There was a time we might have expected an Aerosmith Christmas celebration to involve tossing Santa from the sleigh and stealing all the presents. But Joe Perry says that he’s long wanted to record some holiday songs with the group. Watch the video for his rendition of Chuck Berry‘s “Run Run Rudolph,” premiering exclusively on Billboard.com:
“It’s been something for a long time with the band,” the guitarist, who’s just released the four-song EP Joe Perry’s Merry Christmas, tells Billboard. “It’s kind of been on the short list of different things, whether it was a blues album or covering different songs. There’s a lot of things you think about being able to go into the studio and have fun with, and doing a Christmas album was one of them. But we never got around to it, so I finally just did it myself.”
Joe Perry’s Merry Christmas was actually put together in the span of about three weeks, he says. Finishing the promotional tour for his best-selling memoir Rocks: My Life in and Out of Aerosmith, Perry found himself “living, like, 20 feet away from a studio” and corralled Bruce Witkin, with whom Perry had been working on material for his next solo album, to take a side trip into some Yuletide fare. “I said, ‘Why don’t we go in and knock off some Christmas songs. We’ll do an EP,’ ” Perry recalls. “He was all up for it, so we got over there and carved out some time. It’s all live in the studio. The tracks are all live. That’s a real horn section. Those are real girl singers in there. On a lot of my solo records I played everything, but I wanted this to be a real band, so we recorded it like we would’ve recorded it on tape.”
As for the four songs — including the Elvis Presley-popularized “Santa Claus is Back in Town” and instrumental takes on “Silent Night” and “White Christmas” — Perry says, “They’re songs that I’ve always wanted to do. If I’d been home sitting around and going down in my studio, they’re songs I would’ve knocked off just for the fun of it, just to see how they came out.” The finished tracks were recorded at good pal Johnny Depp`s Studio 1480 with Witkin and co-producer Ryan Dorn, and Depp wound up playing rhythm guitar on “Run Run Rudolph.”
“He would stop by once in a while to see how the tracks were doing, and we’re both Chuck Berry fans and [the song] needed another rhythm guitar, so he put on a rhythm track over what I had already laid down,” Perry recalls. “And he’s a really good guitar player. People don’t know it, but he can hold his own, believe me. And if you listen on headphones you can really hear the two rhythm guitars together, just Chuck Berry-ing out.”
The Christmas EP is the final project in what’s been “a very creative year” for Perry, which also included Aerosmith tours in North America and Europe. The group will be touring again in 2015, Perry says, and he also plans to continue working on a next solo project and focus a bit on his food company. And, he adds, he may overturn a few more Rocks in the near future beyond what we’ve already read in the book.
“I don’t think I’m gonna be writing another autobiography for a while,” Perry notes, “but one thing I realized is you work on certain stories and focus on those and stop thinking about other ones, the ones you have to leave behind, and those start popping up after the book is done. I mentioned that to my co-writer (David Ritz), and he said, ‘Well, that’s what you do for the paperback. When the paperback comes out you can put in some of those things you forgot or there wasn’t room for or whatever.’ So I have that to look forward to, ’cause I can put in some of the anecdotes and stuff that I didn’t have room for in the hardcover.”