Aerosmith on Rock Today: 'We're at the End of an Era'
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Aerosmith is the best-selling American hard rock band of all time, and 44 years after the group's formation in Boston, frontman Steven Tyler, guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton, and drummer Joey Kramer are still rocking as hard as ever, on their aptly titled Let Rock Rule tour. But the significance and irony of that tour's name isn't lost on Perry, who surveys the dearth of successful rock bands out there nowadays and bluntly tells Yahoo Music, "I have a feeling that we're kind of at the end of an era, in a lot of different ways."
"We just saw a pretty amazing age of music go by, starting with all the social unrest and the war in the '60s. The music really was a lot more than it is today, more of a statement. It was more of an us-against-them thing, kind of the background marching orders for the revolution, for the change that happened in the '50s and '60s," Perry explains. "Bands would go out there and play just for the joy of being able to go out and play music, without this huge celebrity thing that comes along with it now. And then we had the MTV era, which I think were the golden years of rock 'n' roll. But now there's very few bands with that old show-must-go-on attitude, that built their reputations on playing live and managed to stay together and still carry that. I mean, that's still the core of our philosophy: You get out there and do whatever it takes to put on the show for the fans that want to come and see you play."
While there seems to be no shortage of diehard Aerosmith fans willing to buy concert tickets to see the band tear through dozens of hits from the '70s, '80s, and '90s, Aerosmith's most recent release, 2012's Music From Another Dimension! — their first album of all original material since 2001's Just Push Play — failed to match the success of Aerosmith's "golden years," ultimately selling only 235,000 copies. Perry, who remains extremely proud of the album (which many critics rightfully declared a return to 1970s form for the veteran rockers), sees this as symptomatic of how the music business has sadly changed over the past four decades.
"The record companies don't really invest in the artist the way they used to," Perry laments. "In the '70s, you usually had fans that were just sitting and waiting for the next record to come out — and if they didn't like it, they bought it anyway! But that's kind of the way our whole economy is now. It's built on growth instead of quality. It's built on 'out with the old, in with the new; buy the new car because last year's car isn't cool,' rather than build a really good car that will last you as long as it should.
"I thought [Music From Another Dimension!] was one of the best records we'd done in years and years… because it was the record that the fans seemed to have been asking for. All these years, over the last 20 years, we'd get these requests, like, 'Why don't you make a record like the old ones?' I think that we got back to the real deal with the last record, but circumstances being what they were, it never got the push that it should have from the label.
"We had this whole promotion set up with the G.I. Joe movie, and they pulled the movie. Actually, I was in the limousine on the way to play the first single on American Idol — literally, we were driving, my car was right in front of Steven's and we were on our way to the studio to play it — and I got a phone call from Paramount and they said, 'I got some bad news for you. We're pulling the G.I. Joe movie for six months.' So the whole promotion thing was pulled right out from under us, and at the same time the president of Sony went over to Universal like two weeks before the album came out. So if that isn't a setup for a bad opening, then I don't know what is."
Music From Another Dimension! was Aerosmith's last album for Sony, but despite this setback, the group's love of rock 'n' roll is as fervent as ever, as evidenced by the fiery performances they deliver night after night on the Let Rock Rule tour. "That's what us together at the beginning, or kept us together," says Perry. "We all had this one vision, and that was to entertain the fans, because we all were fans first. Steven will tell you about the first time he saw the Rolling Stones and how it made him feel, or how I felt when I saw some of the early English bands from the second generation — the Who, the Jeff Beck Group, Ten Years After. For some reason, we thought we could add something to this: 'I think I can get up there and do that,' you know? And there was just something that drove us to take it to the next level."
Perry is planning to release a solo EP in 2015, and his autobiography, Rocks: My Life in and out of Aerosmith, on Oct. 7. But thankfully, it probably won't be another 11 years before Aerosmith records new music. "I have to think we're going into the studio again, just to lay out some new songs," says Perry. "I don't know how it's going to go as far as sales, but as far as us as artists, I think we're gonna have to go in."
And as for that golden era of music, when rock really ruled? Says Perry: "I just count myself lucky to have been around when it was starting, and actually be captured by it and be a part of it."
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