ve heard 16-track bootleg versions of, say, the second Led Zeppelin record. When you listen to that, you kind of have to make your own mix right there. So I can see where people download music off the internet. It isn’t better-sounding. So there’s definitely room for improvement in the hardware itself to make that music sound better.”
Although Perry appreciates pop and rap – after all, he played guitar on rock’s first fusion with rap, “Walk This Way” – he’s excited to place an emphasis on rock and the way it sounds. As audio equipment that plays to hip-hop and pop fans have become more prevalent, Perry says, the shapes of the sound has changed.
“When rap first started, it was all about the basic rhythm,” he says. “There was a lot of bass, and that’s when people started using subwoofers. They’ve done a great job. But I’ve found that the classic songs don’t sound as good as they should. You still want the good, tight bass, but you need a little more emphasis on the midrange. Vocals, guitars, all the instruments that we use are in that range. It would be nice to have some stuff that reproduces the classic stuff with a little more definition the way it should sound, the way it was cut in the studio.”
After years of being known only to guitar aficionados, Monster broke into the consumer audio realm with Beats by Dre, headphones engineered to appeal to rap and R&B music. Last year, Monster founder Noel Lee filed a lawsuit against Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine alleging improper business dealings that were geared toward diluting his shares in Beats. The company, which has since severed its ties bitterly with Beats, is now ready to focus on rock.
Although Perry’s collaboration with Monster was just announced, the guitarist says he’s not sure when people will begin seeing the products he’s been helping them with. “I’d say about 90 percent of the work is done and it just needs a few tweaks,” he says.
“I see a lot of kids out there listening to rock & roll and some of the new bands that are out there making some good music,” he says. “They deserve their music to sound as good as it can. You know, you always have to make compromises when you’re making an album, as you go from playing it to picking microphones to recording it to mixing and mastering it – a lot goes into making a CD sound good. And so many people like to buy their music online and put it on whatever device. I just want to help make the devices reproducing the sounds be as good as they can for rock & roll. It’s a challenge and I’m excited to be a part of it.”