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Joe Perry Leading Aerosmith Through Troubled Times

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Thursday, November 19, 2009

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The title of Aerosmith’s 1994 hit “Crazy” is an apt description for the state of the band these days — at a time guitarist Joe Perry would just as soon be focusing on his new solo album and tour.

“It’s been interesting to watch all the hubub going on,” Perry, 59, says with a chuckle. “The phone rings a lot more over the last few weeks, but I’ve been making so many calls promoting the record (‘Have Guitar, Will Travel,’ which came out in October) it’s just one more set of questions I have to get out of the way.”

It’s a little more intrusive than that, of course.

Aerosmith has seemed to be on tenderhooks since frontman Steven Tyler fell from the stage on Aug. 5 in Sturgis, S.D., suffering injuries that forced the group to cancel a lucrative North American tour with ZZ Top. The Boston rockers did regroup to play a show in Abu Dhabi last month, but Tyler nixed potential shows in South America and then told Britain’s Classic Rock magazine that his next project was “definitely going to be something Steven Tyler: working on the brand of myself — Brand Tyler.”

Perry interpreted that to mean Tyler was leaving Aerosmith, tweeting early last week that he and his other bandmates were “positively looking for a new singer to work with.” Tyler then joined a surprised Perry onstage for an encore version of “Walk This Way” at the Joe Perry Project’s concert in New York City, where the singer promised the crowd that “I am not leaving Aerosmith” and told Perry that “you are a man of many colors, but I am the (expletive) rainbow!”

It was an odd turn of events, to say the least, but even if it was meant as a conciliatory gesture Perry says that Tyler’s appearance “really didn’t change anything in my mind” about the status of their band.

“(Tyler) never said he was leaving the band,” Perry notes. “He said he wanted two years off to do his other projects.” However, he adds, “Aerosmith wants to work. The band’s been playing together for 40 years. It’s a really powerful rock band, and I don’t want to see it just go to waste and I don’t think any of the other guys do, either.

“We’re gonna work and we’re gonna do something — I’m not exactly sure what yet, but the band’s too good to let it sit around. We’re not going to wait for Steven.”

Perry and the rest of Aerosmith -- guitarist Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer -- have been in daily contact since things started blowing up, but they have not made any firm decisions about anything, including resuming work on a new album that was scuttled earlier this year when Tyler fell ill and working with another singer while Tyler is pursuing his outside endeavors. "We're waiting for things to kind of settle down," Perry says, "and then we'll figure out what we're gonna do. Anything is possible."

As for rumors about Tyler's health, including a return to drug use, that have been spreading on the Internet, Perry says that the New York guest appearance "came and went so fast I didn't even get a chance to check him out that much." He acknowledges that "we read the tweets and the different bits of gossip here and there, but that's stuff you need to talk to Steven about."

Whitford, however, acknowledges that Tyler "has a tremendous history of drug abuse, and you have to be suspicious that this is something that's probably going on with him. I have a feeling we might be looking at someone who's just really struggling very badly." Whitford adds that Tyler's behavior in recent years "was becoming more erratic and unreasonable" leading to the singer's recent decision to take two years away from Aerosmith to focus on what he refers to as "brand Tyler."

Kramer adds that Tyler has "made some not so great choices and he's got some negative influences around him now. I love the guy. I just want to see him get some help."

Kramer and Whitford both say Tyler has become increasingly isolated from the rest of the band, hiring separate management and not communicating directly with anyone. "I have called him and left voice mails and texted him to no avail," says Kramer, who chronicles his complex, passive-aggressive relationship with Tyler in his new memoir "Hit Hard: A Story of Hitting Rock Bottom at the Top." "I get no reply. One of his biggest things is that, 'Well, nobody calls me.' Well, that's bullshit, 'cause I have. I've always been there for him and I probably always will be. I can only hope and pray that Steven will put the focus on Steven and get healthy."

Perry is ultimately hoping that, for the time being, he can “kind of put that stuff on the shelf” and put some focus back on “Have Guitar, Will Travel,” which was actually put into motion after the Aerosmith album was put on hold. The album — which follows 2005’s Grammy Award-nominated “Joe Perry” — is a wide-ranging affair that includes a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Somebody’s Gonna Get (Their Head Kicked in Tonite)” and an instrumental called “Wooden Ships” that’s dedicated to the late Les Paul.

It also introduces German singer Hagen, who Perry and his

wife discovered via YouTube and who’s joined the Project for this year’s tour.

“We’re just starting to get it rolling,” says Perry, who plans to take the Project out again in early 2010, with plans to play in the Detroit area on that leg. “My side project has never taken away from Aerosmith, traditionally. I can do both.

“And it’s great that I can get out there and basically play rock ‘n’ roll the way I think I should be played. I got some great guys in the band, and it was just a really good time to be doing this. It’s a lot of fun, and every show is different.”

The Joe Perry Project performs at 8 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 19) at the Colosseum at Caesars Windsor, 377 Riverside Drive East. Tickets are $28.75-$51.75. Call (800) 5991-7777 or visit www.caesarswindsor.com.

Web Site: www.caesarswindsor.com

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