Nashville Cream: I grew up in Boston, I was raised on Aerosmith, and my first big question is: What was your first favorite local band when you were coming up?
Tom Hamilton: People usually think of our past and our early days as playing in clubs, but the fact is that in Boston there were no clubs where you could play originals. You had to play Top 40 covers. We didn't get a lot of club gigs, so we played a lot of college mixers and frat parties and high school dances and stuff. It was an amazing time. The only bands we were really aware of were The Montgomery Blues Band and The J. Geils Band, and then there was a band that we had heard of named Ultimate Spinach, but by the time we had moved to Boston they were done and gone.
NC: When did things become more club-friendly in Boston?
TH: You know, it's kind of funny. There was a club named Club Boston that we might have played a couple of times, but we had a solid following in Boston before our first album came out. But it really wasn't until we had an album out that we went from playing the gigs we were accustomed to to opening for bands on tour. We never really had a club era. It's ironic — we've probably played more clubs after we made it than before. We used to love to invade a club without warning, and maybe we'll do it again at some point. We did that a bunch of times.
NC: I have an uncle who used to brag about seeing you on Revere Beach in the '70s. Tell me about the new album — does it feel really good to have it finally hitting the shelves?
TH: It's an amazing feeling. We had a blues album, Honkin' on Bobo, that was all blues covers. It came out really well, but we knew it was kind of just for the blues connoisseurs. So this album has been such a long time coming — I feel like I've been working on this album for years and years. I've been looking forward to it. But it took one of those moments where a lot of things fell into place before it got on the schedule and we were all committed to doing it. That came along about two-and-a-half years ago, and what we did was agree to use Jack Douglas as a producer. I don't know if a lot of people know what a producer does on a record, but it's a lot like a coach on a football team. He's the guy who takes all the ideas and all the personalities and figures out how to work it politically and then figures out how to get everyone's ideas onto the record so that you have a record of good songs. It's very important — that producer position — for setting the tone so things get done.
We had worked with Jack Douglas in the '70s. He had worked on the records that broke us nationally, globally. Toys in the Attic, Get Your Wings and Rocks, 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 we 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. We're really interested to see what people think of it — it's a lot to digest. It's 15 songs and we have a deluxe version with 18 songs on it, so Aerosmith fans better be ready to do some studying.
NC: There's a ton of new-media stuff that goes along with the album, and I really love the comic-book-adventure vibe of the whole thing.
TH: We have a person that does all of our video stuff, all of that content, and he is just constantly grinding out these cool bits of film and artwork. He did the artwork on the front of the album. His name is Casey Tebo, and he's amazing.
NC: How did you get in the mindset to bring out this album to a very different market? Things are really different, even since Honkin' on Bobo — do you have to mentally prepare for that?
TH: You know, we wouldn't even really know how. To us, the way we do that is to be focused on the songs and realize that it is about the songs. There's guitar riffs, there's drum parts, there's singing there's all these different aspects, but the thing that really gets people is when you have songs that feel great to listen to. We don't go and design how we're going to fit into what's happening at the moment, because if you do that, first of all people will hear you doing it and it'll be a turn off. 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.
NC: I wanted to ask: How have you guys never made a Nashville record? You'd think that in an over-40-year career you would have stopped by for a country record once.
TH: Well, there is a song on our new album that very much has a country flavor — it even has Carrie Underwood singing on it. Hopefully people that are into country will love it and listen to it and not want to kill us for spreading into other styles.
NC: I have the feeling it'll go over pretty well.
TH: It's a good song. And like I said, it's about the song — you can do anything you want in this world as long as it's good. And according to how we judge a song, we think it's a quality piece of work and people are going to dig it.