Aerosmith Relishes 'Icon' Status

As bassist Tom Hamilton puts it, Aerosmith's collective feet are pushed solidly to the floor. On the heels of the million-selling Columbia album "Just Push Play" and the No. 7 Hot 100 hit "Jaded," the

As bassist Tom Hamilton puts it, Aerosmith's collective feet are pushed solidly to the floor. On the heels of the million-selling Columbia album "Just Push Play" and the No. 7 Hot 100 hit "Jaded," the group spent most of 2001 on the road, playing sold-out shows that bridged the musical generation gap for fans old and new. Indeed, all the hard work over the past 15 years has helped the Boston quintet revive a career that was nearly extinguished by drug abuse and rock star egos in the mid-'80s.

Now, a new generation of artists weaned on Aerosmith's down-and-dirty rock'n'roll has paid tribute to the group via MTV's "icon" special, taped last weekend in Los Angeles and airing tonight (April 17) on the music channel. Pink, Kid Rock, Shakira, Papa Roach, the X-ecutioners, and others rattled off their own interpretations of Aerosmith favorites, while the band was recognized for a lifetime's worth of memorable music videos, such as "Cryin'," "Livin' on the Edge," and "Amazing."

With a cover of the "Spider-Man" theme on the accompanying movie soundtrack and a greatest hits set (due June 25 and featuring the new track "Girls of Summer") in the pipeline, Aerosmith's members have had little time to rest. Hamilton recently talked to about the MTVicon honor, some possible future projects, and what keeps him busy during those rare moments of free time.

What does this MTVicon honor mean to the band? Videos seem to have been a very important part of Aerosmith's promotional campaigns for many years.

When MTV first went on the air, it was during a three-year period where Aerosmith was kind of broken up. I remember how cool and exciting and new and different it was, and thinking, 'Wow, we're not going to be there for that.' We've managed to put the band back together, and I think maybe having a taste of missing out on [early MTV] made us really want to concentrate on videos and doing as well as we could with it. It's been an amazing part of us getting back together and getting back up there with our career.

You know what? My favorite is the "Livin' on the Edge" video. There was something that just came together on that video that to me made it so cool.

At that period we were working with a guy named Marty Callner, who we did a lot of videos with. The style of working with him is that we would brainstorm. We'd have these really long brainstorming meetings and then we'd come out with, like, legal pad-size pieces of paper filled with ideas. We'd kind of start shooting, and going down the list, and basically whatever we had time to shoot was what we got. He used to call it jazz. You know, he'd just record and film tons and tons of footage and go and fish out the good parts. Then he'd worry about how it went together with the concept. Nowadays, it just seems like with our career, the foot is just to the floor. More and more, we'll go out and look for treatments and concepts that are already kind of put together by directors that we like to work with. As far as that initial thinking up the theme of the video, we're a little more in the background on that. But nothing gets shot until we know what's going to happen and we've put our two cents in on it.

Probably not, but I'd love to. I think there's a single on that record. We had a big hit with "Jaded," and then the next two were "Fly Away From Here" and "Sunshine." What was the other one? [he hums the riff]

Yeah! "Just Push Play." Thanks! Those came out and people said, 'Oh yeah, good songs, good songs.' But they weren't really 'hits.' I think there's another song on this record that could be a hit and I suppose it's just all timing. It's got a lot to do with what else is on the radio at the same time.

We've been very active in searching out people to come and do songs on it. It's really a cool thing, the idea. Tribute albums have been around for a while, but having a show where artists you think are pretty cool come and do your songs is a neat thing. On a creative level, I think it's a really valid exercise. And this is where I get my grateful feeling: the only reason we're doing it is because there's an audience demanding it. It's just an amazing feeling that after all these years, there's still a lot of people out there saying, 'We want to see these guys!'

Steven and Joe stopped off there on the way back from Japan to write a couple of songs. It's hard to tell the difference these days from writing and recording, because stuff gets demoed as it gets written. The studio is almost like an instrument in itself. Sometimes we'll keep most of a demo and just replace parts that need to be focused a little more, and sometimes we'll redo everything. We're thinking of a lot of things.

Oh, we were thinking about putting out a live record this year. We probably won't do that. But in conjunction with that idea, when we were out on the road, we started filming shows. We have a lot of footage we haven't even had time to deal with yet. But, I mean, we have not put out any longform video product in so long that we have a massive pile of it. It's going to wind up on DVDs and being available, but it's just a matter of having a period where we can actually concentrate on it.

We haven't really gotten as far as the concept and everything. We haven't really gotten to that point. But just off the top of my head, we have such a pool of cool, interesting, and funny videotaped bits. We've wanted to get them out there for a long time. But also, none of the videos we've done for like the last three albums have been out in a longform video. For "Permanent Vacation," "Pump," and I believe "Get a Grip," it was just a given that at the end of an album/tour cycle, we'd take all the videos we'd done for that, add in some behind-the-scenes footage, and put out a longform . But we haven't done it. It's funny. The density of stuff we have to deal with, as far as career stuff, it's much more than it ever used to be. It's great, but we'll get to stuff as we have time.

I know! People love compilations. It's usually delineated by what record company we were with. You have the Geffen era, then the Columbia era. I was thinking of the term pre-Columbian. Isn't that an archeological term [laughs]? So we've got early Columbian, Geffen, then we've got neo-Columbian. We'd love to do something that really covers the whole gamut.

They did. It was kind of like a double album. I think it was mostly stuff that had been out there before. You know what? I have not actually listened to that whole thing, so maybe I should shut up about it. They never sent us a copy! Do you believe that? It's common courtesy that you send a band a copy of the record you are putting out that involves them! They probably did and got lost in the shuffle. But I started seeing it around and thinking that I had to go to the record store and get that record. But then I would forget.