Aerosmith's Joe Perry: 'I have 600 guitars!'

artist: aerosmith date: 01/20/2007 category: interviews
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Aerosmith's Joe Perry: 'I have 600 guitars!'
As one of America's most loved hard rock outfits, Aerosmith are one of the world's most successful and influential bands. Hailing out of Boston, their ballsy and bluesy raunch underpinned by a Stones-esque swagger, has captivated audiences for more than 30 odd years. Amidst the glory though there has also been the pain, drugs and infighting which led to the band imploding at the height of their reign in the later part of the '70s. But with the original band regrouping years later in the '80s, the band rose like a phoenix from the ashes, by staging one of the most remarkable comebacks in rock history. Not only did the band return to the top, but have remained ever since as relevant to a newer generation of rockers as they were back in the day. Today Aerosmith are back in the saddle again and continuing to ride the crest of a wave. As one of the band's mainstays, guitarist Joe Perry has provided the sonic wizardry to many of the group's well known and most loved anthems. At the core of his playing lies a love of the blues that is tempered by a tastefulness that testifies to why Perry's ability and talent is highly respected by the guitar fraternity the world over. Just like his playing, as a person Perry is extremely articulate, humble in nature and very generous in spirit, qualities which set him apart from other rockers of his ilk. Joe Matera caught up with Joe Perry as the latter was winding up the remaining dates of the recent Aerosmith-Motley Crue U.S tour to chat about Aerosmith's recently released new greatest hits package, his evolving guitar playing and Jeff Beck. Ultimate-Guitar: What's the background to the two new songs that are included on your recently released greatest hits package, Devil's Got A New Disguise? Joe Perry: We had them in our back pocket for awhile as they were going to be part of a studio album that we were going to put. It was suppose to have been finished this Spring and put out this last Summer but we just didn't have time to finish the record. In between Steven's throat problems and just when he was starting to get better we found out about Tom being sick and him not being able to be in the studio. We just couldn't keep the momentum that we needed to finish the record going due to all the health problems. But we did manage to finish these couple of songs. They were kind of finished but just needed to be replayed, so everybody just kind of came in and did what needed to be done to get the songs ready for the record. And because we had a slot locked in for a new record, Sony suggested putting out a greatest hits record. So we thought it was a good idea and thought we could put these new songs on there to give the fans a taste of what the new record is going to sound like. That way we would also have a new album to tour behind because we knew we were going to go out and do this Aerosmith-Motley Crue tour this past Fall.
"Overall with my style I kind of lean towards a cleaner sound with more drive out of it."
Aerosmith has been one of the very few bands to have emerged during the '70s and not only still be around but be at the very top of their game, how does it feel after all these years? Right now, I feel like a tired motherfucker [laughs] I've just spent three months on the road in the States and Canada. I know the reason we did this was because we had to cancel so many gigs last Spring because of Steven's throat, like we had this tour we had to finish so it all kind rolled into this thing this Fall. Now that we 're wrapping this up, it kind of clears the decks so next year can start to focus on working in the studio and hopefully do a world tour. What we're looking at is coming back and playing some places we haven't played a long time. And places we've never played. It's been eight years since we've been in Europe and I don't how long it's been since we've been in Australia, and these are all things I want to do and I know all the other guys in the band feel the same way too we want to get back and play back out in the world. We've played America enough for different reasons and we've stayed here but it's time for playing in other parts of the world. We're an international band and we've played out there and it's time to get back and go to a lot of places we haven't played in awhile. Your last album Honkin' On Bobo was the very first time in many years that you all went into the studio together and recorded an album that way, so how's the recording aspect changed for you over the years? The way people record records or can record records now, like recording on computers has really changed the way you make records because you can make them any way you want. It used to be you'd go in and you had to play pretty much as a band and get a good take and that was it. When we did our first couple of records that were done, I think on 16 track tape, though we first got a taste of being able to overdub and that kind of thing, it still relied pretty much on a good performance from the band. Over the years it just changed where it's this thing where you can put albums together and songs together piece by piece. The guys don't even have to be in the same studio to do a take when they're making an album. So it really has widened all your choices and doing Honkin' On Bobo kind of brought us back to what we do best and that is, play together as a band. And you turn on the tape and you hopefully capture that and that is where an album like Just Push Play wasn't. That was done in bits and pieces and though there were some good songs on there I know that record would have sounded different if we had recorded it the way we did Honkin' On Bobo. But you try different things and live and learn. But this next record we're going to do, I think we will probably incorporate the best of both worlds.
"Doing Honkin' On Bobo brought us back to what we do best, play together as a band."
Aerosmith have weathered through an ever changing musical climate that has seen a lot of changes in styles and sounds in music over the years. How do you think your sound has evolved from the early days to now? Again there are so many different choices now. It used to be that you were desperate to get a kind of distortion and a certain kind of sound. But now you've got so many choices where because everything from reissued guitar amps to reissued guitars is available, you no longer have to buy these old original guitars from the '50s to get a certain sound. I mean, you can get a half decent sound plugging right into a computer. It's not what I choose to do but it certainly adds another color to your paint palette. So overall with my style I kind of lean towards a cleaner sound with a little more drive out of it. And it sounds a little more fresher too when it sounds a lot cleaner. I know when I'm writing songs and when I'm laying down basic tracks down and even when I'm playing live that I tend to go with a cleaner sound. Speaking of guitar sounds, looking back over your whole Aerosmith catalogue, is there any album or albums that stick out that you are the most happy with and where it captures you at your best? Well looking back at some of the first few records I know I was still trying to figure out what the studio was all about. When I was a kid I thought that once I could get into the studio it would be really easy to get this kind of sound or that kind of sound. But then you realize that once you're in there, all it is about is just a microphone picking up the sound you're making and I think that the first few records, I was learning that. But I wouldn't go back and change it because that kind of naivety gives those songs a feel that they have. And in some ways I'd kind of go back and try and get it sounding like that again, but it's kind of hard. So I suppose in my own kind of ignorance, I've ended up making these guitar sounds that I think are classic now. I think I'm now able to kind of just pick the sounds that I think will work best for the song. And that is always an art. Once again it's what your ears hear once you go into the studio and then you try and get that on tape so it's always a big experiment. You're a long time guitar connoisseur and have an ever expanding guitar collection, how many have you got in your collection currently? I would say I have about close to 600 guitars. Out of all of those what would you say is your most favorite and most treasured guitar? My 'Billy' guitara Gibson Lucille that was built about four years ago and that has a picture of my wife on it. It's unusual because not only does it look great but it also sounds great and is a real workhorse. I use it in the studio and I use it live. It's also the most unique guitar because there is only one of them in the whole world.
"I'm now able to kind of just pick the sounds that I think will work best for the song."
Jeff Beck is one of your main musical idols does he still thrill you as a guitar player? Definitely, I went to see him play about a month and half ago and we were lucky enough to see him in a small theatre and we were able to sit about 30 feet away and he was astounding in his commanding of the instrument and his sound. We talked a little bit afterwards and we talked a bit about technique and just some of that stuff. But I've known him off and on and been lucky enough to meet him over the years where we bumped into each other at different things. I've probably seen him except for that tour he did about five years, I've seen him on every tour since the first Jeff Beck Group. He's constantly pushing the edge. I still think he's the best guitar player in the world. You jammed with him once onstage at an Aerosmith show in Anaheim back in the mid 1970s? You're right, you've been reading up? Yeah we did and it was my birthday and we were on tour with them and he came up onstage and played Train Kept A Rollin' with us and that was a moment I'll never forget. In your career have you ever let tracks go by that you knew weren't your best but you still allowed them on an album in order to fulfill your contractual obligations? No, I've always felt like I've put everything I've got into every track. I've always felt that. But I've certainly looked back at tracks later and gone, 'that one sucks! We shouldn't have put that one on there' or 'what was I thinking' all those thoughts. But at the time I always feel I always put everything we got into a track and I've never felt like I've just tossed it off. Maybe that is one of things that has kept us going all this time. 2007 Joe Matera
More aerosmith interviews:
+ Aerosmith: 'We Have A Lot Of Different Styles And All Of It Is Aerosmith' Interviews 07/27/2012
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+ The Classic Albums: Aerosmith's 'Toys In The Attic' Interviews 10/14/2009
+ Brad Whitford: 'It Was A Different Approach To Making Records Then' Interviews 09/02/2009
+ Rock Chronicles. 1970s: Aerosmith Rock Chronicles 09/28/2007
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