Few American rock bands have a more illustrious history than Aerosmith.
For more than four decades, the four-time GRAMMY-winning lineup of frontman Steven Tyler, lead guitarist Joe Perry, rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford, bass player Tom Hamilton, and drummer Joey Kramer have entrenched themselves into musical immortality with millions of albums sold and timeless hits such as "Dream On," "Sweet Emotion" and "Janie's Got A Gun."
A testament to their survival is their new 15-song album, Music From Another Dimension!, which took five years, several health scares and a couple near-breakups to complete. It all proved to be worth it, with the album debuting at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 upon its release in November.
Aerosmith are not only still standing, but flourishing. Currently on the second leg of their Global Warming tour with fellow classic rockers Cheap Trick, GRAMMY.com recently caught up with Tyler and Perry to discuss the past, present and future of Aerosmith.
Music From Another Dimension! is your first full album of original songs since 2001's Just Push Play. It must be somewhat of a relief to finally get it out, because you certainly have the bruises to show for it.
Steven Tyler: Oh, do we ever. Some of them turned into scars, but not many.
Joe Perry: Yeah, but that's all the stuff that makes the album what it is. All the stuff that we went through to get here has had, either in a big way or a small way, a positive effect on this record. It wouldn't sound the way it sounds if we hadn't gone through all the stuff. Those life experiences all play into the energy that happens when the band gets into the room.
The album includes "Can't Stop Loving You," a duet with Carrie Underwood. This is your first duet with an outside artist on an album. Why now?
Tyler: When we wrote the song, it spoke for itself. Sometimes you write a song and it tells you what it is. Instead of trying to define it, change it and get a horn player on it, we let the song reveal itself for what it was. Before we knew it, it sounded so country and western, so why not have someone like that on the record? I remember calling Carrie up one night and … she took the second verse and I sang the harmony with her. I've been listening to it and I think it's over the top. It's something we haven't done in forever. It's good to collaborate. We've not only got Carrie on the record, but Julian Lennon is singing harmony with me on "Luv XXX" and Johnny Depp is singing in the background on one of Joe's songs.
Perry: The duet thing has been [one] of those things we've talked about. The band has a short list of things we talk about doing, and getting around to. Honkin' On Bobo was one of them — "Hey, wouldn't it be great to do a blues record someday? So we ended up doing it [in 2004], and this was the time for this. She's certainly got the chops.
There's a Diane Warren ballad on the album called "We All Fall Down." Warren is best known in your camp for writing the GRAMMY-nominated No. 1 hit "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing."
Tyler: That was a song Diane brought. I met her at one of the restaurants here in L.A., and she goes, "Steven, I've got another great song for you." I sat at the bar with her and listened to "We All Fall Down," and that was a couple of years ago. And then Joe heard it a couple of months ago, and he said, "What is this?" It was a demo I did with her, and then the band recut it. It's such a magical song.
Perry: Exactly. Steven had done a vocal on the demo, and it was kind of hanging around back there, and actually, I went out to dinner with a mutual friend of Diane's, and he brought up the song again. When I played it, Billie, my wife, got tears in her eyes. The way Steven sang it … it's just a great song, and she wrote it [with] us in mind, unlike "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing," which she wrote for the movie [Armageddon]. That song is one of the best I've heard from her in a long, long time and it speaks for itself.
You two have such amazing chemistry. What is it about each other that you find complements the other and makes Aerosmith what it is?
Tyler: Just the history. We grew up in the same town in Sunapee, New Hampshire, three miles from each other and didn't really know each other. I had been in all these bands in the '60s and I wanted a male counterpart, like the Kinks and like every other band. I thought that was the secret — [to] have a brother in the band. When I first met Joe, I had broken up with all my bands and he was playing in a jam band. It was the other side of what I wasn't able to do in all the other bands I had before that. Sure, we had the melody, but we didn't have the bluesy rock thing.
Perry: I think we pretty much saw in each other right at the start what each one of us didn't have. I saw in Steven what I didn't have, and he saw in me what he didn't have. We couldn't really sit down and analyze it or put it down on paper. It was a vibe thing. We jammed together. It's about the feeling. Two people are much stronger than one. Nothing's been stronger than that, no matter what we've done.
What are you proudest of concerning Music From Another Dimension!?
Tyler: It's all five of us in the studio, and Joe and I got to dip our hands in the production part of it as well. We all had a bunch of fun. It's almost between [1976's] Rocks and [1975's] Toys In The Attic — that album that fell through the cracks. So I'm really happy about it.
Perry: We both feel the same. I haven't felt this way about a record that we've done in a long time. We've done some great stuff and a lot of fans have been turned onto us by our later stuff, and that's all great. But for me, I think I might like this record more than my last solo record, if you can believe that.
(Nick Krewen is a Toronto-based journalist and frequent contributor to The Toronto Star and SOCAN's Words + Music. He is co-author of the Key Porter book Music From Far And Wide: Celebrating 40 Years Of The JUNO Awards and a contributor to the recently published The Routledge Film Music Sourcebook.)