By Jeb Wright
The 2012 Experience Hendrix tour has wrapped up in the USA. When the traveling rock circus came through Wichita, Kansas Classic Rock Revisited stopped by to take in the show and spend a few minutes on the bus talking with Rock n Roll Hall of Famer Brad Whitford of Aerosmith.
Whitford is a fan of Jimi and has been a big part of the concerts that are going on around the world in the guitar player’s honor. In the interview below, Brad shares his thoughts on the tour, as well as the how Hendrix influenced him.
We don’t’ just talk Jimi, however, as Whitford chimes in and discusses what he thought of the 60 Minutes expose on Aerosmith, as well as the band’s upcoming new release. Last, but not least, we also discuss Whitford picking up his guitar again and working with Ted Nugent vocalist Derek St. Holmes, with whom Whitford made an album with back in the day.
Special thanks for this interview goes out to Brad Gregory.
Jeb: Talk about why you keep doing the Experience Hendrix Tour? Why is it so endearing to you?
Brad: A lot of it has to do with the people who come back on a regular basis. I have made some great friendships here and we have a lot of fun doing this. Ordinarily, in this business you run into people, here and there, and see them for a day or so, but with this you get to hang out with people for a couple of weeks and get to know each other. I think that is one of things I like the most.
Jeb: The man of the hour here is Jimi Hendrix. I would guess he was an influence to you.
Brad: Absolutely, he was. His influence to me was enormous. The first experience I had with Jimi was hearing his first album. I saw him play live in 1968 in Boston and it was a pretty profound experience for me. I walked on air for about a year. It was The Experience with Noel [Redding], Mitch [Mitchell] and Jimi.
Jeb: I was only a child when Jimi was playing live. Can you explain to me, since I missed out on this, what made Hendrix so special at the time?
Brad: It was a totally different era. There were a lot of new things happening concerning the electric guitar. From amplifiers and foot pedals to actual new ways to utilize the instrument were coming out. There was a lot of experimentation going on with fuzz tones and wah-wah pedals. It was a very exciting time. Jimi had a new sound that nobody had ever heard before. It was a lot of fun trying to figure that all out. You would wonder, “What is this? What is going on there? How did he do that?” You didn’t have all the answers right away. Today, you would just go on the Internet and you could figure it all out Day One. It was fun to have the mysteries and to have to figure out how it was all done.
Jeb: Did Hendrix inspire Aerosmith?
Brad: He did, but it was more in his attitude and his approach. For a trained ear one might notice a musical influence but there was not a real tip of the hat to him, music wise. Back then, he was the scene ten times over. I never did get to meet him but I felt his influence.
Jeb: Are you still a music fan? Does being on this tour awaken the fan inside of you?
Brad: I think being a fan is a big part of what I do. It is wonderful to be a part of this and to play with all of these great musicians.
Jeb: Aerosmith has been talking about the new album they are working on. I have heard that the album is going to be like the 1970’s albums. Is that true?
Brad: There is more of that on the new album. It is not as much as I would like, as I would have preferred to do it all old school. For the most part, the band recorded live. There is more of a tip of the hat to the old approach. A huge part of that is having Jack Douglas back producing the band once more.
Jeb: Explain to me how a producer can influence the band?
Brad: In the context of the band, sometimes you don’t see the stuff that is right in front of you and you need somebody to point that out. You take certain things for granted and you have to have somebody there who can point things out to you, or to guide you to do something. Being a fan, once again, is a huge part of that because you are a fan of music and a fan of the other guys in the band and you want to do your best. Jack is a huge part of that. Back in the day, Jack was the sixth member of Aerosmith. He fit in and he always will.
Jeb: You guys have all gone through hell with Aerosmith. It has been a great thing but at times it has been total insanity. You, however, never seem to cause trouble. I have to ask if you role is to be a peacekeeper or are you just the kind of guy that fades into the background?
Brad: I suppose you could say I am a peacemaker, as I try to keep things moving forward. Aerosmith has a tendency to stall over silly stuff. I think that is part of my role. I try to smooth out the bumps.
Jeb: I love Joe Perry’s playing and I will never say a bad word about it. I think, however, the guy named Whitford does not get all the respect he deserves. Does it bother you that Joe gets a bigger spot light?
Brad: At certain times it has but I really don’t care anymore. The people that appreciate it and really know me realize my contributions and that is all that I’m really concerned about. I am there for my fans and they know what I do.
Jeb: We scheduled this interview for six o’clock and on my way here I got a text from Derek St. Holmes to see if we could do an interview at the same time. I am a huge fan of Whitford/St. Holmes that you did back in the ‘80’s. I texted Derek and said, “You’re not going to believe who I am talking to tonight. Do you have anything you want me to say to him?” Derek responded and said, “Ask him when he is coming to Nashville to play on my album?”
Brad: I was actually going to Nashville on Sunday but I was just talking to Jack Douglas and he wants me to come back to LA to cut a couple of guitar things next Monday. I am not sure I can make that work. If that is the case then I guess I will be in Nashville in a couple of weeks. Derek and I talk all the time. I sit in with his band when I am around. We get together and work on ideas and stuff or we just hang out.
Jeb: Every album in the world is on iTunes except Whitford/St. Holmes. Is there a reason that is not for sale anymore?
Brad: I have no idea why it is not on iTunes. I love that album. I really don’t know and I have never even asked. I will have to look into that. I have that album but I don’t have a turntable anymore. I will have to check into that.
Jeb: Did you watch the 60 Minutes segment on Aerosmith?
Brad: I watched it.
Jeb: What are your thoughts on it? When Steven said, “They ride my coattails I about fell off the couch.”
Brad: I kind of saw it coming. I think Laura Logan saw that she could get Steven defensive and unnerved and she went for it, and she did it. I felt bad for Steven. I was like, “Steven, how long have you been doing this? You didn’t see this coming? You didn’t see her going for it?”
Jeb: She got him alone and got him talking and it ended up one of those moments that makes for good TV.
Brad: Oh yeah, of course, and that is what they were going for. I thought it was just another piece of the Aerosmith puzzle and I think it was good for people to see that part of it.
Jeb: Do you ever take a moment to gaze at the Gold and Platinum albums on the wall and the Hall of Fame Award and think, “Damn, we really are that good.”
Brad: Now and then, I do that, but it is not something that I dwell, on or even think about that much. I am just like anybody else; life goes on and you’ve got all sorts of day to day stuff that you have to deal with. I don’t stop and think about it that much. I’m happy to just be playing my guitar and making a living at it.
Jeb: Last one: I have been told in the early days Aerosmith printed up rolling papers with the band’s logo on them. Is that true?
Brad: I don’t remember that. It could have been…I don’t remember it, though. I don’t remember ever seeing them…but…it could have been…it certainly could have been.
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