Music News

Nearly four decades of rocking has taken its toll on Joe Perry and Aerosmith

Aerosmith still sounds remarkably vital for a band that's been battering auditory canals since Richard Nixon's first term. But its members are paying the price for abusing their bodies on an epic scale during the '70s and '80s. Over the past year or so, they've collectively suffered from enough health ailments to fill a two-hour episode of House.

First, lead singer Steven Tyler contracted pneumonia, delaying the completion of a new album. "That was really a drag, because we had it all set up to do the record and have a record under our belts before the tour," notes guitarist Joe Perry, who's responsible for more classic riffs than anyone this side of Jimmy Page. Next, second guitarist Brad Whitford clonked his head while climbing from his Ferrari, necessitating surgery that knocked him out of the tour's first phase. "You bump yourself how many times a day?" Perry asks. "But that one, I guess it hit him just right." Then, as Whitford was finally ready to return, Tyler pulled a muscle in his upper thigh that led to the cancellation of several dates. According to Perry, "He would get out there in a wheelchair if the doctors would let him, but they told him he really had to lay low."

And Perry? He underwent total knee replacement surgery, from which he thought he'd recovered. But around last Thanksgiving, he says, "it got infected, and I had to go back in, and they had to do the whole thing over again. So I had a pretty lousy winter."

At least the trip to the studio wasn't a long one. Perry built a recording facility in his house, and the delay in Aerosmith's project, as well as his own mobility issues, inspired him to complete a new solo album whose name may be chosen from suggestions made on his Twitter feed — a technology his marketing-savvy wife, Billie, urged him to embrace. Perry's growing business empire includes a signature brand of hot sauce, and he's about to launch a macaroni-and-cheese product called Rock 'N' Roni. But don't get your hopes up about pasta shaped like Stratocasters. "That stuff falls apart; it turns to mush," he says. Besides, "It's not about what it looks like, it's about how it tastes." As for the best way to make mac-and-cheese rock, he laughingly suggests that people "put some hot sauce on it."

Music still remains Perry's top priority, though — and he's trying to be philosophical about the medical breakdowns that have prevented Aerosmith from running smoothly of late. "That stuff happens," he says. "It's life, you know?"

And it's better than the alternative.

Visit blogs.westword.com/backbeat for more of our interview with Aerosmith's Joe Perry.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts