Music

20 Questions: Joe Perry

Tim Slowikowski

Aerosmith’s Joe Perry goes solo. Armed with a new album and tour, Perry talks with PopMatters 20 Questions about why nothing tops Hendrix, Master and Commander, or coffee.

Joe Perry
Label: Roman
Title: Have Guitar, Will Travel
US Release Date: 2009-10-06

The soap opera that is Aerosmith continues unabated. First, we got word from lead guitarist Joe Perry that Steven Tyler “quit as far as I could tell". Then guitarist Brad Whitford spoke openly about possibly replacing Tyler with another singer. But, before you could say “Journey", there was Steven Tyler making a surprise appearance at a recent Joe Perry Project show in New York.

So are they or aren’t they? The answer is still unclear as it seems Joe Perry and Steven Tyler have become the musical equivalent of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Perhaps Aerosmith has become too big for its own good.

Which brings us to the Joe Perry Project. Bringing it all back home to the basics that originally formed his style, Perry recently released Have Guitar, Will Travel, an ode to hard rock that proves the guitarist from Boston still has a few tricks up his sleeve, with or without Aerosmith.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

Frankly, I can’t think of one.

2. The fictional character most like you?

I’m a big fan of historical fiction. There’s a series of books by an author called Patrick O’Brian -- the Aubrey-Maturin series that includes Master and Commander. I kind of identify with Captain Aubrey.

3. The greatest album, ever?

Are You Experienced by Jimi Hendrix. The title track especially. It summarizes everything that Jimi did inventively on guitar, in his songwriting and in his creativity. There hasn’t been anybody since who’s come close.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Trek.

5. Your ideal brain food?

Coffee.

6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?

This just happened a short while ago. I spoke in front of a closed session of Congress for an organization that is trying to raise federal money to entice more kids into getting involved with science. Apparently, we’re way down the list when it comes to our output of scientists. It’s not that we have dumb kids, they just seem to be going for the more glamorous jobs. The whole push behind this movement is to try and show that there’s excitement in being a scientist. So, they matched up some celebrities with the big names of the science world. That’s something I thought I never would have been able to do and I think it’s a really important cause. Certainly something I’ll never forget.

7. You want to be remembered for?

Being a good father and husband.

8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?

Salvador Dali.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

I really wish I’d written, “Rockin’ in the Free World".

10. Your hidden talents...?

I write poetry.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

Work hard and don’t give up.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

A long time ago, back when the band was just getting started, I had a road manager that was kind of a ne’er do well. We were at the point where we knew some people so that we could go backstage at rock shows. We went to see Jeff Beck and afterwards this road manager pulled out a Fuzztone guitar from his jacket. I said, “Where’d you get that?” He said he got it from Jeff’s road box. And I knew it was wrong because I just don’t steal -- never did. But at that point, we were living hand-to-mouth and I thought about giving it back but I put it off. I used it for three weeks before it got stolen from me. That taught me a really big lesson. I’m really into spirituality and the whole metaphysical fabric of the world we live in. And that was instant karma. It proved what I already knew and solidified a lot of my philosophy of life. It’s funny because I got to be friends with Jeff. At the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony this year, we had that jam and I used foot pedals handmade by Fuzztone and I gave him my favorite one. I told him the story and he had a laugh about it. I felt like it completed the circle.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or...?

Usually a combination of both.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Bob Dylan.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

Fifteen years ago because there are a lot of things I would have done differently.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

Definitely a spa vacation.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or...?

Coffee, but chocolate is very important too.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

Country. I love being in the woods of Vermont or the ocean near Florida. I just love being outdoors.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Good luck.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

Rehearsing the Joe Perry Project tour. We just added about six more songs to the set so we have enough to give it some variety.


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