Since I was in Junior High I’ve been a die-hard Aerosmith fan. Unfortunately for me they were 20 years into their career at that point. I honestly like every single Aerosmith album. I like some more than others, but I like all of them. It’s been 10 years since the last Aerosmith album of new material “Just Push Play” and if I’m being honest I was worried the new album “Music From Another Dimension” wasn’t going to live up to expectations. As soon as the opening riff to “Luv XXX” hit I was sold. It’s one of my favorite Aerosmith albums; I think it’s the best since “Night in the Ruts.” As soon as I heard it, I begged my Aerosmith contact to let me have an interview and here it is, with Tom Hamilton.
If you’d like to listen to the podcast version of the interview you can do so right here:
Tom Hamilton: Hey Bob
Zoiks!: Hey Tom, how are you doing?
TH: Pretty good
Z!: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview with us.
TH: Yeah no problem.
Z!: I’m a huge Aerosmith fan and I’m absolutely in love with “Music From Another Dimension.”
TH: That’s great to hear thank you.
Z!: One of my favorite songs on the album is “Tell Me.” I feel like every time I listen to it I like it a little bit more. You’re the one who wrote that. Can you tell us a little bit about your song going from a Tom Hamilton song and transitioning into an Aerosmith song?
TH: As far as the basic chord changes and instrumental backing of the song, it’s something that I’ve had for quite a long time, but was never able to get the band particularly interested in it. I got to the point where I realized that if I ever wanted to hear that song with vocals on it, I might have to do it myself. I started digging into the idea of writing lyrics which was really new for me. When I was young I never really paid that much attention to lyrics to tell you the truth. I was such a guitar, bass guitar fan that…you know if the song had a rocking, kick ass track to it I could deal with any lyric. I put myself in the position of writing lyrics. I realized it’s something that takes a lot more concentration and dedication than I thought. I just worked on my recording skills and my writing skills until I could make a demo of it that I thought might be good enough to get Steven (Tyler) excited about the idea of singing it. It was always my dream of the song was for Steven to sing it. I thought that when we did get working on the song he would want to come and do a lot of rewriting on it to sort of personalize it, but he really opened up his mind and said, ‘hey man, give me your lyrics and I’m going to sing them. I’m going to take these words and put everything I have into them,’ and that’s what he did. I’ll never forget that night in the studio when we worked on that. I watched my song turn into this thing that could fly simply by him applying his talent to it. Thanks for the compliment by the way.
Zoiks! What was the lyrical inspiration? You’re the only guy in the band to stay married the whole time and it’s kind of a song about heart break.
TH: (laughs) My wife gave me a very strange look. It really troubled her at first. When she listens to music, she believes that the lyrics always come from personal experience. Where as this song did not come from personal experience as we’ve been in love all of our lives. So she was definitely a little confused. It was ironically my kids who said, ‘mom it’s not about you, it’s just a song about feeling that way.’ That’s really true. As far as how it relates to me personally, when I was a kid waiting for every Beatles album, Stones Album, Byrds, Led Zeppelin, The Who, I was always attracted to the serial lonely sounding songs and especially songs about pain and lost love. There is a personal connection for me, even though it wasn’t actually based on any literal experience.
Z!: On the deluxe version of the album there’s a song called “Up On The Mountain” that you actually wrote and sung on. You mentioned with “Tell Me” you had sang on the demo hoping Steven would like it and sing it. Where you intending on singing “Up On the Mountain” the whole time?
TH: It’s funny, because I think when I first wrote it, my desire was to have Steven sing it, but we started to kind of think about it and Steven said, ‘look man this song is not in the right key for me. I really don’t think I’ll be able to do justice to the lead on this, why don’t you sing the lead and I’ll sing a background part and we’ll make sort of a duet out of it.’ That’s how it came about. It was a way for me to get a chance to sing on a song yet still have the quality of Steven’s voice on it.
Z!: Is that something that’s nerve wracking singing a song on a record that millions of people are going to hear?
TH: I think that early on in our career I thought of myself as someone who would never be a singer. I never thought I had a great ear. I think it was something that I kind of dreamed about but never allowed myself to really go for it until much later. I’ve always been a late bloomer in a lot of ways. Finally I had the realization that if I want to hear this song with somebody singing on it, it was going to have to be me, at least in the beginning. I sang the lead on it and then Steven came up to my house one day and I recorded him singing the back up on it and it came out really beautifully as a demo. We just sort of kept that for a while until we got together with Jack Douglas to make this record. Jack made it come about because he heard the song and really liked it and Jack really encouraged the band to work on it and really bring it about. It’s another reason why we all love working with Jack. He’ll hear the narrative of an idea that might be a little off the wall and he’ll help the band turn it into an Aerosmith song.
Z!: Aerosmith played their first gig on November 6th, 1970. On November 6th, 2012 “Music From Another Dimension” was released. Was this just a happy coincidence or was this planned, because I know the release date was moved back?
TH: That’s funny. I didn’t realize that November 6th was when we played our first show, I knew it was in the fall of 1970. That’s pretty cool (laughs) yeah. No it just came about, I’m pretty flabbergasted as we speak. What was the rest of the question?
Z!: I just wanted to know if it was a happy coincidence or if it was planned.
TH: It was a total coincidence. The record was essentially finished in the beginning of the summer. It could have come out anytime between June or July. The record company wanted to bring it out on November 6th, because they wanted to release it a day when there wasn’t a lot of other big albums coming out so that it would get as much attention as possible. Boy it was torture waiting for that, I’ll tell ya. We had this record and we were so jazzed that we had this thing finally finished and tied down. We were dying to get it out there and see what people thought of it. Now we’re finally at that point and we’re starting to feel that initial feedback from the fans and the press and everybody about what they think about it.
Z!: It had to be tough too, because you were on tour at the time and you almost want to have the people hear the songs first before they hear them live.
TH: It’s an interesting situation now. It used to be that if you were out on tour before your album came out you would never hesitate to play new songs from it. Now everybody in the audience is a photographer and publisher. If you go up and blow it one night and screw it up because you haven’t been playing it that long all the sudden it’s on You Tube. You think oh my God do we want to risk that, but we couldn’t resist. Early on we just started putting songs in there.
Z!: Aerosmith is somewhat famous for your fighting within the band. I don’t want to ask you about the fighting, but I do want ask about the media and how something you say or tweet at any given moment could be a headline around the world in ten minutes. Has that taken some getting use to?
TH: It’s funny because I see some of my band mates still believing you can have a fair fight in the press or you can influence your band mates by manipulating events by talking to journalists. It’s not something that I’ve ever believed in. I never thought first of all that it was a very nice thing to do. I’ve also seen the way things get interpreted in the press and rehashed. I’ve never been a believer that you can settle these deeply personal things that way. It’s funny though because a lot of what this band goes through, it’s been cycles of stuff that we’ve been going through our whole career. It just never used to be so public. Because there are so many ways to spread information now with the internet and everything, a lot of little stuff that people observe when they’re around us, people pick up on it, they post something about it and it becomes public knowledge. I’m pretty much ready for that, I accept that and it’s actually kind of fun sometimes. You have to keep your head turned in the right direction and you have to remember that it is about the songs and it’s about the audience and everything else will take care of itself once you have those two elements together.
Z!: You guys did the “Walk This Way” book, Joey Kramer did his book “Hit Hard,” Steven did his, I think Joe Perry is working on one. Will there ever be a Tom Hamilton story?
TH: I think there probably will be. People have been asking me that. I always thought, ‘ok if you have two or three band members already having their book out, who wants to read another one? I think maybe there is some perspective that I could bring to it that may not have been covered by the other three. I think we’re going to have a bunch of time, a bunch of down time in the first half of next year. I’ll have to get myself into a disciplined pattern of writing every day and I’ll see what I come up with. I do have a lot that I’ve written over the years in terms of journaling. There was a period when we first had our website where I did, I guess you’d call it a blog now, I just called it ‘News From the Road.’ I have a ton of that, that I’ve done and piles of notebooks that I need to spend some time with, sitting down, reading, and compiling and seeing what’s there and seeing if I can finish it off into something that people would be interested in reading. I’m getting far more interested in it, because it seems like in the last few weeks so many people have asked me this question.
Z!: I look forward to reading that. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this with me. Like I said earlier, I’m a huge Aerosmith fan, you guys have been my favorite band since probably when I was in Junior High and this has been incredibly exciting for me, so that’s for taking the time.
TH: Yeah, well thank you and best of luck with Zoiks!
Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.