Backstage Pass: Joe Perry wants to let the music do the talking

 By Jeb Wright
JOE PERRY has a new solo album out titled Have Guitar, Will Travel, featuring new singer Hagen. Ross Halfin photo
JOE PERRY has a new solo album out titled Have Guitar, Will Travel, featuring new singer Hagen. Ross Halfin photo
Aerosmith has been making headlines in the world of classic rock recently, ever since Steven Tyler took a tumble off the stage in South Dakota back in August 2009.

With Aerosmith currently looking for a new lead singer, Tyler is now threatening to sue the band after he announced a two-year leave of absence to concentrate on other projects. Aerosmith, on the other hand, is determined not to wait around for him.

In the midst of this media melee, Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry has released a new CD, titled Have Guitar, Will Travel. He found a singer for his solo band on YouTube and toured with Mötley Crüe. In this interview, Perry discusses the Joe Perry Project, how he feels about Tyler singing at Home Depot and the band house Aerosmith once shared at 1325 Commonwealth Ave. 

You have a new album out titled Have Guitar, Will Travel, and you have a new singer that your wife discovered. Tell us how that came about.

Joe Perry: His name is Hagen, and he is from a small town in Germany. I was originally going to use different singers on the record — friends of mine. But I found someone with so much talent and versatility that I was able to just use Hagen.  

He sings on “We’ve Got A Long Way to Go,” which opens the album. I could hear that being a Joe Perry tune or an Aerosmith tune. How do you decide where each song goes?

 First of all, it is not all up to me. I wrote that song for Hagen to sing. The song “Do You Wonder” I wrote 10 years ago, but Steven never wrote any lyrics for it. We were working on the latest record and Aerosmith were working it up, but then the album got canceled. I said, “That’s enough,” and my wife wrote some lyrics for it, and we put it on the album.

You are out on tour, so I have to ask if you are playing any of the older Joe Perry Project songs. 

We play some of the stuff from the ’80s when we headline, because we have about an hour and a half to play. We play “East Coast, West Coast” and “Let the Music Do the Talkin’,” and I enjoy playing a lot of the early Aerosmith stuff, as well. When we are opening for Mötley Crüe, we only have 45 minutes, so we can’t do everything. 

You have come full circle, because I remember when they opened for Aerosmith. You guys kept them sequestered away from you back then because they were so wild. Are they paying you back now? Do they keep you locked in the dressing room, or do they let you to roam around?

They are great. Are you kidding? I remember seeing them back in the early ’80s when I toured with the Joe Perry Project. Somebody told me I had to check out this new band, and I was blown away. We also hung out with them in the studio in Vancouver. They were doing Dr. Feelgood at the same time we were doing Pump. They are a lot of fun, a real party band.   

You’re out on the road with a new band. You are writing and recording songs and you have a new CD. Steven Tyler is singing Aerosmith songs in karaoke bars and singing over the intercom at Home Depot. All the media hype right now is on Tyler and not on your album. I have to admit that would p**s me off.

Anybody that is willing to go out there with a f**king red ball on their nose usually tends to get the attention. That is what he chooses to do. If it was me, I would be doing everything I could do to keep my band together. I just look at it and go, “What the f**k is he doing?” I am not a comedian. I am a guitar player. He chooses to go out and do karaoke and all that stuff.

I don’t know … I can’t really say a lot more about it. I think it is time to stop talking about Steven. 

There is precedence in Aerosmith as far as touring without original members goes. In the ’80s Tyler went out without you, and it turned out to be a big mistake. Have you thought that this could be another big mistake?

Yeah, but there are three other guys in the band — or four other guys in the band, depending on how you look at it — and it is a democracy. We have been together for 40 years, and I just put in my vote — sometimes stronger than others. We will see what happens. There is no black and white in this band; we have to make compromises, especially in conditions like this. Believe me, we are not doing all of this for the press. 

Have the four of you been able to keep your heads together and remain clean and sober? 

It is pretty much the four of us. We are tighter than we have ever been. With the 40th anniversary coming up, we realized that we don’t have that many years left; we don’t want to waste them. We don’t have two years to wait around and see what Steven wants to do. 

Would you consider a female singer?

No one in the band has brought that up, but you have to think outside of the box. It is a possibility. 

Last one: Please share one of your favorite memories of 1325 Commonwealth Ave. in Boston?

How about every day? We had an open-door policy. We would go out in the streets every day trying to rustle up gigs, places to play and a new girlfriend.

You never knew who was going to walk through the door — more than once it was the police.

We had a lot of different adventures in that place. I think there is now a plaque on the building saying that Aerosmith used to live there.

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