So Joe Perry walks in…
I met Jack Douglas at the Hollywood Bowl. I never figure people remember me. And I never ever heard from him until a couple of days ago, when he e-mailed to ask if I wanted to come down to the studio, to hear the new Aerosmith.
Come on, WHO WOULDN’T?
I used to connect with Tyler on an irregular basis. But we drifted apart when the band left Geffen and got a new manager. But I will tell you, he’s one of the few rock stars who don’t disappoint in real life. He’s funny, charming…and smart.
He is that cartoon character on TV. But in real life, he’s three-dimensional.
So I drive east… Into Hollywood.
And I’m not gonna tell you where they’re recording, except to tell you this nondescript concrete building is more famous as a rehearsal space than a recording studio. But Jack liked the work of the proprietor. And after cutting in Pandora’s Box in Boston, the band’s studio within a warehouse, they decamped to this new location.
And the control room’s a mashup of analog and digital equipment. Pro Tools and tape. And the studio is one giant space. With baffles. It’s funky, not sterile. It breathes, it’s not a museum. It’s dirty, not sterile.
And that’s when Jack and Warren, the engineer, started speaking about CLASP. I’ll make it simple. You record to tape, but you’re using Pro Tools. Maybe that’s too simple. But the bottom line is you get the warmth of tape with the flexibility of digital.
But what difference does it make if you’re gonna squash it all down at the end anyway?
They’ll go to Sterling, and then they’ll call in Shelly Yakus to do AFTER MASTERING! Sure, they’ll compress the music a bit, but then Shelley’s gonna protect its life.
Wanna hear something?
So we sit in front of a pair of Genelecs and this sound comes roaring out of the speakers that reminds me of nothing so much as Camaros and beer, going to the arena show back in the seventies…
HOW DID THEY GET THAT SOUND?
Tyler’s the front man. But listening to this track, you’re reminded Aerosmith is a BAND! Underneath the vocals, the guitars are whooshing by, the bass and drums are kicking me in the gut…WHEW! You could not sit still. It was like being jetted back to the seventies.
And that’s when I heard the backstory. Jack wanted to recreate the sound of “Rocks”. Which was cut in a warehouse in Waltham, Mass. They’d just been rehearsing, but then Jack realized the room had become part of the sound, so he called the Record Plant and they pulled up their truck.
And there’s only one finished cut, which hasn’t even been finally mixed. So they play me some more cuts with scratch vocals, by Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton. I wanna hear the riffs.
And when the third or fourth track is done, I turn away from the speakers and who’s sitting behind me in this cramped space but…
He’s wearing gloves, he’s got a scarf around his neck, he’s radiating charisma without even trying and my heart skips a beat.
He remarks how we haven’t seen each other for a long time. And that we’ve never really had a conversation.
And then we do.
Joe had no problem talking. It was like we were in a pizza place in Boston, catching up.
He insisted they pull up a ballad. It was his vocal, and the acoustic guitar sound was INCREDIBLE!
And we talk about Tyler and “Idol” and this crazy, mixed-up, shook-up music world and Joe tells me he’s just dying to have new music to play live. It’s been nine years between albums. The fans deserve new tracks. Not that they’re gonna overload ’em, they’re gonna drop in two or three in the summer, maybe more in the fall. They’re still gonna play the ten tracks everyone needs to hear, as well as some rare gems they haven’t played in eons, like “Woman Of The World”…
WOMAN OF THE WORLD??? I LOVE THAT TRACK!
And the conversation switches to new music, Joe tells me he’s got a son who’s a deejay and another who’s got a band and Jack tells me his son is a musician too, even playing Latin stuff, and we’re all taking note of what’s going on, but that does not deny that what Aerosmith does is ROCK!
Joe knew exactly who his audience was, what they expected…and what he wanted to do.
And then we start talking Memphis. Joe detours the bus there whenever he’s near.
And then Jack tells the story of bonding with John Lennon…who was thrilled to meet the alien who invaded Liverpool in ’65 without a passport and got tons of ink before he was deported, John knew the story, and we could have gone on all night, but…
They had to go back to work.
And after talking cars, me wondering who owned the R8 out back, Tom Hamilton, who came in in the middle, said he was soon to get his Ferrari Dino back, and we were all sitting in the dark in Hollywood in 2012 but there was a direct line back to 1975 and we were not yet encased in amber.
You see this rock and roll life is just that, life itself. It goes on forever. Just ask the fans.
And some of the bands are so talented and successful that they get to play until they drop.
Even the Stones have changed members. Zeppelin can’t reunite because Bonham’s six feet under. But every original Aerosmith member is still here. And together, they make a wondrous sound.
Which cannot be made by any one of them individually.
But together, IT’S A RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE!
P.S. The tape machine is a Studer A880, which Jack bought from a chap in Beverly Hills for $2500. But now, with CLASP, the price of hardware is going up. As for tape, they got some reels of 456 from the Record Plant, which they baked at Capitol and it’s as good as new.
P.P.S. They told me the story of “Walk This Way”. All they had was the riff. And every day they’d walk around Manhattan looking for inspiration, by the pimps and the prostitutes, their interaction fueled the songwriting. But this was Sunday afternoon, and the denizens of the night were nowhere to be found, so they ducked into a movie theatre to see “Young Frankenstein”, and when Marty Feldman opened the door and said “walk this way”…EUREKA!
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