Aerosmith’s Music From Another Dimension was eleven years in the making and was originally slated to be released in August 2012. Prior to that time, I was given the opportunity to sit down with bassist, Tom Hamilton. At the time we discussed the 25th anniversary of their landmark album, Permanent Vacation, upcoming tour plans and much more. With the album delayed however, the interview was more window dressing than promo for the new disc. At the time it was promised that a second interview would happen and as we approached the release date and Aerosmith’s team came through without hesitation. In this, my second interview with Tom this year, he addresses the band’s duet with Carrie Underwood, working with Jack Douglas and whether or not he thinks KISS is a “comic book” band (as his bandmate, Steven Tyler, recently suggested).
The first two words that come to mind when you think of Aerosmith’s Music From Another Dimension are Jack Douglas. He was involved in the making of Toys In The Attic, Rocks and other Aerosmith albums. How was it going back to Jack?
Tom: The thing that made that so great was that everyone in the band was completely down with it and inspired by the idea. There are times in the past where we thought we’d record stuff for an album and “wouldn’t it be great to work with Jack?” Everyone would kind of nod, but it seemed… is this really a great idea? Are we trying to go back to the past or what? There came a moment when there was absolutely no doubt and once that happened; it’s what got us into the studio and making this record because it’s been a long time since the last record was out.
Tom: Yeah and Jack Douglas… I’ll go out far on the limb and say he’s the reason there is an album, really. One of the big reasons.
Through the history of Aerosmith, you’re the only guy that’s never checked out of the band. Brad did Whitford/St.Holmes. Joe had his project. Steven did American Idol. Joey’s written his book and he had personal issues around the Nine Lives album. But you’ve always been there. No solo project. Never written a book. What’s kept you as the stead of the band?
Tom: I’m a procrastinator. I’m a late bloomer in a lot of ways. I never felt there was stuff to do outside of this band that would be more interesting than this band. Everybody has moments doing this where they say, “God, it would be so great to do something on my own and not have to deal with these frigging guys.” It’s just something that comes around sometimes. Other than that, there are musical ideas that we don’t all necessarily share, but we all have things we want to say musically. I can see a time in the not distant future at all where I do a lot more of that kind of stuff, but I’m a laid back easy going “hey isn’t this fun” kind of guy, so in spite of all the chaos that has come and gone in our career… I’ve had moments where I thought, “wouldn’t it be great?” But I’ve never really thought that would be something that I would rather do instead of this band. As far as doing things along side the band, that’s something I look forward to.
Check out the song: “Legendary Child”
But in a sense that’s also what has caused some of the friction over the last few years within the band (that Steven did go outside of the band), so if you started to do it or if Joe did more of it, wouldn’t that cause more friction?
Tom: Potentially, but not necessarily. I guess it would depend on how the person did it. If it’s done in a way that didn’t negatively affect the rest of the band, I think everybody would be supportive. When Joe did his solo album (I think two years ago)… There was a time in the past where I would have thought, “Oh my God – what’s going to happen now? What if Joe leaves the band to go do his solo career?” But I didn’t feel that this time. My reaction was “wow – good for him. He’s frustrated and wants to get this process going.” That’s the spirit he made his record in.
Let’s go back to Music From Another Dimension. You took eleven years between this and Just Push Play. Was there any fear or trepidation before going into the studio? Do you worry about what kind of Aerosmith you want to present? From a fans’ perspective there’s really three Aerosmiths – ’70s Aerosmith, ’80s Aerosmith and ’90s and beyond Aerosmith. Do you try to create a new sound for today? Make a great ’70s-sounding Aerosmith album. Do you try for Permanent Vacation Part II?
Tom: We really wanted to pay attention to our roots and how this style came about. That was one thing about working with Jack. It was one way of connection, but without trying to imitate. There was nothing like, “hey we need to do a ’70s album, because of this reason or that reason.” First of all, everybody wanted to make an album. Everybody was coming up with stuff, writing, recording riffs, songs and ideas. I think everybody got real hungry to get those things out. Working with Jack, you know you have a better chance of getting more of that stuff happening because Jack is very interested in the weird and the strange and not necessarily the commercial.
You mentioned that “everybody wanted to make this album”, so for the last eleven years did people just not want to make an album or was it simply a creative break?
Tom: I don’t think everybody wanted it really, really bad. At the stage that we are in our lives… our career. I don’t think it would happen without everybody wanting it really bad. There was a day that we would do it because that was our cycle. We would tour for a couple of years and make a record. That’s not so true now. The last ten years, we’ve had a blast touring all over North America, South America, Japan… We were really in “road mode” for a long time. Some of us were very anxious to get in there and see what we could come up with for a record, but it took a while until everybody was really “focused the same way”.
The last time I saw Aerosmith live (this past Summer in Montreal) – you were there, but the time before it was David Hull on bass. Given your recent health issues are you able to endure a long touring cycle? Touring cycles are difficult.
Tom: Yeah, it is, but it’s one thing that we’ve gotten good at.
But physically are you able to go through a two year process?
Tom: Totally. I just have to force myself to eat. I have no appetite and eating is a little harder than it used to be because what I had was in my throat. It’s a very congested area in terms of activity – so many things going on in that little part of your body between communicating and getting nourishment. As long as I get enough calories, it’s great. It’s fun.
Recently, Steven called KISS a “comic book” band and that’s made its way around the Internet with fans on both sides arguing yes and no. What’s your take on that comment and on KISS in general?
Tom: It’s funny. I don’t know where that came from. I guess he just happened to say something in the course of an interview and it got blown up.
Like most things do thanks to the Internet.
Tom: Well, there’s some entertainment value there… Rivalry. Any story with good conflict in it is interesting. We used to tour with them in the ’70s. Actually, we didn’t really do that many tours together. We did some shows together and then we parted ways because we had made it and then they made it. So, they were out on their own. There was a rivalry and I remember the dressing room talk about the opening act and what they wear, what they look like and what they do, but over the years I’ve come to have more respect for KISS through fans that I know.
They have very very loyal fans and as far as Steven’s comment in a way their origins are… If you talk to Gene Simmons, he might even agree with it. He was a huge comic book fan like most of us were in our early days… Some of us made a separation between that and what we did musically, but he wanted to live that out with his band and it’s pretty cool. When I want to listen to music, I go back to my Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin and Dire Straits. I don’t think I necessarily listen to KISS that often, but I love that song of theirs “I Want To Rock And Roll All Nite And Party Every Day.” It’s just really accurate in describing what teenage males want.
It really is the anthem. What would you consider to be Aerosmith’s anthem?
Tom: Oh, man…
I think “Lord Of The Thighs” would be the prefect choice…
Tom: That’s a great one, but I’m thinking about “Lick And A Promise”. The lyrics to that song are so frigging good. It’s so good rhythmically and musically.
Check out the song: “What Could Have Been Love”
Rocks (the album) is considered to be your masterpiece. I’ve always found Toys In the Attic to be equally as good or better. Do you consider Rocks to be Aerosmith’s masterpiece? Or have you not made your masterpiece yet?
Tom: I think Toys and Rocks were the pinnacle of what we’re able to do and what we learned. I would say Rocks… To me Rocks has a darker feel to it. It’s got “Back In The Saddle” on it which is probably the coolest song we’ve ever recorded. Toys In The Attic has a brighter feel to it for some reason whereas Rocks is a little more gloomy and dark (which I love).
Both, of course, Jack Douglas-produced albums. Another interesting thing about Music From Another Dimension is that you’ve gone out on a limb and done a song with country singer, Carrie Underwood. The “old school fans” will probably criticize you left, right and center for having done this and the younger more radio friendly audience will think it’s fantastic. So, how was it working with her?
Tom: When that song was written… Without anybody sitting down and saying, “let’s write a country song.” It went in that direction. Country is obviously a big part of rock n’ roll… country, gospel and the blues.
And she’s the biggest Country star.
Tom: She’s amazing. She makes great records and sings her ass off. She really is the real thing. What happened is that song (“Can’t Stop Loving You”) took on that feel and we got very close to being done with the album. Steven heard that she was in town and he snuck out without telling anybody and brought her into the studio one night. It was supposed to be a night off and they recorded that vocal. We had talked about the idea many times before, but I thought, “she’s great and I think it would be awesome, but is that the only thing that people will pay attention to?” We’re trying to make this major rock statement here and why risk it by skewing the attention that way? That was just me over thinking. In the end it came out really good and it’s a really good piece of music. I’m glad it’s on there and I hope people look at it as an example of our potential range as opposed to us stabbing out into other genres.
The album itself seems almost like it’s two separate albums on one disc. “Luv XXX”, “Lover Alot”, “Street Jesus” are classic ’70s Aerosmith and the other half seems more ballad-orientated. Was there any thought of breaking this up into two separate albums?
Tom: No, but we probably should have. It would have been a great business decision to save half the record for later, but it’s been too long since we’ve put a record out and everybody just wanted… We’ve been together for forty years so there is going to be some diversion in people’s tastes. You do change. Steven loves to hang on those ballads because he can really show off the way he transmits emotion with his voice. Some of us really just love the loud, crunchy riff-type songs. We really chose what was on this album based on how good the song came out and along with that you really had everybody wanting a lot of it to come out. We really wanted to get it all out there and not wait not hold back.
Check out the ‘Music From Another Dimension’ album trailer
When we spoke last in June (and the album was going to come out in August). I had asked you “since it’s now delayed to November – will you tweak it?” So, the question is – was anything tweaked or is this the same album that was going to come out in August? Was anything re-cut? New vocals…
Tom: There’s been a lot of re-mixing and a lot of re-mastering.
So, it has been “tweaked”?
Tom: Fine tuned? Oh, yeah. You remember that I was anticipating that and sure enough it was. As far as the songs and everything that was pretty much set at the beginning of the Summer.
Another update that I wanted from you was about the song “Legendary Child”. It was going to be in a G.I. Joe movie this Summer that got pushed back to 2013. Will it still be part of the soundtrack?
Tom: You know – that hasn’t come up for months. I would hope. I think it’s going to be a cool movie. We’ve been part of movies before and really enjoyed the process, so we’ll see what happens. We have no idea whether or not they still want that particular song or if they want us to come up with a new one. Maybe there’s another song on the record that they’ll like or maybe they’ll get ZZ Top.
Last question – do you think we’ll see another new Aerosmith album in two or three years or will it be another long haul between albums?
Tom: I think if it happens at all, it’ll be within the next few years. If it’s not within the next few years then I just don’t know.
Thank you for your time, it’s always a pleasure.
Tom: Thank you.