‘Aerosmith Rocks Donington’: Bassist Tom Hamilton Talks New Film/DVD, Gear and Memorable Moments

When Fathom Events, Cinema 1 and Eagle Rock Entertainment decided to partner up to present a monthly classic music series, they figured what better way to kick things off than by bringing in one of the most beloved rock bands of all time: Aerosmith.

Taken from the band’s headlining appearance at last year’s Download Fest at Donington Park in Leicestershire, England, Aerosmith Rocks Donington is a one-night-only concert event that will screen on 300 theaters nationwide 7 p.m. today, Thursday, February 26.

The Donington show once again finds the band at the top of their game. It features a 19-song set that features many of band’s iconic hits, including “Sweet Emotion,” “Walk This Way,” “Dream On,” “Love in a Elevator,” “Janie’s Got a Gun,” “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” and “Dude Looks Like a Lady.”

Aerosmith is one of the biggest rock bands of all time. Together, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton, Brad Whitford and Joey Kramer have sold more than 150 million albums worldwide in addition to receiving four Grammys and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In addition to releasing a DVD of the live show this spring, Aerosmith also has announced they will hit the road this summer.

I spoke with bassist Tom Hamilton about Aerosmith Rocks Donington, music, gear and some of his most memorable moments.

GUITAR WORLD: How did this live project begin?

It’s something that’s been building for a long time. This isn’t the first time we’ve filmed a show and presented it, but the ability to capture it and have it sound great and have the visuals for it be really strong has gotten better and better over the years.

Our feelings about playing at Donington is what really inspired us. We’ve played there several times in the past. It’s a festival that’s been going on for years and is very historic. So we got together with Dick Carruthers, who’s one of the best rock filmmakers around, and said, “Ok, let’s see how good we can make it!”

As a performer, do you feel a sense of added pressure knowing that this is live and there’s no going back?

Of course. Knowing it’s live always makes your brain concentrate a little more on making it work. We knew going in that we were filming and that we had a great director and great cameras. But we always try to out do ourselves every night, whether we’re recording or not. For us, it was more of an opportunity to make something exciting!

Aerosmith’s last studio album, Music From Another Dimension was released in 2012. Has the band given any thought to releasing more new music? Maybe something from the archives?

We have so much in our archives that we could put out. It’s all just a matter of finding the time to sit down and watch it and then come up with something. As far as a new album, we’re not really talking about it at this point. For me as an individual, I would love to go back into the studio within the next year and do it again.

You originally started out as a guitarist but then made the switch to bass. How did that happen?

That happened when I was twelve and had only being playing guitar for a few years. I came from a very small town in New Hampshire and there was really only one band in town I thought was any good. I really wanted to join them but they told me they already had two guitar players. That’s when they said they needed someone to play bass and even had one that I could use. They wound up talking me into it and I found myself really enjoying being able to fulfill that role in the band. The bass guitar is the translator between the drums and the guitar and it’s an interesting instrument to play physically.

What’s your live setup like these days?

I’ve been using Gallien Krueger amplifiers for years. For bass, there’s a G&L that I use. It was Leo Fender’s third guitar company. Their instruments are just fantastic!

Can you tell me how you came up with the music for “Sweet Emotion”?

I think it was during one of those days where I probably partook in some “flammable materials” [laughs]. In that mode of consciousness where inspiration seems to come in great big chunks is where I came up with that intro bass part. It really was just a daydream.

I do remember that around the same time that I wrote it the band was listening to a lot of Jeff Beck’s album, Rough and Ready. That album had a lot of very funky, energetic bass playing on it and it inspired me for those sessions in between verses. Then Steven came up with a vocal for it that was just perfect. When I heard it all in one piece for the first time I knew something good was going to happen from it.

Joe Perry and Steven Tyler have written autobiographies about the band. Have you ever given thought to writing a book about your own life and career?

I’ve been thinking about it more and more because people keep asking me. I do have a lot to say, but it’s just a matter of having the discipline to sit down every morning and just write and write so I can get the story out. Its something that I think I’ll probably wind up doing at some point by popular demand.

Of all the band’s highlights over the years, is there one that stands out to you as most memorable?

That’s a tough question because there have been so many special moments. But I’d have to say having the chance to play in places like Russia, India, Dubai and Argentina.

The idea that we have fans in places like that is a fantastic thought. I remember years ago when Russia was still communist and our music was basically against the law. I would hear through the grapevine that we had a lot of fans there that wanted to see us. Then when the system changed and we could go there we were able to close the loop, finish the thought and play our songs live there. Playing some of the places we weren’t sure we would ever be able to is something that’s very inspiring to me.

For more information, visit aerosmith.com.

James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.

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James Wood

James is a guitarist and freelance writer who's interviewed some of the biggest names in music. He is the author of four books and his writing credits include work for Guitar World, AXS and Yahoo! as well as for his hometown newspaper where he writes on a variety of topics with both passion and humor. As a guitarist, he's performed everywhere from local bars and nightclubs to some of the biggest stages in front of thousands of music fans.