Tom Hamilton talks Aerosmith without Joe Perry and the new Rock in a Hard Place



By Steve Newton

“Yeah, we’re loud alright,” says Tom Hamilton, bassist for American supergroup Aerosmith. “We’re definitely not any quieter than we used to be–we’re just better sounding.”

Aerosmith has never been known for quietness or subtlety. Theirs is not the kind of music for candlelight dinners and mellow gatherings. What the band is noted for is their ability to sell mass quantities of riff-riddled hard rock records–over 15 million in the ’70s alone–and draw enormous crowds to their shows.

But despite huge successes live and in the studio, Aerosmith ran into personnel problems in 1979 when lead guitarist and co-songwriter Joe Perry left to follow a solo career with the Joe Perry Project. Two years later rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford called it quits and formed the Whitford/St. Holmes Band with Nugent alumnus Derek St. Holmes.

Being essentially a guitar band, it was crucial to the welfare of Aerosmith that they find the right players to fill the holes left by Perry and Whitford. Enter Jimmy Crespo, session player and former lead guitarist for Flame, and rhythm guitarist Rick Dufay, both of whom play on the latest Aerosmith release, Rock in a Hard Place.

Whether or not Crespo and Dufay are the ideal replacements for the former Aerosmith guitarists remains to be seen, and is only a matter of personal opinion, but on Rock and a Hard Place, and tracks such as “Lightning Strikes” and “Bitch’s Brew”, these ears detect a raucous chemistry that–while not outdoing earlier gems like Get Your Wings or Draw the Line–at least captures the basic jagged and edgy rawness that caused the band to be known as “the Stones of the seventies”.

And vocalist Steven Tyler’s hoarse screechings are as outrageous as ever, particularly on his cover version of the fifties standard “Cry Me a River”. Since six of the ten tunes on Rock are Tyler/Crespo compositions, it would also appear that he’s found in Jimmy Crespo the songwriter partner he lost in Joe Perry.

When Tom Hamilton says that Aerosmith is “better sounding”, he’s not only confident about the abilities of its newest members but also about the live sound. The last time Aerosmith played the Coliseum, with opening act AC/DC about four years back, the sound was messy and muddled–it sounded like one big buzz. But Hamilton, during an interview last week, said that the bugs have been worked out of the band’s live sound. Vancouverites can decide for themselves what they think of the new Aerosmith when they play tonight (Friday) with Pat Travers.


How has the sound of Aerosmith changed with the addition of Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay?

There’s a much better onstage mix, and there’s much more in the way of dynamics, so the audience hears every instrument with better separation and tone. Plus we’ve got a guy with us on keyboards named Bob Mayo, who used to play with Foreigner and Peter Frampton, and he’s also doing some backup vocals. So between him, Jimmy and Steven we’ve got plenty of harmony now, whereas it used to be that the only one in the band that could really sing was Steven.

How does the guitar-playing style of Jimmy Crespo differ from that of your previous lead player, Joe Perry?

Jimmy is a little more calculated and polished, I’d say. One of the things that was great about Joe and not so good about him was that he would just go for it, for whatever came into his head. And if the idea to stop playing was in his head he would do that too. But Jimmy is real conscious of dynamics and coming down to low volume when the verses call for it.

What about your new rhythm guitarist Rick Dufay? How does his playing compare to that of Brad Whitford?

Well Brad was a rock, I’ll say that. Brad would never make a mistake, and you’d never hear anything coming out of his amp that he hadn’t meant to come out. Rick is also really solid, but sometimes he’ll come out with something that you’re not expecting.

How did you find the new members?

Well Rick did an album, produced by Jack Douglas, called Tender Loving Abuse. Jack sort of snuck him into our practice one day. Jimmy Crespo used to play in a band called Flame, and when that band folded he was doing a lot of studio work. We were introduced to him through a mutual friend, Richie Supa, the person who wrote “Lightning Strikes”. Richie said, “Why don’t you try this guy out?”, so he was one of about six or seven guitarists that we auditioned. He was the third player we saw, and we knew that he was the right one right off. So we let the other guys have their shot, but it was pretty much Jimmy all the way.

How did you come to record the old standard “Cry Me a River” on the new album?

That was Steven’s idea. He was in a record store down in the Village in New York, and he happened to see an old Julie London album. He picked it up and brought it up to the studio and we listened to that one song and started figuring it out–changing the horn and string parts into guitar parts. It went pretty good, so we stuck with it.

Being a member of one of America’s biggest hard rock bands, do you think there are any differences between the heavy American sound and the heavy British sound?

Well, if you’re talking about Aerosmith compared to, say, Judas Priest, I’d say that we’ve got an advantage over them because we know how to play different types of drum beats. When people come to see us on stage, there’s a little bit of humour, and sort of a party atmosphere, whereas with a lot of the heavy bands coming out of England now–and even out of the States–there seems to be a “please take us very seriously” attitude.

I was talking to the bass player for Judas Priest a while back, and he said that he thought the British bands were more guitar-dominated than some of the American ones.

I don’t know, I suppose you could say that. You know, lead solos are great and everything, but they’re only a little part of the song. I don’t know if people are that much into extended solos and guitar acrobatics. There’s a lot of great bands out that have pretty much zip for chops–like the Clash. But it’s what they put across on stage that counts.

Since Aerosmith has been off the road for almost three years now, is it safe to call this one a “comeback” tour?

I don’t like to call it a comeback–I don’t feel that we’ve really been that far away. But I suppose that’s the way we have to look at it, considering that most people figure we had faded into the distance.

To hear the full audio of my 25-minute interview with Tom Hamilton from 1983–and my interviews with Joe Perry from 1987 and 1993–subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 250 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

Grant Walmsley of the Screaming Jets, 1991
John Popper of Blues Traveler, 1991
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 2012
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1993
Ellen McIlwaine, 2001
Derek Trucks of Tedeschi Trucks, 2012
J.D. Fortune of INXS, 2006
Fernando von Arb of Krokus, 1984
Gary Holt of Exodus, 1985
Dizzy Reed of Guns N’ Roses, 1992
Scott Ian of Anthrax, 2012
Gary Lee Conner of Screaming Trees, 1992
Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, 1985
David “Honeyboy” Edwards, 2003
Rudolf Schenker of Scorpions, 1992
Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, 2001
Jeff Keith of Tesla, 1988
Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton of Arc Angels, 1992
Marc Bonilla, 1992
Mike Smith of Sandbox (and Trailer Park Boys), 1996
Dewey Bunnell of America, 1983
Robert Randolph of the Family Band, 2003
Keith Strickland of the B-52s, 2008
David Johansen of the New York Dolls, 2005
Nathan Followill of Kings of Leon, 2003
Todd Kerns, 2016
Bill Payne of Little Feat, 2002
Robbin Crosby of Ratt, 1989
Tommy Shannon of SRV & Double Trouble, 1998
Alejandro Escovedo, 1997
Billy Duffy of the Cult, 1989
Dave Martone, 2020
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, 2006
Joss Stone, 2012
Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, 2005
Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, 1992
Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
Jeff Healey, 1988
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Edgar Winter, 2005
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, 1991
Joe Satriani, 1990
Vernon Reid of Living Colour, 1988
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1994
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
John Doe, 1990
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Randy Bachman, 2001
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Rob Hirst of Midnight Oil, 2001
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1985
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001

….with hundreds more to come

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