(PCM) Aerosmith is always the name that is on everyone’s lips when they speak about the top rock bands in the world. Their career has spanned decades and they show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The band released their self-titled debut album back in 1973, however they truly exploded on the music scene with the released of the mega-hit album “Toys In The Attic” in 1975 which featured tracks such as “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion”.
The band fell out of the spotlight a bit as we entered the late 70’s, however their career was revitalized back in 1986, when rap superstars Run DMC recorded a cover version of “Walk This Way” and requested that the band accompany them on the track. It was hit and Aerosmith was back in a big way.
Their album “Permanent Vacation” was released in 1987 and it gave us hits such as “Ragdoll” and “Angel” and it was followed by the release of their album “Pump” which gave us “Love In An Elevator”, “Janie’s Got A Gun” and “The Other Side”. The band continued to churn out the hits through the 90’s and since then Aerosmith has been an unstoppable force in rock n’ roll, refusing to ever fade out into obscurity ever again.
Now the band is touring constantly and in fact have even recently paired up with Fathom Events to premiere “Aerosmith Rocks Donington 2014” a one night only concert event that was shown in movie theaters across the country that highlighted last years epic tour.
We had a chance to speak with both Tom Hamilton and Brad Whitford of Aerosmith to chat about the film, the band’s legacy, fans and so much more!
On young fans discovering Aerosmith for the first time
Tom Hamilton: That’s really awesome to hear that actually. We’ve been doing a lot of touring, South America and Europe over the past few years. It’s amazing. Down there, our fans are so young. It’s crazy. They hang around us at the hotel and scream and yell when we go in and out. It’s a riot, but it’s an absolute blast. In the States we have our stalwart fans that are into the various eras of the band, but that’s still great to hear something like that.
On how and why they decided to do the concert film “Aerosmith Rock Donington 2014”
Tom Hamilton: We had a film that came out a few years ago called “Rock for the Rising Sun”. We had never been on tour there and were very anxious to get over there and bring something for our fans after that horrible, major disaster that they had there. We were there with our fans. We made a DVD out of it. It was pretty successful, very encouraging in terms of finding out that kind of stuff that our fans would love to hear, shows that we think are really classic Aerosmith shows.
Something about a short tour. This was about one show. It’s great. People who liked “Rock for the Rising Sun” will love this one. Hopefully you’ll see it on Palladia. They’ll be playing it. I think it’s just going to be awesome. It’s Donington.
On what it was that made the Donington performance so special
Tom Hamilton: It was just a night where everything, not only just really set in for the band. The band was so tight that night, yet we could relax and just have fun. Get off on the insane crowd there.
Brad Whitford: Donington always held a special place for bands of all types, just to be invited at Donington has always been special. It just had a magic about it. We were excited just to be there.
It didn’t dawn on us right away or we didn’t plan right away that we were going to be making a film out of it. It’s just … To be able to capture that moment like we did was great because it does hold a special place for all us rock and rollers.
Tom Hamilton: We should mention that we had planned to film the show and got one of the best rock video, film directors around, named Dick Carruthers. He’s from England. He does a great job from that English point of view about rock bands. It’s a neat thing as far as our history goes. Anyway, that’s another reason that makes it a special DVD. It’s a night in the tour, but it’s also something that’s really filmed and interpreted beautifully. The sound is awesome. The band played really well that night.
On the possibility of any new music from Aerosmith in the near future
Brad Whitford: That’s interesting. We’re not currently in the studio or anything. We’re not quite sure when we might get back in the studio. Right now, actually, Steven is working on a solo album that he’s been wanting to do for the last 20 years. I think a good deal of inspiration may come out of that. He may want to continue to write. Maybe at some point this year we might get into the studio and record some new music. Currently no plans. Our plan right now is we’re preparing for tour this summer.
On the band’s stage dynamics
Tom Hamilton: The core of the dynamic of the band is Joe. He’s very ballsy. He really plays from the hip. He gets an idea, and it pops right out in the singers. Then sometimes is wishing, “Why isn’t he playing the chords under that spot?” Like the album. It just comes out with each performance. It’s awesome.
Brad Whitford: Joe’s a big fan of, I think, the kind of concerts we used to see as kids. It was an era of … We had bands like The Cream and Jimi Hendrix. It was a lot more impromptu stuff that would happen on stage. It made it very exciting. Joe’s a big fan of that approach. There is an element to Joe’s playing sometimes that will represent that.
On releasing some classic or vintage shows or material they may have in the vaults
Tom Hamilton: You know, it’s funny. We have a pretty much an album’s worth of that that I think has just been gradually posted over the last 20 years on the internet. It has some songs that we were really looking forward to using in some of our great songs. They had a really good one called “Meltdown”, and a really great one called “Diamond Dance Romance”. Some nice ethereal stuff. Over the years it just wound up getting … People were making an extra copy for themselves at the studio. Now you can find it online.
I would love to continue digging into that material. We did that on an album we put out two years ago called “Legendary Child”. That’s from that era. We were pretty happy with how we finished it for “From Another Dimension” album. If we get good at that, maybe it will create an avenue for some of these things to get finished and hit an Aerosmith album.
On crafting the band’s touring set-list and the inclusion of some deep tracks
Brad Whitford: That is an ongoing conversation, especially about deep tracks. We’re hoping to extract a few more deep tracks, especially for this summer. We’re eager to pull some stuff out of the hat that we haven’t played or maybe never played or only played a few times. We think it’s time to do that. We feel we need to do it. It’s just time. There’s a lot of great songs we don’t get out and represent to the crowd. I think they’re ready and we’re ready to do that. Hopefully we’re successful in doing that this year.
On changes in the music industry and the up rise of social media
Brad Whitford: Social media in general has just become such a huge way to connect with your fans, to market. Really, connection with the fans and having their instantaneous feedback really has just become invaluable for us to understand what they like, what they don’t like, what they want to hear. It’s just huge.
On the recent books that have been released depicting the history of Aerosmith
Tom Hamilton: I think Joe’s book was a big success. Really, well written, depicting the story from his point of view. It’s very authentic. It’s for people who really are interested, want to learn the history of the band from the viewpoint of somebody that experienced it. Steven’s book is fun to read, but it’s also all over the place. It’s not really that concise, but it’s fun to read.
Brad Whitford: Yeah, I would have to agree that my favorite book was Joe’s book. I thought it was extremely well done and to me, there was more passion and romance in that book, the narrative of his story and his desire to do this thing. When he talked about growing up in Hopedale, Mass. Just the struggle just to get your hands on a guitar and live out this dream. It makes for an incredible story because he did it. He did it, and he did it in a very big way. I just thought it was extremely well written. It was definitely my favorite book about Aerosmith to this point.
On the band’s early days and imagining their current success
Brad Whitford: Man, there’s just no way we could have imagined this far down the line still being out there being an important musical act. Absolutely no way we could have imagined that. In those days we were living day to day. There was a lot of just huge moments for us back then. The first time we heard ourselves on the radio and stuff. To imagine hear yourself on the radio 10 years later or 15 years later or 20 years later was not even the thought. No way.
Tom Hamilton: I will say something though. Joe and I, we played in bands every summer up there. It was this enchanted summer lake area where all the kids from Boston and New York would come up. I lived up there in the country. It was just getting together with Joe every summer and putting a band together, and then doing it the next your with a different name and the next your with a different name.
Somewhere in there, Steven, who is also a summer kid from up there, would come up with his band. He had a band called the Strangers. Then he changed it a little bit, and they were called the Chain Reaction. They were unbelievable. It was the first time I’d ever seen Steven perform. He’d been playing up there at this place called the Barn, but Joe and I were too young to be allowed there. They were playing, so we would listen from the outside.
If there was a big then Steven would come up. They were an amazing band. They didn’t really have any originals, but wow. When I first saw them play it blew me away. Then every summer, I think, Steven got frustrated and restless and would change the band. Then he’d do it again the following year and then the following year. Eventually he reached a dead end with it and decided he needed to break out of the way he’d been trying to do it.
That’s when he saw Joe and I play at the Barn ironically. He said, “These guys, they’re pretty sloppy and loud, but man, they really play with energy. This could be fun.” He’s like, shape that into something. Finally, Joe and Steven got together a few times. Joe and I talked about it. Steven at that point was playing drums in his band. He figured we wanted him to be the drummer. We’re like, “Hey, Steven, don’t worry about playing the drums. You can stand up from now on.” Then we got Joey.
Anyway, yeah, when things got especially married up between Steven and Joe, there was a good feeling that we could do what we wanted depending on how hard we worked at it.
On keeping their songs fresh after so many years
Tom Hamilton: You get a new audience every night, so that’s fresh. That affects how you feel as you play these songs. All these songs, you can play them one of two ways. You can either play them good or you can play them really good or you can play them bad. Every night you’re just trying as hard as you can to play that song the best you’ve ever played it. I guess it’s in the mindset.
Brad Whitford: It’s easy to play a good song. We have a bunch of these great rock and roll riffs. Some stretch a little bit out of the rock mainstream, but they’re all really great songs. It makes it very easy to play them and to play them well because they just have a lot of energy, and they’re songs that we’ve all heard many times on the radio or in our cars. You just go back, and you revisit it. They’re just fun to do so it’s not a problem to play it well.
On advice to younger musicians and lessons they’ve learned along the way
Tom Hamilton: One thing that I’ve never done before that I’ve done in the last year or so is mentor a person, a teenager who is soon going to Berkeley. She started early working on her singing and her writing. I had a song that I had written that really came out sounding like a girl should sing it. It definitely was not a candidate for an Aerosmith song. We developed that song and made a demo of it. During that process she learned a hell of a lot. She met some people that are very good people to know in Boston that have connections in L.A. that she can pursue as her career builds.
Brad Whitford: It’s really about the best music is music that’s always truth and true to your gut. That’s something that just translates. People get that, and they understand it on maybe another level. When it comes from the heart, and you’re singing about something dear to you or important to you, it’s the only way to go.
Trends are trends. They come and go. So yeah, it’s about being true to yourself and your musical self. That’s going to be your best path, whether it’s to super stardom or just playing your local venues or whatever it turns out to be. The best path there is just to be true to yourself.
On sobriety and it’s effect on shaping the band that they are today
Tom Hamilton: We had an experience in the late 70s where the band fell apart over a period of three, four years. The influence of drugs was huge on it. Later on we got the band back together, and everybody realized that some of the stuff that we were doing was costing us having this wonderful band.
We had a manager that actually did a very courageous thing. This is in the books. He became determined that everybody in the band was going to get clean right away, no matter what the amount was they were using. He made it seem the only choice at that point, the crossroads that we were at. It was kind of an intense situation, but it really was a major part of the band having a resurgence.
Doing all this stuff as a band and meeting as a band and talking about stuff. Relationships and talking and talking. It was something that really imprinted on us. We can only see it as being positive for us and contributing to what we have now.
On modifying their sound to appeal to younger crowds
Tom Hamilton: The thing is, is when new things come along, we’ affected by it the way everybody else is affected by it. You’re presented with it. Does it appeal to you or not? A lot of times it’s very full, these different eras of computer music we’re in now and guitar music and R&B. The way they singis something we’ve been able to check out because we’ve been around for a century. We have our 100th anniversary next week on Tuesday if you’d like to come.
Brad Whitford: I think the closest we came to maybe an experience like that was when the opportunity came up with Rick Rubin and we did the track with Run DMC. That just kind of happened. That was a natural evolution of the music scene that we were lucky to be part of, bringing the rock and rap together.
I think we’ve always tried to stay true to our musical roots and not … Consciously thinking about reaching an audience is usually the wrong way to go. Songs need to come from wherever they’ve always come from. When you try to write or adapt, can sometimes get in the way. I think you just have to continue to write and hopefully it reaches your audience just the way it always have.
When we started out we had no audience. We just wrote the music we loved, and we learned that other people loved it to. That’s the way to go.
Tom Hamilton: Yeah, that first album you get, it’s like a honeymoon album. You get to play the songs that you’ve been playing live for the last year or two. You record them, and they have all that vibe. Then two years later you have to start thinking about another album.
You don’t really get the opportunity to do that anymore. Usually there’s the writing, the pre-production and the production. Then you play the song after you put it out. Whereas on your first album you get to play the material before you put it out, so you can really create your sound and how you want to play, how to you want to be seen.
On the 40th anniversary of “Toys In The Attic”
Tom Hamilton: I think it was the first album where myself, and I think the band itself, felt really experienced in the studio and how to use the studio and better ways to arrange your music. We were able to do that on “Toys in the Attic”. I just remember wanting to play better than I ever had on a record. That one and “Rocks”, it was the same thing. Everybody, Brad and I, were putting songs in there, Brian King’s “Last Child”. Then I had a song called “Sick as a Dog” that are both awesome rockers.
Brad Whitford: You know, our first album was very easy for us because we had all the material ready. It was just a matter of recording it. The second became a challenge. The record company didn’t really believe in us anymore because we sold so little of our first album. We started “Toys in the Attic”. We started to figure the process out, and the creative juices were really flowing. We were coming up with great material. It was a really, really fun project for us.
Jack Douglas and his production was absolutely invaluable. We really started to develop a style in putting together the music. Jack came up with some absolutely classic mixes and productions of this stuff that still amazes me when I listen to it. I’m very proud of that record.
Tom Hamilton: It was kind of a sweet spot that we hit.
On ways that they could possibly celebrate the 40 year milestone for the album
Tom Hamilton: It’s neat to think about those anniversaries and those important milestones in time. I just don’t really think about it that much. I don’t know. I guess I’m a little casual about that one.
Brad Whitford: I think it would be fun to do. I think I’d love to do that, maybe make a more intimate setting and do “Toys” and “Rocks” and invite some of our friends from the music industry who claim to have been influenced. Have people sit in and join us on playing back some of that stuff. I think it would be really cool.