In the fall of 2010, Aerosmith’s future was thrown into doubt when news broke that Steven Tyler would become a judge on American Idol. The singer hadn’t shared the news with his bandmates yet, even though they were touring at the time, and the fact that Tyler had taken a job that would make him unavailable for a big chunk of the year didn’t sit well with the guys.
“It’s his business, but I don’t want Aerosmith’s name involved with it,” guitarist Joe Perry famously told the Calgary Herald at the time. “It’s a reality show designed to get people to watch that station and sell advertising. It’s one step above [Teenage Mutant] Ninja Turtles.”
Two years later, Perry seems to have a whole new attitude. In March, he appeared on Idol to sing “Happy Birthday” to Steven Tyler and even sat down at the judge’s table. In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Perry says that the group will appear on the show’s May 23rd season finale to perform their new single. We also spoke with the guitarist about Aerosmith’s new album, tour and ever-present backstage drama.
What’s the status of the new album at this point?
It’s really close. We’ve started to mix. We’ve mixed a couple of the songs already, but I guess this week we’re really kind of rolling into mix mode. We have a couple of tracks left to finish up, just to put some overdubs on, but we’re kind of going from the final, final recording tracks to mixing this week.
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Nice. I’m sure that bringing producer Jack Douglas back into the studio was a nice boost for you guys.
Definitely. This was supposed to be the record that we did with him five years ago, but we ran out of time so we did the Honkin’ on Bobo blues record instead. We did that record kind of the same way we did this one, which is we all got in a room with Jack, as we used to back in the 1970s, and just hammered stuff out.
Fans are definitely ready to hear a new Aerosmith album. They’ve waited long enough.
I’ve been wanting this record to come out for years, but there’s a reason for everything and the timing for this is just right. The pressure for this to be what everyone hopes it’s going to be is enormous and I’m starting to feel a little bit of that heat. We’ve talked about doing a new record and it’s kind of like the boy crying wolf the last bunch of years…I just have to wipe out all the expectations that everybody has because we’ve always done every record on its own, taking its own place, not looking at it in the context of the last record or the next record or whatever is going on in the world or whatever. It’s just about getting in and trying to do what we do best and that’s it. I’m definitely feeling some of that weight. It’s really about keeping he doors locked and finishing this up without letting any of that get to us.
Tell me about the tour. How are you guys going to pick a setlist?
We’ll probably do it the way we always do it. We have new tunes this time, and there was a short time where we wouldn’t necessarily play much from our new records. We tried, but there were just so many songs that Aerosmith fans wanted to hear when they came to see us. When we played something new, something old had to come out.
But this time is going to be a little different. We’re releasing a new single in three or four weeks, and that is going to open the door. I would like to see us play three or four songs from the new record, kind of sprinkling them into the set as the tour rolls out. We’ve also been talking about bringing in some other songs that our old fans want to hear that we haven’t played in a long time. There are some songs from our early records that used to be the backbone of our set, and we’re gonna bring some of them back to the table, too. It’ll be a mixture of all of it.
Is there one deep cut in particular that you really want to bring back?
Yeah. I’ve always liked playing “Woman of the World” [from 1974’s Get Your Wings.] I don’t know though. We’ll see.
How would you compare the sound of the new record to the last album, Just Push Play?
Let’s say they’re polar opposites. The whole attitude of making this record and the way that we went about it is so opposite. I mean, the band stayed in the room and everybody had riffs, songs. I can remember writing some of the riffs 20 years ago; they’ve been kind of bubbling under. Steven and I would look at each other and go, “We gotta use that one,” and they’d always end up somewhere. A lot of these riffs that we love, that are really part of our inner Aerosmith lexicon, are now songs, finally. So the whole process was different. The record’s gonna sound modern and hi-fi. We’re not sitting around going, “We’re gonna do Night in the Ruts again or Rocks again.” We want to make a modern sounding record, but the main thing is the energy that the early records had.
The press is always so focused on drama in the band, but you guys seem to actually be functioning relatively well at this point.
Well, we’re as dysfunctional as we’ve always been. Some of it gets out into the press when there’s nothing else to talk about. I think the band is doing pretty much what it usually does. I don’t know if it’s fair to call it dysfunctional. You have to have some really great highs, and you have to have some real deep lows. There’s always going to be that give and take in a band like this, and some of it gets thrust out into the public and some of it doesn’t.
You appeared on American Idol recently, so I assume you’ve softened your position a bit about that.
It wasn’t about the show – it was about how we found out about it. I was pissed off about that whole thing, but I’ve played on it before and the band is gonna play on it in the last episode of the season to debut the new single. So it’s not about the show, it’s about how we found out about it. It was a bit of a shock and it took us off balance.
You guys played Toys in the Attic straight though a few years ago. Are you thinking about doing more complete album shows in the future?
Well, there’s a lot of things we’ve been thinking about doing, and a lot of the ideas that we’ve had are going to start coming out. We’ve got a few good years left in us, so I think nothing’s out of the question.