Interview: Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry Discuss Their New Album, 'Music From Another Dimension!'
"It seemed to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.” Joe Perry is discussing the title of Aerosmith’s new album, Music from Another Dimension! “We were just throwing titles around and that came out. The name floated around for a long time, really, before there were any songs. But I think it led us to touch on a lot of different types of music—different ways we could attack rock and roll than Aerosmith has in the past.”
The first album of new, original Aerosmith material since Just Push Play in 2001, Music from Another Dimension! lives up to its name in many ways. It’s an epic disc that includes 15 massive tracks, many of which exceed the six-minute mark and feature ambitious song structures that include pre-choruses, pre-pre-choruses, post-choruses, codas, strange interludes and overdubs up the yin-yang. And of course there’s no shortage of killer guitar solos and crunchy, classic rhythms as only Aerosmith can bang ’em out.
A special deluxe edition of Music from Another Dimension! is laden with even more tracks and videos to boot. Throughout the whole shebang, the sound attains a kind of psycho-acoustic intensity and blockbuster cinematic grandeur. Monster ultra-compressed bass frequencies squoosh across the stereo field like some seismic eruption, and guitars whoosh and whiz past your head like alien spacecraft.
“We really wanted to give it the feel that you were in the room with the band,” Perry says. “Especially with headphones on. That’s how you get your best sound and have an intimate kind of experience. But loud, and rocky! I think there are a lot of different atmospheres on the record.”
“It truly is music from another dimension,” insists Steven Tyler, Aerosmith’s over-the-top lead singer, Perry’s longtime “toxic twin,” lifetime musical collaborator and frequent sparring partner. “It’s from us and it’s from our alter-egos and psyches and our greatness and our fucked-up-ness. It’s just really a piece of who we all are.”
Tyler himself has always been quite a piece of work, and so, in a way, is Music from Another Dimension! The album skews schizophrenically between schmaltzy over-produced Tyler ballads and plenty of the bone-crunching hard rock hookiness that’s been Aerosmith’s most glorious asset ever since they first came out of Boston in the early Seventies. And perhaps more than any other member of Aerosmith, it is Joe Perry who carries that classic rock tradition with all the requisite attitude and swagger. At age 62, he remains very much the archetypal rock guitar god.
“Joe Perry?” Tyler demands. “If you want to hear rock and roll at its finest, just listen to Joe’s song ‘Oh Yeah’ on the new album. Then go listen to ‘Out Go the Lights.’ I haven’t heard anybody do anything like that in a while. Put that up against anything on Rocks or Toys in the Attic. I think it stands up.”
“We made the record that I hope people have been waiting for,” Perry says. “All these years, they’ve been saying, ‘Why don’t you make a record that sounds like the old stuff?’ But like anything that’s been around for 30 years, the classic Aerosmith stuff has acquired a certain patina. You can’t just instantly recreate that. You can’t go back. But you can certainly take that influence and use it when you’re doing new music. And that’s what we did.”
But Music from Another Dimension! is an album that came very close to never being made at all. The band was hobbled, literally, by a series of injuries all too inevitable for men entering or already in their sixth decade of life and still pounding rock and roll stages. Joe Perry underwent knee replacement surgery in 2008. Brad Whitford suffered a nasty knock on the head in 2009 that required surgery to relieve pressure from internal bleeding. That same year, Tyler fell off a stage, broke a shoulder, got addicted to painkillers as a result and had to undergo yet another stint in rehab. Then, in 2010, Tyler brained Perry with a microphone onstage. Rock and roll is a rough game indeed.
There was a point circa 2009 when it looked like Tyler might quit or get kicked out of Aerosmith entirely. He seemed to be distancing himself from the band via a variety of side and solo projects, most notably a two-year run as a judge on American Idol. But then all of this is nothing new for Aerosmith. Perry quit the band in 1979 and Whitford walked out in 1981, both eventually to return to the fold. Drama, among other barely controlled substances, is what has always fueled Aerosmith.
“How fucking amazing is it that we came up with this great album after so many years?” Tyler says, certainly with no sense of false modesty. “Is it because we haven’t been in the studio for a while? Or is it because we fought, and everybody in the band laid their dumbest shit on the table for a few years? Whatever the reason we were fighting, it was the dumbest shit on the planet, and maybe that tumultuous moment caused the electricity in the studio when we did get together. I’ll tell you, when we laid down [the lead track] ‘Legendary Child,’ I looked at Joe and said, ‘Joe, we’re back.’ It was a very epiphanous moment. It was like we stepped out of the Record Plant in 1974 and, instead of stepping onto the street, stepped right into the studio here.”
Still, as far as Joe Perry is concerned, Music from Another Dimension! should have gotten made way sooner than it did. “By all rights, this album should have come out three years after Just Push Play,” he says. “But we’ve been touring constantly over the past decade. We tried to make this record three times—literally, officially, as far as record company accounting is concerned. And then there was a third time when we sat around the table and said, “Yeah, let’s get started on a record. Let’s talk to some producers…’ But it never came to pass.
“So it took a while to get everybody rollin’, everybody onboard, everybody feeling right about it. The upside of that was we had started to stockpile a lot of material. And that’s usually the backbone of a new record to start with.”
Perry discloses that bassist Tom Hamilton’s bonus track contribution, “Up on the Mountain,” dates back to the Nine Lives period, circa 1989, as does Perry’s composition “Something.” “Or at least the guts from those songs were from around then,” Perry says. And then there were a couple of riffs that I used to pull out of the hat live when we’d be onstage jamming. Every song has its own story of how it developed and where it came from. The opening riff from ‘Legendary Child’ dates from around the time of Pump . I had just gotten one of the first Korg guitar synths at the time when we were working on that album. I remember picking it up and that riff came out—the opening anthemic kind of riff.”