When Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler took a tumble off a catwalk during a concert in South Dakota last August, injuring his head, neck, and shoulder, the status of the iconic ’70s hard rock act suffered too. In the last few years various health issues have beset the band’s five original members, causing the group to abort tours or hire stand-ins for certain shows. But the fact remains that when all five players are on-stage together, feelin’ fine, they can still kick your ass six ways from Sunday.
That’s why it pains die-hard fans to hear rumours that Tyler—who entered rehab last month to treat an addiction to painkillers—may not return to the fold. And when Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry calls the Straight from his home in Vermont, he doesn’t sugarcoat the situation.
“Right now I know Steven’s in the process of getting some help for himself,” says Perry, “but other than that I don’t know what he’s doing. He’s talked about takin’ time off from the band, so we’re in the process of looking for a singer, ’cause we want to get out there and rock.”
Until the gaping hole in Aerosmith’s front line gets filled somehow, Perry will keep his formidable chops honed in the latest version of the Joe Perry Project, which is primed to hit the road as support for Mí¶tley Crí¼e’s winter tour of Western Canada.
“I know it’s not Aerosmith,” says the 59-year-old guitar hero, “but it’s still rock ’n’ roll. And I’m just glad people are gonna get to hear some of the tunes that I put on the solo record.”
The record in question is the recent Have Guitar, Will Travel, which—while not as impressive as Perry’s self-titled, Grammy-nominated solo release of 2005—shows that he can still cause major havoc on the fretboard. He shares vocals on the album with German singer Hagen Grohe, whose Tyler-like abilities were discovered on YouTube by Perry’s wife Billie.
“My voice has definitely developed a lot,” explains Perry. “I’m kind of a late bloomer, so I’ve found where I sing the best, and that’s why I’ve got another lead singer with me who sings the more standard rock ’n’ roll stuff. I get to do my bluesier, darker stuff, and he just gets out there and lets it rip.”
As soon as he gets done with the day’s phone interviews Perry plans on calling bassist David Hull—a holdover from the original Joe Perry Project of 1980—to discuss the set list for the coming tour. As well as material from his solo albums, Perry says that he might include the odd track he sang lead on with Aerosmith, like Draw the Line’s unruly “Bright Light Fright”.
“We’re gonna put together the most slammin’ set list we can,” he promises. “We play 45 or 50 minutes, so there’s not gonna be too much talkin’ between songs. We’re just gonna be hittin’ it right between the eyes.”
The Joe Perry Project plays GM Place on Sunday (January 24).