Interview: Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry Discuss Their New Album, 'Music From Another Dimension!'
But Perry bristles at the suggestion, made by some, that Music from Another Dimension! is an album of leftovers, retreads and reject riffs. “That certainly wasn’t the case,” he says. “Those ideas were part of the overflow that happens with every record. Every song on the new album was recorded fresh. All the basic tracks were recorded last summer at our studio in Boston.”
That would be Aerosmith’s own Vindaloo Studio. But work was also done at the Boneyard, Perry’s home studio in nearby Duxbury, Massachusetts. “I wanted to do a lot of the guitars there,” he says, “I have certain pieces of old equipment that we don’t have at the other studio, and I really like the guitar sounds I get at the Boneyard.”
Indeed, the Boneyard is a guitarist’s dream studio, endowed with not only the finest analog recording equipment but also all the best in vintage and cutting-edge contemporary guitar gear. “Originally,” says Perry, “I just wanted to build a place where anything I laid down on guitar would be technically as good as it could possibly sound. That evolved to where I have all kinds of stuff lying around. I have a little collection of old Maestro stuff, the old Gibson effect boxes. It’s so easy to plug any of that stuff in.”
But there’s more behind the album’s massive sound than just primo vintage guitar gear. It was recorded using the Endless Analog CLASP system. The acronym stands for Closed Loop Analog Signal Processor. Basically it enables the user to sync vintage analog 24-track tape machines to Pro Tools, hitting the analog tape before the signal is digitized.
“So you get that tape warmth that everyone craves, wants and remembers so well,” Perry notes. “It’s almost like using the tape machine as a piece of outboard gear. The signal chain literally goes from the microphone to a vintage mic pre right into the tape machine, and then right from the tape machine into the computer. So when the computer gets it, it’s getting that actual tape warmth in the analog sound. And, of course, when we mixed the album down, we mixed down to a half inch [Ampex ATR] analog tape machine.”
Even the greatest gear, however, is only as good as the human being(s) running it. And in this instance too, Aerosmith had the best. Legendary record producer Jack Douglas (John Lennon, Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper, Slash’s Snakepit) had produced some of Aerosmith’s most revered albums, including Get Your Wings, Toys in the Attic, Rocks and Draw the Line. Douglas has been in and out of the Aerosmith fold ever since then, and he reunited with the band in 2004 for their blues cover album, Honkin’ on Bobo.
Still, Tyler claims credit for talking Douglas into producing Music from Another Dimension! by claiming that it will be Aerosmith’s last album—an assertion that neither Tyler nor Perry will confirm when the point is pressed. Still, the move was magnanimous of Tyler. Douglas is one of the few people on earth who can face down Aerosmith’s notorious mouth that roared.
“The other guys really love Jack more than I do,” Tyler concedes. “Because Jack puts them together in that space of drums, bass, guitar and…I mean I love him dearly but he gives me so much shit that I fight with him constantly. And that’s why the album is produced by me, Joe and Jack.”
Douglas is also the narrator heard on the album’s Twilight Zone pastiche opening and closing. Perry credits the producer with pushing the band in a way they hadn’t been pushed in quite some time.
“Jack’s attitude is, ‘Get in there and play it again, and give it some more this time!’ There was none of that thing where the producer or engineer says, ‘Okay, we got two pretty good takes. I can put something together.’ It was like, ‘Do another take, another take…let’s get the great take.’ And that’s from old-school analog recording, where you couldn’t edit as readily. And the other part of that is that we approached this new record with an attitude of, ‘How is this song going to go down when we play it in front of an audience that’s never heard it before?’ When we worked on records in the Seventies, that was always the perspective. And I think it’s something that’s different than a lot of the records we did in the late Eighties and Nineties.”
Early sessions in the Boston area then gave way to recording, overdubbing and mixing in L.A., principally at Swing House studios. The move was essentially undertaken to accommodate Tyler’s American Idol schedule—a minefield of a topic if ever there was one. The drama went public in early 2010 when reports hit the media that Aerosmith were auditioning new lead singers, although both Perry and Brad Whitford say that not one single audition ever took place.
“Oh, we never,” Perry avers. “There were no auditions. The farthest it ever got was probably a conference call with the three other guys in the band talking about different options of what to do about Steven’s time with American Idol. We weren’t really sure what our options were going to be. I thought about reviving the Joe Perry Project. But on the other hand, Aerosmith was sounding great and we wanted to be able to go on playing live. So we said, ‘Maybe we should think about bringing somebody else in to fill the spot until Steven gets back.’ And that was about as far as it got. Then the rest of it kind of snowballed in the press. It’s as simple as that.”
For those who need a recap, Perry was aggrieved that he had to find out about Tyler’s American Idol deal via the internet, along with all the punters. And when Tyler got wind of alleged auditions to replace him, he also got pissed off.
“On the other hand,” Perry pushes back, “Steven went off to audition for Led Zeppelin. I didn’t find out about that until actually three or four days after he got back.”
Relative peace was restored when it turned out that Tyler’s American Idol schedule allowed him sufficient time to go into the studio with Aerosmith and finish off the album. The singer could effectively have his cake and eat it too. For which, to his reckoning, his bandmates should be grateful.
“No one in the band wanted me to do Idol,” he says. “I was taking another job, et cetera, but I would imagine it was the kind of thing that saved their lives.”