For a band dismissed 20 years ago as being over the hill, Aerosmith hasn"t done too badly for itself since then.
With a string of multiplatinum albums, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a new generation of artists clamoring to work with them, Aerosmith is bigger now than ever.
They"ll play Sunday, Sept. 22 at the Verizon Wireless Music Center along with Cheap Trick and Run-DMC. (Call 239-5151 for ticket information.)
The backbone of Aerosmith"s sounds for 30 years, drummer Joey Kramer, who"s seen it all from behind his drum kit, spoke with NUVO recently about the tour. The drummer is a man of few words, possibly because his bandmates are so outspoken.
He said that today"s Aerosmith tours are nothing like the band"s legendary days of excess in the 1970s. "I travel with my wife and my little dog and it"s kind of mellow," he said from a hotel room in Pennsylvania. "It"s still fun, which is why we still do it."
The band seems like it"s constantly on the road. They"re on the second leg of a tour which began last year. The pace would wear out bands much younger than the 50-somethings in Aerosmith, but Kramer says pacing himself, and living right, make it sustainable.
It"s slightly ironic that a band renowned as one of the biggest party groups of all time, eclipsed only by the Who and Led Zeppelin, now talks about running and working out. "I"m in the gym on off days, and just the nature of what I do pretty much keeps me in shape. I make sure that I eat and sleep right; that"s the most important thing."
After years of well-publicized intraband fights and near breakups, the atmosphere among Aerosmith today is much more peaceful, Kramer said.
"Our band is more like a marriage. It"s difficult. It goes through the changes it goes through, and over 30 years, as long as the love is there to begin with, which it has always been, you learn how to deal with one another, and you learn how to accept each other for what they are and how you do things. And not taking things too personally, that"s important, too."
The band"s career was the recent subject of a highly-rated VH-1 Behind the Music episode, which portrayed a warts-and-all picture of the group"s infighting, drug use and rampant egotism.
"There are always going to be squabbles," Kramer said. "You know, if you have a family with five brothers in it, they"re always going to be arguing about something or another. It doesn"t matter what it is; it"s just human nature."
Still, Kramer said he was pleased with the way the show turned out. "I thought it was done quite well and I thought the editing was done well, although they shot a lot of footage that they didn"t use. But it"s hard to cram 30 years into two hours, minus commercials. They did a pretty decent job with it, all in all."
Kramer said he"s unsure if Aerosmith would get a recording contract if they were starting out today. "It"s hard to say, but very possibly we would [get signed], if only because music is coming back to what we were to begin with. The whole reason we"ve been able to maintain what it is that we do is that we"ve managed to somehow keep our eye on the ball and stay connected to our roots. That"s what we were about to begin with, and what we"re still about today. We"ve tried to just stay relevant and keep up with the times. That"s a difficult thing to do, but somehow we"ve managed to do it. I attribute a lot of that to Steven Tyler, because he"s really in touch with the kids, and what they"re into."
And while singer Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry get most of the media attention devoted to Aerosmith, drummers from punk to rap to metal have cited Kramer"s work behind the kit as a motivator and inspiration.
"It"s very complimentary and I"m flattered," he said. "The fact that I can do that to somebody else, be an inspiration, is an honor to me. I consider myself to be a humble guy. It"s nice, the recognition, but basically I"m just a guy who"s doing his job to the best of his ability."
And while Kramer said he"s too busy with Aerosmith to pay very much attention to today"s generation of drummers, there are a few whose work he likes. "I think that if you were to ask any drummer in a situation close to mine, I don"t think they"d have much knowledge of what"s going on around them musically.
"Having said that, there are some newer acts I really like. It helps me keep abreast of what"s going on. I like that kid in No Doubt, Adrian Young; he"s a really good drummer. There"s a guy named Tre Cool who"s in Green Day. Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters. Those three guys are all really good players. They"ve definitely caught my attention."
One way Kramer is giving back to today"s musicians is a recently released CD-Rom featuring his drumming, lopped and ready for musicians to use in their own songs.
"I saw it as a contribution to the business," he said. "It"s an aid and tool for composers and musicians who don"t have a drummer. It"s easy to use and, the bottom line is, you can have me playing on what you"re doing. At first, when it was first mentioned to me, I was thinking that I didn"t want to make myself that accessible. But once I got away from the ego part, I saw it as a contribution and tool to make it easier to write music."
Aerosmith has been back on top of the charts recently, not only with its greatest-hits album, but through rapper Eminem, who used "Dream On" as the basis for one of the cuts on his new album, The Eminem Show.
"I haven"t really paid too much attention to that," Kramer said. "Anybody who does one of our songs, well, it"s very flattering to me. But I can"t say that I really notice that kind of thing."
He said he doesn"t listen to his own music all that much, but he"s especially proud of how certain albums still hold up today. "One of my favorites is the Pump album," he said. "I love the playing on it, the songwriting. I like that era of production, where everything was really big and wet. It"s kind of funny now when I listen to it, but at the time it set an example for a lot of stuff that followed. A lot of people based their records on that sound."
Another favorite is the hugely influential Toys in the Attic, from 1973. "I don"t think we knew at the time that people would love it as much as they did. We realize it now, of course," he said, laughing. "Right now, in fact, we"re in the midst of remixing that album in 5.1 Surround Sound. I was in the studio the other day and heard a couple songs from it. It was really amazing. Hearing it certainly brought back a lot of memories. Mixing it in the 5.1 brings out a lot of stuff that you never really heard before."
As far as Aerosmith"s future recording projects, Kramer said the band will likely release a new album in the fall of 2003. Maybe.
"It"ll depend on what we want the final outcome to be, which a lot of times we never really know until we get started," he said. "And I know we"re going to do some recording this winter, but I don"t think we really know what"s going to happen. There"s been a lot of talk about doing a blues album. Whether that comes to light, we won"t know until we get started on it."