Tom Hamilton (Aerosmith) Interview
By: Gus Griesinger
Friday, November 23, 2012
Not many musicians have seen or done it all, but our next guest surely has. Tom Hamilton has lived the life most rock stars can only dream of. His band, Aerosmith, has sold a whopping 150 million albums worldwide and have received many honors over a 40 year career span.
Not everything, of course, has been a yellow brick road for Tom. He had recent bouts of cancer that had him missing shows on past tours. Aerosmith recently had some struggles, to the point where there latest offering, “Music from Another Dimension,” almost wasn’t made.
In talking with this bassist extraordinaire, Tom discusses how the band overcame those struggles to make their 15 studio album. He also talks about the band playing in front of their old apartment on 1325 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston for the release of “Music from Another Dimension.” We also talk about how Jack Douglass got involved in the band again as well as former guitarist Rick Dufay. Enjoy this candid conversation with the groove of Aerosmith, Tom Hamilton.
Gus: We are here with legendary bass player and rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Mr. Sweet Emotion himself, Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith.
Tom: That nickname has really caught on over the last few years and I like the fact of having to get used to it (laughs).
Gus: “Music from Another Dimension” is the latest offering from Aerosmith and their 15th studio record. Jack Douglass, who produced some of Aerosmith’s classic records “Get Your Wings,” Toys in the Attic,” Rocks” and “Draw the Line” was back at the helm to produce this record. How did Jack get involved with the band again?
Tom: There was always a desire in the band to investigate working with Jack again. He helped us learn how to use the studio and have fun in the studio back in the 70s when we were making “Toys in the Attic” “Rocks” along with a few others. Then we drifted apart and had been out of touch for years and years. Then Jack surfaced again and started coming to shows and doing certain projects for us. Then we developed this desire “I wonder what it would be like to go back in the studio with Jack?” Should we try it?” "What do you think?” About 2 years ago we had a moment where it was 100% unamanious and everyone was into it and Jack was available. So we pulled the trigger on it. It was a great decision. What Jack does well, that many producers don’t do well, is to be a coach. This band works very well when we have great coach. We also did some work with Marti Frederiksen, who did some song writing on the record and he is also a producer that we worked with for years. He came in and lent his expertise too. Which we greatly appreciated!
Gus: Where did the album title come from?
Tom: The album title floated up on one of the lists and I think Jack may have been the one to throw it out there. Now what made that become the title of the album is our resident artwork guy started coming up with great art ideas for that title. So one, we had those visuals, that was a big influence for us choosing that title.
Gus: What is the gentleman’s name you are referring to?
Tom: His name is Casey Tebo and he has directed a lot of video stuff for us and a lot of editing and has been doing great work for us for about 7 or 8 years now.
Gus: In a previous interview that I read, it said that the main reason the album got done at all was because of Jack Douglass. Can you elaborate?
Tom: With Jack Douglass being involved, it just created a confidence factor in the band and a yearning to create that kind of workflow we had when we first started, which was so great for us and so enjoyable. We wanted our coach and jack was the guy.
Gus: Why did the band decide to work with Carrie Underwood on the ballad “Can’t Stop Loving You?”
Tom: Carrie happened to be in LA when Steven talked to her, but she was leaving the next day so he even ran up to the studio and did a session with her kind of in secret. Then he played it all for us the next day. Once it was done, it came out so well and stood out on its own as a piece of music.
Gus: How did former guitarist Rick Dufay end up playing on the track “Shakey Ground” which is a cover of an R&B song originally done by The Temptations back in 1975? (Editor’s note: This was only released on the Walmart version).
Tom: We always had a warm spot in our hearts for Rick. He was an amazing influence in getting our band back together in the early 80s, which ironically cost him his job. He’s always been in close contact with Jack. Jack was the one who brought Rick to us in the early 80s when we needed someone to fill Brad’s spot. He lived by the studio and he would come over and hang out. It was just fantastic having him around. He brings a certain kind of unique energy. He is just one of those guys who is willing to say anything to get things moving or to get things shaken up. It’s fun having him around.
Gus: You guys recorded 19 songs, including the various bonus tracks. Was it the intention of the band to record that many songs or did it just happen that way?
Tom: We just wanted to make an album (laughs)! We wanted to get a minimum of 12. The momentum of that took over and we wound up with 19.
Gus: The band celebrated the release of “Music from Another Dimension” by playing an outdoor concert in front of your old apartment at 1325 Commonwealth Avenue. How did the experience go?
Tom: It was unbelievable! Nobody really knew how it was going to go. The people who work for us and put these things together for us were going crazy trying to arrange all of this stuff with the mayor’s office and trying to get the trains shut down and trying to get Commonwealth Avenue shut down. You know the things you have to do to accommodate a large number of people. We didn’t know if there would be 2000 or 50,000. In the end, it was about 30,000 people. My God, what a shock! It's funny, we all met at TD Garden and got into these duck boats and drove up to 1325 Commonwealth Ave., and hopped out. After we had a little ceremony, a flatbed truck pulled up with all of our gear on it. They rolled up the shade on each side of the truck and there we were! We had a stage! Then we got out there and played for about 45 minutes.
Gus: You were diagnosed with throat cancer back in 2006 and battled with it since then. Where do you stand with it today and how are you feeling?
Tom: I'm feeling really good! I’m cancer free as of 5 days ago. (Editor’s note: this interview was conducted on Wednesday November 14, 2012). I had it 2006 and had it again in 2009. The doctor who treated me in 2009 said “Listen, I can help you in a way that is going to preserve your way of life, but you’re going to have to come in here a lot afterwards for a long time!” I was completely fine with it and I said sign me up! I go in there about every 2-3 months. I get looked at by having the doctor put a scope down my throat. It’s a nerve racking process but I don’t have to worry about it for another couple of months and I’m feeling great!
Gus: Our prayers are with you and we are glad your battling and fighting the good fight!
Gus: You have been in one of the biggest rock bands of all time and received numerous accolades over your career. What achievement means the most to you and why?
Tom: I think our live show is the one that really hits me. We continue to progress and develop. Your skills should go that way. Theoretically, the more you do something the better you get at it. I think that we are still hungry for recognition and really want to please our fans. We've been in that kind of mode where we want to continue to develop and perfect our live show. It’s a great feeling and I’m really high on the album right now and the goals we were able to reach as a group and as individuals. The really lasting thing is how we can go up on stage have a great time and hopefully, make the audience have great time!
Gus: Looking back on the trouble the band had over the last few years, how close do you think Aerosmith was to really being over? Tom: I don’t think we had a chance at being permanently over, but we definitely had a chance at being over for quite a while. Maybe something we failed to recognize was that we needed to put the band to the side for a while and let it chill. But it’s not something we wanted. We wanted to go out on tour. Then we had an unfortunate situation where we lost a half of a tour because Steven was injured. It was all extremely frustrating because we all very much wanted to be vital and out there and doing our thing. It was a tough moment. We could have broken apart as a band for a while. I think some of us were definitely wanting to see what they can do as a side project or some way of continuing working and going out there and being with our fans. Luckily that process got to a certain point, a solution rolled in and we were able to benefit from it.
Gus: Aerosmith (Joey, Brad and yourself) does this Question & Answering session for fans who purchase a special tour package. Tell us about these different tour packages.
Tom: Basically, well I hope I mention everything, you get a great seat for the show. You get a tour backstage where you see how the whole thing is put together. Following that, Joey, then Brad, then I go up and talk for a while and hopefully talk about things that people are interested in knowing about. Then we take questions. There is always a percentage of your fans who would really love to do that. We always knew that for years and years but felt that shouldn’t be a part of the parade of events happening on show day. Then you start thinking about it then you go "wow," these people are as interested in this as I am, basically! Then they are willing to prove it and willing to show it and seek it out. So it became an inspiration. We've been doing it now for most of the last year. It seems to be going really well and I’m definitely enjoying it. I'm pretty sure the fans are too!
Gus: You guys are coming to Toronto soon and I hope I’m able to check the show out as it’s been awhile since I've seen you perform.
Tom: That would be great!
Gus: What can the fans expect to be different on this tour compared to previous ones, besides the new tracks?
Tom: We are playing some songs off the new album and we are playing some songs from our 80's and 90’s era that we haven’t been playing in a while and mixing that up. We expanded our stage production. It’s something we think that is pretty spectacular! Gus: We want to thank you for taking the time to talk with us at BackstageAxxess and we hope we can say hello to you before the show. It’s been a privilege to talk with you and you have a long storied career. I hope it continues on for many more albums and tours!
Tom: I hope we can talk a lot more in the future as there a lot more stories to tell, that’s for sure.
Gus: Maybe there will be another “Walk This Way“ book as that was a great read by the way.
Gus: Good luck with the tour and hope to see you soon!
Tom: Sounds good!
We would like to thank Aaron Feterl from MSOPR for setting up the interview with Tom. For more information on Aerosmith, the current tour or the new album "Music from another Dimension," please go to: Aerosmith.