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Joe Perry, In His Own Words

On October 7, the legendary guitarist will release a book called Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith. Here, he sits down with Mix magazine contributor and producer of the Soundworks Collection, Michael Coleman.

Congratulations on your book coming out. October 7, right?
Yeah, I was talking with my wife last night and we were actually at the point that if we had known what a monster it was gonna be getting it done, we would have maybe put it off or something for a bit. It probably took us six or eight months longer than we expected because it kind of started when we were doing the last album and we had moved out here to L.A. to work on the record.

At the same time, Steven [Tyler] was doing his American Idol thing and it worked out because my co-writer, David Ritz, lives out here; it goes back that far. We actually had the opportunity to take some time off from the record tour and he came on the road with me for a while and rode on the bus with us and so we’d put a lot of time and effort into it then.

I think we had to put it on the shelf for our South American tour because we needed to have a break from it. We got in there and got pretty deep and it was a really interesting.

And putting it out now is really gonna be the effort because we’re so used to releasing albums and it’s a whole different mechanism and there are some parallels but most of it’s really getting it out there the first week that it’s released and letting people know and getting the machine moving.

Did you feel like you were trying to fit everything into this one book?
I think anybody can take a year out of their lives and write a book about it. Everybody’s got a different path and life happens and at different places I had to make decisions about, “Do I want to get into this, is this important to the overall story?” And then at the end, we were going through it and editing it, and just looking at it in pieces the way we would an album. It’s just been in the last month and a half that I’ve been able to read it like a book. And if I at least got the path of the story that I wanted to tell, there’s definitely another book right underneath it. I’ve consciously made an effort—made a decision—to stop a year ago.

One of the things we did that was in the appendix was I had my road manager, John Bionelli, who’s been with the band for over 20 years, go around and talk to some of my guitar techs from the ‘70s going all the way back and having them write a small bit about what it was like working for the band and working for me and the kind of equipment I used and putting pictures and stories about some of the guitars and the different amps and things that they were using in the ’70s and into the ’80s.

So I think that from a guitar player’s point of view, there will be a lot of fun stuff to read. I think I had 25 to 30 guitars at most by the end of the ’70s, and since then I’ve collected a few more. [Laughs]

Photo: Zack Whitford

There’s something really great about carrying around a physical book and someone’s story; there’s a lot to value for what you’re trying to do here.
Well, one of the things that most people bemoan about—about albums, I mean I certainly do—is having the physical vinyl album and all the information you get from the sleeve to the actual putting the physical thing on the turntable, and there’s something much more personal. It felt like you are closer to the artist, you know what I mean?

Even now, one of my pleasures is, when I have the time, is to go down to my office where I have a turntable and turn on my favorite albums on the vinyl and listen to the stuff on 30-year-old JBLs, you know, and it sounds f–king incredible, man.

And the thing about books is people still love them. I thought that the iPad thing would kind of follow the path of some of the other forms of entertainment, but people still want to hold onto the book.

If there’s a really good book that I want to get into, I’ll carry it with me and put it back in the library at home when I’m done with it. You have a more sense of closeness to the artist or to the writer or to the story. There’s just something about it and obviously it’s mostly true with an autobiography.

When you’re on the road and you want to write or record, what tools are you using?
Well, sometimes I use GarageBand and an iPad. Lately I’ve done what I’ve always done and just use the iPhone with the voice memo thing and record and write down lyrics with a pen and paper. I mean, that’s the quickest way, and fooling around with GarageBand can be an inspiration in itself.

You’re very active on social media, and you’ve taken to Twitter and Facebook. Has it influenced your music or how you perceive and interact with your fans?
It’s kind of like standing at the corner down in the center of town where all the kids hang out, you know what I mean? Only it’s worldwide. There are different platforms. You can be into just two or three of them, or one of them, but yeah, you definitely get an idea of what a certain portion of your music fans are listening to and talking about.

When you think of a book tour, is it going to have the crazy rock energy that you get from a live Aerosmith concert?
It used to be either you play it live or you hopefully got something on the radio. I’ll be visiting the bookstores, but because the bookstores are starting to get few and far between, we’ll also do some events at places where people are comfortable going that are for music fans.

I’m gonna go out and probably read chapters from the book and answer questions and sign some books. [Laughs]

Listen to the audio of Michael Coleman’s complete interview with Joe Perry.