Joe Perry: Rocking In & Out of Aerosmith!

By Carol Anne Szel

Photo of Joe in Kiss Boots by John Bioneilli
Photo of Aerosmith by Mellisa Mahoney
Photo of Joe with Family Roman Perry

Joe Perry let his sweet emotions out this week with the release of his hot new autobiography “Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith.”  Around as one half of rock’s legendary Toxic Twins since the early 70s along with Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler, guitarist Perry holds no punches in what some see as his subtle response to his singer’s 2011 book about his life.

Aerosmith, who came onto the music scene in 1970 in their hometown of Boston and were soon signed by Columbia Records in 1972.  They broke the rock and roll ropes, however, with their third release in 1975 entitled “Toys in the Attic” which brought singles “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk This Way.”  Today, after multi platinum recordings like 1987s Geffen Records release of  “Permanent Vacation” putting forth mega-singles like “Rag Doll,” “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” and “Angel” to  1989s album “Pump” putting out magical music like “F.I.N.E.,” “Love In An Elevator” and “Janie’s Got A Gun.” Then, with the band hitting their multi-platinum pivotal point with album “Get a Grip” and the band’s seemingly autobiographical tune “Amazing,” there were slippery slopes, ups and downs and all-arounds.  More than a dozen albums later, including the Joe Perry Project when he took a hiatus from Aerosmith from 1980-83, Aerosmith remains a force to be reckoned with.  From those early days to today, what happened in between is penned in the poignant words of Perry’s autobiography.

With a forward by actor Johnny Depp, Perry relates his early life as a teen guitarist struggling with his first guitar, to the depths of addiction and it’s toll on the band, and through the winding road of peril with slippery management all the way to today with his thirty year marriage and raising a family.

Sitting with his wife in fact in his native Boston area homestead, I had the chance to catch up with Perry shortly before the book came out to discuss this latest reading revelation, his rock and roll road to musical infamy.

Carol Anne Szel: How is the new book being received when you’re out there on the signing tour with the fans?

Joe Perry:  I did a book signing a couple of days ago and people seemed pretty enthusiastic, so…  But I’m waiting until they read it and see what the vibe is on it. I know I put so much time in it, and uh that’s when people are going to be able to talk about specific parts of the book. 

CAS:  What’s your goal with the book?

JP:  To get it in as many people’s hands as possible!  And that’s on two levels.  Anybody that’s an Aerosmith fan, they get to hear kind of my side of the story as far as an observer in this 40-year-old career.  And basically a career that we kind of followed our own path. There wasn’t really any, well with the exception of one or two bands, the Stones, but they came from a different generation.  Basically just to look back at it and observe how we kept it on a level beyond the stereotype of the rock and roll bands and behind the music, all that stuff. 

I mean, we really get down to some of the truths that it took to keep this band together.  And, if anybody sits there and reads, they’ll get a certain idea of what’s behind the scenes. We wanted to put it out there the way I saw it. I’m fascinated by it.  I have to say the bottom line is that I am fascinated by this story. 

CAS:  Did you ever think when you were a teenager that you’d be where you are today?

JP:  When I was 18 years old and dropping out of school there was this opportunity to be a musician. It never occurred to me in my youth.  I didn’t know what it was going to turn into; I had no idea that we could be as popular as we were. 

So it was something we really carved out of the woodwork of the entertainment industry and we figured out how to do it.  And here we are 42 years later.

CAS:  Your longevity is astonishing in this day and age.

JP:  Now that I think back at other artists of other eras and there was a point where a lot of us never got the rewards of their work because the technology wasn’t there.  Some of them were able to get their paintings recognized, but the majority never got the fruits of their work. 

We live in a time now when an artist can; he’s got the talent to entertain people.  In two days it’s up on the internet and all of the sudden he’s the newest, biggest thing! You know, and he’s 17 years old.  It’s an amazing time.  I mean, so given that, I thought it would be a very good time to get the book out there where there’s the whole story.

Achievements, adventures, things falling apart, and then putting it together as a story.  You know you can’t invent this stuff.  I’m talking about small stuff.  Like, to reference the book, the time when we got a manager’s contract and nothing really happened.  I mean, I remember sitting there on the couch with the other guys talking it over.  In my mind I’m thinking this is some sort of B-movie.  You know, it’s too like, you can’t write this stuff. The synchronicity of it is too right on.  There are so many things that happened like that during the course of our career.  It seemed planned out; I’m thinking there’s something big going on here, something is happening here.

I could never look forward past the next day because I could never count on anything.  Like looking at the whole picture, the whole book, it’s like God-damnit it was like a screenplay or something.

CAS:  Looking back at your life must be cathartic in some way.

JP:  Yeah, especially after I already lived through those various times.  The things that everyone goes through in their lives.  Whether a parent dies or a friend dies, or you get turned down for a job, whatever.  You know it’s not unlike most people’s lives.  But what we do is get up and entertain people.  As far as the work end of it, it’s the same as any other kind of work.  Some days you feel like doing it and some days you don’t.

Especially after the first rush of the first five or ten years. You know and you realize you could actually have a career at this.  And unfortunately for us we couldn’t take it anymore and we broke up. Things happen, as I talk about in the book, and again it’s as best as I can remember.  And again, the angel was weighing a little heavier than the devil. And somehow we managed to pull through.

CAS:  And you’re still together.

JP:  Well I don’t know why, I still haven’t figured it out yet.  Because we’re not different than the rough and tumble gang we were in 1972.  We have our issues amongst ourselves, but when we perceive the rest of the world look down on us we circle the wagons and we’re a tight unit. And it’s happened many times. 

CAS:  How do you balance the artistry with the business end of music? That must be hard.

JP:  It is.  We’re certainly not trained for it, that’s part of it, being tough on that end of it.  But fortunately it took us years and years to find the right people to surround ourselves with and to get it all straightened out.  Our family lives to the best we could, and I’ve been blessed with finding my soul mate of thirty years and raising a family. 

With the band, we have grown together.  From being 18-year-olds in some apartment to going on through middle age and raising families and maybe raising another family, you know? 

CAS:  Your old fans have stuck around and in fact the age range of Aerosmith fans now spans about fifty years! 

JP:  Well I hope some of the music sticks around too!