Perry savors Aerosmith resurgence

By Steve Morse, Globe Staff

Publish or perish is the writer's credo. Adapt or die is the rocker's equivalent. That's certainly true for Aerosmith, the veteran Boston band that no longer gets played on many contemporary rock stations. Instead, the group has found other outlets - Top 40 radio and movie soundtracks - which have propelled it back to superstar status and attracted a whole new generation of fans.

''It's been a really exciting time for us. We're reaching a younger crowd, and there's a new energy in the band,'' says guitarist Joe Perry, who joins his former ''toxic twin,'' Steven Tyler, and the rest of Aerosmith for sold-out shows at the FleetCenter on New Year's Eve and the Worcester Centrum on Saturday.

The group is again selling out arenas, thanks to its first No. 1 hit, ''I Don't Miss a Thing,'' from the ''Armageddon'' soundtrack. It was one of four Aerosmith songs in the film (which finished as the year's box-office king with a $202 million gross) and has Hollywood producers lining up for more Aerosmith tracks.

''We're probably one of the most in-demand soundtrack bands right now,'' says Perry, whose group is sifting through offers.

The Aerosmith megahit from ''Armageddon'' was penned by Diane Warren, an often sugary tunesmith who has written for Celine Dion and Bryan Adams. Some old-school Aerosmith fans didn't like the song's slow tempo, but as Perry says, ''Nobody has booed us when we play it onstage. And it's helped bring in a lot of people who then get exposed to our rock 'n' roll songs.

''You've got to find a balance between commerciality and keeping your soul,'' he adds, chatting from his South Shore home. ''It's always an uphill battle in this business, because the whole industry is geared to the next big thing. It's hard to stick around as long as we have.''

Indeed, the vultures were circling two years ago when the group endured rumors about renewed drug use, along with a change in managers (switching from the Cambridge-based Tim Collins to the New York-based Wendy Laister), a change in record producers (from Glen Ballard to Kevin Shirley), and a change in the radio climate that saw the band dropped from many rock playlists in favor of younger ''alternative'' acts.

''WBCN won't even play Aerosmith,'' Perry says of the Boston station (104.1 FM) that was once the band's staunchest ally.

No wonder Perry says that one of his favorite stations is the Cape Cod-based WKPE-FM (''ROCK 104.7'') in Orleans, which plays a mix of old and young rock bands, from Aerosmith, Van Halen, and Metallica to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Scott Weiland.

''I listen to it down here all the time,'' Perry says from Duxbury. ''There are some other stations like it around the country, but not in Boston proper. The Cape station doesn't have the snob thing that Boston stations have. Some of the Boston stations make me sick. They're all about age and what's hip this week. And they're programmed by people who don't live in Boston, no matter what they tell you.''

Perry loves to tell it like it is - a trademark of his ever since Aerosmith released its first album 25 years ago.

Perry doesn't like some of today's narrow-minded rock trends, nor does he like the way that some bands are veering away from the populist base of the music. He's not happy, for instance, withthe high-priced $300 tickets that the Rolling Stones are charging for their arena shows in March.

''I won't pay it,'' he snaps. ''I'd love to see the Stones, but I wouldn't pay it. How much is enough? They already have enough money. Hey, it's a capitalist society and you've got to make a profit, but there are times when it gets greedy.''

Perry extends this belief to signing autographs, which have become big moneymakers for some sports figures, but he can't abide their logic. ''I sign 100 autographs a day for free on the road,'' he says.

This has been a wonderful comeback year for Aerosmith. Not only has the group been hot on the charts and at the box office, but it's been invited to the White House and to the recent Cape Canaveral launch of the Discovery shuttle that took Senator John Glenn into space again after 35 years.

''The launch was fantastic. It was extremely loud and the flame from the exhaust was like an acetylene torch. It hurt my eyes and I had shades on at the time,'' says Perry, whose group also performed for some astronauts at the premiere of ''Armaggedon'' at the Kennedy Space Center in June.

It hasn't been a crisis-free year, however. Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer suffered second-degree burns when his Ferrari caught fire at a Scituate gas station, forcing the cancellation of a number of summer shows. Tyler is recovering from a knee injury after he accidentally banged his leg into a microphone stand.

Tyler is wearing a knee brace and ''he'll have to wear it for a year,'' says Perry. ''And he's been told by doctors to get off the road in January to rest it. We were supposed to keep playing right up until March.

''It hasn't been easy for Steven,'' says Perry. ''He tore the ligament, which is usually a sports-type injury, and he's been traveling with a knee therapist. But he's definitely mending.''

Perry expects the band to finish strong with its area shows (''I'm really excited because the band is tighter than it ever was before''), then he and Tyler will start writing songs for the band's next album, before going back on the road for six weeks starting in April.

So what's the next album going to sound like?

''The last thing I can do is predict that,'' says Perry. ''But we've already talked about producers and the form that it's going to take. It will definitely be funky.''

Pressed further, he hints at a fusion between the vintage hard-rock style of the band's most recent album, ''Nine Lives,'' with the techno slant of the Miami sessions for that disc with Ballard. Those were scrapped and the group sought out the services of hard-rock producer Kevin Shirley in New York, though the band isn't sure about using him again.

''There are elements about `Nine Lives' that we loved, and elements about the Miami sessions we loved,'' says Perry. ''We'll see if we can combine both.''

Meanwhile, don't look for the band to do any sneak gigs at Mama Kin, the club it co-owns on Lansdowne Street. ''I don't think so, not this time,'' says Perry. ''We've been out on the longest stretch without a break that we've had since 1973. We're excited about the shows at the FleetCenter and Centrum, then we need to take a break.''