John Gerome of The Associated Press recently conducted a question-and-answer session with AEROSMITH guitarist Joe Perry. Read on:
AP: I hear you listen to quite a bit of country music.
Joe Perry: There are guys in country music who are wizards on the guitar. If you're a country fan, you're used to it. But as a rock guitar player, you listen.
AP: Anything else about country songs that appeal to you?
Joe Perry: Loud snare drum, simple melodies and great lyrics. The really pop country stuff can sound a little bland because they put in strings and horns and all of that. Some of the older, esoteric country I listen to a lot. With satellite radio you can hear it. I think the "Oh Brother, (Where Art Thou?)" stuff is kind of the best of that genre.
AP: Any favorite performers?
Joe Perry: I've gone to see TOBY KEITH play a couple of times and really liked it. The last one I heard that blew me away was the BISCUIT BURNERS (a bluegrass group from Asheville, N.C.). I've always liked that guy who plays the double guitar (Junior Brown).
AP: You recorded a song with Willie Nelson several years ago.
Joe Perry: Yeah, we had decided we were going to do a rock version of the song and a slow country thing. I was anxious to do the country thing and he was anxious to hear the rock stuff.
AP: Do you think your appreciation for country music shows in your records?
Joe Perry: It's probably listening to country music that got me to start playing a lot cleaner, not as distorted. I've been getting down with a Telecaster and turning the amp up just enough to get that little crunch. I think some of the lyrics on my solo album are influenced by the way country singers use words, more matter-of-fact than metaphors. It's a more simplistic approach. I don't say that in a demeaning way; it's just a different way to express yourself.
AP: I know you're a big fan of blues music. Do you get to Memphis often?
Joe Perry: I spend as much time in Memphis as I can. I travel by bus most of the time now, and whenever Memphis is within 500 miles I go even if we're not doing a gig there. I've got friends there, and I go to Graceland and to Sun Studio. My dream is to record at Sun.
AP: AEROSMITH has blended different styles of music into its songs better than most rock bands — "Ragdoll" has jazz elements, "Crazy" a country feel, "Big Ten Inch Record" swing. Do you think that gets overlooked?
Joe Perry: A lot of people don't listen to the albums. They just listen to the singles. So it's easy sometimes to dismiss us as a power ballad band. But that's kind of like calling LED ZEPPELIN a heavy metal band.
AP: You wrote all the tracks on your new solo album except a cover of THE DOORS' "Crystal Ship" and WOODY GUTHRIE's "Vigilante Man", plus you sang and played most of the instruments. Was it hard not having a co-writer this time?
Joe Perry: I had to step up to the plate on the lyric end of things a lot more than usual. Usually I leave that up to Steven (Tyler) and toss him a line every now and then.
AP: Your three previous solo albums were released after you had left AEROSMITH in 1979. Why put out a solo record now?
Joe Perry: This one was done for totally different reasons. I have no intention of leaving AEROSMITH or anything like that. There was such a surplus of tunes lying around. I was getting tired of hearing them. It got to the point that I thought "When is this stuff ever going to come out? Will it become a box set for my kids to put out?" I had a year off, and I just decided to do it.
AP: Do you think it's harder today for a young rock band than it was in the early 1970s?
Joe Perry: I would have to say it was easier then because that kind of music was more in vogue. If you were in a rock band there were clubs everywhere where you could play rock music. Now the big money is in hip-hop, and there's that kind of really polished, homogenized music. Even the so called "rock bands" have a very homogenized kind of sound to them.
AP: Any advice for new bands?
Joe Perry: Get good live and get a following because that's what people notice. You can always pound out demos and send them to record companies, but most of the successful bands I've seen are the ones that can sustain themselves.