In 2011 the country of Japan suffered a horrific tsunami, earthquake followed by a nuclear meltdown. Aerosmith went there to raise money and awareness. They’re releasing a DVD/Blu-Ray to chronicle the bands trip there. I’m a huge Aerosmith fan and the track list on the Blu-Ray is astounding. “S.O.S.,” “Lick and a Promise,” “Movin’ Out,” “Monkey on my Back,” all the deep cuts to go along with “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk this Way.” Recently I got the chance to chat with Aerosmith’s drummer Joey Kramer to talk about the new release along with his book “Hit Hard” and his Rockin & Roastin’ coffee.
If you want to listen along you can do so here:
Bob Zerull (BZ): Hey Joey how are you?
Joey Kramer (JK): Hey Bob how are you doing?
BZ: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this I’m a huge Aerosmith fan.
JK: Not a problem.
BZ: You released the live DVD/Blu-Ray “Rock for the Rising Sun,” how far back does the bands history go in Japan?
JK: The first time we toured Japan was in 1976, so we go back to with Japan for many years and I’m told that we’re bigger in Japan per capita than we are any place else in the world including the United States.
BZ: The level of destruction that occurred after the tsunami, earthquake and nuclear melt down was just horrible and a scary thing. How easy or difficult was it for you guys to come to a consensus to go play there under such potentially dangerous circumstances?
JK: It was pretty much a no brainer for us. We’re very fond of the Japanese people and they’ve always taken very good care of us and we appreciate that and when that happened it was pretty much a no brainer. It was like these people need help and we think we have some of the medicine that’s going to help them out so we were on our way.
BZ: I’ve read interviews in the past where you describe the Japanese crowd as more subdued because they didn’t want to miss anything you guys did. On the DVD they look much more excited, did you guys notice that while you were performing?
JK: Yeah I think you could say so. They are very polite there and they are very concerned with preserving that so a lot of times we’ll be in the middle of a show and the band will be hot, we’re on a good track, we’re doing a good show and then at the end of a song they’ll applaud and then everything gets quiet. They’re just being polite waiting for the next song. But as opposed to the way it happened here it was a very strange vibe in the room that you kind of had to be there to experience the clapping and then complete silence.
BZ: The DVD/Blu-Ray is kind of a documentary along with a live performance, was that the intent from the get go?
JK: I don’t think so, I think it was decided on later on.
BZ: Like I said before I’m a big Aerosmith fan, but my favorite songs are the deep cuts and when I saw the track listing with songs like “S.O.S.,” “Movin’ Out,” “Rats in the Cellar” I was ecstatic and was it difficult leaving songs like “Dream On” and “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing?”
JK: Ideally we would play all of them, but you can only do so much, there’s got to be a limit. I don’t know, there’s a bunch of songs that we haven’t even gotten to yet. It’s a question of they’re so old that it would require rehearsing to almost relearn them. It’s funny every once in awhile Joe (Perry) will go into a song on stage and everybody will just pick up on it and come in on it. It’s really dangerous because if you get half way through that song and your memory bank fails you, you’re screwed. So far it’s worked out.
BZ: You guys have enough hits that you could put on a four hour show with the hits alone. How hard is it to find the perfect balance to satisfy yourself and the wide variety of fans that you have?
JK: That’s been an age-old problem. Actually it should be the worst problem I ever have to deal with. When we write the set list we always try to leave open two or three spots in the set so that we can change it up every night and put something in that we didn’t play the night before. It can get hairy depending on who has what opinion depending on what night.
BZ: Your latest album “Music From Another Dimension,” which in my opinion contains something from every era of Aerosmith and then some was released after the music industry fell apart. Was that something you were prepared for?
JK: Ummm. No (laughs)
BZ: What is your take on the music industry now, is it harder for the young bands to make it now, is it an exciting time, is it a bad time in music?
JK: It’s so hard to say. In my humble opinion I think that there is some real talent out there, but I think that majority of what kids are listening to is non-talent, I don’t like to use that word. Everything is so disposable now. It comes packaged and ready to eat and if you like it you swallow it and if you don’t you just spit it out and move to the next product. It’s a shame that it is that way. Unfortunately it is. It’s affected the business in a very negative way because I think a lot of real talent is not being seen. The music industry is just like any other industry, it’s about how much money they can make in the least amount of time and right now everything is disposable.
BZ: Your book “Hit Hard” has been out forever, but new people are still discovering this book every year. I love to read rock autobiographies, but “Hit Hard” is so much more than your typical story about excess. The feedback as been amazing, When you wrote the book did you know you were onto something special that would affect so many people?
JK: All I was doing was relating my personal story to what it was that was going on not only at the time but still is now. That’s why there is no shelf life on the book because drug addiction, alcohol addiction, anxiety and depression, all the good things in life are always going to be there. At the time I wrote the book they seemed to be very prevalent in what was going on in young people, especially today. It’s a subject that’s always relevant and what I did was I just opened myself up and I became very very honest hoping that if I can be as honest as I was about what I was talking about and letting people know that you don’t have to be a rock star to crash and burn, that it can happen to anyone, then people can relate to it. The one bummer that happened to me around that book was that when the book came out it was the same week that Michael Jackson passed, so the book kind of got lost in the media shuffle of Michael dying. I never really felt as though it got a fair shake. Lately, in the last year or so, a lot of people have made a lot of comments about the book and what I’m thinking about doing is adding a couple of more chapters to it and rereleasing it. I’m still playing with that idea with the publishing company and we’ll see what happens with that.
BZ: That would be awesome. My wife suffers from anxiety and I’m on the other side who didn’t understand it and your book really helped me on the other end to understand what she was going through, it’s a tough thing.
JK: Yeah it is, unless you’ve experienced it, it’s really hard.
BZ: I feel like every interview I read with you guys that you’re being asked how you’re getting along. With the advent of social media and the fact that something you say right now could be a headline in ten minutes, was that something that was hard for the band to adjust to?
JK: You know I like it if you’re purposefully doing something that is positive and if you’re putting positive stuff out there, or factual stuff. For the sake of just putting your opinion out there, I mean there are a lot of crazy people out there and I personally because of who I am and how I live I am polite and do what I need to do. I conduct myself the way I need to, I’m never nasty to anybody. At the same time, I enjoy my privacy so I’m not unnecessarily going out and saying things just because I know people will listen to me or abide by what I will say. I think it’s a little more egotistical than I want to be and at the same time social media can be very positive and do a lot of good. It’s like a lot of other things; it’s all in the hands of the people that are using it. You can abuse it, or not.
BZ: When you think about Aerosmith you think about Boston and right now there is a huge controversy over the new “Rolling Stone” cover. What are your thoughts on that?
JK: I don’t think that it was necessary, I can see both sides of it but I don’t think that it was necessary and I think it’s a prime example of what people are doing this day in age to attack attention to a particular thing. They don’t really care about having respect for one another, there’s not a lot of humility going in general, we need to care more about one another. Treat somebody the way you want to be treated. You know if it were that editor’s kid, he wouldn’t have been on that cover.
BZ: I want to end this on a lighter note and talk about coffee. You have your own custom gourmet coffee out there. Can you tell us how you got into the coffee business and where people can find it?
JK: I’ve always loved coffee and I’ve always wanted to do an outside project that wasn’t musical. The truth of the matter is I just haven’t had the time or the energy to do it. Now we’re taking more time between tours so I’m working on it on my off time. I’m putting something out there. It takes the amount of time that it does and the amount of effort because whatever you put into something is what you’re going to get out of it. I’m not just another celebrity putting his name on a product so I can make money on it. That’s not what I’m about and that’s not what my coffee is about. I’m the kind of guy that if I’m going to put my name on something it has to be quality. I’m hands on, I’m the CEO of the company, I’m in the roasters, I cup the coffee myself and I take part in a lot of the things that go on, even the meetings with the business men, I’m becoming a bit more savvy. It’s all a big challenge to me and I love a challenge. The bottom line is that the proof is in the pudding. It comes down to the quality of whatever the product is and I’m putting quality gourmet coffee out there at a reasonable price for people to consume. There’s no reason for people to be gouged for gourmet coffee. All you’ve got to do is taste it and I promise you’ll be back for more.
BZ: Where can people find the coffee?
JK: Right now it’s online at www.rockinandroastin.com. We are very quickly acquiring different grocery chains all across of New England. Eventually we’ll be across the country. They’ll be in a half a dozen stores by the middle of August. You can find out on the website. For right now it’s www.rockinandroastin.com.
BYLINE: 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.