Joe Perry: Traveling Man
GW In your second incarnation you became poster children for sobriety. Was that your intention, or was it a management decision, and how do you feel about that now?
PERRY We really took a chance going straight, because we were known as a party band. We thought that maybe fans wouldn’t like us anymore once we we’re straight. But then we decided that our fans would rather hear us play straight than play shitty knowing we’re drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels. At the time, obviously, we needed to do it, otherwise we were never going to be able to reach our potential. We knew that, but we didn’t know what to do about it. Fortunately, we had some good people around us that were able to help us. But we really had to prove to the industry that we were back and that we were accountable. I mean, we couldn’t get bookings because we cancelled so many gigs and had to stop playing in the middle of shows because we were so screwed up.
Making it public was about proving to people that we were back. Also, we were one of the first bands to come out and say we were burnt out. We realized that a lot of people were having that problem, and not just musicians. A lot of people just about survived the Seventies, and we provided a kind of role model for that. People could see that you could actually come through some pretty horrible times and have some sanity in your life again. So that’s how we became a poster band. But it started to wear pretty thin after a while. It got to be old news, and we just wanted to be known as Aerosmith. But in the beginning, we didn’t realize what a powerful example we were setting for a lot of people that needed help.
GW The latest incarnation of the Joe Perry Project consists of yourself, Hagen Grohe [vocals], David Hull [bass], Marty Richards [drums] and Paul Santo [keyboards, percussion]. Tell us a bit about the current lineup.
PERRY Well, we’re all from Boston except for Hagen, who’s from a small town in Germany. He’s still kind of pinchin’ himself that he’s working with us, and we’re sensitive to that. The other guys are more seasoned. Marty’s been around the world eight times; his biggest gig has been, with J Geils. He has R&B/blues/funk thing in his genes, which is why he and David lock up so well. David was playing with Buddy Miles when he was 19, right after Buddy played with Jimi Hendrix in Band of Gypsys. And if that isn’t a testament to his funkability, nothing is. David played on the first two Project albums, so now it’s like wicked déjà vu. Paul is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer. He’s incredibly talented. The band is definitely coming together.
GW How are the live shows going with the new band, and how are the audiences reacting?
PERRY Well, I’m still discovering what the band can do, how the rhythm section works and how Hagen sings. We’re hitting some grooves where I’ve almost stopped playing because I couldn’t believe my ears. I’ve never heard anyone get that close to the Fleetwood Mac rhythm section. I was like ‘Holy Shit! I bargained for a bobcat and I got a tiger. The audiences have been unbelievable in their loyalty and support. There are even some Joe Perry fans out there calling for tunes from the early albums. We do songs like “Rockin’ Train” [from the Project’s 1980 debut, Let the Music Do the Talking] and “East Coast, West Coast,” from the second Project album [1981’s I’ve Got the Rock’n’Rolls Again], which I know at the time the record company did everything it could to bury. I got it from the horse’s mouth that they figured if they didn’t put anything behind my solo records I’d eventually starve and go back to Aerosmith. I knew the first two records were good enough and should have done better than they did. I couldn’t get a handle on it; I wasn’t straight then. But I had a vibe that something was going on.
GW It’s understandable when you consider that Aerosmith are one of the biggest-selling rock bands of all time.
PERRY What brought us together was a vision to be as good a band as possible on whatever level we were at—whether it was competing with other local bands for gigs, auditioning for a record deal or trying to make the best record we could make.
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