The rock music world is notorious for its bickering but Aerosmith belongs to another category altogether — a band with constant and open tensions that has nonetheless managed to stay together.
The friction between guitarist Joe Perry and singer Steven Tyler shows no signs of mellowing with age, with the two Boston rockers both releasing tell-all books that portray each other in a less than flattering light.
Since his memoir Rocks came out in October, Perry says he has only exchanged text messages with his bandmate of 40 years.
“It kind of bounced back and forth a bit. He got about a third of the way through the book and said he liked it, and then I didn’t hear from him, but obviously he finished it,” Perry said.
Perry said he had fully expected Tyler, who criticised his bandmate in his own book in 2011, to take exception to parts of the memoir that portray the singer as controlling and self-promoting.
Among the allegations, Perry says that Tyler used to make a habit of stealing and that several years ago he quietly tried out — unsuccessfully — to sing for a reunited Led Zeppelin.
Perry said he knew from the first time they met that he and Tyler had differences but that they had found a way to work together after splitting in the late 1970s.
“We had to figure out a new dynamic instead of just fighting all the time, to put the personal stuff aside, and let our differences as far as the music go work for us, instead of being a point of contention,” Perry said.
Perry isn’t sure whether he and Tyler will ever talk about the guitarist’s book. But, Perry said, he expects it will be “business as usual” the next time they meet.
In one difference, Perry said that he never took up the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle when it came to sex.
Perry, raised in a small town in Massachusetts, said he generally stayed with one woman at a time.
“That’s what I saw when I was growing up and it just seemed natural to me. I didn’t really have this need to prove myself, to bring more notches to my pistol so to speak,” he said.
“I was the odd man out because I wasn’t into that kind of lifestyle. But I was always a loner anyway, so it didn’t bother me much.”
Perry returns to his family roots on a new solo EP of Christmas songs, performing holiday classics that he enjoyed as a child.
The Hollywood star Johnny Depp lent him a studio to record Joe Perry’s Merry Christmas and wound up joining on rhythm guitar for a version of Chuck Berry’s Run Run Rudolph.
Perry said that Depp “really added some flavour” both artistically and by allowing a live recording of the song, as Perry would otherwise have played both guitar parts and mixed them.
Aerosmith enjoyed a career renaissance starting in the mid-1980s with songs such as Janie’s Got a Gun, Love in an Elevator and Dude (Looks Like a Lady).
The resurgence started through a then unlikely source — the 1986 collaboration Walk this Way with Run-DMC, one of the earliest hip-hop groups to enjoy mainstream success.
Perry said that the famed producer Rick Rubin persuaded Run-DMC to work with the hard rockers after initial hesitation.
“They weren’t jumping up and down about this,” Perry said of Run-DMC. “They were keen to be getting away from electric guitars, and they were working with a whole different paradigm.”
But Perry hailed the lasting influence of Walk This Way. Through the video, Run-DMC became one of the first hip hop acts to enjoy prominence on MTV, where white artists had dominated.
The song’s combination of rap and rock guitars is now itself a mainstream sound favoured by many hip hop and electronic artists.
“If there is anything we have done over the years that has contributed to the legacy of music... that collaboration is one of them that I’m most proud of,” Perry said.