No one would have faulted Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler for hanging up his colorful scarves and taking a nice long vacation earlier this year -- he'd recently completed rehab and a lengthy tour, after mending fences with his bandmates following a 2009 war of the words. But instead? Tyler signed up to be a judge on "American Idol," a show better-known for melisma and makeovers than hard rock. Despite questions about how the motley crew of Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson would breathe new life into the show, he says he's having a great time as a judge-and is convinced he'll discover the next music legend.
So you weren't a fan or a regular viewer of "American Idol" in the past.
I didn't watch "American Idol" a lot, and my feelings about it back when were, "How can you get anything out of this?" It wasn't that I wasn't a fan of "Idol." I just believed that the only way that you could make it was to work hard in the clubs, smell the sweat, sing in smoke and do the grind. Some of these kids I saw singing... I wanted to say, "Wait a minute. So, where have you sung before?"
Did anything in particular change your impression?
The more I saw the content of "American Idol," I realized that some of them sang in church. Well, guess what? So did I. And they sang off-Broadway -- so did I. That would've been all the groups before Aerosmith. [Laughs] Second City Wazoo, or whatever we called all those groups-in-training. That was my thing, though: "They haven't trained, and how dare they?" And you know what? I was wrong, because what inspired me? Church, and the lunchroom in high school. I got beaten up for having long hair, spit at, peed my pants and all that stuff. But I'd show them in the lunchroom. And this is America's lunchroom. Everyone turns [the TV] on after dinner and watches "American Idol."
When did you first have an inkling that being an "Idol" judge might be an option?
I spoke with my manager [Allen Kovac] a year ago and told him, "This is something I'd like to do," so he started looking into it. But meanwhile, I checked into [the] Betty Ford [Center] for three months [December 2009 to February 2010], and when I came out the wormhole, I met with [producer/songwriter] Marti Frederiksen and Kara [DioGuardi] to write this song for this Japanese flick ["Love Lives," for "Space Battleship Yamato"]. It's huge.