Joe Perry — yes, that Joe Perry, guitarist for the legendary Aerosmith, leader of the not-legendary-but-still-righteous Joe Perry Project (obviously) — is on the phone talking to the Scene.
"There's a big audience out there," he says. "It's a big audience, and it's fragmented in a lot of ways. There's the younger kids that listen to things piece by piece, and they're used to this fast-food world where if they don't like it, they switch it off."
Steven Tyler is also on the line, and the Scene already has an interview with bassist Tom Hamilton in the can. Yes, this is the appropriate place for a spit-take. It's not often that verifiable rock gods go slumming in the world of alt-weeklies. Funny thing is, it's not like the Scene went begging for the interview — they came to us. Clearly, when Aerosmith decided to release their new album Music From Another Dimension!, they decided to concoct a publicity plan from said dimension as well.
"I remember when I was a fan and I would get a record," says Perry, "and if it didn't knock me out but I was a fan of the band, I'd listen more. And the more I listened to the record, it would turn into one of my favorites — I don't know if kids have that kind of feeling today. So you've got a lot of different ears to play to and to try and reach, because ultimately you want them to have that feeling. And they're looking for it too."
But if they are looking for it, they aren't looking for it in Another Dimension. A month after our conversation, Dimension's first week sales proved to be some of the most disappointing since the band's late-'80s revival — like, fifth place, behind Taylor Swift, a Rod Stewart Christmas album and the fucking 44th installment of Now That's What I Call Music. Now that's what I call depressing, especially given that Dimension is the band's strongest set since the reign of Bush I. Produced by Jack Douglas — the man behind the boards for Aerosmith's undeniable mid-'70s recordings Get Your Wings, Toys in the Attic and Rocks — Dimension is a burly bruiser of an arena-rock record, and a return to form after nearly a decade of no new material. Not to mention the decade before that, which saw the band descending into a morass of Diane Warren-penned melodrama.
"We had worked with Jack Douglas in the '70s," says bassist Hamilton. "He had worked on the records that broke us nationally, globally. ... And then we went for years and years and years without working with him, and here we are in the studio for this album. The whole paradigm — the whole way we worked and the way things were done — was almost identical to the way it was when we first worked with Jack. That's why we have so many songs on this record, why everybody is in there, pitching in, showing their stuff."
For longtime listeners, it's exhilarating to hear the band — pardon the obvious reference — back in the saddle again, but is there really any room for monsters of rock in a landscape dominated by pop-country robot princesses, the reanimated corpses of mod heroes and the unspeakable horror of the EDM hive mind? After a decade of feuds, accidents and embarrassments — not the least of which being the world's worst album title, Honkin' on Bobo — does anyone even remember that, before their ballads saved the earth from killer asteroids, Aerosmith was one of the finest hard-rock bands on earth? If a classic band falls back into their classic vibe in a forest where all the trees are twiddling with their laptops and Instagramming their artisanal dingleberries, does that band make still make a sound? Admittedly, those last two questions go unasked in our interview. But is Aerosmith even fazed by these developments in the marketplace?
"We don't go and design how we're going to fit into what's happening at the moment," says Hamilton. "Because if you do that, first of all people will hear you doing it and it'll be a turnoff. And second of all, the whole thing is just a moving target, so you can start an album, and a year-and-a-half later everything is completely different. There's really no way to aim for it. So we just follow our instincts, and if the song feels good to play and it's fun to listen to for us, we just hope that a lot of people out there will agree with it and feel the same way."
Clearly, when it comes to the monolithic enterprise that is Aerosmith, the train — once again, please pardon the atrocious yet inevitable reference — keeps a-rollin'. While rumors that have swirled about tension within the band — the New York Post stated with their typical flair for subtlety that the tour was "in a tailspin" — and a weak response from radio (which, let's face it, sucks a lot these days) have taken some luster off of Aerosmith's return, the simple fact is that there is still plenty of power, energy and enthusiasm in the music. And that's something you won't find with pre-fab, dubstepped pop.
"It's a lot of fun," says Tyler. "When it comes to sitting in the studio, Joe and Jack and I just ripped this one another asshole."
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