Aerosmith guitarist goes solo as band flounders
LOS ANGELES — Aerosmith has survived drugs, departures, divorces and discord since the rock 'n' roll bad boys formed 40 years ago.
But guitarist Joe Perry does not know if the band will overcome its latest troubles, and is forging ahead with his own ambitious touring and recording plans.
Aerosmith has been on a wobbly footing for the past few years, beset by various medical ailments that have prevented it from recording its first album of new material since 2001.
Things came to a head two months ago when the band canceled a stop-start U.S. tour after singer Steven Tyler fell off the stage and broke his shoulder.
Tyler, who spent time in rehab last year, has not spoken to his bandmates since that night, instead entrusting his newly-hired managers to send out occasional emails, Perry told Reuters in a recent interview.
"I'm an eternal optimist," he said. "We've been though some pretty thin times and some pretty thick times, and there have been periods when Steven and I -- for no reason other than just to get some space -- have not talked to each other for months. Then we get back together and things mesh."
Presumably some words will be exchanged later this month when Aerosmith regroups for two shows in Hawaii, the result of a lawsuit filed by fans upset when the band scrapped a planned appearance there two years ago.
But perhaps more worryingly, Tyler and Perry -- the primary songwriters in Aerosmith -- have not composed a song together in 10 years, Perry said.
"I'm down in my studio every day, writing, and for some reason he wants to write with people like (outside songwriter) Mark Hudson and whatever," he said. "I can't explain it." (Neither Hudson nor Tyler's representatives responded to emails seeking comment.)
Instead, songs that Perry had hoped would end up on the next Aerosmith album -- if only Tyler had added vocals -- can now be found on Perry's fifth solo album "Have Guitar Will Travel," which was released on Tuesday.
Perry sings on most of the tracks, while an unknown German singer named Hagen Grohe sings on four. Perry's wife, Billie, discovered Grohe on YouTube and they brought him over to the United States. (Beat that, "American Idol" judges!)
Billie Perry actually wrote the lyrics for one of the tracks, the ballad "Do You Wonder," which sounds as if it could have been a massive Aerosmith hit.
"Yeah, it could have been -- if there was an Aerosmith to record it, if it ever had people that actually believed in it," Joe Perry said.
He says he has received positive feedback from the band's other members, guitarist Brad Whitford, bass player Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer.
"I don't know if Steven's heard the record," Perry added. "I don't even know if he even listened to the last one (2005's "Joe Perry") all the way through."
At any rate, Perry is pressing ahead with promotion for "Have Guitar Will Travel," an independent release whose title is the result of a competition Perry conducted on Twitter. He plans to tour through November and then launch a three-month world trek at the beginning of 2010.
He also wants to record a new solo album, since the songs for the current one were written the arrival of Grohe.
"Now that I know what Hagen's capable of, after working with him on this, I'll be kinda tuning in sonically to what he can do. The next one will be another jump ahead, and that's gonna happen sooner than later," he said.
A recent Las Vegas gig with another guitarist estranged from his singer, former Guns N' Roses member Slash, could also yield various possibilities. Slash was present at Perry's club show in Los Angeles on Tuesday, when the set list included a reggae version of Aerosmith's "Dream On."
"I'm wide open," Perry said. "I'm out there and playing better than I've played in a long time. I'm inspired. I'm doing some of these other side projects, and I'm looking forward to doing more."
As for his day job, "I can definitely say that I'm not saying 'No' to an Aerosmith record or something, or tour or whatever ... I think we need more time to get everybody healthy and the whole thing, and see if Steven wants to be part of the band again."