Because Aerosmith lead guitarist Joe Perry and frontman Steven Tyler have sometimes feuded in public, Perry knows by now to be very careful what he says about Tyler in front of a reporter. "They're always looking for a way to get some dirt," says Perry, who, it should be noted, speaks of Tyler with nothing but great affection.
Perry is calling from a tour date in Milan, so he's in a good mood. His tourmate Slash, interviewed in a separate phoner, seems just generally happy to be Slash. He laughs a lot, and refers to his old band Guns N' Roses in the present tense (you shouldn't make too much of this, though). Slash and singer Axl Rose were partnered in Guns for more than a decade, and Slash also played in Velvet Revolver with the equally difficult Scott Weiland: Slash has had either a lot of luck in the frontman department or no luck at all, depending on how you look at it.
Both Perry and Slash are used to being the somber anchors to flashier, more mercurial singers, and have been friends since GN'R opened for Aerosmith on their first big tour in 1988.
Perry, who will have an autobiography out this fall, and Slash, who will drop a new album with his new-ish band, Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, on September 16, reminisced about the old days, difficult frontmen, and what motivates them. Hint: It's not money: "Don't kid yourself," says Slash. "I don't make that much money."
Excerpts from the conversation follow:
On the combustibility of bands
Perry: There's a lot of similarities between keeping a band together and keeping a family together. There's ups and downs. Brothers fight and brothers make up.
Slash: I'd rather work in a situation where there's less friction between members as possible. It's just unnecessary effort and energy put into dealing with that. I haven't found over the years that that's the catalyst for making music any better, and I've been doing this for a while. I think there's a perception from the public that animosity or friction is what inspires great moments, and I think that's more of a perspective of seeing what comes out of bands that exist in that reality. I don't think fighting is necessarily conducive to the writing of a great song.
On internal dysfunction
Perry: Even though we've grown apart because we all have different lives — I don't mean that in a bad way. That's an example right there. (A journalist) could say, 'Well, the band's grown apart.' That's not what I meant. We started off as kids in an apartment like any other band trying to make it, and we grew up over the years. We became young adults, then middle aged with families, wives and divorces, kids. Making that work-everyone has a different life and things they like to do, but we all have this common thing called Aerosmith. It's been a balancing act. You try to keep that energy as pure and exciting as possible, and still have our own lives when we're not onstage.
Slash: As long as I've known those guys, and I've become pretty close to them over the years, I know those guys and I know what their internal issues are, and they're pretty consistent and have been forever. They're not the ones that (Axl and I) had. Guns' brand of dysfunction was its own unique thing. There's just nothing I can compare it to.
Perry: I know when (Tyler is) off on one of his rants, and he's in a certain space. He's one of those people who doesn't have a valve on his emotions. Sometimes he'll say stuff, and the next day he'll go, 'I can't believe I said that.' And there's other times he really means it when he says something like that. Or when I say something about him in the press, he'll come to me and say, 'What's the story?' But it's usually the other way around, because he's got a bigger mouth.
Slash: (Working on his guest-singer-heavy solo disc "Slash") was a huge eye opener for me because I had to work with eighteen different singers, and they were such a pleasure to work with. It was a lesson to me. Just because I'd been in an situation where singers had been difficult, it doesn't mean all singers are bad.
On whether Guns ever asked for advice on That tour
Perry: Maybe little things. Maybe once in a while they'd ask something, but it was mostly hanging out with them and watching the fans react to their new record.
Slash: Guns was way too arrogant. We're not the kind of band who goes walking up to people and asks for advice. We're way too headstrong, and Guns was really built on its own, 'We do things our way' (ethos), and it worked. At the same time, we were really impressionable. You don't say much, but you see everything...and you learn from that. But you don't necessarily lose your cool and ask them about it (laughs).
Perry: (A)t this point, it doesn't look like there's going to be an end. I mean, obviously there's going to be an end sometime, but I don't have that feeling of, at a certain time everything's gonna stop....We're figuring it out. Who's to say how long it's gonna go. We really don't know.
Slash: (Music is) something I've been passionate about ever since I picked up a guitar, and I'm fortunate to be able to keep doing it. I love making new stuff, I love going on the road. I'm apparently psychotic.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, 19100 S. Ridgeland, Tinley Park
Tickets: $31-$171; 800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.comCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun