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INTERVIEW/TRACK-BY-TRACK: Aerosmith
Lisa Jenkins , October 29th, 2012 12:16

Aerosmith are set to put out their first new album in 11 years next month; we got a six-track preview of Music From Another Dimension! and popped a question to Steven Tyler and Joe Perry ahead of its release

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On entering The Box Club in Soho's red light district, we are welcomed by scantily clad ladies straddling what only can be described as a canon. I wait for the semi-naked men to appear, but, alas, they never do. However fully dressed men spend most of the evening feeding us sushi. One mustn’t complain.

For a listening party, this was more like a high school pep rally, with the host asking us, “Are you excited to hear the new Aerosmith album folks, ARE YOU!?” This being Her Majesty's rock press, mumbles of ‘Yeah mate’ echo up from the floor and we all clap politely.

At this point I should probably mention that I have been an Aerosmith fan since I was 15. I am now 39. I have gone through 24 years of ribbing, pout jokes, ‘granddad rock’ jibes and still my 15-year-old lustful inclinations towards Mr Tyler have never quite left me. It is inexplicable. It is also the fact that listening to ‘Dream On’ on my 80’s Sony Walkman cassette player, late at night under the covers, got me through some pretty rough times. I have spent years listening to every album they have ever made; I even own the critically panned 1985 album Done With Mirrors on vinyl.

Such is my loyalty to this American rock institution. On this night, listening to six songs from their first album in eleven years, I am hoping to hear the utterly filthy, blues-infused, down and dirty Aerosmith of the 70s. The Aerosmith that writes songs about subjects that are so close to the bone, you have to listen to the song again, just to make sure that, yes, Tyler really did just sing that. Anyone who has heard 'Uncle Salty' from their Toys In The Attic album will know exactly what I mean.

But it's hard to predict what the fans, press and industry, getting stuck into the free beer will be presented with some 36 years to the day that Aerosmith played their first ever UK gig at the Hammersmith Odeon.

Music From Another Dimension reunites the band with Jack Douglas who worked on Get Your Wings, Toys In The Attic, Rocks, Draw The Line and Rock In A Hard Place, who shares production duties with Tyler and Perry, returning the band to the dirtier sound of yore, rather than their more melodic rock of the 90s. It's downright filthy at times, perhaps something that is necessary to placate their new found younger fans, procured from Tyler's stint on American Idol.

We were given a six-track preview of the album, ahead of its release next month, and here’s our verdict:

Street Jesus

This is the Aerosmith from the good ol’ days. Fast, raunchy and channelling Toys In The Attic with the main riffs, it's a 6-minute belter of pure power. Fittingly, the track's been a fan favourite since drummer Joey Kramer premiered it on a radio station in Texas in August. Tyler says of the song: “When I would come to work everyday, I would come across Fairfax and there would be a guy walking that looked like Jesus.”

Can’t Stop Loving You

...and then came this, a country rock duet with Carrie Underwood. Yes, the girl can sing, and it would make a great single, but this is obviously a nod to Tyler's time at American Idol. Clean production and soaring vocals recall their 90s period, a facet that will definitely open them up to a new, younger audience.

Out Go The Lights

Back we go to retro Aerosmith and my heart lifts just a little again. With a ‘Last Child’ vibe about it, and a truly funk-induced intro, this is old school rock 'n' roll at its finest. With the deep riffs and thumping bass, the band go back to their roots with this one. It may not be a stand-out track, but it's the molasses that keeps it all together.

We All Fall Down

Well it wouldn’t be Aerosmith if there wasn’t a ballad in there for the ladies now, would it? They team up with their old friend Diane Warren who wrote ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’ and it lives up to the emotive title. There are soaring melodies, heartfelt vocals from Tyler and just a touch of the rock balladeering that bought Aerosmith back to life again with ‘Angel’. It will also, no doubt, get 15 year old girls all of a flutter.

Beautiful

Co-written and co-produced by songwriter Marti Frederiksen, a close collaborator since Aerosmith’s MTV days, this combines the rawness of old with a melodic chorus that should keep the radio stations happy. With backing vocals from Tyler's daughter Mia (no, gentlemen, not Liv, he does have two other daughters) this slots in as one of my top tracks on the album.

Freedom Fighter

Joe Perry’s take on the Joseph Kony affair. This is Aerosmith trying to get away from the ‘fun stuff’, and has… wait for it ladies, Johnny Depp on backing vocals. This to me is out and out 80s rock: simple bridges, simple choruses. Should I mention Def Leppard? Probably not.

As well playing back the album, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry also answered a few questions from the press, touching on their longevity, American Idol and finally laying to rest speculation about ‘Love In An Elevator’s provenance:

So have you got any memories of this day 36 years ago and doing the first Aerosmith London show at Hammersmith? Did you know that today is a London anniversary for Aerosmith?

Steven Tyler: Right on this stage?

No, in Hammersmith.

ST: Oh, you mean the AEROSMITH Odeon [laughs]! Yes, I remember that well.

So it's been 11 years since the last full album of studio material right? And you guys only got together more recently to get the songs on the album together for release next month - it hasn't been a full 11 years in the making, has it?

ST: You guys are taking the piss, it didn't take 11 years to make it - we were busy getting ready [laughs].

How about playing the new tracks live? Sometimes new tracks don't go down well live, but you've said that the new tracks from this album have been a hit.

Joe Perry: Well, we don't care if there is silence after each song. Sometimes we will play stuff off the new records and that’s exactly what we will hear, but it’s because they're missing 'Mama Kin' or one of those. This time, for some reason, [the audience] seems to be responding. It's a really good experience, when we reach out and see it's working.

There are a lot of styles from start to finish – and it's a 70 minute album – but it’s certainly Aerosmith through and through. Is there a test in the studio when everyone is discussing their ideas to decide whether material is good or not?

ST: We were with our old producer Jack Douglas, all decked out in our studio in Boston. We used to go and sit in a room and think through our ideas and there would be a band that would play. So that's what's different with this album, as a one-off we had outside writers. A couple of songs on the album were actually written by other people.

JP: We’d start off with about 20, 25 things and obviously some songs were left over from the previous album, and then we use new ideas and start working through them. And then some will start to fall away, the good stuff will start to rise up and then the ones that feel really good get to work. We really wanted to fill this record up. We were talking about 10 songs and then 12 songs and then we were like "well, you know, it’s been 10 years, maybe we should throw a few more in there."

I want to know about the song ‘Freedom Fighter’ and what the story behind it is. Who would you prefer to use it, Mitt Romney or Barack Obama?

JP: I thought it was interesting to have that song on the record - it's a bit off-the-track from our usual songs, about fun and entertainment. We’re usually trying to get people away from the problem. I was influenced by something I saw on Facebook about this guy following the story of a warlord, which was this thing that went viral this year. I felt like tipping a hat to these people, these kinds of people who go out there and put their ass on the line to try and bring the truth out to people. Not just like CNN and Fox News and all these big corporations, but the people giving us all kinds of information, allowing people to make their own decisions. Those people I consider freedom fighters. They get cameras, pen and ink and microphones and whatever it takes, and they get out there and they get blown up, too, along with the other fighters. I read it in the morning, and wrote all the lyrics and put it down and by the end of the day it was done. It felt like a burst well: I had to say this stuff and I really wanted to get it out before election day.

On the back of working on American Idol for two years, what have you learnt and what sort of effect do you think that kind of show is having on music?

ST: What I've learned from that show is don't pick it, don't make it, infect it, it's television! It's a great medium, it's a new, wild frontier. When I went on that show, I couldn’t believe how big the production was - millions of dollars go into it. And it was fun; I got to sit next to J-Lo and Brandy - but that's not Aerosmith. After the second year I told them: "you better give me the money I want, otherwise I'll go and do it with the guys that have been waiting for me for four years." I was just very lucky that we got the whole band to go to LA. Jack was there, we got the chance to re-record, the way it happened was magical.

Carrie Underwood is on the album - how did that happen? Can you tell us about some of the other people that were involved in recording the album? How did they get involved?

ST: We wrote a country and western song on day one; it was way country and western. When we finished the lyrics, it was like: "Is this a dream?" I heard Carrie was in LA so I decided to give her a call and she came over, and she said "I'm leaving tomorrow morning", I said "can you come here right now?" and she did. We threw her on the record and that was just an added bonus. A lot of things can happen when you are just walking down the street in LA as opposed to when you’re in Boston. We have some good musician and actor friends who live in LA, let’s just say.

We were staying in a hotel where Julian Lennon was staying at the same time, and one morning I was in the shower, and I knew he was there, I was just singing "Juliaaaaaan" with the window open, and all of a sudden I heard him say, "Steven?!" So he came along to the studio and sang on the opening track of this record, and then Joe invited Johnny Depp to sing…

JP: …well I needed a guitar, actually. We’d left a lot of stuff in Boston and he's got a great guitar collection and is a great guitar player, great musician and he was down at the studio a couple of times - so I asked him if I could borrow a couple of his axes. So he brought them down and as we were laying the tracks down for this song, by the time we finished it was two in the morning and it was time to do the backing vocals, and usually whoever is left there in the studio will end up doing it. He was there in the studio with some of his buddies so he ended up doing the 'oh yeah's and stuff.

But you can really hear it on the deluxe version of this record: we have the DVD and he sat down and we kept it rolling and he really got a chance to cut loose.

You started as young kids in rock ‘n’ roll, and now you are grandfathers - how does your perspective change?

ST: Oh god no, I still love to be a wild child onstage and rock out with my… you know what i'm sayin’?

JP: I don't know, we just turn around and the five of us are still in the room, still playing the same rock ‘n’ roll thing we did when we were 22. When we started everyone in the audience was about our age. And now, looking back at what we’ve got trailing behind us, people have had kids and their kids have had kids but we're still playing this music which is kind of timeless. I don't know how much longer people will be listening to it - as I said, I think we're seeing the end of an era. When we get onstage something happens and time stops. We really love to do that;  apparently the audience do too because they’re still here with us.

With you releasing a new album, and the Rolling Stones turning 50, it seems like there's a big appetite for older rock stars at the moment. But now that you’re back, what do you think the biggest changes have been in the music industry and do you think the younger generation will get the same opportunities as you did? Will they have a career as long as you have in the rock world?

JP: I think we're seeing the end of an era. The more I go to rock shows, and see the bands that are spearheading the genre, it seems to me there is a change in the way people listen to music. They listen by cherry picking the songs from the records. I don’t know if people are going to want to sit and listen to bands for two and a half hours any more. I see more people doing more festival kinds of things, with four or five bands on the bill. There are a few so-called classic rock bands still doing it, but I don't know if The Black Keys will still be able to play in ten years' time.

Will you be partying with Mick and Keith to celebrate their anniversary?

ST: We will be there to sing along.

Most of what we've heard about Aerosmith in the past couple of years in the media is how you've been feuding, almost splitting and disagreeing over American Idol. Is it true that you were close to splitting, that there was tension and, if so, how did you patch it up?

ST: We had to keep ourselves in the press some way!

JP: It was interesting seeing the media take on things we were saying. It was actually quite amusing for us to hear how we were dealing with our problems by the time we were writing and in the studio reading about things. When they said we were looking for a new singer, I was on stage playing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Steven on American Idol. It worked pretty well. It got our names in the newspaper and they even spelt our names right… it was beautiful.

So there was no truth that you were auditioning Lenny Kravitz to sing and all that?

JP: No, no. Although the others might have wanted to!

I read a comment from Jerry Kramer saying the only thing that will split up Aerosmith is an out-and-out death. You’ve had the same line-up since 1970 - what do you feel about Aerosmith keeps you going on over obstacles that would've finished other bands?

ST: Well, we’re committed and we have been committed! We'd all been playing in bands in America even before the English invasion; with this one, it just seemed right. The right band to get our material across, our own brand of rock ‘n’ roll. There is no finish line with this band, we want to be the last band standing, whatever that means. You might think the last album sucked, but then we get onto the stage and something magical happens. It’s hard to explain without getting too fruity, but the outcome is what you’ve heard, it’s fucking unreal. Some of the songs are over a year old, and I have just finished writing some lyrics about two months ago. It just shows what you can do and we’ve had a good time doing it.

Are you doing any British shows in the near future?

JP: Next year maybe. We are talking about a world tour.

Have you actually made love in an elevator and, if so, was it going up or was it going down?

ST. Really?! Right now?! Well, it was going up and down and up and down and up and down and then sideways when the door opened in the lobby…

If your albums were all beautiful women, which would be your favourite and why?

ST: [laughs] Pump and Get A Grip.

Music From Another Dimension will be released through Columbia Records on November 6