Aerosmith Gets The Blues
Considering Aerosmith's sizeable presence on the pop landscape and its place in rock history, it's a bit funny to hear guitarist Joe Perry relay that the group is working on a new album in his basemenConsidering Aerosmith's sizeable presence on the pop landscape and its place in rock history, it's a bit funny to hear guitarist Joe Perry relay that the group is working on a new album in his basement studio, which he says is the size of a small living room.
It's the same cozy space -- directly below the bedroom Perry shares with his wife -- where, bit by bit, the band recorded its 2001 Columbia set, "Just Push Play." This time around, the group is merely warming up here before moving in a few weeks to its own Boston-area recording facility, construction on which is nearly complete.
"It's amazing we walk out of there friends," he says with a laugh, referring to the infamous personality clashes that have at times ripped the band apart. "So much of the old s*** comes up. But we've at least gotten to the point where it doesn't come to blows; it's like we don't take it personally. Sometimes it takes a little work, but we know better.
"But all that fire, and whatever it is in our personalities, all that was there 20 years ago is still right there. It's just really kind of weird. So what ends up coming out is this music -- it's really something."
The band, Perry says, is having a great time working on its much-discussed blues album, a set weighted two-thirds towards blues traditionals and a third Aerosmith originals. The group has thus far worked up about 10 songs, including Muddy Waters/Willie Dixon's "I'm Ready," Blind Willie McTell's "Broke Down Engine," Little Walter's "Temperature," and Otis Rush's "All Your Lovin'."
"The music's been phenomenal, cuz we're doing what musicians, white guys from the suburbs, have always done -- gotten down in the basement and played guitars," Perry says. "I think we're gonna have some tracks, by the time we're finished here, that we're gonna have to beat when we go into our studio."
"We're putting our spin on our influences," he continues, "There are some things [where] we're taking kind of a cue from more modern versions. Some of it, like, 'Broke Down Engine,' [Bob] Dylan recorded that in '94, but it was a Blind Willie McTell song that I think was recorded in 1930-something. So we're listening to both versions and making our own version of it. Basically, it's in the tradition of the blues.
"We're not making an album for blues purists, we're not making an album to educate people in the blues, we're not making an album to try and copy Muddy Waters. What we're doing is taking songs that make the hair on the back of our neck stand up and playing 'em the way we feel. We're kind of doing what the English bands did. That's why we're looking at some of the stuff that influenced us in the '60s like the British blues.
"In the end, we're gonna have some songs that sound kind of traditional, and other songs that sound like they come from the 'Rocks' era," he added, referring to the band's 1976 Columbia album.
The guitarist says he will likely sing at least one song on the record, potentially the early Fleetwood Mac cut "Stop Messin' Round," a longtime concert staple. The guitarist and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler recently performed the song -- along with "King Bee" -- at the all-star A Salute to the Blues concert at New York's Radio City Music Hall.
The entire album will be recorded live. "That's what the whole thing was, to get back to that," Perry notes, adding that the group is co-producing the set with Jack Douglas, who helmed such band classics as "Get Your Wings" (1974), "Toys in the Attic" (1975), "Draw the Line" (1977), and "Rocks."
Perry says he hopes the as-yet-untitled record will hit stores on Columbia in September, not long after the band begins an amphitheater tour with Kiss.
Perry says the whole process of working on these blues songs has left him stunned by what he, Tyler, and company created more than 25 years ago: "Sometimes I'm listening to some of these [new] tracks, and I'm like, 'I can't believe this is the same band that did 'I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing,' not that there was anything wrong with that. It just amazes me that we can be this band, and it's all the same guys, and we're all sitting down here and we're all like banging on guitars and it's like the same thing. And we're diggin' down and playing, it's just been a great, great time.
"We still hear ourselves as just barely able to keep up, just to ourselves. We're still pushing, just the nature of what's kept driving us. But when I listen back to the band playing, it sounds like we've been playing this song for 10 years, and it's just something we worked up. That's the side of it that amazes me.
Perry himself has been keeping busy since the band's last tour, starting not only his record label, Roman Records -- the first release from which, a set from the Memphis-based Porch Ghouls was recently released through Sony -- but also his own food company, which just debuted its first product: Joe Perry's Rock Your World Boneyard Brew.
A hot sauce fan for some 20 years, ever since he began vacationing regularly in Jamaica, Perry says the creation of his fiery condiment -- which he notes is more akin to the Caribbean, fruit-based sauces than the Louisiana, tomato-based brands -- is something the he's wanted to develop for some time now.
It's an idea born out of his habit of mixing different sauces while on the road. "There's always, like, a stack of hot sauce in my dressing room," he says. "And I found myself blending different ones together, to find what I really liked. There was always something missing. So finally, I had this name, 'Rock Your World,' trademarked [about four years ago]."
Perry, who occasionally also barbecues for friends -- especially when Aerosmith is working in his basement studio -- says he plans to launch a second sauce and a pepper jelly in the coming years.