The hard-living lifestyles of Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry are well chronicled: the booze, the drugs, the long, flowing caftans. But the band is a quintet, meaning three voices of Boston's most famous rock group have had their mics turned off for too long. In a freewheeling memoir, drummer Joey Kramer finally steps out from behind his famous frontman's shadow and painfully recollects the mountains of drugs they consumed, the slow road to recovery from addiction, and a battle with depression, as well. What follows is a Kramer interview conducted by TheSandbox morning show of 101.7 WFNX (also owned by the Phoenix Media/Communications Group), plus an excerpt from Kramer's book, Hit Hard.
TheSandbox's Charlie: At what point did you decide that it was time to write a book?
Well, it all started about, oh, four and a half years ago, when I was telling people stories about being on the road and stories of my journey through life. And they said, 'Wow, man, you should write a book, you should write a book.' And, you know, being who I am, I didn't really think there'd be any interest in me writing a book — or that anybody would be interested in reading it.
TheSandbox's Special Ed:You talk about hitting rock bottom while you're at the top. Obviously, there's abuse in there. How many times did it take for you to go, "I need to change up things. I need to clean up my act"?
Well, about 20 years worth of drug and alcohol abuse. But what happened really was, when we were putting the band back together . . . well, not that the band had ever completely split up, 'cause Tom and I and Steven held it together. But when Joe and Brad came back into the band and we got Tim Collins as a manager, Tim told us, "Listen, I can help you guys out, but you have to clean up the drugs and the alcohol out of your life." That was pretty much the start of it. And coincidentally, at that point in my life, I was pretty much ready to do that. But I didn't know how . . . I needed the help and I didn't know how to ask for it. [Tim] was there, and fundamentally put us on the road to recovery.
The Sandbox's Fletcher: The book is full of fantastic stories, but did you have hesitations? Did it take some time to consider writing the book?
Not really, because I have this feeling in my heart that there's so many people that are able to relate to the story, and are able to identify with it, that that didn't really cross my mind. Really, my goal with the book is to help people. And, yeah, there are stories in it about the band and my journeys through life, but the thread that runs through the book is the confusion that people have between love and abuse. That is such a time-sensitive subject that so many people, I think and I hope, will relate to.
Charlie: Love and abuse seems like a running theme with rock bands that have been around for a while, because you love those guys, but at the same time you're probably sick of them. You're tired of looking at them after being on the road for a long time . . . did you have to go to those guys with some of these stories and be, like, "look, this would be cathartic for me to write about this. Do you mind if I put it in there?"
No. I'm putting my balls and my life on the line because I believe that it will help people.
Charlie:What about their balls, though? Are you concerned about stepping on Steven's feet?
Well, there's nothing in there that will, uh — I mean, I didn't make anyone out to be a monster. You know, we've all done the same stuff, and I wouldn't do that. I'm not that kind of a person. I wouldn't do that to any of my partners, anyway, because they're all my brothers and I love them all dearly. I'm not a vindictive person — that's just not part of my make-up.
Fletcher: One of my friends that worked in the record industry for a really long time said that in the '70s and '80s there would be these glamorous post-show parties, and there was always a ton of blow on a table somewhere. You knew you were at a really great party when it was in the shape of something. . . she talked about this party in Miami — they walked in and there on the glass table was Michael Jackson's face in coke! Did you ever attend such a party, and what was the sculpture of the drugs?
[Laughs] Ahh, well . . . many, many years ago, Bill Ludwig from Ludwig drums, whom I endorsed at the time, used to have a drummers' convention once a year, and that took place at the party. It was the Ludwig logo . . . and I remember snorting the dot off the "I."