Aerosmith Rocks On With 'Nine Lives'

By Martin Renzhofer

Joe Perry has spent the best part of the past 25 years living the extremes of rock 'n' roll -- the stories are legendary -- yet the guitarist can remember and appreciate when he was outside looking in.     ``I was, like, 14 when I started playing,'' said the Aerosmith founder and songwriter. ``Listening to the radio, I thought it would be fun to play the guitar. I used to listen to Roy Orbison and then the Beatles and thought about being in a band. I had romantic ideas.     ``I was one of the guys, when you were at a dance, who used to stand on one side of the stage watching the band.''     When the Boston bad boy was in his early 20s, he found some like-minded friends, and Aero-smith was born.     ``That's now what we do,'' said Perry, taking a break in rehearsal. Aerosmith, which performs at the Delta Center on Saturday, was about to record a song for director Jerry Bruckheimer's film ``Armageddon.''     Bassist Tom Hamilton was laying down his parts.     ``We were supposed to have a week off,'' said Perry. ``Oh well. The song is a ballad. We wrote it for the `Nine Lives' record. We didn't put it in.''     ``Nine Lives'' is the hard-rocking band's 12th album, and first for Columbia Records. If history means anything -- the band has sold more than 70 million records -- ``Nine Lives,'' released in March, will find a lot compact-disc players.     The album, which also has CD-ROM capabilities, debuted at No. 1.     The song Aerosmith is redoing for the film is just one of 20 that didn't make ``Nine Lives.''     ``From every record, we have more and more songs that don't make it,'' said Perry. ``If we put them out tomorrow, it would make a fat box set. A lot of the songs are so good that we have to put them out.''     ``Nine Lives'' opens with a vocal-cord-wrenching scream by the band's fiery, enigmatic lead singer, Steve Tyler.     ``[Tyler] does that stuff in his sleep,'' said Perry.     The rest of the album is a tuneful work that highlights the best of Aerosmith -- Tyler's intense, throat-ripping vocals, an occasional Perry solo and the band's tight, heavy, crunching sound wrapped around its usually lascivious lyrics.     ``We program the album like we do our live sets,'' said Perry. ``We start out with a bang and take you for a ride.     ``It's a great album for us to play live.''     Guitarist Brad Whitford and drummer Joey Kramer round out a group that has been a unit since 1972. Between then and now, Aerosmith nearly was broken by band members coming and going, drugs and alcohol, and a career-threatening slump.     But it was only a slump. In 1989, ``Pump'' topped the album charts. The comeback was aided in part by rap group Run D.M.C.'s cover of Aerosmith's 1970s hit, ``Walk This Way.'' Aerosmith, featured in the video, used the exposure as a career kick-starter.     The band that had roared through the 1970s with hit albums ``Get Your Wings,'' ``Toys in the Attic'' and ``Rocks'' spent the late 1980s and '90s on top as well with ``Permanent Vacation,'' ``Pump'' and ``Get a Grip.''     Aerosmith's constant touring contributes to the band's popularity. The group begins a world tour in May and is scheduled to play on the strength of ``Nine Lives'' until October.     ``It definitely gets weird sometimes,'' said Perry. ``It's important to leave a light on in the bathroom so you don't hit a wall.     ``I shake my head all the time. None of the irony of our lifestyle shakes us. It's so foreign to other people and how they live. It's definitely a trip.''     That flipped-out trip also carries family obligations.     ``It's a challenge,'' said Perry. ``Trying to keep a family together and raise kids half normal. We managed to ride this train to amazing places.''     For Perry, whose side projects include solo recordings and his own Les Paul guitar design -- Paul invented the electric guitar -- life in the Aerosmith lane is never dull. The perks are there to be enjoyed.     ``If it wasn't for Aerosmith, I wouldn't be with Jerry Bruckheimer as he was describing his movie. Four days before that, we're doing the Nickelodeon Awards with a bunch of kids. Who would have thought that?     ``We'll keep doing this as long as people want to hear the band and we have a record to make. We're really lucky to be able to make a living this way.''     Now Perry is the object of other 14-year-olds watching the band and hoping for the same stardom.