By Thomas S. Orwat, Jr.
Jimmy Crespo, who is best known for replacing guitarist Joe Perry in Aerosmith from 1979 to 1984, is back in the spotlight with a brand new band called the Jimmy Crespo Project. In addition to Crespo, this band includes an all-star line up which consists of Phil Varone (Skid Row, Saigon Kick) – drums, Kyle Kyle (Bang Tango)- bass, Chris Van Dahl (LA Guns, Aeromyth) and Mike Ellis (Sin City Sinners) – guitar. The Jimmy Crespo Project will be performing their first show on Oct 8 at the Sunset Station staple at Club Madrid in Las Vegas.
Here at RockMusicStar we caught up with Jimmy Crespo to discuss his upcoming band, his time in Aerosmith and much more. Here’s what Jimmy had to say.
RockMusicStar: You recently announced that you formed a new band, The Jimmy Crespo Project. What led to you putting this band together?
Jimmy Crespo: Well, I few months ago, I was inching to get back on the road and do something for real. And the question was what can we do that’s for real. I’ve been involved in all kind of projects over the years. But, it came to mind, from my manager Jason Green and a few others, that the Aerosmith’s “Rock in a Hard Place” record would be having its 30th anniversary in two years. I didn’t even think of that, and a lot of people really enjoyed that record. So I thought, why don’t I get a really smoking band together and go out and play some of the songs from that record, because Aerosmith never covers it, they just won’t do it. And in addition to that, perform some classic Aerosmith songs as well as some covers and do them our way.
So, I started putting the band together and I got Phil Varone of Skid Row, Saigon Kick on drums and Kyle Kyle of Bang Tango on bass. I also got Chris Van Dahl, who is a superb singer and he’s been doing the Aeromyth thing, which is an Aerosmith tribute band. Months ago we hooked up and talked about maybe doing something, but I didn’t know if he wanted to step out of the Aerosmith tribute band. But, then he moved out to Las Vegas where I live, so it all of a sudden all came together. I then got Mike Ellis from the Sin City Sinners on guitar; they are a very popular band here in Las Vegas.
When we all got together for the first time, we put together a rough set list and said let’s try it and see what happens. And it clicked, it really worked. So we have been rehearsing for our first gig which is Oct 8th.
RMS: Are there any plans to do more gigs anytime soon?
JC: Oh yeah, we have an agent working on getting us shows. The goal is to get us around the country and maybe even around the world.
RMS: That’s an awesome idea. Many Aerosmith fans really like the “Rock in a Hard Place” record. It will be cool to hear those songs live. Do you plan on performing the entire record?
JC: At this moment, it looks like we are going to do half of it for our Oct 8th date. But, for future dates we will be playing for 1½ hours, so we will be doing almost all of it. Probably everything with the excepton of “Push Comes to Shove.” But, Chris can sing any of that stuff. He does a great job and is an amazing frontman. I’m tickled pink about it.
RMS: Yeah, I think Chris Van Dahl is the perfect lead singer for this band.
JC: I totally agree.
RMS: What was it like for you to revisit the “Rock in the Hard Place” record after all these years?
JC: I worked very hard on that CD. I fought tooth and nail to get those songs out of Steven Tyler.
RMS: From what I read about that time period of the Aerosmith, it seems like you were the only one in the band that was level headed at that time.
JC: It seemed that way. (Laughs) It was tough times. It was difficult, but we got through it. For years, I didn’t even listen to that record because it brought back too many bad memories. Everything ended on a sour note. But a lot of healing goes on as years go by. And the fans have surprised me, coming out of the woodwork and telling me how much they love that record. Especially, the fans that picked up on Aerosmith in the early 80’s, they were really affected by it. So after hearing this praise for all these years, I felt that I should go back on listen to the record again. And I rediscovered that there was some really good stuff on there. But those were some intense times when making that record.
RMS: I read that it cost over 1.5 million dollars to make the “Rock in the Hard Place” record and that was back in 1981-82. That’s really a lot of money.
JC: Well, it took two years to make that record. Steven Tyler was having issues, problems during that period. He was in and out of drug mayhem. He was getting in accidents. Who knows if that was just his way of getting out of doing things or whatever it was. But we couldn’t get him locked down and he wouldn’t let anyone in the band write any lyrics. It had to be all him during that time. Of course, later on he started accepting other people’s songs. But when I was there, he was the “guy” in charge to decide what Aerosmith would sound like. And everything revolved on “when can Steven do it.” “Can he do it today? No, he’s in the hospital.” I mean it was all this. It was drama. So CBS Records kept picking up the tab. And then they would send us out on tour to help cover the expenses. But just here and there, but not a real tour that would bring in money. So that’s how we broke the bank.
RMS: How did the other band members deal with this at the time. Were they fed up with Steven?
JC: They were hanging in there tough. They believed in Steven and in Aerosmith. They were very supportive. Especially, during the first part when we were writing a lot of the music at their studio, the Wherehouse. That was their rehearsal place in Waltham, MA. So we would get there early and just write for weeks. This was without Steven. We would write and record and bring the tapes to Steven, where ever he was to see if they were potentials. That’s how we did all the tracks. Then after that period, that’s when it all fell apart. But the guys, Tom and Joey were just hanging tough. Brad Whitford left right after we recorded “Lightning Strikes.”
RMS: Yeah, that’s the only track on the record that he is credited for playing on.
JC: Yeah, he played rhythm guitar on that.
RMS: Did he leave out of frustration or because of his new band that he had with Derek St. Holmes?
JC: I really can’t answer that truthfully. I can only surmise that it was a little of both. I think that he was frustrated and he was into his other project and thought that he might do better in that.
RMS: Was there any material from the “Rock in the Hard Place” sessions that wasn’t used. Or did you pretty much exhaust everything for the record.
JC: There were a lot of ideas. But, there were maybe only a handful of extra tracks recorded that didn’t make it. I’ve heard of one of them floating around on a bootleg. Also, one of them “Riff n’ Roll’ ended up on the “Pandora’s Box” box set. I think that there were two or three others and I don’t know where they ended up.
During Steven’s downtime, I think he was in the hospital recovering from something, maybe a motorcycle accident. I put together a band called Renegade with Tom and Joey. We were going to make a record, but that got canned right away because Steven came back to life, miraculously.
RMS: Wow, how much of that record was actually recorded before it was canned?
JC: About four or five tunes. It’s floating around. I know who has the tapes. So there’s a possibility of something going on with that, if I get all the legal issues out of the way. But with everything going on, it is a possibility.
RMS: It would be interesting to hear that.
JC: Yeah, we will see. Especially, with the Jimmy Crespo Project going it would be a good time for it. I’m also not too sure how long we are going to keep the band name the Jimmy Crespo Project, but we’re going to use it for now.
RMS: Really, I love the name.
JC: Well, it’s too much like the Joe Perry Project , but I thought that it was kind of funny. You know we are always at odds. But we’re not.
RMS: From what I’ve read, I think that Joe Perry has a lot respect for you as a guitarist.
JC: My last couple of months with them, I sat down with Joe and put down all of the nonsense and we just had a good kick, a conversation, and we just hit it off. Every time we would meet before that there was all this nonsense that wasn’t even true. We were never at odds, never. At the time, it was the hard core fans that couldn’t stand that Joe wasn’t in the band. And that someone replaced their guy. I totally get it.
RMS: How were you informed when they decide to get Joe Perry back in the band?
JC: Well, let me take it back a year prior to that moment. The last year that I was with them, I was giving the option of staying or leaving because there was no more money , no more touring , CBS wouldn’t shell out a dime for the new record because Steven at the time was so non productive. And because “Rock in a Hard Place” didn’t sell the millions of records that they were use to Aerosmith selling. After the 1.5 million they spent and didn’t recoup, they just put a stop to all money. So there was no money coming in, no touring. So, I had a choice to stay and help get Steven to start writing again or whatever. I stayed for that period, but it became a moot point. He would just not do it. We would make attempts at getting him in the studio and listening to the stuff that I had written and that others had written, but he just wouldn’t do it. After nine months of that nonsense, Steven and Joe started talking about getting the original band back together and get some interest back from CBS to support that. I was informed by their manager David Krebs that they were going to go with the original line-up. And I said that I think that that’s a great idea. I was totally burnt at the time. I know that there was no way that I could make Aerosmith happen. It wasn’t in my power. It would have to be some other miraculous person or the original band. It made sense to me. Even though it really sucked for me, because I felt like I failed and I really don’t like that. But, it was the right thing to do.
RMS: But you did make you mark in one of the greatest bands in rock. That has to feel good.
JC: Yeah, in retrospect it does. I keep thinking if this came up again, would I still do it knowing what I know now… and hell yeah I would. There’s no way you can turn down a gig from the biggest band. I would hate to be thinking when I’m 65 of what would have happened if… So, I just took the question out of equation. I just did it and I know that I would at least make one record with them if not anything else. That was my goal going into it.
RMS: How difficult was it after Aerosmith to find your footing. Did you go through depression or anything like that?
JC: It wasn’t really depression it was more like… I went from being in huge band like Aerosmith to being tossed into a world of 80’s rock. You know the big hair and striped pants, and all the glamour, which I’m not and Aerosmith wasn’t. Aerosmith may have influenced those bands, but they were not one of them. So I was thrown into that world, which I really didn’t fit in. The transition was difficult and a bit strange for me.
I got involved with Adam Bomb for a while and that was fun. But it was all his music, so it was kind of cool because I could just go in there and play. But that fell apart after a while and then I did something with Billy Squire, I did the “Here and Now” record and tour. That was for about a year. And then I didn’t do a whole lot. I moved to L.A. and did a lot of recordings, but nothing really specific until 1995 when I did a two year tour with Rod Stewart. But, it was just recently that I’ve gone back to writing and recording .
RMS: Where you surprised that down the road, years after you left the band that Steven Tyler was finally able to get his act together and sober up.
JC: Yeah, totally happy. I had some extortionary moments with him when he was sober. He’s a cool guy. He’s so talented, it’s ridiculous. I learned so much just being around him. He was a cool down to earth guy when he was one on one. I spent many hours with him. When he wasn’t messed up or high he was an amazing person, extraordinary. But then you add the color of drugs and that turned the ship really quickly. But he was great and I really liked him a lot.
RMS: My last question for you Jimmy is, how do you think Steven Tyler will do as a judge on American Idol?
JC: I think that he’ll do great. He loves that shit. I know that a lot of people are saying that he went corporate, but he already when corporate years ago. Listen to the last few albums. They’re corporate, but there still good. But, I think that Idol is a good thing for him. He can kick back and do the talking and it will be fun for him. I think that people will get a kick out of him. It will be entertaining. He will always find a way to get his message across.
for more on the Jimmy Crespo Project check out www.JimmyCrespo.com