Joey Kramer has been described as the backbone of America’s greatest rock and roll band and I’m not one to argue that point. The mere fact that Joey Kramer has survived to do an interview with us is nothing short of miraculous (read his amazing book Hit Hard) but the fact that he’s calling me as excited as ever to talk about touring and recording in 2012 speaks volumes about the guy. Joey and Aerosmith are like a flame that cannot be stomped out and the guys all have plenty to be happy about these days. They are out on the road and loving it (with our hometown boys Cheap Trick along for the ride) and they have a new album they will be releasing this fall called “Music From Another Dimension”. There’s no more “American Idol” hanging over the proceedings, no more questions about band solidarity and a renewed focus on throwing down the gauntlet to make new music that reflects not only the grit of their seventies era but the mass appeal of their resurgent MTV era. I recently had the chance to have a quick chat with Joey during a recent tour stop in Georgia about everything that’s happening. Read on….
Legendary Rock Interviews: Hi Joey how’s it going? How is Georgia treating you?
Joey Kramer: It’s going good, real good actually. It’s really hot though.
LRI: You’re out there enjoying the summer with our hometown boys in Cheap Trick. That’s like a dream tour for so many of us who love both bands.
Joey: Oh you’re from Illinois?
LRI: Right near Rockford, Illinois actually.
Joey: Well, they are definitely your hometown guys then! It’s been fun, we’re having fun and the crowds have been great. It’s good being out here again.
LRI: It’s so nice to hear that there will finally be a new AEROSMITH album. It’s been far too long since the last album of original material.
Joey: It’s been eleven years actually. That is the longest gap between albums that we’ve ever had. I think when people hear the new album they will be very happy with the end result though.
LRI: There was a point not so long ago that headlines were flying about Steven Tyler not being in the band or you guys moving on without him or even worse, breaking up. Now, as a fan, it definitely seems like there’s a lot more to be happy about. Does it feel like a certain amount of that pressure is gone and the band is back on the road and back on track?
Joey: It really is a bit of a relief to just be back out here. The band sounds great every night and we’re all getting along and we’ve got the new album finished and ready to go. As a member of this band it is amazing that everything is headed in the right direction. I’ve got no complaints.
LRI: There’s a certain amount of legend and mystique involved when you hear that Jack Douglas is producing the new Aerosmith album given your past accomplishments.
Joey: Right. There really is.
LRI: I know that you guys have worked with so many producers over the years but other than the longtime relationship with Jack there has to be something he brings to the end result. I mean, you can hear it.
Joey: Yeah, Jack is definitely part of the equation. I think the most important thing he does is he makes the entire process of making a record fun. When we have fun as a band it comes out on the tracks. I think that was the case on “Toys In The Attic” and “Rocks” and I think that holds true on “Music From Another Dimension”. We really had a lot of fun working this time around, just singing and playing together. We’re lucky in that sense because when you’re doing something you really like and you’re having a good time it’s not “work” anymore.
LRI: You’ve talked very candidly in your book “Hit Hard” about how sometimes it just wasn’t fun anymore or things got in the way of it being fun. Now that you’ve hit this point in your career and you’ve played songs like “Draw The Line” or “Livin on the Edge” a million times, is the live show just as much fun as getting down to business and being creative in the studio?
Joey: Yeah it is just as much fun at least. It’s probably much more fun on the road because being a live band is what we’re all about and what we’ve always been about. Being in the band for this long you have to learn to work in the studio, I mean I’ve been playing in Aerosmith since 1970. All those years going into the studio we’ve all had to learn to make records and we have but what we really enjoy the most is playing live. That’s always been the thing with us, we enjoy getting up there and getting that response from the fans in that setting. The live show is what Aerosmith was based on and it’s still what we’re all about. To be honest, being a live band is what any band should really be about. If you’re not a good live act then what is the point of it, what good is it all and why do you exist? Unfortunately there are some bands that aren’t good live but it’s something we really pride ourselves on. As long as we can get up there and do that it makes it so much fun to be in this band with the guys. There is no greater feeling than playing those songs live.
LRI: It’s great that the new video and lead track “Legendary Child” has so much of that old Aerosmith stomp and lyrical swagger. I realize you can’t give away everything about the album because it won’t be out for a while but a lot of the song titles and details are being thrown around on the internet. The track “Lover a lot” is certainly a catchy title, what can you tell us about that track?
Joey: I’m surprised you’re asking about that song, you haven’t heard it have you?
LRI: No, but I like the play on words in the title and it seems like most of you guys all have a writing credit on it which is always a good thing.
Joey: Well, it’s a rocker, I can tell you that much and yeah, it’s one of those songs that was a lot of fun to work on because the whole band was involved. Jack really helped us shape “Lover A Lot” into what it became but it definitely had all of our input which is what Aerosmith is really all about. That’s why this new album is so strong, it’s not just the input of a couple of the guys and the producer, it’s all of us. It hasn’t always been done that way. For instance, the last record, “Just Push Play” wasn’t really done that way and it really should have been. The new record is a true band effort and has that original spirit and purpose of Aerosmith only with new material.
LRI: Again, I’m playing this game on speculation alone but I’ve heard you have a major part in the writing of a song called “Closer”. That sounds like it could be a ballad. Is it?
Joey: It is actually, it’s a rock ballad. Marti Fredericksen worked with us on a few of the tracks both in songwriting and producing. He and I wrote the music for that one. Steven wrote the lyrics and the title came from those lyrics.
LRI: I’ve also noticed there’s been a couple of guest artists who’ve already been mentioned in terms of being on “Music From Another Dimension”. Julian Lennon did some vocal work and Carrie Underwood is featured on a track called “Beautiful”. Is that correct and do you think that song has a tremendous amount of radio appeal?
Joey: No, no, she’s not on a track called “Beautiful” , I’m not sure where all of these reports are coming from but that’s dead wrong. Carrie actually appears on a track called “Can’t Stop Loving You” and it absolutely has a lot of radio appeal in it. It’s a great, great song.
LRI: It was cool to see you guys play with DMC again the other night in New Jersey. “Walk This Way” is not only such a signature hit for the band but it opens with one of your most memorable drum licks ever. Is it still a trip for you to perform that song in its 1987 version?
Joey: You know, it’s just as much fun for me to play it and the crowd always loves it when we do it in that version so it’s a lot of fun to be able to do that for them. It’s really all about what the audience loves and we get off on that. They definitely loved it when DMC came up!
LRI: How are the new songs going over and how soon before you start working in different tracks from the album live?
Joey: They’re going over great! So far we’ve done a song called “Oh Yeah!” and of course, “Legendary Child” but they’re both a lot of fun in the set. As soon as this tour is over and we get set to go back out again when this album comes out in November we will start working more of it into the shows.
LRI: You made a famous quote that’s been repeated once or ten times but was memorable because it me hit like a ton of bricks. You were talking about how excited you were when the band was coming up in the early seventies and you were talking to Joe Perry about how it was a lifelong dream to be achieving such success with your friends when he suddenly told you that just because you were in a band together didn’t mean you had to be friends. All these years later are you surprised that so much of the animosity has finally melted away and you can have fun and do new things and get along?
Joey: No, not really because at this point we’ve all grown up, I guess you could say now that we’re all in our sixties. We’ve all learned how to accept one another on our own terms. It’s especially important because that’s how you learn to deal with each other and be able to create or make art together. You have to have that respect for each other and what we all bring to the table. I think that now when it comes time to work together and get things done we have learned how to all be available to one another and also how to think outside the box a bit as opposed to just doing things the same way we always have all these years and it’s fun. I guess what it’s really called is confidence.
LRI: Before I let you go I was going to ask you about how you got into the coffee business. I’m a 12 cup a day coffee drinker and our partners do a food page called www.forkandstein.com so this sounds like an interesting business to get into. Drums and Coffee go good together.
Joey: Yeah, it has been a lot of fun. I’ve been a coffee drinker all my life, I’ve drank coffee ever since I was a little kid and In just love it. Over the years I’ve found three really good blends which are what I’m involved with and they’re all available at www.rockinandroastin.com. It’s gourmet USDA certified coffee and I’m really proud of my blends. First there’s the Sumatra which is an earthy, Indonesian blend, the Guatamalan which is kind of our medium blend and the Ethiopian dark blend which is a pretty sophisticated and complicated blend that has a really unique taste. They are all organic and all shade-roasted which is different from most coffee that’s sun roasted because we don’t use pesticides or fertilizers that destroy the rainforest, fallen leaves actually serve as a natural fertilizer which is not only better for the environment makes for a better taste too. The beans are harvested and processed by workers who are fair-trade, cooperative farmers so they receive a fair wage and fair working conditions too.
LRI: Well, I’m going to have to bug my wife to get me a bag of that. I should mention that you said you drank coffee as a kid which I can’t recommend to my readers but thanks for talking to us Joey!
Joey: (laughs). I’m not a kid now but I guess I did admit that I’ve enjoyed it all my life (laughs). Thank you for talking to me John, and thanks to everyone reading this.