Guitarist Joe Perry on Aerosmith, a new album and live
It’s by no means a permanent vacation – to check the title of their hit 1987 album – but Aerosmith have summer 22 off. It was not by their choice. Call it an unexpected, extended, forced timeout.
The Boston quintet was scheduled to resume their residency titled “Deuces Are Wild” at Park MGM in Las Vegas on June 17. This would have started a string of shows leading up to two New England dates in September in Bangor, Maine and Fenway Park.
The band’s 2020 Vegas residency came to an abrupt halt, like everything else, in March 2020 when the pandemic shut down America. But the residency had been rescheduled for June and July this year and the band members were preparing to head to rehearsal in Vegas when, in late May, the lead singer dropped a bombshell on the band.
“As many of you know, our beloved brother Steven [Tyler] worked on his sobriety for many years,” read a group statement. “After foot surgery to prepare for the step and the need to manage pain during the process, he recently relapsed and voluntarily entered a treatment program to focus on his health and recovery.”
Guitarist and co-songwriter Joe Perry – once known, along with Tyler, in their most debauched days as half of the Toxic Twins – didn’t exactly have a plan B. But one fell into place. Paul Geary – the former Extreme drummer who also co-manages the Hollywood Vampires, Perry’s side band with Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp – hosted two dates in Brazil at the Samsung Blues Festival.
They assembled a version of the Joe Perry Project, a band Perry first formed in 1979 after leaving Aerosmith (he joined in 1984). Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone, keyboardist Buck Johnson, bassist Chris Wyse and drummer Joe Pet currently join Perry. There will be Aerosmith songs without vocals and other Aerosmith songs featuring Cherone as Tyler.
Perry, who has an album, “Sweetzerland Manifesto II,” slated for release later this year, will headline New Hampshire’s Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom on July 21 and open for ZZ Top at Leader Bank Pavilion in Boston on July 22. July.
We spoke on the phone from the Sarasota, Florida home he shares with his wife, Billie.
Jim Sullivan: Welcome to the live arena. This is not the arena in which I thought to welcome you this year…
Joe Perry: Yeah, really.
Aerosmith went public with what happened with Steven Tyler. What was your reaction when you heard the news?
Well, you know, it was really about his operation. Her feet were a mess over the years from her motorbike accident [in 1981] and it got worse and worse… He just had to come in and have the surgery and he just didn’t give enough time… He was ready to go and the doctor said, “You don’t can’t get out” and that was it.
But he’s a drug addict and he continued with opiates. When the news broke, it scuttled everyone’s plans. What was your reaction: anger, compassion, empathy, disappointment?
Yeah, well, that’s disappointment for a minute. It’s a huge disappointment, but that’s how it is: life throws shit at us all the time and you either have to be mad and hurt yourself with the stress or accept it for what it is . There’s this saying, “change the things you can and accept the things you can’t.” Boy, is it true. It’s something you can count on. In life, if you’ve learned one thing, it’s that nothing will stay the same.
… We learned a long time ago, especially after the band reformed… There comes a time when you realize that nothing you do will change them and you have to accept them for what they are . I’m not [just] talk about Steven, I’m talking about everyone in the band. I’m sure people said [negative things] about me a ton of times.
How is Tyler now?
He is doing very well. I talk to him almost every day. He’s looking forward to it and I’m really glad we’re playing in New England to start. It’s sort of the start of our 50th anniversary rollout.
When it all ended, you decided you didn’t want summer. You wanted to be a rock guy in a room playing rock music.
We prepared. I have seven solo albums and a lot of them never really worked [live]. The last one, for example, we did a show at the Roxy in Los Angeles and the next day we went back to the studio to start working on the new [Hollywood] Vampires, so I never really had the opportunity to promote the solo as I would have liked.
What’s up with your upcoming Joe Perry Project concerts?
I’m headlining two shows in Brazil, three days before the Boston show, in São Paulo and Porto Alegre. Aerosmith has played a lot in South America and it’s great there. I had the offer to do these concerts and I said to myself that if I had to start a group, another project, what could we gather around Boston? It turned out that there were a few dates available. And to play with ZZ Top, you can’t do better.
For the Brazilian concerts, the promoter requested that at least half of the material be instrumental. You have a few scattered around your solo albums.
When someone says to you “By the way, you have to play X minutes of songs that you’ve never played live before” but mean so much to you, it’s like “OK, twist my arm”. I should know them, but it’s like learning someone else’s songs, because I never played those riffs before I lived. I have to go back and put my head back in the space where I wrote those riffs.
What is the status of Hollywood vampires?
We’ll probably release another single from [second] album [“Rise’] and we have a tour booked next summer. “Heroes”, the [David Bowie] song that Johnny sang, we did a really good job with that version and it was just #1 on iTunes. We did it in the same studio that Bowie recorded it.
You’ve been off the road for a while now. How do you feel about going on stage?
[It’s been] two and a half years at home. I miss playing and getting out of this routine, but it’s a double edged sword. This is how most people live and there is a lot to be said for it. In fact, going out on stage and seeing people looking at me, expecting something…once we’ve rehearsed and gotten into the rhythm, it clicks.
When Aerosmith returns, what can we expect?
There are definitely seven or eight songs we need to play – if I was even half an Aerosmith fan, I’d want to hear them – and there are some we can replace. We really like to add something you wouldn’t expect. Nobody gets out if we play a song that’s not a top 10 hit. As long as we hit all the bases, playing the ones everyone wants to hear, I feel like we have the freedom to kick off a song or two or three. We try to give something to everyone. We were really hitting our stride [in February 2020]. I can’t wait to get this back up and running.