A Preacher in the Church of Rock
excerpts from: The October 16, 2003 San Diego Union Tribune
A Preacher in the Church of Rock
For Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, music’s ‘unspoken language’ remains a spiritual high
By George Varga
Pop Music Critic
October 16, 2003
Steven Tyler is as comfortable delivering snappy one-liners as he is being the charismatic frontman for Aerosmith, a band whose recent collaborators include Pink and Eminem. Faster than you can say “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” the fast-tongued Tyler is happy to toss off such wink-and-a-nod bons mots as:
“I’d like to be remembered as an itch that couldn’t be scratched.”
“I tell everyone I’m 20 years old with 30 years experience.”
“What do you give the man who has everything? Penicillin.”
photo by Paul Parks
For Tyler, music is a visceral thrill that, at its best, can also become a near-spiritual experience.
“No one has ever been killed with a melody, although I came close to it with a few songs in the 60’s” he quipped. “Music is an unspoken language that’s felt more than it’s understood, and I love that. It’s like, before there was a god, people looked at the sunset and thought it was god, because it was such a phenomenal sight.
“I like how songs affect people the way a sunset would, or holding a child. It’s a wonderful thing to have in your memory. And every time you sing it, it evokes the same feelings you had the first time you heard it. The creator – or Jesus or Yahweh or Buddha or Allah – is still a creative force, and those that create, I think, are closest to what spirituality means.”
Tyler’s belief in the power of music is so great that he maintains it can elevate the religious and non-religious alike.
“Even those that let go of everything have created a space to let god into that is everything,” he said enigmatically. “I’m not quite sure where I’m going with that, but I know music touched me. Before I ever thought of going into rock ‘n’ roll I used to hear church music, and I thought Jesus was under there, creating that music.
“Music manifested itself in everything I’ve experienced all my life, and much more. Music is extremely spiritual.”
Tyler talks about the emotional high of a song… “For all the drugs and booze we did – I was in search of that almighty buzz – nothing is stronger than being caught in the rush of an emotion of a song you wrote that the band plays,” Tyler noted. “Nothing is as intoxicating as being in front of 25,000 people and going into ‘Sweet Emotion’ and having all the people orgasm, emotionally anyway.
“I come off stage and I’m so stoned, I’m dizzy. Of course, that’s from running around so much on stage. But a lot of bands use their middle fingers instead of their brains. You’ve got 90 percent of the people on the planet doing stuff they don’t want to do. There are a few, like myself, who have a job they do like to do.
“Does (crap) come with it? Yes. But to write a song and sing it with this band, and have people recognize it, is a real joy.”
Born Steve Tallarico, Tyler began his musical pursuits not as a singer, but as a drummer. Rhythm is still in his blood. “It was a slow progression jumping out from behind the drums,” he recalled. “It took six months. The bass player in my band was singing (the Beach Boys’) ‘In My Room,’ and it was so god-awful. He said: ‘Oh, yeah? You think you can sing it better?’ I grabbed the microphone, and that was the beginning of the end. The only thing that has changed in my voice is my attitude. You either are or aren’t flat, and if you’ve got the attitude, you’re a singer.
“If I was going to say anything to any young aspiring musician, I’d say: ‘Whatever instrument you play, put it down and learn the drums.’ Because therein – in the rhythms and notes – that’s where everything lives, the passion, the emotion, and it all makes it so much easier. Drumming was really the secret to it all for me.”