When Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry wrote his wife Billie a love song, "Ten Years," to celebrate their 10-year anniversary, he had no idea the tender cut would eventually be the 10th track on one of his solo albums 10 years later.
"It was her idea, actually, so how could I say no?" Perry said. "I wrote it when we were in preproduction for an Aerosmith record. When the session was over, I just took a few pieces of poetry I had written and put some music to it and cut and pasted it together. That song came completely out of the blue."
Much like Joe Perry. While the veteran guitarist has played on three Aerosmith studio albums since 1997, his last solo album was 1984's Once a Rocker, Always a Rocker. That and its two predecessors, 1980's Let the Music Do the Talking and the following year's I've Got the Rock 'n' Rolls Again, were released during Perry's five-year split with Aerosmith. Joe Perry isn't a sign that there are any new ills in the Aerosmith camp; it's simply an indication that Perry's been itching to make another solo record.
"Aerosmith took a yearlong break after our last tour last year," Perry said. "We really needed that, but I still felt like making music. So I culled together material from demos and guitar riffs and half-songs I've had and worked on over the last 10 years. Some of them were steamrolling guitar riffs than never made it onto Aerosmith records, and other ones were things that I never thought I'd play for anybody else."
Although Joe Perry was assembled from scraps the guitarist had lying around the house, the album holds together as well as anything on "Monster Garage." Throughout, Perry blends freewheeling rockers like "Shakin' My Cage" and "Push Comes to Shove" with love songs like "Ten Years" and quasi-psychedelic tracks such as "Pray for Me." There are even covers of the Doors' "Crystal Ship" and Woody Guthrie's "Vigilante Man."
"I wanted to make a diverse rock record that I could listen to from front to back and have some fun with," Perry said. "To me, it's more like a musical journey than anything else I've done on my own before."
When Perry says on his own, that's pretty much what he means. Not only did he handle all the songwriting and guitars, he also played bass and sang. The only thing he didn't play were drums, which were tackled by co-producer Paul Caruso.
"I tried doing the drums as well, but I just wasn't up to it," Perry admitted. "I can play drums OK, but I really wouldn't be serving the songs anywhere near what they deserved if I did it. Of course, [Aerosmith drummer] Joey [Kramer] lives right around the corner, but I didn't want to bother him. We spend enough time onstage, so Paul filled in and did a great job."
And while Perry isn't quite ready to replace Steven Tyler as Aerosmith's main voice, he was perfectly content with the blues-inflected baritone vocals he brought to the record. In fact, he plans to apply newly learned vocal techniques to the next Aerosmith disc.
"By not trying to push my voice into the higher range and staying where I feel comfortable, I was able to take my vocals to places I hadn't really been before," he said. "So that opened up a lot of doors for me that I want to revisit."
Perry will support his album with select shows and rejoin his bandmates when Aerosmith start rehearsing at the end of August for a fall tour. While the band won't have a new studio disc to support, it will likely be touring behind an upcoming live CD and DVD.
"We don't have that much live stuff out, and one of the things fans have been requesting is a straight live DVD that's a whole concert rather than something cut up with backstage footage," Perry said. "So we're looking at a few shows, some of which are from the last tour, and that's something we'd really like to do."
At this point, Aerosmith plan to finish the tour, then return to the studio in 2006 to work on the follow-up to last year's blues album, Honkin' on Bobo (see "Steven Tyler's Throat Leaves Aerosmith Singin' The Blues"). Perry expects the new Aerosmith record to sound like a hybrid of the loose, freewheeling Bobo and 2001's more technical Just Push Play.
"We have 30 years of playing live together, and that's a real asset," Perry said. "And that's what we drew from on Bobo. We didn't have time to do a full studio record, but we wanted to press the reset button and do something that was less layered and precise. I hope some of that rubs off on our next recording experience so there's still some of that live edge."