Joe Perry and Brad Whitford of Aerosmith Discuss 'Pump' in 1990 Guitar World Interview
In this 1990 interview, Aerosmith guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford discuss their latest album, Pump, their gear and why the Beatles offered more than the Stones.
What were your basic setups for Pump?
PERRY: I mostly used a ’57 Strat for my rhythm parts with a Hiwatt or a Marshall or a Soldano through a 4-x-12. I found the Soldano was pretty cool for really quiet volumes. Live, as soon as you crank it to get some volume, they completely over-amp and make noise.
WHITFORD: I used my gold top Les Paul a lot.
Kind of a reversal from what people expect from you two.
WHITFORD: Well, way back, on the first record, I used mostly a gold top with P90's, and Joe played his black Strat.
You got all those different tones with that gear alone?
WHITFORD: I brought many guitars but a lot of them turned out to be useless. I love the part of making a record where you scrutinize and really find out if a guitar sounds good. My gold top just turned out to have a terrific sound. Some of the Strats I had worked a little bit, but not too many other guitars I brought were happening.
Joe, did you use any of your Guilds?
PERRY: Yeah, I used the T-250. It's shaped like a Tele, has EMG pickups, and is real, real clean and twangy. It's got a triple Hipshot stringbender on it, and I used the Supro for slide.
Let's roll through the tunes and get an idea of who's doing what and what's going on: "Young Lust."
PERRY: Both of us are playing rhythm. On almost all the songs we're both playing rhythm. Brad's on the left and I'm on the right, just like when we're on stage. I do the short lead on a Spector going through an Eventide 300 Harmonizer.
PERRY: Not really any leads. There's a slide thing over the bridge.
"Love In The Elevator."
WHITFORD: We trade off on the first lead break. I start it, then Joe plays the whole breakdown section.
"Monkey On My Back."
WHITFORD: I did the rhythm acoustic on an old Gibson with a few different tunings. Used a Nashville stringing. I remembered it from Keith Richards’ interview.
They do that on a lot of metal records to double lead lines.
WHITFORD: Yeah, they gotta do that because they record with such distortion.
PERRY: I do a slide solo, plus a slide rhythm track. We weren't even sure we were going to put "Monkey" on.
WHITFORD: It was on our "B List."
Pretty good for the B List.
PERRY: We had all this extra material, and it wasn't just a bunch of licks. On Vacation we had a bunch of licks and then we had the songs we finished. This time we literally had an A list and a B list of songs and the B list had five or six tunes three quarters done. "Monkey" was completely done, but it was really basic. That's one of the reasons we're so proud of it. We played it live in the studio, just laid it down -- even the lead is live, and it's really raw. I think the only overdubs were Brad's acoustic parts. And Steven did a cool thing on a Korg M1 synthesizer.
Are we going to hear the rest of the B List stuff?
PERRY: We want to put out an ep in the summer or fall.
WHITFORD: We have out-takes from Vacation, and there's some things from earlier than that. Sometimes, it was only by the skin-of-its-teeth that stuff didn't make a record. But I think it's cool and it'll be interesting to hear.
PERRY: It'll probably have eight or nine tunes on it because we want to give people their money's worth. But we don't want to call it an album because it'll take on a whole different aura. All it's supposed to be is a scrapbook of our shit, you know? A little side thing -- just a part of what we're all about.
You guys seem to work well with such a loose attitude.
PERRY: We did Pump for ourselves, just to have fun. Basically, it was real selfish. It's great to make money – I like that part – but fortunately, that's not why we're in it. Otherwise, I'd get a fucking ulcer for sure.
"Janie's Got A Gun."
WHITFORD: That was layered. I bought a new Tele and it had a great sound right off the rack -- a Fender American Standard Telecaster. I just recorded some swells in the beginning. Then I did some rhythm work in the chorus. Joe did the solo and a lot of other little things.
PERRY: Things I will never remember when we play it live. I played the solo on a Chet Atkins electric acoustic. That piezo pickup is so hot. When you plug that in, all you can do is turn it on. After that it's all distortion, and it just gets wilder and wilder.
"The Other Side."
WHITFORD: I don't think I played on that. Joe played the rhythm with my gold top.
PERRY: We recorded with the whole band and the horns and stuff, but we just couldn't get the feel Steven was hearing with Jim. We ended up tearing the whole thing down, keeping the drums, bass and horns.
WHITFORD: I think I used a Roy Buchannan Tele. It's pretty neat. Joe's doing a "not-quite-the-same-rhythm" on the other side of the mix. This is a good example of how we play rhythm together really well. It's almost like a counterpoint rhythm. It's not quite the same, but we're working along the same lines. But we don't do it the same and we don't throw any extraneous bullshit in there.
PERRY: I think I used my Guild Tele. We really wanted to do a rock 'n' roll tip of the hat to the Kinks.
"Don't Get Mad, Get Even."
PERRY: Just an excuse to play loud, that's all. I play some leads in the background, but there's really no leads per se. I came up with that song on one of those days ... I was bummed I didn't have a track to play because every day we'd go into the studio and try to come up with a cassette. That's how we do it. Come home, put it in the cassette player, and show your wife you were really at rehearsal. I didn't have anything, so I put "Rag Doll" on a quarter-inch track backwards and it inspired that kind of chord change. Steven came in and said, ''Sounds angry to me. Don't get mad, get even."
I was kind of surprised it even ended up being on the record. It’s such a simple statement. But then we started playing it together -- it's just so fucking powerful. It turned into a monster. But I didn't think it was going to be anything other than just a blast.
WHITFORD: Joe played a rhythm track. I played a solo track with that new Kramer Sustainor Guitar. It's a fun guitar to mess around with. I laid down two tracks the first just fucking around. Then I did another. Then I tried to get one for real, but we had it on the first two takes.
"What It Takes."
WHITFORD: It was a keyboard song to begin with. Somewhere along the line we knew it was special, so it had to be approached in a different manner. And that's where Joe did that really cool Leslie solo.
PERRY: It started off sounding really country western. We didn't want to write a song like “Angel," and for Desmond (Child), that's where his heart and soul is. He's into big, dramatic ballads. But we wanted to do something different. So we kept playing it and Steven started singing with a twang in his voice. I'm playing the Hipshot guitar going, deeow. Then it was just too on the other side. I was afraid of another "Girl Keeps Coming Apart."
Great song, but country stations aren't going to play it. So we made it a little more rocked out. The thing that made it for me was when the guy put an accordion on it. That gave it the flavor it needed. Otherwise it would have just been nice chords and nice changes.
I get the feeling you guys let nature take its course when working out guitar parts.
PERRY: Very rarely does the situation crop up where we don't come up with something that way. Obviously we have to talk about it, but for the most part it just flows.
Do you ever have to stop and ask, "Hey, what are you playing over there?"'
WHITFORD: Sometimes I'll tend to drift away or make it too busy. When I keep it simple - -that's when it really works.
Any disagreements about parts?
PERRY: Nah, there's plenty to argue about with Steven!
WHITFORD: We don't have too many differences.
PERRY: There's lots of space in the band. Because we both play everything, it's not like, ''I'm the lead guitar player, I've got to do all this." I love to play rhythm guitar, but on this record I did more leads. On the last record Brad did more leads. The next record will be different.
Do you start thinking about the next album the minute you finish the last one?
PERRY: Things happen as you go along and play the songs. You listen to the album and get response. You get tired of the record and figure out what's wrong with it. It's just pop music.
After a while, no matter how much you love any pop song, you're going to get tired of it. That's the way it is with any entertainment. It's good when you first hear it or see it, you like it for a while, then it gets old. It gets chewed up and spit out and it's done. So there's a point where I feel, "The last record is done. Now I want to hear some new Aerosmith music." Then you start the whole process again. But right now I'm just ready to play the shit out of “Don't Get Mad, Get Even."
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