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Exclusive Interview: Brad Whitford from Aerosmith
Music From Another Dimension! marks Aerosmith’s 15th studio album and their first album of all-new material in 11 years. There has been a witch’s brew boiling for 10 years, and they’re about to blow the cover off. Recorded in Los Angeles and at the band’s studio in Massachusetts, it was produced by Jack Douglas, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, with the exception of three tracks produced by Tyler and Marti Frederiksen. The album abounds with one highlight after another, including “Out Go The Lights,” “Oh Yeah,” “Luv XXX,” “We All Fall Down,” “Street Jesus” and “Can’t Stop Loving You,” on which Tyler duets with Carrie Underwood. The album also includes “Freedom Fighter” which features Johnny Depp on backing vocals. The album’s first two singles have been released simultaneously to radio and are now lighting up the airwaves: “What Could Have Been Love” at Hot AC and “Lover A Lot” at Rock, Active Rock, and Classic Rock.
We caught up with guitarist Brad Whitford to talk about the struggles and triumphs of Music From Another Dimension!, the importance of working with producer Jack Douglas, and how a legendary band like Aerosmith judges success in today’s crazy music marketplace.
Before you guys started working on this record it seemed as if Aerosmith was hanging on by a thread. Was that exaggerated by today’s 24/7 social media internet world or was it really that bad?
I’d say it was a little bit of both. We have a terrible tendency to our own failures in communication. Things had been going downhill for quite a bit. We had a tour cancellation back in 2009 with ZZ Top. And not long after that Steven went to work on American Idol. There was a bit of confusion, to say the least. We weren’t sure how or when we were going to work. The good part was if we did work we had to be a lot more disciplined than we’d been in the past! (laughs) We never really had to work around too many schedules and now we had to. We got back to work about a year and a half ago. We sat down and had our first writing session. Everything seemed to be back to square one. We had a really great time and came up with a bunch of good music. We continued to work around Steven’s schedule and really got to work on our album. Any time he was available he was there. He was there a lot. We started in Boston. We did all our basic tracks there and then moved to LA so it would be easy for him to work. He would work all day in TV world and then spend all night at the studio. We got a lot of work done.
I’d say after being on set for American Idol all day he had plenty of frustrations to work out – and that could have translated into some great rock n’ roll.
Oh yeah. As much fun as he was initially having it started to wane after a while. Aerosmith just became more and more attractive to him! (laughs) You know, to be his entertaining self. Now it’s all over with and we can get back to work. That helped us all to be more disciplined and more organized – something we’ve never been to good at.
Before “Legendary Child” was released it was being teased as a track from the Get A Grip sessions. Did you guys go to a song you previously worked on to get back into your groove as a band?
Well, when we really started the process we were working on completely new ideas. That song came back into the fold when we started doing our basic tracks. It was hardly ever a song, really. For some reason it never got past a couple of riffs! It stayed on the shelf. We knew we liked it and we knew it was a good idea. We just didn’t know where to take it. When we started to break it down a bit and analyze it things just suddenly started to happen. Steven got some ideas lyrically and melodically and sure enough we finally put it to bed! (laughs)
As a guitarist it’s just natural to have those riffs laying around that you’re dying to use.
We had so many – and still do. If we had the ability to stay in the studio for any more length of time we could’ve written another whole album! We were ready to go. The ideas were flowing.
Having Jack Douglas produce the record had to be a good feeling. I’d imagine it’s almost like being around family.
Very much so. We consider Jack a sixth member of the band. He understands the band so well and he knows who we are as individuals, as writers, and as musicians. He’s a great facilitator when we have something that’s only a bit of an idea. He’s awfully good and helping us take these ideas and turn them into something. Working with him was the perfect combination for this record, that’s for sure. Not to mention how much fun he is. I don’t think we ever stopped laughing.
Tom (Hamilton, bass) recently said Jack is the reason there’s a new Aerosmith record at all. Would you go that far?
I would definitely go that far. We had a couple of false starts on this record. We basically just failed miserably. The band just wasn’t ready. We were facing a bunch of different health issues. Joe (Perry, guitar) got unbelievably sick. He had an operation to fix his knee and ended up with a staph infection from the hospital. That affected his heart and he was a real mess for a while. He had a special diet, injections, I think he was on antibiotics for a year. We couldn’t get the right producer. We ended up going nowhere real fast. I’m not sure what happened. We went up to Marti Frederiksen’s writing studio in LA about a year and a half ago just to see what would happen. We got the vibe there that we were ready and wrote all sorts of material. Jack was able to come in and put his finger on the pulse and know which way to go. At the same time he makes it a lot of fun. I would give Jack a whole lot of credit. Absolutely.
So much has changed with the “music business” since Just Push Play was released. How will a band like Aerosmith judge the success of a new album?
I don’t know. It’s so difficult. We all feel great and gratified that we have a very strong record. It’s hard to measure how it’s going to do. It’s hard to base it on sales because that’s such a small part of what used to be out there. Hopefully one or two of these songs will have some serious impact somewhere in the world and we can get a stamp of approval that way. The fans that come to our concerts is probably the best way for us to measure it. That’s getting tougher, too. The entertainment dollars are dwindling and the ticket prices don’t do anybody any favors. It’s crazy what they charge for tickets now.
“Success” with a new record – whatever that means – may not be as important to your career as it would be to an up-and-coming band. I would be scared to death to be a new band releasing a record in today’s marketplace.
It is so crazy. Bands ask “What do we do?” My god – I don’t have any kind of advice to offer. I don’t know what to tell people. It seems like the best way to do it is to market it yourself and make a living doing that without having to answer to a record company. You’d really be better off. If you do have a contract with a label they’ll make the lion’s share of the money. A label now won’t do much more than a really ambitious band would do. You’ve got to hit as many different avenues as you can and make your presence known. It is incredibly tough. I never imagined in a million years that the music business would end up like this.
Fans caught you on an episode of A&E’s Storage Wars looking over a couple of guitars Barry Weiss found in a storage locker. How do you and Barry know each other?
I met Barry as a friend of a friend. He’s just a great guy. He’s as crazy as he seems on TV but he truly is an avid collector of all sorts of things. We have a lot in common in that respect. Traveling around the country and the world, I’m constantly in antique stores and this and that. Barry’s house looks like a museum. It’s amazing. You walk in the front door and the first thing you see is a motorcycle. (laughs) Then you go into the living room and there’s another motorcyle next to the couch. I like this guy! (laughs)
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