What follows is an exclusive RMS interview with Aerosmith bassist Tom Hamilton. During this interview, Tom discusses the bands up coming tour, his health, Aerosmith’s future plans and much more.
RockMusicStar: Hey Tom, many of your fans are very excited about your upcoming, “Let Rock Rule” summer tour with Slash (featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators).
Tom Hamilton: Yes, so are we, and thank you for reminding me about Slash.
RMS: Yes, of course. It’s going to be amazing.
TH: We are always looking forward to hitting the road and playing for our fans.
MS: During the last Aerosmith tour, you had to take some time off due to health related problems. How are you doing now and how have you been feeling?
TH: I’ve been feeling really good, now. I had a very rough year last year. Some of the side effects and after effects of having had cancer a couple times caused some situations that really hit me hard last year. …it takes a long time to explain, but I was going through that and then I got pneumonia. So, I left the tour and came home, and then that was thankfully resolved rather easily. But, I lost a ton of weight last year and I was really unaware of it while it was happening. It’s a real strange thing on how your weight can go either way, without realizing it. But what happened with me, when I had cancer of my throat, it made eating kind of a pain in the ass and dangerous. I would think about not having lunch or just trying to avoid meals, and I lost 10 lbs without even realizing it, and it weakened my body. So, I had to really think about it, and had to plan what I was going to eat and when. So, now I have gained the weight back and even started going a little too far the other way, because all of my jeans are getting too tight on me. (laughs)
RMS: I’m sure that going on the road will help you lose those extra few pounds.
TH: Yeah, actually it does. It’s a little more convenient to over eat when you have a refrigerator full of food in front of you. But, sometimes on the road, you can just call room service and have it brought up to you. But, I’m very much looking forward to both tours that we are doing. We are doing a European tour starting in a few weeks, and then we start the US tour in July. It’s great to look out over the next few months and see that we are going to be working.
RMS: I was looking at your upcoming tour dates and you will be playing in some interesting places such as Istanbull, Turkey and Moscow, Russia. When you travel and perform in countries such as these, do you ever get a little nervous for your safety? Especially, considering our current relationship with Russia.
TH: Well, I don’t think we were ever really in a situation when we did shows over there, like we are now. You’re right, there is a lot of political drama going on in the Ukraine. I’m really hoping that by time we get to Russia that they’re not pissed off at us. (laughs) But I think that as musicians, we get a free pass with all of that stuff. It’s definitely interesting, there are a lot of contentious politics going on over there now. We had to postpone one of our dates on the upcoming European tour because of the unrest and I hope that we eventually get to play it. But who knows with what’s been going on. It’s a little weird right now.
RMS: Being in such a popular band, you’re almost like an ambassador in a way. You’re respected and loved as a musician. People love Aerosmith internationally, but you’re still an American. You could really sway a lot of people in these countries.
TH: It’s really fascinating. There are some counties were our fans are insane. They really love the band and respond like you would not believe. We’ve played a lot of countries during the last few years that are developing counties that never had the type of economy that would support American bands coming down there. And now we go over there. We bring a little chunk of America when we are down there. We know the irony of some of the counties having a very uncomfortable history with America, but they are now friends. Seeing the big smiles on the faces of the people singing our songs is unbelievable.
And you know what? People like Americans a lot more than media would have you believe. When it’s person to person out on the street, people don’t just outright hate Americans. If you watch too much news, you will think they all hate us. It’s just not true.
RMS: That’s really interesting. Many Americans do not get to travel as extensively as you and get to see this first hand. My perception was that they all hate us and want us all dead.
TH: It really isn’t that way. Yeah, maybe it’s a bit of an artificial situation that I’m in because I’m in the band. And people are happy to see us, but as a general thing that I’ve noticed is that people like Americans. They love what we represent and I guess they can be a little frustrated when we don’t act like the way they dream of what our country is. A big part of the world depends on America doing our thing and doing it the way that we do it. It’s a big reason why the world works that way that it does, as far as the global economy and geopolitics.
RMS: I agree. Now as far as the North American- “Let Rock Rule” summer tour, the band did something very unique prior to the announcement. Joe Perry and Joey Kramer when to LA and Austin, TX respectively with a couple famous graffiti artist, and spray painted the Aerosmith logo randomly throughout the cities. This was guerilla marketing at its best. Who was responsible for coming up with this idea?
TH: I think that it was Joe Perry’s idea. It was pretty cool. I was on route to LA at the time, so I kind of missed out on that. But it was cool meeting the graffiti artists. We got to keep all of the artwork that we were capable of keeping. When it’s on a building, we can’t keep that. But some of the painting was done on paper or some medium that we could keep. Joe, Joey, Brad and Steven all participated. The amazing thing was how fast these artist work, because they are breaking a law doing graffiti. So, you have to be really good and really fast.
RMS: Then at the press conference for the tour at the Whiskey A-Go-Go in LA, Aerosmith actually performed in the club. This was the first time that you played there since your first LA date back in 1973. What was it like to be playing in a small club again after not playing in one for decades?
TH: It was a blast!! It was really fun. I would love to do more shows like that and we’ll see. Hopefully, that will put a taste in everybody’s mouth.
RMS: I remember back during the late 70’s when Aerosmith use to randomly appear in clubs as Dr J. Jones and the Interns.
TH: Yeah, that’s right! Now it’s a situation where we are kind of too cumbersome to do something like that. We’re this big organization that to do anything, you have to figure out all of this other stuff that goes along with it. We have to figure out a way to do little fun things where we can just go in with minimal gear and play a few songs and that’s it. But nowadays we can’t do anything without figuring out who is bring the food, who is being invited, what camera crew are we going to use and then setting up a press conference. And before you know it, it turns into this big monster.
RMS: Yeah, that’s unfortunate. I love and idea and the spontaneity of a huge band just showing up at a club and rockin’ out. Aerosmith actually did do this in Buffalo, NY in, I think, 1979 at a bar called Stage One. It was billed as the battle of the bands and you went up again the Buffalo band, Talas. Do you have any recollection of that evening?
TH: …No…I can’t remember. It’s in my mind somewhere, I just have to try to get it out. (laughs)
RMS: Okay. I’m required to ask this next question because pretty much every famous musician is doing one. Have you thought about writing an autobiography at all?
TH: Yes, I have thought about it. Steven did one, Joey did one and the band did one. But we will see. But I think that no matter how many come out, there is always going to be an appetite for people to hear the stories from a different perspective. So, that might be something that would be fun to do. I would have to hire somebody or a coach to make me sit down everyday and write.
RMS: It would really be interesting to see what you had to say, because you are the intelligent and quiet member of the band.
TH: I’ve seen everything from day one and I try to see both sides of everything as well. That’s probably my role in the band, to be in the middle. So, that may give me a little bit of an advantage of writing about situations that had gone on.
RMS: Right, that’s why it would be very interesting. How has the band been getting along recently? Is everything cool between Joe and Steven?
TH: As of today it’s good. Things are good right now. As I’m saying this, I just spilled my drink all over the place. ..hang on one second. Okay, sorry. Everything is great really. We haven’t seen that much of each other over the last few months because we’ve been off the road. But when we did the Whiskey gig in LA and a bunch of other stuff, it was great to see everybody. I’m looking forward to touring, we will be in Istanbul in ten days.
RMS: How long does the band have to rehearse before a tour like this?
TH: If we make major setlist changes we will rehearse for a week or two weeks prior. For this upcoming tour, we are not doing a lot of rehearsing, although, we will be doing some rehearsing when we get to Istanbull since we getting in a couple of days early with all the lighting and sound system.
RMS: Do you still find it necessary to practice your bass a lot?
TH: Yeah, you have to. It’s like going to a gym. If you don’t go to the gym, you lose your conditioning. It’s funny because I’ll say to my wife, I have to go practice. She will say, “What? Go practice playing ‘Dream On?’ You’ve been playing that song for 40 years.” But, it’s all about the conditioning. You have to keep your fingers in shape and your muscles. It’s like a sport.
RMS: As you get older do you find it at all more difficult to remain in playing condition?
TH: No, not really. About 7 or 8 years ago, I had really bad tendonitis in my elbow. We were working on the “Just Push Play” album. There was a particular song that I wanted to use a pick on. I was practicing the same part repetitively. Because of that, I ended up injuring myself and the doctors told me that I had tennis elbow. It was bad! I couldn’t even pick up something from the table with my right hand. It was serious and it forced me to change my techniques. I have to now concentrate on not playing too hard. That what I was use to doing when I was young, because bass amps were not up to being as loud as guitar amps. So I was always playing really hard to grind out as much volume as possible. That was a habit that I had to break. I also like the way my playing sounds now that I use a little more finesse.
RMS: Interesting. Do you think that Aerosmith will release another CD anytime soon?
TH: I hope soon. But I really don’t know what we are doing because we no longer have a record contract. We are finished with Columbia. So, there is nothing written in stone. We’ll see what the fans want. Do they want us to write a whole album or will they be happy if we just release a new song every now and then, or maybe just an EP? Because now you can do it anyway you want. But, when we do it, it will be the smart way.
RMS: Is there anything that you would still like to accomplish as a musician?
TH: ….it all boils down to the same thing that I’ve always wanted, to be the best musician that I can be. Also, I was thinking about this and I would like to write more songs. I’ve always been told, since I was in High School, that I should write. And I enjoy doing that, but I’m just a very undisciplined person. I would need a block of time to set up a schedule and see what I could come up with. But, I really enjoy writing.
RMS: Tom, have you ever consider doing a solo record?
TH: Well, I have a bunch of material and some of the songs are probably not Aerosmith songs. When I do write, it’s with the intention that they will eventually make it onto an Aerosmith album. But, I wrote this one song that is very much a pop song. I sat down in my studio one day, and I wanted to write a pop song. And it turned out that the song needed to be sung by a female vocalist. So, I found someone to sing on it and she did a real kick ass job. It’s really a thrill to write something and then have it performed by someone who really has the skills to do it. But, I may keep doing that. Whether it’s a solo album or whatever, there are needs for music out there. Maybe, I can have guest vocalist come in and sing what I written. And that would really be a lot of fun.
Special thanks to Aaron Feteri for making this interview happen!