with Aerosmith bassist Tom Hamilton
by: Red Rocker
Interview date: 10/28/05
Drink Music to post your thoughts, gripes
The bad boys from Boston are back in vintage
fashion with a new concert CD and DVD (on the Sony dual disc format) called
Rockin' the Joint: Live at the Hard Rock Hotel. Performed in 2002, this
show finds Aerosmith returning to their sweaty roots by blowing the dust off
several old relics and laying them down in a small club setting like it was 1972
again. Breaking from their rehearsal schedule as the road vets prepare for a
year-long world tour, original bass player Tom Hamilton afforded Bullz-Eye a few
minutes recently to tout the strengths of
Rockin’ the Joint, share his take on illegal downloads, and explain why
his son might already be a better musician than he is.
Bullz-Eye: Tom Hamilton, what a treat. The man responsible for what
I’ve long considered the great thundering bass line in any song in rock and
roll, “Train Kept a Rollin’”. Love it.
Tom Hamilton: (laughs) Thanks, man.
BE: Speaking of that, the “Rockin’ the Joint” tour…what joint did you
guys rock last night?
TH: Uh, we’ve just been rehearsing. Our first show is Sunday night. We’re
playing a place called Mohican Sun, which is a casino in Connecticut. It’s this
gigantic casino/hotel/massive entertainment complex kinda thing. It’s a really
cool place. It’s set up for concerts like an arena, but the sound is better,
it’s a bit smaller.
BE: So the goal of this tour is to sort of get back to the small club
feel, dust off some of the older material that hasn’t been played in a while?
TH: Yeah. The two songs that to me are the most meaningful on this record
(Rockin’ the Joint: Live at the Hard Rock Hotel), and I like this record
‘cause it’s a hard rock record, except for lonely little “I Don’t Want to Miss a
Thing” right in the middle (chuckling)…
BE: (laughing at the fact that Hamilton beat us to the punch) Yeah,
where’d that come from?
TH: “Hey, how’d you sneak in there?” (pausing to recall his point) But
anyway…”No More No More” and “Seasons of Wither” are the two songs from our ‘70s
era that we’re really psyched about having on the album, and we’re playing them
BE: Probably testing your memory a bit here, but this record was actually
recorded in January ’02, but just hit stores this week. Why so long in the can?
TH: There’s a film guy named Dick Caruthers, and we decided to make a
documentary with him. So we picked three shows and said, “Let’s record these
three shows with a recording truck,” as opposed to the little compact hard disc
system that we’ve used. Let’s get a recording truck in and do it right, film it
on 16mm film. And so we played two arena shows in California and then this club
show in Las Vegas at the Joint. The Joint in Las Vegas is about a 1,500 seat
club, so we were excited about that because there’s just a lot more freedom of
what you can do and what you can play in a club, you know. There’s fewer people
in there you have to keep happy. (Laughs) You can just sort of wang away!
BE: And the result of that wanging?
TH: When we did the night at the Joint we added a bunch of songs we
hadn’t really been playing that much that we figured would kinda be rusty, but
thought, “Let’s get ‘em recorded,” since we have the really great recording
system here. So we did, and it’s funny, we got off stage that night after, I
think, playing really good…a couple of the guys were like “We sucked!”
and I was saying, “No, man, we were really good!”
BE: (laughing at the thought of Aerosmith ever being able to “suck”)
TH: And all that stuff just went into the can. The film, the recording,
all of it just got put away for all this time. The only reason that stuff came
out and people were ready to analyze it all was because we’d been off the road
for a year. The immediate two years after that was recorded, we were touring and
we weren’t in a place to really (spend time working on it). We had to wait until
we could hear it together with fresh ears, and sure enough we played really well
that night. We played some cool songs that we’re really glad are on there, like
those two, and “Rattlesnake Shake”.
BE: Yeah, I didn’t even realize “Rattlesnake Shake” was an old Fleetwood
TH: Most people don’t know this but Fleetwood Mac back in its original
form was a kick-ass blues rock band! Joe (Perry, lead guitarist) and I were
insane about them when we were teenagers in the ‘60s. We went to see them at
least 2 or 3 times at this place called the Boston Tea Party, which is this
legendary cathedral of the hippy era. It was a local psychedelic trippy San
Francisco kinda club, which was really happening at the time.
BE: Speaking of the set list, Joe Perry was quoted as saying you’ve only
played “No More No More” maybe 20 times live in your entire career. Is that
TH: Naw, we’ve played it a bit more than that. It kinda comes and goes,
you know. It has its moments, then it goes away for a while and we try something
else. We haven’t played it very much…I’d say low to medium. It’s a really fun
song to play and we think it’s a good taste of that Rocks album. (Tom’s
memory briefly lapses, as “No More No More” is actually from Toys in the
Attic, not Rocks)
BE: So the rarest gem on this album, as far as what you guys have played
least in your career, would it maybe be “Seasons of Wither”?
TH: Again, that’s another one that comes and goes, but it went for a long
time without us playing it. We started putting it in and taking it out again
just over the last three years. That song is just a beautiful, dramatic,
emotional song, and the people in the audience that are familiar with it
genuinely feel that song really deeply. A lot of people might not be as familiar
with that era of the band, maybe they just came along in the Permanent
Vacation or Pump years…
BE: And then there’s those of us who still own Get Your Wings on
TH: You know what? I’ve got an old turntable and I was just telling
myself I need to hook that thing up. (Tom’s cell phone rings in background) Oh,
hang on, I just wanna see if this is my wife…”Hello? Hi. Yeah, I’m doing
interviews. Okay, I will…” Yep, sure enough, that was her.
BE: I was just sitting here thinking about my first Aerosmith concert
memory. I’m gonna take you back. It was early 1986 and I was a high school
senior. You guys had just released Done with Mirrors, Joe had just come
back, and this tour was being sold as a “reunion” of sorts. I think you had
Autograph, “Turn Up the Radio”, opening for you that night. Can you remember
TH: Ha! Where was that gig?
BE: It would have been in Columbus, Ohio at the old Ohio Center. Maybe
5,000 zit-faced kids max, if it was sold out.
TH: We were reveling in the fact that the band was back together at that
point. The Done with Mirrors album probably wasn’t the best album we ever
made, but we felt good because we had come back, put out an album, and gone on
tour. It was like, “Let’s go strut it again,” now that we know how good we had
it, before we blew it and broke up.
BE: So that was a real transitional period. Is it safe to say, then,
Permanent Vacation was the first real record after the reunion?
TH: Yeah, it’s hard for me to think about albums without thinking about
the process that went into recording them. The process of making (Permanent
Vacation) was really cool. We were pretty inspired, we were feeling like,
“Oh, my God, we’ve really got possibilities now.” That was a close one with the
breakup and we almost went the way of a lot of bands and never got it back
together. But we did, and we were psyched because we were on an ascending curve
BE: And that ’86, ’87 time frame was when you started dealing with Geffen
BE: And you had, what, five or six years on Geffen before moving back
over to Columbia?
TH: Well, the thing is, Columbia signed us while we were still in the
middle of honoring our Geffen contract. I forget what year we eventually put out
our first Columbia record, but there was a lot of publicity about when we
signed. Let’s see, there was one, two, three…(attempting to count albums on the
BE: I know Pump was still Geffen. What was after that, Nine Lives?
TH: Wow, Nine Lives was the one after Pump?! Oh, my God…no,
Get A Grip. Yeah, Get A Grip was our last Geffen album of new
BE: So what’s your take on the illegal download revolution? Is it hurting
the bottom line of mega bands like Aerosmith, or is it just going to be hurting
the lesser-known bands that are just getting started?
TH: I think we have a lot of people in our audience who still like to buy
CDs. But that is changing and will continue to change. (Long, almost
uncomfortable pause) I think most people who were really into the illegal
downloading, whatever you wanna call it, file sharing, thought it was just like
the old hippy days, just a free for all. But there were people making money off
those sites, and people should know that. I never got into it because I’m not
really into .mp3. And it’s funny that the record companies never really put this
out there, maybe people wouldn’t have responded, but it’s not the best
sound quality you can get. Far from it!
BE: A record like this (Rockin’ the Joint) comes out and it just
makes me want to go home and dig out Get Your Wings and Toys in the Attic.
I had a cassette copy of Live Bootleg back in, what, ’78, ’79 when that
thing came out…?
BE: I flat wore that thing out! So are you allowed to have a favorite
TH: Yeah, sure. Picking one is really hard. But I’ll say Rocks.
Toys or Rocks, it’s pretty hard to nail down which was a favorite.
BE: I saw a quote from your website recently. It was Little Richard
saying, “I looooove Aerosmith! They’re one of my favorite rock and roll bands.
They’re full of filth and full of soul.” Why are you guys so strong and so vital
35 years later?
TH: I just think we were so drastically imprinted during the ‘60s. You
know, when you’re a kid and you go see a really powerful rock band, it goes
deep. At least for me it did. So the next thing is, “Man, I’d really like to do
that. I wanna be on stage!” And you just always keep that point of view. We’ve
managed to keep that point of view, wanting to spit out the kind of stuff that
really inspired us when we were just learning how to play, and do it in a way
that we really love.
BE: Looks like you guys are going to be touring now through the end of
the year. What’s next for you guys? What does 2006 and 2007 hold for Aerosmith?
TH: Well, the rest of this year and next year we’re gonna be touring
pretty much straight through, but we’re gonna try and get an album out.
BE: Of new material?
BE: Last one being Honkin’ on Bobo. As far as the band was
concerned, was that record well received?
TH: Yeah, that project worked out really great. It’s not a big commercial
thing, but a lot of people really like that record that are into that kind of
music. You know, guitar people. We had a great time making it and it was a
really interesting thing to do, go make an album full of old blues songs. We
pretty much eliminated the writing process, and the writing process can be the
most agonizing part of it. But it was a really good creative exercise for us,
and to give them credit, Columbia really supported us doing it. In fact, they
encouraged us to consider it before we had even thought much about it.
BE: So is that style of music, the guitars-based blues, something you all
agree on as being a favorite kind of music?
TH: Yeah, the basis for much of our sound is there. The bands we idolized
growing up, The Yardbirds and the Stones, they were very much blues-based bands.
The Stones are so known now for their bombastic stage show, but you listen to
their early albums and it’s like a punk band. It’s a punk band and it’s a blues
band. If they came out now the way they looked and the way they wrote back then,
they’d fucking kill again.
BE: Is there any new music out today that you’re listening to, or are you
still spinning the old stuff?
TH: I really like Kings of Leon, especially the first record. The new one
I really like, but that first one…
BE: Youth and Young Manhood?
TH: Oh, man, I couldn’t believe that album! When that guy sings he sounds
like an old mountain man. I see this guy with a beard up in the hollow drinking
whiskey…and they’re from that area, too. I think they’re all from Tennessee. But
I think it’s really fascinating because they’re spitting out some very
traditional stuff and they’re young guys, they’re in their 20’s. These guys have
an awareness of things and you just go, “Wow!” This is wisdom you usually get
later in life. Their sound is really cool, I like it a lot. Kinda like the new
H.I.M. album too. How’s that one being received?
BE: (clueless) Which one?
TH: H.I.M. The band from Holland. They were one of Bam Margera’s favorite
bands. You know, that “Viva la Bam” thing?
BE: Oh, the guy from "Jackass"?
TH: Yeah. And I like that band CKY. A lot of it comes my way via my son,
who’s just become a music-obsessed adolescent.
BE: Is he playing?
TH: He’s starting to. He’s funny, if I try to approach him and try to
show him something on guitar he’s like, “Whoa, whoa whooooooa, hold back there,
tiger!” And I’m pretty gentle about it, but he picks up the guitar and plays a
little keyboard and some drums. He could be an amazing musician! My son’s
adopted, actually both my kids are, so I can’t claim any genetic link to this
BE: (also chuckling)
TH: But he’s got more natural ability than I ever had, you know, at that
age or beyond. He wants to do it, and there are people who are naturally gifted
or blessed with talent, but there’s a lot of other stuff that’s gotta pan out
and that you gotta be in order for that to turn into anything.
BE: You got any personal time line for this career of yours, or you just
gonna ride it and see where it takes you?
TH: Yeah, I’m gonna ride it. (Pause) And when we can, we’re gonna steer
it. We’re a little bit better at steering these days than we used to be. We’re
at a crossroads. We’ve got one album to go on Columbia. You’ve got the new media
explosion, and who knows how music is going to be put out there to the public.
So we’re pretty excited that once we’re done with this current Sony (Columbia)
contract, we can really think about things. Who knows, maybe we’ll go right back
to a regular record deal. But maybe we won’t…
BE: Well, this has certainly been a treat. I wish you the best out on the
road and into the end of the year. Have a great holiday season, and say “Hi” to
TH: Thanks, enjoyed it.
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