By John Colapinto & Matt Hendrickson
On July 31, Aerosmith dismissed Tim Collins, their manager of 12 years, and
the fallout has been anything but pretty. Within a day of Collins' firing, he
had gone to the press with insinuations that "there's a certain element in
the group that hasn't totally chosen sobriety." On Aug. 12, Collins made
his allegations more specific, telling Rolling Stone that he "knows"
lead singer Steven Tyler is "using again," mentioning cocaine. Though
Collins could not produce evidence to back up his charge , he says that he could
tell by "looking into [Tyler's] eyes." but Tyler, who sat for a wide-
ranging three- hour interview with Rolling Stone in New York on Aug. 21, denied
all charges. "I haven't had a drink or drug in 10 years," he says,
"and I'm really fucking proud of it."
The messy split with Collins comes amid rumblings within the music industry about the delays of Aerosmith's first release in their multi album deal with Columbia Records- a contract reportedly worth more than $30 million. The band started work on the album last January in Miami. Guitarist Joe Perry says the group originally slated the album for a September release but pushed it back twice- a first to November, and now to early 1997. The recording process was, by all accounts, tumultuous, with the firing (and later rehiring) of A&R man John Kalodner, the releasing of producer Glen Ballard and bickering among band members. Fueling Collins' allegations of Tyler's drug relapse is the chaos and conflict that surrounded the album's difficult birth, which the band's former manager attributes to Tyler's "erratic" behavior.
Collins admits he hasn't seen Tyler use drugs but says that his suspicious arose while the band was recording in Miami. He claims Tyler ordered the firing of Kalodner and ballard (which Tyler denies) and also claims people aerted him to the singer's alleged drug use: "I got phone calls from literally 20 different people when he was in Florida, saying that they either saw or knew he was using drugs."
But perhaps the most intriguing piece of eveidence to support Collins' claims of Tyler's alleged relapse is a letter written by the band to Tyler after Aerosmith recorded the album. In it, the band members accuse him of not being part of the team and stifling creativity and conclude: "Unless you make big changes and get the help you need , we don't want to be in the band with you." They asked Tyler to call interventionist Bob Timmins, Aerosmith's longtime drug guru, and Nancy Sobel, a therapist who has worked with the band. Five weeks later, all five members of Aerosmith checked into Steps, a California drug-rehabilitation clinic, for 11 days.
Collins, who has long maintained that he has been central not only to Aerosmith's initial kicking of drugs but to the band's continued sobriety, suggests that his ousters is, in itself telling evidence of Tyler's backslide into drug use. "What else could it be?" he asks.
But sources whom Collins suggested could not support his charges failed to back him up. "I think a lot of people were talking a lot of shit about Steven when he was down in Florida, " says Bebe Buell, Tyler's former girlfriend and the mother of his daughter Liv. "Just because you hear rumors does not mean they are true. I did not tell Tim that I saw [drug use], witnessed it or believed it." Other sources whom Collins suggested Rolling Stone contact- including Mark Hudson and Richie Supa, close friends of Tyler's who were with the singer in Miami- flatly contradict the charges.
But the most vociferous claims of sobriety come from Tyler himself. At the downtownloft of new manager Wendy Laister- who was once Collins' right- hand woman- Tyler, looking tanned and relaxed in a blue silk shirt, jeans and sneakers, sits back and sips a carrot juice. "I've had no mood- altering substances in 10 years,"Tyler states calmly. "I may seem cool and collected, but there's a part of me that is really pissed at Tim."
Tyler says clashes that occur during recording are standard in any band that has been together for 20 years- and perhaps especially in Aerosmith: "Look at the video of The making Of Pump- and that's just the stuff we could show." Tyler says his midnight lyric- writing jags were inspired by nothing more than a creative rush. "When I am in my creative mode, I saty up all night. In Florida I'd get in the zone. Whatever anybody thinks about my behaviors- if people think I'm high or on drugs, or don't like my behaviors- fuck you."
Joe Perry seconds the motion. Of Tyler's creative methods, he chuckles: "Steven was being full of steven, and he wears his eccentricities on his sleeve." Perry is also adamant that Tyler has not slipped. Perry says of the band's letter to Tyler: "It had nothing to do with drugs" and was written at the behest of Timmins, who had been called in to help settle the band's personality and creative clashes. It was Timmins' suggestion that the band go to Steps center. "it was part of our ongoing process of satying together," Perry says. "Communication had broken down, so we had a conflict- resolution week. we wanted a safe place for everyone to air what they wanted to air."
At Steps, the band's displeasure with Collins came to the fore. Shortly after, the manager was dismissed at a morning meeting at the Four Seasons hotel in Boston.
Aerosmith won't discuss the reasons behind the split due to settlement negotiations with Collins. but the deep- rooted origins of it are detectable in Tyler's apparent change of position on the issue of public promotion of sobriety. A man who once spoke publicly about his membership in AA, Tyler now says that he had become"irked" by Collins' public stance as an anti- drug crusader and his touting of the band as recovery icons.
"It's called Alcoholics Anonymous," Tyler says. "it's really honestly none of his business what he does.... One of the things that I didn't like was how in the press, Tim was getting up on the soap- box a bit and using my name. "Tyler hints that after 10 years he wanted a longer leash, but he says he remains committed to stringent sobriety: "If I were to have a glass of beer, my behavior might change, and I might say, 'What the hell, I can have a line of blow.' [But] drugs are not an option for me."
Regarding the album, Tyler maintains that everything is on track and speaks with confidence about the new songs . Laister (who insisted on being present for this interview for legal reasons) explains that there was no drug- related reason behind the severing of ties with producer Ballard. "Glen sat around waiting while all these issues bubbled up and were being dealt for two months in L.A.," she says. It was agreed that Ballard should be released so that he could move on to other projects. According to Perry, the band is now recording additional songs with producer Kevin Shirley, as well as mixing and re- cutting tracks that were recorded with Ballard.
Asked if he thinks Collins' drug allegations stem from vindictiveness about his firing, Tyler says, "You'll have to decide that for yourself. i can't really tell you." Then he glances at the tape recorder and rolls his eyes, his face splitting to a classic Tyler grin: "Aren't you getting a visual?"
But Collins insists that highly unusual public airing of such matters is motivated by "service"- to break Tyler's and Aerosmith's denial. "I'm thinking maybe if they read this story, they'll go, 'Holy shit.' If they really know me, they know I wouldn't do this for revenge."