For a decade, AEROSMITH mainman Steven Tyler and Joe Perry snorted so many drugs that they made 'Trainspotting' look like Walt Disney- now they get up 7am and go to the gym. 'We lost ten years,' the ex- Toxic Twins tell Paul Elliott. 'Think of all the beautiful women we could've been with...'
Steven Tyler, Aerosmith singer, father of lovely Liv and rock god, is talking about the bad old days. The very bad old days, when he and the guy sitting next to him- Joe Perry, who else?- snorted, slurped and shagged their way around the globe in year- long orgies of rock piggery.
There's only one problem with Tyler's mind- boggling tales of class A substance abuse with the rich and famous. If KERRANG! printed them in full we'd get our arses sued off by a bunch of tetchy rock stars. Still, you can have fun guessing who the guilty parties might be. The first old drug buddy whom shall henceforth be referred to as Mr. Pink.
"People would ask me if I'd ever met 'Mr. Pink'," Steven says. "And I could barely remember. But I know that when we played in Florida one time, the room was full of so many chicks and other bands, me and 'Mr. Pink' just opened this sliding door and went into a closet on our knees and started shovelling it in."
'It' is of course Steven's old mate 'Charlie'. Known to everyone else as cocaine.
And there's more. there always is with Aerosmith. This time it's the tale of a world- famous American rock- star- 'Mr. Blue' to you.
"'Mr. Blue' wasn't my dealer," Tyler explains, "but when I was in LA he sold me some heroin. Next time I met him, I was only a year sober. I took three of his band into my dressing room and we talked and I told them: 'Look, you can do whatever you want- drink, snort, smoke- but I just want you to know the nature of the beast. if you're gonna whip out a vial of blow in my dressing room, I'm gonna leave, and I'm gonna get pissed off at you for keeping me out of there'. The only thing I knew to do back then was split if somebody whipped out a bottle. I didn't trust myself around it.
"I don't remember much of the '70s," Tyler sighs. "Or the '80s. Gee," he adds with a rueful shake of the head, "that's great. You lost ten years- all the beautiful women you could have been with.
"You experience a lot of memory loss. It's like spending all your time on the dark side of the moon- you get used to it."
THAT, OF course, was then. Now, life on the road is
very different for Aerosmith. It is 10 years since the Toxic Twins quit smack
and coke and booze. As the title of Aerosmith's 1982 comeback album cheeckily
put in, Tyler and Perry are 'Done With Mirrors'.
Today, they are seated on a couch draped in Eastern silks. Exotic fabrics are hung from the walls. But we are, in fact, in a hotel in the Finnish capital, Helsinki- one of the earliest dates on the band's far- reaching 1997 world tour. The decor in the room is in keeping with the Asian influences in the artwork on Aerosmith's current album, 'Nine Lives'. Steven is dressed in bright, flowing, hippyish threads. Joe wears a dark suit and radiates health.
It is four in the afternoon, but the pair have already done a number of European press and TV interviews, and there is a gig tonight at the Hartwall Areena, a huge ice- hockey stadium. It's amazing how much you can pack into a day when you're not spending all your waking hours shooting up.
"Yeah," Joe nods. "Back then, it was just a hotel room, then the gig, hotel room, gig, and a little travelling in between. We never went out. That's why it's great to be over here now, visiting all these cities we've never seen before."
SO, NOW that they've been clean for years, what
exactly is a typical day in the life of Aerosmith when they're on the road?
Tyler: "Yesterday, we woke up in Hamburg, had breakfast, packed, then we were on this little private jet with a party of 10. We looked at the pictures from the first show in Newscastle, and we're in the process of doing a book, so we're reading the re- writes. We got off the plane, got into a little bus and drive into Helsinki. the roof's open, so I put my hair back and had a smoke. Got here, unpacked..."
Perry: "... Went to a hockey game, then went out to dinner. A vegetarian restaurant. We're not vegetarians, we eat steak, but sometimes at 10:30 at night you don't want heavy stuff. Then we saw these guys play- I think they were Hare Krishnas."
Joe is smirking because Aerosmith recently butted heads with Hare Krishna groups who claimed that the artwork on 'Nine Lives' is stolen from ancient sacred texts (see panel).
"I guess these guys in Helsinki hadn't seen the album cover yet because they were happy to see us," he chuckles. "We hung out there for a while, then came back around 12 and spent a couple of hours going over the book. And then it was eight in the morning."
Tyler and Perry might be pushing 50, but they still look damn sight healthier than any of the KERRANG! staff. Do the 'Smiths have an on- tour fitness programme?
"Well, in the old days," Tyler says, pressing a nostril and sniffing, "a little line of blow would put you in a place you were familiar with. Today, I go do something, I run up the stairway. It's an 'alive' switch. You sweat, you're out of breath. It intensifies living for me, so I always like to start the day on a Stairmaster or something."
EVEN WHEN you're not stemming nosebleeds and sticking needles in your veins every five minutes, life on tour is always throwing up little dramas. Today's involves support act Kula Shaker walking offstage in a strop after just one song. Which might have had something to do with Aerosmith's lengthy soundcheck forcing the 'Shaker to go onstage cold, without any soundcheck of their own. In short, they sounded shite. So bad, in fact, that top 'Shaker geezer Crispian Mills finished the band's only song of the evening, 'Greatful When You're Dead', by dropping his guitar on the floor, waving goodbye to a bemused audience and sneering, "Enjoy the gods of rock, Aerosmith!"
Oh well. If it's any consolation to Kula Shaker, Aerosmith won't be doing many more soundchecks.
"Usually after about 10 or 15 shows, we don't soundcheck unless we want to work on a new song," says Perry. "We only rehearsed for a couple of days before the tour."
"We could have rehearsed for two weeks," Tyler grins, "but it's much more fun to f**k up onstage in front of people."
Perry: "Plus, no matter how much you rehearse, as soon as you get in front of a crowd everything's different. You move diffrent, you play a little harder- that really shakes it out."
Will your families be joining you on the road?
"They'll be out next week," says Perry. "One of the best times we had was on the 'Permanent Vacation' tour, when we all loaded up on a big double- decker bus with the families, kids, wives. We had 30 people on there and we just cruised acrss Europe."
"I had this big old window up on top," Tyler purrs. "Three o'clock in the morning, after you've just finished playing, it's raining, the bus lights are on high and you're n your way from Germany through to Italy- what a feeling. Listening to 'The Last Temptention Of Christ' soundtrack, watching the contryside. You look for UFOs. t's great."
Any close encounters to report?
"No, not yet. I'm flipping, just waiting. But it's like the people who come up to me and say, 'You're so f**king rich!'. They're looking for money so they're not gonna get it. If you're looking for UFOs, you ain't gonna see 'em."
"They know," Perry reassures him. "They've got your number."
YOU MENTIONED 'The Last Temptation Of Christ'- how
about The Last Temptation Of Aerosmith? Can you carry on resisting all those
tempting drugs and all that free- flowing booze? "After a while you get
good at resisting," says Perry firmly. "I don't know if we could have
done it the first year, but saying no becomes a habit just like any other habit.
Back in the '70s, the first thing you do when the bus arrives is walk to the
bar. I just don't do that anymore."
Tyler: "Plus, it's easy to stuff a cigarette in your mouth and go out and have a beer. Life's gotta be more complicated- for me, anyway. When I think about all the stuff I did, it's one of the reasons why I got sober. Where were you for the '70s? Now, we get a chance to see India and write songs about it."
Perry: "A lot of people say, 'You know, the road is a spiritual graveyard. It's horrible there. You'll fall off the wagon'. All that shit. Well, it is a tough place if you don't get out and do the stuff.
"The rock 'n' roll lifestyle- after a while, it's death. Staying in your hotel and sleeping off a hangover till four in the afternoon. You look back and there's a bunch of nameless gigs, a bunch of nameless cities and a lot of hangovers, and after a while it's like, 'What the f**k am I doing this for?'.
"A lot of people misinterpret things. You check into your hotel and all the liquor's been taken out of the minibar. That's not what I'm about. I'm gonna get it and do it if I want."
"BUT YOU look at other people and you can see the
writing on the wall," Perry continues. "They're going through the same
shit we went through, and it's sad because there's nothing you can say to
people. The only thing you can do is listen when you get a call from somebody
saying: 'What can I do?'. Other than that it's just, 'Hey, man- have fun and do
"Most people party and have a good time and don't go over the edge, and more power to them. I still have dinner parties at my house and I serve wine. I just don't do it. It's fine for me."
How do you feel when the record company lays on a party when you're playing someplace like London, and you're roped off in a VIP area drinking Perrier while a bunch of liggers are staggering around coked off their faces and pissed as farts?
"Most of the people you don't see at the party are the ones I can relate to," Perry laughs. "They don't make it to the party, you know what I mean?"
"To this day, I think it's f**king great to get a buzz on," Tyler retorts. "If you got a joint, I'll roll it for you- I just can't smoke it anymore. I'm afraid of what it'll steal. It raped my spirituality in the early days. I didn't see that it was hurting me, but I saw that it stole my band from me and I got pissed off at it. Then somebody said, 'Okay, then stop and it'll all come back'. See?"
"If I go to a bar I'll end up getting on the phone to the dealer," Perry shrugs. "I've tried to do it every other way. I've tried to just drink on the weekends- f**k it, it's just not worth the effort. You spend more time thinking about what you're not gonna do than what you're gonna do.
"And as far as drinking goes, that was another press fabrication, that we kicked people off our tours for drinking backstage. Who gives a shit? We've never done that. We've never told anybody what they can't do- we've just told people what we can't do."
"It's interesting how the press has all the misconceptions about how we feel about it, " Tyler muses. "A f**king hit of brandy on a cold day, or a bottle of wine and some cheese and a loaf bread with a girlfriend- that's the f**king shit, man.
"So," he concludes, "if you said you're gonna get loaded, I'd say, 'Have a drink for me- I'll get a contact buzz'. I think it's very cool to drink. i still think it's very cool to smoke. However, I can't."
Because you've used up your nine lives?
"We've gone past nine," Joe Perry laughs. "We're way over."