Joe Perry tells how Aerosmith patched it up

Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry has quit the band in the past, and singer Steve Tyler's future with the band was uncertain until recently. So what brought them back from the brink?

Joe Perry had a midlife crisis 24 years ago. It was 1986, the guitarist's solo career had floundered and he'd been back in Aerosmith, the band he'd formed with his friend Steven Tyler in Boston in 1970, for two years.

"When I first quit the band I thought, 'What the fuck?'" he says, sitting in a deathly quiet hotel suite in Knightsbridge, spectrally thin and gently face-powdered. "'I'll just go out and tour.' But going solo is a lot of work. That was a big learning process. It was so hard to put Aerosmith together and we'd already had this incredible luck and fortune." Perry realised that sort of magic was unlikely to happen twice. Having a band as successful as Aerosmith was a bigger and more serious responsibility than any of them had ever thought.

"Keeping the band together became the most important thing," he says. "From then on I promised we would never coast again. But the thing that really threw me was the thought that I was 35 years old. What the fuck was I still doing this for? Where does it end?"

Perry is 59 now, and still doing it, still wearing the scarves and the black T-shirts, still sporting a bit of eyeliner and a peroxide streak in the hair. For musicians in his position – where your band is a global superbrand, a money-making machine – there is no such thing as an end. "Aerosmith is too big a machine for everything not be planned out years in advance," he says. "But everyone has family and lifestyles that they have to tune to make it work."

Most recently it's been Tyler who's been out of tune. When the singer fell off stage in August 2009, the band's plans for a new record and a long tour with ZZ Top "totally shit the bed", in Perry's words. Last December Tyler went back to rehab for an addiction to painkillers. Even before that Perry was quoted as saying, "We can't count on Tyler any more, he's a fucking burnout."

"I never said that," he insists, gently animated. "That was put together from Twitter. You have to be so careful of Twitter."

In January of this year stories began to run of Aerosmith auditioning for a new singer. I put it to Perry that that's all they ever were – just stories. "We were looking," he says, "but, you're right, I knew the band weren't splitting up. I knew it wasn't going to be Aerosmith – but I wanted to work with someone new."

Like who? Perry pauses for an awfully long time.

"Well, we never really got that far," he says. "It was just something for us to do, you know. I knew that the band wasn't going to break up. I've known the guy too long, we've been through way too much shit together for it to all end. He's my fucking blood brother. I knew he'd come back. I just didn't want to wait."

In February the story came full circle when a newly clean Tyler officially rejoined the band. Happily for all, this event coincided with the announcement of a European summer tour. Might that new album get made now? Is there a thirst out there?

"Actually, I'm not sure there is," Perry says. "Until a couple of years ago, fans would ask for more records like the old records, but that's all fallen off. New material is not that important any more. We've been at this for a long time. I think of some of the songs I've written or co-written and I think, why should I bother trying to top that? It's like Leonardo Da Vinci painting the Madonna again. Why should I paint the Madonna again?"

Perry looks at me across the highly polished occasional table, a taxi's horn just penetrating the triple glazing. "What is it that people really want?"

Aerosmith play Download on 13 June and London o2 Arena on 15 June


Rob Fitzpatrick

The GuardianTramp

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