While in town filming the last two seasons of American Idol, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler kept a storm of paparazzi busy. But that's not all he was doing during his time in L.A. Following his daily reality show obligations, Tyler would sneak off to West Hollywood's Swing House Studios to meet up with Joe Perry and co. and put the finishing touches on the band's latest album.
We recently spoke by phone with Tyler and Perry, who had played a show in their hometown of Boston the night before. “It was veni vidi vici, baby. We came, we saw, we needed a Kleenex and a cigarette,” says Tyler.
With West Coast Sound Aerosmith's toxic twins discuss recording their first studio album in 10 years, Music From Another Dimension, and “losing their shit” over local L.A. bands. They play at the Hollywood Bowl tonight.
How has the tour been going so far?
STEVEN TYLER: Just stupid great — and without a record. We've got a single [“Legendary Child”] out but we're not putting the album out till Nov. 6. South America and Japan sold out and now the States. We're on about show 11 and the band is on fire now.
Aerosmith are releasing their first solo album in 10 years. What makes this different from past Aerosmith releases?
JOE PERRY: This one has a lot of band-generated material on it. This is the first record we've done in a long time where the band got together and actually hammered out the arrangements and the whole vibe of each song.
ST: We went in with the original guys and just carved it out. It was like taking a weed whacker and going into the middle of an overgrown field.
Why so long between Aerosmith records?
JP: We've been trying to get this record done for 10 years, but somehow the stars weren't right. Every time we would get together, though, we'd write something new and get something else in the can. With this record, we were able to grab the best of that stuff — some of it going back 20 years.
What is Aerosmith's songwriting process like after all these years? Very different than in the '70s, I'd imagine.
ST: The band kind of fell apart for a little bit, and it was one of those things where we said, “Let's get together no matter what it takes.” The band flew to L.A., where I'm here with all the hoity-toities and doing Idol, and they sat in the studio with me and Marti Frederiksen. I said, “We'll do a song a day for a week — just come out, I'll prove it to you.” What do they say in The Godfather? “It was an offer they couldn't refuse.” We did it and three of those songs are the singles on the record.
The new album has a song with Carrie Underwood on it. That's a new direction for Aerosmith. How did that turn out?
ST: That will be a country crossover, hopefully.
It's been a rough couple of years for the band. What's the glue that keeps it all together?
ST: I think at the end of the day the knowledge that holding onto anger is like grabbing something really hot with the intent to throw it at someone else, but you're the one that gets burned. Short of everyone's egos, there's never really anything that was wrong. I was writing songs and I wrote a book. When I took Idol, it kind of shook the apple cart. Instead of being happy for me, there was a lot of jealousy, but it worked out. It was a risk for me, too, but I just wanted to sit next to J.Lo and Randy [Jackson]. I never watched Idol.
JP: The band never really goes away. We're in this club that we all signed onto a long, long time ago. It's been such a way of life that the idea of it not being there doesn't occur.
What was it like recording in L.A.?
ST: Every night after Idol I would go to Swing House Studios and spend six hours there after seven hours at the lot. It was like a little hippie huddle. You walk through and there are six rooms where all the new talent in L.A. is rehearsing. Then there is a big soundstage that Marilyn Manson is on, working out the kinks of his tour, and then you walk into the back, which is cordoned off for us. I would be writing a song and have a momentary lapse of reasoning, and I'd go out and listen to these new bands and lose my shit, because they were all so good.
Did you ever pop in on some up-and-coming indie band that had no idea you were there?
ST: Oh, fuck yeah. All the time. I'd be listening to them and I'd say, “Wait a minute. Where's the harmony? You guys eat the mic.” And they'd freak out when I would give them any kind of input, but it was my home for four months. A lot of good stuff happened in L.A. I brought Johnny Depp down there the first time to listen to the album because I was so proud of it. One night Jim Carrey came over and I let him listen to [“Out Goes the Lights”] and he just about shit. I love rubbing noses with people that are highly successful and clearly out of their fucking minds.
At this point in your career, are you guys more interested in keeping the older fans or attracting new ones?
JP: I don't really know who this record is going to appeal to. I don't think the record company knows for sure even how to market it. Certainly there are classic rock stations for classic rock bands to play their classic songs. These are brand-new songs. Will they be classics in 20 years? I don't know. I guess we'll find out in 20 years. They feel like those songs to me but they certainly haven't been played 50 times or 100 times in front of crowds all over the world. All I know is that when I listen back to them, they sound like Aerosmith songs.
ST: When I write my lyrics, it's a train of thought — sometimes it doesn't make all the stops [laughs]. Usually, I can't put two words together just talking to someone, but if I sit down and write it I can usually come up with the “why verse” and the “what if” verse and then just blow it out of the park with a good chorus line. I just wrote a song called “Beautiful” and there's a little rap in the front and it goes into a chorus that's like music of the future. It's a chorus that's a half-time chorus, and no one's ever done that, and why did I do that? Because I don't give a fuck. As soon as I didn't care about money, I started making it. As soon as I didn't care about the songs, we started writing them. It sounds so good once you get into that realm of “I don't care.” There's just something magical about it.
Aerosmith play the Hollywood Bowl tonight.