With the recent release of Music From Another Dimension!, Aerosmith have finally ended the longest gap between albums of all-original material in their 40-plus-year career. The wait for new music surely tested the patience of the veteran Boston band's fans, and the dry period wasn't any easier on guitarist Joe Perry, either. "I was going fucking crazy," he says.
The past 10 years have been turbulent for the members of Aerosmith. There were medical issues (a knee replacement for Perry, a head injury for guitarist Brad Whitford and rehab for singer Steven Tyler) and the usual band squabbles, but it all came close to a full-scale implosion in 2010 following Tyler's "brand Tyler" reincarnation and his subsequent role as celebrity judge on American Idol.
Gradually, fences were mended, and the group (which also includes bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer) re-teamed with producer Jack Douglas, boardsman for classics such as Toys In The Attic And Rocks, for the new set. "In the end, we got to do something that was really important for this record," Perry says. "We all got in the room with Jack and played without the pressure of having to write. We uncovered the rock that we had been standing on for years. It was no small amount of effort, believe me."
Clocking in at almost 68 minutes, Music From Another Dimension! offers something for every Aerosmith fan: there's feral riff animals (LUV XXX, Out Go The Lights, Lover Alot), big-time power ballads (We All Fall Down, Can't Stop Lovin' You), a couple of Perry-sung grinders (Something, Freedom Fighter) and even a pair of winking references to the ghosts of Aerosmith past (Sweet Jesus, Legendary Child). Flying in the face of standard operating procedure for recording in 2012, the band tracked the album to tape, utilizing multiple CLASP (Closed Loop Analog Signal Processor) units in a variety of studios.
The fullness of analog sound is but one of the topics we spoke with Perry about. The guitarist called MusicRadar from a tour stop in Austin, Texas, to talk about the recording of the new record, the guitars he used and whether it will take another 11 years before the next disc.
How essential was CLASP in presenting – or preserving, really – the authentic sound of Aerosmith on record?
"I think, so far, it's come as close as anyone has to making it work. Pro Tools has gotten to the point where it spits out what you put in, and if you're not careful, you're going to get a tinny, thin-sounding record. People have tried various ways to work around it – you use analog gear going in, analog gear going out, and then, of course, you're mixing down to tape. There's lots of tricks.
"It was just a matter of somebody coming up with a way of getting your Studer to lock up with Pro Tools, and so that's what CLASP does. I always thought, Well, that's one way of getting the sound of tape – go to tape first and then go to Pro Tools."
You recorded the bulk of the album with Jack Douglas, but that wasn't always the plan: several years ago, the band made a couple of attempts with Brendan O'Brien.
"Yeah. We were touring and working through these last 10 years, and Brendan came up a few times. He has a way of working that's good for some bands, but it just didn't click with us. He was a big help to me when I recorded my last solo record. I borrowed one of his engineers, and I went down to Atlanta to check out his studio.
"But with the band and him, it just didn't click. And I don't think we were ready; we didn't have the material. Not everybody was on the same page at that point. It was hard for him to get something to hold on to and help us with."
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