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Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry jazzed about new tour, upcoming book — and Paul McCartney
Joe Perry is a very busy guy these days.
The legendary Aerosmith guitarist is on the road with his fellow equally legendary Bostonian band mates — Steven Tyler, Tom Hamilton, Joey Kramer and Brad Whitford — for their North American tour (it kicked off earlier this month in New York). On this day he finds himself in Cleveland for the inaugural Alternative Press Music Awards, to present the Guitar Legend Award to current tour mate Slash (or as Perry calls it, the “riffmaster of the world” award). And he’s frantically putting the finishing touches on a book about his life and the band he’s been a part of for 44 years.
And then there’s that whole hush-hush Paul McCartney thing. And did I mention Johnny Depp (who jammed on stage with Aerosmith in Massachusetts last week)? Perry sure did.
“I did a [recording] session with Paul McCartney a month and a half ago for a private thing,” Perry said in a phone conversation earlier this week. “I met him once or twice [over the years] to say hello. To spend 6 or 8 hours in studio with him recording! He makes you feel like [you’re recording with just another guy]. He just happens to be a mother——g huge talent! Everyone’s in the room at once; you play until you get a good take.”
— Aerosmith (@Aerosmith) July 17, 2014
Perry talked about the recording session — oh so briefly — and life with Aerosmith.
Q. So what was it like jamming with Paul McCartney?
Joe Perry: It’s the great ego leveler. I was in the studio with Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp, playing guitar, and the three of us are looking at each other like, hey, we’re sitting here with Paul McCartney! And we’re all looking at each other like open-mouthed kids. Paul was really nice. He’s all about business [when he’s recording]. At 72 he can still hit all those notes.
Q. So did this session yield a new single?
JP: It’s a project that were keeping under wraps for now. There will be [an announcement when the time is right].
Q. How has the tour been going?
JP: The tour’s going really good. The [two-year Global Warming tour which ended June 28 in London] was great. We hammered out some good set lists, and the audience seemed to be really responsive to it. So we said why stop there?
Q. So is all the “old baggage” still hovering over Aerosmith all these years later?
JP: It’s just life. Everybody goes through stuff. Its’ human nature. It just seems like me leaving the band for 5 years was bump in the road. But we lived through all of that. We have arguments now and then still. It’s just human nature.
Q. What are the arguments about these days?
JP: If anything it’s about the music and the creative things. And that’s it. We have our families, we have our different ways we want to live outside the band, and we accept that now. Once we figured out the rest of it, everything was OK.
Q. When asked about your upcoming book, Steven Tyler, (who published his autobiography, “Does the Noise in My Head Bother You: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Memoir” in 2011) was recently quoted as saying that “there’s a time when everyone in the band needs to ego-speak.” Your book, “Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith” is due this fall. Do you see your book as ego-speak?
JP: For him, writing a book is ego-speak. … What I wanted to do with my book was basically figure out what I am today, at 63, considering when I was a kid I wanted to be a scientist. I didn’t have any musical background to speak of. And then I heard the Beatles, and pop music. I loved the music. … I never thought I was gonna be a rock star. Forty years later, here I am. I went from wanting to be a marine biologist to being grabbed by back of neck by rock and roll, and there was no getting away from it.
A couple of years ago I didn’t feel like I wanted to write a book. I had so much going on. After that, it was like a switch clicked and said now was the time to do it. It felt like it was time for me to tell what my reality was. A lot of the stuff that’s gone on in the last 20 years hasn’t been spoken about. All the stuff that goes on with every band that’s been together as long as we have. It’s all been interpreted by the press via interviews where we’re misquoted, or by the press turning really little things into big things. We broke up for 5 years, and it was so intense. I left the band. We needed a breather. We went from being teenagers to having 17 kids between all of us. We’ve all managed to grow up and have lives and families outside the band.
As far as this ego thing, [my book] is as far away from that as possible. … There are so many [story lines]. …There was a lot that went on behind the scenes that we never talked about in interviews.
Q. So you want to set the record straight? There conceivably are five versions of what happened.
JP: It’s all part of it. I have to take responsibility for my end of things. And some other people have to either accept my treatment [of those stories and events ] or they can write their own book. … Of course people will remember things differently. Some things were very different even from what Steven wrote.
Q. Can you elaborate on that?
JP: We all remember things differently. He took certain liberties with certain stories. If that’s his reality then it’s his reality. [In his book] he gave some quotes about conversations that he wasn’t there for and what people’s reactions were. That’s his slant. A lot of people really liked [his book], thought it was entertaining.
[My book] I want it to be a little more classic, the fact that I’ve been able to have a normal family life, with the same woman [wife Billie Paulette Montgomery] for 30 years. We raised four kids have two grandkids. Then there’s the relationship between me and Steven, and me and the band. It’s not just a rock and roll autobiography; I wouldn’t have done that. There’s no point to writing that. We did a behind-the-scenes book. A lot of the stories we talked about in “Walk This Way,” well, that book was lightweight and happy-go-lucky. My book is more about the ups and downs and you have to f—–g own the downs as much as you own the ups.
Q.Is it true you won’t let any of the guys read the book before it’s published? Do you think it will ignite some tensions?
JP: They haven’t read it and they’re not gonna read it until it’s done. I bet they think it’s gonna be a lot worse that it is. They’ll be breathing a sigh of relief. Come on, I know everything. They also know I’m not gonna throw anybody under the bus. They know me well enough to know that.
Steven, well, considering the way he wrote his book, who knows what he’ll think of it. I don’t need their approval. [Steven] certainly didn’t ask for mine. He does what he wants. And it should be that way. I’d like it if he liked the book but I don’t expect him to be jumping for joy over everything that’s in there. There’s some knock-down, drag-out times and some of those things had to be addressed. Some were my fault. I’m willing to stand up and say that was me and I f—-d up.
Q. You’re also a grandfather these days. How has that changed your life? Are you the typical spoil-the-grandkids-rotten kinda of grandpa?
JP: It’s actually freed things up a little bit. My wife and I live pretty wild lifestyle on our own. When it comes to our kids, no matter what I do we’re not like your average suburban parents, never have been, never will be. I think we only worried about that, say, 10 or 20 years ago. We didn’t’ want a lot of stuff out there about us. Now that the kids have grown up, we don’t mind if certain stuff comes out, which makes it a lot easier. I miss them being small, but I love them. Some of the best times in my life were when we were raising them. My youngest just graduated from Boston University. The other one graduated from Stanford and went on to Yale. The other guys are doing great, too.
I don’t really think about [grandfatherly] stuff. My grandfather had a head full of white hair and I’m REALLY happy about that [LAUGHS]. This grandfather business is just too wild. I’m married to the most beautiful grandmother I could ever imagine. … My wife and I are enjoying the empty nest. There’s more room for us.
Q. What’s the secret to Aerosmith’s longevity, despite all the drama of the past 44 years?
JP: The main thing is that when we got back together we wanted to keep our eyes and ears open and not be afraid to listen to what other people have to say. … Playing live is [still] the ultimate everything.
Q. What’s your take on Chicago’s music scene?
JP: I think it’s great. That whole connection to the blues. And the fact that it’s a straight-up rock and roll town, like Boston or Detroit.
Aerosmith; Slash. 7:30 p.m. July 25, First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, 19100 S. Ridgeland, Tinley Park. $31-$171. Visit livenation.com