Steve Baltin of Forbes spoke with Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry at the NAMM (National Association Of Music Merchants) show in Anaheim, California. Highlights from the Q&A appear below.
Steve Baltin: What does it mean to you to be getting an award named after Les Paul?
Joe Perry: It’s like anything that has to do with Les Paul. He’s arguably one of the most influential inventors of this last century, right up there with Leo Fender. He’s just an amazing guy, to be a musician, performer and technician, just brilliant. So anyway, the fact that’s got his name attached to this award, believe me, I never thought that would be possible. Cause you think about these things, especially when I wrote the book and I’m thinking back to when I first saw a Les Paul, first heard a Les Paul, and, to me, that was tantamount to an electric guitar, that was it. It was like the gold standard and finally, when I was able to have one in my hands, the same vehicle that I saw Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page using, first thing you do is realize, “I’m playing the same guitar, how come I don’t sound like that?” There’s a lot more that goes into it. Again, Les gave us a tool that gives us a voice so to get an award with his name on it it’s a real honor. Steven [Tyler] and I have a joke, we talk about it all the time, being the last band standing. I think it has to do with being the last man standing.
Baltin: Do you…get a new appreciation for Aerosmith [when] taking a break from it?
Perry: Aerosmith is like a ship, to steer it, to make it move, it’s a big deal. There’s five of us and it’s always been a democracy, so very often it’s not as fast on its feet as an outfit like the [Hollywood] Vampires. At the drop of a hat, somebody says there’s a gig tomorrow night, we can be there and that’s one of the great things about that band. Not only is everybody road dogs and we’ve all done it we do what matters and that’s the music. And the rest of it will work itself out. And it’s totally a different thing than in Aerosmith, where there are so many things, there are riders and all this other crap. But hey, there’s a certain amount of comfort you want if you’re gonna be able to be consistent in your performance.
Baltin: What are the Aerosmith songs you go back to again and again? For me, with all the hits it’s still Kings And Queens.
Perry: That’s one, I think albums are a mirror of what’s going on in the band at any given time. I look at it like it’s a river and the water is always changing, but it’s the bucket that you take out and look to see, it’s like a little statement to where the band is at. So those albums were when we were learning how to be recording artists and not just a live band. Those couple of records, Toys In The Attic and Rocks, were the records where we moved to that next level. We learned how to use a studio, how to write songs in the studio, cause by the time the second record was done we pretty much used up all of our repertoire of music that we had written and played and played and played and did these albums that were already done. So that was the first record, Toys In The Attic, and then every record after that it was like, “Gotta make another record.” We didn’t have any material and we had to write it. And then learning how to use the studio and figuring out, “Okay, we really don’t want the drums to sound like Led Zeppelin, we really don’t want the guitars to sound like Jimmy Page,” cause we managed to have our own sound and let’s do more of that. Those were the records we were trying to figure out what it was, it was really what Aerosmith was.
Baltin: What is one song you haven’t done yet for Vampires you’d love to do?
Perry: The list is enormous cause we’re basically a cover band, so there are so many. I don’t know what the theme will be on the next one, I don’t know if we’re gonna go to that same well, just cover songs from dead people, there are so many bands that are not the original band, so they’re not the same band, it widens the scope. I would like to play a couple of AC/DC songs, they’re alive and well. But in honor of Bon [Scott] not being here I guess we can get away with that. That’s one band and maybe a couple more Hendrix songs and some Zeppelin. There’s no Zeppelin anymore.
Read more at Forbes.