This Saturday night, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry will receive yet another honor when the Aerosmith guitarist and frontman are inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame. Patti Austin and John Legend (who is being welcomed into the hall by Stevie Wonder) are also being recognized by the iconic venue.
It’s a special night on many fronts for the “Toxic Twins.” In separate interviews, Tyler and Perry spoke to Rolling Stone about their history with Wonder, the importance of music education (which the event benefits) and why Tyler wants to do a solo album while Perry finishes his autobiography.
What does the Bowl mean to you?
Steven Tyler: Look at who played there – Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, the Stones, the Beatles, Frank Sinatra – and every time we hit that stage, don’t you think I stand there and think about the people that looked out at the same thing I’m looking out at? It’s just astounding. What an honor. Plus, the L.A. Philharmonic has a music program and it gives money to the schools, because they cut all these programs for kids to try to maybe play something or learn how to play. Schools, the first thing they cut is music programs. They don’t realize how important music is to kids. Through song you learn, and I think school systems need to learn that. Through the rhythm you can learn better, through melody, with something you need to learn, it’s a vehicle for it. I think it’s a good thing the L.A. Philharmonic is doing, and they’re gonna raise a lot of money from this event.
Joe Perry: We’ve played it four times. The history of the place is not lost on us. I would rather play the Hollywood Bowl than any one of the other arenas around. It’s a tough place to play for a rock band, but it sounds great, and the history of who played there, just great to be able to stand on that stage. [And] it’s for a good cause. The most important thing to remember is the money goes to really help bring music to places that it’s being taken away daily – the cutbacks in the government and music programs in the school. That’s bigger than the event and the people that are playing it. I think that’s really important, that kids get exposed to music as soon as they can – not necessarily to become musicians, but at least have an outlet. It’s an art form that’s easily accessible to young ears.
Plus you get to play with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.
Tyler: We’re doing “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing.” That’s a great song to orchestrate and I’m gonna meet with these guys a couple days earlier and go over their arrangements and throw some shit in. I love it when it’s twisted and turned around like this. It’s just gonna be so good – I’m so looking forward to it. The critics should have a field day with this shit, right? The critics love having their way with us. I guess they’re afraid of my style. I love it [laughs].
Perry: We’re doing five songs. I’m always anxious to hear how the pop guys deal with some of the rockers. But we’re gonna do two ballads. It’s just going to sound amazing, especially in the Bowl. I think it’s going to be 98 pieces [in the orchestra]. We’re going over the charts and stuff, and it’s gonna be good.
Stevie Wonder is presenting John Legend his honor. I am sure you have a long history with him.
Tyler: I’ve met Stevie many times. I went to his birthday party in the Bahamas, I met his family. I know him well, I love him dearly, and I’ve spoken to him many times about Talking Book and so forth. But the greatest joy of my life, one of them – and God knows there have been many – was on the set of Idol, I was turning 64. I came back from a commercial break, I went down to talk to some people, and I turn around and out on the stage comes Stevie Wonder. I thought, “Oh my God, what’s this about?” And he sang “Happy Birthday” to me and I went “What the fuck?” And that was the first year. On the second year on my birthday Joe Perry came out.
Perry: I’ve never met him that I recall, and I think I would remember that one. I’m obviously a huge fan, and his music has been a big influence on the way I write. Ironically, we’ll be doing “Walk This Way,” which is probably the song I’m most proud of, of Steven and my collaborations together. And I can remember the influences that led me to the path to write that and where I wrote it, the riff and all that. If there was any song I would pick that might work for Stevie to play [on], it would be that one.
You have a few U.S. dates on the horizon. Where does Aerosmith go from here?
Tyler: Joe has done, like, four solo albums. I never have, though with lyrics and arrangements and so forth a lot of Aerosmith albums are just fine for me. It’s cathartic. But I had a lot of fun doing “(It) Feels So Good.” I wrote that with Marti Frederiksen. I’ve got this itch in me to do a solo record, and that’s what I’m gonna do next. I’ve got some great people that want to get involved in it. It’s early on right now, but that’s the itch I got. I got that itch to do something that’s a lot different than Aerosmith. Aerosmith’s never been better, but we did that album. This last album was an Aerosmith all-for-one-and-one-for-all. But my heart is in stuff like that weirder, off-the-cuff stuff that I’m not sure Aerosmith would like. I’m into electronica – I was when I used to listen to Stockhausen in ’65. So there’s just a lot of stuff – good, weird fucking music that I want to get off my chest. The band will be playing, and we’re going to China and Singapore. It’s gonna open up a whole new world for Aerosmith. So Aerosmith will always be around, but I got this itch and I know how to scratch it.
Who are you looking to work with on the solo record?
Tyler: There’s so much good stuff out there. I am a huge Skrillex fan. I went to lunch with Deadmau5 at Mel’s Diner. He’s got incredible ideas for his next tour – blew me away, what he’s gonna do. He’s a single guy. He makes all the money himself when he puts the mouse head on, so he’s got a ton of money. He knows where to take it, and he’s still relevant. So it was a sick dinner, it was fucking unreal. I want to go out and explore things . . . I really want to take a little risk here and do something solo. There’s no timeline – I’m gonna start in January and see where we get by March.
Joe, how is the book coming?
Perry: It’s a lot of work. It’s 42 years of keeping Aerosmith together, and then the other 20 that got me there. It’s a lot to sort through. I really want this to be as close to the truth, and what I can remember, as it can be. It isn’t like I’m sitting down and giving a couple of interviews and then letting my ghostwriter go off and figure it out. We’re working with him almost daily. So it’s cruising along. We’re probably three-quarters through the first draft, I’d say.
What‘s surprised you in writing this book?
Perry: I guess some of the really hard times – going through them and looking at my part in some of the screw-ups that, if you’re gonna keep going, you gotta deal with it when it happens. Say the band breaks up – when you go through that period we’ve all talked with each other about, the hard times and that kind of thing, and kind of made our peace with certain things and made our amends and apologies and all that. And then you go back 20 years later, you have to relive all that to really get the essence of it. You have to dig into that again, and it’s really surprising. It’s like digging up an old grave – you don’t want to have to go back there. But in order to make the book as good as it can be, I have to. So that was a surprise. But I’ve been talking to a few of my old cronies, and they remember some things that certainly trigger some of the good things, too. A lot of people have been sending in pictures, snapshots, things like that. A friend of mine found a 30-second clip from the first band I was in when I was 14, and we have an 8mm clip of that. Unfortunately there’s no sound – maybe fortunately [laughs]. But it’s fun to watch.
This has been a big year for you with awards, with you also getting into the Songwriter‘s Hall of Fame recently.
Tyler: Music expresses what cannot be put into words I like to think, and I think the band makes a good go at it. So here we are getting an award for it, it’s like, “What the fuck?” Welcome to life, wet, naked and hungry, and for some of us things get better after a while.