OVER THE PAST 18 MONTHS, Steven Tyler has fallen off a stage twice, fought with his Aerosmith bandmates, checked into the Betty Ford Center, joined American Idol and written his memoir, titled Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? (It’s due out in the spring.) “It’s been a good year for me, man,” says Tyler, 62, checking in from his home in Boston on a short break from Idol, which launches January 19th. “Rehab was just the beginning of the beginning. I just put my nose to the grindstone. I was getting rid of all the noise, and suddenly the plant grows.” Aerosmith toured in 2010, but Tyler’s frequent pissing contests in the press with his Toxic Twin, Joe Perry, have left fans concerned about the fate of Aerosmith. But although Idol will put Tyler in one of America’s most popular TV shows, his heart still belongs in his band of four decades. “Aerosmith is my love,” he says. “I love them more than anything – I’ve put in too many years, regardless of what has gone on.”
It was just over a year ago when you entered rehab. Now you’re a judge on American Idol. How did that happen?
It all started because I had surgery on both of my feet to fix some nerve damage – as you can imagine, after being this whirling dervish/dancing bear for 40 years, my feet were messed up. I was on some pills to help with the pain, and that’s when I fell offstage [in August 2009]. The guys were angry with me – they thought I was all fucked up – but I actually zigged where I should have zagged. After the tour, I checked into rehab – but I just didn’t get any calls from the guys in the band. I was so pissed at them for not calling me that I told my manager, “Get me something else, I need a side job, I need a day job, get me something like Idol.”
You’ve already taped a bunch of episodes. What’s it been like?
It’s like being the commander of the space shuttle, or being strapped into a simulator at flight school – we saw 700 kids in seven cities. It was crazy. I had my reservations in the beginning, but what could it do to my career? I can’t imagine the negative side. Aerosmith’s on tour only part of the year anyway, and it’s the most watched TV show in America.
Do you have the ability to rip into people, like Simon Cowell?
I’m not the next Simon Cowell, certainly. Is everybody looking for the next Simon? He was fun to watch, but when you’re sitting there with kids that really have a dream to sing . . .
But will you really be honest when someone sounds like crap?
Definitely. If their moms and dads have been telling them they’re fucking great, well, I’m the one that’s going to tell them they’re not. I’ll tell them, “You were terrible today, who told you that you can sing? Did you eat a lot of paint chips as a child?” There are these 15-year-old kids that have been watching Idol for 10 years – but they’ve never been booed at a club. If you’re going to play the Idol game, you’ve got to get ready to go in the blender and get chopped up.
I hear Aerosmith might record a new LP during your Idol downtime.
Yeah, I’m trying to rally the guys together. We’re having trouble getting Joe – I don’t know where he is.
You and Joe have been bickering a lot over the past couple of years. Have you guys worked everything out?
As far as Joe goes, the guy’s got LSD: Lead Strummer Disorder. We’ve been brothers forever, he’s just going through his thing. I think the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of unrecorded Joe Perry licks floating around in the ether somewhere, and we just have to get together and put the shit together. We’re like peripheral visionaries – we don’t see what’s right in front of us, we see what’s off to the sides, and I just need to get them all together to put it together.
You sang a Beatles medley at the Kennedy Center Honors in December – what was that like?
It was crazy – I was 16 when I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, and now I’m being asked to sing the last four songs off Abbey Road with Sir Paul fucking McCartney? During the show, I had tears streaming down my face – and I was looking right at Nancy Pelosi in the crowd! The next day, there was a ceremony at the White House. I go up to the president, and he says, “Steven Tyler, what are you doing here?”